Lies

Lies flow fluently through my lips,
As I tell you a fascinating story about a place faraway in the mountains,

And get lost in the augmented reality of my own thoughts,
Living a perfect life.

The story so palpable,
That you will listen to it carefully.

Not because you trust me,
But because you find the fragments of your own truths,
As you weave your fantasy land with my words.

And I’ll keep expanding my dreams,
For the dreamers alike,
So that one day you wake up to live by it,
And convert all my lies into truth.

A poem

I still remember Your first sight,
making me feel excited and calm at the same time.

Unfolding thousands of hidden expressions, yet I was speechless.

Your mere presence taught me humility,
yet made me strong enough to gather all my pieces that were fallen apart.

The joy witnessed never before!

As if You came alive,
talking to me in the form of whistling winds, chirping birds and ghustling stream.

And I was just there like a tall tree standing still,
listening to Your whispers.

And together in that moment,
we formed a jungle of peace,
hidden far away from the mad crowd…

Gradually turning into a poem,

Only a few can read.

नई सुबह

नई सुबह, नया दिन!

आज मै उत्सुक हूँ।
सुबह सुबह लोगों की चुस्ती फुर्ती देख कर।
बर्तनों की ढनमन और पानी की छप छपाहट सुन कर,
लोगों को बनठन के भीड़ भड़क्के में भागता हुआ देख कर।
चाहें पैसे कमाने का उल्लास हो या कोई मजबूरी,
सुबह की इस भगधड़ में जीने का जज़्बा तो बेशक नजर आता है।

आज मै उत्सुक हूँ,

उसी जज़्बा से जीने के लिए!
उत्सुक हूँ यह जानने के लिए,
की आज की सुबह मेरे लिए कैसी रात लाएगी?
मायूसी से भरी या चैन से सोने देने वाली?
मायूस राते लंबी लगती हैं और उन्हें काटना मुश्किल भी तो है।
जहाँ दीन आँख मूंदते निकल जाता है, वही रात बिताये हुए हर एक पल का हिसाब माँगती है।
आज मै रात को दिनभर का हिसाब देना चाहता हूँ।

आज मै उत्सुक हूँ। बस यूँही।
आखिर हर सुबह ऐसी चेतना थोड़े ही जगती है।

DSC_1089

10 Things that will surprise you when you Visit Dubai

**Guest Post**

Dubai is a city full of surprises. Each year thousands and thousands of tourists visit Dubai to experience this glamorous city and see the marvelous buildings and architecture. Dubai Holidays is on most people’s agenda at least once in their lifetime. It has without a doubt become the entertainment capital of the world.

There are innumerable places to visit in Dubai and it is a city that caters to all age groups. Be it grandparents, parents or kids, everyone has loads of things to do in Dubai. But it is also a city full of surprises. And the list is so long that it is difficult to mention everything here. But I am going to list down ten facts about Dubai that will really surprise you. Want to know what it is? Read on.

10 Things that will surprise you when you visit Dubai:

  • Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world: Since its inauguration in 2010, Burj Khalifa still holds the record of being the tallest building in the world. At more than 828 meters and more than 160 floors, it offers a breathtaking view of the entire city. The visitors can go to the observation decks on the 124th and 125th floor for a 360-degree view of this magical city, and also take a guided tour to the 148th The 125th floor pays a tribute to Arab arts and culture.

burj khalifa

  • Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest man-made island: Dubai has always been a city of fascinating architecture. No wonder that they also hold a world record for the first man-made island Palm Jumeirah. Opened in 2001, the tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago famous for its extravagant restaurants, sophisticated apartment towers, and swanky hotels. Palm Jumeirah Monorail is the first monorail in the Middle East that connects it to the mainland.

palm jumeirah

  • ATMs that dispense gold: Yes, you read it right. You can buy anything from a gold coin to a gold bar from The Gold to Go ATM in Dubai Mall. The computer inside the vending machine changes the price based on the real-time market fluctuations. There are three such ATMS in Dubai, two in Burj Khalifa and one in Atlantis Hotel.

gold atm

  • No Income-Tax: Wow! What can be more amazing than the fact that you don’t have to pay Income Tax? Yes, you get your whole salary without any deductions in Dubai. The only tax that you pay is the VAT (Value Added Tax) while buying products. This is one of the biggest reasons for many people to establish their business in Dubai.
  • Longest automated Metro Line: Another surprising fact about Dubai is that it has the longest driver-less single metro line. In fact, it made it to the Guinness Book of Records as the longest automated metro line. Currently, the Red and Green lines are operational with another line under construction.

dubai metro

  • Police Sports Cars: The Dubai Police owns a fleet of high-end luxury cars such as Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Bentleys. The fleet also includes Aston Martin, Bugatti, and the likes. The idea is to break down barriers between the police and the public. And the icing on the cake is that most of the expensive cars such as Bentley and Ferrari are driven by women police officers.

dubai police car

  • Experience Sand and Snow throughout the year: Probably the only place in the whole world where you can enjoy desert safaris and experience snow any time of the year. Ski Dubai is a snow park with real snow constructed right in the middle of the desert. There is a 85-meter-high mountain and an indoor skiing facility. The park maintains a temperature of -1 to -2 degrees throughout the year and the highlight are the penguins that have been transported all the way from Antarctica.

dubai police car

  • Reward for losing weight: Looking for an incentive to lose weight? Well, the Dubai Government awards a family 2 grams of gold for every kilogram lost. This gives you a big motivation to stop making excuses and lose weight.
  • No address in Dubai: The residents in Dubai did not have a street address until a few years ago. They used to direct people to places using landmarks. Recently, the government has allotted unique codes for each building to streamline the process of finding an address.
  • Biggest theme-based mall in the world: For a real shopping experience, head out to the Ibn Battuta Mall. Named after the renowned traveler Ibn Battuta who traveled the world in 1335, this is the biggest theme-based mall in the world. The mall is divided into six different courts: India, China, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia, representing the different places he traveled to. Enjoy some lip-smacking food in the restaurants or pamper yourself with new clothes and perfumes in their stores.

 

Tips for Travelers: 

Planning a vacation to Dubai and not sure what to do? The following tips will surely help you:

  • The best time to travel is from November to April when the weather is pleasant. All the major tourist attractions in Dubai will be open this time of the year. The months of January and February are especially crowded because of the famous Dubai Shopping Festival and the entire city comes alive. But, since this is the peak season, the hotel rates and airfares are really high.

If you are not looking to travel during peak seasons, you can travel during comparatively off-peak months such as May, September, and October. The crowd is comparatively less, and you will get good bargains in hotels and airfare.

  • Do some research about the season you are visiting in so that you can enjoy all the activities
  • Process your visa at least one month in advance to avoid last moment delays
  • Book hotels and air tickets at least a few months in advance to get the best price
  • Ensure you carry your passport, travel insurance, and other important documents
  • Carry your international debit and credit cards for purchases. For other expenses, it is better to exchange your local currencies with dirhams at the airport or the malls where you get a good exchange rate
  • If shopping for gold in Dubai Gold Souk, compare prices at various stores to get the best deals

Conclusion: No matter when you plan to visit Dubai, there is always something to do. A short trip will not do justice to this delightful city. Plan a long fun trip so that you can explore as many places as possible.

Note: This is a guest post by raynatours

Hold On!

When you think you can’t take it anymore,
Emotions taking a toll,
Soul crying to burst from the cage,
Filling you with anger and rage,
When the curiosity, anxiety and fear make a home in your mind,
When the society is no more of your kind,
When you know its too late to save yourself,
That the destruction is near,
Do not fear!
Take that dive.
For when you finally give up trying,
Running out of breath,
Left for dying,
In the darkest time,
Remember Me in your whispers,
For I shall breathe in you the light of a new dawn,
So that you see the reality,
And come out from the veil of dreams that made you ignorant.
And convey all,
That there is a place,
Where the happiness, peace and love coexist,
The art thrives,
And where everything is Divine!
Hold on_poem

