My first river rafting experience at the Kundalika river, Kolad, Maharashtra.

I am nowhere close to what can be termed as an adventurous person. So when my friends wanted to go for a Rafting trip, I was still quite unsure whether I should go or not. Next day at work, I googled ‘Kundalika river Rafting pics’ and what showed up was quite scary for me. I was still dwindling between should I or should I not because by then it had started raining heavily in Pune.

Finally the D Day arrived and with groggy eyes at 5 am in the morning we started for Kolad, Maharashtra in a car. It was going to be a 140 km ride.

So, there are 2 batches on Saturday and Sunday , one at 9 am and another at 2 pm. I would suggest taking the morning batch as that looked less crowded and also the sun is not that strong. The rafting charges are 1400 of which 50% you have to pay online and 50% on reaching there.

One raft typically carries 9-10 people plus the lead. Depending on the number of people in your group , you might have to team up with others who are there. Once you are done with the registration, you are led to a place that has a pile of helmets, shafts and life jackets. Pick one of your choice and you are set for the 15 minute instruction by a Nepali guide who can barely speak English.

Once you have been ‘trained’ on the basic rules, it’s time to push your own raft down the river. I have Aqua phobia by the way, fear of deep/rapidly moving water. And there I was in an open raft, holding a shaft on one hand and a plastic rope tied to the raft on the other. The first few minutes was terrifying and I did not know what to expect, I even fell over the person sitting opposite to me once. In the next 10 minutes that followed, I learnt how to shift between following the guide’s instructions and holding on to the raft, basically how to keep myself glued to the raft and not go flying up in the air!!!

The Rafting stretch is about 12 kms and took us around 2 hours to cover that stretch. There are stretches when it was like the lazy river ride I took in an amusement park as a kid, where you just sit or lie down on the raft looking up at the sky and the slow moving current of the river just pushes the boat forward. But there were also places where the currents were scary and at one point( which the guides have amusingly named ‘double fucker’) , you have to duck down inside the raft while water splashes on top of you. The two hours of rafting had alternate periods of heavy rain, light drizzle and sun shining hard on us, nature and its weird ways of enthralling its lovers!

We ended the journey with a hot cup of tea and onion fritters from a dhaba at the finishing point.

Rafting tips! (Preparation for first timers/ amateurs like me :))

  • Do not drink the night before. You need your muscles strong and awake if you actually intend to raft.
  • Wear clothes that would dry off easily.
  • Wear shoes that are water proof. Slippers might flung off .
  • Carry a change of clothes as of course you’re going to be drenched at the end of it.
  • Last but not the least, let go off your fear! You’ll survive this one!

Facebook : KundalikaRafting

 

 

 

 

Whirlwind Trip of Udaipur in 2 days

I sometimes think that it’s kinda sad that being an Indian and having lived in India all through,I have seen very little of it. It was couple of my foreigner friends who would not stop telling me how much they loved Udaipur! With a long weekend in hand, I was sure which place I wanted to spend it at.

In a new place, I start the day early. Nothing like a morning stroll to know the streets, the places to eat, the things to do.

After a sumptuous breakfast at Grass root cafe, I started my first day at Udaipur.

Day 1 : The city has mainly developed it’s touristy areas around 2 lakes, Pichola and Fateh Sagar. S since I opted to stay around Pichola (you should too!), i started my day at Fateh Sagar. Bad decision if you want to go for a boat ride. Just opposite the lake is a maharana Pratap Garden that they’re still developing but I chose to have a look around. You can give this one  a miss!

Saheliyon Ki Bari – My first brush with Royal Architecture. This is a well maintained garden with a complex that houses a beautiful fountain. It provided me the relief I needed from the morning sun.

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Vintage Car Museum- 

Although I do not have much interest in cars, let alone have any knowledge on vintage cars, I still decided to check this place out. What’s a royal kingdom that can’t take pride in it’s collection of old cars and jewellery?!

Well this one is a treasure and also a lesson on the evolution of automobile!

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The City Palace, Udaipur

The main palace of Udaipur, this one is going to take a lot of time to explore if you are really interested in history or if old palaces charm you. Do not make the mistake of taking a guide as they are usually crap. They were my source of entertainment, as I moved through the narrow lanes that sometimes echoed what the guide said to unsuspecting foreigners eager to know Indian history.

The view of Lake Pichola from the top of the palace is drool worthy, so if you can time your visit with sunset then nothing like it. Also you can see almost the whole of Udaipur and it’s matchbox like houses from the top.

There is an ATM right outside if you run out of cash. And if you have to take  a few gifts back home try the shops outside but make sure you bargain well.

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Gangaur Ghat – I ended the day watching the sun set from Gangaur Ghat and let me tell you there are very few places that have such a calming effect on you despite the crowd. I strolled back towards my hostel and decided to sit and sip coffee at one of the cafes by the canal and sink in the feeling of this beautiful city.

