Art of sharing

20160605_203908Lately, I’ve learned that everything we do is an art. There’s art in sleeping, talking, speaking, walking and in every action that we do. I’ve also come to believe that each of us as a human being is a piece of art in itself, created by the Supreme power. And we all are beautiful in our own way, irrespective of our shape, color and caste.

Of all the arts, I loved “Art of sharing” the most. I call it an art because it is not less than any art. It just not comes like this. Like all other arts, one needs to practice this art. Sharing may be anything; knowledge, time, money, food, just anything. In the process of sharing, you might feel hurt or betrayed. Don’t worry! Pain is temporary. Do not let anybody stop you from learning and growing. It might take a life time to learn how to share even when you’re hurt but continue to do it anyway. That is how you’ll emerge above all the shackles of hatred and that is what will make you feel alive. Hatred or jealousy kills you little by little. Being alive is a miracle! You’ve to love life and sharing is the most important part of it. I’m in process of learning this art and I hope that some years from now I could say that I’ve learned a little bit of it. 🙂

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The little girl and airplanes!

20161110_164636When Zafirah was small, under the winter sun of every 26th of the January month, her father use to take her to the terrace of the house and show her flying planes, the fighter ones. Since then the flying planes in the open blue sky and sound of it has always fascinated her. She smiles whenever she sees the one in sky!

Today, standing on the terrace of her office, amidst all the noises around, she could hear only the airplane sound. It made her smile! She reminisced those days of watching the planes; clapping and jumping with happiness. She has grown up now and doesn’t like to let the eyes of people around to fall on her by over reacting but inside her heart there is still that little girl alive who jumps and claps with the sight of planes. She is the little girl and airplanes under the open sky still give her immense pleasure.

Glimpses of sacred Pushkar!

My friend wanted to spend her new year outside Delhi and I wanted to spend it at some quaint place so that is how Pushkar happened. There wasn’t a much hassle in selecting a place to stay in Pushkar, as zostel is there in Pushkar. This was going to be my second stay in Pushkar Zostel. Staying at zostel or any such hostel can be learning in itself. It allows you to open up to strangers in a friendly way yet maintaining your own space. Sometimes, you get to meet interesting people and sometimes you’ll bump into really funny characters but you’ll surely enjoy if you have the guts to take in anything with not much tantrums.

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Sunrise at Anasagar Jheel, Ajmer

We started our journey on Friday night (best day to escape from the chaotic world of technological slaves: P). We were suppose to board bus from Bikaner House and upon reaching there I was excited to see famous Pandara road market just a few steps ahead to Bikaner House. Pandara road market is very famous among night riders in Delhi because some food joints (also the famous Gulati’s Restaurant) remain open late in night. The reason for my excitement was to hit the market unknowingly at night when lights were gleaming and people were in festive mood. We gulped in some hot badam milk to beat cold, located our bus and then finally boarded it. Journey from Delhi to Ajmer was a smooth ride in spite of the fact that there was dense fog on the way. We reached Ajmer with the break of dawn and waited for our friend who was supposed to pick us up from Ajmer and stay with us at Pushkar. On the way, he showed us various points which we would have missed otherwise like famous jogging point for Ajmeriites. There is nothing better than watching a rising sun and seeing the people breathing in fresh air and bucking up for their day. We too stopped for some time and soaked the freshness of it to revive our lost energy due to overnight journey.

 

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Books and Tau @ Zostel, Pushkar

Entering Zostel is entering into a fantasy world! The colorful common area assures a comfort stay; paintings on wall depict various stories related to Pushkar. I especially loved the one which says “something in Hebrew” because there are many places in Pushkar where it is written only in Hebrew and not in any other language. Room was to be allotted at 12:00 noon, so we got ready in the common bathroom (of course one at a time :P) and headed to calm our taste buds with scrumptious street food. With so many foreigners coming to this place, one can easily find cafes serving multi-cuisine food along with Rajasthani food. I was surprised to see roadside eating joints serving middle-eastern food like Falafel & Humus and even more astonished to see locals talk in Hebrew so fluently. I guess the settlement of lot of Israelis have made the influence on both tourism as well as locals here. Anyway, we were more interested in trying authentic Rajasthani food and since there are many things you can try road side, I’m listing it here for the convenience of writing as well as for reading: 🙂