Being Alone

There comes a time when you feel terribly alone. Not in the sense that you lock yourself in a room but in the state of utter dilemma, the way the life is happening and revolving around you. The ones that make you feel helpless even if you wish to change things around you. There comes a time when you feel alone, not necessarily in the sense that it makes you sad/depressed but that makes you feel so disconnected even from all the things you that once made you feel happier. Tell me, after years of working, does that salary still excites you? Does that bike/car you bought still add thrill in your daily life? Does partying every day still makes you feel that you are making the best of your life? Does traveling still make your jaw drop in awe and wonderment? In the quest to be happy, I tried everything fancy with the fun coupons I earned but it just brought more chaos, burning a deep hole within. But you just don’t pay attention to these things easily. You don’t introspect thinking it as silly. You just take it for granted and continue doing things that you think is making you happy. Gradually you become dependent, on the fun coupons, on family and friends, your girlfriend. You’re so dependent that you desperately need them. Because you don’t know how to spend time with yourself. You think what else is there to do? So you socialize, you travel and try to fill the empty cup with the sense of over-excitement, silly jokes and vain laughs over a few drinks, feeding your ego. The ego of ignorance. Yeah, it is bliss to live in that ignorance but for how long? And as soon as that party is over, as soon as you are done with your girlfriend, as soon as you’re back from an adventurous trip, you just fall in the same trap of searching for entertainment again. Oh, but you earn and there’s so much time you spend working. You think traveling, exploiting relationship, killing time with friends is your birthright. But imagine, how much it caught you in the habit of depending on other things for fun; be it substance, places or people. Do you even mind the kind of people you interact with daily? 8/10 people you meet might not even know what are you up to. Aren’t you meeting them because you think there’s nothing else to do? Their time and attention are enough to keep you entertained. Don’t you already know this friendship won’t last long? This dependency is nothing but a disease heavily masked by so-called fun, love, and friendship. Just for a moment imagine if all these are taken away from you. You’ve worked so hard just so that you never feel alone and you have someone/something to fall back on. Imagine to whom will you pour your heart out regarding your personal problems if not your girlfriend/best friend. Imagine if someone v close to you, without whom you could never ever imagine your life, suddenly dies. The problem is it doesn’t hit you hard until it truly happens. But all that you’re building now is bound to change, something /someone is bound to go away. The wonderful moments you’re living with your college/office friends that you wish stays the way it is forever are bound to end. And when you begin to lose it you feel terrible, even more so because you have invested so much time in building up your life with people/things around you that you are not ready to accept the truth that it’s finally gone and you’re all alone. Can you relate your meeting with old school/office friends after a long time with whom you keep rewinding the good old days and how you wish life to be fun and easy going the way it was back then? Why do you think life is more complicated now? Maybe because you’re trying to build the same comfort zone again by making new relationships and finding joy in more fancy things. In doing so, you may find it difficult to meet your own expectations by comparing it with older times/others and might even feel defeated. But, you just like to ignore these facts. When life pins you down, you don’t fight back, for you will always be defeated in one way or the other no matter how hard you try. The better way out is to accept your defeat, try to learn from what life has to teach you and deal with the problems by managing it efficiently. We all must arrive at this conclusion someday irrespective of being an introvert or extrovert, that we are all really alone. And you won’t be able to express this feeling to anyone around you. Some would accept it while some ignore it and continue to live a caged life with an invisible rope of habits tying around them. The more you try to pull it, the tighter it becomes. There’s no escape really. How can you escape from yourself? Perhaps, then you will realize how logical it is to invest your time, emotion and energy on that one thing that stays with you at the time of despair as well as happiness. That one thing that doesn’t necessarily have a fruitful outcome. That one thing which you can see every day, care for it, nurture it, see it slowly growing. That which is yours, with whom you fall so utterly in love that even if it looks ugly to the world you love it with all your heart, just like a mother loves her child unconditionally. If you crave enough just for that one thing which you can hold on forever, unshaken with your love for it amidst the crashing world, what would it be? Is it love, art or religion…? You have to be utterly honest with yourself to decide. You must learn to really choose amidst all the options presented to you, lest you fall in the same trap of habits again. Do you really want to become all those things you fancy? Think again.

Isn’t finding solace in passion, a way to find solace in your own self? Aren’t all these merely a means of expressing yourself? Perhaps the answer is always with you, the answer is You! And all other things are just the by-products reflecting your true nature. Perhaps this how it is, this is how it has always been- a journey of Self.

Being alone

 

A peek into simplicity and the hardship of rural life

After exploring Mahabaleshwar for 2 days, we found ourselves saturated with the place and decided to return. The long weekend had invited a lot of crowd in the hills and we were so impregnated with the act of travelling that even though we had 2 more days before getting back to the routine, we decided to call it a quit and spend rest of the time at home. But is it so easy to convince the mad heart who has already tasted freedom? One often arrives at a point on the road where he has to choose the course that defines his journey and that is the beauty of travelling! On our way back, our silence conveyed that we were unhappy with the decision. My friend casually suggested that we visit his village which was not too far from Mahabaleshwar. Being raised in a metropolitan city, I’ve only had few opportunities to experience rural life that made me immediately second his idea.

Read: Road trip to Harihareshwar: Misadventures and Ruminations

rural india

As we took a detour from the main highway, the vehicles were replaced by the refreshing greens and contours of the hills slicing the horizon. I took deep breaths deliberately, filling the lungs with fresh air, enjoying the momentary freedom and soaking the beauty of the countryside. On the way, my curious eyes spotted a group of people burning crops on firewood. “This is called Hurda party”, my friend replied looking at my inquisitiveness. After toiling hard in the field, the farmers celebrate the good harvest of Jowar by roasting its seed and eating it with garlic/groundnut chutney or sometimes along with jaggery. Later, I learned that this simple dish of farmers is now loved by the urban people so much that it has begun to find its way in restaurants. Also, events are held up at various farms near Pune to celebrate the Hurda party.  The discussion invariably gave rise to my fantasy of living a slow-paced life, unlike the cities. As usual, I found beauty in every aspect of simple living while my friend pointed out the hardships involved in living such a life. He told me how once they had to face a huge loss when vegetable rates had slashed in the market owing to seasonal produce which resulted in more supply than the actual demand. The traders bought the vegetables from the farmers by paying peanuts that did not even meet the cost of labor involved for production. As a result, many farmers decided to not sell the product and left it to decay. He also told me that his village was a drought-stricken area which depends majorly on the ground waters and artificial lakes. Although the government provides subsidies to farmers to build wells/lakes, there are poor farmers who are still not able to avail the facilities and have to face a lot of adversities. It left me thinking for a moment but how could a dreamer weave his dream with logic? The endless green farms and fresh air blowing on my face easily deviated me from the topic. Soon, the concrete roads turned into the dusty lane and few farmers were heading way back home. We had finally made it to the village and as soon as we reached the front gates of my friend’s home I was uninvitingly welcomed by the barks of the dog. Before I go and try to play with him I’m warned that unlike the dogs of the cities, he can’t be easily tamed and loved. The human-animal companionship is mostly based on give and take relationship here unlike in the cities where people adopt an animal for status/pleasure and are well trained.  It was a street dog who resided in the courtyard of the house and was fed well. In return, he guarded the farms and the house. Now, a little cautious of the dog, I entered the house and was warmly welcomed by his family members. I noticed that the courtyard was a mess owing to the renovation work that was going on to convert the old traditional house into a big concrete one. At one end of the courtyard was a temporary hut where the family lived. My friend took me into the house to keep my belongings. It was a small room already filled with the household stuff, waiting to be shifted to the new house and could barely accommodate the family of 5. They were little hesitant if I would be able to adjust but I assured them that I was very comfortable and had no problem at all. With time, their guilt was also absolved as I got familiarized with the conditions. After freshening up and having refreshments, I was given the tour of the new house showing all the rooms and corners in its concrete form. We headed to the roof which was still under construction.  It provided the whole view of the village with a temple in the center and farms on its periphery stretching up to the base of the hills in the far distant.  The sun painted the sky orange in contrast to the green farms, replicating the image of the Indian flag. While my friend and his uncle got busy in monitoring the construction work, I got lost again, immersed in peace and the beauty of the countryside.

Read: Reminiscing old times: Road trip to Alibaug, Kashid, and Murud…

Rural life
Solshi village lies in the district of Satara. According to the locals, it acquires its name from 16(Sol) shivlingas that lies in the surrounding area of the village.

Dinner was served at around 8 and tough it was a simple food served with bhakri, dal and vegetable, I remember eating it more than the usual. My stomach always has enough space for home cooked delicacies and most of the time it doesn’t even make me regret overeating. Rather, I feel happy and satisfied. Since there wasn’t enough space for me and my friend to sleep in the makeshift hut; we took our bedrolls and slept in the village temple that night.

satara

The next morning, after having breakfast, since my friend got busy doing the household chores, I set out alone for a walk around the village. There were old men sitting under the tree, children playing cricket in the temple courtyard while few passersby stared at me smiling and inquiring about my whereabouts. Walking further towards the farm, I could identify few crops like jowar, grams, onion and tomato which is grown here in abundance. I aimlessly hopped from one farm to other watching farmers going about their day, sat by the well watching children diving and bathing in the well and after feeling tired wondering, found a place under a tree and irresistibly got lulled to sleep by the cool breeze. Later, my friend along with his granny took me around their own farm. Granny plucked the gram crop for me and was delighted to see me feasting on it and enjoying the village life. Upon returning home, we were served scrumptious puranpoli for the lunch post which I retired to bed again. It was all about taking a rest and going with the pace of slow village life.

Read:Living the moment!

rural life
Straight from the farm!

We prepared for the ride back home in the evening. The family kept persisting that I should visit them again after the renovation and apologized for all the troubles I had to face. But, how could I explain to them the childhood fantasy of mine whenever I saw the farms and mud houses from the window seat of the train and to have actually experienced all of it here. I was indeed living my fantasy without even going through the harsh reality of living a simple life. A sense of gratitude filled my heart not only because of the experience but also for my own conditioned life that I often took for granted. I hope my smile expressed at least a little bit of what I felt inside as I bade farewell to them heartily. Spending some leisure time in an obscured village made me realize the kind of vacation that I was actually yearning for. The insatiable hunger for exploring new places can sometimes blind you with the delusion of having fun. Sometimes all we need is to slow down and really enjoy the vacation in true sense. I got lucky with this opportunity and was glad to be able to recognize it. It’s not always foolish to listen to the impractical heart after all. It can take you to places you have already visited a thousand times before even actually having arrived there!

satara

 

The Abandoned House

The door to his self was left ajar,
Rusted and cracked,
Beckoning him.

