Memories of Winters (India)

Winters have started, unlike most Europeans, Americans, or anyone from the northern hemisphere, Indians in general welcome winters. I also enjoyed winter more than summer or monsoon. In summer it’s a dry heat and in monsoon, it is hot and unbearably humid. Wearing a light jacket, going out in the sun, road trips, bonfires, or drinking hot coffee, life thrives in winters. You will find most people outdoors and mostly happy. I feel charged in winters, eager to go out with friends and family to some known or unknown places, meet people, and live a few moments of life. 

I spent most of my childhood in Allahabad (now known as Prayagraj) and have fond memories of winters. Our house is not far from the river Ganga. Ganga has a nature of changing path and in monsoon, its width increases to kilometers. Our house is at the edge of this expansion. In winter when the water is not that much, farmers sow mustard and peas in this sandy expansion. I used to go there often with friends for the entire day, eating peas and laying on the banks of Ganga was our favorite pastime. This distance from our house to the bank of Ganga was approximately 5 kilometers and there is nothing but mustard and peas fields. Just before the actual stream of Ganga, there are many narrow and shallow streams of Ganga. Depth is not more than our knees, water so clean that you can see small fishes swimming. It used to look like heaven. A place with complete silence, cold breeze, warm sunlight, clear water stream, white sandy river banks, and fields of mustard and pea till the horizon, I can not imagine a better place than this to relax. Tried locating the same place again in recent years, but was unable to find it. Sometimes it’s better to let something in memory rather than trying to relive it. 

Another fond memory of my days in Allahabad is the bonfire. My father built a very big house, very much like a mansion, it has an open space in the center. We call it Angan (Courtyard, a quadrangle open space in the center of the house). I personally loved having a bonfire in that area, and then everyone who is shivering from winter used to come around and we used to chat for a very long time. We often use to cook (roast or BBQ) Bhauri (wheat flour dish, like chapati but thick, roasted directly on fire) in that fire and roast Eggplant and potato in that to prepare Bharta (a mash of roasted potatoes, eggplant with tomato, mustard oil, green chili, garlic, ginger, green coriander, and salt). It tastes awesome when it’s warm. Sitting around the fire and chatting with family members is something I have always cherished. I still fancy that. My 2 uncles house is adjacent as well, so we always had a lot of nephews and nieces, talking to them, pulling each other’s legs, and cracking jokes are what I always missed. 

Winter is the time of the world-famous Maagh Mela as well, it’s happening every year at the riverbank of Ganga and Yamuna for ages. Every 6 years it’s called Ardh Kumbh and every 12 years it’s called Maha Kumbh Mela. Maagh Mela starts from Makar Sankranti (14th of January, the day when the Sun enters into the zodiac sign of Capricorn) and remains there for 1 lunar month. My father’s uncle used to go there with his wife and stay there for a month in camp. This is called Kalpvaas, It is mostly done by elderly people to get rid of their sins. One has to follow some rules to complete it, like staying in makeshift camps, taking a holy dip in river Ganga every morning before dawn, eat only once a day, sleep on paddy straw and spend the day listening to the preaching of Godmen (Sadhus) or praying to the Gods. It’s very cold in the month of January, some too elderly people die there as well, it is said that those who died there during this time will get Moksha. We used to visit grandfather and take a holy dip in the Sangam (merger of holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna). Sometimes we used to stay with them for a night. Eating homemade snacks and mostly boiled food and roaming around the area, It was like a camping and picnic trip to us. Luckily the vibe of this Mela is still very much the same, and I visit Ganga in every visit to my hometown. Maybe once I retire I will follow my forefathers and go there to spend a month praying to the Gods and get rid of all my sins (there aren’t many though). 

It was a Christian village Muirabad where I was grown up, this was founded by Sir William Muir of Scotland in 1880-90. It was obvious that we had good exposure to this religion of India. Enjoyed Christmas with Christian friends and had great food with them. 

Even after moving to Singapore in 2006, we used to plan a trip to India in winters until our final return in 2013. My European friends in Singapore used to ask me why in winters? They all used to curse winters and look for warmer places like Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia. It was difficult to explain to them so I used to tell them air-tickets are cheaper in winters. 