  • Poha: We went to a famous cart in front of Varah ghat which serves Poha (a kind of flat rice). The man who serves Poha is Sonu and is very polite and sweet. He was happy to tell that some foreigner has already mentioned about his cart on google (internet). It was just for 10 bucks! We never had such tasty Poha at such a nominal price. The other food item that we tried at the same cart was Daal Pakwan. We named it as desi pizza! It was new and good in taste.
  • Jalebi: After having delicious breakfast one can have freshly prepared Jalebi with Rabri.
  • Lassi: It is prepared in a wooden whisk and served in earthen pots. Gulab lassi is also a hit among locals.
  • Malpua: This is strictly not-to-miss dish which unfortunately we missed and will have to go back to try it.
  • Mirchi Vada: Popular breakfast for Rajasthanis. Try it if you can handle the hotness of chilli that is filled with mashed potato, onion and spices.
  • Fresh Juices: Do not forget to quench your thirst with freshly prepared juices.
  • Falafel: Gorge on Falafel, Humus with Pita bread donned with garlic (to suit the Indian taste buds) at Ganga Restaurant. The owner here was fluent in Hebrew!
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Magnificient Sunset @ Pushkar

After having heavenly food and feeling content, one can take long stroll along 52 ghats around the holy lake. That is what we did to digest our food and take in the city vibes in the best possible way. In the daytime, ghats keep bustling with pilgrims taking a dip in holy water (which is unfit for health but religious fanatics don’t mind about dirty water). It is preferable to wear slipper/chappal that can be removed easily as while walking on the ghats you’ll have to remove footwear at certain places especially when walking near lake. We saw lots of foreigners performing pooja (prayers) near ghat. In the evening we went to the sunset point to immerse ourselves in the hues of sunset forming reflections on lake, musicians playing ektara and nagara, town reverberating with the chants of Aarti. For me it was a beautiful evening to end the year with and hope for a peaceful 2017. By the night, town was surrounded with loud music (please read it as bad speakers) playing various popular Hindi, English and Punjabi, Rajasthani songs. Songs like “tip tip barsa pani” which tickled our ribs; but it was quite safe to roam around. We then took time to call or message our loved ones and wish them ‘Happy New Year’s 🙂

First Sunrise of 2017!

First Sunrise of 2017!

Next day was planned to hike to Savitri Temple which is on a hill top and is a sunrise point. I couldn’t hike till the temple and we decided to rest somewhere in the middle from where we could get to see a perfect sunrise. The time just before sunrise is very sacred especially when it is going to be first sunrise of the year. We were drowning in the moment when sun was rising. It was beautiful!

In the afternoon, we took our seats in Laura’s café and lazed there till early evening. People there at Laura’s café are really nice and sweet. Don’t miss to go there if you are in Pushkar. My two close friends drove down to Pushkar from Udaipur to meet me. I was overwhelmed with their gesture. It is all together a different feeling of meeting friends at a place away from your home.

Pushkar is also a home for only Brahma Temple in the world and a historical Gurdwara which was visited by tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It offers peaceful vibes to the otherwise wandering mind of city dwellers.

Time spent at Pushkar was enchanting with lots of shopping done in the colorful by lanes of the town with a good start to New Year. I wish that this year brings more peace in the world. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! (a little late though).

Here goes the sneak peek of two days at Pushkar:

Paragliding Paradise in India!

Winter has already knocked in! Bright sun is peeping through my window, spreading its warmth. Melodious Rabindra Sangeet by Shaan is playing, making everything in room to sway with it. And I’m earnestly eager to share my experience from my last trip. Though demonetization affected it a little but as they say “where there is a will, there is a way”, we managed it with all smiles. 🙂

Umm, the new adventure is about being a bird under the open sky. Yeah, you read it right, a bird. Befuddled? Well, let me clear myself. It’s about paragliding in mountains at the world’s popular paragliding site, Bir. And it makes one feel like a bird. 🙂 As usual, the journey started on Friday night. But before I start my blog I would like to mention about a