It creaked to happiness as he entered and made way through the dark.

He overlooked through the window of his heart,
Broken to the dreams,
Shattered apart.

The stale air flowed silently
As he made way through the cobwebs of his thoughts,

The wall of resistance had crumbled to the storm.
His childhood voice echoed across the hall,
The tilted painting hanging on a hollow wall.

All the secrets hidden by the paints and plasters lay damped,
downtrodden on the floor,

As he walked into his house,
Once abandoned,
On a silent hill,
By the seashore.

The abandoned house

 

Art amidst the mundane- Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2019

Mumbai has become synonymous with the madding crowd and commercialization. People are so used to the working lifestyle here that most of them find it hard to imagine living a slow-paced life.  The old colonial buildings in South Mumbai are just any other office building on a regular day outside which people can be seen taking a break from their work, sipping chai, devouring on roadside snacks or puffing a smoke. The beaches and the seafront areas quietly observe the vehicles rushing past by them on the weekdays, embracing few love birds and college students, only waiting for the weekends to be filled with the crowd. Ask any Mumbaikar after they return from a holiday away from the city, they will say how slow the life is in other parts of the country/abroad and that it is now difficult to enjoy the life of such kind for a longer period. However, it would be wrong to perceive Mumbai as machine-producing robots. From what may seem a life of constant hustle-bustle to many, Mumbaikars have somehow learned to embrace this lifestyle and find strength and hope from the daily grind. And where there is a struggle, there is art! There are rebels and people desperate to find their expression. And of course, being a business capital, the city has given freedom to many, who are above the struggle-for-survival bar to explore their interest in the field of arts.

Kala Ghoda
Myriad of colors at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

In between the pulsating Mumbai- A city that never sleeps, art is like a skipped beat, a moment of joy breaking the monotony and bringing people closer while spreading awareness about the socio-cultural affairs of the city as well as the country. No wonder, Mumbai is the hub for art lovers that provide a platform to many aspiring artists to showcase their talent even on international level. The Kala Ghoda arts festival is trying to conserve that spirit of Mumbai, passionately for 20 years, making it the biggest street festival of arts in India.

Kala Ghoda fest 2019
The weekdays generally see a lot of crowd from colleges all over Mumbai. It almost feels like walking on the college campus.

Kala Ghoda arts festival 2019
Felt a little old to sit on the steps and pass away time like that.

Being a person who prefers walking over taking a cab, reaching to the event from Churchgate station itself felt like a part of a heritage walk as the road is flanked by the colonial buildings taking me back to old Bombay days ( Bombay is an old name for Mumbai). Kala Ghoda, the location of the event, is surrounded by prominent buildings like Rythm House, Jehangir art gallery, Sassoon Doc library and the Max Muller Bhawan, which itself is an assurance that the place cannot let down the visitors and has something to offer to everyone, be it a theatre enthusiast, cinema, architecture, music, painting, literature or even a food lover! (Did I forget to mention the new selfie lover generation?)

Kala Ghoda arts fest 2019
An ode to Bollywood.

The famous Bollywood celebrities, musicians, dancers, comedians grace the festival with their performances while the authors, painters, filmmakers, etc engage with the budding artists in the various events held throughout the festival.  The small scale entrepreneurs and local artisans grab this as an opportunity to showcase their crafts by selling handicrafts, jewelry, clothing, home décor, ceramics, etc. Many of the stalls, in fact, see a lot of customers throughout the day. The 9-day long festival becomes a haven for both, the artists and the connoisseur of art bridging a gap between the two by exchanging each other’s ideology, struggle and interest. The various events held during the festival are free of cost and welcomes people from all walks of life not only from the city and country but from all over the world making it stand true to its tagline- Of the people, for the people, by the people.

Kala Ghoda arts festival
A nostalgic moment for the ’80s and ’90s kids.

Although I was unable to attend the various scheduled events due to lack of time, I made sure to go through the art installations. Many of them left a deep impression on me and made me appreciate the effort put in to spread the message on a public platform. On the other hand, it was disheartening to see many people attending the festival without understanding the message being tried to convey. I heard many youngsters remarking that they hardly understood anything about it without even reading the explanation given beside each art form. Art- a combination of reality and fiction is rather based on the simple philosophies of life, trying to retrace our roots. Anyways as the saying goes, the teacher arrives when the student is ready- the aesthetic art that can jolt a person’s deepest desire and feelings in subtle ways, is appealing mostly to people who are willing to learn and expand their horizons. One thing that I would take along from this festival is that the art lies in details and patterns that are everywhere. It is how an individual perceives things and expresses them that give art so many forms and colors.

Kala ghoda arts festival 2019
The colorful ceiling of taxis in Mumbai caught the eye of Rachel Lopez introducing visitors to the interesting but often overlooked art form. Follow ‘thegreaterbombay’ on Instagram for more pictures.  Source- Google

Apart from celebrating the 20th anniversary of the festival, it commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and also tried to spread his teachings. The art installations conveyed the message for dreamers, educated about the existing social stigmas, depicted various moods and phases of life, tried to decipher the roles of people, memories, dreams, and time while also reminiscing the journey of the festival so far. Below are few of them that may leave you spellbound and appreciate the art as well.

The Cloud of Diamonds

Kala ghoda fest 2019

The installation depicts how consciously/subconsciously, we form a cloud of diamonds built from our aspirations and experiences in life. The ladders denote the path to reach the cloud. Sometimes, the way to the cloud is simple but we often take a complicated route that is denoted by crisscross ladders. The carriage symbolizes the world we live in with friends and community playing an important role to help us reach towards our destiny, thereby warning us to choose people carefully. It acts as a platform that life provides to climb the ladder and the wheels at the base denote the circle of life with its sole purpose to help us reach toward that cloud of diamonds. Are you moving toward your cloud of diamonds?

Roots to sky:

Kala ghoda fest

A tree made from a scrap of bicycles denotes the importance of healthy childhood days that shape our adulthood. Just like the strength of the roots determine the growth of a tree, the simple joys of childhood like playing, riding bicycles, dancing, singing, painting, etc strengthens our cognitive and decision-making skills and helps us to face the highs and lows of life.

Kalantar

Kala ghoda festival

An hourglass with sand in the upper part depicts the present moment, slipping away with time and settling down as memories. The wings reflect the aspirations to soar higher and evolve as a better human being.

The Infinite Spindle

Kala ghoda fest

Reflects the infinite loop of life with our memories and dreams intermingling with others, denoting solidarity.

Kala ghoda fest

Kalpataru

Kala ghoda arts festival 2019

The tree itself portrays hope as it is also known as a wish-fulfilling tree. The trunk wrapped in receding colors from bright to dark symbolizes the truth of life. The books, degree, medals etc. show the joyous moments in the life of privileged ones, while the dream catcher depicts the unfulfilled dreams of underprivileged children who have been victims of trafficking, abuse and child labor. The mirror on the trunk reflects the face of an individual observing it as if asking him/her if they are contributing their bit to the society.

Kala ghoda fest 2019

Ghoda Ghadi

Kala ghoda arts festival 2019

The structure when rotated upside down reveals the irregular colors of the bar opposite to the hourglass in the perfect shape of a horse. It depicts the mystery of time and journey conveying the message that everything makes sense with the passing of time bringing out a new spirit and healing all the fragmented emotions.

Shah Rangi

kala ghoda arts festival

The horse head made from stained glasses is dedicated to the journey of the Kala Ghoda Festival responsible to bring out the colors of the city.

Warping Time

Denotes the continuous progress of time weaving with the memories and experiences.

kala ghoda arts festival

 

Best Weekend Getaways Near Mumbai

**Guest Post**

Life in Mumbai is always chaotic. This is one city in India that never sleeps. Mumbai is dynamic, exciting and full of life. The hustle and bustle of life is always restless and working 24 x 7. But other than the shimmers and glitters of this city, Mumbai also has to offer a lot of weekend trip near Mumbai. These are the places that everyone should visit to relax their mood and rewind themselves. Mumbai is surrounded by the majestic Western Ghats and offers a lot of getaway options to the tired soul. This is what made us create this article for travellers who are looking for superb weekend getaways. Read on

Karnala Bird Sanctuary

The Karnala Bird Sanctuary in on the Mumbai- Goa highway. If you are looking for a peaceful and lovely getaway near Mumbai then this has to be your first choice. The forest is spread over 4.8 sq km and it is the home of more than 150 bird species. Not just this over 37 immigrant birds can also be seen in Karnala Bird Sanctuary. This could be your ideal picnic spot for the weekend too. Take along your family and drive here.

The distance from Mumbai to Karnala Bird Sanctuary is 60 km and the best time to visit here is from October to April. Avoid the monsoon season to visit this place because you will hardly see any birds during the rainy season.

