The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Lemon Tree

There was a gentle nip in the air as I opened the door and stepped into the backyard garden. The delightful chirping of the birds and the gentle breeze were soothing against a backdrop of the azure 
sky slowly turning crimson. This has become a routine now for many years.

The sight of two lovely ripe lemons that lay on the gravel added to the happiness. The lemon tree had been planted many years ago and had grown older with passage of time. It is like a parent that has nurtured us .What better tribute to my father who was born this day and had loved nature perhaps more than I do. He would take immense pride in showing the garden to the visitors and heaping praise on the quality of yield just as if the progeny had topped an examination. The sight of lemons in the morning is also a reminder that these fruit are a result of hardship and pain that a parent endures. The request for trimming the branches by the neighbors in winter months is painful as the merciless chopping of the additional branches is difficult to endure. The plant never fails to yield the fruit most times of the year, regardless of the trauma we inflict on it. A gentle sprinkle of water on its leaves and branches deposit small droplets of pearls that shine to make each morning a special one that raises the spirits. It is difficult to pluck the fruit without bruising the hands by sharp needles of thorns that surround it. The beautiful song sung by Trini Lopez best describes the beauty of the Lemon Tree. 
The fruit was shared with relatives and neighbors who devoured it with equal glee. The endless flow of the fruit during the season helped in preparation of pickles, juice and chutney for the remaining months. One never feels lonely in such a pristine company.

The pleasure of tending to the plants and trees is unmatched.  It provides an instant connection with the divine. The swaying bushes and flowers with weight of pecking birds and bees are perfect stress busters. As the sun sets in the west the perfect calm returns except for occasional chirp of birds retiring with their families .The magic begins each day without fail with the break of dawn.

PS : Link and images kind courtesy You Tube and Google

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's time for Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is truly the heart of India . Manjulika a prominent travel blogger who has won several awards  and traveled across the country and kissed several foreign shores gave me an opportunity to collaborate on her blog  Pendown for the forthcoming MP Tourism travel mart scheduled in October this year. I gratefully acknowledge her magnanimity for sharing my experiences on her blog as well as represent her for the forthcoming event. To learn more about the treasures hidden in MP read my experiences on her blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Saga of Excellence

We are doing what we are best at! Beating the chest over the spilt milk and engaging in endless debates. You guessed it right. The debacle of Rio Olympics stares at the face of world’s one sixth population with just two medals that too mostly due to individual effort and hard work. Ever since a child fond of sports, the glories of Olympics had drawn me to the games and watch those with an interest like no other. The official assurances of medals before every event were like an assurance of the official machinery fully geared up to meet the calamities like floods, drought and other disasters.

We find it hard to acknowledge that we are not a sporting nation in the sense one is supposed to be. The only game the country plays is Cricket for which there is never a drought of funds. All other sports pale into insignificance. Generations have only played Ludo and Snake and Ladder at home when it comes to sports.

The pleasure of watching Usian Bolt lifting the Gold three times in Rio and repeating the feat for the third time since Beijing and London Olympics was exhilarating. Jamaica had the unique distinction of producing the fastest man Usian Bolt and Eliane Thompson(woman) on the earth, despite its meager GDP. In fact the number of times the runners from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Ethopia crashed the hopes of much richer and bigger nations, was a perfect example of what dedication is all about and what matters is grooming and encouraging the sportsmen.US team found it hard to digest that their team was technically disqualified in 4x100m relay despite a great performance. The cliff hanger suspense of watching Brazil defeat Germany in ‘penalty shootout’ finals of Football and likewise Argentina beating mighty Belgian team in the Hockey finals showed the mettle of teams participating in these events. Santiago Lange of Argentina  won the Gold medal in Sailing , despite having lost one lung to Cancer last year at the age of 54!There could be no better example of grit and determination when age becomes just a number.

The sensational Simon Biles and Michael Phelps set the Olympic stage on fire with their soul alleviating performances. Born to parents with a history of drug abuse, Simon was picked up early and groomed into a sensational artistic gymnast who won four gold medals and a bronze. Joseph Schooling of Singapore who met his mentor Michael Philips when he was 10 year old, beat him at his own game of Swimming in 100m Butterfly event. He got the first ever Gold medal for Singapore at the age of 21, pushing his mentor Michael Phelps to Silver medal.

The Rio Olympics has been an event not to be missed for the number of records that were broken and exhibition of the finest sports that one can think of. The true sportsmanship was amply exhibited when the losers gracefully hugged the ones who won. Carolina Marin who defeated PV Sindhu in the Women’s Badminton Final was hugged by Sindhu and she in turn was magnanimous to hug even Gopinath the Indian coach after the win. It is rare to see such humane gestures in today’s cut throat world. Such events are a reminder that excellence in any field is what ultimately pays dividends and all else gets lost in oblivion

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Welcome Rains

Heat waves give way to the dark clouds
  The sunshine backs off and no longer people growl

It has been a long and arduous wait in sweat
   The clap of thunder and raindrops take away fret

The gurgling streams and puddles spill all around
    Torrents of rain and streaks of lightning abound

The respite is soothing as green shrubs have rebound
   Nature has its way to bring happiness beyond bounds

Steaming hot tea and pakoras are such a delight

    No better way to celebrate the drenched nature’s might.