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With Dragan! 🙂

day prior to our departure. It is about meeting a Serbian cyclist, Dragan Sibalic, few months ago in Himalayas who was on his North India cycle tour and we made acquaintance with each other. He inspired me big time not only with his audacity of riding in dangerous Himalayas but also with his kind and humble nature. After few months, we again met in Delhi on one summer evening, promising to meet again when he will be in Delhi after his 8500 km of travel covering North India and Nepal. Keeping our promise, we met again. This time I was his host to show him my city – Delhi. The day was well spent in his company showing him few of the beautiful monuments of Delhi that stands testimony to imperial bygone era. And just before our departure for Bir, I bade him goodbye, with a promise of meeting him again but this time unsure of our meeting as he was leaving for his home next day. I will cherish all the moments spent with him throughout my life. 🙂

So, finally five girls all excited about their two days trip to Himalayas and being a bird, boarded bus from ISBT. To our astonishment, we had five last seats of Volvo. Thanks to the person who did this blunder while booking tickets. I was forgiven with their laughter :). Before even the bus started, two girls gulped in the Avomine tablet in order to not feel giddy of sitting on last seat. Keeping in mind all the adversities and awkwardness of the back seat, we adjusted to our best ability; singing, talking, and making fun to start our trip on a happy note. At around 2:00 am, after being scolded by a lady for singing loud, I managed to doze off only to wake up at a sudden jerk and seeing a friend of mine slipping from her seat, I held her though but imagining her lying on the bus floor made me laugh. And she is definitely going to beat me after reading this. Bus stopped twice, one for dinner break and second for a tea break. It was colder than Delhi and holding hot cup of tea in hand was more soothing than sipping it with a loud slurp. We reached Bir with the first light of the day. Morning and air in mountains make me high, makes me smile without any reason. I’m happiest under the mountain sun! Bir does not have a proper bus stop and in fact there are not many direct buses. Instead you need to take bus till Baijnath and take a taxi from there to reach Bir. We were lucky enough to get direct bus. Our hotel was in a small hamlet called Chougan which was a small trek down the road that hosted beautiful monasteries of Bir on one side and fluttering colorful prayer flags on the other side. The sight of it had a calming effect on mind and soul, and I knew that we are going to have a great time. After few calls and asking for directions from the locals, we finally reached hotel and got our keys. Infused with enthusiasm, we forgot the last night’s back seat journey, and planned to get ready and head for breakfast. I was told by a friend that one of her friend will be joining us for breakfast. He was really very handsome  and to my disappointment he was only 9 years younger to me so I stopped my mind from wandering in wrong direction and concentrated on food rather. At breakfast, Mr Chandan Bhatia Sir also joined us. Mr Chandan was an acquaintance to us through “Himalayan Club” on facebook. And he is absolutely one gem of a person who not only took care of us but also booked paragliding for us at a very nominal price. We can’t thank him enough for what he has done for us.

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Friends!

After having breakfast, we left for Billing (launching site) which is 14 km from Bir, in Chandan sir’s car. Road to Billing is really steep and oxygen level is also low thus making one feel like nauseating but going up and watching parachutes against azure blue sky took us in its awe.  We were given time to acclimatize to the weather before we could take a flight. We utilized time in clicking pictures, soaking mountain sun and making memories. We cheered fellow people who were ready to take their flight, bucking up ourselves to take the flight. I’m scared of heights but my father has always taught me to face fears with all my strength; it is his belief and my faith that gives me courage to take anything that comes my way. Here is a small poem that I wrote while preparing myself for the trip, shooing away all the negative thoughts and imbibing all the positive energy inside me.

Sitting on edge, with eyes full of dreams,
All set to para-glide, shout and scream
To fly under the open sky,
Above the mountains so high.
Ticking one more from bucket list,
Taking with audacity the air twists.

Finally, it was our turn to fly. With tensed face I wished good luck to all my friends and started chanting God’s name to keep me safe. I was the last one to fly. I took a flight in second attempt. I fell on stones in my first attempt and this reason was enough to terrify me. After few seconds of running and taking a flight, I was in air under the blue sky. It was ecstatic! After few minutes in the sky I was comfortable and talking to my glider but as I looked down it scared me again so I decided not to look towards ground, closed my eyes and let cool breeze touch my face and I got drowned in its howling sound remembering my grandma, brother and his wife, missing them and praying for them. I also felt the presence of my faith, rising behind the mountains and telling me to calm and enjoy the moment. I was in the air for around 30 minutes and after landing on the ground, my friends came running to me, one of them saying – “Gur, we did it. We all are alive!” I was so much elated to hear this that gust of tears came rolling down like a ferocious waterfall. We then celebrated this little achievement by feeding our empty stomachs with some food and watched the sun that changed the hues of the horizon as an artist fills his empty canvas with strokes of beautiful colors, before setting behind the Dhauldhar range. After dropping us all near our hotel, we said goodbye to Chandan Sir who was heading home which was a 2 hours drive from Bir. Bir is a very small town that has very limited options of restaurants which closes maximum by 8:00 pm. Hence, we were left with the option of having food at our own hotel which was decent enough to satiate our hunger. We then took a stroll on the narrow hilly roads under the moon which was supposed to be the largest and closest to earth. At last we came back to our rooms and dozed off to get up early next day and watch the rising sun.

