Monday, December 26, 2016

Indian Village-Life Experience at ‘The Goat Village’, Nag Tibba

Reaching The Goat Village (TGV)

A few months ago I was invited for a stay at The Goat Village in Pantwari, 100 kilometres from Dehradun in Uttarakhand, on the Nag Tibba Trek route. Early one November morning amidst chilling temperatures, I reached Dehradun. I was to be joined by my school friend Amrit for the 3 day trip.

A day earlier, Purnima from TGV had got me in touch with our driver Surendra who told us that the cab would leave for Pantwari at 7 am. Loading our bags on the carrier, Amrit and I took the back seats in the cab, more out of compulsion than choice. (It was a welcome realisation that due to so many people with motion sickness on mountain roads, front seats in cabs are pre-booked and there aren’t many alternate transportation options!)

4 hours later we arrived at Pantwari village after a terrible journey with my motion sickness in full action. It was a relief to get out of the cab.

The view just after sunrise from our cottage. The Goat Village, Nag Tibba, Uttarakhand. November 2016

The Goat Village is a 4 km uphill trek from here. After a delicious vegetable maggi at one of the village shops for breakfast, we were headed to Laser Gaon sitting on top of a jeep along with Magan, our guide cum porter. This is the mid-point on the way to Goat Village and the last point until which motorable vehicles can go. It was a dusty but amazing 15 minute ride. The final 2 kms were to be trekked and a signboard to the Goat Village welcomed us.

‘It can’t be very difficult’, I thought, ‘it’s just 2 kms after all’.

How very wrong I was.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Love Letters from Darjeeling

Sitting silently in the tea gardens, the ropeway passing right over our heads, playing filmy games, we stared at the dark misty mountains in the distance and looked back at the last few days that had bonded us together so well and so fast. It had, after all, begun with one simple question.

Before the eventful morning of 27th November 2016, had someone asked me “What’s the craziest thing you have done in life?” I would have given it a long thought and probably come up with an answer that wasn’t crazy enough. That morning, things changed.

After a beautiful and most memorable trip to Bhutan, we were headed to Bagdogra airport to catch our flights back home. The trip had been emotionally as well as experientially overwhelming.

A late night walk on the streets of Darjeeling leading to poses with the star toy train.
Photo courtesy: Vyshakh. Darjeeling, November 2016
The previous night in the hotel room at Phuentsholing, our last night officially in Bhutan, we played one last round of ‘Ask a Question’. This time we had to say what we felt about each other after being together for a week. While I was speaking, Neeraj casually mentioned, “It would be great if you cancel your ticket and stay back for few more days”. It wasn’t to be taken seriously, but even I was in no mood to go back home. I did check the flight costs for rescheduling before I went to bed that night. The butterfly effect had been put in motion inadvertently.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review: Tale O'12 by Biranchi N Acharya

Title: Tale O’12
Author: Biranchi N Acharya
Pages: 220
Publisher: BecomeShakespeare.com & Blogadda.com
Genre: Fiction

Getting the book:

What intrigued me about this book was the fact that it has been put together by a blogger. Various real life episodes – 12 in this case- are put together in a fictional manner. I believe, at some point, these stories were all blog posts in some form on the author’s blog and were put together coercively in the form of a book and published. Reading the book didn’t take very long- I think it was about 4-5 hours collectively over two days. I do wonder why the book is titled 'Tale O'12'- is it simply because there are 12 tales? Also, initially I thought there would be a co-relation between each story that results in a bigger overall story, but that is not the case and each story stands independently.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bhutan: The Trek to Tiger’s Nest ‘Taktsang’ Monastery

‘Is the trek difficult?’ ‘What if we are not able to do it?’ Similar questions had come up every time the Tiger’s Nest trek was discussed and Captain Nero AKA Neeraj, our team leader, had proudly talked about this fellow tripper of his ‘He was 140 kilos and I had dragged him till the top. So there is no way you won’t complete the trek’.

The Taktsang Monastery trek in Paro was scheduled on the 5th day of our Bhutan trip. The itinerary had mentioned this as ‘the highlight of the trip’ and probably this was the only thing about Bhutan I had known prior to starting research about the country (thank you facebook). No doubt, it is the most popular cultural icon of the country and even British Prince William and wife Kate have done the trek.

