Tuesday, September 27, 2016

iRevisit | What I Do When I Am Not Travelling

Its three months to the date since I returned from my last long term travel stint! The duration of my last long term travel stint was 90 days incidentally.

And yes, though in the time since my return I have been making a few discreet exits and entries back to my home base (more on that in a post soon, I promise), I have also spent the reminder of my time planning 'Be You For You', my upcoming workshop on expressive writing in Mumbai on Saturday, the 8th of October AND agonising over two things:
(i) not being able to travel (not as much as I prefer to), and
(ii) not being able to write (because I just couldn't, not in the long form at least).

To overcome those blocks, I decided to vicariously live through my own travels – dating from my first solo travel experience in October 2012 until December 2015. To do this, I chose Instagram as my medium. The 75 post series - #NomadicThunkerRevisits – also turned out to be an interesting way of using photographs as a ‘writing prompt’ to tease those creative juices.

Below are 25 of the more well-appreciated posts (Instagram hearts being the metric) --

I)
Memory No. 1::
You know that voice in your head that won't shut up about asking you when you're going to travel next?
Oh well, I do
I hear her all the time
Self-deprecatory humour aside, I thought it would be nice to dig down into the hard drives and fish for memories from not too long ago. Because it hasn't been that long.
This one's from my first solo trip in October 2012.
Trasi, near Udupi in Karnataka
A beach all to myself
I was most ecstatic that I hadn't driven myself up the walls in my own company those five days
Needless to say, life hasn't been the same since 😉

Photo: Trasi, Karnataka (India) | October 2012

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


II)
Memory No. 3::
Do you know that feeling when you pass through a place and in that moment you realise that irrespective of what has happened in the past or will transpire in the future, this is as definitive as it can be?
I've had such moments too many times to recount now. And this journey from Srinagar to Kargil in August 2013 is one of the earliest of those.
That's Zoji La about 10 kilometers away from Sonmarg.

Photo: Zoji La, (Kashmir, India) | August 2013

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


III)
Memory No 9::
Do you recall the time when social media did not overpower our travel experiences? I'd be a hypocrite if I said it's still as undiluted. But I'm being more mindful about how I use it now. In that, I abstain from live posting in the spirit of delayed gratification. .
This is from when I chose the then quaint Coorg as a getaway during Christmas. I had spice gardens and coffee plantations to lull my senses. Turns out not being a slave to social media resulted in very little photographic evidence from the travels. 😈

Photo: Ganesh Estate Homestay, Coorg (Karnataka, India) | December 2013

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


IV)
Memory No 11::
You know that feeling that comes from leaving a part of you behind each time you bid adieu to a place?
I know I do
And it comes from knowing that I came a stranger and left with a sense of belonging. That's the magic of homestays. I have families strewn across different parts of the country who at some point in this journey of mine shared not just their roof and food but a little part of themselves with me.

Photo: Devpur Homestay (Kutch, India) | March 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


V)
Memory No 14::
Our digital existence robs us of things we're capable of doing with our bare hands

Photo: Lacquered lathe wood work (Bhuj, Gujarat - India) | March 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


VI)
Memory No 16
I tell her my dysfunctionalities and she lets me be.
The sea.
My comforter. My confidante. My mirror.

Photo: Velas, Maharashtra (India) | March 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


VII)
Memory No 18
There's much to be said, observed and learned from a nation that places a premium on ecology and a sustainable way of living without getting carried away by the current discourse on development. Don't you think?
Bhutan makes me think.

Photo: National Museum of Bhutan, Paro (Bhutan) | May 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


VIII)
Memory No 21::
"You are who you are when nobody's watching"
What if there is no God or Force or Universe monitoring our every move? Would you still make the choices you're making - whether or not out of a sense of obligation?
Can our inner compass not function without the proverbial carrot?

Photo: Langza, Spiti (Himachal Pradesh, India) | August 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


IX)
Memory No 25::
On some days I feel like I'm trying to make life happen
While Nature seems to be teaching me to not only accept but also to be the flow!

Photo: Thoseghar Falls, Maharashtra (India) | September 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


X)
Memory No 24::
They said, 'You don't take a trip but it's the trip that takes you'
I didn't believe them
Then Kaas happened
And someone who barely gave anything floral more than a second glance, was suddenly cooing and squealing in delight.

Photo: Valley of flowers, Kaas Plateau (Maharashtra, India) | September 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XI)
Memory No 26::
Methinks being asked about your favourite beach should not be permitted as a question. Would you agree?