Next day started as early as 5:00 am, we got ready and strolled on the unknown streets in the wee hours when we were joined by four dogs wagging their tales whom we gave names as – Tiger, Snowy, Brownie, and Kallu (all according to their colors. I thought ourselves as being racist but could not think of better names than these 😛 🙂 ) Tiger being the most quiet and innocent, stroked a immediate connection with me. They joined as soon as we started our walk and remained with us till the end. In just two hours, we got attached to them. We got to see the sunrise from somebody else’s home which we first entered to click the picture of rising sun and eventually took permission to enter their courtyard and spend some time. We walked laughed, clicked pictures and experienced many wow moments together. While on our way back to hotel, I found a secluded place where colorful prayer flags were hung around trees, sun was coming up from east, and mountains were at the backdrop; I decided to stay back and meet friends after some time at hotel. I was accompanied by friend’s friend, the same hot guy who was nine years younger to me. We talked so much about ourselves that when we returned from that place, we were in a relationship. A relationship of being elder sister and younger brother! After having our breakfast, we hired a cab to visit the largest monastery – Sherabling , around Bir. The monastery is grand and beautiful. It stirred that corner in all of us which was holding some pain and it came out in form of tears. We were also lucky to visit a school there and meet little monks. Ohh! They were damn cute. I wish I could have adopted one. We also were lucky to see mask dance at another monastery near our hotel. We had a bus back to Delhi at 5:45 pm so we couldn’t see more around Bir. There are so many places – trekking points and monasteries that were left; and I will cover them in my next trip to Bir.

The trip ended witnessing a beautiful red sun setting behind Himalayas and lots of cherish able memories. Here goes the photo blog:

Zafirah And A Stranger!

Zafirah was waiting at Mumbai Airport to board a flight for home to Delhi. She had gone through the security check and was waiting for boarding signal for her flight. She never travel alone! She always have a loyal company of a book with her. Taking a seat in front of the notice board where flight schedule was displaying, she made herself comfortable and took out a book from her bag, “Forty Rules of Love”. The more she reads, more she gets drowned in Shams words and his rules. Not noticing a stranger by her side, she kept on turning the pages of a book.

_DSC0041“Hello”, said the stranger. Bringing book down from her eye level and looking with amusement at stranger! There was a tall, fair, slender man with unkempt hair. He belonged to a foreign land!  She said, “Hi”.  “Going to Kochi?”, asked Stranger. No! I’m traveling to Delhi, replied Zafirah. Later realizing her mother’s words of not giving any details to strangers. He is a foreigner (she thinks), Mom said to be careful from strangers from India. She laughs on her thought and starts reading again. “What are you reading?”, asked stranger. Ohh! It is Forty rules of Love by Elif Shafak, replied Zafirah. Hmm! Another love story!, stranger mumbled. “Oh no no! It’s not a love story. I mean, yes it is a love story, but it is about eternal love.”, said Zafirah. Aah! “Eternal Love”, said stranger laughing. “Where are you from”, asked Zafirah. “I’m John from Land of Midnight Sun, Finland”, replied Stranger. Wow!, exclaimed Zafirah. Her little eyes filled with excitement. She wanted to know more about Finland, but kept quite instead. She didn’t want to show her excitement to John.

“So what all places you have seen in India?”, asked Zafirah. Oh! I have seen Delhi, Agra, Hampi, Orchha, Gwalior, Amritsar, and many more. I’m in India from last 6 months on a spiritual rejuvenation, replied John. Zafirah was impressed with John. She wanted to ask him about his travels. While she was thinking of ways to continue her conversation with John, he asked her to join him for coffee. Today God is listening to me (she looks up and smiles). Two cappuccino, John ordered as service boy came to take the order. How do you know I like cappuccino?, asked Zafirah. Well! you like books. And readers have old connection with cappuccino!, said John. Ahan!  I see (quite impressed).

