Travel Records: Aurangabad-Ajanta-Ellora

I have resolved to document all my travels of 2018. Therefore, here I am, talking about my first trip of 2018:  Aurangabad-Ajanta-Ellora done on 24 and 25th February.

This was my third time in the City of Gates – Aurangabad, India. However, I was up for it as my Amsterdam friend David was visiting Mumbai (I had couchsurfed at his place in Amsterdam) and he wanted to travel with me within India over the weekend. So I quickly cooked up this plan, booked to and fro AC sleeper tickets, a place to stay in the city centre and we were ready to hit the road. Thus my first trip of 2018 was kind of an unplanned and unanticipated tryst with the rich history of India.

Day 1: The bus reached several hours late which sapped all our energy. For the rest of the day we hired an auto-rickshaw which took us around Aurangabad and Ellora caves.  I was seeing Bibi ka Maqbara and Ellora caves for the second time but they were as awe-inspiring as the first time I had seen them in 2009.


Bibi Ka Maqbara


Ellora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a monolithic rock-cut temple cave featuring Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments and artwork. I am not a big fan of history but these monuments make you ponder about the enormity of execution in an age minus computer technology or machinery. In one word, incredulous!


Ellora Caves

The day ended with dinner at Sagar Restaurant gorging on the local cuisine – Naan Khaliya and Biriyani, which, frankly,  did not suit my taste buds much. I blame it on the preparation.

Naan Khaliya and Biriyani

Day 2: This day was dedicated to exploring the Ajanta Caves locally called “Ajanta Leni”, situated around 2.5 hours away from Aurangabad. The Ajanta Caves are around 29 rock-cut Buddhist caves dating back to the 2nd century BC. The caves have paintings and rock cut sculptures standing as a testimony to the finest form of ancient Indian art.

We caught the local bus at 7 40 am from the City Bus Station to Ajanta Caves and returned back to Aurangabad by 6 30 pm.  An accident on the road had delayed our schedule and the heat of the noon made the exploration difficult. However, we managed to take a glimpse of the most notable caves before bidding adieu to Ajanta.



Ajanta: Cave No. 26

The return journey was non-eventful and we reached Mumbai in the early hours of Monday, 26th February.

P.S: During the trip, I was questioned by several locals if I am a guide to the accompanying foreigner, to the extent that it actually made me contemplate if I can be a guide to foreigners! 😛


How I manage a Full-time Job with Part-time Travelling

My Instagram feeds are full of my travel pictures. More often than not I get remarks on how my friends would like to have a job like mine which, they assume, allows me the privilege of plenty of holidays.

To set the context right, I work full time in a global MNC in Mumbai as a Consultant which involves occasional business trips and revenue targets. I get my weekends off (thankfully!) which I utilise to nurture my interests – travelling, trekking, community initiatives, learning new things etc. When it comes to planning my vacations, I face a lot of resistance if I want to take more than 2 days off at a stretch. Sporadic leaves of one day/two days are more acceptable by my manager. Then, the question is, how do I travel so much?

To start with, I look for long weekends in a calendar year. If there is a national holiday on a Friday or a Monday, I just need one day off to make it a 4 days’ travel plan. Four days are not a lot if you want to travel far and deep. But over time, I have realised travelling, for me, is not about taking a break to indulge in luxury. It is, instead, a way of life. Hence, I do not seek convenience when it comes to planning my adventures. I can very well fit a plan of Mumbai to Bir-Billing (in Himachal) and back in a 4 days’ plan managing with less sleep over the period. Travelling makes me happy and when a person is happy, he/she can manage with less sleep and comforts! To make a plan of this kind work, I catch an evening flight to Delhi after office and on the same night catch a bus to Himachal from Kashmiri Gate. While returning, I take an early morning flight to Mumbai from Delhi and go to office directly to attend to my work. This way I fully utilise my off day(s) and kind of force-fit a longer travel schedule into shorter number of days. Some people ask me, ” What is the point of going so far for such a small duration?” The answer is, you got to do everything to make use of every day of your life. It does not matter whether it is a long or a short travel schedule. The only thing that matters is I am doing what I believe in which is enriching my life to the fullest. Life is too short to wait for long vacations to fulfil your travel dreams!

Secondly, I do not look for company. I know my friends might not be available when I am planning my off days and hence travelling alone is the only option. Over time I have started enjoying it as it gives me the opportunity to make friends in every place I visit, even though I may not be accompanied by any!

