For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
As I stand at the threshold of 2015, all set to welcome 2016 I had vowed to travel every month to break the monotony of daily life. This year my travel tales saw some more than 12 different landscapes and bagful of stories and memories to cherish for lifetime. I might not remember how my professional graph went this year but surely these surreal secret experiences is something that I will carry for days to come.
This year started with Pondicherry – India’s own little French quarter. The bright sunflower coloured buildings give a bright and vibrant touch to the small town, was something I had always been fascinated with and this place was long on my list. Once here I could smell romance and see French influence everywhere- be it the street names or food. Loved the Pondicherry Tourism slogan which aptly said “Give time a break”, don’t we all need to in this rush hour life that we have been living. O Pondy! I will come. Right said by American historian Miriam Beard “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living”
The valentine month and I had no plans. Until an ex-valentine popped up and we headed to Agra for a day. No plans, no agenda it was just all about hitting the road and feeling the breeze next to my face. It was also about settling few scores. Who cares who won? A short trip yet a bagful of memories to return home with. A symbol of love stood there all by itself and I returned all by myself.
The smell of Ranga maati, the echoes of Baul singers – Shantiniketan is the cultural breeding ground and the pilgrimage for art, culture and dance. This year with Holi falling on a long weekend I had to tick this off my bucket list to experience Basanta utsav at Shantiniketan. Yellow was the colour of the season then with women walking up the campus in traditional– yellow sari, palash phool and all smiles. The campus is a cultural hub. The experience of listening to baul singer’s right next to the Kopai nodi on full moon night was simply enteral. And how can I miss the tit bit shopping that I did from Shonajhuri Haat, the weekly market which is known for local crafts of the Santhali people, batik printed materials, leather bags, earthen wares, paintings and much more.
Bosanto ese geche , Kobider mritodeho chapa pore kagoje, Bosanto ese geche…
With no fixed destination to greet April this year, the hills came to my rescue. Saur it was. This place is also known as the ghost village (where housing infrastructure existed but with no inhabitants) as most have migrated. From the time I landed, I was clean bowled by the warm hospitality of the place. The three most efficient men – , Sanjay and Rahul made my stay worth memorable. The rustic Pahari mud houses wrapped amidst the mountains was a perfect example of eco-tourism. Facing the terraced farms, lush greens mountains, birds chirping, the Himalayan landscapes were nothing less than a dream.
All I could think was of these lines In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.” —Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This May was booked for Pink city, though it was kinda hot for Jaipur but who cares when it all about travelling and tasting different waters. The most unique experience about this trip was to see the newly launched Amber by Night tours. By evening the whole fort was illuminated by waterproof LED’s. It was an mesmerising view as the lights change hues from pink to blue to yellow to red and white adding to its age-old beauty. Being a Gulzar fan, it was a perk for me as he has written the Hindi script.
Every bit of adventure is always worthwhile. And keeping the same in mind I headed for Bir Billing. This Tibetan refugee settlement with Buddhist monasteries happens to be the Paragliding Capital of India. I had to tick this down my list, so while I was Tandem like a free bird on the Dauladhar mountain range, life could not have left more rejoicing for me at that moment. It was my flight of fantasy. I felt that I had I just come back from my journey back from heaven. With this feeling of freedom it’s time to move on and conquer the world. I have always felt “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes”
How much I love rains and what best way to experience it in one of the most beautiful place – GOA. Ulike the popular believe Goa has much more to offer other than sun and sand. To break this norm I took the Monsoon Trek. Crossing the Western Ghats across the Redeghati, a well-known hunting spot for the villages I found myself at Sattari, one of the most greenery and dense forest area of Goa. The 7 kms trail gave a taste of the slippery rocks, small streams and shrubs as we made our way to the waterfall. Away from the shacks and beaches this was one walk I knew I would not regret. The quote by Alan Watts rings “No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now”.
This month also saw me taking a quick escape to Shimla, why ‘cos I was feeling bore and wanted to pamper myself. My hideout was The Oberoi Cecil, a luxury one after long. The beauty of the Colonial-era hotel dating from 1884 took me by excitement and the rooms with views of the mountains and valleys, cedar forests and more what else for a quick 2 day refreshment.
This mini Tibet – the seat of the Dalai Lama has been my favourite because of the it’s people and food. This trip made me explore of it’s best book café – Café Illiterati. Quite opposite to its name, you get to see wall to wall racks, filled with neatly stacked books be it biographies, psychology, travel, novels and more. The collection is simply astounding! Aimlessly loitering around the streets, watching the setting sun, getting lost in the right direction was just my idea of romanticism and tranquillity.
This was my show stopper vacation for 2015. 18 days, all unplanned bags packed in the most minimalist way, two girls were out in the world smelling the Parisian love, tasting some beer in Amsterdam and soaking in the Prague sun. It would be biased if I said that one place was more beautiful than the other. The charm of Europe made me fall in love with each corner of these beautiful cities. Meeting smiling faces, helpful strangers, having food talks, talking selfies in every corner possible, hoping in local buses life could not have been better. From Champs-Élysées to the historical Prague Castle to the small little fishery town at Volendam Europe just left me amazed.
Come October and it has to be Kolkata for me. The city of hand-pulled rickshaws, those yellow taxis, the city where the Godmakers reside. Along with Ma (Durga) it’s homecoming for me too, the whole family under one roof, it’s time for that perfect celebration. The fun and frolic of bonedi barir Pujo has a different – THE MALLICK BARI in Central Kolkata where my roots belong has retained its flavor since 1853.
A twist this time was my small little escape to the white sand beach – The Henry’s Island. A beautiful beach, lovely sunset to watch out for and some heartfelt conversation with my naughty cousins – my holiday just looked picture perfect.
While the first half of the October saw another memorable moment in Bangalore. My school reunion – meeting my girlies after 20 years. We all have moved on in our lives and had so much to share and talk over. 20 girls with the same childlike excitement gathered in the Garden city to chat over life and share some moments of laughter.
Ohh Benares! how much I get to taste you, your thirst seem to be endless and ever growing. This was my 5th visit to this land – the place that gives me that sensory stimulation, yet just beneath the surface is a presence of peacefulness and spiritual wisdom. And this time it was to experience the unique aura of Dev Deepwali – the festival of lights. To see the custom of offering deepdaan with by 21 Brahmins and 41 young girls chanting of Vedic mantras is ethereal. Benares is like a bride that night, as I took the boat ride to get the real feel. My all-time boatman Sonu was there for my rescue, to give me the best experience. It was gave me a chance to get some of the best gastronomical experience in the city. I could scream myself that “Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind”.
December – Tirthan
To wrap up 2015 my last destination was Tirthan – nature’s hidden paradise on the lap of Himalayas, the Eco zone of the Great Himalayan national Park. I stretched out of my comfort zone and fought the cold at -2 and took a dip too at the Tirthan river which originates from glaciers of Himalaya. This perennial river of cold and clear glacier water is a virtual paradise. The immense beauty around, no mobile connectivity and living almost a rural life – life was full of smiles. Staying in one of the most humble homestay – Streams Spirit, I was bowled by their simplicity and hospitality that came with a big smile.
As I say Goodbye 2015, the words of Edith Wharton stands just perfect “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.”