One eye-opening dialog between father and me happened once. During a conversation I told him how much I like winters, wrap yourself in warm clothing, eat warm food and roam around, there is nothing better than that, he replied, “Yes indeed, if you have enough warm clothing and warm food to eat”. Growing up in a middle-class family and in the time when buying clothes is no big deal, I never realized that there was a time when people get scared of winters due to lack of proper food, clothing, and shelter, he has seen all those hardships which we take for granted. There were many incidences of my father’s life which I came across later, each added a lot of love and respect to him. He is still very healthy and strong because of the life he has lived earlier. Hardship in life makes one stronger.

Lockdown and cooking

Staying mostly at home during the lockdown, revived my skill of cooking. As I had plenty of free time, cooked dishes of my choice and the way my mother taught us. Having no sisters, my mom has trained us (3 brothers) to be a skilled cook. Actually knowing cooking was good and bad at the same time, as you know what you like and can cook too, you will always have an argument with your spouse on how to cook. If you don’t know cooking then you will eat whatever is served on the table. 

It’s a saying in India that those who can cook well have a very good heart too. I always have the conviction that if you love something you will excel in that and if you cook something with love then that will be delicious for sure. 

When people were eating at home and what they like and gaining weight, I on the other hand was losing weight, all junk foods were stopped for me. Eating home-cooked meals is always healthy. Most Indian household still cooks at home and there is hardly anything consumed which is packaged and ready to eat in India. 

I have cooked a lot and taken photos of those items. As summer starts from March and remains till October (in north India), what we cook during summer is very much different from the dishes of winters, grouping them posting here – 

Tarkaries / Sabjies / Curries

Mix veg of cauliflower, new potato, peas, tomato and coriander

Mix veg of cauliflower, new potato, peas, tomato, and coriander, It’s a bit juicy and cooked in winters. Cooked yesterday.

Jackfruit - Veg alternate of Mutton roganjosh or Mutton-do-pyaza.

Jackfruit – Veg alternate of Mutton Rogan josh or Mutton-do-pyaza.

Baigan Bharta (egg plant) mash

Baigan Bharta (egg plant) mash

Bhindi fry (ladies finger)

Bhindi fry (ladies finger)

Mater-Paneer

Mater-Paneer

Egg-Curry and chapati

Egg-Curry and chapati

Daal

Daal-Makhani

Daal-Makhani – I have also prepared yellow-dal fry as well but do not have photos 😀

Parathas

Daal Paratha (Dalbhari) - Gram filled Paratha

Daal Paratha (Dalbhari) – Gram mash filled Paratha

Plain Paratha

Plain Paratha

Condiment / Supporting food items / Chutney / Bharta / Pickle

Green mango - Jaggery Chutney (cooked)

Green mango – Jaggery Chutney (cooked), also known as Talkha

Green mango - Jaggery - mint hutney (grinded)

Green mango – Jaggery – mint chutney (grinded)

Raita - Vegetable mixed with Curd (Yogurt)

Raita – Vegetable mixed with Curd (Yogurt)

Aloo Bharta - Mash Potato

Aloo Bharta – Mash Potato

Rice

Tahri- (it's not Biryani)

Tahri- (it’s not Biryani) – preparation is very simple, you just need to light fry all seasonal vegetables and whole garam masala in ghee, put in a pressure cooker with water, and give one whistle.

Snacks 

Bread Pizza

Bread Pizza – There wasn’t any outside food during the lockdown, so I have experimented with this.  The later wife prepared real pizza.

Roasted Rice Flakes with roasted peanuts

Roasted Rice Flakes with roasted peanuts – It’s a very common Indian household snack.

Potato wedges with mayo and tomato sauce

Potato wedges with mayo and tomato sauce – kids loved it

Noodles

Noodles – We have very much Indianised it, frying onion, ginger, and green chilies first and then putting tomatoes makes it authentic Indian not Chinese.

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs+Bread

Scrambled eggs+Bread

Omelette

Omelet

Drinks

Cold coffee

Cold coffee – Homemade is better than many branded chains

 

Ripe Mango Panna (Aam Panna)

Ripe Mango Panna (Aam Panna) – vanilla icecream topping makes it awesome

Green Mango Panna

Green Mango Panna – Must try for those who did not taste it yet 🙂

Open-air kitchen

Open Air Kitchen at Harsil, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand

Open Air Kitchen at Harsil, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand – Unlocking was just started when we traveled to Gangotri, we were avoiding eating outside, so carried our own groceries along with a gas stove. Used water of a stream flowing nearby to cook noodles, boil eggs, and prepared masala tea.

