All posts filed under: India

Everything about my home country & my travels in India.

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How Responsible Tourism Can Challenge Patriarchy in India.

Over the course of my travels in India, I’ve found myself in some strange predicaments. Once, I was in the home of a middle class family in the mountains, ready to pounce on delicious local food after a long, back-breaking journey. But when I arrived in the dining area, I found myself joined only by the men of the family, as the women served, and then waited on us from a distance. I sat in awkward silence, not sure if I should join the women in the kitchen and further the house’s patriarchal traditions, or eat with the men as the women waited. I could imagine the same scene playing out in hundreds of households across the country. At the end of the awkward (though delicious) meal, the elderly male head of the household said to me with a disconcerting confidence: I think I’ve figured out why you ate so little, it was probably because you were eating in my presence. As much as I hate to admit it, India is a country with a deep-seated patriarchy, that reveals itself …

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Awe-Inspiring Hideouts in Uttarakhand to Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains.

Deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand, I discovered a secret. I first experienced it while sitting with an old, back-bent, wrinkled-face lady under the shade of a tree, as she waited more than three hours for a passing car to hitch-hike with. I began to comprehend it while walking alongside two young, shy girls on their way home from school. And it dawned on me like an epiphany on my hike through isolated village homes, set miles away from the next house and the road. What you and I might describe as idling around, is an art that lends itself to contentment here – the art of doing nothing. In our always connected lives, it has become rare to break away from technology and free ourselves to do nothing, let our thoughts flow and tune out of the mental baggage we carry around. In the mountains, it’s a way of life. This post is about places where I’ve let my mind wander in the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayas, and reconnect with nature and myself. I’m only highlighting environmentally-committed accommodations in Uttarakhand, because I would hate to …

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Alila Diwa: A Little Bit of Goa and A Whole Lot of Luxury.

When I dream of Goa, I don’t hear the roar of the ocean or feel the sand on my feet. I hear the pitter-patter of rain on old Portuguese roofs and the chatter of women in their rice paddies. I feel potent home-brewed Urakh smoothly slipping down my throat, a burst of flavors from fiery curries on my tongue and my mind slipping into a susegado mode. Earlier this year, when I landed in India after a six-month sojourn across Central and North America, I knew I needed Goa as much as I needed a cocoon of luxury to call my own. Alila Diwa was the kind of place on my mind, and this is why I loved staying there: Floating on the edge You know that feeling of lounging on a relaxing beach chair, floating in a pool that has no edge, shades on your eyes to keep the sun out, the wind ruffling your hair, a cocktail in your hand, lush rice paddies stretching out into the horizon? Yeah, I didn’t know it either. Until I found myself in Alila Diwa’s …

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Simple Ways to Travel More Responsibly in Ladakh.

Exactly one year ago, I was lost amid the dramatic, barren, snow-capped Himalayas of Ladakh. I acclimatized myself to the high altitude at an eco-luxury camp on the shores of the mighty Indus, hitch-hiked along remote villages in western Ladakh, introspected at a nunnery, witnessed a grand traditional welcome for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, hiked through surreal landscapes, met a tight work deadline on the steps of a monastery (the only place I could find 2G internet!), rode in rickety buses, and partook in the wisdom of Buddhist monks. So much has happened since – from discovering the secret lives of chocolate farmers in Costa Rica to hitch-hiking through soulful villages in northern Romania – that I almost forgot why traveling in Ladakh broke my heart. On a rainy day, I lay channel surfing in my Goan abode, when a glimpse of Pangong Lake on the Fox Life show Life Mein Ek Baar caught my eye. Watching the show’s hosts bike along the highest motorable roads in Ladakh and bond with the semi-nomadic Changpa tribe brought back many memories. I could suddenly hear the call …

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The Mystical Ways of Arunachal Pradesh’s Galo Tribe.

I will never forget that moment. In the house of the village pradhan, I sat with the who’s who of Arunachal Pradesh, sipping apong from a bamboo stem. My empty tummy grumbled as our gorgeous hostess appeared with a tray of starters. At first glimpse, the food looked gray, finely chopped, hairy. What is it? our troop asked in unison, all seven of us curious visitors, here to celebrate the biggest festival of the Galo tribe – the Mopin. RATS. My jaw dropped. Someone spilled their apong. Rats? RATS? Mopin is a time of delicacies, so rats were followed by flying squirrels, pig blood barbecued in a bamboo stem, and finally bear meat. I was glad my vegetarian taste buds had consumed enough apong, a mildly potent homemade rice brew, and were too intoxicated to react to the surprising menu. Also Read: In Photos: Hiking from Darjeeling to Sikkim Arunachal Pradesh, tucked away remotely in the northeastern Himalayas of India, surprised me in unfathomable ways. From the moment we crossed the mighty Brahmaputra on a ferry and drove across the nameless border from Assam into Arunachal, a raw, …

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Wandering in the Wild with Taj Safaris.

I woke up to a distant roar, and felt a chill run down my spine. Sitting up, I slowly moved the curtain behind me, half expecting two fierce eyes staring back. Much to my relief, the only glow in the pitch black night was from the million stars twinkling above. A cool breeze tingled my face, and the stillness of the surrounding forest washed over me. I oriented myself in the dim light of a lantern, reminding myself that I was sleeping in a machan in the buffer zone of Pench National Park. My love affair with Central India’s forests began a couple of years ago, when I lost myself in their wild ecosystem, and discovered why encroaching on tiger territory on safari may not necessarily environmentally irresponsible (Read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving the Tiger?). So when Taj Safaris‘ invitation to experience the dramatic forests of Pench landed in my inbox while I was away in Central America, it went right to the top of my India cravings. Now, with a friend in tow, I was tucking back into the comfy machan of our hut at Baghvan – a …