Photo: Om Beach, Gokarna (Karnataka, India) | October 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XII)
Memory No 29::
In our pursuit of all things transactional, the fields of right-doing and wrong-doing have been levelled beyond recognition.
Love can save us
Only if love wasn't being transacted either

Photo: Kalsubai, Maharashtra (India) | October 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XIII)
Memory No 30::
Do you know that feeling where it seems like you're running out of time and if you don't carpe the diem, it'll all be gone, forever?
Whether it's career, love or jumping off a cliff (with a chute, of course)
It's not always true
Travel has helped anchor how I perceive life events; both, the positive and the not so positive
Perfection and symmetries are better left for architectural marvels
As for you and I? Well, "nothing good gets away"

Photo: Jahangir Mahal, Orchha (Madhya Pradesh, India) | November 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XIV)
Memory No 34::
"There is more to Chanderi than silk sarees" said local who'd accompanied me as we went around exploring the history and verve of Chanderi.
22 months later, I realise that as humans we're no different; there's more to who we are than just our designations or even our last names/surnames!
It's not easy but it's rewarding in every sense of the word when we look beneath the superficialities we've constructed around ourselves. Especially when they become the very shackles that we're desperate to break free from.
Is there more to you too? Are you who you want to be? What are you doing to make that happen?

Photo: Koshak Mahal, Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh India) | November 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XV)
Memory No 41::
Thinking about thinking. Afflicts you much? *consequently not much of a caption*
Suggestions are welcome 🙏

Photo: Nalanda, Bihar - India | February 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XVI)
Memory No 49::
It's not enough that you find your calling
You have to then shout it out loud and often enough - for yourself and for others
It's 20 months to the date
20 months since a regular paycheck has become a thing of the past
20 months since I decided to trade my shackles for independence and my comforts for unpredictability
20 months since I've experimented, scavenged and unravelled Life
Only because the possibility of failure has and still seems like a better prospect than the guarantee of regret from never having ventured
In 20 months, I've come closer to knowing what role I want to play with my time here as an Earthling.
Afterthought: What do you love so much that you don't fear failing at it?

Photo: Sun Temple, Konark - Odisha | April 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XVII)
Memory No 38::
What if instead of fortified walls to protect ourselves we built bunds instead?
Bunds
Low enough to let people in
High enough to demarcate boundaries
Learning how to teach people to treat you is among the most liberating things you can do for yourself
I'm learning

Photo: Diu Fort, Diu (India) | December 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XVIII)
Memory No 39::
What if like Nature we channelled everything that has the power to erode us to instead shape us and bring us closer to our destiny?
Doesn't everything boil down to perspective?

Photo: Naida Caves, Diu, India | December 2014

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XIX)
Memory No 53::
A man said to the Universe:
"Sir, I exist"
"However," replied the Universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation" ~ Stephen Crane (1899)

Photo: Diskit, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir - India) | June 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XX)
Memory No 54::
Of foregrounds and backgrounds
And changes in perspective!

Photo: Qutub Minar, New Delhi - India (June 2015)

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XXI)
Memory No 58::
Nature demands
And permits
An immersion
An involvement
Unparalleled
And unrivaled
#Throwback to July last year when I undertook 7 train journeys over 18 days ...just to avoid having to take one direct train 😉
Stopover: Kanyakumari

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XXII)
Memory No. 64::
Le Me circa ~2010
I see dysfunctionalities everywhere I go; it's the one I see in the mirror that worries me the most
Le Me circa 2016
Nature provides good counsel. The mirror doesn't worry me anymore
#Throwback to July last year when I undertook 7 train journeys over 18 days ...just to avoid having to take one direct train 😉
The Mandovi Express from #Goa to #Mumbai was the last of it

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XXIII)
Memory No. 67::
Are you seeking to be found?
Or are you seeking to find?
Yes, there's a difference

Photo: Pushkar (Rajasthan, India) | September 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XXIV)
Memory No. 72::
Cast your ideas
Tether them to the currents

Photo: Outskirts of Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh, India) | November 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


XXV)
Memory No. 75::
It's a wrap to vicariously living through my own travels
All the way from 2012 until 2015
And having some company en route
Thank you for your comments and nuggets
Keep them coming...
Here's a quote that befits the photograph and the mood: "Direction is so much more important than speed"

Photo: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (erstwhile Victoria Terminus), Mumbai - India | August 2015

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on

---
PSSST!
I'm running a workshop on expressive writing in Mumbai on Saturday, 8th October. Lookie this link up -- https://www.facebook.com/events/1068651576564861/
 

P.S.: I know you don't like annoying pop-ups. So if you like the posts you see on my blog, you could also Subscribe to HaveFeetWillTravel by Email and receive newer ones directly to your inbox! 

