Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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?

Wrong.

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Stairway to heaven | Yumthang Valley, North Sikkim

In early September 2017, I went road tripping through North Sikkim with a group of perfect strangers. I'd signed up for it with high hopes from the whole experience. Little did I realise I would end up discovering the stairway to heaven! Why don't you see for yourself? Here is the first of my many heavenly experiences from the trip.


 ***

5th Sept: I stood on top of the world

The sky above my head was an infinite blanket of the softest blue. White cotton-candy clouds hung low over grey-blue cliffs. A cow grazed nearby while its little one suckled up to it. A stream of sparkling clear water flowed in the distance, reflecting the blue of the sky. And I stood there, transfixed. I was at the centre of the most exquisite landscape I'd ever seen. To think of all those stories about the beauty of the Swiss Alps and the English countryside that pop culture has fed us for so long! I couldn't help but wonder - why did no one ever talk about THIS PLACE? Was it even real, what I stood before, or was I in a dream?

View of the valley from a height of 13000 feet.

I was on top of the world. Or so I felt, until a sudden shaking under my feet jerked me back to reality and I remembered where I was really perched - atop the luggage carrier of a Tata Sumo Victa. My hands were outstretched and my eyes darted in every direction. I was awestruck. The closest I'd ever come to this kind of awe was back in 1998, when I was a little girl of 7 and had just seen an escalator for the first time. My jaw probably hung loose for a little while on both occasions. 

There was pristine beauty all around us, and my fellow travellers didn't waste a moment in whipping out their cameras and taking selfies that I knew were going on social media as soon as we had network reception and landscape shots that would adorn their desktops for months to come. An army truck was stranded ahead of us on the bend in the road, and we had stopped behind them to stretch out our legs and take in the surroundings.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

It is never too late to learn.


I learned to cycle at the age of 24. Shocker, eh?

God knows what crazy looks I get every time I slip this little factoid into casual conversation. Apparently, most people around me had learned to cycle as little children, some even before they could say 'mamma' or 'papa'. Indeed, one had learned to cycle even while still inside the womb. I have rather interesting friends, don't I?

On the other hand, one of the funniest stories I've ever told is of the time I tried to learn to cycle as a kid but failed, only to give up completely. But a decade later, I received a letter that said my career, and indeed life thereon, depended on how well I could wield the two-wheeled monster. Isn't fate a cruel mistress?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

6 reasons why Sikkim should top your travel wishlist

2016 was a beautiful year for me, with a new job in a new city and lots of travel and exploring on my own. 2017 so far has been rough - lots of low points, dilemmas, tough decisions - and it has left me drained of all creative energy and desperate for a new beginning. I'm longing to travel again, to find a place that would remind me of all that's good and positive in this world - beauty, clean air, quiet moments spent in the lap of nature, cool wind in my face, and the sight of still water.

I long to go back to the Himalayas - to the home of my heart. And where in the Himalayan belt have I had my best times ever? Why, Sikkim, of course!

I travelled through South and East Sikkim at the end of last year. As luck would have it, both my SIM cards were out of order for the duration of the trip (for silly reasons), so connectivity was non-existent. But there were some times when I had Wi-Fi, and I made sure to put up pictures and stories on Instagram from all the gorgeous places I was seeing. Little did I know my pictures were inspiring many of my friends to plan their own trips to Sikkim. I was surprised at the beauty of Sikkim coming as such a 'revelation' to so many people. People clearly don't know enough about this tiny Himalayan paradise. So I decided to put together a list of 6 reasons why Sikkim should top your travel wishlist. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: Reminiscences of a Seeker - Kapil Kumar Bhaskar

I haven't written about my literary pursuits in forever. I do read, off and on, but life has been a roller-coaster ride over the last one year. Between a 10-to-6 job, a new home in a new city, and my new venture, 'A Delhi Girl in Bombay', I've had no time to write. But then a book came along that spoke to this overlooked side of my existence, something not many know of, and I knew I had to write about it. 

Reminiscences of a Seeker is, in the author's own words, the story of an ordinary man plunged into extraordinary circumstances of the Dark World. It is a 'true' story about the supernatural world of mystics and higher beings, unbelievable miracles and the parallel worlds of darkness and light, in the pursuit of seeking the 'One'. I picked this book up around the time I heard about it from a book club e-mail list I subscribe to.

Being a public person, most of my pursuits are chronicled online in photos and blogs. But my spiritual beliefs and experiences have remained private and off of my blog. It would indeed come as a surprise to many that I belong to a family of highly trained spiritualists and am also trained in Reiki healing, meditation techniques and other spiritual practices. I began reading this book precisely to see how the author had written about his practices and whether he managed to make it sound believable to a lay reader or ended up writing other-worldly 'mumbo jumbo', which so many people think it is.

The literary market has in recent years been flooded with books on themes of spiritual awareness, mastering the mind, using the energies of the universe to your benefit, and whatnot, but a book of this kind by an Indian author, written in an easy, accessible form, was missing. I think this book bridges that gap, and quite decently too.