Karnala Bird Sanctuary
Source: Google

Things to do: Bird watching, trekking, the botanical garden.

Karjat

Kajrat is 62 km away from Mumbai and it won’t take you a lot of time to reach here. On the basin of river Ulhas nestles the beautiful town ofKarjat. This is a place which is immensely blessed by nature. Mountains, picturesque view, forts, vistas, and rock-cut cave temples make this small town a must visit place near Mumbai. There are a lot of things to do in Karjat.

The best time to visit here is in between July to September.

Karjat
Karjat in monsoon.

Things to do: You can come here to relax, trek, and rock climbing, waterfall climbing, picnic, boating, white water rafting, and rappelling.

Matheran

The next that we have on our list is perhaps one of the most popular destinations among the weekenders. Matheran lies at a height of 2516 above sea level. What you will get to experience here is a lush green forest, peaceful environment, and serenity. Well, isn’t that a good reason to visit Matheran? You can also take a ride on toy ride from Neral to Matheran. If you require any taxi service to travel try Uber promo code.

Matheran is 83 km away from Mumbai and the best time to visit here is from October to May.

Matheran
Source: Google

Things to do: Trekking, horse riding, sightseeing, walking and valley crossing. Once you reach here you can go to the Heart Point, Luisa Point, Lords Point, Echo Point, and One Tree Hill.

Lonavala and Khandala

Remember the “aatikyakhandala song” from the movie Ghulam? Yes, we are talking about the same Khandala. This twin hill resort at a distance of 93 km from Mumbai and to be honest is the heart of Mumbai people. Whether you are planning for a one day trip or want to embrace the hills and forget about everything, well Lonavala and Khandala are the places for you.

The best time to visit here is in between October to May. You can plan a two-day trip here to explore everything that Lonavala and Khandala has to offer

Lonavala
View from Tungarli Lake, Lonavala.

Things to do: You can visit Korigad Fort, Bedsa Cave, Tungarli Lake, Duke’s Nose, Pavna Lake, and Lonavala Lake. This place is famous for trekking, flee market and camping.

Kamset

After you complete your trip in Lonavala and Khandala travel for 16 km to reach Kamset. If you are an adventurous person and love to take part in enthralling sports then you are going to love us for introducing you to Kamset. Kamset is the king of paragliding in India. This place is covered with a plethora of paragliding spots. For a quick adrenaline rush make sure to do paragliding here. You can avail Ola coupon code to hire an Ola outstation cab.

It is 102 km away from Mumbai and the best time to visit here is from October to May.

Kamshet
Source: Google

Things to do: Kamset is famous among paragliders, apart from this come here to visit Karla Caves, Kondeshwar Temple, Uksan Dam, Bhairi Cave, Bedsa Caves, and Raikar Farm. You can come here to enjoy trekking, swimming, rock climbing, as well as boating.

Kolad

If on your next weekend trip all you want to do is take part in adventurous activities then visit Kolad. Once you see the Kundalika River gushing in full force, you will be blown away looking at the serene beauty. It’s an ideal place for travellers who want to have some fun along with sightseeing.

The distance from Mumbai to Kolad is 124 km and the best time to visit here is from June to February.

Kolad
Source: Google

Things to do: You can visit Tala, Kundalika River, Kansai Falls, Kuda Caves, and Tamhini Falls. Come here for hiking, paragliding, rafting, boating, and kayaking.

MalshejGhat

Take a road trip from Mumbai to Malshej and enjoy the beautiful trip. You will cross the majestic Western Ghats Mountain pass which will rejuvenate your soul and uplift your mood. You know you need a break and nothing can be better than taking a long drive through the mountains.

The distance from Mumbai to MalshejGhat is 154km and the best time to visit here is either from July to September or from October to March.

Malshej ghat

Things to do: Trekking, camping, picnic with friends and family.

Now you know where to go for the next weekend getaway trip. So, pack your bags and drive.

Note: This is a guest post by couponscurry.com.

Jodhpur: Photo Essay


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

After knowing the history of Mehrangarh Fort and understanding the grand scheme of things that ran the old blue city, it was time to explore Jodhpur breathing in modern times. The city that has a sense of familiarity with that of the crowd, noise, traffic, various smells, food, shops, etc.

Sardar Market/ Clock Tower

So we headed to the Sardar Market. Some of the things I could spot in the market were vegetables, spices, street foods, clothes, ornaments and jewelry, antiques, etc. However, it was the clock tower that attracted my attention the most. The clock tower situated at the center which was once the only means for the labor class to know the time is now a prominent landmark of the city. A more than century-year-old clock tower was built by the then King Sardar Singh. Apparently, he paid a huge sum to the London company to build this unique clock which cannot be replicated elsewhere.

Here are a few more interesting facts about the clock tower:

  • The clock runs by a movement of heavy iron loads suspended on wires.
  • It requires winding by a key that weighs approx. 10 kgs!
  • The bell makes a distinct sound each time it strikes.
  • The complex mechanism of the clock is only known to a family responsible for running the clock for 2 generations.

Tip: Try lassi at Mishrilal Hotel, and mawa and pyaaj kachori at Rawat Misthan Bhandar who is believed to be the inventor of mawa kachori.

Clock tower Jodhpur

clock tower jodhpur
Mr. Mohd. Iqbal- The man responsible for the working of the clock- proudly flaunts the cutouts of the articles published about him in the newspapers and other magazines.

Market view from clock tower
View of the market from the clock tower.

Clock tower Jodhpur

Turji ka Jhalra- Stepwell

A few meters away from the clock tower lies a stepwell which seems like a place for a social gathering of locals. Kids playing, people having snacks, a group of friends chatting, few tourists clicking photographs, while some sitting on the steps observing the life passing by, helped me experience the life in Jodhpur, in general. I was quite surprised by looking at its depth. The steep symmetrical steps leading to the water body tempted me to go further down to reach the water level. The stepwell was left in an abandoned state until it was restored a few years ago along with the surrounding area which is also refurbished with cafes and hotels keeping up with the tourist theme of the place. As a result, it is now attracting the attention of the tourists. However, I wish there was more information provided about the place.

Read: The touristy charm of Pushkar

Turji ka Jhalra

Turji ka Jhalra

Rao Jodha desert park

In an attempt to convert a rocky wasteland surrounding the Mehrangarh fort into an ecological park, Rao Jodha desert park was created in 2006. It gives a glimpse of the local topography with different types of rocks, birds and native plants growing in this part. With very few tourists around, the place felt even more interesting to explore at our own pace. The sturdy castle of Mehrangarh lay on a rugged hillock right across the park while we ambled through the overgrown bushes, crossed lakes and rested on the rock when felt so. I also observed the tourists zip lining from the Mehrangarh fort up to the park, which I think is a good idea to have an aerial view of the city and its heritage.

Read: Standing through tides and times: Jaigad Fort and Karhateshwar Temple

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

Rao Jodha desert park

dsc_0366

Kaylana Lake

My love for nature made me ditch Jaswant Thada– A memorial of Maharaja Jaswant Singh to visit Kaylana Lake during the sunset hours. But to my disappointment, the sun hid behind the hills well before casting its orange rays. The place is also poorly maintained and is not as good as reviewed on the internet. Although with the sitting arrangements and the boating facilities, it serves as a picnic spot which is mostly frequented by locals.

kaylana lake jodhpur

Umaid Bhawan Palace

Built by the erstwhile ruler Maharaja Umaid Singh, it is the last royal palace built in India and is one of the world’s largest private residences. The palace is now divided into three parts- the first being the residence of the royal family (Maharaja Gaj Singh, the grandson of Umaid Singh is the current resident of the palace); the second is part of a Taj hotel; and the third is converted into a museum housing vintage cars, collection of clocks, furniture, antiques, armories, family memorabilia, and paintings.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
With the architecture as beautiful as this, I wonder if beauty really lies in the eye of a beholder?

Umaid Bhawan Palace museum
Inside the museum.

Umaid Bhawan museum

Seeds of JOY!

In the garden of our minds,

Let us sow the seeds of JOY.

Rooted deep into the soil of trouble and pain,

That makes it only more favorable for growth.

Let us water them with COMPASSION,

And let the plants of LOVE grow.

Let each take its own time to reach towards LIGHT.

Let each of them be unique in its own way.

Let us spray the pesticides of CONFIDENCE and PERSISTENCE,

To kill the insects of fear.

Let the flowers of POSITIVE THOUGHTS bloom and spread its fragrance,

And see them manifest themselves into the fruit of action.

In the garden of our minds,

Let us sow the seeds of JOY!

Seeds of Joy

‘Tis the season of self-evaluation

To say that 2018 was a roller coaster ride would be such a generic statement to make. When we look back at the past and realize how far we have made it, it always seems to be a roller coaster ride of emotions, challenges, defeats, and victory. However, for me, 2018 was to consciously take a ticket for a crazy ride. Somehow I had already realized that it is going to be a year of persistence and bold decisions. Was this ride worth it? Of course yes, but did it lead me towards success or finding a purpose in life? I know not!

After experimenting with so many solutions in the chemistry lab of life, all I derived was the precipitation of lessons which I would like to carry with me in the years to follow.