P.P.S.: For opportunities to work with me, click here
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

iTrainHop | How I Manage My Multi-Train Journeys In India

If you are in India and/or following news in India, there is a chance that you may have caught up with the brouhaha over the Talgao superfast train between Delhi and Mumbai a couple of days ago. At 150 kilometres per hour, this soon to be launched train is believed to reduce the travel time between the political and the financial capital of India to under 12 hours.
Currently, the fastest train between these two cities covers the distance of 1384 kilometres in 16 hours!

I would like to believe that the world is made up of two kinds of people: the kind who get excited about saving 4 hours AND the kind who take 7 trains spanned over a period of 18 days to travel between the same cities! If it isn’t obvious by now, I am the kind who belongs to the latter (if only to be the sole representative).

Train journeys seem incomplete without chai | En route to Goa - July 2015
Train journeys seem incomplete without chai | En route to Goa - July 2015

My love for train travel is always met with eyebrows disappearing into hairlines. What most people find slow and boring, I find immersive and engrossing. Actually, my love for train travel dovetails with how much I appreciate slow travel; though a part of me sighs at the need for a term such as ‘slow travel’.
I mean, do most of us merely lug our bags to strike places off our bucket-list without savouring them with our five senses? Mayhaps. 

Train travel hasn’t been a newfound love in the wake of having turned to freelancing to fund my travels. Even back in the day, when strategically planned office leaves were the norm, I have travelled by train out of choice.

When I am not in a train or looking up trains I want to take, I catch myself reading about trains | Ladakh - June 2015
When I am not in a train or looking up trains I want to take, I catch myself reading about trains | Ladakh - June 2015


Maybe, I first developed a taste for train travel when I was a part of the Jagriti Yatra in 2009.

But it wasn’t until July 2015, after completing my fellowship in Delhi and when it was time to return that I thought of giving the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani a miss and chart my own route instead.

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on

And as with all things travel, doing it once was not going to be enough for me. So between April and May of 2016, I circumnavigated my way around the four corners of the country - yet again by train!

A photo posted by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on



Perhaps out of intrigue, I have gotten asked how I go about planning my routes. So here’s two-pence based on my own tried and tested methods.

How do I begin?
Honestly, it comes down to your own preference. When I conceptualised the route in 2015, it was about the journey and nothing but the journey. I had webpages of the most scenic train journeys in India bookmarked on my browsers. With each of those webpages opened on different tabs and another with Google Maps, I played around with the scenarios I could land up with.

And I was realistic. Not every route on my wish-list was going to be fulfilled and I was going to have to be okay with that.

The planning did not happen in chronology (obviously). Of all the routes, the Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express - India's longest train journey at ~84 hours - topped the must-do list. So I worked a little backwards, identified the day of the week the train departs from Dibrugarh. And only then identified a train that would bring me from Delhi to Dibrugarh!
In the same vein, I then began looking up routes in southern India that I wanted to do and were accessible from Kanyakumari (and that is how Pamban bridge was experienced)

The glorious Pamban Bridge off Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu | July 2015
The glorious Pamban Bridge off Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu | July 2015

What about delays?
The route in 2016, on the other hand, was pre-decided by the places I had to get to. But unlike the previous year, these were time and coordination sensitive – like the journey from Amritsar in Punjab to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal where I was taking 3 trains spread out over a period of 48 hours.
Easy peasy I’d thought to myself while booking the tickets.
But on the morning of my departure from Amritsar, I reached the railway station at 5:30 AM only to learn that the train had been delayed by 4 hours. A risk I could not afford as I had a connecting train from Delhi to Kolkata that same evening.
So what did I do? Booked a General Class ticket and got going. Prior to that point in time, I had never travelled by the General compartment. You know what they say, right? Never say never!