Personally I was not much worried having been lost in thejungle during a trek just a week ago. The endurance factor remained; the breathlessness with uphill climb was to be tackled; but definitely there was no way I wouldn’t complete the trek. The iconic photo I had seen of so many people with the Tiger’s Nest monastery in background had to be taken after all.

The majestic view of Bhutan's most beautiful monastery as seen from the trail, Tiger's Nest, Bhutan, November 2016

Around 10.30 AM, we arrived at the base of the Tiger’s Nest trek, 6 kilometres from Nivanna, our resort (which was a further 6 km from Paro town). A beautiful flea market with local vendors greeted us and invited to shop. ‘We will come by while returning,’ we said and moved on.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

10 Reasons To 'Never' Visit Bhutan

Bhutan is awesome. There, I said it. This is why I will give you 10 reasons to never visit the country because, believe it or not, you will fall in love with the place and wouldn’t want to come back.

1. Getting in to Bhutan is easy

For Indians, getting in to Bhutan is superbly easy. You can, literally, just walk in. You can take the longer but beautiful road journey via the border town of Phuentsholing and get your entry permit into the country at the Permit office. Alternatively, you can take a flight directly to Paro Airport and get a visa on arrival stamped on your passport with hardly any questions asked. The same applies for Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizens too. Everyone else needs to pay a $250 per day fee to stay in Bhutan (this includes stay, food, guide charges etc. but is definitely costly). Perhaps, that is why you wouldn’t see many foreign tourists in the country.

The permit office in Phuentsholing, with the Indo-Bhutan border gate visible on the far right. Bhutan, November 2016

2. Bhutan is gorgeously beautiful

Not that I have been to any other country, but Bhutan is gorgeously beautiful. It’s not just naturally beautiful, its man-made architectural beauty is equally stunning. There is uniformity and there are loads of colours everywhere. You just may not find any other place as serenely beautiful as Bhutan if you visit this country first. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Prologue: A Bhutanese Love Affair

The bus took a sharp turn uphill and the most astonishing sight greeted our eyes. A sea of white clouds encompassed the landscape, a small red dot- the sun- was glowing in all its glory, setting every second, going down the horizon. It was our last sunset in Bhutan. The trip was coming to an end.
Seven days ago, 15 strangers from across India met at Bagdogra Airport for a trip to the Land of the Thunder Dragon- the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

The trip, for me, was long-planned. After the failed Wimbledon trip, a trip to a foreign destination was way above anything else on my to-do list. Add to it, my curiosity about our trip leader – TL- Neeraj, one person who has highly inspired me for close to 3 years now, and his trips- What makes his trips so special that people say goodbyes with tears in their eyes and then write such amazing testimonials? I had wondered for long.

Every sight you look at, looks like a picture postcard out of the beautiful country. Bhutan, November 2016

After some amazing Himalayan views from my window seat, my flight arrived 35 minutes before time at Bagdogra one Sunday morning in November.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Book Review: When Life Turns Turtle by Raj Supe

Title: When Life Turns Turtle- Journey of a Bollywood Tramp
Author: Raj Supe
Pages: 468
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd
Genre: Spiritual-based Fiction

Getting the book:

When I got a request to review this book, there were three things that caught my eye- One, the word ‘Bollywood’ in the sub-title. Two, the summary that talked about a filmmaker travelling to Rishikesh. And three, the book’s genre: Spiritual-based Fiction. While the last one kind of put me off, the first two made sure I accepted the offer and soon enough, the book arrived at my place. Due to work pressure and a lot of other reasons, I kept delaying reading the book and finally was able to finish it this week.

The Story:

‘When Life Turns Turtle’ is the story of Indraneel, a successful filmmaker, and how one personal incident changes his life forever. For someone who accepts and leads a purely normal and materialistic life, suddenly life turns turtle. The struggle of finding himself and understanding his purpose of life leads him to leave the comfort of his home in Mumbai and move to Rishikesh for a break. What he doesn’t anticipate is the spiritual inflow that Rishikesh brings to him and his short break becomes a long stay that he doesn’t want to end. Life has its ways and Indraneel has to return to the city and continue doing what he does best- make films. That’s his karma. But does he return the same or a changed man? Will his newfound love for spiritualism help him grow in his career? Will life turn back to normal?

