Sick and travelled.

I had decided. I wanted to be a journalist. When other children were by-hearting lessons, I was busy writing my own stories. Parents noticed this talent, and without much ado said, “She’ll be a journalist like Jaanu Tai (my sister’s BFF’s elder sister whom we never met, but were collectively overwhelmed by her profession.)

But that was childhood.

As I started growing up with chronic hyper-acidity, I realised journalism is not my profession. I mean, who’ll be out in the sun, covering news the whole day, and battling acid reflux in the washroom the whole night! Thankfully, I discovered a better outlet for my creative writing and joined advertising.

But, that’s not the topic of today’s post. Then why am I telling you about my childhood dream? I’m telling you about it because today I was about to make the same mistake, by letting my health dictate my future.

My entire friends circle, my colleagues, and of course, my family is aware of my hyper-acidity. According to WebMD, I have IBS. It may be true. It may be false. But one thing is for sure, my stomach creates acid like there’s no tomorrow. Too much sun, untimely meals, skipped meals, a few food-foes like raw onion and capsicum; anything, absolutely anything can aggravate it. doctors say that precaution is the only cure in such cases. But it’s extremely difficult to control these factors all the time. And when you’re travelling, it’s next to impossible to manage the temperatures, availability of food, etc.

So last night, while combatting with a heavy migraine and constant vomiting in a hotel room at Hampi, I was almost on the verge of quitting once again. As I grew up, I realised I wasn’t cut for journalism. I thought, may be I am not cut for travelling as well. I popped a painkiller and forced myself to sleep.

Come today, I woke up as fresh as a flower, all set to fill the backlog of yesterday. Undoubtedly, I had an amazing time, which covered up for yesterday’s sulking.

No way, I can do this compromise and stop travelling the way I want to. No way, I’m letting my weak health win over my strong passion.

Now, as I’m contemplating while heading back home, I felt the need to write this post.

So, here’s my promise to myself in order to have safe and healthy journeys forever. If you, as my reader, find any tip from below helpful to sort your health issues while travelling, it’ll be my pleasure.

1. Tanking up is compulsory.
Just like a vehicle on road, your body also needs fuelling up. There’s a logic behind dividing your food intake in four to six meals. For God’s sake, stick to it. If you are planning to visit a remote destination, stock up some chocolates, nuts, cookies, anything that you like and your body is familiar with. My favourite is the good old Parle-G.

And one more thing! Go ahead, load yourself with the complimentary buffet breakfast at your hotel. But don’t try to miss your lunch time and cover one more sight. You’ll end up wasting your rest of the day in the washroom, and you don’t want it, do you?

A scrumptious lunch at German Cafe, Hampi.


2. Sun is unavoidable. But sun stroke is not.
A scarf, a hat and a pair of sunglasses with UV protection; make these three your best friends. You may feel like ditching one of them in quest of travelling light, but don’t make that mistake ever.

I never understood why cats love to soak in the sun so much… until this happened in the afternoon, at the Sunset Point, Hampi.


3. Hydrate yourself.
These days, almost all backpacks have bottle-holders, so why not put them to good use? Always carry at least a litre of water with you. Keep sipping while you’re out. You can even compliment your meal with refreshing drinks. Juices made from the local fruits taste yum. Ginger lemon honey tea goes perfectly well with any kind of food. Even coconut water works wonder when it comes to hydration. Heat strokes can be tackled better with hydration.
While I was dealing with throat inflammation, acidity, migraine and a god damn corn, all at once in Kerala, coconut water came to my rescue. Why aren’t we declaring this as the world’s most magical fruit already?


4. Accommodating doesn’t mean compromising.
While travelling with groups, being accommodative becomes a virtue. Do not compromise on the basic needs of your body and go with the flow, just because someone wants to go to an Echo point. Articulate your needs. Tell your friends that you need to tank up first, or that your legs are hurting, or that you need to pee. They are your friends, they’ll understand. And if not, make a mental note to make that the last trip with them. If things are completely out of hands, and neither you nor your friends can do anything about the situation, put your solo traveller cape on, and step out from the group for a while. Let them proceed with the plan, and you cater to your needs. Once you feel better, join them. They’ll be happy to see you after recouping than looking at your sulky face while you torture your body in order to be ‘accommodative’.

These three ladies handled my sickness so well in Kerala, I have no words to describe my family’s patience. (The driver was too cool to not be in the frame.)
5. Travel happy.
Stress makes your head hurt. Avoid any kind of stress while on the road. Plan well if you are a person who frets about the drawbacks of unplanned plans. I usually do a little homework to understand the weather, food, amenities, etc, that the destination offers. It helps you pack your bag well and be geared up for any uncalled for situation.

