Always Choose An Experience…

For everything else there *is* Mastercard. Or Visa as the case may be.

Let’s start with a bit of a context for this statement to make sense to those it hasn’t. My father’s a career banker. He has hopped all over the country before retirement and taken us with him. And while many don’t like the gypsy life, if you’re born into it; you don’t know any different.

In every place we lived in, local sightseeing spots, some out of the way spots- nothing was left to be explored. And during holidays, we explored places which were doable (7-8 hours in usually a white Ambassador without AC) and that was not only an eminently acceptable way of spending time as a family- it was the norm. No place was left out- religious ones, historical ones, architecturally renowned ones…nothing. As a result, traveling was understood as what “one did” because something was out there and it was meant to be seen.

Haldighaati

After the initial bouts of motion sickness passed, we would sleep turn by turn. My mother would always be very strict about nodding off while sitting next to a driver, those being the days before airbags and seatbelt’s in India, and anyhow who needed to snooze would need to head to the backseat and another person would replace them up front.

If the terrain was unendingly dull and unchanging, I would be asked to play word games or just conk off till we reached the next rest stop. Stocking up on a list of junk food curated by the child was an unheard concept till our generation became parents and the kids became the ones who dictated how the holidays would be spent.

And while having money was an enabler then, is one now and will always continue to be one, the focus wasn’t ever on going to “good places”, staying in a posh hotel or having a pool to jump into at the end of the journey. It was all about the parents opening the eyes of their child to everything they could about the country they lived in because the knowledge could help them in a future geography test. Kidding…

Chhota Imambara, Lucknow

I remember very little about Lucknow- I think I saw it as a toddler. I have vague recollections of seeing goldfish somewhere and my mother said it was in the Chhota Imambara.

When we moved to Delhi, Appu Ghar was a favourite that I got to indulge in infrequently. But we went to Surajkund quite a few times and it was fun for a preschooler!

Surajkund, Faridabad

I remember skipping and jumping on the steps and being told to be careful and not fall into the dirty, stagnant water-yes..that was my mother’s worry. I don’t think she’d have minded a dunking in free-flowing water much.

Trek to the now-visible Shiva temple in Koliyak Beach, Bhavnagar

I have lovely memories of Koliyak in Bhavnagar as an 8 year old and even better ones as a 20 year old on a return trip to the place.

The Queens Botanical Gardens, the Orchid shows, the trips to The World Trade Center, Bronx Aquarium and of course Coney Island were par for course since those are outright sight seeing spots but those have been the kind we visited the least.

We would still hop in the car and take off for whichever river, dam, temple, palace was worth seeing-never mind how far. The further it was just meant the earlier you got out of bed to start off. And over the years indelible memories have been formed at Menal during the monsoons and at Bundi which we just swung by since it was “close by”.

Of course the memories of eating pipping hot mirchi bhajjiyas in the pouring rain, on the side of the road also stands out vividly. Our driver, Chhattarsingh ji used to drive a tank in the army before he retired and joined the bank and the car used to be a toy in his hands. He loved to take us around the different tourists spots and would never say no to a hot cuppa!

Palitana Temple

We’ve done pav-bhaaji picnics sitting near the Mahi River, eaten deliciously unique cold curd set in stone plates after climbing up 7000 steps to the Palitana temple. I’ve travelled through pouring rains on a Kinetic that clearly was more than up to the task to see the Champaner fort and then semi-trekked up to the extremely crowded Pavagadh hills. And it’s all been terribly interesting to say the least!

The ruins of the Narasimha Swamy temple, Hampi

The ruins of Dholavira, the terracotta temples in Bishnupur, the Gol Gumbaz up close, wandering around lazily in Bidar fort, crossing over on the ferry in Hampi and coming face to face with him- cannot be replaced!

Gol Gumbaz, Karnataka

In this year and in the months to come, any sort of travel may seem like an indulgence because of the risks associated with it and yet people will and are stepping out.

They are opting for road trips, choosing their next travel experience with more diligence and curiosity than ever before because traveling was never something that anyone was told they couldn’t do. Staying at home under duress was never a condition we had to wrap our heads around.

So when given the option to indulge- materialistically, gastronomically or whichever -ally it may be…try and choose an experience related to travel. It’ll stay with you always and you’ll be replaying bits and pieces of it in your head over the years to come.

Cannot put a price on that!

