The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Few Good Men

Have you ever been treated to exceptional hospitality by totally unknown people? This may seem to be a strange question in today’s world where even those who are closely related tend to avoid an acquaintance. I consider myself truly blessed having come across many an unknown people who appeared when in need and then just disappeared,

Long ago once on a trip to Dwarka in Gujrat while serving in the Navy, I along with my younger brothers went for a dip in the sea. It was uncharted water so I was skeptical but they insisted on taking a dip. Unfortunately, the sand bed gave way and soon they were gasping for breath. I tried to hold them, but the sheer weight was difficult to handle. Two men saw from a distance and rushed. They managed to pull out all but before we could thank them, they had disappeared.

On my maiden trip to the United States of America way back in the early eighties, I checked into a hotel in Long Island in New York for a month-long training. One of my cousins gave an address of an Indian doctor who worked at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. On the weekend, I went to call on them in the evening. The doctor was away on call but his wife treated me as if we had been related for years. When the husband returned, they insisted that I stay with them overnight. More friends joined them in the evening and the overnight stay became a weekender with a game of cards, and merry making. They took me over to the Broadway and the Statue of Liberty the next day.  The next two weekends were spent in a similar manner and I never felt that I had gone away from home for the love and kindness that were showered. Years later they traveled to India and the only way I could reciprocate was to take them around the ship where I served in Mumbai.

Some years back, my wife and I traveled to Switzerland and were visiting Geneva. We waited for a tram to take us to Saleve in the direction of Vernier Covane. Mont Saleve is a tourist attraction in French territory from where one can have a panoramic view of France/ Switzerland and the return trip is about 70 km. I tried to take direction from a man who spoke only German and told us to get on the tram which he also boarded. He got off after a while and told us to follow him. He then brought out a car near the bend and told us to hop in. We were a little concerned with this overtly kind gesture as I enquired if he was a taxi driver. He waved his hand saying no he was not as he started his car. He drove for about 10 minutes before stopping his car near a house. A lady appeared from the house along with this man and spoke in fluent English. She queried as to where we wanted to go and laughed when her husband explained that we mistook him to be a taxi driver. She then informed us that her husband would take us up to Saleve and will drop us back to the tram station. This was the best help we got!!

Last week while returning to India we stopped over at Muscat. The booking was done through a portal and the host, an Omani arranged the visas for us and to our surprise, he was there to pick us up at the airport. The host arranged complimentary tickets to the Royal Oman Opera where an extravaganza of color and culture awaited us for the next 90 minutes. He then took us out for a dinner and to add the final feather to the cap, dropped us back at the airport for the return flight back.

Such happy coincidences make a difference, and strengthen the belief in the goodness of humanity. If you recollect any such incidences, do share.

PS- Image Kind Courtesy Google

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mona Lisa Alive at the Louvre

The crowds were enormous at the Mecca of tourism, - The Louvre Museum in Paris on the next day after Christmas. After having seen the best of the world’s priceless collections of Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and other geniuses across the Greek, Roman and French civilizations, I was returning back. I paused for a while and looked back.

There she was, as if ‘Mona Lisa had just turned alive’. Poring over her mobile phone, and next moment, lifting her head in a disarming smile. I could immediately place her as I recognized her companion from the pictures I had seen earlier.

‘Ranjana, I exclaimed’, with almost certainty in my voice as I moved forward.

‘I was just trying to recognize you from the picture in my mobile phone’ she replied with delight.

What a lovely surprise, to meet a blogger friend with whom I had only interacted on blogs and Facebook pictures! My memory took me back a few years when her elder sister, also a blogger then based in Bengaluru, had invited me over her ( Ranjana’s) wedding! How time had flown, and here we stood speaking as if it were long lost friends. I introduced them to my family and time flew as we exchanged notes and pleasantries in a corner under the huge glass pyramid of The Louvre. The world has really shrunk and become small, no wonder. How could one otherwise explain meeting someone in a distant land for the first time in this manner. At least this was an experience that I was unlikely to forget any time soon.

Having landed in the city of love- Paris on the Christmas eve, twice I had escaped, the nefarious plan of pick pockets, who in identical manner had tried to rip me off! The ingenious ploy was that while boarding the metro, one from the gang, would block the movement by dropping his spectacles on the floor and bending as if to pick it up, and while I stood transfixed, the other accomplice would reach for picking the pocket. On the first occasion on the Christmas day, I raised an alarm and they immediately sensed the danger and rushed out of the metro before the gates closed. It was quiet an unnerving experience. Still, we were joking about the incident on the next day as we boarded the metro when exactly the same sequence of events repeated at the same venue on our outward journey to the Louvre. Since, this time I was a little better prepared, I pushed the accomplice who tried to reach for my pocket, while his companion picked the spectacles and moved out of the compartment. A nasty experience, but having traversed enough in crowded metro of Delhi, I denied the robbers their Santa Claus moment of walking away with a gift of my purse! So, one has to be well prepared for such eventualities while traveling abroad.