But hey, don’t pack your other worries with you. Be it some pending work at office or any odd job that you were supposed to do this weekend, do not take anything of this sort along with you. Trust me, you’ll feel the difference when you won’t.

How can your stress not melt away looking at these snow-clad Ladakh mountains?

Did you notice most of these things are quite predictable and simple? But interestingly, simple things are the most difficult ones to do. I hereby promise myself to follow these five rules, and wish that all of you too may always enjoy a happy and healthy vacation! 

🙂

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The Mist and Mystique of Matheran

If memories become foggy over a period of time, recollections from Matheran would be the most vivid ones for me. Be it any season, any time of the day, this woodland perched above the Sahyadri summits of Maharashtra is always enveloped with cottony fog. I have visited this place twice or thrice since childhood, yet it never fails to allure me.

Sahyadri mountains covered with a thick blanket of clouds.
Sahyadri mountains covered with a thick blanket of clouds.

Matheran is a favourite weekend getaway for Mumbai and Pune, but still untouched by pollution of these twin cities.

Pollution-emitting vehicles are shunned in this eco-sensitive zone. You have to select from a few rudimentary options like toy-train, horseback, hand-pulled rickshaws and good-old hiking to reach the hilltop from the entry point.

A rail route which is closed during the monsoons. Inoperative tracks make a fun trail for hikers.
Smoke-vomiting cars are replaced with horses.
Smoke-vomiting cars are replaced with horses.

I always preferred hiking, and thanked myself for doing so. The moment you enter the gates of this green haven, you are welcomed by the sound of silence; occasionally broken by chirping of birds or neighing of horses.

Rows of quaint little hotels, private bungalows and government properties built in the yesteryears give a Victorian air to this hill station.

And if you get tired with all the trekking, you can always stop and stare at the beauty around you.
And if you get tired with all the trekking, you can always stop and stare at the beauty around you.
Get lost in the woods, and you’ll find ample ways in which nature astonishes us.
Get lost in the woods, and you’ll find ample ways in which nature astonishes us.
Usually puppies are hyperactive people. But this one chose to pose composed.
Usually puppies are hyperactive people. But this one chose to pose composed.

If you think that travelling in rains is not a big dampener, then you must visit during the monsoons. The landscape looks like a freshly-painted canvas of nature. Rain-bathed trees swank their brightest greens. Petrichor lingers around day and night. A steady downpour turns the sun-baked roads into gooey mud-ways. (Be careful of your footwear though. It is best to choose closed shoes or strappy floaters over delicate sandals and flip-flops.)

A friend had to say goodbye to her footwear.
A friend had to say goodbye to her footwear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If it is drizzling gently, wear a poncho and a rain hat and step out for sightseeing. There are over 20 spots worth visiting.

A beautiful view from one of the many popular points of Matheran.
A beautiful view from one of the many popular points of Matheran.

However, you can always walk an unwalked path and discover something altogether new.

I came across this private property, completely covered with foliage, while wandering in the woods.
I came across this private property, completely covered with foliage, while wandering in the woods.

And if, by any chance, you end up trapped in your room with torrential rains outside, don’t you worry. Just grab your favourite drink, a cuppa coffee or a glass of spirit, and enjoy the view from your window for hours. Not to mention, with your favourite music in the background.

A view from my window during the afternoon, evening and next day morning too.
A view from my window during the afternoon, evening and next day morning too.

 

Well, rains may extend for a week or two more. So, why don’t you pack your bags and visit this monsoon getaway?

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Ganesh Visarjan Day: Then and Now

‘Ganpati Bappa Morya! Ganpati Bappa Morya!’

The words enveloped the city on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi as millions welcomed home their favourite guest.

Ganesh Festival is my favourite time of the year. Born and brought up in the heart of Lalbaug-Parel area of Mumbai, I have grown up celebrating this festival with great excitement. The pandals, the lighting and decoration, the long aarti sessions, the elocution competitions for children, the night-walks through the lanes of lalbaug, the jatra; every single thing has contributed to make my childhood memorable. But one thing that is etched deeply in my memory is the Ganesh Visarjan.

The Visarjan Day (or the Immersion Day) has always been special. Today, I close my eyes and the entire picture comes alive. I open my eyes and I realise nothing much has changed. Yes, with the advent of the DJ music, which I strongly detest, the form of the procession has changed. But the nature still remains the same.

These are a few last year’s photographs of some of the most common things you’d find in any Ganpati Visarjan procession across Maharashtra.

Chillar Party
Ganpati, the God of knowledge, is every child’s favourite Bappa! Throughout the ten days, the bachcha company keeps running around the pandals, helping their elders with small errands, feeling proud about their contribution. On the day of Visarjan, kids don their nicest dresses and set out to be a part of the grand procession.