I forgot to ask your name, said John. Zafirah, she replied. Za-fee-raah! I liked the sound of it. So tell me what do you think of love?, asked John. Zafirah laughs and after pause of few seconds, she says – For me love is a feeling which fills a person with kindness and purity. Love and life exists in everything on this universe. The outer beauty may lose its charm with age, but love will only grow with age. Nice! Do you love someone? You can ignore my question if you think it is too personal, said John. I have a wild dream of seeing the world and I don’t have time to get into a relationship. When Zafirah was replying to John’s question of loving someone, she had only one name on her mind.

Announcement for boarding for Mumbai to Kochi was made. John paid the bill and got on his feet to board his Kochi flight. He leaned towards Zafirah and mumbled in her ears – You are a girl with a dream and you need a man with a vision. He then left, waving his hands, and saying Good Bye to Zafirah. Zafirah stood frozen there, thinking about John’s words.

Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!

Love and Chandratal!

It was 09:00am and scorching sun of May was above already. Zafirah lazing in her pajama, reluctant to get out of bed, reaches for her phone and check notifications. Her eyes suddenly pop out when she sees an event of Astro Photography to Chandratal Lake. She immediately calls Kabir.

“Trin trin”,

Hello, speaks Kabir.

What’s up Kobi? (That’s what she call him as for her love for Tagore and Kabir both)

Kabir still in bed juggling to get up says, “Any normal gray collar working guy at this hour of a weekend would be sleeping peacefully in his bed until he has a little demon like you in his life”.

There’s silence for few seconds. Kabir instantly senses the awkwardness of the moment and asks Zafirah about the matter.

“We’re going on an Astro Photography tour to Chandratal”, says Zafirah.

Kabir didn’t ask any question from her as he trusts her traveling plans and says OK for it.

Finally, the day of the journey came, they both boarded bus from R.K.Ashram Marg to Manali from where they were suppose to travel in a tempo traveler to Chandratal.

Monsoon makes everything around look beautiful, especially the cool breeze that touches the peeping face from the bus window. The journey from Manali to Chandratal was mesmerizing along with Kabir’s amazing playlist that he had played in his mobile. They managed to reach Chandratal in morning when the reflection of the blue sky, clouds and mountains looked so surreal that tears rolled down from Zafirah’s eyes. Kabir held her hand and put her head on his shoulder, drowning them in the beauty of Chandratal. Zafirah have always loved these kinds of moments of silence with Kabir and he knows it. Understanding her calmness in her silence he says, “Chandra is just like you, Zafi”. There are very few times when Kabir speaks his heart out. Today is one such day, thinks Zafirah and asks him what did he mean? Kabir held her hand tightly, brought her closer to him and said –

Chandra is beautiful, Zafirah! Just as you.

Everything about her, its color and hue

Reminds me only of one person, and that is you

You have the calmness of it in you

The emotions as deep as her that carries the tenderness of love

Dreams as wild as wild daisies around her

Hope as high as its mountains

The blue color that carries the look of a well mannered lady

And reflects her love for nature around her

Onlookers admire her beauty in awe

But when touched, create ripples around

Chandra is gentle, Zafirah! Just as you.

Chandra is beautiful! Just as you.

 

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Beautiful Chandra!

Zafirah was in utter silence now and not knowing what to say just turned to Kabir and hid her in his arms. Kabir kissed her forehead and both spent hours together sitting there absorbing the mountain sun and Chandra’s beauty.

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Starry Night at Chandratal!

The sun had begun its fine descent into the unknown, and the distant sky was flaming orange, when they both started walking towards their tents. Within no time, the bright milky way was on their head with trillions of stars. Having simple rice and daal and taking astro shots with fellow photographers they found a desolated place for them to sit and bask in the light of stars. Zafirah said, “Kobi, we’ve been told since childhood that people who leave us become stars in sky. Is it true?” Kabir knew exactly what was going in Zafirah’s mind. He said,”Zafi, Let’s find three most beautiful stars out there in the sky”. Zafirah didn’t say anything but tried locating fourth little star too that went unborn. Somehow she was at peace because she knew all the four stars were watching her from above and were with her.

