Ahlan wa sahlan. That was one of the first phrases I learnt in Arabic, almost five years ago. I’ve lost touch with whatever little of this beautiful language I learnt, but that phrase has stuck with me. It is an old Arabic phrase that means, we welcome you. I landed in Bahrain without many expectations; a small city-state that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, one that not many people travel to outside of business needs. At the airport, I could hear as much Hindi as Arabic, and I didn’t realize then that with the Bahraini stamp on my passport, I was being welcomed as much into the hearts, homes, and lives of the Bahraini people, as I was into the borders of (evidently) the most liberal country in the Gulf region.
After lots of reminiscing and writing in the first half of this month, I’m finally off on my next travel adventure! I’m escaping the cold of Delhi for warmer shores. I’m going to a region I’ve never been before. And I’m flying tomorrow night. Enough said. With the three hints below, I will let you guess where it is that I’ll be signing in next from. And to make it more interesting, the first person to guess it right in the comments gets a little gift from this “exotic” country.
Since I moved to Delhi in mid 2011 and started travelling in India, I’ve come across experiences that redefine the “real” India; experiences that lie quietly off the tourist trails, and let you fall in love with the hospitality and beauty of this incredible country: 1. Rent a village for a night. You read that right! In the villages of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttarakhand, every family has two homes; one in a lower altitude village for winter, another in a higher altitude village for summer. That means when the village folk move up during the summer, we city folk can rent out an entire village for a sojourn in the Himalayas. Stone houses, cobbled walkways, majestic mountain views, and the promise of a peaceful escape are part of the rental platter.
2013 has started on a high note for me professionally; my travel story about a small Himalayan town got published across four glossy pages of the January issue of the National Geographic Traveller India magazine, and New Woman India magazine ran a page-long feature on my journey from a cubicle to the road in their first issue of the new year! I haven’t yet set out of Delhi (for good reason, you’ll see in the updates below), but I shall soon be announcing my very first (and very exciting) travel adventure of the year, fingers crossed.
The events of the last few weeks in Delhi have left us feeling angry, disappointed and helpless. We have raised questions in our heads, on Twitter and Facebook, and on the streets, about safety in Delhi and on a larger level, asked if India is safe (anymore) for women. We have spoken the unspeakable truth about rape in India, we have tried long and hard to look at our values as a society, we have spoken up about the dark, silent nights of India, we have confessed that the safety protests in Delhi might not have gone right, and we continue to hope against hope that strict measures will be taken to punish the guilty and prevent such brutality in the future. There is enough and more pessimism and anger out there (and within me, like within all of us), and as someone who continues to use New Delhi as a base and continues to be a proponent of solo travel in India, I believe we need to channel our aggression in the right direction. We need to take our …