Look at these two having fun with gulaal.
Look at these two having fun with gulaal.
They make elder’s shoulders their best vantage point.
They make elder’s shoulders their best vantage point.
The best view ever
The best view ever.
And the younger ones are always made to touch Bappa’s feet and to seek blessings.
And the younger ones are always made to touch Bappa’s feet and to seek blessings.
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Innocent prayers.

Women in Forefront
No matter how much we deny, we still live in a patriarchal society. It’s a sight for sore eyes to see so many women coming forward to bid adieu to their Lord. Dressed in traditional Navvari sarees or a macho kurta pajama and Gandhi cap, they all congregate and sometimes even outnumber male volunteers.

Women performing traditional Mangalagauri games
Women performing traditional Mangalagauri games.
Female volunteers at work and play.
Female volunteers at work and play.

The Swag Quotient
Trends come and trends go, but during the Visarjan you’ll always spot cool dudes sticking to the classic. One just cannot go wrong with the classic combination of Kurta and aviator glasses. You’ll find not one, but many bhais going all out with this dress code.

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Kurta and aviators combo has its own swag!
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And mind you, this style was famous long before the Dabangs and Singhams of the world came into existence.

Gulaal
No festival in India is complete without colours, especially Ganesh Festival. Streaks of Gulaal rocketing up in the sky, forming clouds of pinks and reds make a picturesque sight.

And it’s not bought in docile plastic packets, but in ten and twenty kg gunny bags.
And it’s not bought in docile plastic packets, but in ten and twenty kg gunny bags.
Sometimes it makes the odd stand out. Sometimes it makes everyone blend with the crowd.
Sometimes it makes the odd stand out. Sometimes it makes everyone blend with the crowd.
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The pink finds Nirvana as it settles at the Lord’s feet.

Pushpavrishti
Pushpavrishti is the flower shower that is offered to everyone’s beloved Ganesha, as he proceeds towards his abode. Every year, innovative ideas are implemented by various mandals to make this floral offering.

Seva Sadhna Mandal Pushpavrishti at Shroff Building, Lalbaug.
Seva Sadhna Mandal Pushpavrishti at Shroff Building, Lalbaug.
Ganesha drenched in the shower of love.
Ganesha drenched in the shower of love.

The Majesty himself
And last but not the least, the Bappa himself. The beautiful Ganpati idols slowly moving towards the seashore, en route his home is a purely overwhelming spectacle. The grandness of the idols humbles you down. An impulsive tear rolls down your cheek as you join hands and ask Bappa to come back soon.

Bappa on his way home.
Bappa on his way home.
Devotees dancing in front of the idol to give him the best farewell ever.
Devotees dancing in front of the idol to give him the best farewell ever.

Ganpati Bappa Morya!! Pudhchyaa varshi lavkar ya!!

Ganpati Bappa Morya!! Pudhchyaa varshi lavkar ya!!

 

How many things from this list do you also spot during the Visarjan day? If you feel there is more to add to this list, share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Tribals from Dhanoshi and a pair of Giver’s Hands

Come on, let’s not fool ourselves and admit it for once.

Throughout our lives, we keep asking for more. Sometimes silently. Sometimes stridently.

In the prayer room, we pray to the God to give us more happiness. In the board rooms, we outperform ourselves so that we can demand a promotion; a salary hike, a higher designation.

It doesn’t stop at that.

We take our ‘taker’s hands’ everywhere. We want our loved ones to give us more time. As parents, we burden our children with great expectations. As citizens, we require our government to give us a better standard of living. Throughout our lives, we just keep taking, taking and taking.

But there are a few good souls on this planet, who are born with the ‘giver’s hands’ irrespective of their current socio-economical state.

I met one such generous soul while I was visiting Aaliv Maal tribal clan, Dhanoshi.

My Dhanoshi visit was as a volunteer with Yuva Morya – an NGO that helps tribal children from Jawhar district get better educational facilities.

After conducting our workshop, all the volunteers headed to have lunch with the locals. Since it was my first time to volunteer in that village, I chose to take a little detour.

Narrow village lanes

Walking through the narrow lanes, I saw a funny mix of old and new. Though the houses were purely made of mud walls and thatched roofs, the haystacks were cautiously packed with plastic and tarpaulin sheets. While the young girls were frolicking in comfy nightgowns, the older women adhered to their traditional tribal dressing of a blouse and a half-sari.

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I observed her during the workshop. She was as one of the brightest girls.
I was particularly observing her during the workshop. She was one of the brightest girls, I must say.