With ‘When Life Turns Turtle’ Raj Supe has tried to show a journey that so many of us in the current generation are seeking. It’s the search for the ultimate truth- what makes you happy? What keeps you going in life? What do you do when faced with the harshest of the truths? 

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Hostel Stay: Review of Backpacker Panda, Goa

Away from the hustle of the crowds, amidst trees and colourful villas, in the middle of a true Goan village but located less than half a kilometre from the main road, we were already in love with the location of the Backpacker Panda hostel before getting down from the scooties. More was yet to come.

Few months back I got a stay and review invitation from a chain of hostels called ‘Backpacker Panda’ at their Goa or Udaipur property. With a trip to Goa in the offing and my friends remaining undecided on the stay for the last two days, I offered that we try out the hostel scene in Goa. We anyways needed a place where we could simply dump our bags and go out, and so, the cheapest place with security was all we were actually looking for.

The main building of the Backpacker Panda Hostel in Candolim, Goa

The idea of staying in the hostel was well received by everyone and we went ahead with the bookings. One night stay for me was complimentary from Backpacker Panda. I was still a little apprehensive about ‘backpacking hostel stays’, having never experienced it and only having seen it in ‘Queen’. And I wasn’t really sure what idea of a ‘hostel’ my friends had and if the place would stand up to their expectation.

Well, let me just say, we were all impressed.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hands on the Wheel: Experiencing the Tata Hexa

As you might be aware from my previous post, I was in Hyderabad last weekend to experience the Tata Hexa. The brand new SUV from Tata Motors that goes with the tagline ‘Power-packed, Feature-loaded, Adrenaline-pumped’, is definitely a vehicle that is going to set new standards for the competition in the growing mid-range SUV segment. This post details my driving experience of the Tata Hexa over 45 kms of roads early one Sunday morning.


The Drive

Our 170 km drive was to begin from the Novotel Hotel, Hyderabad Airport. The route to be taken began on the airport road that connects with the Hyderabad-Bangalore 8-lane highway for about 11 kms, followed by a brief stretch of 4-lane divided road and finally a 40 km stretch of undivided 2-lane road. 

When we were briefed about this the previous evening, I had decided I would take up the initial bit- the safe zone of the highway, considering how narrow roads make me nervous. It didn’t take me long to convince my team mates Arvind Sir and Sam.

Early Sunday morning, the flag off happened and the drive began. Getting used to the automatic setting didn't take me more than a minute, although it was the first time that I was driving an automatic gear-shift car. Getting used to the bulk of the car did take me some time, although the bulkiness of the car wasn’t felt. I didn't just drive through the airport road and the highway but also a few kilometres in the 2-lane undivided road. And this was with absolute ease in the various drive modes. For the first time in all these years probably I had enjoyed driving a car so much and didn’t want to give the driving seat to others! Hahaha!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Heading to Hyderabad for the Tata Hexa Experience

‘You are the 60 Most Influential Indian Bloggers from various genres,’ announced Ashish Sahni, the Digital Marketing Lead for the Passenger Vehicle segment for Tata Motors.

We were gathered in the Ball Room of the Novotel Hotel, Hyderabad Airport on a Saturday evening, having flown from various cities across India earlier in the day. After checking in to our room, the afternoon was spent meeting other known blogger friends from various cities including Manjulika, Arvind Passey and Shrinidhi. I had already met Aziz and Sanjay at the airport and was sharing a room with Ashwini.

We spent some time clicking fun pictures of the Hexa parked in the lawns of Novotel, with the sun setting in the background. Well, we were all bloggers at work.



We were 60 bloggers in Hyderabad on invitation from Tata Motors to drive and experience their brand new soon-to-be-launched car- Tata Hexa- and were gathered in the ball room for the briefing regarding the car and to understand what to expect from the drive early next morning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

5 Adventure Trips in India You Ought to Take Before Everyone Starts Doing It

Till a couple of years ago, ‘white water rafting in Rishikesh’ seemed like the most adventurous one could get. Suddenly, there have been so many additions to the adventure destinations of India that rafting is just one of the many activities available. In fact, ‘adventure destinations’ as a tourism aspect has taken centre stage just recently. Take a look at these 5 adventure trips which you ought to do now, before the places become too commercialised and easily accessible to all and before everyone starts doing it.

