travel

The Taxiwallahs/Autowallahs of Mumbai

This has been on the list for a very long time. It was time I write about it. In all the cities I have lived in, Mumbai has been the city where I have travelled by such varied means of public transport that it is almost crazy! Autos, taxis, ferries, metro and the local.. the monstrous journeys in the local, will come back to this later.

So in Delhi, it used to be really mechanical, you hire an auto, haggle, fight, reach your destination and pray to God that you reached the destination safely, specially if it’s a cycle-rickshaw which are mostly inspired from Fast and the Furious stunt scenes. I kid you not. They don’t use brakes, they just turn the wheel perpendicularly to stop!

In Mumbai, the first time I travelled was using a local. My father went in to men’s compartment and I went into the women’s compartment. It was really weird, women kept asking me if I had to get down at the next stop. There was space to sit and yet no one wanted to, unlike the Delhi Metro where grabbing the seat is almost like a game of Dog in the Bone!

The Auto Rickshaws run only on Meter! The best part about Mumbai. If you go and ask how much they will take to reach a certain place, they will be surprised because only the meter knows! So Mumbai is a really safe city compared to any other. I used to take rickshaws alone at 2 and 3 at night to reach back home. Once I took a rickshaw from a friend’s house to my home, it was a new route and I was dazed (due to some obvious reasons) and I just couldn’t figure out where I was going. I finally saw a familiar landmark and directed the driver. He had figured out that I wasn’t really in my senses and when he dropped me on the other side of the road, he was really concerned. He told me to get back into the auto and he took a U-turn from further down the road and dropped me at my doorstep. I was so thankful. He didn’t even ask me for extra money for taking a detour. Now tell me if this could ever happen in Delhi!

Then there are the friendly UP-Bihar taxi drivers. Trust me you can find no better entertainers once they realise you are from their hometown. I once met a Taxi-Driver who literally had a house 2 kilometre from my house in Lucknow. And her daughter went to a school right next to mine. He was so ecstatic on knowing I was from Lucknow, he almost passed through the destination he was supposed to drop us at!

All in all I have never had bad experiences, except in the local where the struggle for your life is real! Shit gets serious when you travel in a Mumbai Local. Once I was hanging by the handle bars above, LITERALLY, because the crowd was so much you couldn’t even place your feet on the ground. It felt like I had to cross a row of Monkey bars to reach the door.

Trust me, if you’re a newbie, leave early and take the bus. 😛

Mumbai Montage

Last night, me and my friend decided to go on a long drive on a bike in Mumbai. He came to pick me up at two a.m. and then it began. It was a chilly night and the roads, except for the highway were mostly deserted. If it were a movie, I would say it was all in black and yellow with just a few colours and bokehs sprewn here and there. We reached Bandra, after being searched by the police once for signs of drunken drinking. I realised it was a horrible horrible job. Instead of using breath analysers, a policemen would come near you and smell your breath in the pretense of asking your name. It ought to be included in the list for the “worst jobs around the world.” Then there was the ocean. Owing to low tide, the ocean was a huge and still mass of water. The moon was almost full. And believe me when I say it looked like somebody jad mashed up pieces of glasses and spread the shards on a huge black canvas which shimmered and sparkled in the black of the night. And it was hard to believe that this was Bandra. Then came Haji Ali, the glittering blue lights, the colours I talked about earlier, in the midst of the huge canvas. Slowly the architecture begins to change. There is an oncoming of tall buildings with darkened hollows for windows. The horizon is not at all visible, unlike the seaface earlier. And suddenly we have marine drive. It only gets better. The air gets colder than ever before. The huge body of water looks like an even more beautiful artwork. The moon in all its glory, seemed to be proud of its beauty. Then we came across the beautiful colonial past, the architectural heritage of Mumbai. In the dark of the knight they looked like those ancient black and white pictures that we now find printed on postcards. It was nearly 5 a.m. by this time and the beautiful highcourt decided to tell this to us with its beautiful chiming in the silent of the night. We decided to take a break and have some food with some caramel tea (I named it because of its peculiar taste) at an Irani cafe which was the only one open at the time. And finally after that we made our way back home. It was a beautiful night, a night to remember. And it felt as if everything fell into piece just to make it perfect for us, like those five planets that have aligned in the same line for the first time in decades.

