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Travel memories: Boots that tell a story 

As I laced up my boots this morning, in my little Parisian studio, I was transported to that magical evening in Quito last year when, entirely by chance, I happened to buy them. In that moment, Paris blended into Quito and I hugged myself, thankful for the opportunities, and holding close that all consuming love for travel and adventure. 

Back to that October evening in one of the highest cities in the world. The altitude must have made us dizzy, my friend and I, because we were giggling and chattering like schoolgirls as we walked back from the craziness of Habitat 3, a large conference on sustainable urban development that the United Nations had organised. The day’s events had overwhelmed us, and we were looking for fun. My brown boots, bought lovingly my Rahul a few years ago in London (hilariously via a series of whatsapp messaging that flew across the world as his colleague modelled each pair in a succession of shops in suburban London) were beginning to fall apart. On a lark, I entered a footwear store we crossed. This was no ordinary shoe shop selling mass manufactured shoes made half the globe away! Nope, this was a shoemaker’s atelier, where each piece had been handmade with love and care. I was over the moon! Looking around, I saw this pair. Black military boots that looked like they would be super comfy. And they were, perfectly fitting too! 

I refused to take them off and the shoemaker was thrilled. He showed us his entire workshop. He babbled incessantly in Spanish regardless of whether we understood him. He kept calling me “Chica” with great affection, making me sit and pose with my new boots as he tried to click pics from his really basic phone, staring myopically into it. Finally, after my dear talented friend had bargained sufficiently, we had a final obstacle to overcome. Change!! No one takes a 100 dollars easily in Ecuador. So we put shutters on the shoe shop and marched down to the local grocery store, where change was available. Here, we were accosted by excited cries of “Namaste, meri jaan!” by local girls who had apparently picked this up from an Indian friend! We walked away in total elation. Boots bought and adventure had. 

All of this flashed before me this morning. I missed my friend a little, and I hugged myself a little. My boots felt snug and a new city beckoned…

My boots with dear friend’s boots. Pic clicked months later in Delhi, as we shared that good story once again!!

Mumbai before dawn #GirlyRoadTrip Day 1

An early start is the best mantra for road trips and there is really nothing better than empty roads and the feel of whizzing by when the rest of the world is in slumber. Mumbai never sleeps though, and at five thirty a.m., we saw many joggers and walkers and even gossipers on Worli Sea Face and BEST buses doing their rounds. I had never been on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link before and to do so in the dark, driving under all that fantastic lighting, was a treat indeed! With Rachna at the wheel, we exited Mumbai with the least fuss. By the time dawn was breaking, we were on the highway and excited by all the possibilities of adventure on Day 1 of our fantastic girly road trip! The blurry white figures of Jain munis, sometimes being escorted by marshalls and at other times being carried in palkis by attendants, added an interesting visual element to this maiden drive.

The Sea Link, I loved it!

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#GirlyRoadTrip Day 0: Madness, bonding and nostalgia

After a crazy dash to the Delhi airport thanks to a truck turned turtle on NH8. Nupur and me took the flight to Mumbai with a distinct feeling that adventure was waiting for us with a vengeance!

Friday afternoon in Mumbai was dedicated to winding up Rachna’s house. After all, the trigger for the road trip was her big move back to Gurgaon. The three of us reached Juhi’s place one by one, after completing the errands that had fallen in our kitty. Juhidi as well call her is Nupur’s cousin, but also our buddy from the good old school days in Lucknow. Loads of nostalgia to fall back on, but also a genuine bonding. From sharing life experiences to politics and finally, just plain old giggle-fest, the stopover at Juhi’s was a perfect launch pad for the Girly Road Trip.

Gosh, even I will miss this house with the view!

Gosh, even I will miss this house with the view!

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While the last few cartons were being packed!

Rachna and Nupur- While the last few cartons were being packed!

Brain dead, but trying to look like she's thinking! All that packing must have done her in!

Brain dead, but trying to look like she’s thinking! All that packing must have done her in!

 

 

Did you manage the kids or did they manage you?

Just back from a week out with kids and friends and friends’ kids and I cannot sleep. The images of the week gone by and the to-do list of the week ahead clash inside my head as I toss, turn and finally sit up and start up my Mac to..what else, blog!

Our trip to Dharamsala included two couples and three kids- aged 9, 5 and 4. Quite a bit of our time and patience went into managing the kiddos and so I thought I’d pen down what worked and what didn’t. At the end of it all, I wonder whether it wasn’t the kids that had the fingers on the control buttons all along!

1- Kids are competitive, so comparisons are a no-no, even though tempting at times! Aadyaa and Maayra, the two girls aged 5 and 4, drove us up the wall with their constant competing. They wanted the same number of spoons to play with at each meal, they wanted to eat the same stuff, play the same game on the same ipad at the same time, outdo each other at getting our attention, all the time! All four of us were taking turns at getting irritated with them on Day 1 and 2. By Day 3, this was getting to be hilarious and I started noticing how much we incite them to compete.”Look at her, she is eating so well. Why can’t you?”…..”Look at her, she is siting properly in her chair. You also sit down!”