Discovering Barcelona-II

Gaudi and Barcelona are synonymous and even without anyone going too deep into the psyche or temperament of the artist, you can’t help but concede, the man had style! A glimpse of his masterpiece Sagrada Familia…

Guilt-Free Goa

We have our own version of Vegas in India…G-O-A…what happens in Goa stays in Goa and Goa seems to be built for everything you’d do while you’re away from home, boundaries, restrictions and the humdrum of the everyday.

How else can one explain the most prim and proper of “aunties” who is carrying enough weight on her hips and belly to feed a colony of starving cannibals, strut around very confidently in rather iffy outfits that leave nothing to the imagination whatsoever!

Or the sudden craze the biggest beer bellies get for wearing Speedos and jiggling their way along the beach, without a care in the world? Or the most hirsute of men jumping into crystal clear water where the hair on their bodies is practically at par with the sea anemones one might expect from the fathoms? Those are some sights people were not meant to see and be able to unsee.

It’s not just about being more daring with attire, people leave their food dos and don’ts behind…way behind I might add! Stuff doesn’t have to be kosher, in a manner of speaking…it just has to look and taste good. And nothing tastes better than the forbidden fruit or the bacon!

This isn’t a critique, mind you. It’s interesting to see how people loosen up with their inhibitions and just enjoy themselves in a way that they normally wouldn’t on any other holiday destination…unless it actually was Vegas or the French Riviera maybe.

Years ago when I was working with a B-School, I remember the spring break-like fever descending on the students. The senior class wanted to go to Goa together but they also had exams coming up and had to prepare for the campus interviews for the placements etc. My job was to prepare them for those interviews and wouldn’t you know it? I had to do it during the time they were in the Go-Goa mode! So little by little excuses started coming my way…suddenly a whole bunch of parents had silver wedding anniversaries that their loving children just couldn’t afford to miss. So many grandmothers fell sick and apparently a glimpse of their beloved grandchild is what the doctor had prescribed above all things! It was quite fun to watch and I didn’t have the heart to say no to any of them because this too is a right of passage.

When I took a mini-vacay with some girlfriends I went to Goa. We ate, drank, slept, gabbed and frolicked in the utter Goa-ness. And that’s the beauty of it…it’s not just the beaches..it’s the place. It’s where you head to get drunk, it’s where you head to for a romantic weekend, honeymoon even and it’s where you take your hyper kid to cool off while you sip cocktails by the pool in the am without a thought for time of day!

Goa was made for relaxation- be it quick or a long-drawn one. It’s for gorging on seafood, eating spicy stuff your stomach can’t stomach and still having a great big smile on your face because it’s satisfaction all the way! So if you want to get high on sun, fun and the occasional dram…this place is a surefire fix!

Cheers!

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After A Long Break…From Writing

Been visiting my folks back in my hometown. It’s kind of become an annual trip during the brat’s summer holidays. It’s part torture and part relaxation but the fun comes and goes. I say that because the concept of fun not only changes from person to person but sometimes even from day-to-day.

One day locking yourself up in a room and just reading Asterix comics can be bliss where another day going for a trip on a river despite the icky-sticky humidity can be pretty damn good too!

But be as that may I have some blog posts bursting to get out. Haven’t blogged at in the past month. Barring my renewed love for Instagram, I wasn’t doing anything else at all. A break of sorts.

Anyhow one of the things that did catch my eye and then my head was the essay written by Facebook CEO, Sheryl Sandberg, after her husband passed away.

Apart from the utterly heartfelt words that Sandberg wrote, what really caught my attention were her updates on Facebook throughout the entire  time she was in mourning.

She didn’t do any of the silly and utterly without value kind of updates like check-ins into malls or fashionable places or used emojis to describe how she was feeling but she her work updates, things which probably kept her grounded during that indescribably difficult time.

But I have to wonder if uneasy does rest the head wearing the crown. Do you have time to actually grieve, go where your life is taking you or are you beholden to a greater power- your work?

My father, although not in Sandberg’s league, is a pretty well-established person in his own field. And he seldom switches off. While it isn’t as hectic as it was before he retired (for the first time) he hasn’t entirely cut the cord either. And it must be hard to do…if you have done something for most of your adult life, especially when you distinguish yourself at it.

But while there is something to be said for going up the ladder, there are times when being a foot soldier or a cog in the system might be a blessed thing as well.

Here endeth the first one of the pent-up blog posts. More posts to follow. Some on my photo blog. Check it out here.