Random Notes: Winters

Winters are here. The much awaited winters. There’s this chill in the air which induces a smell in the trees and the leaves such that however much you breathe in, it is never enough. The smell of winter, the smell of mist and the smell of dewdrops. They should totally make a perfume of the same.

Kasol Revisited

Day 1 – 21st October

I make my journey from JNU to North Campus, to meet the people who are going with me. Our bus leaves at night from Majnu ka Teela. It is a little awkward since I have met most of these people for the first time. At night everyone packs and we leave after a delicious dinner of homemade khichdi. We wait for the bus, it keeps getting delayed but it finally arrives. And the journey towards Parvati Valley begins.

Day 2 – 22nd October

Almost half the day had passed until we reached our destination but the journey was beautiful, with mist floating down the valleys when the sun began to appear. There were tall trees and I knew we had reached when there was an evident chill in the air. Our hungry souls directly made way towards Cafe Bhoj. We ate to our heart’s delight and then looked for a hotel. After getting some rest, we decided to have a bonfire and we started walking towards the campsite with torches in our hands to ward off the eeriness that the mountains possess by default. We reached the riverside where we sat on a round table and talked and laughed and drank and smoked. Then we walked closer to the river, so close that our voices were drowned by the sound of the flowing water. It was cold, very cold and the fire didn’t do much in warding it off. It was finally time to sleep.

Day 3 – 23rd October

I woke up before everyone else, except S. The first thing to do was take a bath and dry your hair in the mountain sunshine. We had delicious lunch consisting of schnitzels, falafels, lafas, oreo shakes, ginger-lemon-honey tea, etcetera. We then made our way towards a place called Chalal but were never able to reach it. Instead we found a place beyond the bridge, among the rocks where hot steam rose like mist from mountains and I wasn’t afraid of feeling cold again. The moon was high in the sky, all around us there were mountains – snow capped. And even when nothing was visible, the snow was shining bright, reflecting the moonlight. The rushing pristine water of the river, threw up water droplets which shone like diamonds when they caught moonlight or light from a torch held by a passerby on the bridge. My words can never do justice to what I saw that night.

(The night was spent deciding who wanted to stay for one more day. 4 of us decided to stay back and then 3 hours were spent cancelling and booking tickets)

Day 4 – 24th October

Yet again, S was the first one to wake up and we once again made our way towards Chalal after everyone left post a hearty lunch. This time it wasn’t our lucky day. The police caught us but let us go without much hassle. We went to Jim Morrison cafe and the sandwiches there were to die for. The trek was totally worth it. I was too happy to register much. Happy because it was Kasol, for another day. Once you go there, you never want to leave.

Day 5 – 25th October

We went to Magic View Restaurant, didn’t really have the patience to look at the view because I was too tired from all the climbing. Who wants to work on a vacation anyway. This vacation was so much different from the last time when I was all sober and the weather was not so good. This time the water had completely changed its color and you could almost see the water-bed. It was a “good trip”. Can’t wait for the next one. Will put up the pictures soon.

Day 6 – 26th October

Back to Delhi. It was like some other world. Definitely not a good one after the serenity of the Valley. Well, all good things come to an end.

Another Journey

Long ago, a friend wrote something about living out of boxes. This phase of my life is all about that. Every other month I am packing my bags to go home, to go on a vacation, to visit friends, etc. And of course right now I am writing because I can’t sleep in the train.

Goodbyes are hard. Specially for people like me who get all sentimental and awkward. To leave one place and to go to another brings with it a million changes. From keeping your brush on a different table to using somebody else’s toothpaste. Everything is so new, but it is so easy to adapt. When people ask me why and how I pack so light, I think it’s because I always use lesser than I have. Be it in terms of money, food or whatever.