The incident was soon forgotten after having, met the wonderful blogger friend and her husband and what now remains are beautiful memories of the short meeting.

Monday, December 19, 2016

All About Travel

The travel bug seems s to have bitten a large populace of people who look for new places at the onset of vacation time. In India, people from different regions chose different times for going out. Summer and Winter school/college vacations are the most popular time but in the Eastern part of India, Durga Puja is also the time when people look for green pastures away from their homes.

In the childhood, it was mostly the grandparents or the relatives places that were sought after destination and for those slightly better off economically, hill stations and places of pilgrimage were high on the travel agenda. With the nuclear families and lesser commitments and greater disposable incomes, all this changed forever. In most of the middle-class families, traveling has become a ritual at least once in a year.

This post is not about traveling but more regarding the preparation that takes place before a trip. The last minute changes and surprises are not uncommon. I have known practically no one who goes on a holiday without prior preparation, more so when early bookings not only reduce the stress but end up in good bargains especially if one is flying and in hotel tariffs.

After many years of traveling, trekking and solo trips, the trip with a toddler and later a grown up child, the requirements kept changing. So also the things that needed to be packed kept differing. As a bachelor or while traveling single, the packing was a more carefree affair and the only mishaps that happened were forgetting to pack a toothpaste or a shaving kit and sometimes packing a knife in handbags that led to their seizure at airport security. Once, a brand new skipping rope accidentally packed in handbag led to a prolonged interrogation as the security guy suspected, I may strangle someone on board. No amount of persuasion helped and eventually, led to the confiscation of the item. One learns a new lesson every time one travels!

While traveling with family, there was galore of oversights, and incidents related to bad packing. The cookies invariably were crushed, the sandwiches squished beyond recognition, water bottles leaked in wrong places. The worst was breaking the thermos flask containing little daughter’s milk while boarding a bus at almost the end of the trip. The incidents would outnumber the humorous narratives of Jerome K Jerome’s classic’ Three Men in a Boat’.

To capture some of these stories of bumbling and goofing up beside meeting new people, eating different foods, landing in sticky situations and much more, I decided to start an exclusive travel blog, which has already four posts now. For those of you who have extended a wholehearted support to my existing old blog, the new link is

I plan to take my readers to new places in each of the stories with some unique experiences, mostly happy ones and sometimes hilarious and funny and seldom sad. The old blog will still be alive and kicking and will continue to breathe on the support of all my lovely readers.

PS- Images Kind Courtesy Google

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Demonetization- Open Sesame

It feels like the good old days are back. I am talking of the time whilst still at school and college when minimalistic living was a done thing for most, my aged. There would be just enough money, to buy a samosa, tea or a masala dosa once in a while, besides the bus pass in the pocket. Thanks to the demonetization that I am reliving my childhood. For essential things, there is just about enough money in the pocket and for any luxuries like eating at restaurants, movies, and other indulgences there is just none.

On the next day of the momentous announcement, the search for old notes did not yield anything substantial but an old piggy bank that belonged to our daughter was spotted lying in a lonely corner in the cupboard. A search for the key proved futile as the box had not seen the day of the light for many years. It felt heavy so I took the box to a locksmith to get the duplicate keys made for opening the rusted cover on the rear. After 15 minutes of effort, the ‘Open Sesame ‘ moment turned into a damp squib. There were old coins and some crumpled notes. There were no Rupee Five hundred  or Rupee One thousand notes that I could proudly present to the bank to exchange. The locks smith demanded Rs Sixty for the effort and shamelessly collected from the box as he too was keen to keep some old notes and coins from the treasure.

 Like most others, I too have done rounds at the banks and ATM machines to be greeted by long queues. Most crib, about the long wait but not beyond a point. I tell the bank manager that I have traveled a long distance and unmoved he tells that there is no cash to disburse. For him, it is yet another sob story, which he hears every day now but shrugs his shoulders in his helplessness. The amusing and sad stories keep appearing in the media without fail. The squabble in the parliament and the debates on prime time television has become routine and weary.

