A little bit of inspiration….

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,

A race that can’t stay still;

So they break the hearts of kith and kin,

And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,

And they climb the mountain’s crest;

Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,

And they don’t know how to rest.

~ from the poem “The Men That Don’t Fit In” by Robert Service

Of Fog and Warmth

The Delhi winter is magic. It completely transforms a city that was a blazing, scorching, burning piece of earth only a few months back, into a sleepy town shrouded in white fog. The mist reduces visibility to just a few meters, every morning for two straight months! It  plays havoc with the traffic, and makes both train and flight travel highly unpredictable. But there’s still a lovely warm snuggly feeling about the Delhi winter. The fog forces you into the warm blankets for an extra half hour every morning….the sun just refuses to come up and wake up the lazy folks of town! You gulp down gallons of hot tea and coffee to shake out the slumber. And in the evenings, you look for the hot spicy food outlets that suddenly erupt around the place… yumm!

A man crouching against the cold inside a pavilion at Mehrauli

A man crouching against the cold inside a pavilion at Mehrauli. Photo courtesy: Shalabh

Of course, it’s not as easy for the thousands that need a roof above their heads and a warm blanket around their shoulders. But I’m sure there are plenty of warm hearts in the city to take care of their fellow human beings. I would love to bring up the Goonj movement here, a clothes-donation exercise that has made a mammoth change to thousands of people in the country struggling against bitter cold, floods and landslides. In Delhi, too, donating your old warm clothes to Goonj or other such organizations can bring warmth to so many…I remember a time in my old office when we would collect donations every winter to buy blankets, and drive around town distributing them to  people sleeping under the over-bridges and on the footpaths. Believe me, it used to bring happiness to the heart like no bonfire, no ‘tikki chaat’, no hot chocolate can! Let’s share the warmth:)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

What is the image the word “grand” brings to mind? To a Delhi-wala, there can only be one vision: towering minarets, bulbous domes and soaring arches! Ruined as they may be today, the forts of Delhi still inspire jaw-dropping amazement a thousand years after they were built. So here’s my take on this week’s photo challenge…the grandness of Delhi encapsulated in a few shots:

Tughlaqabad Fort...as grand as it gets!

The massive walls of Tughlaqabad Fort…as grand as it gets!

A ruined but still grand gateway at the Old Fort, during the sound and light show

A ruined but still grand gateway at the Old Fort, during the sound and light show

Winter morning at the grand gateway of Shergarh, opposite the Old Fort

Winter morning at the grand gateway of Shergarh, opposite the Old Fort

Grand arches of a marble pavilion at the gardens of the Red Fort

Grand arches of a marble pavilion at the gardens of the Red Fort

Inspired by: Weekly Photo Challenge

The Wanderers

A wanderer sets off to capture the tales of other wanderers.

infinite satori

The Wanderers

Because when every single cell of your body, every piece of hair rising up on your skin, is telling you to do something. You should always listen and follow it.

Less than two months ago, I was driving home, contemplating on where I stand in this part of my life when all of a sudden it hit me. As if the universe just shook me up and said “Hey! Do this! You need to do this now. This is what you are meant to do.” All of a sudden, I lit up. I started crying tears of bliss because I was so overwhelmed by this inner gravity within me telling me that I need to make this happen.

And what is it that I’m talking about?

At the end of June, I’m setting out on a quest. I will backpack by myself all throughout Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia…

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Dance at the Purana Qila!

For all you lovers of heritage out there, how would you love to be served with a delectable combination of dance, history, and ruins? I, for one, find it fascinating. The beautiful annual show Ananya  is back again in Delhi to celebrate Indian Classical Dance against the backdrop of the magnificent Purana Qila (Old Fort) walls. If these words don’t convince you, the pictures below undoubtedly will. These are from the extremely graceful Mohiniattam performance at the show yesterday. And now that only 2 more days remain for the festival to close, and tomorrow being a weekend, make your plans quick! Entry is free and the show is gaining in popularity every year, so be prepared to reach early on if you want a seat. I will be there to watch the Maitrayee Group’s rendition integrating classical dance Kathak with folk dance Chhau.  Doesn’t that sound promising?

For more information, visit the Seher website here and the programme details here

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An Island of Happiness

For a long time now the traveller in me has been wishing to take you, my dear readers, beyond the obvious city that’s the spotlight of this blog. And I’ve been wondering if you’ll love it or hate it…so as I take that first step today, do let me know if you want me to take that occasional flight of fancy and take you on a tour of some of the far off places I’ve loved visiting.

Today, I am going to Ko Phi Phi Leh, the most beautiful little island in the world, the one spot where I know I’ll find happiness.

The deep blue waters of the Andaman sea stretch for miles on all sides. The waves crash against the narrow long-tailed boat I am perching on, rocking it to and fro as it tries to make steady progress towards the limestone cliffs rising straight out of sea. It’s 6 AM in the morning, an unearthly hour for my normally sleepy self. But today, all my senses are wide awake.

The long-tail chugs along and finally the engine is switched off by the boatman as we enter the protected waters of this natural habitat. He slowly maneuvers the boat around the tall cliffs, and suddenly, there it is! Maya Bay. An apt name, indeed, for “maya” in Hindi is something as beautiful as an illusion, an imagination.

Nothing in the world prepares you for the beauty of Maya Bay. No pictures, no website, not even the movie “The Beach” that catapulted an unknown gem of an island into sudden worldwide recognition. The cliffs rise protectively all around, almost hiding this pristine little bay from the vagaries of the sea. And as I reach the shore, all I can do is run exhilarated across the beach on bare feet. It’s only around 7 AM, and I have “The Beach” nearly to myself…thanks to the advice of the boatman to start before dawn and beat the crowds that would inevitably reach Phi Phi by 10, on rushed day trips from Krabi and Phuket.  I explore the paths leading into the woody area beyond the beach, and I’m slightly upset to see some campers from the night before.  Phi Phi Leh is an uninhabited island, a protected place and a national park in Thailand. In fact, visitors have to pay an entry fee to get there for the day. Nowadays, however, even this dream island is on its way towards inevitable commercialization. Camping companies have obtained permissions for overnight parties, and some bungalows are rumored to be coming up. Everybody wants a slice of this paradise.

But let not the advent of civilization spoil our mood! This is Maya Bay, where the sand indeed is white and smooth. Where the water is turquoise blue. Where you can walk, albeit gingerly on the rocky seabed, for a long long way from the shore…And wonder of wonders, where you can actually view colorful sea life in all its glory right under the surface of the sea!

Every longtail boat has a simple snorkel kit on board, much to my happiness. The boatman rows me out into the bay to a spot that’s best for snorkeling, and all I need to do is don a life jacket and snorkel kit, and jump into the coolness! The experience is out of the world….That these beautiful finned and scaled creatures live in an aquatic world parallel to mine is unbelievable! The fish have mesmerized me.

Phi Phi Leh is indeed a jewel in the Arabian Sea, the most beautiful spot to visit in Thailand, if not in the world! And if I had the chance to take my loved ones on a trip that would completely captivate them, this would be that spot.

Written as my entry to the Creating Happy Travellers contest by Yatra.