..and miles to go before I sleep.

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November 4, 2016 by freakychakra

As 2016 winds down, and memes and jokes of all the unfulfilled promises and resolutions gain ground, I too have started taking account of how this year’s life ledger looks like. Well, a casual thought does not really throw up anything substantial. My coding skills can still be matched by a 6th standard kid, my attempts at learning Spanish have had so many retakes that I have stopped keeping count of them; my attempt at losing weight and gaining health have been- aptly to put- meh! My photography has shifted base to my mobile phones and without gaining any meaningful insight or knowledge I bask in the hollow glory of some nice pictures which the phones allowed me to capture.

Thus, to summarize- not exactly a year that I can hold out as a trophy to inspire me. Yet, there is something really wonderful that I did this year which I had dreamt of doing for the past 28 years – Travel !!!

Yes! I had always been passionate of traveling, but had always prioritized my spends in the wrong directions and kept this passion at bay. For all my love of traveling and biking, all that I had covered till the end of 2015 were a few parts in Maharashtra, Bangalore and West Bengal. Little did I know that 2016 was to change all that.

The year started on the chilly white dunes at Rann of Kutch as the effervescent moon shining in the sleepy town of Bhuj welcomed us into the midnight of the first day of 2016. In the next two days, I and my friends were greeted by one surprise after another as the endless white stretch of Rann spread in front of us, as we were guided from Kutch to Bhuj in the infinite company of clear and bright stars and as the honestly warm hearted folks of Bhuj lived upto the phrase of “Atithi Devo Bhava”.

A few months later would see me ticking off an entry off the bucket list – photographing my bike in Goa. Yes! I alongside Rahul swallowed dust and heat and made it to Goa in May. But Goa being Goa was cool as always, irrespective of the season. As without any family and without any dependency I swung from one island to another in this tiny state  I realized why people actually visit this place. Because Goa and Goans don’t judge. You can be absolutely yourself in this state. And that is the absolute freedom.

In a few months, my wings fluttered again, as with the excuse of attending a close friend’s wedding I dashed off to the southern capital of Chennai-Mahabalipuram-Pondicherry. From my first self-paid flight experience, to communicating with a driver who didn’t understand or speak any of my language, to traveling all along the East Coast Road to Pondicherry- it was a never ending adventure. Never-ending because it was the burning 46 degree celcius temperature that warmly welcomed me to Tamil Nadu. Yet, a traveler’s heart can bear all of that. With the help of an almost broken down Activa and a passion for travel burning far more strongly than the sun- I managed to cover and enjoy the sleepy town of Pondicherry. Mahabalipuram would have been worse, had it not been confined to a few square kilometers of area. This besides-the-sea town can be covered in less than 2 hours, while the heart cannot be fulfilled with even 5 hours of sitting at the Watchtower on the top. Of course, one day, I spent at the astonishingly civic conscious city of Chennai where the culture still seemed deeply rooted in relation to the other metros and the citizens pretty calm.

Within a couple of months of returning back, I took flight for something I had been preparing for a long time — scaling the beauty of Ladakh. I alongside a couple of office friends got together and executed a plane ride to Delhi followed by a train ride to Jammu followed by a road journey to Srinagar and further to Ladakh and back the same way. To say that we came back alive would be an understatement. Safe to say, that the seductive beauty of Ladakh does demand you to be in your best shape. More on this in another blog.

Immediately following Ladakh, was a short sightseeing trip to Agra and Delhi. These historic monumental cities housing the identity and power of India respectively deserve every applause and brickbats that they get. Alongside Gurgaon, they surely exhibit the best of British architecture and sadly the worst of Indians. Whether it’s discriminating own people while bending backwards to foreigners or seeing the haughty Punjabis throwing their weight – Delhi in some sense did live upto its name. However, in many more senses it amazed us. A city that gets its roots from history, yet has its trunk perched high up in modernity. A city that literally is bursting with countless tales to tell. Delhi is a storytellers paradise to say the least.

As the body began to recover from the unexpected strains of the North, the heart refused to agree with its pace. The heart had snuffed its coke and now it wanted more. Sony’s wedding could not have come at a more opportune time. Her wedding which was in Kerala was bonded with Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Trivandrum and whatever Kerala we could cover on the bus rides. At Kanyakumari, I witnessed the prowess of nature as the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea converged together. It was here that I got a view of the peninsular India from the Vivekananda rock. India looked crowded, but yet it had colors and life. India on its coasts truly is simple, welcoming and absolutely beautiful. At Padmanapuram Palace I witnessed the absolute beauty of simplicity as an entire palace built in wood has withstood the ravages of time. At Kovalam like the rest of Kerala, I was witness to the therapeutic effect that the trees, the greenery have on human life.

You see, in 28 years I had only traveled to parts of Maharashtra., Bengal, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In one single year I had covered India from its extreme west to its extreme north to its extreme south. India truly is an idea, a concept, an enigma. From white sand at Kutch, to snow clad mountains at Ladakh, to the green covers of the south, to the serene beaches of its coastline to the absolute modernity of its cities – India is an impeccable epitome of juxtaposition. Forged by history and banal needs, its people diverse by region, language, dress, food, religion still owe  their loyalty to the same tricolour. While the news media would want us to believe that India is burning, the fact remains that the seventh largest nation of the world with the second largest population has learnt well to live in peace with its absolutely opposing identities. A milkman of Kutch, like the horse grazer of Pahalgam in Kashmir, like the hotel owner in Ladakh like the fishermen of Kanyakumari wake with the same thought – earning a meaningful amount for the family, being able to lay out a decent amount of food on the plate, decent amount of clothes on the body  and thanking God for keeping in the same shape to do it everyday in peace.

As technology intervenes and disrupts our way of living, travelling has become more accessible and affordable than ever. And we honestly need not go to any exotic foreign locations. We are 28 countries tied together into one. All we need to do is pack up the basic clothes and our camera sets and open up our hearts.  There is so much to learn from every place, there is so much to unlearn at every place.

Well, my footprints don’t stop here for this year. With three directions having being done, its time to set foot on the East. Odisha! here I come…..

 

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