Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Legendary beauty of Chittorgarh and Udaipur


Tower of Victory- Chittorgarh

A treasure in form of my old notes appeared and I could relive my trip to Chittorgarh and Udaipur that I undertook several years back. The memories are as fresh as dewdrops on an autumn morning. I vividly remember scrambling for the Delhi Junction station to board the Chetak Express on the hot March afternoon. The train journeys were always eventful and after settling down we enjoyed the scenic views as the train rumbled through villages of Haryana to enter into the vast expanses of sand of Rajasthan. We slept off at night to wake up with the start as the train had arrived in Chittorgarh. 

It was rather early so after having a freshly brewed tea, I headed for the town as, we had not booked our accommodation. Just a little distance away was the quiet Circuit House. There was thick foliage all around and after a bit of small talk with the caretaker, I managed to get the place for a day! A perfect place for a short stay! We settled down and after refreshing ourselves we headed for the town. An autorickshaw which had a strange look appeared. I managed to hire him for half a day to visit all the places well worth a visit. The rickshaw was new and could seat almost 6-8 people. The driver of the rickshaw was a good guide who kept us entertained with amusing tales of the city and was equally at home with the history of the city. We had reached the foothill with a gradual ascent. After a short climb, we arrived at the fort. It was a huge place with a number of monuments and temples within its perimeter. The sight of hundreds of long-tailed langurs was a surprise but they were friendly and harmless. Our first halt was the Kumbh Shyam Temple which served as a private praying place of the legendary devotee Meera Bai. It is said that she was offered a cup of poison at the place by her brother in law, which turned into nectar!  As we stepped out of the temple the sight of huge Jain temples awaited us. The Jain temples were constructed by the supportive Rajput rulers and adorn the fort till to date. A little distance from these temples is the Ranthambore or the Tower of Victory. A huge edifice the tall structure stands majestically and is also known as Vijay Stambha. It was constructed in 1448 AD by Rana Kumbha to commemorate the victory over invading armies led by Mahmud Khilji. It is nine-storey high and has a narrow flight of about 150 steps. The view from the top is beautiful beyond words.

Next, we came to the Rani Padmavati Palace an outstanding specimen of architecture. It was the home of Rani Padmini or Padmavati who was a flawless beauty. It is said that the reflection of her image in the pond of Jal Mahal had attracted Khilji. Stories abound and the famous movie 'Padmavati' was shot to recreate the legend in 2017.

After immersing in the history of this UNESCO World Heritage site we returned to the town to enjoy the traditional Rajasthani food of dal, chapati, aloo matar, and buttermilk having all the spicy flavours of the region. In the evening we went for a stroll to find an unusual sight of a child being carried on a horse cart with ladies singing in colourful attire, accompanying him. We learnt later that he was being taken for tonsuring the head( Mundan ceremony). It is these traditions that make our country unique. The Padmavati park and a nearby market were agog with activity. The water in the pond was so clear that we could see the water snakes in it! It was time to return back to the Circuit House for a nights rest.

We woke up very early to board the Chetak Express at the crack of dawn once again to head for another pearl, Udaipur. We arrived in Udaipur and the next action was to book the return journey two days later as there was no internet those days. I stepped out of the station only to find a small Army Unit across the road where the kind Officer Commanding provided me with lovely accommodation for our stay! A huge room where more than ten people could stay. A luxury I never expected. The food was extremely good and after slumber, in the afternoon we headed for the town to explore Hathipole and Surajpole market. The place is famous for the traditional artwork where my little daughter and wife purchased the traditional 'Lehanga sets'. The nearby Mohanlal Sukhadia circle park had come alive with lights in the evening. It was a day full of activities crammed in a time capsule.

Maharana Pratap  Monument-Haldighati

We woke up early next morning to head for Nathdwara and Eklingji the temple towns famous for Lord Krishna's temple and the Jain temple respectively After reaching the little town of Nathdwara we saw the grinding stones made of gold and silver and a well full of 'ghee'. The aroma of the 'prasad' an offering for the lord was overpowering. we had the 'darshan' and were almost knocked down in the melee of the surging crowd. I got separated from my wife only to find her half an hour later outside the temple gate. The beauty of the temple is seen to be believed and the priests call for the lord as if he was a child, to return to have his food! On our way back the bus took us through ' Haldighati' where the King Rana Pratap fought the battle with Akbar's army in 1576AD. The time we went there was a bloom of roses in the month of 'Chaitra' and the air was filled with the aroma, where once the rivers of blood had flown. A statue of Maharana Pratap mounted on the legendary horse Chetak adorns the place now.