I adapt to places as well. I think that is also because I have been to so many in my life. I am not a vagabond, though I would love to be one. I know this is really random but isn’t this what this blog is all about. I also noticed that as the posts get more personal, you really have to know who I am to understand the context of what I am saying. I have always been so bad at giving context. One of my friends says I would become a good stand-up comedian because of this and my roommate constantly chides me for not explaining things to her properly.

See, it has happened again, stream of consciousness. Well, so long for now. Will try to sleep once again. Otherwise there’s another random shitty post waiting to be posted. 😛

-S.

Home is where the Heart is

So I am all done with my documentary on the M-ward of Mumbai. More about that later. For many days I have been planning to write on all the places I have lived in.  After reading Varun Grover‘s article, I was finally really inspired to do the same. So here’s a short personal account of all the places where I have had a temporary home in! 🙂

VARANASI

I was born in the city of Temples and Ghats. I was too little to remember anything but I have since visited it twice and it’s a beautiful city if you want to laze around and just sit at the ghats and read a book. The city in itself is a madhouse, too much traffic and too many people. But that is the beauty of old cities. There is a mix of culture and modernity that you just cannot find anywhere else. I have somehow always been kind of proud that I was born there because of it’s rich cultural heritage. Now, when I pass through the areas where we lived earlier, my parents point out those places to me, the place where I was born, the place where they came to have lunch every weekend, the temple they visited on their birthdays and so on.

KANPUR

So my next stop was Kanpur where I spent 7 years and changed 3 schools and 2 homes, as far as I remember. I made a lot of friends, my memories of which are really vague now. I am obviously not in touch with any of them anymore, but I do remember that I was close with a lot of them! Now a relative of mine lives in the same locality and it beings back so many memories. I was a single child back at that time and the games I played at that time alone, the swing in my porch and the bees that stung me, the neighbours I had and the cricket matches my uncle took me to, the mix tapes we made and the terrace without the railing, the diwali with my cousins, the hiding in the cupboards, the fun I had in dusting the corridors and then riding my bicycle (with stoppers) there, the rickshaw that came to pick me up every morning and the dreaded swimming classes, the hatred for school and love for cable TV, the visits to relatives’ houses and meeting and forgetting people, the sweets that Grandpa bought everytime he visited and the dosa place he took me to, near my house. Omg, I miss Kanpur. Now when I go back, I hate it, because of the crowd and the pollution and zero traffic sense. But now that I sit and reminiscence about it, those were beautiful days. The days of carefree childhood.

LALITPUR

Lalitpur is a quaint little town near Jhansi, and it is also close to maternal home, while Kanpur was close to my paternal home. My sister was also born there. I lived there for 2 years. My memories of that place are mostly of my neighbours, with whom I spent most of my time. We used to play all evening until it got dark. It was also the time when everyone had those video game consoles and I had one too and it was also the time when I watched Nickelodeon for the first time and went gaga over it, the first time when I made a best friend, Divya, only to lose her in a year, the first time I stayed with another family, all by myself, because my mother was in the hospital during her pregnancy. There was a guest house next to my home, which belonged to a relative. The garden was open to use for all and that is where I learnt to ride a bike.

BANGALORE

This was a major shift. We had shifted from a town to a metro city. The energy was crazy and so was life. I was juggling between classes and computer classes, book clubs and extra co-curricular activities and ace-ing everything except academics. There was a library right behind my house which  I unfortunately found out too late, there was a Punjabi Restaraunt near our house which made the most amazing shahi paneer ever. My father took us to new places every weekend and we travelled like crazy – to Tirupathi, Nilgiri, Ooty, Munnar, etc. I went to this amazing book club where they gave us cold drink and cake at the end of every session. I found some of my friends from those days on FaceBook.  Those two years were undoubtedly the best years of my life. I often wish that we had never shifted, but apparently my parents didn’t like living so far away from their own families so we had to come back to North India. Now, I think to myself, that maybe I did the right thing by shifting because I feel that Bangalore had given me what I needed in terms of developing my personality, but had I stayed, I couldn’t have fought for what I loved and figured out what to do in life without anything being imposed on me. It is difficult to explain, but being in Lucknow gave me much more freedom to choose whatever I wanted to do next in life.