 

Indian Flag Runners

One of my very old friends Anurag called me to take photos of the Indian flag runners event he is participating in. 5 of his running friends have joined him to run 100 KMs this morning, post few pics –

Indian Flag Runners

Indian Flag Runners

Indian Flag Runners

Indian Flag Runners

Indian Flag Runners

Indian Flag Runners

While waiting for runners to arrive notice this composition, waited for some time for a human element to appear, and then an elderly gentleman entered into the frame with a stick in his hand on his morning walk – 

Extra income - Monring walk

Extra income – Morning walk

Seeking answers on history

Sometime back I have written a mail to a great historian of India, who is a renowned writer and professor of history in a reputed university. I was seeking answers to my queries to quench my thirst for historical events. Mainly related to Indian history since the time of Indus valley civilization. I was directed by that great historian to read books, I wish I had enough time and years to read and build understanding.

Rephrasing and rewriting those queries here in a hope that someday some will open this debate or write answers to me on my queries. 

I have been traveling to places from the stone age site of Bhimbetka, pre-Harrapan civilization Kalibangan to Jaliawala Bagh. Locations like Angkor, Bali to Sarnath, and Khajuraho. All these places have a history that is related to India, Indian culture, or religions.

Over the past 18 years of traveling to various places, I have realized that there is one form of history which we have studied in books and there is another history which is in folklore, my own thoughts which I have developed over time is that historian written what their kings wanted to be remembered while rest goes in folklore, not sure how right am I in my perception but this triggers a quest in me to find answers behind all those folklore and validate it. Few questions which I wish to find answers to are – were Dravidians settled in Indus valley and pushed to the south due to the invasion of Aryans, how many dynasties were present in the Indian subcontinent in different centuries and how was their relations, how was India at the time different invasions (Aryans, Mughals and British), what was there at the place of Kutub Minar before that, what was there at old fort of Delhi before that, how was the proceedings of a king Darbar used to be, etc. My quest is to find answers on specific events or individuals than focusing on the era of history.

While doing research on Bet Dwarka I have found that artifacts excavated from there when sent to different labs for carbon dating, everyone has given different timelines, some labs did not even consider that artifact belongs to the Mahabharat era. Wondering why we are not having our own lab setup and do all our research without relying on different labs. It’s being popularised that Mahabharat happened in approx 9-10 centuries BCE, and few historians even claim that Mahabharata is a myth. What we have left of our history is defaced by different waves of invasion and loot, bringing any fact out is very difficult, and we still rely on those to give us facts who do not want to prove that our history is greater than theirs. 

One of the most baffling questions I had is that known human history is only 25-30 thousand years, while the evolution of life on earth is happening for the past few million years. How the human popped up on this earth all of sudden. The complete evolutionary line between an ape and human is still not straightened up. Not sure if even exists or not. 

Well, I personally think the history of India or any country is an asset of humanity, it should be preserved before we lost it completely. 

Covid 19 and Lockdown

Life is returning back to normal (chaotic as it was earlier), but winters are going to be difficult as it is predicted that the pandemic will return.

Nature has healed itself since March, at the same time mankind has witnessed the worst time in recent history. My grandma used to tell stories of pandemics. Pandemic so bad that it used to wipe the entire village. Earlier, war and pandemics were the main killers. Luckily this pandemic is not localized, but still took its toll and killed many people across the world.

We all have witnessed it as it spreads from China to Europe, then America, and then entered into India. Thanks to the Indian Govt for proactive measures and thanks to the immune system of Indian people, our deaths (per 100) were very less as compare to other countries of the world. Note that India is one of the densely populated countries as well.

I personally witnessed people’s exodus as soon as the lockdown was implemented and continued for a very long time. This was apparent as the number was very big and of mostly those who work on daily wage, they do not enough backup to support themselves. But exodus is still on, an exodus of people who lost jobs, lost businesses are still moving back to their ancestral home or some other place for another opportunity. Restaurants were badly hit, but other businesses like automobile were also impacted. So far I have managed to survive, not sure for how long though.

I saw people coming out to help each other in this difficult time, regardless of all differences of religion, caste, or language, people help with an open heart and help accepted gratefully.