My travels are not about relaxing in a resort, roaming around in AC cabs or fine-dining in a new place. They are about knowing new places, new people, new ways of thinking and new ways of living. So I jump at the slightest opportunity to travel, which may be as small as a weekend.

Therefore, people, when you really embrace travelling as a way of life, you will wholeheartedly embrace the inconveniences associated with the fierce and aggressive ways of travelling. You will realise that travelling requires discipline and it is dependent on your level of commitment to it. It is, however, less dependent on whether you are able to manage long leaves from office or not. Till that realisation sinks in, enjoy my Instagram feeds!

Travel Records – Udaipur and Jaisalmer

Foreword: Here I am jotting down the experiences that I gathered during my recent trip to Udaipur and Jaisalmer in the Rajasthan state of India. This is record of what I did, ate, saw and encountered over four days of my solo exploration in the land of the Rajas, which, I feel, needs to be shared with my readers.

Day 0, 21st Dec 2017:  My direct Indigo flight to Udaipur at 5:30 pm from Mumbai was on time. Getting an Uber cab from the Udaipur airport was pretty effortless and I started a 20 Km long journey into the old part of the city where I had booked a guest house for a night. Nukkad Guest House turned out to be an old Rajasthani Haveli skilfully converted into a neat accommodation for travellers, seeking a taste of  old-fashioned arty mansions.  Travellers like me, who cannot afford the overly-expensive luxury palaces, sought resort in these old havelis-turned-guest houses. I was impressed by the colors, the intricate artwork and the curios that were preserved in my night haunt. After choosing a room, I quickly headed for Ambrai Restaurant to taste the famous Laal Maas. The wait was long but the sight of the lit-up palaces lining the Pichola Lake more than made up for it. It was a setting to die for; where even the most unromantic heart would wish for a special company. While returning to the guest house at around 10 pm, I came face-to-face with a funny-looking man offering “stuff” openly on the road. I realised this may be one of the reasons why Udaipur gives tourists a high! 🙂

Day 1, 22nd Dec 2017: I found myself wide awake at 5 30 am for no reason and spent the next three hours looking around the haveli and loitering in the roof (basically, doing nothing). At around 9 am I set out on a long walk to Gulab Bagh to locate the Sai Baba Nashta Center, known for its Parathas. On my way, I asked for directions from several people, one of whom, immediately after giving his response, asked me nonchalantly “Madam panty lenge? Udaipur mein bohot famous hain”. I had thought that Udaipur, being a tourist hotspot, is accepting of solo woman explorers. This was quite an unpleasant surprise. The humiliated me dished out an expletive which got suppressed in the din of the city. Probably, pricks are everywhere and more (as I found out later) were to come my way.

A plate of one big Methi and one Paneer Paratha was enough to serve as brunch. After a little stroll at Gulab Bagh I headed to Doodh Talai and later moved to a view-point to get an eyeful of Lake Pichola, Jag Mandir and Taj Lake Palace encased by the blue mountains and the infinite sky. Next on the list was Taj Lake Palace which took a solid 2 hours to explore. I was terribly tired after this and pushed off to my guest house to catch a quick nap. In the evening I again resorted to walking through the old bazaar in Hathi Pole area and went till Delhi Gate to taste the fresh super-crispy Jalebi at Bhole Misthan. As darkness descended, I returned to my guest house area and stood at the bridge on Pichola witnessing the last rays of the fading sun with the temple bells forming a perfect background music. I must have been there for 15 mins when a middle-aged man (shabbily dressed with unkempt hair) walked to me and said “hi” in a burly tone. Before he could continue, I turned around and scurried in the opposite direction till I reached  a more crowded area. That probably was the shortest conversation the guy would have had with anyone in his life.

I had a bus to Jaisalmer at 8: 45 pm from Reti Stand. As planned I went to Chandpole to catch an Uber from there to the stand. As I stood there lost in my Uber app, a tall hippie-looking fellow initiated a conversation with me starting with “Where do you want to go?”. Though I was answering him at the beginning, his out-of-the-blue suggestion that he would drop me to the bus stand on his bike did not sound benign to my ears. This was a situation where I had not even asked for help from him. I maintained my disregarding attitude and thankfully to my relief, he left from the scene with time.