Stop. Introspect. Choose.

Reasoning from my point of view after taking advice from others and learning to say “No” to people/ experiences I don’t like helps me to be content with my choices, irrespective of good/bad.

An evening contemplation
Lost in contemplation. Successfully ditched the new year plans of Goa and escaped to a relatively quiet place- Vengurla Beach, Maharashtra.

Read: Vengurla- The unruffled paradise!

Travel for experiences.

Be it a mountain-top, a beach, or a fort, the sunset remains the same. Don’t stick to a niche; travel for experiences.

Nahargarh fort-Jaipur
The nature lover tries to find beauty in forts and museums. Picture clicked at Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur.

Read: Exploring my interest in arts and history at Mehrangarh Fort

Let Go!

When slogging for 14 hrs. a day took a toll on my health, I decided to call it a quit. But, even difficult is to get rid of the past that leads to over-thinking, procrastination, and fearing the possibilities that may/ may not arise. The more I learn to let go my past, the more I feel detached from these mental habits associated with them. It also helps me to focus on the road that lies ahead.

Quitting job

Most of the things in life are simple.

Now that I have quit my job and have time to observe myself as a third person, I realize that how subconsciously we are entangled into habits that are worthless. And some of them become the reason for restlessness and complicate things to a point from where it is difficult to return. Like always craving for fast food, constantly checking the phone for no good reason, spending a lot of time in the toilet, etc. It feels surprisingly good to be active throughout the day after relying on raw vegetables, fruits, and home cooked food. Keeping the phone away saves a lot of time which can be invested in other useful things. Going quickly through the morning chores helps me abide by the daily routine of exercise and mediation. It’s simple. Really!

Kovalam beach
Forget everything for a while. Go watch a sunset!

Loneliness is a gift, we fail to admire.

From sleeping like a bear and socializing for rest of the day to sitting in a bedroom trying to utilize the siesta time, being alone made me feel anxious at first but gradually helped me to learn a thing or two on my own without even realizing of the efforts put into it.

Solitude

Read: A solo trip that changed me forever!

Persistence and patience is the key!

Having not yet figured out what I really want to do with life, I find it wise to win each day and patiently hope for things to fall in place. This is the only way I know to console my heart. Meditation also helps.

Travel often
Aren’t we all travellers traversing from one experience to another by learning and unlearning things and meeting new people on our way? And in the end, we are all alone making our choices on this journey called life.

Read: Keep Walking…

Stay connected with your inner child.

Whenever I feel discouraged, I look back at my younger self who was an impulsive child, always willing to learn and win. With the time and maturity, I seem to have lost a deeper connection with myself which I continuously try to trace back now. I strongly believe that we had all the qualities as a child that we are now looking for.

Stay connected to the inner child
Guess who’s the kid here?

Read: An excerpt from my diary: Camping at Shirota Lake

Travel often! Travel smart!

Prove everyone right when they say travelling is escaping from responsibilities. Travel more often! Also, don’ rely completely on humanity while travelling. Racism and bad people exist in society. Be alert and travel smart.

Varkala beach
Varkala: Where caucasian foreigners are respected more than the fellow countrymen.

Read: Varkala: Rich Biodiversity, Poor Hospitality

Very close to the tourist destination lies an interesting town/ a village unexplored.

This year I stuck to a formula to explore an alternative place to the famous tourist spot where transport, food, and accommodation wouldn’t be a problem owing to its proximity to a well-known place. My experiences in such places were so good that I’m yet to find the right words to describe those places in my blog.

Bathad village
The sun bids a final goodbye by enchanting the snowy peak with its last few rays! Picture clicked at Bathad village in Himachal, situated at the last motorable road ahead of Gushaini (Tirthan Valley).

Read: Adventure tales of Chamba

Wake up early.

There is nothing called as a sunset person. Stop making excuses and wake up early.

Vattakanal
Not seen anything like this before. A surreal sunrise moment at Vattakanal.

Read: Vattakanal: First impressions

Discipline is necessary.

In my quest to finding interest in things I would love to do, I noticed that doing anything repeatedly, however for a small period of time, not only helps to grow interest in the subject but also increases will and focus to do it. And in order to develop such a good habit, discipline is necessary.

Anjarle Beach

Read: Road trip to Harihareshwar: Misadventures and Ruminations

Prayer helps to stay positive.

After reading a countless number of books on effective ways of living, writing and even blogging, there are a few common points in all of them stressing on the power of affirmation, visualization and practicing silence. I always found it difficult to obey the step-by-step rules mentioned in the books. But spending a week in YSS ashram in Ranchi helped me understand that the simple and effective way to achieve this can be prayer. Let’s just say prayer acts as a lubricant applied to the mechanical ways of “10 steps to success…”

Pushkar Lake
A devotee praying at the Pushkar Lake.

Read: The touristy charm of Pushkar

Life is not to be taken too seriously.

Above all, I have learned to make peace with myself. Happiness, sadness, mistakes, struggle are part of all of us. We can’t remain in the same state forever. Can we? All we can do is to sit and observe them sometimes, like a motion picture where we are just a spectator. Only then we’d realize how much we were missing on the simple details, that makes the picture a brilliant cinematic experience. Some of those moments teach us something while many of them don’t make sense to us. And that’s okay!

Best moment-2018
Take it easy!

Did you jot down the lessons learned in 2018? Do you have a resolution for the next year? Share your views in the comment.

Exploring my interest in arts and history at Mehrangarh Fort

My initial plan before leaving to Pushkar was to meet my cousins in Jaipur and board the bus to Manali. I was hesitant to travel solo across Rajasthan, for its association with forts and museums hardly sparked any interest in me. Being a nature lover, it did not resonate with my idea of travelling. Imagine a schoolboy asked to sacrifice his Sunday for a trip to the museum. How boring! But as a traveller, I often find that happiness lies just around the corner when least expected. This time, my cousin did not want me to run away in the mountains. Instead, he insisted me, or rather should I say, forced me to board a bus to Pushkar. Jodhpur was the second destination of the same tour. After a 5hr long journey on a local bus from Pushkar, one may find his mind commanding to rest but as I arrived at the goStops hostel, I instantly felt rejuvenated. The employee at the reception, being a travel geek himself, ended up sharing his stories while I tried to gather all the information about Jodhpur as if I was to start exploring the city right away! In such a friendly atmosphere of like-minded people, conversations flowed and the bond formed easily with the staff and tourists alike. Lost in sharing the joy of travelling, the night seemed to be young and smiling at us.

Mehrangarh Fort
The magnificent Mehrangarh Fort stands on a rocky hill, at the height of 400 ft. It was founded by Rao Jodha in 1459.

The last night’s experience paved the way for a morning to look forward to. After entering the fort and obtaining a ticket, I excitingly put the headphones (with a remote given for the audio tour) like a crown, imagining myself as a king who is out on an inspection of the fort. My friend Nico- an Australian fellow whom I met at the hostel- and I decided to explore the city together. As the soft morning sun expanded its rays from the imposing walls of the fort to the ground, I felt terribly small and weak to comprehend my position as a king.

Mehrangarh Fort
Entrance to Mehrangarh Fort
One of the entrances to the fort.
The heavy metal gate with iron spikes on it making intrusion difficult for the enemies.

I immediately shun all my imaginations and pressed the no. 1 button on the remote. The audio guide welcomed me and introduced me to the Rathore dynasty and their glorious years of the past. It instantly teleported me to the age when the kings claimed themselves to be the descendant of God!

The audio tour further guided us to the interiors of the fort. As we marched closer to the courtyard, there were tourists dancing to the tune of the musicians who were playing traditional instruments. Many local visitors found this a good opportunity to gather around Nico and click photos with him.

He must be feeling like a celebrity. Haha!

While the audio guide described the details present in front of me, my mind kept flickering between the present and the imagery of the past. Sometimes, I was a part of the subjects enjoying the celebration in the courtyard; while on the other occasion, I was the king discussing the important strategy with the chiefs in the courtroom or resting in my “larger than life” personal chamber. The vast display of swords adorned with precious stones and ancient inscriptions, daggers, spears, guns, howdahs, etc took me to the battlefield where cavalries charged at the enemies on giant elephants and horses, and where Rathores displayed their strength and valor! I peeked into the lives of queens who traveled in closed palanquins. They were not given much freedom to engage with other men/subjects of the kingdom and lived in a separate quarter with their friends. I looked outside at the tourist crowd from the latticed windows from where the queens observed the ceremonies and royal assemblies taking place in the courtyard while remaining hidden from the public view. The architecture and the strength of the buildings, paintings of Gods from various mythologies, floral carvings on the walls and ceilings, etc piqued my curiosity to learn more about them. It made me appreciate the knowledge of architectures and artists of that time and sympathize with the efforts of laborers. My eyes popped out in awe looking at the bright colors and decorative royal rooms with stained glasses imported from other parts of the world. It was quite evident that mightier than the planning, architecture, and art was the money involved in construction!