The planning that started from scorching sun of May ended with smiles under starlit night of Spiti and love blossomed between them. 🙂

Family at Vacation!

I have been reluctant in writing this blog due to some personal problem. But here I am writing this blog because travelling is oxygen for me and writing is weaving my feelings together in words. I was on a 10 days trip to South India. This trip is the most special one as it was planned for my Dad’s birthday and reaching the southern end of India had been his dream. So it was more like #dadysdreamtrip. 🙂

Taking advantage of super long weekend, I planned this trip intelligently taking only 3 leaves. So the trip started with spicejet’s flight to Chennai. And like always, it disappointed me for not flying on time. Anyways, we had Kiran (elder brother) and his family waiting for us at Chennai airport. We met Kiran and his wife Pavitra at our last family trip 5 years ago at Andamans. Since then, we have been like family friends. Ohh!  And did I mention about their two sweet little kids, Sai and Sri. It was fun listening to them in their native language which we didn’t understand at all :). We then directly headed to our first destination, Kanchipuram.

#Day1 – Kanchipuram

20160319_153221The drive from Chennai to Kanchipuram is a descent one of around 2 hours. Kanchipuram is a city of thousand temples and is also famous for hand woven silk sarees which are also known by the same name, Kanchipuram Sarees. There are plethoras of Saree shops in this area where one can buy Kanchipuram Sarees at lesser price. I almost mistook a shop as a temple after sighting a pool of chappals (shoes) outside that shop. Gosh! I had never sighted such a scene in Delhi ever. And absolutely didn’t mind buying a saree for myself too. 🙂

After shopping spree and satiating our hungry stomachs at Sangeetha restaurant (Sangeetha restaurants have a chain and for a healthy food as well as for a safe drive, you can always rely on their restaurants on highway in Tamilnadu), we visited three main temples there (it’s quite impossible to see 1000 temples in a day 😛 ):

20160319_173042Sri Varadharaja Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are two lizards installed on the roof of internal sanctum and belief is that one will be relieved of all diseases if one prays to Lord Varadarajan and touches the Lizard on the way out.

Being a Sikh disciple, I’ve different beliefs. But I never miss a chance to pay my respect towards other faiths. Therefore, I touched both the lizards on my way out. 🙂

Ekambareshwara Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiv. It is one of the five major Shiva Temples that represents five different elements. This one represents element – earth. This temple opened my eyes to the beauty of Dravidian Architecture.

Ulagalan Perumal Temple: This is again dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Six daily rituals and a dozen yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April), is the most prominent.

20160319_172848By the time we came out, the sun was already down, and we headed back to Chennai.

 

#Day2 – Pondicherry

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ECR – East Coast Road

The day started early for us and we were served scrumptious homemade Puliyodharai (tamarind rice). Rice was really tasty with proper blend of South Indian spices. We then started for Pondicherry. Kiran’s neice Avinash was suppose to drive for today and he drives very well. As soon as the engine of car ignited, I slumbered to complete my sleep. And when I opened my eyes, I was greeted with blue sky and deep blue beach water on both the sides of road. We were on ECR (East-Coast Road)! What a beautiful long drive it was. For a moment, I never wanted it to end. It slowly drifts you away from the hustle bustle of city and connects you with the French Town of India. If ever you want to visit Pondicherry, do not take direct flight to Pondicherry instead take flight to Chennai and drive from Chennai to Pondicherry. It is totally amazing experience. Anyways, after visiting the famous “Matri Mandir” in Auroville and eating finger-licking Italian food at Tanto’s (these guys are amazing), we headed to Paradise Beach. You need to take a small steamer to reach Paradise Beach. It’s clean blue water and vastness takes you to some other world. Enjoying for sometime in water, we then headed for town.  The sun was already down so couldn’t see sunset at yet another beautiful beach (Promenade Beach) of Puducherry. We then went to an old temple Manakala Vinayagara Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and its existence is marked way before when French came and settle in Pondi. I was amaze to see a huge elephant outside the temple, and blessing the visitors. We then took a stroll near the beach. The cool breeze, the stars, moonlight, sound of waves relieved me from day’s fatigue. We had South Indian food at Surguru, the food was just fine. I regret to spend only a day at Pondi and I’m definitely going back there at least for a week.

 

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Paradise Beach – Pondi!