The bus operator had not shared the bus number with me. I called their office several times only to be snubbed each time. I was at the verge of missing my bus but luckily the conductor’s “Jaisalmer” summons reached the ears of my Autowallah and he managed to stop the bus for me.

As I lay on the 6 by 2 feet shoddy bed in the so-called AC Sleeper bus, I recounted all the “exciting events” of the day in my head only to pray to God for a less exciting night.


Lake Pichola, while the sun descended on Day 1.

Day 2, 23rd Dec 2017: Having been charmed by Satyajit Ray’s Shonar Kella at an early age, I was very excited about Jaisalmer, the Golden City! I had booked my night stay in a desert camp in Sam Sand Dunes, around 20 Kms from the city. Since check-in time was 3 pm, I had the entire morning to explore the place and the golden fort. Jaisalmer fort is a “living fort” with a lot of the city population still residing inside the fort. The fort and the old areas of the city are a treat for the old-fashioned vintage-loving hearts. By the time I finished checking out the fort and tasting Ghotua (a traditional Jaisal sweetmeat), the owner of my desert camp had arrived in the city. He picked me in his car and we started our journey for Sam Sand Dunes. On the way, he was kind enough to take a small detour to show me Kuldhara (probably because I could not stop blabbering about how badly I wanted to see it). My excitement died an unnatural death with the very first glimpse of Kuldhara. Err.


Inside Jaisalmer Fort, this elderly man was churning out the most beautiful local tunes.

The first view of the luxurious tent in the middle of endless sand dunes was exhilarating. In the evening, I was clubbed with a family of four for Dune Bashing in an open jeep and to watch the sunset in the desert. Watching the sunset in the desert was a beautiful experience but probably,  would have loved it more if the place was less crowded and wasn’t strewn with beer bottles! In the evening the two hours’ long cultural program at the camp and the delicious traditional Rajasthani dinner (consisting of Ker Sangri, Rajasthani Kadi, Daal Bati Churma and Mutton Saag among others) thereafter, rendered a perfect ending to the day. I slept like a kid in my super-comfortable tent bed.


This is how the inside of the tent looked.

Day 3, 24th Dec 2017: I was up at 5 30 am again, this time to see the sunrise in the desert. Well, this was my first time in the middle of ‘sandy nowhere’ and I wanted to make sure I had enough of it. My four-legged companion, Sultan and his owner arrived at 6 30 am to take me on a ride into the yellow infinity. Sunrise happened an hour later and I was right there to appreciate it with all my heart.  After a quick breakfast I tagged along with the family, whom I had met the day before, to see the Longewala border post (battle place of Indo- Pakistan war of 1971) and Tanot Mata temple which is famous for being the site where the bombs dropped by Pakistan did not explode. I hung out with them for the entire afternoon till they dropped me at Jaisalmer Air Force Square from where I supposed to catch my overnight bus to Udaipur. What felt good was the bond (albeit temporary) that I built with them, which transpired into some beautiful memories.


Sultan and I after our morning rendezvous!

Day 4, 25th Dec 2017: I reached Udaipur early at 5 am on the day of Christmas. Since my guest house would not allow an early check-in, I decided to head to the Karni Mata Temple on the top of a hill to visualise the sunrise. This time I found company in a Brit called Thomas, whom I met at the guest house. Though we kind of missed the sunrise for reaching 5 mins late, the hike nevertheless released endorphins and set the mood for the day. After descending the hill, Tom and I rampaged the breakfast scene with Poha, Aloo Paratha, Mirchi Vada and Coconut water. It felt great to see a foreigner dig into the local street food so heartily.  Late afternoon, we visited the Fateh Sagar Lake and gorged on some local fare again. Next in the list was Sajjangarh, where an hour long queue to go up the  hill tested our patience to the fullest. The fact that it was Christmas made things worse. However, witnessing the sunset in Monsoon Palace atop the hill was worth all the effort. The Sun created waves of the most delightful colours on the Aravallis as it disappeared slowly – a precious beautiful consummation of the day with night.

My day ended over a hearty dinner with a company of three by the Pichola lake over some Christmas music.

Day 5, 26th Dec 2017: This was a no-frills morning when I flew to Mumbai at 12 noon and got mired again in the hustle of life.

Looking back, this was my fourth time in Rajasthan and, honestly, the previous three times had a deeper impact on my mind. However, I am grateful for temporary bonds I formed with the people through the trip and the permanent moments they created in my life. Cheers to solitary wanderings!


