Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: Unlikely Tales - Mani Padma

When I was just starting out as a blogger, one of the first things I wrote about was when I thought Afghanistan was following me. Not a person, not a gang, but a whole country. The movies I happened to watch, the books I read, even sporadic conversations and dreams - Afghanistan was written all over them. And this was back in 2010, when the war-torn country wasn't particularly in the news.

Looking back at that blog post gave me fond flashbacks of what a sweet little 18-year-old I used to be, convinced that such recurring references in my life could be signs. Whoever heard of such an absurdity, right? But, fast-forward seven years, here I am again...

...being followed by the Northeast of India.

In recent years, I've made a good many friends who either belong to or live in one of the Northeastern states. I've also written a lot about the culture and tourism of the Northeast over the years as a freelance travel writer. But lately, the region seems to have become the leitmotif of my existence. I've visited Sikkim twice in less than a year, I've started enjoying Bihu music (for the love of Papon ♥), and I just attended the Northeast Festival in New Delhi. In fact, to hark back to the title of this post, the only reason I accepted 'Unlikely Tails' for review was because the author, Mani Padma, is from Assam and I was curious to read her work.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

7 Ways New York City Changed My Life

People from all over the world set foot in New York City every single day. Dreamy-eyed and giddy with excitement, every traveller wants to make the most of their time in NYC. And then there's an entire set of people who have never even visited New York City but seen it in movies, TV shows, and across high-fashion billboards. Larger than life, more diverse than any city, always alive and bustling - is it true that NYC is the greatest city in the world, or is it just something they say? I have first-hand experience, and I can't stress enough on how much New York City has affected my life and worldview. 

But you don't have to take my word for it. Here's a list of the 7 ways New York City changed my life.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kutch Rann Utsav 2017 | A winter carnival in Gujarat

The nights are beginning to get longer, the moon is shining a little brighter, there's a nip in the air, and the heart constantly yearns for a hot cuppa.

It seems to be that time of the year again!

Time to whip out the woollens, hug a blanket to sleep at night, and plan that winter holiday you've been waiting for all this time. Goa, Gokarna, Hampi, or Kerala - there are countless destinations south of the Tropic of Cancer that offer an escape from the gloom and cold of North India. But two years ago, when I was faced with the same question - where to go for a winter vacation with friends - I chose to take the offbeat route. I headed to a place I knew precious little about - a place not too hot or cold, but exceedingly beautiful and known for its hospitality and rich culture.

In the winter of 2015, I travelled through Gujarat, and it remains one of my most amazing travel experiences ever. We explored the ruins and palaces of post-earthquake Bhuj, we watched the sun set on the westernmost beach of India, we met and dined with the most friendly local families, and we gorged on the famous Gujarati thali. Above all, we caught stunningly surreal sights of the white desert in all its glory on a full-moon night.

Kutch Rann Utsav
Sunset on the white desert.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Weekend Getaways from Bombay | Silvassa, Dadra & Nagar Haveli

Silvassa is a dusty, sun-kissed town in the westernmost part of India. It is spread over a small area with a permanent population of about a lakh, mostly comprising the indigenous tribes of the Konkan region, while another couple of lakh form its transient population - those who come in from neighbouring states for work and trade.

Known mainly for its industries, Silvassa is the capital of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, an erstwhile Portuguese settlement and now Union Territory of India. Surely you've never found Silvassa on any common list of tourist getaways from Bombay. Must be a rather boring place, right, not to have featured on any popular travel guide or listicle?


Silvassa is a hidden gem that travellers are yet to discover. It is a perfect weekend getaway from Bombay (and nearby areas), and for every kind of traveller too. Whether you want a weekend picnic with family, a solo wildlife expedition, or just a relaxing sojourn from daily life - this town will not disappoint.
Witness the beauty of Silvassa captured on my camera lens (and then I will tell you how to plan).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Gorgeous in Winter, Mesmerising in Fall | Tsomgo Lake, East Sikkim

9th Sept: It was cold and wet outside. I lay in bed, clutching the blanket to my throat, wondering what had gotten the Gangtok weather so drafty all of a sudden. The room was flooded with natural light, and I could see what a mess we all had made the night before in our room. I looked up at the window and, in that one glance, knew the sun wasn't going to be up in the sky today. The next moment, the guys were outside our door, blaring music on the speakers in a bid to get us out and ready to go. So I jumped out of bed, skimpily clad for a chilly morning like that, and rushed to the bathroom to get ready. This day seemed promising.

The view from my hotel window. The clouds are covering the valley, which is otherwise visible on a clearer day.


Permits and permissions: A horror story?

We set out early, for we were told that the security forces didn't allow cars past the first entry point on the road to Tsomgo lake and Nathu La. We even had to arrange ourselves in the cars according to the grouping of names on each of the three permits we had obtained the previous day for our journey. As fate would have it, we reached the first entry point a little after 10 am - the supposed deadline - and we were dreading not being allowed to go ahead. But the officers let us continue our journey without any reprimand, though with strict instructions not to take any pictures in the military area on our way uphill. Like responsible citizens and travellers, we kept our promise and only took pictures/videos where there was no obvious sign of military presence.