City Palace Udaipur

Udaipur is also known for the lakes and the visit to Pichola lake, the City Palace, Saheliyon ki Badi, Fateh Sagar Lake that we explored deserve another post to relive the beauty of the place. Udaipur has so much beauty and richness that its splendour can only be assimilated after a visit and no amount of words can cover its beauty fully.

Jagdish Temple-Udaipur

A fun-filled trip was just the beginning of many more joyous journeys that lay ahead.

PS - All pics are mine

Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Note of Thanks

 It was the last month of my training in Jamnagar a small town in the Saurashtra region of Gujrat. I along with a batch of other dozen undertraining officers was chatting when our Course Officer walked into the room and broke the news of our postings on completion of the training. We had spent almost eighteen months at the Naval College of Electrical Engineering after our initial training at the Naval Academy in Kochi. Most of the course mates were heading for ships based at Mumbai or Vishakapatnam but I was re-appointed at the same establishment as an Instructor. Never in my life, I had imagined that I would be teaching that too after joining the Navy! 

That was a small beginning and I never imagined that I will have to play the role of a teacher. As my career progressed in the Navy for assorted work and subsequently in the corporate world. Having tasted the flavour of teaching early in life, I fell in love with this! While still working with the corporates I got an opportunity to teach the management students at an institute. The work was challenging and gave an insight into how the teaching happens in a world beyond the Navy. Also, in my corporate stint, I was nominated as a mentor to assist the project managers in attaining their certifications. It was a task which I enjoyed until the very end.

A new sunrise was on the horizon when I immersed myself in spending all the time I had with NGOs who were assisting in the upliftment of the children from economically challenged sections of society. It was not only challenging to teach these kids but also an opportunity to improve my teaching skills in their native language, Hindi, a task I had never done before. My vocabulary of Hindi language seemed thoroughly inadequate to understand the terminology used in Science and Mathematics. I would spend a lot of time to understand this before teaching the children until I managed to achieve a fair amount of improved skills. 

On this Teacher's Day, the greatest sense of pride comes in seeing some of these children clearing their Board examinations and taking the next step to walk into the world to take bigger challenges. Their expressions of love when it comes to tiny tots in presenting a pen or toffee on their birthdays can never be matched with any worldly possessions.  So many of them touch the feet, which even I had never done in my school days. Their innocence and sometimes pranks in the classes make even the dullest moment full of life. They are keen to know the stories of the Navy a career where I spent almost half my work life. The girls are very enthusiastic to learn about the avenues to join the armed forces as much as any other profession. There have been times when I conducted a workshop in the schools to make them aware of what adventure-filled life awaits them in pursuing a career in uniform.

I can vouch that there are not many professions as rewarding as teaching having tasted life both in uniform and otherwise. I dedicate this post to all my teachers including the Internet which is perhaps, the best teacher with endless platforms of knowledge in the modern-day. This year has been perhaps the most difficult one due to closure of schools leaving the classes from remote as the only option due to ongoing pandemic. Despite this, the children from the NGO whom I teach through the internet, put up a lovely show of their talent. Every adversity teaches us lessons to emerge stronger with a renewed will to overcome with zeal. This is a humble note of thanks to all students and teachers who are braving the situation.

PS- Image Kind courtesy Google

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Exotic East- Abode of the Clouds


Kamakhya Temple Gauhati

The daybreak in Kolkata was very action-packed. We had to board the Kanchenjunga Express from the Sealdah station at 6.30 AM so we were seen off at the station by our relatives with whom we had spent the best of times in exploring the 'city of joy'. We passed by the Mother Teresa's abode The House of Missionaries of Charity on the JC Bose Road where she was residing. A feeling of peace prevailed at this hour on an otherwise busy road during the day. The rush at the platform was chaotic as the announcements over the PA systems kept piercing through the din. At the precise time, the train rolled out of the platform.