#Day3 – Mahaballipuram and Vellore

20160321_115616.jpgThe third day again started early. Today we were heading to an ancient town which use to have bustling seaport and traders from India use to travel to South East Asia from here. Mahabalipuram, situated around 60km to the south of Chennai, located at the Coramandel Coast of Bay of Bengal.

With approximately 40 sanctuaries, including the largest open-air rock relief in the world, Mahabalipuram gained UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami washed away tons of coastal sand exposing structures including a granite lion and an elephant relief. The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture.

Of all the monuments, I personally loved the Shore Temple; it is built on the shore of the coast of Bay of Bengal and it looks spectacular.

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Arjuna’s Penance

We then headed to Vellore to see Golden Temple of South. I was first astonished to hear about Golden Temple of South. Photography is not allowed here. This temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, dazzles at night and is WOW! We would have missed this temple if Kiran Bhaiya had not driven us to this place.

#Day4 – Ranganathaswamy Temple and Tanjore Temple

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The Tanjore Temple

Ranganathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Reclining form of Lore Vishnu and is a marvellous piece of art of Dravidian Culture. Its main entrance –  Gopuram stands tall around 237ft high. The colourful architecture, colourful paintings on the walls of the temple look beautiful.

We then headed to Tanjore’s Brihadeeswarar Temple. It is another very beautifully designed temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though, it was closed by the time we reached and scorching sun was on my head, still I managed to click few pictures.

 

#Day5 – Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

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Sunrise and Meenakshi Temple

This is another beautiful temple which I have always wanted to see. And the aura over here was very calm and serene as compared to the all temples we visited till now. It has a very huge complex and beautifully painted wall look perfect in natural light inside the temple. Again, photography wasn’t allowed here inside the temple but you can buy a ticket to click around the temple from your mobile for Rs30. We spent some peaceful time here and then headed towards our next destination.

 

 

#Day6 & Day7 – Kovalam, Kerela

We reached Kovalam on the evening of 5th day and witnessed orange lit sky with sun slowly drifting away into the vast of beach to rise again tomorrow. Our hotel was just on the shore of beach and the view of the beach from the room’s balcony was perfect to laze around and listen to the wildness of the crashing waves.

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Melting sun at Light House Beach, Kovalam

All day long one can see surfers surfing in the beach (mostly foreigners). We didn’t want to leave this place, so we decided to spend whole day at this place. Also, we wanted to relax after a kind of pilgrimage tour: P.

Next day, we went to visit famous Padmanabhan Temple of Kerala. It is the richest temple in the world. Sadly, my parents couldn’t visit this place as my father was asked to remove his turban. He as a Sikh isn’t allowed to remove his turban. Being a true Indian wife, my mom denied going inside without her husband. And I went alone! The beautiful part of this temple is the huge reclining form of Vishnu made up of pure gold.

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Ma Baba at Light House Beach, Kovalam

We then headed to Poovar Island. It is a remote getaway situated on the shore of Arabian Sea. The sand here is golden in colour and hence the name Golden Sand Beach. A steamer took us to this island and it only stays from 15min to half an hour because waves of Arabian Sea are really wild and huge and there’s a fence. No one is allowed to go inside. The waves are really high that the water covers entire beach and connects with the Poovar River on the other side of the beach. The steamer crosses the lush green alleys of Mangroves. It was a great experience and most of all mom & dad enjoyed it a lotJ.

 

#Day8 – Kanyakumari

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Sunset at Kovalam Beach – Kanyakumari

We headed to Kanyakumari around 11am and reached there in the afternoon at around 2:30pm. After checking in the hotel, we directly went out for sightseeing as we had time crunch. We first went to see the rock temple and the famous statue of Kanyakumari which until now I thought to be of Vivekanada 😛 Well! It is the statue of great Tamil poet Thiruvalluar. There are only two ferries to and fro for Rock Temple and thus a very huge line of tourists is formed outside Vivekananda Jetty.  Finally, after 2 hours of standing in line, we got a ferry. The ride is very small. Though, it feels patriotic to touch the southern end of India.