Unlock started a couple of months back and life is coming back to normal. In between, I have traveled to Jammu 2 times for work. Learned the importance of $aving a hard way, I think everyone makes mistakes and learns lessons from them but few who remember mistakes and do not repeat succeeds in life.

Posting a few photos taken during this pandemic and my travel as well. All these photos are taken from mobile, so excuses for poor quality 😀

My WFH Desktop, March 2020

Empty street due to lockdown

Empty street due to lockdown, March 2020

Exodus

Daily wage workers exodus, March 2020

Exodus - Met this group of pulley rickshaw pullers going all the way to a district of Bihar from Delhi (more than 1300 KM)

Exodus – Met this group of pulley rickshaw drivers going all the way to Bihar from Delhi more than 1300 KMs. March 2020

Migrant workers waiting for the turn for test, Govt quarantine center Jammu, July 2020

Migrant workers waiting for the turn for sample collection. Govt quarantine center Jammu, July 2020

Sample collection for Covid-19 test. Govt quarantine center Jammu

Sample collection for Covid-19 test. Govt quarantine center Jammu, July 2020

Queue at a grocery store, following social distancing. April 2020

Queue at a grocery store, following social distancing. April 2020

Me in safety gear on a flight to Jammu, Oct 2020

Me in safety gear on a flight to Jammu, Oct 2020

Also thinking to compile all photos of this year and post in a blog, there will not be much but still worth it. Will do this towards the end of the year.

At the end will request you to please sanitize your hand regularly and follow social distancing. May God bless us all!

8 pro tips for traveling with family

After traveling for so many years I thought to jot down my experiences and share with you, let’s start with tips (Gyan) for traveling with family. Traveling solo, and with friends will come later. I am assuming you will be driving your own car –