1. Take a Roadtrip to Leh

No guessing here, this had to be on top of the list. 3 Idiots and Rancho made it too famous and every summer our facebook timeline gets filled with some friend or the other’s majestic and awe-stunning pictures of the unspoiled Ladakh region. Due to the remote location, limited accessibility and the costs involved, Ladakh still hasn’t become the family vacation kind of a place, thankfully. Take a roadtrip from Manali to Srinagar via Leh and Kargil or directly fly to Leh, but do it. Do it before your awesome pictures can be adulterated with loads of tourists everywhere. (Been to Taj Mahal? Well, you know exactly what I mean then!)

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Enchanting Trek Through Andharban - The Dark Forest

I opened my eyes. It was daybreak. I turned around to look out of the window and the view that greeted my eyes made sure I won't go back to sleep. I checked the time- 6 AM. As I looked out of the glass windows of the stationary bus, I realised we were standing under a green mountain  that was clad with white clouds and a lonely old bungalow stood below it. The pristine setting wasn't anywhere in the Himalayas. It was, in fact, right here in Maharashta, a little over 130 kms from Mumbai. The surprise and awe were real.

I looked around in the bus. Almost everyone was asleep; a few eyes were opening here and there and expectedly, being left in awe. I got down from the bus and walked around. It was a view to be captured in the memories in every detail.

Clouds hovering above the mountains near Andharban, Tamhini Ghat, Maharashtra

An hour passed. We freshened up and had a Maharashtrian breakfast of misal-pav and poha. We were then headed to the start point of the trek, around 10 kms away.

The Andharban Trek in the Tamhini Ghats in Pune district, takes one through 13 kilometres of descend through mountains over varied terrains. The initial part is on level ground with a few waterfalls on the way; the latter part is a steep descend through rocks ending at the Bhira Dam. The views throughout the route are breathtaking. The trek should ideally be done during the monsoons so as to enjoy a rich variety of weather, greenery and with seasonal waterfalls coming to life. 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Rappelling down the 150 ft Dudhiware Waterfall in Lonavala

Hanging at 90 degrees on the side of the waterfall, I took a few cautious steps down, as the instructor kept saying, 'Don't bend your knee'. The wind howled against the valley, it started pouring heavily and I took slow steps at the edge of the waterfall, controlling my urge to look down. But then I slipped, panicked and hit the rock hard...

On the last day of July, I was on my way to Dudhiware Waterfalls in Lonavala for rappelling with some of my trek-buddies from the Kalavantin Durg trek. The trip had been organised by the MASK group. We left from Mumbai early in the morning in a bus and after 3 hours of travelling through heavy rains, which had completely clouded the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, reached our destination.

After a quick briefing, registration and breakfast at the base village Dudhiware, we headed to the waterfall. Walking through paddy fields, over rocks and through small streams, we reached at the base of the waterfalls and spotted people rappelling through the water down the falls. This was when I first realised the gravity of the task we had taken up and a quick rush of adrenaline and anxiety went through my body and mind.

Our first glimpse of what was to follow. Rappelling at Dudhiware Waterfalls, Lonavala

The rain had stopped and the view of the clouds covering the nearby hills that met our eyes was breathtaking. Mangesh, the head instructor, guided us through the various equipments for rappelling and the dos and don’ts for our safety.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I saw ‘Placebo’ & can’t get it out of my head

The film ended. The credits rolled. The audience applauded. I sat there silent, blank, wondering What did I just see?

The story began in March 2013 when my friend showed us the crowd-funding teaser for Placebo and said that the filmmakers want to make a pitch at our film festival. The teaser was a true teaser. We wanted to know ‘What is Placebo?’ and what is this ‘feature length film’ going to show. It had captivated our senses. We were on and that was when I first met and spoke to Abhay Kumar, the director of the film.

Months rolled by and after a lot of struggle (that I could make out from Abhay’s facebook timeline) the film finally saw a release last year. It has gone around the world and received innumerable standing ovations.


For some reason or the other I kept missing the screenings of the film that happened here in Mumbai in the last few months. When I got to know about the Peepshow screening at antisocial Khar last Tuesday, the timing being convenient, I finally was going to get some answers.

The only thing I was worried about was- Since we have so high expectations from this film and that for so long, what if we are disappointed?

Well, after watching the film, was I disappointed? No.

Was I highly impressed? No.

