The traveler’s tailspin

Those who have travelled for the sake of travelling would relate to this well. Our biggest motivation to give up the routine and take to the wheels is to pull out of the player’s role, and become an outside observer. And travelling affords this keyhole view of life perfectly well. Reading, watching movies, attending a sport arena are some others. Yet travelling is superior, because it puts your very soul into motion. And not just for a few hours, but days on end. Your world goes topsy turvy. Everything, just changes! When I was young, I loved train travel. The sight of green trees and wild bushes, and the ever changing landscape that blazed past me would dull my senses and fill up imagination. So the traveller, no longer a part of the game, in a new land and among unknown people, now observes life go past him, people going about their business, yet not touching him the way they could do earlier. If he...
Read More

I sympathise with your India experience, O foreign tourist

My first backpack visit to Rajasthan several years ago brought about a revelation. In my own country, and in my own state, I was being perceived as a foreigner. The culprit was my relatively fair skin and brownish eyes which,  coupled with a city-bred look, somehow set me apart in the eyes of the locals. I felt excited with the new found status. Now I could travel with double the self-esteem, or like a born Rajah! What did I know. The first to fall for the deception were the kids who went with the camel rider at Jaiselmer. They gladly took me to their house. Then, agents would single me out from the crowd. At Jodhpur, when I spoke in Hindi at the fort, the man, instead of replying to me, reacted with, “He speaks Hindi!” And how can I forget the hearty laughter let out by the traditionally dressed guard at the Jaiselmer fort, when he learnt that the gentleman standing...
Read More

The Historical Indian Cities – that Continue to Be in 21c

Travelling in North India can be tough. One has to battle against heat, dust, the crowds, and agents and touts. Moreover, these are not cities famous for scenic beauty, though historical monuments like the Taj Mahal do provide occasional relief. If travelling in cities like Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur and Allahabad is to be enjoyed, one must know their history and culture, much of which is shrouded in the dark. Varanasi, the oldest of the old cites of the world, sits adoring the Ganga river. Its mornings are famous, and the betel nut (paan). The narrow streets might be filthy, but on the other side of the river stands the Ramnagar fort and museum. Religion is life here, and the burning of the dead on the ghats. Near Kanpur lies Brahmavarta. Legend says saint Valmiki lived here, and so did Sita after she renounced Rama. Many legends of the Hindu myth find home in this hilly terrain adjoining the Ganga. Shravasti is where the...
Read More

On the roads of Rajasthan

06.11.2007 After finishing reading Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the travel bug bit me hard, and I itched for a fortnight of quite travel into India’s vast bosom. Trying to avoid the heat and crowds of north India, and wishing to go on a budget trip, I finally settled on Rajasthan, the state I was born and where I spent my first twelve years. Rajasthan is an arid countryside with a number of historical cities that attract tourists from all over the world. It took some time to fix the tour itinerary, and finally the proceedings were to be: from Mumbai to Jodhpur, then Jaiselmer, via Bikaner, to Ajmer. I managed to stuff into a small backpack the few necessary things, including a thin blanket though October is hardly cold here. Travelling light, I hoped to easily explore the countryside around cities and get in touch with life and people on the roads, villages and cities, like Kim did. The events of the last few...
Read More

Mahe – Lift your spirits

Not many may have heard of Mahe, or would know its existence on the Indian western coast. It forms a part of the union territory of Pondichhery. This small town is surrounded by the state of Kerala and sits on its Northern most tip. The government website of Mahe describes it as the million earner of the territory; that’s because of the cheap liquour sold everywhere here. Yet even for a general tourist tired of ‘touristy’ places, this is a great place to relax in a small town. I was in Mahe for two days, and enjoyed every hour of my stay here. The main street is dotted with a series of wine shops, “foreign liquour” some say, and sell brandy and liquour at very cheap rates, thanks to the low duty rates.  Mahe was a French colony and joined India much later. Most of the population here are Malyalees or Keralites. A handful of French speaking locals on French pension are the...
Read More