  1. Research about place
    • Do not plan to travel to more than 2 destinations if you have young kids or your partner can not match your energy level. Short trips are not more than 3 days long, you can not cover many places and get exhausted rather than enjoying the trip if you are thinking to cover so many places. There is plenty of tourist and offbeat places around Delhi, where you can go and return back during weekends or long weekends.
    • Do good research about the place (refer https://wikitravel.org, highly recommended) and find out all good tourist spots around, you can also refer https://tripadviser.com for your destination and find out nearby places, read reviews. Take a printout of places or write all details of places in a notebook, hardcopies are a good backup. These sites will give you a fair idea of spots as per your taste (site-seeing, natural beauty or historical monuments, etc.).
    • Other than the study of place you also need to study about good restaurants, lodging with parking space and other amenities which you want.
    • Some places have opening and closing times, keep a note of that as well.
  2. Itinerary (planning route)
    • Avoid visiting a touristic place on weekends or public holidays, they will be hugely overpriced and over-crowded.
    • If you are planning for just one place, then it will be easy but in any case, make sure you have enough buffer time in hand. Delays are very common when you are traveling with family.
    • Also do not calculate your ETA based on google maps, their ETA is based on continuous driving, add 10-15 minutes every 150 KMs, you will have to stop often for someone’s natures call or tea-coffee breaks or kids chocolate or chips demands along with breakfast and lunch breaks.
    • Start with sunrise (in winters), calculate ETA, and make sure you either reach your destination before sunset or you have a night halt.
    • Normally we just focus on the destination and do not consider interesting spots on the way, where we can stop by and spend some time with family, this can be a small historical monument or riverside, etc. Consider these points of interest, while plotting your route.
    • Use google maps to plot the route, it’s very good, then search for point of interest on the route.
    • Points of interest on the way will make your return journey interesting as well, else towards the end of the trip, you will just focus on reaching home and will not enjoy that drive at all, neither your family, they will just sit, get bored and wait to reach the home.
    • Sometimes fuel stations are far from the place where you are going, make sure to fill your car tank on the way to avoid any hassle.
  3. Hotel booking
    • Most tricky bits! while traveling with family you can not afford to go without booking hotels in advance.
    • Try to locate a hotel in the middle of all points of interest in the destination, so that you can cut down local travel time and return back to the hotel whenever you want to.
    • Use https://www.tripadviser.com and read reviews and ratings of hotels at your destination. Book from MMT, Agoda, booking.com, etc, or the hotel website directly.
    • My personal preference is the govt. hotels or rest-houses. They are located at the best spot, maintain a good standard of accommodation and food is also hygienic. For Uttarakhand search for KMVN or GMVN hotels, Rajasthan RTDC hotels, Himachal HPTDC, for MP look for MPSTDC hotels.
    • Once you book the hotel, call the hotel in advance and tell them when you are arriving, call them again on the day you start your travel, keep updating them if you are late, trust me shit happens!
    • Sometimes confirmed booking gets canceled due to overbooking, it’s very common in tourist places. I went to Shimla once with the family, and after considering rating, reviews, parking space, Wi-Fi, hot water supply, and what not I booked a 4-star hotel in advance. Half-way on the way the hotel manager called me and said that they can not accommodate us as the hotel was over-booked due to a software glitch. In the end, they have accommodated us in a very smelly room and the car was parked 1 KM away.
  4. Packing
    1. No matter how much you think and plan, once you cross 50 KM from your home, you will start recollecting what you have forgotten to bring along. This is a very common problem, do not worry much about that, you have everything using which you can enjoy your trip.
    2. Always keep thin clothing, thin towel in your list of items to pack. Open your drawer and visit the bathroom a few times, and check if you will need anything from there. I find it a good practice that if you see something then you can decide if you need that or not. Power bank, mobile chargers, toothpaste, slippers are a few things I often forget while packing, but with this review process, chances of missing something will be greatly reduced.
    3. Try to keep the number of bags minimal, keep those things handy which you may need during travel, for example, snacks for kids or camera, jacket or other warm clothing, rest you can pack in one or two bags and dump in the boot. These will be things which you only need at the destination or next days. You can not negate the truth that extra baggage will be with you if you are traveling with family.
  5. Fooding (what and where to eat)
    1. When stopping for breakfast or lunch, make sure the place is neither too crowded nor totally empty. If the crowd is more, then you may not get the taste of food which you wanted and if no one wants to stop at a restaurant, then its service is not up to mark. A restaurant with a moderate crowd will be best where you can direct the cook about salt and chili ratio or quantity of ginger for your masala tea. After traveling for so many years, my menu is almost fixed now, Aalu paratha+butter with masala tea for breakfast and daal-tadka with butter roti for lunch. I prefer not to experiment with food during travel. I hardly had dinner on the way, as most of the time we reach to destination or place of night halt before dinner time.
    2. Quickly consumed items like paratha or daal are fresh, you can find others by looking on to other people’s plates. Avoid sweets if you are driving as they may trigger sleep, also you do not know how long back those were prepared.
    3. It’s funny but normally I do not order food for myself whenever traveling with family, as I know they will order extra and I can feed myself on the leftover. I hate food wastage. But if you see that food wastage is inevitable, better feed cows or dogs around rather than leaving on the plate.
  6. Shopping
    1. You would want to take your family to a local market where they can buy few souvenirs or gift items, always remember to buy few gift items for friends and family back home, they will love it and remember you whenever they see or use it. Personally, I did not follow this practice of buying gifts for a very long time though 😛 (which is bad).
  7. Roaming around
    1. Keep light while traveling in local, keep one small backpack per person, doesn’t matter if it empty in the beginning, it will get filled with stuff in your local travel for sure. For me, I have to carry 2 lenses which are bulky and heavy, along with a camera body, so a backpack is a must for me. I do not carry a tripod while traveling local, flash I do not have. You really need not worry about carrying food or water bottles, as you can get packaged water bottles, biscuits or chocolates everywhere.
    2. Always remember that traveling in local places is the core part of this trip, this is the reason why you are here, so do not rush or give timelines to your family or friends, let them take their own time, enjoy and experience the place. If you are tired and do not want to roam around, you may sit someplace and tell them to catch you when they are done.
    3. Match the pace with the slowest person in the group, they will bless you 😀
    4. Allocate a certain budget for kids or other family members for local shopping.
    5. Respect the privacy of other people. Being a tourist do not take everything for granted if you want to take a photo of something ask the owner if you want to take a photo of someone take their consent. The best trick to get permission is to befriend them, talk to them for sometime before taking your camera out and asking for photos. 
  8. Return journey
    1. Give more time to your return journey, spend some time to those point of interests which you have identified during planning.