What happened then?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I didn’t go for the Wimbledon- Who is to be blamed?

#UPDATE: On Tuesday, 19th, after two days of posting this entry, I got a call from Media Moments, the PR company, requesting me to take the blog post down and asking what I was expecting from them or Allen Solly. I said my only concern was that any time in the future if I apply for a VISA, this rejection would be accounted for. And since it was the mistake of the brand (by giving me a wrong sponsorship letter), they should get it rectified. They said the brand would get my VISA work done but I would have to take care of all the other expenses including flights, stay etc. 

I said I would get back to them. I consulted some top travel blogger friends for what should be done in this situation and after understanding the entire situation and being certain that the brand is definitely at fault in this situation, they all suggested I should demand for compensation.

For the next two days I kept superbly busy with work and couldn't get back to Media Moments people even though they were constantly calling me to check if I was okay with their proposal. On 21st morning I spoke to them and clearly told them that I would like them to gratify everything apart from the 'watching Wimbledon' part, as mentioned in the T&Cs and contract. They said "It's a long process of approvals and paper work for a big company like Madura Fashions and the brand won't do it." 

The lady went on to tell me how keeping this blog post online would harm my future as a travel blogger and how it is in the best of my personal interest to take it down. 

I suggested they compensate me the entire amount equivalent to what I was promised as a contest winner. She denied that as well "The brand won't give any monetary compensation."

I clearly told them that they mustn't expect me to take the blog down if they were unwilling to do anything.

"Fine," she said. And that was the end of the discussion.

What was the point of contacting me then? Should a brand like Allen Solly (or Aditya Birla or Madura Fashions) be allowed to let go of a situation like this so easily? Or does the brand know nothing about all this and the PR company is trying to save its face in front of the brand? (This is what everyone is suggesting now)

====

At the end of May, I won a blogging contest to go and watch the Wimbledon at the Centre Court in London this year. It was an epic moment. Three weeks later, with just 4 days to go for my flight from Mumbai to take off, my UK VISA was denied for no mistake of mine. I was devastated.

What went wrong and who is to be blamed?

For all those who have asked me to narrate the story over the last few weeks, either out of curiosity or concern over my ‘heart-breaking post’ on facebook, here’s the complete story. Help me out if you can:

Participation in the contest:

In mid-April, I received an email from a PR company Media Moments (Bengaluru) about a blogging contest being conducted by Allen Solly with the ultimate prize of winning a trip to watch the Wimbledon in the Centre Court in London this year. I had initially ignored the mail, wondering how genuine it was.

Two days before the contest deadline, I got a call from Media Moments asking if I was participating. I gave it an impulsive thought and said I was. I had to make a timelapse video of packing my bag for Wimbledon and post it on the blog along with the reason of carrying the things I had shown in the video. All went well. (The first post: My Travel Bag for Wimbledon 2016)

A few days later I got a call from Media Moments saying I had qualified for the final round of the contest and the details for the same were shared. They also sent me an amazing Wimbledon SollySport gift hamper and a gift voucher worth Rs.2000/- appreciating the efforts of the first round.

The final round required a lot of thinking and over the next week I did everything that was required and posted the blog before the deadline. (The second & final post: Preparing for the Wimbledon)

Friday, July 01, 2016

Book Review: Six Degrees – Game of Blogs

Title: Six Degrees
Authors: Bloggers across India
Published by: Blogadda.com
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing
Pages: 422
Genre: Varied

What is ‘six degrees’ and why is it a must-read?

In September-October 2014, 300 bloggers from across India came together to participate in the ‘Game of Blogs’. 30 teams of 10 members each were given a uniform set of 5 characters- Shekhar, Tara, Roohi, Cyrus and Jennifer- along with a little character description of each. Each team, with random team members, had to work together and create a story over 3 rounds using the characters. What happened over that one month period was a collaboration never seen before. There were eliminations after each round and the top 3 stories made it to ‘six degrees’- a published book of the collaborative blogging effort.  