Day 2 :

I started the day by taking a walk again till Jagdish Chowk( the main chowk near Lal Ghaat). By now I have started exploring lot of different Cafes. Funnily enough, it’s tough to find Indian cuisine because these cafes cater to people from other countries mostly.

Monsoon Palace

I decide to start the day with the Monsoon palace which is quite far from the city. The auto rickshaw guy charged me 300 bucks for the to and fro ride. I have no clue if he charged me more because I had no other option. The challenge is that you will have to wait for a ride to take you up to the palace which is on top of a mountain and usually there is a long queue. I managed to escape the queue as I was alone and got a seat next to the driver. The uphill ride could have been nice but the dry winters haven’t been very kind to the trees on the hill and so we made our way up through crude nature devoid of any greenery. 17201079_10206655479385300_6521417622717378922_n

As beautiful as the Sajjangarh Fort or the monsoon palace is from outside, it is as disappointing on the inside. Going by its name, I am hoping this ride or the view from the palace will be totally different during the monsoons.

Tired from the Fort visit, I settled for a sumptuous lunch and a quick afternoon nap at my hostel before venturing out again.

Bagore ki Haveli – An old palace by Gangaur Ghat turned to a museum. I did not waste my time going through the various rooms as most of them had scary puppets. I strolled through the porches, the backyard, rested under a tree in the courtyard. This place has a dance show in the evening but I decided to give that a miss.

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I ended the day, dancing to Bollywood Holi numbers on the streets of Udaipur with mates from Backpacker’s Panda (yes, that’s where I stayed and maybe you should check it out too!)

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(All photographs have been clicked by me)

How to make Summers better?

The heat is killing us here in India. For me the months April- May suck and I keep waiting for the rains to come. During these two months I mostly hibernate in the darkness of my room and refuse to go out.

However here are some Crappy Ideas that can actually end up making your summer better.

  •  Go to a beach – I know it’s super hot but then beaches have shacks and shacks have chilled beers and fruity cocktails. And the cool breeze in the evenings cures all summer woes.
  • Dress cheery, summery – To lift up your spirits, dress the part. Wear bright colors, flowy fabrics and florals. This is the time to show off your Sunglass swag! Pair it all with a big tote( that hides your water bottle and umbrella ) and flip flops. Upping the style quotient never hurt anyone.
  • Brunch time – Start your day early, when the sun is not that strong yet and start it with a nice hearty meal. Look for outdoor restaurants that serve your favorite cuisine and just chill out with your friends.
  • Party all night – Get hold of that friend that has a terrace or a garden. And if it is not too humid, light the place up with fairly lights and just hang out with your closest friends, food and drinks. This way you get to sleep through the entire day the next day. No sun, no problem.
  • Learn to make cocktails/ mocktails – Wanna be the perfect host? Please your friends by learning the coolest cocktails/ mocktails and serve them chilled and colorful. Immediate mood lifter this!

 

Not convinced? Then get a good book, draw up your heaviest curtains and just chill in the peace of your room. Happy Summers.

Breaking Myths around Hostels in India.

Till a few years back India had negligible hostels and trying them was never an option. I always looked for a hotel thinking of the hygiene, safety etc. Needless to say, hotels cost a bomb, even the very simple ones would charge you at least 2000 bucks per night.

To be honest, before watching Queen ( a famous Bollywood movie), I did not have any idea about travelers’ hostels. There too the things that came out prominently were that hostels are usually cramped, over crowded, have dirty rooms, pest infested toilets etc.

I stayed in a hostel for the first time in India in my last trip to Udaipur and immediately fell in love with the idea.

Myth 1 : Hostels are cheap and hence dirty.

There wasn’t a spec of dust anywhere. The rooms, the stairs were perfectly cleaned. The bunk beds had very clean white sheets, pillows and blankets. The bathrooms were squeaky clean too.

Myth 2 : Hostels are unsafe places for women.

If you are a solo woman traveler, hostels are the safest actually.

Myth 3 : Shared bathrooms filled with insects and pests.

I stayed in a 6 bed female dorm and when I walked in it was the cleanest shared bathroom I had walked in to , definitely better than  a lot of cheap/moderately priced hotels. And although there were 6 people when I left, It was still in the same condition.

Myth 4 : Food sucks

Its a hostel after all, how good can the food be?!! That’s what I thought too. Of course it wasn’t gourmet but it tasted like homemade food. Which is even better isn’t it?

Myth 5 : A hostel is so cramped, makes you feel like you’re stuck in a dungeon

Well the  dorms are small I agree and their is not always much space left after putting the bunk beds. But who says you have to be locked up in those rooms. There is usually a chill out zone complete with books, music, board games etc.

The best part of staying in a hostel is that you meet a lot of fellow travelers not just from your country but from all over the world. It not only opens your doors to the culture of their country but also gives you insight into the way they see your country.