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sarafa-Food Trail of Indore

Tasty and yummy food is something that unites everyone regardless of religion, caste, color or creed. There are some who live to eat and others who eat to live. Undoubtedly, the second category far outnumbers the first one. My love for food has taken me far and at times resulted in a change in my travel itineraries. One of my dream food trails is the Sarafa in Indore. From what I read and heard so far, it rubs shoulders with contemporaries like Dublin Beer Tasting Trail, Grand Rapids Food Trail and Sea Food Trail in Scotland.

Sarafa in Indore is a jewelry market by the day and gets converted into one of the biggest mouthwatering eating places by night. The very mention of the varieties prepared there tickles the taste buds. Tourists and locals flock the narrow streets from 8 PM onwards each day. The streets remain lively till past midnight. The delicacies that one can relish here range from Garadu, Nagori Shikanji, Pav Bhaji, Gulab Jamuns, a huge variety of chats, pani puri and icecreams. Some of the must try and must eat savories are listed as follows: 
  •  Joshi Ji ka Dahi Wada- The Joint was set up in 1977 and is currently run by Om Prakash Joshi. The skill and dexterity with which Joshi ji tosses the fluffy soft vada laden with dahi( yoghurt) in air leaves one spell bound. Not even a drop of curd spills out. He decorates it with five spices with a clever play of fingers each time. The end result is a dahi wada which one would not have tasted before, melting in the mouth effortlessly. One has to ensure to reach early to avoid disappointment as by 11 PM he runs out of the offering.
  • Vijay ki kachori-Deep fried golden kachoris  and the spicy  subzi served are not to be missed. The tangy flavor of masala is out of the world. One must be an early bird to catch the kachoris!
  • Sawariya Bhutte ki Khees- He specializes in preparing ‘Khees’ from boiled corn, besan ,coconut, hing, jeera, dhaniya powder, salt. The mixture is fried in pure ghee and the very sight makes the eyes asking for more and saliva literally dripping on one bite.
  • Sawariya ki Sabu Dana Khichdi- This is a simple preparation of sago and is being sold since 1983. Om Prakash Vyas takes pride in this humble creation. This has been a hit since it was first sold.
  •  Ratalu- This is available in winters and is prepared by deep frying purple yam and sprinkled with flavored spices
  • Ganesh Namkeen- Anyone who travels to Indore and does not buy the khatta – meetha namkeen has missed something in life. Ganesh specializes in flavored namkeens like Dry fruit sev, Pineapple sev, Pani puri sev and even Maggi sev
These are just a few of the samples and the list is endless .Without including a few more delicacies like Jaleba( an elder brother of Jalebi), Malpua – Rabri, Coconut crush, a gross injustice would be done. There is a Chappan Bazaar( 56 shops of fast food and chat) in the city besides endless eating joints like Ram Babu ki Paranthe. It is now difficult to hold back and time to dash to Indore!

PS:I am blogging about my dreams and passions for the Club Mahindra#DreamTrails activity at BlogAdda

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Dream Journey to Munnar

The early morning sleep was interrupted with a dream, like a movie running through my mind. It was one of the most pleasant sensations akin to a brush with ‘virtual reality’. I could feel the cold breeze and the whiff of fresh air fragrant with smell of fresh cut tea leaves, with lush green tea bushes all around.

There were never ending sights of small houses, the cocoanut groves, bamboo and banana plantations and an occasional sighting of rubber trees as the car headed to Munnar! The climb was getting steeper. The tea bush plantations that covered the gradient of mountains were a delight to watch. An occasional sighting of waterfalls and streams gushing through the crevices till Munnar, was a pleasure beyond words. How I wished that the time stood still! I had reached Munnar the highest place in Kerala, perched at an altitude of 1600m above sea level. It was once a retreat of British in pre independence India. There were clusters of hotels and restaurants near the bus station. I checked into a room in a nice clean hotel.  The room adjacent to mine in the hotel was being decked up with roses to greet newlyweds who were just entering the hotel! A steaming cup of hot coffee knocked away all the weariness.

After a brief rest I headed to the ‘Tata Tea Museum’. It had hoards of visitors that had descended to learn about the history and the process of making tea like me. A personalized tour of the factory where the tea leaves are dried, before cutting and oxidized before drying, followed. The trip would have been incomplete without tasting the aromatic cardamom tea.
I headed back to the town after absorbing the history of making tea. I explored the small place where there were many shops that sold handmade chocolates, a variety of spices, handmade soaps and a variety of Ayurveda oils for massage. The smell of freshly prepared Banana chips nearby drew me towards it like a magnet.