I was on my way to the farmlands, when I observed two girls following me from a distance, giggling softly. I invited them to accompany me. They gladly accepted the invitation.

Rekha and Anjali, my two young guides took me through the fields of taandul (rice), vari (jungle rice)tur (pigeon peas), jowaar (sorghum) and nagli. While I was familiar with the rest of the names, Nagli intrigued me. I tried to dig deeper and get more information on Nagli, but to no avail. They kept giggling at my ignorance and tried to distract my curious mind by pointing at a Singada plant.

They were shy, but kept on giggling while I was trying to click.
Rekha (L) & Anjali (R): They were shy, but kept on giggling while I was trying to click.

I returned to the camp, and joined the group for lunch. A simple meal of nachnichi bhaakri (ragi roti), usal (cooked sprouts) and loncha (pickle). Pure bliss!

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The lunch got us so energised that while on our way back, we decided to halt for a dip in a nearby waterfall. I again sneaked out and strolled around.

 

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As I was passing by a house, a middle aged woman, who was peeling garlics in her front yard invited me in. She belonged to a big family – three brothers and four sisters. I smiled at the ratio, and continued to listen to her chatter. She was lean, yet agile. The way she moved around her house, she could have easily passed off as a woman in her late twenties.

After ten minutes of chit chat, I asked her about Nagli. She laughed and went inside, only to come back with a reddish bhakri in her hand. She warned me not to eat it because it was stale; but allowed me to touch it.

“That’s what I had for lunch today”, I exclaimed.

She explained as if educating a naïve child, “Nagli is nothing but nachni or ragi. Nachni is better known as Nagli, a highly nutritious millet grown in tribal belts like Jawhar.”

IMAG4956She went back and this time came with a bag full of Nagli flour.

I thanked her, but refused to take it without paying anything in cash or kind. She brushed off the idea with her wide eyes and literally forced me to take it home.

She was wearing the most soiled sari and donned the cheapest glass bead jewellery. But at that moment, she was the richest person in the world. She waved at me with her giver’s hands, as I picked up the flour bag packed with her love and kindness, and left with a happy heart to join my friends.

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Worli Buddhist Temple: Travelling inwards without travelling too far

Amidst the chaos of this city, there are so many hidden gems that are waiting to usher you into their calmness; one such place is a Buddhist Temple near the picturesque Worli Sea-face of Mumbai.

Do not confuse this temple with the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Buddha Temple. Unlike the later, this one is not much talked about on the internet. Even Google Maps carry little to no information about it.

In spite of being part of a plush residential building’s premises, this temple oozes out simplicity and modesty, the virtues on which Buddhism has flourished.

As you enter the temple, you’ll be greeted with a huge golden statue of Lord Buddha calmly casting down his eyes as if inviting you to meditate with him.

The walls of the temple are filled with ancient paintings depicting stories from the life of Gautam Buddha. One thing that piqued my interest towards these paintings is that most of the paintings were brought from Sri Lanka. A few even mentioned full address of its place of origin.

(Upon enquiring, I discovered that this temple is built by Late. Ven. Prof. K Ananda Maha Theo. He was the Founder and President of Bahujan Vihar Trust, Sri Lanka. After doing extensive work in Colombo, he visited India and opened three Buddhist temples in Mumbai, one of them being the Worli Buddhist Temple. The other two temples are in Parel and Andheri.)

As I was admiring the art, one of the paintings caught my attention. It illustrated Gautam Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree. Three beautiful women are dancing in front of him, trying to break his penance. The painting reminded me of the famous characters from Indian mythology – Rambha, Urvashi and Menaka. But the title read, ‘Mara’s daughters tempt to attempt the Bodhisatta’.

When I asked the caretaker about that painting, he happily told me the story of Mara, the demon and his three daughters.

The legend says that Mara was a powerful demon who wanted to defeat Buddha and any person who followed the path of spirituality. And in order to do that, he employed his three daughters to seduce Buddha.

I looked at the painting again. The three sisters were certainly beautiful. I’m sure it would take only a great and pure soul like Lord Buddha to not waver in front of such incarnations of beauty.

Please do check out this piece if you happen to pay a visit to this quiet place. If you love ancient art and painting, you’ll definitely love this humble collection.

After marveling at the paintings, the idols, and the simplistic architecture, I sat down in front of the statue to meditate for a while.

I believe that you don’t have to be a yogi to meditate. A simple exercise like concentrating on your breathing can also have a tremendous effect on your mind, body and soul.

The soft, salty breeze sweeping in from the ocean comforted my skin. The profound silence enveloped my mind. And soon, I was travelling into the deep realms of my soul for that one hour.

Well, isn’t travelling inwards the longest journey one can embark on without travelling too far?

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