The Rupee One hundred and smaller denomination notes and coins are now being bestowed the respect that they never earned in all these years. Also, a reluctant credit card and plastic money user like me are now driven to use them  more often. I have started cycling much more at least to the short distances which help in physical fitness besides keeping the expenditure low. Since last year for the first time, I felt that adding years has yielded the benefit of standing in a short queue at ATM machines  where people are kind to let me draw the princely Rs 2000/-

One thing that is heartening is the innovative spirit that is visible everywhere. The friendly chaiwalla’s , have gone digital and proudly demonstrate the logo display for cashless transaction with a mobile or digital e wallet option. Everyone has become tech-savvy in just a month’s time. The dust seems to be settling down as the country marches to a new digital era. 

PS- Image kind courtesy Google

Friday, November 18, 2016

Madhya Pradesh- Maheshwar, Mandu and More

The beauty of Madhya Pradesh is such that a lifetime is not enough to explore. The deep  ravines, sparkling streams, and history leaves one spell bound. A FAM trip organized by the MP  Tourism enabled to have a peek into some of these beauties. You can read more on Manjulika's blog

PS: A sincere thanks to Manjulika for giving me an opportunity to represent her blog at MPTM-2016, a unique event where I came back with rich experiences 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Diwali in Singapore

Illuminations in Little India

Dear Zindagi,

After a long time, the Diwali at homeland was missed. Most of the Indians living in any part of the world head homewards but this time it was a little different for me.Having fun with family and friends, endless splurging and merry making are the hallmarks of this festival, which I was apprehensive of missing in a distant land. One time earlier, many years ago, I spent time alone in a Israel where very few Indians stay and none where I stayed. I still managed to make the best by exchanging sweets with friends. This time I will make it differnt, I said to myself , as life has given me so much to celebrate.
A Peacock stands in the middle of the road for festivities
I was here in Singapore, but with my family this time.  The radiance and glow of the festival was evident in Singapore in almost equal measure as at homeland, if not any less. Most parts of the city are still in a festive mood .For past many days the ‘Diwali sales’ promotions, decorations had sprung all over the city and the difference was difficult to tell, whether I was in India or on a foreign shore.

It was heartening to see the Diwali messages flashed all across on posters and even the SMRT buses had been wishing‘Happy Diwali” message in neon lights where the bus number and destination are marked. The best thing I noticed that everyone regardless of the nationality, religion or race  participated with fervor. One day a big group of Chinese school students were congregated at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, at the Little India. Their teacher was explaining about different deities while being taken around the premises. What better way to make children more knowledgeable about other religions while promoting tolerance. This phenomena is visible everywhere when one visits places of worship. How  I wish, Zindagi, that we could emulate this spirit in all parts of our beautiful country.

I chanced upon an old Colombian woman visiting the Gurudwara at Sophia Hills who very enthusiastically visited the place and also enjoyed the tea and snacks offered at the ‘Langar’( kitchen). She was struggling to converse in Spanish and in between a few words in English saved the day.This is the real beauty of the people who inhabit the world. We speak different languages but the basic goodness needs no other credentials.

A small country, Singapore, has nationalities from all over the world that live in complete harmony. The food stalls that had come up in Little India had more foreigners enjoying the Indian snacks and clicking away the pictures of beautiful decorations. The traffic was moving slowly but I never encountered a jam anywhere. Zindagi, if you could do me a favor of making cities in my country free from road congestions and pollution, it would perhaps be the best thing.

The’ Fire Walking’ at Sri Mariamman Temple at Chinatown was a big event and hundreds of people watched the event with complete awe. This feats by ordinary mortals are a portrayal of what can be achieved, as long as one is determined.

The fun and festivities have just concluded, though decorations will stay, till past New Year, but more parts of the city will wear a new look. No matter where one is , nothing to beat homecoming notwithstanding the shroud of smog that welcomed, on landing in Delhi. How I wish we could sensitize people to make this one life time as beautiful as many other parts of the world have achieved. Zindagi, I have a lot of hope to see my beautiful country move on a path, where everyone will fall in love with it instantly.We have people who respect women and not treat them as objects of desire. 

Thank You, Zindagi for giving me an opportunity to flavor some lovely moments that exist in our world.Let us all celebrates each festival regardless of our religion or cultural background.with gusto.

PS:“I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Of Human Bonding

Human bonding is a perfect way of building rapport and exchange ideas. The recently concluded MPTM 16 was a perfect setting for achieving business objectives while bonding with divergent cultures. Read more on
Manjulika an avid traveler and blogger with zest for good life gave me an opportunity to collaborate with her blog for which I thank her whole heartedly