Umananda or Peacock Island Gauhati

After about 20 minutes of crawling, it halted at Dakshineswar station. It brought back memories of a day trip we had taken to visit during our stay. It has twelve shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and is an important landmark as Kali temple.  After a brief halt, the onward journey continued through the scenic Sunderbans delta interlaced with small streams, groves of coconut and bananas and miles of paddy cultivated green fields.  It passed through small towns of Bardhaman, Shantiniketan, New Farakka and Malda.  The train kept kissing the Bangladesh border and several vendors of smuggled goods kept pedalling their wares ranging from Chinese pens, watches, cameras and other electronic goods. The day wore on as we enjoyed our packed meal as the sunset in the west, rather early. The night passed away quietly and when I woke up, the train was entering Rangiya, as it drizzled. We had entered Assam and were just a little short of reaching our destination. The lush green and incessant rain had now taken over completely. It was very soothing. After a few minutes, the train reached Kamakhiya. The platform was barely visible in the sea of saffron-clad sadhus, who were perhaps returning after visiting the sacred temple of Sati, a famous Shakti peeth.  Finally, we were at Gauhati. I enquired about the Army Transit Mess and was informed that it was across the road. In the next half an hour we were comfortably settled in a room that overlooked the busy street. During the day we explored the beautiful town and walked along the Brahmaputra that resembles a sea! The far end of the other bank was not visible. The smallest island in the world with Umananda temple is located in the midst of the stream. The place has a famous Shiva temple and is also known for a big population of Golden Langurs.

Next morning we explored the Zoological garden that is home to several species of wildlife and rare birds. It is spread over a huge area and the fresh air and deep foliage of trees make it a perfect getaway. We were informed that the Kaziranga and Manas Sanctuaries were inaccessible due flooding so we could not visit these. The public transport comprising of rickshaws and buses is a cheap and easy way to go around. We headed for the Kamakhaya temple the next day. It has six beehive-shaped domes. It is known as the spot where the groin of Sati fell when her body that was being carried by Lord Shiva was pierced by the Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu. The temple is also known for rituals like black magic. The scenic panoramic views all around the temple are unforgettable.

We continued our onward march to explore the far east. The day we planned to leave for Shillong a strike was called crippling all modes of transport. Undeterred my wife managed to get the tickets for a lone bus heading for Shillong. The journey through the verdant hills was a visual delight with steep hills and valleys. It took five hours, almost two hours beyond the normal driving time. By 2 PM we were in Shillong. We were booked for our stay at the Army's Holiday Home for the next couple of days and were ensconced in the comfort within an hour. After relaxing for the rest of the day when we woke up it was a treat to see the plum trees laden with fruit that we had failed to notice on our arrival. There were ten cottages and around each was a garden of its own with all hues of flowers. As we started walking towards the town, we were accosted by a small group of boys selling a strange nut resembling a miniature coconut. It was a betel nut, we learnt later! We explored the city and the Lady Hydari Park which is extremely beautiful. 

Mawsami Caves Cheerapunji

On the final day of our stay, we headed for Cheerapunji, the place that experiences the highest rainfall. Often the clouds would enter the bus and make the road disappear ahead of us. Among the things that make the place famous are a number of waterfalls like Mawsami, Nohkalikai and more. From Mawisami waterfalls one can get a glimpse of the Bangladesh border town Sylhet. There are beautiful stalactite and stalagmite caves in Mawisami which have the far end in Bangladesh.  The novelty of enjoying the most pristine environment with frequent rains was almost unbelievable.  We had a brief halt at the Ramakrishna mission at Cheerapunji and also had a glimpse of Chera bazaar. The Khasi traditional art and fruits are visible in abundance here. The sight of a freshly butchered animal was, however, very grisly and is a common occurrence in these parts.

Ward Lake, Shillong

Our last stop was the Ward's Lake in the midst of Shillong and is endowed with cobbled walkways lush gardens and flower beds. A small wooden bridge on the pond is ideal to feed fish. The place is a popular spot on weekends and gets crowded. 

No trip is complete without flavouring the foods and local shopping centres. Iewduh and Police Bazar in Shillong are a shoppers paradise. Handwoven shawls, orange honey, bamboo products, black mushrooms and Khasi dresses are ideal picks besides pineapples, oranges and other fruits.

A trip to the abode of clouds 'Meghalaya' was not only fulfilling but making me aware of the beauty that lies even at the farthest corner of our country. The people are warm and friendly and the air is so fresh that the best perfumes will pale in its fragrance.

PS- This was the second post on my visit to East India a couple of years back. Pics kind courtesy Google

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Exotic East- Kolkata and Beyond

Traditional Bengal attaire

 As the days now drag into months the restrictions on travel bring forth a plethora of memories and the never-ending thirst to explore keeps getting stronger.  Sometimes, the treasure of old notes taken during the extensive travels bring back vivid memories. One such memorable trip was undertaken in the early 1990s to explore the Eastern part of the country.