The perks of a window seat in a General Compartment | En route from Amritsar to New Delhi - April 2016
The perks of a window seat in a General Compartment | En route from Amritsar to New Delhi - April 2016

People EVERYWHERE in the General Compartment. SIGH | April 2016
People EVERYWHERE in the General Compartment. SIGH | April 2016

I reached Delhi comfortably enough to get to Connaught Place and refuel my groaning stomach. But then back at the railway station, the train to Kolkata had also been delayed.
There was little that could be done even though I had a lot at stake.
So I did the best I could at being optimistic. The train’s arrival in Kolkata was marked by a 5 hour delay! At that moment, I couldn’t be more grateful for my presence of mind while booking my tickets – the buffer of 10 hours between arrival in Kolkata and my departure from there to New Jalpaiguri had evened out the situation the delay had caused.
Moral of the story: Those have to have been the most entertaining and adventuresome 48 hours of my life.

In spite of these experiences and perhaps because of these experiences I have come to believe that for most part of it, time is an overrated resource. Very self-defeatingly, it robs us of savouring our present in lieu of the next moment.

And it’s not just train journeys.

Someday I hope to find the answer to why co-travellers feel compelled to take off their seat belts, collect their hand luggage and make a bevy towards the exit of the aircraft when it’s common knowledge that the aircraft first has to come to a halt after landing! 

---
PSSST!
I'm running a workshop on expressive writing in Mumbai on Saturday, 8th October. Lookie this link up -- https://www.facebook.com/events/1068651576564861/
 

P.S.: I know you don't like annoying pop-ups. So if you like the posts you see on my blog, you could also Subscribe to HaveFeetWillTravel by Email and receive newer ones directly to your inbox! 

P.P.S.: For opportunities to work with me, click here
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

iEncounter | A Boa Constrictor Called Anxiety


It is awkward when you know there is a story lurking somewhere inside of you but it cannot seem to find its way out in front of the floodlights. It is awkward because this story - unlike a few from the past - isn’t seeking any validation – not from the Self and neither from the Other. It is awkward because this one isn’t demanding space for a rant either (thank you cognitive psychology)!

This one just is.



This is a story of throwing caution to the wind and dancing to the beat of your own drum. And of having to press your ear real hard to hear that beat above the din of social media’s number game! This is a story of starting and restarting – every single time from the bottom of the ladder. Because there is no such thing as free lunch.

This is a story of being on your own and not feeling lonely (thank you Incidental Comics, Zen Pencils and The Awkward Yeti for adequate doses of inspiration).

This is a story of something suddenly getting switched on, on the inside.
The kind that happens only when you acknowledge – and not just to someone else’s face but to the face in the mirror – that you are here on your own. And there is no right or wrong (yes, only thinking makes it so).

No one ever promised that the path to creative pursuits would be paved and accompanied by an encore. Some paths are akin to trekking those steep inclines, while knees wobble and lungs writhe behind the rib-cage! And the most interesting paths - the ones with stories to tell - are always like that!


Except, in this story there is a boa constrictor; a boa constrictor called Anxiety

A couple of months ago when the boa constrictor first met me, it said that no one would give a damn about my idea on expressive writing workshops. A few days later, it came by again – but this time it said to me patronisingly that the idea itself was far too ahead of its time.
Some weeks later it ran into me again. And this time is slithered around and grazed my legs (very feline-esque. Ugh! Ugh!! Ugh!!!) to let me know that the success of my pilots was nothing but plain fluke!

This story also has a blob. This blob has no name but it resides within the left rib cage. The blob got me introduced me to ‘the imposter syndrome’. I have to admit, it was a pleasure to meet their acquaintance.

The boa constrictor hasn’t given up. On some days, it takes the blob as a hostage.
But the blob and I are working on a plan to tame the boa constrictor.
And you are invited -- https://www.facebook.com/events/1068651576564861/




P.S.: I know you don't like annoying pop-ups. So if you like the posts you see on my blog, you could also Subscribe to HaveFeetWillTravel by Email and receive newer ones directly to your inbox! 

P.P.S.: For opportunities to work with me, click here
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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

iMiss | What's in a name, Kochi?

I have something of a Grammar Nazi in me; the kind whose face turns pallid every time she makes an error herself. It is this alter ego who, when she has her backpack on, scans everything within eyesight for rib-tickling humour in the guise of misspelt signage - be it the name of a store or a street - and makes a dash to take a photograph of it. It is during these quests that I have come across ‘Laddies’ written right outside the restroom meant for women and ‘No Refual’ in shiny paint across a taxi!