And so on and so forth. Within ourselves, perhaps, we are competitive too, I thought. And that’s why we need to super super let go if we are calm them down. As the vacation progressed and the holiday chill sobered us down, the girls seemed to calm down as well. Or our management skills improved, perhaps! Just wondering how much of our own stresses, insecurities and inner struggles we pass on to our kiddos unwittingly!

The two who inseparable squabblers having masti time with 'Hansa mumma' who pampered them and scolded them in equal measure!

The two inseparable squabblers having masti time with ‘Hansa mumma’ who pampered them and scolded them in equal measure!

2- Never underestimate children, they are built to amaze! Rahul and me were enamored of the idea of trekking on this vacation. When we mooted the idea, Udai was super enthusiastic, but we were all a little skeptical about whether the girls could trek a lot. Aadyaa had managed a couple of hours of walking earlier this year at Ramgarh, but could we push her a bit more this time? So we set off one morning and decided to see how it goes and we were more than pleasantly surprised. The kids rose to the challenge and loved the adventure, even the youngest of them all, Maayra. Finding new paths to climb up, getting stung by nettles and recovering fast, drinking from a cold mountain stream- all these little thrills served to entice them to go further and further and we ended up successfully completing a half day trek without much fussing and with enough energy to enjoy the rest of the day as well!

Starting uphill from Dharamkot

Starting uphill from Dharamkot. Hansa and the kids walk ahead of us…

Udai was navigator, happy to do extra climbs to check out if we were on the right path. Proud to say he is turning out to be one sure footed trekking enthusiast!

Udai was navigator, happy to do extra climbs to check out if we were on the right path. Proud to say he is turning out to be one sure footed trekking enthusiast!

Conversation is a great way to keep the kiddos going! Mishu and Maayra in full flow

Conversation is a great way to keep the kiddos going! Mishu and Maayra in full flow

Even as she walks, she romances the camera, my little one...

Shot #1 Even as she walks, she romances the camera, my little one…

Shot #2 Peek-a-boo mumma!

Shot #2 Peek-a-boo? No, she’s in the midst of a kathak routine!

Shot # 3 Inspired by her kathak lessons, she danced her way to the top

Shot # 3 And there, she reaches the sam! Inspired by her kathak lessons, she danced her way to the top

Thrilled by the little mountain stream and happy to play in the crystal clear ice-cold water...sheer bliss!

Thrilled by the little mountain stream and happy to play in the crystal clear ice-cold water…sheer bliss!

Little imp all but tumbled into it!

Little imp all but tumbled into it!

Me with the kids...posing...

Me with the kids…posing…

Hey! Look here! Mishu and Hansa caught by my lens

Hey! Look here! Mishu and Hansa caught by my lens

Udai's idea of a little sunbathing break, with Aadyaa happy to join in

Udai’s idea of a little sunbathing break, with Aadyaa happy to join in

Rahul, impatient to restart climbing!

Rahul, impatient to restart climbing!

After we reached the temple, our hilltop destination for the day. Horsing around with papa!

After we reached the temple, our hilltop destination for the day. Horsing around with papa!

And snuggling with mumma too, before we begin the climb down!

And snuggling with mumma too, before we begin the climb down!

3- Don’t shy away from using tech to keep kids busy, too-principled is passe! When you’re on vacation, you’re there for a break. So letting the children have a good go at the ipad once in a while is just fine, in my opinion. They do the same at home as well, or watch television, for a small bit of time everyday. I found that asking kids to share an ipad or iphone actually meant they found ways to cooperate, take turns and share. They taught each other new tricks, they exhibited patience while waiting out their turn.

Busy bees!

Busy bees!

Travel wishlist for the rest of 2012: Whipping up the itch again! July

I am packing for my first trip to Goa this year. It is home for me, so multiple trips do happen during some lucky years! And the ambition to travel is setting the pulses racing again.

Part of the whip is the impending super-excitement of mum’s trek to Kailash Mansarover that begins on the 2nd of August. It’s a super tough trek- some 25 days, really high passes in the Himalayas, into Tibet and around the Lake Kailash. Mum has wanted to do this ever since I remember and she is finally making her dreams come true! Way to go, mum. You are very inspiring.

Yes, so I have come to the realization that having a list of places to visit and vaguely carrying it around in my head isn’t going to take me very far. It would probably be good to break down stuff that I can do each year, depending on the vacation time available, budgets and other variables.

2011 was a great year for travel. I visited Odisha (Puri, Chilika, Bhubaneshwar), Lucknow, Kanpur, Barcelona, Goa (twice, a lucky year when you get to see Ajjee multiple times), Mysore and Bharatpur. 2012 has been good this far- Lucknow, Bangalore, Coorg and Istanbul. But there is scope to push the envelope, seeing as 5-6 day breaks in October and November are staring at me from the school calendar!