During the month of June, the journey commenced from New Delhi by the train. The bookings were all done well in advance as getting reservations has remained a challenge notwithstanding the surge in the number of trains. I had booked an entire trip from Delhi to Kolkata, and onwards to Gauhati and Shillong which was a no mean feat in the absence of internet. I had spent more than two hours to get the reservations at the New Delhi Railway Station. So armed with the bookings, and our luggage we boarded the train from New Delhi for Howarh on the D day. No trip would ever be complete without a quick visit to Higginbothams, the bookstall on the platform. The evening newspaper, a magazine for wife and a new comic for the daughter, would provide respite on the long journey.

Amidst all the din on the platform and the coolies quickly dumping the luggage on board the moving train, heckling with the customers, we finally bid adieu to Delhi. After settling down a quick cup of hot tea provided the greatest relief. Around night the train reached Aligarh and it was time to unpack the homemade dinner of pooris, vegetable and pickles. The train gathered speed and tore through the night while we slumbered on the sleeper. The noise of a small baby crying from the nearby seat woke me up. I looked at the watch and it was almost 5 AM. The train was entering the Mughalsarai ( now renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhaya Junction, don't know how many people know it). It is a very important junction where trains coming from major destinations from all directions converge. After a little longish halt, the train then moved into Bihar and the train stations in route were full of people and several times people gatecrashed into the compartment. The scenery changed to soothing green as the train entered W Bengal. There was a constant downpour till the train reached Kolkata,' the city of joy'.

Traditional Bengali Food

The ride from Howarh to Hungerford Street was eventful as a sea of humanity greeted us everywhere. The Howrah bridge was majestic as ever as was the river Hooghly! The BBD Baug, Writers Building  Eden Gardens, and Park Street bring back the memories of 'Feluda' stories of Satyajit Ray. The city has so much to offer that a lifetime is too short to experience it all. The next few days were spent visiting the Victoria, Birla Planetarium, the Science Museum, Kali Bari, the amusement park in Salt Lake, New Market, Garihat, and a ride in the metro! A morning walk-in the Elliot Park adjacent to Victoria and surroundings gives a glimpse of how a common man enjoys small pleasures of life! Sipping tea in small earthenware cups, eating 'Moorhi' and 'spicy singhara' egg rolls' to the more affluent eating' English breakfast ' in the 'Flurrys' are sights to remember. On the way back umpteen shops of 'Sandesh','Kheer Kadam' and Rosgollos are as much in demand as the sweets of 'Park Sweets','Balram Malik' et al. The unique identity of Kolkata would need reams of paper to describe the pleasures. One can get the best 'Chinese ' and 'Marwari' food in the city besides food from all over. One need not have deep pockets to survive in the city. 

The modern face of Kolkata

A non-stop fun at Kolkata was to be followed with a next long journey by train to Gauhati, and a trip  through the tea gardens of Assam and experiencing the incessant rains of Meghalaya will follow in the next post

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Star is Born-Janamashtmi

There was a brisk activity and several things were happening at the same time. A small pandal had been erected in the huge park. Some people were busy in arranging the buntings and others busy festooning the place with small neon lights. The centre of attraction was a small raised wooden platform on which five or six people were busy building a small temple from the bamboo poles by tying with twines. The raised structure had a pyramid-like shape on the top. Nearby was a pile of cut banana trees, the interiors of which were being cleaned to eventually cover the bamboo poles with these stalks from the banana stem. This was a yearly phenomenon at the Sarojini Nagar park in the heart of New Delhi where I spent my childhood. The entire activity was done voluntarily by the residents, and from the funds collected by the residents.  Some of the people were almost veterans at doing this. The final result was an outstanding job when the temple was finally ready after all the decor. My brothers and I would spend hours seeing all the action which went through the night before the Janamashtmi day. Before noon, the temple with idols of Radha and Krisna were in place with many tableaus of the life of Lord Krishna all around the pandal.

