Navigation through South India

Sometimes we travel to discover the world, sometimes to discover ourselves. And sometimes, to discover something that changes our outlook for a minute, making us look in a different way at the fantastico things that be.

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Doddabetta Peak, Ooty (Source)

 This was when I was 12. We, our little family that is, were visiting a bit of South India then, for the first time in ever and naturally, we were pretty excited. Our major stay was to be in Ooty with some trips now and then around the places near it. It also included a one day trip to Kanyakumari. But this, my dear reader, is not a travelogue of that journey. Although, when I come to think of it, I must follow this post with a travelogue soon enough and I will. But right here, it is about those little discoveries you make when you travel.

These days, travelling has become more about going long distances and visiting exotic places and covering as much number of tourist spots you can manage within a given time frame. But back then, when we used to travel, it was more for the pleasure than for the fun. And there is a difference people, mind it. When you are travelling, there are moments where you sort of stop, come to a still and try to take in everything that a particular place has to offer. You give it the time it needs and it’s no longer about the next place you have to visit but about the one you are in right then. If you pay attention to that place, you may find that thing you have been looking for in all your wanderings.

Coming back to the tale of navigation, it hadn’t really been an ideal beginning for me. Halfway on our trip to Ooty, I had caught eye-flu. And it was a rather bad case at that, something I should not mention in a moodful setting of a story but had to because I needed to justify how badly I needed to wear sunglasses every time we traveled. Again, these sunglasses were not something you go and buy from those uber-cool stores for hundreds and thousands of rupees but just a peppy roadside 30 rupee thing. I used to wear them all the time, as my doctor had instructed, and protected my eyes from bad lights and water.

It was probably the fifth day of our visit when I accidentally broke the part of it that went on my ears. It was a lovely evening and we were at the Doddabetta Peak in Ooty. It was such an enchanting place with so much greenery and the valleys surrounding it that I took my sunglasses down and really looked at the beauty around me. The sun had pretty much calmed down by now and so my parents didn’t mind my doing so. Besides, we all were in so much love with the place that we had unanimously decided to stay there for the entire evening and cancelled all our shopping plans. We took some cool photographs there, played around, looked at the birds, the calmness and then the crowd.

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Finally returning to our taxi, towards the exit we found a similar roadside shop selling sunglasses. My parents asked me to go and buy one for the other day and me and my aunt went together there. I asked the guy for the glasses I liked, enquired about the price and finally settled to buy them. Then as I put my hands into my pocket, his eyes went to the broken sunglasses I already had. He didn’t know Hindi but enquired me in directions as to why I needed another glasses. I showed him that it was broken and he pointed out that it was just missing a screw. Then he took my glasses from me, mending them, trying to find the appropriate screw. My parents were back in the taxi by now and were calling us to hurry.

Now here was a totally ironic situation. We were asking the guy to just sell us the new glasses and that it was fine. But he wanted to repair my old one, not caring to sell a new piece and make some money for himself. Finally, he did find the right screw and mended my glasses perfectly. I asked him what I needed to pay him and he refused to take any money. I insisted and he insisted even firmly. No points for guessing, I came back paying him in just my sincerest gratitude and good wishes.

This particular thing, among many others that I would write in a detailed travelogue soon, was one that had a deep impact on me and made that first visit to South India one of my favourites. I also learnt that we think we travel to know places, but in reality, we do that to know people.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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The first thing in a new place

So you have undergone the necessary navigation of hundreds of miles and finally reached there. What is the first fantastico thing you see or observe or feel different about a new place? Is it the people, the smell of air, the distinct trees, the language, the peppy attire, the temperature? Surely there has to be some peculiar distinct feature of a place, something that is in every way different from all others and something that gives you a jolting realization that you are not home anymore. What is that first thing that gives an impression of a new place to you?

Source

Some may feel that it is the way lanes are set up which is totally unlike anything you find at home. Some may find that the public transport in the place is far more different than your usual bus-train routine. Others may find that the markets are pretty shoddy and have a class of their own. Others see that the food is different, both in cuisine and the taste. But for me, all these things come later.