This solely becomes a reason to read the book without even going into the details of how good or bad the 3 stories in the book are. The same set of characters but completely different paths and genres of stories- it’s an achievement in itself!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Why a visit to Phaltan will leave you spellbound

Being urban dwellers, we tend to plan trips to the most popular tourist locations across the country and abroad. My recent trip to Phaltan, a small town in rural Maharashtra, had some unique and unusual experiences included in the itinerary- some things which probably we would enjoy a lot, but never really think about experiencing. These were the experiences in the itinerary that made me accept the invitation to go and stay in a hotel in the middle of acres of barren land. The trip had been planned by Jakson Inns (Read: Weekend Stay at Jakson Inns, Phaltan) in support of promoting rural tourism, and I must say I was impressed.

The skies opened and it poured that evening. Photo location: Agricultural Development Trust, Baramati

Breakfast by a river

‘I think they are going to serve some authentic local food at the farm’, said my co-blogger.

‘It’s breakfast at a farm, so obviously they are going to have some local food and sugarcane juice.’

What we were to discover was something absolutely unexpected and surprising. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

8 Tiny Stories commemorating my 8 Years of Blogging

In 8 years, everything can change. The people you know, the way they are with you, the places you call your own, the situations you think are challenges, the thoughts that you have, the priorities in your life, the worries and joys of life- all of it. This is to the ONE thing that has remained unchanged in my life for the last 8 years. It is the one thing that has given me peace of mind when everything else has failed. It has only improved, inspired and helped me more and more.

13th of June 2016 marks the completion of 8 years of blogging for me. It’s that one day of the year which has consistently seen a post year after year. Here I bring to you the journey of eight years in 8 tiny stories; it’s happy 8th birthday to the blog after all…

1. The One where it all Began

I have told and retold this story to everyone who ever asked me ‘How did you get into blogging?’ Here it goes again, concisely: One fine summer afternoon on the 13th of June 2008, I sat at home in Delhi and Googled ‘what is a blog?’ Moments later I stumbled across BigB’s BigAdda blog and was amazed at how he could get hundreds of comments on his posts within minutes of posting his daily life situations. Minutes later, this blog was created. Of course, it looked nothing close to how it looks now, nor was the content anything close to what might interest you. But I never cease to get tired of repeating the inspirational story that the one man was for me.


2. The One where I met the Inspiration

Two years ago, I was in Mumbai for the first time. It was for a short internship. My friend took me around the city of Bollywood and I proudly got a picture clicked in front of the house of my inspiration. It became the 13th of June post for that year. 8 days later, I was on a Bollywood-movie set standing face-to-face with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, working with him on the same film, too nervous to tell him ‘Thank you for being my inspiration to start blogging’.


3. The One with the Domain Story

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The 'Wow' Hospitality at Jakson Inns, Phaltan

When I was invited for a stay at the Jakson Inns, Phaltan, what I really didn’t anticipate would impress me was the hospitality rendered to us. Every request made was taken care of with utter diligence. Each meal planned for us was a unique experience different from the previous ones.

After a warm welcome and checking in to our rooms (Read here), it was lunch time and our lunch was to be served at Green Bean, the in-house multi cuisine restaurant.

Spotted this bird house in the hotel gardens. Probably the birds love the hospitality too. Jakson Inns, Phaltan
It was a colourful setup, with enough natural light coming in. Here we met the General Manager of Jakson Inns, Gautam Banerjee. As we went through a 2-hour long Indian lunch, that started with ‘spiced water’ (yes, spicy water but great for digestion and by taste), soup and appetisers, the main course and ended with desserts, Gautam told us about the history of Phaltan, places to see around, the story of the hotel’s coming into existence and why all the food was so spicy.

‘People here love spicy food and if it is too much for you, do let us know so we can decrease the spiciness a bit,’ Gautam told us. Although the food tasted great, I had water in my eyes with the first few sips of the soup and the spiced water. Seeing my predicament, he immediately instructed the chefs to serve less-spicy food to me.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Weekend Stay: Review of Jakson Inns, Phaltan

When Google Maps shows that the hotel you are invited to is set amidst acres of barren farm land with a few industries here and there, the nearest big city is at least 60 kilometres away, water is scarce and the place sees about 12 days of rainfall in the whole year, and at the same time the itinerary includes some experiences which you can just not say no to, what do you do?

It didn’t take me long to say yes to the trip to Phaltan for a 3 day-2 night stay at Jakson Inns to review the property and to experience some unforgettable moments.

Early one morning this summer, along with some bloggers and travel writers, I was headed to Phaltan (270 kms from Mumbai), a small town located in the Satara district of Maharashtra.