Add if I have missed anything or you think needed, comments are open 🙂

Diwali 2020

Before writing anything about Diwali this year adding what I have missed in my last blog, I missed mentioning what I want to add to my photography kit, I need a good stable tripod, though I have 2 already, when stretched to full they shiver in windy conditions, need a heavy one. Also planning to buy a full-frame camera, hopefully, will be able to buy one coming few months. Those just started travel, documentary or landscape photography, a suggestion – do not buy remote, flash or filters, they are a total waste of money, rather Invest in a good lens first.

As mentioned in the last blog posting photos of Diwali this year. Kids were at home this Diwali, and no fireworks this year. Took a few photos of them after pooja, posting here –

Ishu in traditional wear

Ishu in traditional wear

Aashi in Pooj room

Aashi in Pooja room

Aashi close up

Aashi close up

MY PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY

Two blogs back to back, that too with just text content, it’s rarely happened to me, happens only when I am traveling for a long time.

So, this blog will try to summarise my photography journey. It has all started back in Singapore. While working for a company I saw few photos click by a colleague and I was drawn to that for a very long time, I thought if I could also take such beautiful photos, this triggered me to get my first camera, which was an entry-level DSLR, this was the year 2008. I had already started blogging before that but after buying the camera my blogging has taken a twist towards photography and travel.

Had a life-changing experience back in 2008, when I came out from the death bed. I have started thinking all over again about my life, what I have and what can I pass to my kids, my loved ones, or society. Most boys (in India) when they start earning, family and society expect them to live the rest of their life for the family, get married, have kids, and then groom them and take care of them. They are not supposed to live their own life, this is what my father did and his father too. Is it the right way of living? I have asked this question to me, whatever I am going to leave behind will be easily forgotten in a few years and my loved ones will move on in their own lives. I have to live for myself and leave something behind for my loved ones or others to cherish along with carrying all responsibilities. So all my travel experiences are for me and all my photos for my loved ones (including you). That is why I am not writing much in my blogs these days but posting all (good) photos so that readers can get a sense of the place where I have been and see the place through my eyes. Those who wish to know about my experiences of travel, trust me the entire human race is the same and living almost identical life, all places are great, you just need to match with the pace of life and you will have a great time. I see no difference in the people of my village with people of a village in Cambodia or Kent or the urban life of Singapore, Delhi, or London.

Let me confess to you honestly, when I started taking photos from DSLR, I wanted to look into the life of other people and present it to viewers, more like documentary photography, but it needs a lot of study and time which I never had as most of my travel were short (2-3 days max). But it did not prevent me to capture some beautiful landscapes or candid moments. Also, photography is not my profession so I never tried to learn everything in one go, it’s a slow process which is still on for the past 12 years, learning it bit by bit and enjoying it. 🙂

For those who wish to learn photography, I have few tips, try to understand your equipment first, then come understanding lights, composition, storytelling, and post-processing. If I have missed anything means I still have not learned that :D. A small suggestion as well, always ask a question if your photo can explain by itself, if yes then bingo, if not then try again.

Given a chance I wish to document the authentic Indian lifestyle which is getting lost now. This documentation is needed as I fear in times to come we will lose everything which our forefathers have invented with the research of thousands of years. I fear we all will be eating burgers and pizza and wearing denim and speaking English. Our regional languages, food, festivals, clothing, housing, family values, and learnings of generations have to be documented in all possible forms (text, photos, and videos). We live in a country which is so diverse for which it’s said that the taste of water gets changed every 1 Kos (1 Kos = 3 KM as per wiki) and language every 4 Kos. It requires a massive effort to preserve that. I am sure there will be a time not far when people will realize wearing cotton is better than synthetic clothing for the kind of weather we have or our digestive track is more adopted to eating roti+gud than a pizza.

Before I end this blog I have a small suggestion to readers, even if you are carrying the responsibility of family try to take some time for yourself, if not daily then at least 1 or half day in a week, just revisit your memories and dream for future. I am sure you will do better than before in your life.

In the next blog, will post photos of my kids that I took during this Diwali, I still have to process it.  

My Travel journey

Happy Diwali!

Feeling like writing something, was thinking about the topic of this post, whether it should be related to travel, photography, thoughts, or friends and family, finally decided to write about my travel experience so far.