Be kind. Surprise people. 

I had gone to deposit my exam fees at the German Institute some time before  Diwali.  Reached at 9 30 am because the website mentioned the opening time as 9 30 am. The lady at the reception refused to take my exam fees on two grounds – 1. Fees are only accepted by courier 2. Opening time of the institute is 10 am. Even after repeated requests and explanation of my situation (that I am a working professional like her, was traveling for a week and have to reach office on time),  she declared that she will not entertain anything before 10. By the virtue of being in a position of power she could afford to be rude and non-cooperative. Without a word,  I obeyed and waited. 

While I sat observing the office,  people came in with big smiles greeting each other and spreading Diwali wishes. Her colleagues complimented her on her dress and the lady could not stop basking. The same person was smiling, laughing and engaging with her colleagues in cheerful banter. Everyone was in a Diwali mood including her. 

After the clock struck ten, she called me (in a rude tone again) and accepted my application fees. As I was about to leave i told her she is indeed looking very beautiful. She was shocked and her blank face could just spurt out a “what?”. When I repeated the compliment, she managed a smile. I continued giving her Diwali greetings and wished her a great day. While I left,  she didn’t look me into the eyes. 

P.S.: It is so easy to take people by surprise with a reaction opposite to what they expect specially when that reaction is of kindness and love. Feeling happy to have put the theory into practice. 🙂

Trek to Kuari – A story of making merry, being wary and B-n-W Fairy

This might sound a little incredible but I have been craving to see the Himalayas since the time I witnessed the Scottish Highlands in my last trip to United Kingdom in March this year. May Day falling on a Monday created a perfect long weekend to escape to my comfort zone – the lap of Mother Nature! In fact, close proximity with the mountains, jungles, streams and other natural elements fosters a feeling of extreme content and gratefulness towards my cosmic journey and that makes living worthwhile.

On 27th April, an assorted ad-hoc group of five people were ready to conquer Kuari Pass and get back to the plains in five days to get conquered by routine! Errr.. A last moment dropout left only four to embark on the trek. Kuari Pass being an easy-to-moderate Himalayan trek, these trekkers hadn’t expected anything but a smooth trekking experience. But then, life surprises you in unexpected ways!

I took an evening flight from Mumbai to Delhi and then scampered to Kashmiri Gate to catch the 11:00 pm Volvo to Rishikesh with my co-trekkers. – Pramit, Manish and Arijit. The bus reached the destination on time at 5 am the next day. Thereafter began the perilous 10 hour journey to Joshimath, where we had to rest for the night before starting the trek on the next morning.  Our guide was Sohan Singh Bisht  whom we respectfully christened “Sohanji”. Apart from exemplary guiding skills, he had a quirky a sense of humour which we used on people from time to time,  including me!

The next morning after a quick breakfast of wholesome and delicious Aloo Paratha from a roadside hotel we boarded a vehicle arranged by Sohanji and got dropped off at Dhak village. The trek started from Dhak with the mesmerising views of the Garhwal mountain ranges. I am really poor at identifying names of mountains. Nevertheless, with help from Pramit and Sohanji and by observing their shapes, I gathered that the snow-capped ridges of the Pangarchula, Hathi-Ghoda and Drona Giri all lay right there to feast my eyes on. It was a gradual ascend without much drama and we first stopped at Tugasi village. A glimpse into local life, a click here and there with the kids and a refreshing tea later we proceeded towards Gulling. Our first camp was to be at Kulhara which was a steady up-climb via the oak and rhododendron forest of Gulling. We had our lunch at Gulling under the forest trees and by the flowing stream ( so awesome right!!) and managed to reach Kulhara by 3 pm. Even Sohanji was impressed by our performance!