Read: Standing through tides and times: Jaigad Fort and Karhateshwar Temple

weapons at Mehrangarh fort
Armour at the Mehrangarh fort
Palanquin for royal women.
Palanquin for men
Palanquin for men.
King's room
King's room at Mehrangarh
The assembly room for chiefs and other important members.
Mirror Palace
The Sheesh Mahal or the Mirror Palace.
Takhat Vilas- Mehrangarh
The bed-chamber of Maharaja Takhat Singh (1843-73) is decorated from ceiling to floor with paintings from Hindu Gods and Goddesses to European ladies. Even the floor is painted like a carpet!
Queen's Palace at Mehragarh
Inside one of the queen’s palaces; notice the colonnade structure and the latticed windows that were designed so that the queen could peek outside at the ongoing affairs of the courtyard.
Queen's palace- Mehrangarh Fort
Antique cradle at the queen’s palace.
The architecture of Mehragarh Fort
The courtyard
Smoking Hukka
Smoking tobacco or opium in Hukka was a symbol of royal stature.

Visiting the Mehrangarh Fort helped me understand the idea of true Royalty which is a combination of wealth, health and knowledge, tradition and devotion, scientific and logical analysis, art and nature; which seems to be missing in our modern culture as it fails to maintain such a perfect balance.

People at mehrangarh
A guard sitting in traditional attire so as to give a glimpse of the past.
People at mehrangarh
Playing music on a traditional instrument called ‘Ravanahatha’

After spending a major part of the day at the fort, I repented at the thought of not touring across Rajasthan. I am grateful to my cousin who helped me unveil my preconceived opinion and explore the places with an open heart. “Never shall such bizarre thought cross my mind again!”, I affirmed mentally.

Mehrangarh Fort
The fort overlooking the blue city of Jodhpur.

In the growing travel age, where all of us are aware of the wonderful quotes and ideologies of travel, it is here that I realized the true meaning of a traveller. A good traveller is not the one who sticks to a travel niche and keeps ticking off the places from his checklist. A good traveller is an opportunist, who challenges his own perceptions and is ever hungry for new experiences. After all, it is the experience that one relishes about the place and not the place itself. Isn’t it?

 

The touristy charm of Pushkar

Ambling through the streets of Pushkar, I try to navigate my way to the hotel. Even the Google map is not helpful enough to guide me through these narrow lanes but that is the last thing to be bothered about as the street is crammed with pilgrims, locals, and tourists alike, and all one has to do is ask for directions. Pushkar is a small temple town in Rajasthan and a prominent pilgrim place for Hindus. It is the month of February when the weather is cold and pleasant and I’m here to seek the blessings of God and indulge in the touristy charm of the place.

The Streets

Walking through the lanes of Pushkar, it’s difficult to not get distracted by the enormous enthusiasm of the place which is evident from its lively streets. The main street, encircling the Lake of Pushkar is the hub of various activities and is a gateway to the majority of the places around Pushkar.

Streets of Pushkar

One is always few steps away from the Ghats leading to the Pushkar Lake. The market of Pushkar known for its food, embroidered garments, handicrafts, leather goods, jewelry, etc., is strewn across the whole street while the cafes, hotels, and restaurants announce their way up to the building through large billboards hanging over shops and electric poles. The famous Brahma Temple also resides near the main street.

Shopping in Pushkar

For those not interested in shopping, the old temples and buildings are most likely to pique one’s curiosity in the history of this old town which finds its place in many Hindu religious scriptures, including thousands of year old epic, Mahabharata. The street also gives a hint of the local lives intermingling with the tourist culture of the town.

Streets of Pushkar

Streets of Pushkar

The Stay

Out of many options available, I chose to stay in Lotus/Doctor Alone hotel, situated at Sikar Ghat which is cheap and famous amongst backpackers. The staff is courteous and friendly to cater to the needs of the customers and food is satisfactory. It has a courtyard with a low sitting arrangement, colorful murals, paintings of Indian Gods hanging on the walls and overlooks the lake which makes it a great place to chill, eat, smoke up and enjoy the activities at the Ghats as an observer.

Stay in Pushkar
Who minds paying Rs. 400 for a setup like this?

Stay in Pushkar

Pushkar Lake

The arches and domes stand tall surrounding the Pushkar Lake with the arid Aravalli Hills guarding at the distant. Most of the ghats are painted in white and shines brightly in the afternoon sun, like a pearl in the crown of Pushkar.

Ghats of Pushkar

Pushkar Lake

Out of the 52 bathing ghats, there are few main ghats where pilgrims generally flock to take a holy dip in the lake. The small and large temples, sadhus preaching a group of foreigners, the desperate money-making pundits, pigeons, dogs, and cows are some of the regular sightings at these Ghats; whereas the other Ghats reflect the serenity of this divine place. However, this may not be true during the famous Pushkar festival held in the month of Oct-Nov, when thousands of pilgrims congregate to take holy bath in the lake.

Pushkar Lake

Pushkar Ghat

Pushkar Ghat

Staying close to the lake, I made it a point to bathe every morning in the lake and sit on the steps contemplating and soaking in the soft winter sun. In the evening, Arti echoes all over the lake with lights and diyas lit at the ghats and the whole place comes to a standstill for few minutes offering their obeisance to God. The temple bells and chants preside over all the other chaos infatuating me towards the aura of the place even more.

Pushkar Lake

Pushkar

The Temples

Lord Brahma is the primary deity in Pushkar and hence, Brahma Temple is the most revered temple. It is amongst the very few temples in India which are dedicated to Lord Brahma- the Creator and considered as highly sacred amongst all of them. It is generally visited after taking a holy dip in the lake. The other famous temples are Savitri and Papmochini Temple- dedicated to the Goddesses Savitri and Gayatri, the consort of Lord Brahma. Both the temples are situated atop hills. I opted to hike to the Papmochini temple.

Papmochini Temple
On the way to Papmochini Temple.

Papmochini Temple
Papmochini Temple.

As the name suggests, the Deity is said to forgive the sins of a true devotee. Besides, it provides the aerial view of Pushkar and introduces us to the barren landscape of the Aravalli Hill Range.

Bird view of Pushkar
View from Papmochini Temple.

Aravalli Hills

The Food

Since Pushkar is a holy town, Non-veg and alcohol are strictly prohibited here. Although, there are a variety of vegetarian options available to savor upon, like Indian, Italian, Pizzas, Israeli, Chinese, etc. Owing to the mass tourism, finding a restaurant according to the budget is no big a deal here. The town is so small that one can wander along the streets and come across various food joints. I tried Dal Bati in a local restaurant and also had street foods like Rabdi Malpua, Lassi and Kachori.

Dal Bati
Hot bati dipped in ghee, served with dal and churma. Yum!

Also, since Pushkar is famous amongst hipsters, the café culture is strong here and I would highly recommend spending time in a café. They are vibrant, creative and have relaxing vibes. I visited Out Of The Blue Café and tried Falafel and Hummus.

Cafe in Pushkar
Rich feels at Out Of The Blue Cafe, though the rates are decent enough.

One can admire the traces of history, religion, and culture while indulging in the touristic pleasures of shopping, eating, and leisurely exploring Pushkar which makes it so interesting. While the old streets can remind you of Banaras, the café culture feels similar to that of Mcleodganj/Manali/Kasol and the restaurants with the view of the lake can make you compare it with the settings of Goa. Yet, festivals like ‘Kapda Faad’ Holi and Pushkar Fair are unique and can leave one amused with the energy this small town holds. It is filthy and clean, rustic and colorful, chaotic and peaceful- all at the same time!

Mountain- A drug

Take a hit.

Inhale deep.

Let it kick in.

Let it bring a smile on your face.

And you forget everything.

“Yes, this is life !”

You forget your past and you no more care about the future.

Are you awake or are you tripping?

Pinch yourself.

“No, I am alright”.

Allow the silence to make the noise.

The noise which is frightening, yet so calm.

Yes, it is relaxing but maybe for sometimes.

As the silence deepens, it makes you feel bored and gradually anxious.

Your heart now beating rapidly.

What to do next?

Is this good or bad? Safe or not? Right or wrong?… Don’t know.

Mountain- a drug.

 

Mountain- A drug

Road trip to Harihareshwar: Misadventures and Ruminations


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

We pay our bill on the roadside stall; pour water on our heads to cool of our minds in the sweltering heat of May. It is the last stretch of our journey to Harihareshwar as we wear our helmets and prepare to reach the destination.

Harihareshwar beach.

We had set out for Harihareshwar beach in the wee hours of the morning. Until now, the trip was a mix of scenic driveways, good food, lots of laughter and dodging several potholes on the road. After 10 o’ clock the sun showed no mercy on us and drained our energy. So we had a brief halt at Kolhad before continuing onwards and sat down by the river Kundalika to wash away the tiredness.

Read: Living the moment!

Harihareshwar
The old-world charm of Harihareshwar.

“30 km to go! The road is going to become steep and narrower as we ride through the ghats.” I warned my friend on realizing that we were on the last but the most challenging stretch of all. This was my second visit to Harihareshwar and I was as excited as my first visit. The bike raced through the hill and the wide road began to narrow down to a single-lane, serpentine road. Each bend unfolded a fresh view and took us closer to the destination which made us forget about the harsh condition. All of a sudden, the hot air that once felt like a fire melting our faces, now felt like a soothing breeze. The perspiration caused by the agitating humidity began to cool down. The road ahead that looked distorted due to the heat was soon going to lead us to our oasis. I was already imagining the fun that lay ahead. But adventures, as they say, are not something that you can always expect. In my case, it was more of a misadventure this time!