Let me write how I have evolved in my travel, initially, I wanted to visit cities just to see urban life, then I was fascinated by natural beauty, whether it’s forest, river, mountains or deserts, then rural lifestyle and now its spiritual. So travel is there but the purpose has changed over time. Recently visited Gangotri over a long weekend, will travel to other destinations of Chota Chardham in time to come. In bigger plans, I wish to drive to actual Chardham Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, and Rameswaram in my car, solo, with friends or family doesn’t matter.

My individual (not with family) travel started a bit early as I use to visit different cities in UP for playing volleyball tournaments. During the final year of my post-graduation, I have traveled few places in MP Gwalior, Bhind then came to Delhi for university related work, this was my first tour out of state. I have visited Manali first time in 2003, that was my first trip during my job, after July 2006 I have become an international traveler, was fortunate to visit different countries of South East Asia and Europe.

Travel has made me very humble and I learned that you need not have everything to be happy. In recent years, after moving back to India in 2013, I have traveled extensively in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh (and UP of course) within India. Each of these states has its own beauty at different times of the year. Winters are best to see snowfall in the Himalayas at the same time you can enjoy it in Thar desert or Forests of MP as well, Summers are for Hill stations of Himalayas (HP or UK). Being said, Monsoon is the time when I mostly go out to Uttarakhand or HP, it’s a bit risky of course but totally worth taking it, as all mountains are lush green, a lot of waterfalls on the way and most important all the tourists are back home as schools are open post-summer vacations, so no crowd and low tariff in hotels :). I drove so much in the mountain of Uttarakhand and Himachal that now I can claim myself as a Pahadi driver :P.

Winters is the time when I visit my home town Allahabad (Prayag, now Prayagraj) every year, I drop my kids at their Nana-Nani place and go on a road trip to MP with my brother BK and friend Dr. Sharad. We have given this road-trip the name “The Freedom Trip”, why this name – we all do whatever we want to do. We eat or drink whatever we want, stay wherever we want and visit places which we want, It is the trip I always look forward to, it is the time year when I feel totally detached from worldly things and pains. In the past 10 years, we have traveled all most all cities of MP many times. What fascinates me about MP is its low population density, you will have to drive miles before you see any human face. As the terrain is rocky so not much farming is being done in MP this is the main reason why population density is very low. street food of MP is organic and great in taste and air is so refreshing, people are humble, simple, and helping. There are plenty of forest reserves and historical sites in MP, you will fall in love with MP at the first sight.

Feeling blessed to live in Delhi as all type of natural beauty is within reach, I can cook a plan for the weekend, complete it and join office the next day. When you do something else for living and want to takeout time for your passion for travel, can only be achieved only if you are in Delhi.

Winters has started which is triggering me for our yearly ritual “The Freedom Trip”, but seems this year the trip is not going to happen as we have few students in the family who have board exams in 2021, but me taking a week break in winter is confirmed, I may be driving solo in Rajasthan again, the road between Longewala and Tanot is calling me, I also need to see Kuldhara as well.

I have also started preparing myself for tracking, one of my friends is organizing trekking trips and wants me to join him to take photos of his trekking group. It will be to a very remote location near the China border next summer. I have to lose weight and strengthen my muscles and lungs for that, working on that, and hopefully, I will be ready by next summer. It will be 2 days trekking each side and 2 nights camping near a lake, can not disclose the location but I hope you can understand that it will be a cold and rocky place.

My car (Ford) is asking for retirement, I drove it around 1.7 Lakhs KM in the past 7 years and it is breaking apart now. I really love this car, it was the most strong, spacious, and economical car at that time in its class. As kids are grown up, they need more space to sleep in back-seat, I will go for a 7 seater car this time, Cresta (Toyota) may be. Seems creating a flatbed like XUV (Mahindra) is not possible in Cresta, hopefully, they will do something by the time I buy.

I read a quote somewhere – “Die with memories not with dreams” and following it since then.

Planning to add few more gadgets to my photography kit, but will write about my photography experiences in another blog soon… stay tuned 🙂

My photo portfolio

My younger daughter has created my photo portfolio by selecting photos of her choice, then created a video. Hope you will like it 🙂

Photo Portfolio

Just adding some random thoughts as well –

  1. Try to solve one new problem every day, learn something new every week.
  2. 99.99 % of us die without making any difference to society at any level (city, state, country, or humanity as a whole). Most of the time we live life for ourselves or immediate relatives.
  3. Most of us just accept and get what life throws to us, which we can change with very little effort, but we normally don’t do that effort.