An overcast sky allowed me to click this beautiful picture of the property one evening. Jakson Inns, Phaltan

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Preparing for the Wimbledon #PlayItFair #SollySportCentreCourt

Update: This was the second post in the Allen Solly #PlayItFair Win a Trip to Wimbledon 2016 Contest which I later won.

Wimbledon has been on my mind since the last few weeks and entering the final round of the Blog it Ace it #PlayItFair contest, had me thinking about it even more. How would it be if I am indeed headed to London to witness the Wimbledon at the #SollySportCentreCourt live this year?

Once the packing is done (and my travel bag is already packed for Wimbledon, check here), the journey would commence and I would keep looking out of the plane window probably wondering ‘Are international clouds the same as those found in India? Do clouds play it fair or have boundaries?’





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Friday, May 20, 2016

The all-too-same yet so-different April trip to Delhi

It was 4.30 AM and I sat in the lounge of the Domestic Airport in Delhi, having a chocolate filled donut, waiting for my early morning  Indigo Airlines  flight to Mumbai. This was at the end of a long weekend in early April. It had been a very short trip.

74 hours ago, at 2 AM, as the taxi made its way out of the domestic airport to the Gurgaon expressway, the all too familiar broad road and the parallel rows of streetlights along Mahipalpur came into view. A big grin spread across my face. Being back in Delhi after 7 months- it had a very good and nostalgic feeling to it. I was happy. I had missed seeing this familiar sight for too long.



A short trip and a lot had to be done in the short time. A lot of places to visit, a lot of important people to be seen.

Friday, May 06, 2016

My Travel Bag for Wimbledon 2016 #AllenSolly #SollySportCentreCourt #PlayItFair

Update: This was the first post in the Allen Solly #PlayItFair Win a Trip to Wimbledon 2016 Contest which I later won.

Getting to witness Wimbledon, the biggest and the most historic of all tennis tournaments, LIVE from the centre court is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s not just a historic tournament, but a royal one at that. What watching a match at the Lords is for cricket fans, witnessing Wimbledon is the same, if not a bigger moment, to a tennis lover. While travelling from India, it is imperative to carry the most important things in one’s travel bag to have a grand experience of the event.

Here I list down some of the most important things I would carry in my travel bag, if I head to the Wimbledon #SollySportCentreCourt :

1. Wimbledon is held in one of the farther suburbs of London usually between the last week of June to the second week of July. Considering that the temperature in the hottest month of July in London ranges between 12 to 25 degrees, with unpredictable rains and winds, it is definitely going to be cold for the acquainted-to-hot-and-humid-climate Indians. And so, you need to be ready with some winter wear (jacket, hoodie and a muffler may be?) for the just-in-case situation. Of course, I would keep some tshirts and shorts handy too. #PlayItFair


Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Case of the Unauthorised Use of my 'Gola' Photo

Take a look at the photo below and if you know me, there is no way you won’t be intrigued to read the complete story.

 

The Discovery

Early in April, I got a surprise text from a friend asking ‘Tune modelling bhi start ki hai kya?’ (Are you trying ‘modelling’ as a career as well?) I laughed it off, wondering why he would ask me such an out-of-the-blue question. And then he said ‘Oh I thought this is you’ and sent me these photos.

Picture courtesy: Arpit Shah, the friend who brought the whole issue to my notice

I just stared at the photo in disbelief and had absolutely no clue what to say or think. He then went on to tell me that his cousin spotted this at a shop in Mahavir Nagar, Kandivali (W), here in Mumbai.

I couldn’t understand if I should be happy (for the unexpected ‘fame’) or angry (for unauthorised use of my photo).

I posted the discovery on facebook and got mixed reactions from people, but all with a similar thought- ‘Get compensation’, ‘File a case’, ‘Ask him for a lifetime supply of free golas’, and so on.

I decided to go to the store and find out the whole story before taking any steps.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One Glass of Water Denied

Like every other day, I was waiting for my train at Dadar station today morning when a beggar approached me and asked for 5 rupees. In a matter-of-fact tone I waved my head, said ‘no’ and moved away from him while he completed his sentence ‘5 rupaye ka nimbu pani pila do’ (Buy me a lime-water costing 5 rupees). I didn’t give it a second thought and got on the first class compartment of the train which had just come to a halt on the platform.