Surely, when we visit some new place and have to make that little journey from the arriving station to wherever we are staying, I do notice that Yes, this is a new place with remotely different sets of variables that will effect me but that process does not really start then and there. It is after I am settled with my luggage and in the place I am staying in and much later when I go out that I begin to notice those things. Maybe it is because of those long hours of travel that make my mind go dormant to those things and in need for some recharge. But amidst all that, there is one thing that you cannot help but notice there; that peculiar first thing in a new place.

For me, it happens when we have settled into our room and are set to take a little nap to rejuvenate our bodies for the wanderings later on. Just then, a diffident guy knocks at the door. He has brought some utilities you would need, fresh towels perhaps, soaps and shampoos and would introduce himself as someone at your disposal during your stay. And then, he would put a jug of water on the table and fetch some glasses for you. Now you are exhausted from your journey and the only thing that really helps in that case is a good glass of water. As Kareena said in Jab we met-

“Cola shola sab apni jagah par hai par pani ka kaam pani hi karta hai.”

Sometimes, they come up with life’s truest secrets ever so nonchalantly 🙂 .  So, you get ahead to take a sip and till that moment, water is just regular water in your mind. And then it strikes. The second you take the first few drops in, you feel the impact. The impact of a new place. The taste of water is explicit to where you are and your mind gives you a warning that “Buddy, you are not where you should be, Aan aan”. This is something that you do not try to look for or observe but one that comes to you right-away. It’s the first thing in a new place for me and one that gets me pumped for the things to come.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

राहों में..

It was my first year of college and those were the days of Diwali. The whole college was going to come to a still. It was decided to bunk all lectures and all were asked to go home and be merry. This is the story of the my navigation to Lucknow, navigation to my home.

That evening, I reached the bus stop an hour early, something obvious when you are doing things the first time. Besides, I had decided to take a city bus to the stop and that required a margin. There wasn’t anyone in the help cabin and there wasn’t any section that read ‘Buses to Lucknow’ or something. I sifted through much of the station and finally found mine. It was a Volvo and the ‘Lucknow’ written on it made my heart go boom. I still asked the guy if it were the very same bus and he said Yes. I put my luggage in the lower section and boarded the bus. I had a non-window seat and there was no TV in the bus. I thought I was going to be bored to death.

Slowly, other passengers started boarding and the seats ahead and behind me were soon almost full. But no-one came to the window seat beside me. Then a big sturdy guy walked up and I prayed him to not be my neighbour. Thankfully, he wasn’t. Then a girl from my college boarded and I prayed her to be. But she wasn’t too and the bus started moving with my accompanying seat still empty. I thought of shifting to it for a better view but didn’t, thinking I would just lie there later on.

A few minutes in, the bus made a sharp turn and a halt, much to the surprise of a supposedly experienced traveler besides me who seemed to know it was a diversion. A guy then opened the gate and a girl in black got in. This time, I prayed nothing and she came to my seat. The window seat belonged to her as I moved out to let her in.

A girl in black (source)

Soon as she had settled, she started making some calls, telling her parents she was on-board. She also told them how her uncle had messed up things so much so that she couldn’t reach the bus-stop on time and they had to stop the bus mid-way to board. She told them her uncle could not be trusted. She was so childish talking like that it almost made me laugh but I controlled myself. Then she made a few other calls to, I don’t know what people, but she talked a hell lot. I was a bit tired and having nothing to do, I drifted to a nap.

I got up an hour later and called my parents. I told them I wouldn’t be having a dinner and to be prepared with something good in the morning when I reach there. I started looking through the window so as to have some semblance of staying awake but I still found myself drifting a bit.

It must have been minutes when she pulled on my jacket going, “Excuse me, excuse me” and I woke up. I politely asked her what was the matter and she asked me how to recline her seat. I then realized she was travelling in a Volvo for the first time, like me. I told her there must be a lever somewhere there , just as mine had one but hers seemed to be missing. I figured that the window seat lever would not be on the hand-rest but somewhere down. I asked her to look for it but she couldn’t find it. We two seemed to be the only two saying anything in the whole bus as I looked around to see everyone with their eyes directed towards us. But no-one offered to tell anything and they just seemed to enjoy the show. I then asked her to come out and let me try. But even I couldn’t find anything. Then I took out my key-ring with a torch on it and looked out. I saw it and adjusted her seat for her just as much she wanted. The other passengers looked relieved and disappointed at the same time but the show was over;  at least for now.