We children too staying in a cluster of houses got together to erect tableaus of Lord Krishna's life on a piece of land using dolls, statues, complete with Vasudeva lifting baby Lord Krisna over his head and crossing the river carved out of small stones, sand and filled with water. The thrill of indulging in these activities is beyond words. In the evening some devotional songs would be played and some children enacted scenes from Lord Krishna's life. A prasad would also be distributed. It was such an innocent funfilled time!
Everyone who has lived in  India where the Janamashtmi is celebrated has seen temples decorated with buntings colour lights, balloons. and shimmering decorations and in some places, the preparations commenced a few days ahead of the day! The long ques of devotees, devotional songs playing on loudspeakers and delicious prasad are usual sights. Every place in India celebrates the day in a unique way, ranging from ' Dahi- Handi' in Mumbai to 'Raas Leelas in UP, Rajasthan, Assam and many southern states

Several markets come up around the temples and the place would turn into small fairs. We too would attend the fair after visiting the temple.  After returning home, the aarti would be performed and was followed by a variety of sweets and savouries prepared at home. During the day, the aroma of sweets prepared in pure ghee, frying of nuts would fill the air.  No grains was used and the taste of everything prepared as an offering to the lord was divine.

I also remember visiting the temples in the cow belt of  Mathura (the birthplace of Lord Krishna) in a particular year. The rush was unbelievable and the chants of 'Jai Shree Krishna' would reverberate every now and then. The atmosphere was charged with emotions as people waited for the hour of midnight when the lord was born, to get a glimpse. The All India Radio and Doordarshan used to broadcast/ telecast directly from the Krishna Janambhoomi temple in Mathura into the wee hours of the morning

Over the years the form of celebrations has changed significantly. Not many people fast on the day! The activities have become more commercial. For most people, it is a day of indulgence and family fun. These festivals bring out the best form of the rich culture we have inherited.  Cutting across the barriers  of language, race etc. everyone participates on such occasions. This year the norms of social distancing would herald a new dimension to all the upcoming festivals that follow.  Hope we will be able to go back to the old ways where one can freely move and participate in all the fun activities without fear.

PS Image kind courtesy Google and own picture

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A Slice of Magic

Garlic Bread

The earliest memories of enjoying the basic bread go back to schooltimes when the rush in which I had to leave the school left no choice but to grab a sandwich with a glass of milk.  A little later while studying into late hours the pangs of hunger would drive me to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and grab 'bread and butter' which was extremely satiating. On some days I would ride on my bike with my siblings to the 'Satija Bakery' in Sarojini Nagar market. He made some of the most awesome bread which would disappear in no time upon reaching home.  Those are some lovely memories of falling in love with the 'basic bread'.

                                                                  (Raisin Bread)
I remember when in college the habit of unfailingly enjoying my different kinds of sandwiches was the quickest way to have a feeling of contentment. Every place I went, I never failed to try the local bread. Some of the most outstanding bread to this day are baked in the hill stations in India. In Mussorie I discovered a shop and by the time one reached the shop most of the varieties disappeared. I asked him to teach me the art, and he smiled and replied' this is years of labour'. I now understand what he said was true.  I fell in love with the art of baking and can vouch that baking a cake is far easier than making bread.

                                                                        (Foccacia Bread)

When I lived alone during my trips I would prefer to eat some sandwiches rather than eating curries at hotels which I never really relished. During my stay in Hong Kong where most of the cuisine was not my kind, I prepared sandwiches and carried with me to office. I would warm them in the microwave oven, and often others were tempted. So much so, that even when I stayed in Bangalore and Mumbai for prolonged periods while executing projects, I would invariably opt for simple sandwiches rather than eating out.

                                                        (Chia Seed bread)
While travelling abroad, I never failed to bring home some of the local bread for the family to try them out. Each of the places has their specialities like baguette and brioche in France, Focaccia and Ciabatta in Italy, Roscon de Ryes in Spain, Challah and Pita in Israel, Aish Baladi of Egypt, the list is endless. Having savoured these in small towns and in big cities there has been an experience beyond thrilling. In fact, most of the bakeries all over Europe have an attraction which everyone who likes bread will vouch for. The smell of 'Khoobz' emanating from a huge basket in Khan Khalili Market in Cairo and a dig into soft pita bread of 'Falafel' in Caramel Market of TelAviv is unforgettable. Be it small bakeries or the large boulangeries the fare leaves me drooling and I could spend endless hours watching them and devouring the pleasant whiff.