Read: From Guhaghar, with love

Harihareshwar temple
Harihareshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also known as ‘Dakshin Kashi’. It is believed to have a similar spiritual aura as that of Kashi/Banaras and that whoever is not able to visit Kashi can make a pilgrimage to this place.

Harihareshwar Beach
The hill, seen in the picture is sacred and there is a well-carved path to circumambulate around it. The path starts from the temple premises and ends at the seashore. Look for the designer rocks that have taken various shapes and patterns over the years. There are also idols carved out of those rocks which are still worshipped by the locals.

Almost 10 km before the destination, as we took a sharp right turn, a bus from the opposite direction tried to race past us without compromising on the speed. Since there was not enough space for both the vehicles to cross the narrow road, my friend had to take the bike off road and in the process, we lost our balance. By the time I gained consciousness, the blood was oozing from my right knee and few locals had come to our rescue.  Thankfully, my friend was safe and the people around quickly helped him to pick up the bike. Looking at my injury, they asked me to apply a bandage to stop the bleeding but we did not have the first aid kit. The locals then suggested taking a detour to a nearby hospital and we quickly rushed there. The doctor confirmed that it was not a fracture and the swelling would be healed by a week or so. Although I was relieved at first, the symptoms of swelling and the stiffness felt familiar. Only six months back, I was operated for a ligament tear of my left knee from which I was still recovering. I silently prayed that this shouldn’t be the case again. However, few stitches and the first aid later, the doctor gave me the green card and we finally reached Harihareshwar.

Read: Ganpatipule in pictures

Harihareshwar beach
Magical sunset after a hectic day.

We kept brooding on how we could have saved ourselves from the danger and stressed on the importance of carrying the first-aid kit and also wearing the knee and elbow pads as a precautionary measure. The unbearable afternoon sun had also done the trick and in the anticipation to reach the destination faster; my friend raced the throttle a little more than he should; for which he was guilty. I thought of confronting about my injury to mom which was more difficult than sustaining the injury. I know the fear that she hides each time I embark on a new journey and the worries behind her constant reminder of being careful. This time, her fears proved to be true.  As time passed, I learned to pretend normal. I didn’t want the topic to ruin the rest of the day. After all, it didn’t make sense to delve on the past.

Harihareshwar homestay
This is how we woke up; amidst the rustic houses, tall trees, and the chirping birds. A view from our homestay.

What made sense was to look forward to the long holiday and be grateful for the beauty and tranquility around. We spent the rest of the evening on the beach. It was a full moon day and the beach glittered with silver sands and splashing waves. The atmosphere felt divine, as the wind carried the symphony of the bells ringing from the temple nearby.  The whole beach was left for us. I sought solace lying on the beach, observing the constellations above. And so did my friends. We were lost in our own reverie, hardly conversing amongst each other. Was it because of the misadventure or a long bike ride on an awful summer day? I couldn’t say. It was dark and the moon’s light was only enough to create silhouettes of each other not allowing me to figure out what they were up to. Whatever it was, I liked it this way, as I myself kept fighting with dominating thoughts and emotions.

Read: Adventure tales of Chamba

Harihareshwar beach

“Is it just an idiocracy to have come this far without proper planning or is this the price I have to pay for seeking freedom and happiness?”, I wondered.  My thoughts then fickled with the glimpses of my struggle in the closed cabin. The pain of monotony soon outweighed the physical pain. I was instantly grateful for that moment on the beach that helped me live in my own imaginative world. But, deep within I knew even this was momentary. For how long will nature entice me with its charm? I kept looking above as if trying to find a clue. If I’m really afraid of monotony, what if the sky became monotonous one day? Or was it the sheer pain in my knee that made me think so much!  When one is restless from within, it is difficult to find happiness from anywhere else. Perhaps, the answer laid in experiencing what is ahead and being curious rather than rationalizing the thoughts. And so I heaved a sigh and decided to let the time take its own course. For now, I’d like to bask in moon’s light and try to connect the dots (in the sky!). 😉

Harihareshwar

Tips:

  1. Never lose focus from the road and try to hasten even if you have almost arrived at the destination. Always remember that the road trip is like a marathon and not a 100m race. Do not hurry!
  2. Always wear helmets, and knee and elbow pads. (this goes for pillion riders as well.)
  3. Always keep the first-aid kit handy.

FAQs:

How to reach?

By road: Harihaeshwar is 200 km from Mumbai and generally takes 5-6 hrs by road.

By train: Mangaon is the nearest railway station. One can board a local bus from here or hire a cab. Harihareshwar is approx. 65 km from Mangaon.

By bus: Not sure if there are direct buses to Harihareshwar but a lot of buses ply to Mangaon and from there one can take a bus to Harihareshwar.

Where to stay?

There is no hotel or lodging at Harihareshwar apart from the Harihareshwar Beach Resort. Hence, one needs to book in advance. There is also a Harihareshwar MTDC Resort which needs prior booking. But, there are plenty of homestays around that provides a glimpse of local life here. The place we stayed at was well maintained and charged Rs. 1200/ night for 4 people.

What to eat?

The dhaba opposite to the Harihareshwar beach resort serves freshly cooked, delectable food ( both veg and non-veg). Although I loved the veg thali more, the fish thali is definitely to look out for. Veg thali costs around Rs. 100 while non-veg thali costs Rs. 150.

Binge on the sweets bought from one of the shops outside the temple. Also, try the locally made fruit flavored chocolates.

Places to visit?

Parikrama around the hill is considered sacred and is also a lot of fun. Climb the hill and face the crazy winds as you descend through the steps cut out of the rocks that leads you to the shore. Look out for the natural carvings and patterns on the rocks. Note that it is not advisable to do parikrama during monsoon as the sea is rough.

One can also visit Shrivardhan and Diveagar Beach which is 19 and 37 km from Harihareshwar respectively. Anjarle-Dapoli is another circuit which can be included along with Harihareshwar.

Visiting Kovalam and the backwater of Poovar


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Kovalam is a small coastal town which was once a forgotten village of fishermen. Kovalam beach caught the attention amongst hipsters after 70s’ and is now one the most visited places in Kerala. Its proximity to the capital city makes it a much more favorable place to visit. At least in our case, it was true as we had to catch a homebound flight from Trivandrum.

Hawa Beach- Kovalam
Hawa Beach, Kovalam.

Kovalam beach is divided into three parts by the huge rocks, namely Samudra Beach, Hawa Beach, and the Light House Beach. The first two beaches generally see the activities of fishermen while it is the large crescent-shaped, Light House Beach where the majority of the tourist activities take place. One can still feel the relaxing hippie vibes here as the tourists can be seen surfing, sunbathing and relaxing on the beach/the beachfront restaurants.

Read: Vengurla- The unruffled paradise!

Lighthouse Beach- Kovalam
Just a usual evening at the Lighthouse Beach, Kovalam.

Vizhinjam lighthouse
The Lighthouse Beach is named after Vizhinjam lighthouse which offers a panoramic view of the town from the top. Unfortunately, it was closed during our visit and so we could only satiate our eyes with its view from the beach.

The promenade along the beach is fringed with souvenir shops, attention-grabbing hotels and the restaurants, and ayurvedic massage parlors that tempts one to enjoy everything Kovalam has to offer.

Streets of Kovalam
The colorful street in Kovalam.

Streets of Kovalam

After the experience of Varkala, the hustle-bustle of Kovalam felt like a respite. Our city instincts had kicked in and we were delighted to have street foods like bhel and pani puri. The hot and humid weather outside made us stay indoors most of the time binging on the TV. But, the spectacular sunsets and visiting the backwater of Poovar made up for the trip. The sunset time was even more special, as I noticed most of the people leaving their other activities aside, to watch the magic in the sky for the last time before the darkness engulfs the light. It radiated the feeling of togetherness and mutual love for nature.

Read: Reminiscing old times: Road trip to Alibaug, Kashid, and Murud…

Sunset at Kovalam Beach

Sunset at Kovalam Beach

Visiting Poovar Island:

The boat cruises slowly in the muddy waters, passing through the road bridge overhead. It passes through mangroves and coconut trees flanked on either side of the backwater.

Backwaters of Poovar

Backwaters of Poovar

The ducks are carelessly pedaling in the rippled water while the young boys diving in the distance provides a glimpse of the local life. Birds shy away and fly back to its branches as our driver points out towards them. We are cautious for the next time to not make any noise to see fauna in their natural habitat.

Poovar Island
Life on the backwater of Poovar.

Backwaters of Poovar
A vendor selling coconuts on the backwater.

Poovar Island
The only satisfactory picture of a bird that my kit lens managed to click.

As the boat enters into the denser foliage, there is a pungent smell of the marshy land. It is dark as the sunlight hardly reach the surface and the green-brown colors can make one build his own Disney world.