** In my last trip to Udaipur, I stayed at Backpacker’s Panda and everything I wrote above is based on the experience I had at their Lake Pichola property. Definitely recommended if you are up for meeting new people and having great experiences*

To my She-roes!

(Although I don’t think a day is enough to count what good we do to this world, but atleast it gives the world that conveniently sometimes over looks our contributions, achievements and struggles,a reminder!)

To the girl whose voice did not get silenced today by a male family member, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who made her way out of male elbows in public transport, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who concentrated a little more on her books than the lecherous eyes of a teacher, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who chose to be a lil more alert to avoid being touched there by some smiling uncle, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who chose education beating conservative mindsets, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who fights the notion of being pretty everyday at work, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who just refused to sleep with her boss to prove that isn’t her only skillet, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who stood up to a bully somewhere sometime, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who broke stereotypes to prove everyone wrong, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who loved and lost and dared to love again, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who decided to proudly wear her scars , I raise you a toast.

To the girl who strives to be equal to her partner and not a parasite, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who decided to do the thankless job of a homemaker for the rest of her life, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who created another life inside her body, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who stood for another girl today, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who did not succumb to body shaming or stereotypical beauty standards, I raise you a toast.

To the girl who braved another day and survived, I raise a toast.

I raise a toast to all the women out there, who have learnt to live despite all odds.

The art of fasting!

Yesterday was mahashivratri, the day when most Indians observe a fast mainly as part of a tradition they grew up with.

Being brought up as a Bengali, I have seen my mother and grandmother fast on almost every festival, an act my then atheist father detested. I call him then- atheist because 40 years of marital bliss has made him change his heart and he has the same beliefs now as my forever God loving mother. But that’s another story.

Fasts for my mother and grandmother sometimes meant drinking only water, sometimes only a fruit or two for the entire day, only liquid diet and on extreme cases even ‘nirjala’ meaning no water and food. They would break their fast after completing the Puja by eating the ‘prasad’.

The Sanskrit word for fasting means Upvaas which means sitting next to God. This thought was very deeply rooted in Hindu women thousands of years back, specially the widow. After the death of their husbands, they were made to believe that God is the only one they should desire. So Upvaas basically made the body devoid of any lust or Passion.

When I moved to the western part of India, I experienced a new kind of fast. Fasting is almost a festival here. It’s funny how people actually eat more during fasting which actually takes away the whole idea of fasting ( not sitting to God but giving your body the detox day or off day it needs). There are special Upvaas thalis. Famous vegetarian restaurants , office canteens and even dhabas offer Upvaas food.

So this year, I decided to try Upvaas Thali too. The thali had the following –

Sabudana Khichdi, raita, half banana,aloo chips and rajgira laddoo.

I still haven’t quite figured out what qualifies food as Upvaas food. My gujju friend tells me that in Gujarat they have special kind of pizza for fasting too.Talking of traditions, last night my Kashmiri friend tells me that on SHIVRATRI they break their fast with a special kind of mutton cooked at home. Now that’s my kind of fasting. Needless to say, I decided to follow Kashmiri Shivratri traditions for this year!!!

 

The measure of love.

In terms of love and depth in relationships, our generation has absolutely hit rock bottom. We are just kind of lost having been surrounded by fake love for so long, we no longer know it’s actual meaning.

We belong to a generation that believes in not just throwing away broken things( read relationships) and waste no time in buying shiny new things that can replace the broken ones. We belong to a generation where compliments mostly revolve around whatsapp or Facebook DP s , whatsapp’s last seen time defines loyalty, desire is shown by asking for nude pictures, love is emotional status messages on social media, companionship is tagging each other on instagram.

Don’t you miss the days of handwritten letters or when missed calls on landline meant something? When you didn’t hear from a person since days but that didn’t change the way you felt. I am sure some of you reading this wouldn’t even know what I am saying. Yeah that’s how old I feel when I see kids of today. Like I am some kind of fossil who doesn’t identify itself with  the new surroundings.

Needless to say I wasn’t shocked a bit when I came across an article that had a woman narrating her story about how afraid her best friend and would be husband was about being rejected by her as he couldn’t afford a great diamond ring for her. Since when did a piece of jewellery become so important? Why don’t we question the people who preach that diamonds are a girl’s best friend? Every time a female celebrity gets hitched, pictures flood the internet about how big the rock is. I even read an article that compared the prices of the rocks that these Indian celebrity wives wear. Why are we setting these standards for our future generations? why are the rocks on our ring fingers getting bigger and our minds smaller?

These questions bother me to the extent where I think what would be teaching our daughters? Right from the day you are born , your sole motto should be to hunt for  the man that can buy you the biggest diamond?!

Remember Priyanka Chopra’s famous quote, I don’t need a man to buy me diamonds, I can buy them myself. That’s the kind of role model we all need.

The measure of love isn’t by  the material things he would buy for you, the real measure of love is that peace of mind, the  contentment in your heart when after a long day you lie down next to your partner.