All posts tagged: Stories from the road

Rishikesh – From Being A Land Of Yogis To A Hub Of Tourism

If you turn from the main road that leads to Shivpuri – the starting point of River Rafting into the holy Ganges – and walk about the small alleys of Rishikesh, you’d find that the place is swirling with all kind of adventure sport and tour companies, alluring tourists to partake into its cultural destruction, by making Rishikesh nothing but just another weekend getaway around us. For those who can see its invisible forces and read all the unseen currents in the air, Rishikesh is a magical world. It is one of those places where you come to regain your inner consciousness and learn about maintaining harmony with the world – by staying close to the Ganges and under the undiluted purity of the Himalayas. Yet for many, the town has become a place for enchantment, for having a few pints of beer, and enjoying the aggression of Ganges while rafting and kayaking in it. But that’s not what Rishikesh’s real charm, at least not in its real sense. I’ve some personal attachment to this place, some …

Srinagar, Kashmir: A Gathering Around The Perplexity

The many houseboats around Dal Lake seemed to be blissfully relaxing, allowing tourists to amicably enjoy the utopian state of Sriangar – a place which once stood with dignity and pride, and was only known for its beauty, or for being a ‘paradise on earth’, as locals still call it. But today, Srinagar can hardly breathe on its own. It seems – as you walk around its confusing and mystifying streets – that its very sustenance, now depends upon those wearing Green Camouflage Jackets and Army Track Pants. After more than two decades of cold war and raw politics, and with Indian army taking affairs in its hands, does the future of tourism in Kashmir and its capital Srinagar look bright? To me, at least, it doesn’t! In the summer of 2015, this ill-famous tourist hotspot of India – appeared to me as a biblical wasteland, where army check-posts and AK47s still rule the day. Even if the town, at large, is declared safe, there’s always this fear and trepidation in your heart that suppresses …

McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala: A Land That Speaks The Language Of Friendliness And Peace

I feel that a trip has been successful when I come back sounding strange, even to myself. When I know that in some sense I’ve lost a part of me and I remain unsettled, upon my return, with what I’ve seen or experienced. We travel the most when we learn something new. And we learn when we come to a place full of stories and inspiration. What we find in such places is that it is the sadness that makes the sun-shine brighter, and it is the spirit of people that makes this world more beautiful. This applies to McLeod Ganj – a nondescript sleepy hamlet in the foothills of the Himalayas – in an absolute and unconditional sense. The smell of butter tea in the peewee lanes of McLeod Ganj in the chilly mornings, the sound of Buddhist prayers in Namygal Monastery and the many friendly faces that I frequently stumbled upon, often filled me with a sudden unanswerable sense – that I’ve been to this place before. I decided to visit McLeod Ganj to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture, …

Kamakhya Temple: All A Little Less Sombre Than A Stock Market

It was six in the morning, too early for the rest of the city to wake up and resume their daily chores. But those who came to visit the temple seemed all dedicated and staunched. Rising early and reserving a good place in its long, never ending queues was the only solution to pay the ‘goddess of Desire’ a visit. The many souvenir and prasad shops, spread as far as 400 metres outside its premises, were already up and running – bidding hard for yet another business day. Inside, many devotees indulged in their challenging gamut with pujaris, trying to negotiate a price for a personalised puja. Once they’re done with it, what awaits is yet another task of buying an express entry ticket which guarantees a quick tour inside Kamakhya Temple – one of India’s most sacred sites.   This is how I found Kamakhya Temple – dedicatedly staring into a financial abyss, experimenting with the country’s admirable religious tolerance every minute. And yet it lures the devotees from as far afield as southern India or the far west: the …

Hitchhiking From Leh To Srinagar

Hitchhiking has always remained an intriguing travel option to me. This is because of two fair reasons: one, it makes your journeys cheaper; second, it opens the possibilities to meet all the interesting people out there whom you otherwise miss by travelling in a bus, or far worse, in a private car. I’ve hitchhiked almost everywhere I’ve traveled in the world –  from Indian Himalayan roads to Bangkok’s highways. And no, I don’t find it risky. In my belief, the fact that hitchhiking is dangerous has only been overplayed by the fear-mongering society. So let’s not even go there! The idea to hitchhike all the way from Leh to Srinagar – a 420 km long and isolated road with some of the most popular towns in between, including Kargil and Dras (second coldest inhabited place on earth) – initiated when I met David and Marion on a chilly evening in Leh. And we teamed up to see if that’s even possible. Our shabby and hopeless scheme – as it seemed at first – started in Leh, and …

Why Are We Always So Uninterested To See Our Own Country?

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with” Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz Their names have escaped me now but I vividly remember that interesting and equally memorable conversation I had with a young Indian couple from the south of India. I was waiting for my appointment with an immigration officer in Thimpu — to extend my tourist permit in Bhutan when all of a sudden this distinguishably affable couple appeared in front of me. It (the conversation) started with one of those moments when you meet another traveller from your home country and you find yourself forced to exchange the usual banalities about how amazing this place is, followed by the ubiquitous gamut of ‘where are you from in India’ and ‘where you’re going next’. As we finished the small talk, I enquired them about their favorite places in south India. I had a long desired to travel south of India. [Update Oct’16: But …

What The World’s Second Largest Monastery Taught Me

Tawang valley in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is wrapped with a hulking mountain range which always seems to cast a special magic on the mind of travelers. The entire valley is a patchwork of stunning mountain ridges and vast fields – so beautiful that every moment you find yourself awestruck. And when you are not being enthralled with its natural beauty, you are captivated with the Buddhist prayer wheels of Monpa pilgrims wearing a traditional black-yak-wool overcoat. Well there are many reasons to visit Tawang, but the prime reason why it stands above the crowd, is that it is home to the world’s second largest monastery – something that makes Tawang exclusive, and culturally rich. Located at 10,000 feet with a commanding view of Tawang River, Tawang monastery is one small city in itself. It is an ideal epitome to some 500 monks, many of whom are small children. Their sole place of refuge is the monastery premises where they learn and follow Buddhism. During my visit to this monastery and a small …

In Search Of Happiness

I found Bhutan a rather charming and fascinating place. No matter how worldly and materialistic your approach towards life is, if you travel Bhutan with an open mind, their philosophical and idealistic culture would force you to contemplate, and contemplate twice, on some of the most confusing questions concerning human existence. During my visit to Bhutan, I happened to spend a chilly evening with a couple of friends I met in the capital city Thimpu. They shared with me some crazy ideas about their culture and a unique Bhutanese philosophy that left me spilling my guts out. These young men had no decent excuse to ponder or even believe in such crazy ideologies – and their firm belief left me startled. “There’s a very simple solution to be happy in your life,” said one of them “Just think about death few times every day.” The entire conversation around such a cheesy topic started when – during our philosophical conversation – they happened to ask me about that one thing I want from my life. “To be …