I looked back at the beggar. He looked young, with a little shabby clothing and a cap. He was now approaching other people with his request. At that moment I actually gave heed to what he had said and realised that he hadn’t asked for money; he had asked for water.

It had been a genuine request.

‘Never say no to anyone for water’, I remembered my mother telling me a long time ago when I was in Primary school, had gone for a class picnic and hadn’t shared my bottle of water with a friend.



Before my slow-processing-morning-mind could change its course of actions, the train started moving and gave me a good excuse not to look back at the beggar. Right at that moment I knew the thought of this guy wouldn’t go out of my head easily.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tales from the Streets of Mumbai - II

Last Sunday night I was with a school friend, who was visiting, at Marine Drive and we were to return to my place (30 kms away) by the local train from Churchgate station.

“Wait, let’s take the train on platform 4. That’s the last train and leaves in 10 minutes,” I said.

My friend looked quizzically at me.

“That’s the 1 AM train. No train after that until 4.15 AM- the first train in the morning. So this would be an adventure!” I exclaimed. (Yeah, it's not ek-chaalis ki last local)

What if we miss that train? What if the train breaks down mid-way? Weird and random thoughts crossed my mind. I felt ecstatic. These little ‘adventures’ define life for me.

And the day had been quite eventful already.
Taking the last local- 1 AM- train from Churchgate Station

Rewind>>> 18 hours.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

What to do if you are bitten by a bed bug on an Indian train?

It was around 2.30 in the night and I was watching a movie on my laptop, lying on the lower berth seat in the train on the way to Mumbai. My hands had been itching for a few minutes now and I was irritated. I switched on the flashlight on my phone and pointed it at my elbow. I was in for a rude shock.

I immediately shut down the laptop and went out of the coach to the lighted area for a better look. There was swelling on both my hands, spread randomly around the elbow joint and on the fore-arm. I panicked. Could this be the work of some insect? Or is it something more serious?

I immediately clicked pictures of my hand and sent them to my family. They would obviously be deep asleep at this time in the night. I thought of any medication/first-aid that I can take and the anti-allergy tablets were the only thought I had. I returned to my seat, took a tablet and did a frantic search on the white bedsheets for any clue. And there it was- A bed bug!

I removed the bedding to check if there were more. There weren’t any in sight. But I was too paranoid to sleep there now. I couldn’t think of what to do.

I recalled that a blogger friend had tweeted about badcondition of her coach to the Indian Railway Ministry but hadn’t got any response. And this is 2.30 AM in the night, there is no way anything can be done. At least if nothing is done, I can tag the Radio Jockeys at my station and request them to take up the issue on their show, I thought.

So I went ahead and tweeted to the Rail Ministry:


I went ahead and checked the timeline of the @RailMinIndia twitter handle. I saw that there were tweets which had been responded to in the last hour with the common reply ‘Matter has been forwarded to the concerned authority’. There probably is an automated computer tweeting those, I thought.
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Monday, March 21, 2016

A Night Train Journey to Remember

The one who understands that life is all about making memories while enjoying every minute, makes the most of the limited time in hand.

With just about 20 minutes to go for the train’s scheduled departure, the taxi dropped me at a side-entrance to CST adjacent to Platform 18 where the Duronto Express stood. I was expecting to see some known faces and rushed through the platform in search of my coach and entered to find my seat.

It had actually been a big coincidence when two weeks ago, during the Kalavantin Durg trek, Arpit- our guide and trek leader- had informed me about the Tadoba Tiger Reserve trip that MASK group was taking and that their tickets were booked on the same day and in the same train as mine. The bigger surprise was discovering that even the coach and compartment were the same. Arpit invited me to join in the trip, but the eagerness to head home and enjoy some good food and sleep overpowered the excitement of the possible tiger safari.

It was a night train journey to remember, aboard the Mumbai-Nagpur Duronto Express, March 2016

As I entered to find my seat, Radhika- the lady with the DSLR during last fortnight’s trip- sat there with two guys- Vinit and Kuntal- who I was soon introduced to.

‘I didn’t know you were joining us for the trip,’ Radhika exclaimed.
‘Well, I am not. I am headed home. We just happen to have adjacent seats,’ I said.
‘I don’t believe that,’ she laughed at the 'coincidence'.

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