The streets of Kochi don't just have names; they also have character | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
The streets of Kochi don't just have names; they also have character | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

It was no wonder then that armed with my camera, I leapt to my feet when I read ‘Princes Street’ at Fort Kochi earlier in June. It had to be Princess, I reasoned to myself and even caught sight of another that spelt it in that way.

This is where the story began - Princes Street | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
This is where the story began - Princes Street | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

Laden with colonial vestiges of the Portuguese who were defeated by the Dutch in 1663 who were in turn defeated by the British in 1795, the streets of Fort Kochi have an allure that transcend time. Lined with the old while brushing shoulders with both the decrepit and the revamped, most of which dates to when the first of the colonial rulers – the Portuguese – arrived in 1503 and even beyond, Fort Kochi is guaranteed to make any shutterbug squeal with delight.

The Santa Cruz Basilica Cathedral and the St. Francis CSI Church are at a distance of a mere 400 metres from each other. The former is symbolic of the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries in India and the latter is renowned for being the burial site of Vasco Da Gama before his remains were taken to Lisbon fourteen years after his death. 

A kilometre away is the Indo-Portuguese Museum that houses the relics of the Portuguese influence in Fort Kochi long after the Dutch and the British took over and destroyed most of what was there. The SNC Maritime Museum, under one kilometre from Fort Kochi beach, located at INS Dronacharya is a journey through the history of the Indian Navy as we know it today. 

Mattancherry where the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue stand tall is three kilometres from Fort Kochi.

Is it any wonder then that it is a walker’s dream destination where everything is within a 4 kilometre radius and therefore, walkable?

When the love of walking meets the love for quotes | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
When the love of walking meets the love for quotes | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

The more I walked, the more I clicked and the more I clicked, the more I wanted to walk. And in less than two days, I had not only seen almost everything that there was to see but also navigated my way through every lane; much to the amusement of the rickshaw drivers who could not fathom why I refused to hop in and get a ride.

It did not take too long for my homestay host to pick on my idiosyncrasies. And only to make sure, one morning after breakfast he enquired, “Are you interested in the local history and myths behind the names of streets here in Fort Kochi?” To which, of course, I nodded my head vehemently in affirmation and got handed over a folder. As I pored and leafed through the newspaper clippings and copies of articles in it, I began to layer over the streets I had been walking the story of their ‘naming’


Kochi is many things all at once Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
Kochi is many things all at once Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

It turned out that my alter ego would have to eat her own words. According to Dr. Bauke Van Der Pol, a Dutch cultural anthropologist ‘Princess Street’ was initially called Princes Street in honour of Dutch Princes Maurits and Wilhelm. But when the British took over in 1795, they would pronounce Princes Street quickly, so over a period of time, it became Princess Street. That of course left me wondering whether keeping signboards that had both Princes and Princess Street written on them was intentional!

Lying perpendicular to Princes Street is Burgher Street – which incidentally has nothing to do with anything dietary! A burgher as it turns out was somebody who has been set free from his landlord and had voting rights. The people who lived on this street did not work for the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (or VOC also known as the Dutch East India Company). They were free men. They made a living on their own and got married to women with Portuguese blood. Similarly Petercelli Street is not as one might guess named after a person. Because Petercelli is the Dutch word for parsley, a herb. So this might have been an area where a vegetable market would have functioned.

Spelt correctly it would be Burgher Street | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
Spelt correctly it would be Burgher Street | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

Who'd have thunk this would have anything to do with parsley? | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016
Who'd have thunk this would have anything to do with parsley? | Kochi (Kerala) June 2016

And while it may seem that all names are telling of the backstory of the streets, the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry had left me wondering why it was even called so when nothing about it was Dutch. I would soon learn that it had been the Cochin Raja’s Palace and truly has nothing to do with the Dutch, in terms of architecture or occupation, except that the VOC gave the Raja some fund for its renovation! And that’s the story behind how it has come to be known as the Dutch Palace.

Even more interesting is that Fort Kochi does not have a fort – not one that can be seen, not any more at least. Unless of course, one makes a trip to the Indo-Portuguese museum to see the remnants of a submerged arch in the basement.


The next time I am tempted to ask out aloud “What’s in a name?” or make a dash to photograph what seems like a typo, I am going to try not being as hasty! 


P.S.: I know you don't like annoying pop-ups. So if you like the posts you see on my blog, you could also Subscribe to HaveFeetWillTravel by Email and receive newer ones directly to your inbox! 

P.P.S.: For opportunities to work with me, click here
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