My love has grown to try out these pieces of bread and bake them at home. A sample of some of these home-baked loaves of bread ranging from oatmeal, focaccia, raisin loaves of bread that I have attempted to bake is displayed as a badge of honour. The learning is endless and anyone who can bake well is my guru. It could be a teacher who was my wife's coworker in school who taught me some baking and sharing some tips, to yoga workout teachers displaying their talents besides fitness regime to fellow bloggers who excel in this art. I have realized that it is a long road and one has to keep on doing it again and again to attain some kind of making decent bread. One thing I can assure a bread lover is that the whiff of fresh bread or while it is baking is one of the best aromas in the world

PS All pice are mine

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Adrenaline Rush

 The lust for adventure has not only taken me to places I had never imagined that I would one day, cherish when I look-back at yesteryears. One tends to get nostalgic especially in these hard times when your body and soul is confined to the four walls due to ongoing fear of pandemic. The more adventurous are indulging in travelling and taking chances but my appetite for trying more adventurous outdoors has mellowed in the current environment.
Whilst still in school the first real experience of indulging in adventure happened whilst in the seventh standard when I went out for a 10 day camp as aa Naval NCC cadet. The memories of pitching tents, sleeping with school mates about ten to a tent lighting up the tent with kerosene lanterns at night before going to sleep still linger in mind. At the daybreak, we would go for a run in the cold weather and come for a number of activities, like boat pulling, regatta and campfire at night were magical. It was the first brush with nature in all its raw form and eating out from the community kitchen was memorable. 
Adventures in Interlaken- Switzerland
The experience sowed the seeds in the fertile mind and thus started a love affair for testing the limits and enjoying the adrenaline rush with such activities. During college, we went for an educational trip to Chandigarh.  One late afternoon we were at the Sukhna lake when some friends and our professors who were accompanying took boats to go around the lake. It was hired for an hour but My friend and I lost track of the time and direction and headed on an uncharted course. After more than two hours still paddling around, we could not figure in which direction we needed to return. Slowly, I developed the fear of losing the way as the sun was setting. We could not see any boat coming to rescue us. Then, after another half an hour a speck appeared in the horizon, and we heaved a sigh of relief as it took the form of a boat. As it got closer, I saw our professor and a boatman. He looked furious and our boat was towed for the next hour to come alongside. I got the worst dressing down from him for the obvious reasons for delaying the entire class on the banks of Sukhna.

Such experiences only made the resolve to experiment more and thus one fine day, I was in the Navy. The series of adventures during the career in Navy ranged from going on sailing camps, being a judge in the Muskeetry Championship in Coimbatore, International Sailing Regatta at Goa, going on a ride on a submarine, flying from the deck of an aircraft carrier besides living a life not very ordinary onboard an aircraft carrier for almost five years. 

I tried a hand at Parasailing at Ranikhet and also on the Red Sea in Eilat in Israel. The gust of strong wind and the feeling of being airborne is very uplifting. At Eilat, it was a greater fun as the instructor would ensure that every participant got a taste of sea before descending on the boat, making the heart skip a beat.
Halong Bay Vietnam
I loved Kayaking(canoe ride) with my wife and daughter at Ao Thalene, swamps near Krabi in Thailand.  Each time the kayak got stuck in the mud, to pull it out clear required getting into the swamp with a fear of getting a bite from the mammals. The swamps are so pretty that we lost track of time and spent almost double the allocated time living the hosts fuming. Halong Bay in Vietnam with the visit to stalagmite caves was no less exciting. A desert safari on the sand dunes of Dubai is just an out of the world experience
Desert of Dubai
The list is a long one and would need several posts to make the details of account of exploring the Himalayas in treks to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath ( 14 km of the trek on foot during the rains each way), trekking from  Pithoragarh to Narayan Ashram( on way to Kailash Mansarovar) with almost 70-degree gradient on a totally uncharted course as I was exploring the place with my family.

Several unplanned trips to Kashmir, Leh by road while stopping at Kargil and Dras almost four decades back, a trip to South visiting seven or eight places including Kanyakumari, Rameshwaram have been extremely satisfying. In the recent past, a whirlwind trip of seeing 10 European countries in twenty-one days by Eurail and boats was extremely rewarding.
Nuwara Eliya Srilanka

A train ride from Colombo to Kandy and a road trip to Nuwara Eliya in Srilanka is so beautiful that one cannot help but fall in love with this country mythological linked with Ravan

There is so much learnt  in terms of seeing and experiencing new things, managing to live on the local foods, enjoying the simplicity of people who come out like messiahs when one is lost.No matter what every experience is unique and the people, food, places and cultures make each trip a special one

PS - All pictures are mine