Kanyakumari is the point where you can see the rising sun as well as setting sun. After watching the spectacular scene of sun setting inside the water, we headed back to hotel. To my surprise, I met an old friend, Shahi, who now lives in Chennai and was travelling with her colleagues. She is as shahi (royal) as her name. It feels good to meet old friends that too when you are far away from your home. And we later realized we didn’t click a picture together. We had food at Ocean Restaurant inside sea shore hotel, which is at 7th floor of the hotel. The view was awesome with sea on the three sides of it. Don’t miss food here when in kanyakumari. After arranging cake for next day for my dad’s birthday, I retired into my deep slumber.

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Sunrise series at Kanyakumari

Next day started as early as 3am to watch the rising sun. It was a cloudy day! And all the time I prayed to see the rising sun as I had planned baba’s birthday with the rising sun. Well! We did get to see sun after some time. But that was okay! Baba cut his cake with the sun as candle’s flame. He was happy! I was happy. We all were happy :).

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Baba’s Birthday with Sunrise

We then headed to our last destination, Rameswaram. It is one of the holiest places of India and also the part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. It is located on the Pamban Island and is Sri Lanka is just 50km away from here. We were very tired when we reached Rameswaram. Hence, we just dozed off.

 

#Day9 – Rameswaram

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Beautiful Pamban Bridge

Rameswaram greeted us with blue water on both sides and beautiful sight of Pamban rail bridge. I had never seen anything like that in my life. On reaching Rameswara, we were very tired and so decided to rest for some time thus cancelling our trip to Dhanuskodi which is considered to be ghost town and was destroyed in 1964 in a cyclone.

Along with a famous temple of Lord Shiva, Rameswaram also houses a historical Gurdwara (Sikh temple) related to first Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is said that while coming back from his pilgrimage from Sri Lanka, Guru Nanak Dev Ji rested here.

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Gurdwara Sahib, Rameswaram

The government have also started a ferry ride of half an hour at a nominal price which takes one around the sea.  Srilanka is nearest from Rameswaram being just 31km away.

 

#Day10 – Back to Delhi

Last day we started our journey from Rameswaram to Chennai to board flight for Delhi.

It was a good journey which ended with news that shattered our lives. We lost two beautiful people of our family in a car accident. They both had been my source of support in my travels and have always patiently lent their ears to my stories. My brother Raman always guided me for my trips and his wife Manveen always asked me about my whereabouts on my trips. It is an irreplaceable loss to parents and family but I hope wherever they are, they are good.

And here goes the photo blog:

 

 

 

 

Little by Little

Every morning, she gets ready for office. Unwillingly though! Not because she doesn’t like to work but she fears from the after effects of being judged wrongly at office. Zafirah is a fun loving girl! But she has her own definition for fun loving. She is talkative but loves to be quite most of the times. There are things that go in her mind and she keeps contemplating on them unaware of her surroundings. She tries to stay calm but bursts sometime regretting later and apologizing for her act. She wants to be good and kind and helpful.

Recently, she has been going through turmoil of emotions. She has lost three very close people from her family. “Death rephrases the life of everyone who’s near”. At this time she wants someone to just embrace her quietly and say nothing, someone who understands her and her silence, who can just hold her hand and pamper her like a lost child.

Life is not being fair to her. From losing people to not finding a new job and finding herself daily in a choking environment, she is dying little by little every day. Everyone has a different motive and a different meaning of life. The motto of her life is to travel as much as she can and the meaning of her life is to see her parents happy. This isn’t too much to ask for, she often thinks. She wishes someone could just see her weeping heart and her tears that she has been hiding from world.

Zafirah isn’t good in expressing her anger to anyone. So she stays quiet, letting the time heal the pain. That pain may be unnecessary, that she has created for herself as a result of her over thinking. But after all, a pain is a pain. You cannot stop someone to over think about a situation because that’s a nature of a human with which he/she has been raised.

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Courtesy – Google Baba!

She has been taking in the unwanted shit so much that little by little she is now exhausted. The arguments, the explanations, the reasons, ifs and buts hurt her too much. She rather takes herself in her own world of silence where she tends to ignore anybody that tries to drag her to pool of questions and arguments. She has never been so cold to her surroundings especially the human race or rather the known human race. She has become more open to strangers and introvert to the people she know.

Mistaking her silence, someone criticized her of being sad all the time. But that is all she has become little by little. Socially awkward she has become little by little!

On Portraiture

What a beautiful journey through portrait and quotes! Every portraits speaks thousand words. I couldn’t resist myself from re-blogging this post by one of my favorite photographers. 🙂

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