Over the course of my travels in India, I’ve found myself in some strange predicaments.
I walk out of the room, letting the door creak behind me and reveal its age yet again. The sun has finally gone into hiding behind the clouds, and I’m hopeful it won’t appear again to snatch the relief from the heat. Lost in my thoughts, I find myself at the entrance to the tea gardens and staring at the very white hair of a lady in a wheelchair, with her back towards me. It takes me a minute to recollect myself, and another to realize that she must be the heiress of this massive 150-year-old tea estate.
If you’ve ever fantasized about living in a remote village in the high Himalayas, experiencing the colonial charm of a hill station minus the tourists, savoring the country hospitality of India’s most hospitable culture, waking up to birds chirping on a farm, or finding the beauty of Europe’s alpine countryside in India, this post is for you.
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.
The soul of an Indian is incomplete without a journey into the heart of rural India. The 2 weeks I spent in the slum region of Hegdenagar / Kamanahalli (to which I partly owe my long absence from the blogosphere) has transformed my perspective on India’s development, and my own ambitions and issues. Hegdenagar is an ignored little village, about an hour’s distance from Bangalore city, and a few decades’ development. Honestly though, I had imagined a replica of the Dharavi slums, and Hegnenagar’s cemented, albiet small and dilapidated houses, alleviated, if only for the shortest time, my anticipation of the living standards of our rural countrymen. I learnt later that most Dharavi-styled slums stand on illegal land, and Habitat India has fought its fair battle to abide by the law and take Hegdenagar through its first stage of development. The same houses which teased us with a heartening peek into rural life, home 8-10 families in their 300-350 sq-ft boundaries, math that left me bewildered. Constructing new homes for such families that could afford …