I had had just an hour more of sleep when I woke up to the sound of the girl again talking, this time quite excitedly on her phone. It appeared to me a rather peppy conversation, with plans of doing this and that in Diwali and so I figured not to disturb her. Besides, it was near time for the dinner halt and other passengers too seemed to be awake just for that. I felt I needed some Thums Up and decided to get down myself. When it halted, I did and quickly returned to my seat. A little later, everyone else returned too, finally in mood for some sleep. Then she came in,  still talking on her phone. I was about to move myself but she broke her conversation in the middle and asked me to pass. I again moved out to let her in and the other passengers once again had eyes set on us.

A few minutes in, she called another friend and started talking about their nothings. She then abruptly mentioned, a bit loudly, how she was feeling very cold in the bus. I looked at the time in my watch and then around at the passengers, still gawking us, literally gawking, as if they wanted me to get rid of that jacket of mine and give it to my co-passenger. A few seconds later, even I wondered “Do they really want me to give my jacket to her? Hell, do I want me to give my jacket to her? Wouldn’t it be too filmy?”

Just as I was about to take it off, she reached into her bag and took out a frigging shawl and wrapped it around her as everyone’s faces around us went “Oh shit!”.

I then put down the hand-rest to divide our seats and pulled my cap to near my eyes. It was half past nine and I intended to sleep till..till Lucknow. But I was awoke yet again after an hour by the sound of her talking on the phone, this time having a rather ‘personal’ conversation loudly enough to wake me but not to disturb other passengers. I couldn’t help but notice one peculiar thing. The hand-rest between our seats was taken up.

I could not sleep after that; nor that I even tried to. I simply looked out of the window, which surprisingly, she had kept un-curtained. It was a rather dark yet beautiful night as the bus undertook its navigation to my way home.

I was flabbergasted to see that the girl was still mostly on the phone, sometimes making calls but mostly getting them so I guessed it wasn’t entirely her fault. At around 12, she got a call from her parents inquiring as to when she would be reaching Kanpur. She told them it would be by three and then went on to talk some other things before she put it down. Now I had gotten things cleared with the bus driver earlier and he had told me that the bus reaches Lucknow at around 6 normally but because of festival time and stuff, it could take more. And so I knew that there was no way in hell she would be reaching Kanpur ‘by 3’. I told her so and she immediately called her Dad back.

Having talked to him, she thanked me and asked if I lived in Jaipur. I told her I studied there. She asked me about my college and I told her. It was now upon me to ask her if she studied in Jaipur but from her numerous conversations all round the trip, I knew pretty much everything I needed to. I knew she studied in Jaipur, that she was new there, that she was staying at a hostel even though her maternal uncle and her maternal grandparents lived in Jaipur. Hell, I even knew the number of people in their home and the names of their grandchildren.

Still, making small talk and honestly, interested in a conversation, I asked her what college she studied in. She told me the name of her college, her subject of study and stressed that it was her first year. I added that it was my first year too. She asked my name and I asked hers, which again I knew beforehand. We then chatted a bit about how we found Jaipur and if we were suited to it. She seemed pretty happy there but added that her family being there made things hard on weekends.

She kept on receiving calls the whole night and between her phone calls, when we got bored watching the darkness outside, we talked a bit more. Soon, it was 4 and her father again called, for the umpteenth time since midnight, to know why she hadn’t reached yet. She seemed lost and asked me where we were and when we would be reaching Kanpur, mid-call. I told her we were at so and so place (even I didn’t know, I just told her what my mobile network told me) and that it wouldn’t be before 5 till Kanpur. She got back on the call and I could hear her father asking, “Who was he?”. She told her I was her co-passenger but his voice still appeared concerned.

She got off the call and thanked me again. I wanted to ask her then and there why in the world she was on phone for about 8 hours in the 11 hour journey but I stopped myself. I tried to frame some soft sentences to ask it and when I thought it was polite enough, I did. She told me that because she was going out for the first time alone, her parents home and relatives in Jaipur were all worried for her. I understood her, took a minute and then replied back- “But YOU should not be so troubled by it. You are going to become an independent girl in future and as such you should take a stand for yourself. Also, it’s a decent enough bus with decent enough people here and not some desolate thing. You should try to make your folks understand all this; not haughtily but in a simple, polite manner.” She listened to me quietly and taking some time told me that I was right but she had tried and to no avail. She then added that she would try once more and I told her that she must.

