One year ago, on this day, I packed my life in Singapore and boarded a flight back home to India. Like a hopeless romantic finally uniting with her first love, my head filled with starry-eyed dreams. I dreamt about magical places I could travel to within my own country. I thought about the many causes I could make a difference to. I imagined proving the notions of most Indians who choose not to live in India, wrong. I swore by John F. Kennedy’s words, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
This article was originally published on The Hindu. You have revelled with the crowds on the beaches of Goa, learnt the Golden Triangle route like the back of your hand, photographed the terrain of Leh, experienced royalty in Rajasthan, sailed the backwaters of Kerala, and played with snow in Manali. In the coming year, get off the tourist trail and discover a different side of India.
This article was originally published in The Hindu. As a kid, I’ve often heard my grandmother talk about growing up in our native Punjab. I pictured little boys and girls running across big fields, plucking sour fruits and wild flowers, returning home at noon to the aroma of curries made with veggies fresh off the farm and paranthas laden with home-made white butter. I never imagined waking up to these images someday, given how they seemed only to be romanticized in the memories of people I knew.
Flipping through my travel archives of 2011, I am overcome with a strange sense of nostalgia. The world suddenly feels as small as that plastic globe you can buy off a children’s store. I’m strolling on the beaches of Southeast Asia one day, and hiking on the countryside of Europe the next. One minute, I’m warming myself with a gelato in Italy, the next I’m sampling momos in the Himalayan desert of India. I’m going solo, over land and on water, unearthing travel secrets that conceal themselves from a large part of the world.
This article was originally published on Offbeat Travel. I’m fascinated as Tenzing describes a mystery mountain close to his hometown in Spiti. He’s my first local friend, and the expert driver who we’ve entrusted with our lives, up the precarious mountain roads from Shimla to Spiti.
If someone tried to make folk music out of wooden sounds, it would probably sound like the soft clickety-clack that resonates through the village of Pranpur. Men and women are bent over their looms, squinting their eyes on their intricate sari designs, their hands automatically trailing a motion they learnt decades ago.
Mcleodganj is perhaps every backpacker’s rite of passage to India. Except that it is so unlike India, I feel I’ve skipped a few legalities, missed a few stamps on my passport, and entered a world I was taught is forbidden.
I wrote this travelogue for exclusive publication on Clay, Club Mahindra’s travel portal. As I walk along the green fields of Pin, I smile in delight at the pink, purple and yellow flowers in bloom; I haven’t seen greenery for the last 3 days in the mountain desert terrain of Spiti.
As we drive into the heart of India, dubbed Madhya Pradesh, I awake my sleepy self to the sight of the Betwa River, a beautiful expanse of clear water vigorously flowing through a dam. I am suddenly kicked about venturing into an India that is far off the tourist circuit; Spiti & Hegdenagar feel like a long time ago.
I’m reminiscing about the winter of 2007, that I spent traversing the famous backwaters of Kerala and discovering the ways of southern India. Through my rusty memory, I remember the tranquility of the waters, the countless coconut trees along the coast, and a beautiful evening sky.