My wish-list?

1- Hampi- Have never ever been and am dying to go! A friend posted some tantalizing pics of newly discovered archaelogical ruins there on Facebook today, and my curiosity is super whipped again.

2- Andamans or Bali- With Goa in my blood, can I not be a beach bum and water lover? However, believe it or not, I’ve never done any snorkelling or diving, ever. It’s high time I tried and this one has been on my list for years. PADI certification here I (want to) come!

3- Ajanta and Ellora- This one has to be with mum. We lived in Bombay for years and never went. Karli and Elephanta were the teasers. We need to fulfill that trail.

4- Gujarat circuit- There are many places I want to see in this beautiful state and Amdavad is where I always end up going. Champaner is high on the list, followed by the Rann of Kutch. I hear Navratris are a great time to go.

5- Kota-Bundi-Hadaut region- Now this is home ground. Rahul belongs to this dear little village a couple of hours out of Kota- Jalwara. It is idyllic. Home, its own little decrepit stepwell, own little mini fort, all crumbling now, lots of open space, a couple of seasonal rivers, greenery not at all the Rajasthan tourists imagine, but a little piece of rural beauty. Strangely enough, we end up visiting for weddings and other rituals, but never really sight-see. So, with Kota as base, an exploration of the Hadaut region is long overdue. Hoping to convince the family to find a slot this year!

 

Review: Inaugural issue of Nat Geo Traveler Mag’s India edition: Go, go, go! July 18, 2012

I was handed over by Rahul the inaugural issue of the National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s India edition. I die-hard lover of travel and the idea of travel, I’ve been a regular reader of the Lonely Planet Magazine, which I simply adore.

I have a relationship with the LP Mag. There is this life cycle thjat I must describe to you. LP Mag arrives. Excitement. Open it. Flip through pages. Slowly, wonder gives way to depression- so many places to visit, one short life! The LP Mag lies around unopened by me for the next few days. Eventually, the melancholy wears off and the featured get a thorough reading, every picture gets a thorough look and the soul experiences an intense sense of travel-induced gratification, even though through the eyes of another.

I flipped the Nat Geo Traveler Mag cover to cover, read snippets here and there and was sorely disappointed. The writing isn’t fresh and frank the way I like it, and that’s why I love the LP Mag. Some contributions are superb, but most of the images are smaller than I like them and not nearly as breathtaking as one would expect from Nat Geo, the God of the Gods of nature photography. There is one fantastic poster insert though! Also, the practical info is not really there. You could argue we don’t need it given that we Google everything anyway, but when you get the info while you read the article, it makes the wheels in your head turn and you can analyze whether the trip is practical for you in terms of travel time, budgets, specific interests, etc. I am not aware of the brand identity iof the Nat Geo Traveler internationally, but I expected a little more focus on what I think are Nat Geo’s core strengths in terms of content-sustainability, biodoversity and a deep love for nature. I guess they put all that conscience stuff in the Nat Geo Mag itself! They did do a good job of profiling a wide variety of travel experiences though and refrained from talking about the typical family-type holiday experience. That makes sense,because it inspires a whole lot of us to try new things.

I already had the beginnings of the itch this week, and the Nat Geo Traveler just got me started on a full fledged travel deprivation attack! I think I will grow to love it in time. Meanwhile, I’m planning my next adventure tonight!

Adventure trail: Testing our limits- March 23, 2012

One of the loveliest aspects of leaving the city is the experience of enjoying the outdoors. Here in Coorg, the forests beckon and the weather is warm but not enough to drive us indoors as it certainly will be when we get back to Gurgaon!
Today the family was in the mood for adventure. Mum and Udai went on an 8 km trek to Abby Falls. A tough walk for someone not yet eight and reportedly one full of sights of the bountiful flora and fauna of the Kodagu Valley. Aadyaa explored the property and tried all the swings and curvy trails.
Rahul and me tried the obstacle course. He went first and I hadn’t quite made up my mind if I was up to it. On impulse I started the course, but as I went along I found my confidence grew. The sheer height of the ropes from the ground meant you needed full concentration. It was important to focus and relax at the same time and necessary to follow instructions to the tee. It struck me that this was true for anything we want to do well in life. But it’s only that, for many other tasks in our everyday lives, we choose to not remember that we are indeed high above steady ground. Instead, we delude ourselves and create excuses and escape routes in our heads. No wonder the results aren’t often as good as mine were on today’s obstacle course!
The last few days, I have been fairly upset about a few small health issues, the perpetual battle with my weight and generally a bit low. The obstacle course jerked me out of my self pity and drove home the need to set myself small targets, find mentors to help me, follow their advice, leave aside my fears, and simply go for it!

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