An hour later, it was Kanpur and she was surprisingly the only one to get off there. She picked her bag and I moved out to let her pass. We bade each other goodbye and as she took a step ahead, she stopped and turned. Her shawl had stuck somewhere at the back of a seat and I took it out from there. It was such a Bollywoodistical moment that both of us smiled as she thanked me again and got down.

Two hours later, the bus successfully navigated its way to Lucknow and at 8, I was home eating Maggi noodles.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Travel fantastico

When your heart is a wanderer, you go places. And travel stories, my compassionate reader, are not merely a retelling of the enchanting places you go to; it’s a crepuscular melange of times and cities that made your life a little better, it’s a potpourri of vestiges that you can’t really blog about. That said, it would still be a sin to not let any of you readers be bereft of some of the most awesome suggestions for your travel destinations. So whenever you get some time at your hand and want to get out of the toil and trouble of everyday life, do try looking forward to these places and try to discover the life that you let go sometimes. As someone has aptly said- “Sometimes we travel to discover places; sometimes to discover ourselves.”

So without further ado, here goes the list of my top 5 favourite travel destinations.

#5- Kanyakumari-

Source: wikipedia

 

To enjoy the beaches, go Goa. To enjoy the ocean, Go to Kanyakumari. There are few people who would place Kanyakumari on this list. But for reasons unknown, I do. Maybe it was the timing and sudden plan that lead to this trip of ours. And believe me, going without much planning or research pays heavily. When you visit Kanyakumari, you get to enjoy the mighty Indian Ocean in all its glory with two mighty structures catching the eye at the centre- The Vivekanada Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue. Far as beaches are concerned, the Kanyakumari beach would be the best. Also, nice markets to shop petty things around and get your hands on some raunchy food.Also, compared to places as awesome as this, Kanyakumari would suit your budget too. The stay is pretty casual and you can get a pretty decent room in a good area at a very healthy price. Far as food is concerned, if you take up the food of the place, it’s cheap as any.

 

#4- Varanasi- 

Source: wikipedia

 Going to Varanasi is the most sublime experience that you can have if you are travelling all by yourself because when you do that, you get to see its real beauty and are in rush to just cover as many spots as possible. When you go, I advise to rent some cheap hotel room near the Ganga ghats. Take a good night’s sleep, wake up before dawn and visit the Ganga in its full glory for a bath. Once you do that, you would know why it means so much to people who talk about it. Some other top spots include- The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, The New Vishwanath temple and all the other ghats of Varanasi.

#3- Manali- 

Source: SVDAA Trip

If you travel during summers mostly, Manali might be the best bet for you. It’s quite cool and natural with pollution slowly taking it up too. Still, it’s cleaner than most of the other hill stations in India. And, you may get the best snow in summer at Manali. Main attractions include the Rohtang pass, Solan Valley and Hidamaba temple. The Maal road is pretty decent but costly. A note of Caution here- Manali is going to cost you, nothing’s cheap here.

#2- Mussoorie- 

Source: namastedehradun.in

 The queen of hills has its own reasons to be on this list. Although quite ruined by a large amount of tourism and thereby much pollution, It will never stop stealing your heart whenever you visit it. Also, the Maal road is the best in India amongst pretty much all hill stations in India (except Darjeeling if you can beat the sellers by bargaining). The top spots include Kempty Falls, Gun Hill and the heritage centres. Also, like Manali, It is going to make you pay.

#1- Agra-Mathura-Vrindavan circle

Source: indiatourmantra.in

 OK, this is like three places but it’s a sin to visit one and leave the other two. With the ever so awesome Yamuna expressway connecting Agra and Mathura’s 80 odd kilometers, it doesn’t feel like travelling to another city and Vrindavan is practically in Mathura only. The places to visit are fab and the top spots go like this-

Agra- The Taj Mahal of course. Agra Fort and Dayal Bagh.

Mathura- The Janmabhuni, Dwarkadhish Temple and Radha Kund

Vrindavan- Banke Bihari temple, ISKCON temple, Madan Mohan Temple and a lovely lot more. It’s said that every home in Vrindavan is a temple and that every living creature born here is a god.

Also, lodging apart, things are relatively cheap in this tour and you can expect good decent meals at easy prices. Also, there are some big surprises for the people who love to shop.

 

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.