Backwaters of Poovar

Poovar Island

Just when I get lost in my imaginative world, the driver tells us that a part of the Anaconda movie was shot here and I wonder about the morbid possibilities of a carnivore creature living in this jungle.

Read: From Guhaghar, with love

Poovar Island

Poovar Island

Poovar Island
The symbolic picture of Kerala. What comes to your mind when you hear/read about Kerala?

As we continue to remain awestruck by the visuals, the boat slowly makes its way towards the Golden Sand Beach where the backwater meets the Sea. It is our pitstop before returning to the starting point.

Golden Sand Beach
Golden Sand Beach.

There are several floating restaurants around but we decide to relax and sip coconut water on the beach rather than spending too much and return home completely broke. Riding through the backwaters was my first experience and although it proved to be a costly affair, it kept me on my toes throughout.

Read: Ganpatipule in pictures


FAQs


Where is Kovalam?

Kovalam is 18 km (half an hour ride) from Trivandrum. Cabs and rickshaws are easily available from the main city.

What to expect in Kovalam?

Kovalam is a small beach town with few attractions. Hire a chair on the beach and relax or sit in one of the cool restaurants/ cafes facing the beach. One can also visit the backwaters of Poovar. The stay and food in Kovalam are costly. The rates for stay may depend on the season and the crowd. An A/C room for 3 people costed us Rs. 2500.

Where is Poovar?

Poovar is 15 km from Kovalam. Book a cab or a rickshaw from Kovalam and bargain for the cost of roundtrip beforehand. It is difficult to get transportation from Poovar. We rented a rickshaw for the roundtrip that costed us Rs. 600 for 5 people.

What is the cost of the boat ride in Poovar?

The boat ride is expensive. They charged Rs. 4000 for 5 people for 90mins of the boat ride. But we managed to bargain and bring the price down at Rs.3000.

Varkala: Rich Biodiversity, Poor Hospitality


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Of late, Varkala Beach is attracting a lot of attention, promising for being one of the ultimate hippie places in India. When one thinks about a hippie place, he/she expects it to be a carefree and friendly place, to say the least. Varkala has a rich flora and fauna with attractive backwaters, clean beaches and tall coconut trees painting the sky, various kinds of bird and the aquatic life.

Varkala

The Varkala cliff, lined with the variety of shops and restaurants overlooking the Arabian Sea is one of a kind! I can keep ranting about the aura and the natural beauty of the place but it is only a small part of the bigger picture. Natural beauty doesn’t alone make traveling a good experience. The few instances I encountered during my stay in Varkala changed my perception of the place.

Varkala Beach
The famous Varkala Beach, also known as the Papanasam Beach.

We had reached Varkala in the wee hours of the morning after relentlessly changing several buses from Kodaikanal and spending a sleepless night in the train. Although we had booked our stay online, the check-in time was after 10. We were exhausted and in no mood to call it an adventure anymore. We desperately needed some sleep and hence started searching for places to stay in Varkala. During the search, we came across one of the Varkala cliff hotels where the owner was least interested to attend to our queries and quoted an unreasonably high price. We tried to bargain but it appeared that the owner was not willing to rent us the room. We did not heed much attention then, as we were too tired to comprehend the situation at 5 am and kept searching for another option. Finally, a kind owner of the Hibiscus Garden Homestay provided us with not only a comfortable stay but also refused to discuss the price until we have proper rest.

Read: From Guhaghar, with love

Hibiscus Garden Homestay
Hibiscus Garden Homestay.

Hibiscus Garden Homestay
Highly recommend staying in this homestay.

It was only after another incident occurred on the same evening that we started feeling uncomfortable. We were sitting on a small beach towards the south of the cliff. The sun was not too hot and the occasional breeze accentuated our moods. There were only foreigners on the beach wearing minimal clothes. Some performed yoga, some read books, while some carelessly lay on the sand, bathing in the sun. The view added to the cool vibes of the place.

Varkala Cliff
The alternate shoreline of beaches and cliffs stretch as far as 6 km towards the south of the famous Varkala Beach. The Kappil Beach in the south marks the end of the stretch.

As we sat there soaking the vibes, we were alarmed by the security guards to not take any photos and were also told that the entry on the beach is denied at this time of the day. It was clear that he was addressing us and none of the other Caucasian tourists on the beach. Upon asking the reason for the same, we were told about nuisance created by us (Indians) resulting in raising several complaints by the foreigners and he came to say up to the extent that the foreigners pay for their security. Now we can possibly understand why photography was not allowed but there was no signboard on the beach that said it was a private area to be guarded by the guards who worked in the favour of the foreign tourists.

Varkala Beach
The so-called private beach in Varkala.

Later that day, we learned from the caretaker of our homestay that there is no private beach and the guards are only appointed to save people from the potential danger as the sea is rough. Since the foreigners are good at swimming, they are generally spared.

Read: Vengurla- The unruffled paradise!

Kappil Beach
Fishermen wrapping up their work as the sun begins to set.

Evening in Varkala

Sunset in Varkala
Spectacular views from the rooftop of a cafe.

After a giving up on quarreling, we quietly moved away from the beach to save our jovial moods for the rest of the evening. But the damage had been done. Few of my friends did not like discrimination. This gave rise to the discussions and debate amongst us as the sun cast its red-orange lights in the backdrop. My brother recollected the early morning incident and linked it with the same issue. I had to agree with them but I still wanted to believe in humanity. I tried to defend my friends on a few points about the orthodox behaviour of us, Indians. I had heard complaints from a few female tourists talking about the awkward stare which makes them feel uneasy.

Rock N' Roll Cafe
The staff of the Rock N’ Roll café pretended to be busy every time we called them for placing the order. Even after taking the order, it arrived late despite the handful number of people sitting in the café. Finally, we walked out when a group of foreigners sitting adjacent to our table arrived late, yet got all the special attention, which even we would have loved. Indians, be warned! Do not go to this café, until you want to screw your moods.

But my own beliefs were shattered, the next morning. I had set out for a walk alone and decided to stop by the shack near Edava Beach for breakfast, but the staff denied entry saying that it was only meant for the “Private Customers” who stay in their resort. I had no reason to believe them as it was located separately in the open area; very close to the beach (needless to say, there were only foreigners inside).

Edava Beach
Edava Beach.

Varkala

We felt dejected in our own country land. It felt like a different era when foreign invaders ruled our country. I hope that as much as it welcomes the foreign tourists, it treats everyone equal. I’m sure even many Indians must have had a great time in Varkala. But, I wish the same for all.

Varkala cliff
The sharp aroma of incense hit my nose, as I walk on the cliff. Also, there is a smell of food and spices, soft noise of plates clattering on the tables of the cafes, music that barely escape the café frontiers to reach the ears and the tiny shops selling souvenirs, glitter in vibrant colors. The constant splashing of the waves at the bottom of the cliff reminds me to look at the infinite spread of blue waters. Serenity pervades the air in Varkala but it is hatred and discrimination that negates the energy.

I do not mean to hurt anyone’s sentiment, neither do I want to demotivate the travellers aspiring to visit Varkala. The place is beautiful, but I could simply not deceive my personal feelings and opinion towards it. The debate, of course, can be endless! Rather than feeling sad/angry about it, we must travel more to such places so that this kind of attitude is changed towards our own people.

FAQs

How to reach?

Trivandrum International Airport is 39 km from Varkala. The nearest railway station is Varkala Sivagiri.

Where to stay?

Highly recommend staying at Hibiscus Garden Homestay. The rooms are spacious, well maintained, have a kitchen facility, a small garden outside to relax and the host is warm and welcoming. I suggest solo travellers stay in a hostel to avoid any kind of mishap.

What to eat?

Check out for the local food eatery away from the beach where generally the locals eat. They serve the authentic local cuisine. A fish plate costs around Rs 100-120.

Varkala is a paradise for seafood lovers. Many restaurants exhibit a variety of seafood for customers to choose themselves and relish the freshly cooked food.

Trattorias Restaurant is my personal favourite. The service is excellent and everything that I tried here was a pleasant surprise to the taste buds. I ended up sitting here most of the time.

Any recommendations?

Rejuvenate yourselves with Ayurvedic therapy as Varkala is a hub for ayurvedic massage, spa, and yoga. Explore Edava Beach and Kappil Beach to the south of Varkala Beach, if you enjoy less crowd and solitude. Check out for the backwaters near Kappil beach which is approx 7 km from Varkala. One can either take a rikshaw to reach Edava/ Kappil Beach or can rent a scooty to explore the nearby places. Renting a scooty can cost up to Rs 300/400. Janardanaswamy temple close to Varkala Beach is a popular temple since it is the oldest temple in Varkala.

Teach Me!

Read many books, but learned nothing.
Learned many lessons, but followed nothing.
Listened to everyone, but understood nothing.

Having a degree, but I am not a learned man.
Earning enough, but I am not a happy man.

Now, finding my way through the dark,
Learning to stitch my own scars.

Trying to keep the hope alive,
Though I am yet to learn how to dive,
in the ocean of happiness.

I accept my bad deeds and all the nuisance I did,
I no more want to run away from it.

So here I am, standing in front of you all naked,
No more ashamed of myself.

Judge me, break me or make me
But above all, TEACH ME!

Teach Me