LUCKNOW

Lucknow was a new low after Bangalore but I gradually got used to it. I have spent the maximum part of my life there and that is where home is even now. 8 years in Lucknow, and I was a grown person too, I remember almost everything but mostly I remember hating my school. In the last four years that I stayed there, I made some really good friends and that is the only redeeming fact about that school. All in all the city is a great place to live in. It gives me respite from the rush of the big cities I go back from every holiday.

DELHI

I had entered college and was living in the Hostel, a much different home than any I had lived in before. It was a big, bad city and I was a little girl. With time it grew on me and I began falling in love with the freedom I had got for the first time in my life. This thirst for freedom just became bigger and that is how I moved on to the next city.

MUMBAI

My present home, one year in a flat and this year in a Hostel. Mumbai has given me the freedom I could have only dreamt of, friends that I know I will cherish for life and memories and experiences that have made me who I am now. It’s only when you live here, that you will know why it is called the City of Dreams. Every other person is a walking and talking book, whose pages and stories will amaze you. Here I am to be another book in the library, hoping to be the one most issued and to be an inspiration for other writers. 🙂

On Travelling Solo

To me, travelling is one of the best stress busters and also on of my greatest hobbies. I feel like this is the time when I can indulge in activities like these because later it will be too late. I realised that this should be something that I should follow forever because no time is a bad time to travel. The biggest drawback for any girl in India is the fact that it is really hard to travel alone. It is also not a very judicious idea because it will definitely take a toll on your pocket. I have always wanted to go out on solo walks during rainy nights when I was at home. There was no way I would be allowed outside after 11 in the night. When I shifted to Mumbai, I was amazed by the freedom that girls could enjoy. I often walked back home at 2, sometimes even 4 from college to home.

There was an article I read on Thought Catalog about how you could be with someone and yet be alone. That is the kind of travelling that I dream of. To have someone there for when you need them, to make memories and to yet be alone, to get lost in the mountains, in the sound of nature, in the fresh air and the delicious food. On one of my trips I found a friend like that. On our way back from a trek, our group got left behind and we decided to wait for them sitting on a cliff, overlooking the mountains – The Dhauladhar Range. That moment was sort of like the moment of enlightenment for me. I don’t think I can ever forget the exact details of that moment ever in my life. We weren’t talking. It was like the other person didn’t even exist even though they did. It was also the moment I fell in love, with several things at once, mostly in love with life!

I wrote something after coming back:

And it has come to an end, the amazing 10 days in Delhi. McLeodganj, Bhagsunag and Trikund. A time like none other. Thanks to the company.

For the first time in my life I found serenity in solitude even when I wasn’t alone and peace in silence with someone who knew what I wanted to say without saying anything. Those were the days I would want to live over and over again despite the few bitter moments. The good ones definitely overpower them. These memories will push me forward in life. Towards better things and better judgements. It’s the little things in life that keep you going. Those expressions of love and care, the reiterated concerns for your well being.

The moment I was talking about:

Those three stray wisps of clouds among the hills. Mixing and melting and moulding into one single entity. The serenity of it all, the stolen moments of peace. The mutual understanding. What else could one wish for. The sound of water rushing downhill, a cigarette in your hand and the dizziness in your brain, being supported by people you love the most. Staring into the sunset with your head upon their shoulder, the playful atmosphere, the light-headedness, the million shades of the sky during dusk. Another wisp of the clouds lodged in the snow capped mountains. A cup of tea, a pen and a notebook, with the steps towards heaven right in front of me. There’s nothing else I could ever wish for.

#ProjectBlurred

So my Xperia phone gave up after a long fight of three years, a few months ago. Right now I am using a borrowed XOLO with a cracked/spoilt camera. So all the pictures I click with it are more or less useless but I nevertheless decided to use it! Making the best of the worst, so proud of myself! 😛

I even started a hashtag i.e. #ProjectBlurred, thinking that it would turn out to be something revolutionary and amazing. A girl is allowed to dream, right?