The next day was the famed “Pass Day” and the plan was to start at 4 am, reach Kuari Pass and trek further up towards Pangarchula Peak mini ( Don’t go by the word “mini”; it stand at 4300 m!!). The climb to Kuari Pass was pretty much manageable and we were at the Kuari top by 9 am. We knew the next leg to Pangarchula is a steep climb and we braced ourselves for the same. The 10 Kg backpack made things twice as difficult. The body complained incessantly but the mind was unrelenting. After ascending for about a kilometre we noticed dark clouds hovering over our heads, probably with disapproval. The weather changed within minutes and snowfall accompanied by rebellious wind hit us. This soon catapulted into a snowstorm. Sohanji said we must descend as quickly as possible. Because, if the snow starts accumulating at gargantuan speed, we might lose our way altogether. Panic ensued. Sohanji held my hand firmly and started descending with me. Unable to keep balance (blame it on the anxiety and unsuitable shoes), I grazed the ground every now and then. The unforgiving cold bit into my hands(I had removed my gloves to get better grip), the snow blinded me and slippery ground made every step difficult. Notwithstanding the circumstances, we continued our descend towards Kulhara. By the time Kulhara was in sight, I had slipped and plunged into the snow ten times, though none of it was fatal! (thanks to the cushion in the derriere! :P) . The snowstorm continued raging for the next 2 hours, almost sweeping away the tents. We were dripping with water from head to toe but managed to keep a grip on ourselves. The stove in the ‘Kitchen Tent’ provided some warmth while Sohanji’s stories on black-and-white fairies raised my temperature more. As per Sohanji, the black fairy of the Garhwal mountains pays a visit to people who sleep alone in their tents for some unearthly purpose. By the virtue of being the only woman in the group, I had an entire tent to myself and no prize for guessing that the story was directed at me! Only by evening the snowfall reduced a little, leaving us relieved, but still apprehensive. Without much ado, we quickly finished our dinner and retired for the night.

A clear sky greeted us on the morning of  Day 3. The decision to descend to Auli via Tali was taken and we started the downhill trek at 8:30 am. I cannot describe in words the beauty of nature that unfolded in front of our eyes during the day. The cursed snowstorm was a blessing in disguise because its culmination had spawned an immaculate bright day. The majestic snowy peaks of the Garhwal mountains revealed against the backdrop of a vast blue sky with puffy white clouds dotting it’s infinite form. At Tali Lake, the most splendid view unfurled itself through a panorama of tall mountains, dark jungles, snowy peaks, drifting clouds and their reflection on the crystal-clear water! Next came the 1.5 Km ridge walk to reach Gorson Bugyal where the copious Rhododendrons in full bloom reddened the white-n-blue canvas. Being able to watch Mother Nature in Her full glory made me feel blessed! It’s a rare privilege which probably only Her truest loyalists get to experience and we had been granted that. The trek ended at Auli from where we opted for an exclusive mode of transportation – the Chairlift  to get to GMVN and packed up for the night in their dormitory.

From Auli we had to catch the 4:30 am bus to Rishikesh the following morning. By the time we reached Rishikesh, exhaustion had crossed normal levels. Nevertheless, we managed to explore Beatles Ashram admiring the quirky and spiritual graffiti all around the place. The evening was spent by the sacred Ganges watching the holy river engulf the big blinding blaze. We took a local bus to Haridwar to catch the Nanda Devi Express to Delhi at 12:50 am.

The four days of myriad life experiences were over in what seemed like a jiffy, leaving an insatiable desire to go back to the mountains again.

Here’s the photo story:


The four of us at the start of the trek in Dhak village. Introducing from front to back – the un-trekker Debasmita, the pro-trekker (ya, the guy with the goofy hat) Manish, the semi-trekker Pramit and the non-trekker Arijit.


Me having fun with the Tugasi kids – Ayusha and Sneha


The view at Kulhara campsite\


The climb to Kuari Pass


A click taken during the snowstorm at Pangarchula Base Camp


This is how Kulhara looked after the snowfall ended


This is Tali Lake. The beauty is surreal.


My co-trekkers and the guide resting at Tali Lake


Oh the heavenly 1.5 Km ridge walk to reach Gorson Bugyal from Tali!!! If you look closely you will be able to make out the path. Also, if you happen to be a little careless on this path it can be the first and last bungee jumping experience of your life. 😛


It is sights like these that make you believe that life is worth living!


A stunning graffiti at Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh

In Nature and in You

I like the cool winds kissing my face and the warmth of your hands clasping my breas’,
I like the greenery in my eyes and the redness of your skin carrying my playful bites,
I like the scent of the flowers and the smell of your body rubbing mine for hours.

I like the shadows of the mountains and light of your eyes piercing my servile veins,
I like the music of clouds rolling over and the sound of your breath trapping my soul forever.
I love Nature in its fullest and i love Us making love in all our emptiness…