As there was plenty of time still, I hailed a local auto. The driver was a nice and helpful individual and soon like James Bond in ‘Octupussy’ we were headed for the long ride. The first station was Flower Point which was blooming with all kinds of exotic Orchids, Roses, Chrysanthemums and Marigolds. The air was laden with the whiff of all these beautiful flowers. In the entire journey it is so difficult to even wink else one would miss a picturesque scene. The undulating hills covered with tea plantations for endless miles, and the sighting of beehives made the journey exciting. The next halt was at the Elephant Point where the elephants live in the natural habitat and are fed and looked after. Madupatty dam appeared after a further short drive. It is a beautiful and popular picnic spot where people come for boat rides, pedal boat ride and the excitement is never ending. There were scores of hawkers pedaling in raw mangoes, pineapple slices, carrots besides many homemade chocolate vendors. After a brief halt I continued to the ‘Echo Point’ which is another popular spot. There are endless breathtaking views all the way up including a grand spectacle of Kundala Lake as I crossed the dam built over the lake. The road was strewn with small rocks and the ride was bumpy. I arrived at the Top Station which is in Tamilnadu, a different state! Top Station is the highest mountain peak in Southern India. One can see the tall peaks jutting out in every direction one looks. After having conquered the tallest peak my return journey commenced. A trip of around 70 km return was exhilarating. I passed by the Eravikulam National park en route. The route to this place was equally awesome with cascading waterfalls and some rare fauna and flora. The drive came to an end as I neared a tea shop desperately in need of a hot cup of tea!

‘Chai, Chai’ I could suddenly hear my wife. I opened my eyes with realization that my fancy trip had just ended with my wife holding the steaming cup of hot tea in her hand. The more one travels, more one dreams of destinations yet to be explored. I am no different and keep dreaming of new places I would like to see, try different foods and assimilate different cultures.

PS:I am blogging about my dreams and passions for the Club Mahindra#DreamTrails activity at BlogAdda

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Naropa Festival- The Kumbh Mela of Himalayas

Festivities at Naropa Festival

It was a mixed feeling when I entered the room to attend the curtain raiser on 'Naropa-2016' at India International Centre located in Delhi. One of the biggest festival held in Leh every twelve years   and touted as ‘The Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas ‘, this was a window of opportunity to learn about the event. A lot of memories raced through my mind as I interacted with the fellow travel bloggers and a few monks and nuns who had travelled all the way from Manali for this event.
Dangerous roads to Leh

 The memories of the deep valleys, serpentine roads and arid mountains refreshed as if it was yesterday. Just after my wedding, my wife and I decided to go from Srinagar to Leh on the spur of moment. Next morning in the wee hours we boarded the bus from the Army Transit Mess in Srinagar. The recollection of memories of  steep climb through Zojila pass with a wall of snow on either side of the road, till we crossed Gumri( The second coldest place on the Earth) to reach Kargil a distance of 200km for a night halt were still playing. The thoughts were interrupted by the entry of a very down to earth His Eminence Thukshey Rinpoche who currently heads the Drupka Lineage.
His Eminence Thukshey Rinpoche at the Blog Meet
The agile and young monk spoke softly , in all humility about his background   briefly and then went on to describe the culture and pursuits of bringing awareness and maintaining the customs and traditions in the wilderness of Ladakh. His child like exuberance in preserving the adage of ‘Live to Love’ philosophy of life was infectious. A keen environmentalist, an educator, he puts into action the Buddhist philosophy to resolve the current problems. He sets an example by running the famous ‘Rancho school’ (of the movie ‘3 Idiots’ fame), collecting the plastic garbage to clean the environment, planting saplings by the banks of river to prevent inundation and ecological disasters during floods and avalanches, creating shelters for stray dogs and cattle, working towards gender equality , participating in cycling rallies and padyatras to just name a few.
Naropa is the patron Saint of the Drupka Order whose life heralded the beginning of the rich traditions of the Buddhist philosophy. The saint resided in Ladakh where he mastered the ‘Six Yogas of Naropa’. These are now the pillars of meditational  Vajrayana Buddhism, fundamental to every school in Himalayas.The Drupka Lineage(the Dragon Lineage) dates back  to the times of historical trading ‘Silk route’. The present Gyalwang Drupka is the twelveth reincarnation of the founder of the Drupka Lineage.
Hemis Monastery at Leh

A week -long festival commencing from 16 Sep at the Hemis Monastery in Leh will be flagged off by His Holiness Gyalwang Drupka when he dons the Six Ornaments of Naropa, which are said to provide ‘liberation on sight’ to those who witness it. It is equivalent to taking a dip in the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela. A number of events ranging from a fashion parade showcasing the unique culture and traditions of Ladakh, public display of Six Bone Ornaments, performance of regional  and Bollywood celibrities, unfurling of silk Thangka of Buddha Amitabha( the largest silk brocade in the Himalayas), archery competitions, dissemination of teachings of the Lineage and many more activities are planned. It is expected that half a million visitors will attend the festivities, including many celebrities. The mountains will come to life with the echo of music and beat of drums.

Elaborate preparations are underway to provide the comfort to the visitors ranging from best of the hotels to home stay with the families. Those who are keen to attend the event can get the details from the site and

PS: Images taken at the Blog Meet and kind courtesy Google