Here are some attempts:

My Room's window. Brownie points to the one who guesses where I used this picture before. Do not scroll. :P

My Room’s window. Brownie points to the one who guesses where I used this picture before. Do not scroll. 😛

Oh, it's the lighthouse again. <3

Oh, it’s the lighthouse again. ❤

At Malpe Beach, self explanatory. :P

At Malpe Beach, self explanatory. 😛

A Pool Table with Nearly Headless Players.

A Pool Table with Nearly Headless Players.

A train window with a passenger sitting on the right.

A train window with a passenger sitting on the right.

A room decorated with fairy lights, all other details have just vanished.

A room decorated with fairy lights, all other details have just vanished.

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Lighthouses/Bucket List Part 5

I finally got the chance to visit a Lighthouse people!! The ticket was only worth 10 rupees, can you believe it?

So on the last day of my trip to Udupi, we decided to visit the Kaup Beach. The beach is really beautiful with the blue Arabian Sea roaring in front of you. Also, this shore was really deep compared to all other beaches, you step 10 steps into the water and you are completely submerged, the waves were also much higher and wilder.

SOOO BLUE. :P

SOOO BLUE. 😛

To be frank, this kind of blue is a rare sight so I was really pleased. But, let’s not digress from the Lighthouse! Let me give you a step by step description. So we walked some 50 steps to reach the main door of the lighthouse. At first it was closed but thankfully opened half an hour later.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Then there were an additional 100+ steps to reach the top. There were a set of spacious spiral steps and another set of very steep and congested steps. I was really scared while clicking this picture because I was literally standing on the edge, holding out the camera in front of me and people were passing behind me in the tiny space.

THE STEPS.

THE STEPS.

This crazy bunch of guys you see walking down, were shit scared and took forever to step down, I utilised the time to click pictures while the others blamed them and not me for slowing down the crowd. Then there were also these beautiful windows which gave a view of the outside and when you’re tired because of the climbing, it also provided you with a breath of fresh air. 😛

A WINDOW IN THE LIGHTHOUSE

A WINDOW IN THE LIGHTHOUSE

When I finally reached the top, huffing and sweating and panting (almost sounded like the wolf from Three Little Pigs there), this view welcomed me!

IMG_20150908_100530

It was totally worth the climb. I took pictures of all 4 directions, and of the top and bottom as well. There was a family chilling on a patch of stones right below where I was standing.

IMG_20150908_095643

Family.

Finally after clicking about 50 pictures I came down, it was almost the time for sunset. I was just really happy that I saw something new. Oh and I also had one whole fried fish, alone! It was yummy! Thankyou Kaup (Kapu) Beach! ❤

LIGHTHOUSE AT SUNSET

LIGHTHOUSE AT SUNSET

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Trip to Udupi

I am on the train journey back to Mumbai from my trip in Udupi and I am pretty sure I have never had such a scenic view from the train window in any of my previous train journeys. I just crossed a board saying ‘Gopi River’ and the train went over a bridge with the said river running below it. The quaint river with pristine water so pure that you could clearly see the bed below it.

The grass and fields are extraordinarily green, the kind of green that I haven’t seen in a long while and the paths are the completely opposite hue of dark and rusty red. There are backwaters along the Konkan coast appearing after every few minutes with colorful boats either standing on the shore or with fisherman at work who are putting out their nets for the day.

There are several year old huts with slanting tiled roofs that remind you of a village straight out of the pages of Malgudi Days. They have huge verandahs and the doors are always open like any other friendly hamlet. There are a few newly built houses as well painted in bright red, orange and sometimes even yellow. Though they would have looked put of place anywhere else, here they compliment the greenery around.

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Golden Udupi Sunsets, don’t mind the angle… clicked while on a moving scooty. 😛

There are tall coconut trees, framing the sky with its beautiful leaves and towering over the water like a shield from the pretty sky above. The sunset is pink which slowly fades into violet hues. There are small patches of water puddles which reflect the sky. It feels like pieces of the sky have fallen to the earth and all I want to do now is get off the train at some quite little unknown but beautiful station where crescent shaped leaves cover the ground near the fences, to sit amidst the green grass under one of those coconut trees, reading, sipping coconut water, having fried fish and sailing on one of those boats towards the end of the horizon where the sun is sinking!

-S.