Inside Mumbai’s jungle….

As we boarded the bus, the honking of vehicles, glittering street lights, sounds of breakfast sellers, morning walkers faded away to a thick envelope of trees and foliage. Wading through the way, I realized my mistake of not carrying a jacket along. It was cool, windy inside Mumbai’s very own jungle – Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

We had joined the nature trail to the park’s highest point. Our guide Nilesh made the 6 km uphill trek a pleasant discovery of the national park and its expanse:

Bamboo Hut Walk – A dense walk earlier, bamboo trees give 60% more oxygen than regular trees.

Ashok Van: I associated this name with an area around the park. The trail showed me, it’s a dense area with ashoka trees. So thick that the temperature can be 3-4 degrees lesser in this part, sun rays barely pass through to the ground.

Ghost Tree: It reflects moon light and keeps peeling itself to become white. Can be seen from the highway, resembles a lady in a white saree. Insects and birds flock to this tree for mating.

Karvee Trees: They flower once in 7 years. Flowers grow together, die together. Tribals use these trees to make huts.

Kanheri Caves: The Park has over 100 caves and was a Buddhist city of trade once upon a time.

IMG-20190127-WA0037
The Ghost Tree
IMG-20190127-WA0051
Bamboo Hut Walk
IMG-20190127-WA0056
View from the Highest Point

The nature trail brought alive a city landmark, which otherwise lays confined to our textbooks. More so, it made me aware of the need to explore my city as a tourist and equally appreciate the surrounding nature.

What have your experiences of rediscovering your city?

Travel date with Mom

This year I planned a long standing solo travel and a hard earned break to celebrate my birthday with myself. When my father and brother came to know of my plan, their first reaction was – take Aai along. For a while, I was that grumpy child not wanting to share my toys with anyone. And she would be the other child waiting to put her shoes finding the smallest opportunity to go out.

Few days later Aai & I boarded an early morning bus to Nashik. My solo holiday break was now going to be shared with her, and my dream of going on a solo trip continues. We enjoyed wine tasting & tour, a lazy lunch, bought some farm fresh vegetables and most importantly relaxed!

This was probably our 4th or 5th holiday together, just me and her. The first time we travelled alone was to Nainital, almost 10 years ago. Remembering all our holidays, I realized we both have agreed or are comfortable on a certain pattern and enjoy it:

  • Non-touristy holiday – Either travel off-season or visit a place that is not very crowded
  • Homestay over hotel – I introduced her to homestays, and now she prefers it over hotel. A good farmhouse / nature stay and home cooked food!
  • Local food – At restaurant I was thinking of ordering some Paneer starter. She quickly said order Misal, eat local food we keep eating Paneer all the time.  My memory jogged to our Coorg holiday where I took her to a Tibetian restaurant, a first for me too
  • Comfortable travel – Bus, train, flight, car; mode of transport does not matter. It has to be comfortable and flexible to travel
  • Relax or enjoy some activity – While I was busy acknowledging birthday wishes, she enters the room and says “they have so many books. I picked up books on travel, philosophy and wildlife”. The wintry mornings meant we woke up late, bathed in the morning sun followed by a hearty breakfast. Realized it was a luxury for both of us

On our way back home she mentioned she trip has given her the confidence of travelling again, eyes have regained some strengthen to look far, sun is not hurting much.. She was finding a new ray of hope amidst her journey of recovering from a major illness.

A different birthday present I gifted myself…

Ladakh – The land of grit and determination

Over the last few years Ladakh has become the biking capital of India. Come June, social media timelines are buzzing with people going for their Ladakh adventure – exploring the hilly terrain and getting mesmerised by its natural beauty. So did I – but by chance.

I was planning a trip with a friend when I read an advertisement of a Ladakh tour package. From that moment I decided Ladakh it is. I started planning a family trip to Ladakh – not a group package but an individual itinerary. The first pit stop was to understand if my parents can manage – most importantly when we are not opting for a group tour. My mother had completed Chardham Yatra many years back, but father had never travelled to the hills. Preparations were in full swing of finding the relevant information, medical precautions to be taken, knowing Dos and Don’ts, etc. My brother was so inspired that he planned his long cherished dream of a bike tour the following year. Hence my second chance of visiting Ladakh came exactly a year later – this time accompanying my brother in a support car.

While we city dwellers are awed by the chilly hill tops, gigantic passes, changing nature, for me the visit to Ladakh is that of grit and determination. Completing the journey requires psychological and physical good health. My parents enjoyed the trip, but I took a little time to acclimatise to the climate. Travelling through the narrow passes, seeing army posts, workers paving the roads, observing the local life gives you a glimpse of what grit must be required to survive in this region. More so, during the winter.

This belief was more strengthened during our second trip. Another lesson on how weather gods are so crucial in the region. Once we crossed Jispa, one of the last points in Himachal, it was rainy and weather started changing fast. As if we were trying to race with the nature to reach Leh in time. Indeed we were lucky. Another group reserved at the same hotel did not reach Leh and returned to Manali. Seeing my brother and his friends cross the icy streams on the bike, sometimes dodging the fiery winds was another proof of strong determination required to navigate through.

This essence was visible in many subtle ways like listening to the tales of our driver, understanding how they cope with the harsh climate and circumstances, striving to protecting the topography and witnessing many labourers working along the way to keep the roads in good condition. What I took back from Ladakh was the people’s will and determination to withstand natural and other calamities and forge ahead steadfastly in their lives.

 

Kalyan Karmakar:Kajol of Food Blogging

What made Finelychopped interesting is unlike other food blogs, it featured common eating places, some hidden gems and made local street vendors the hero

While thinking of a new topic, one name that flashed across my mind was Kalyan Karmakar. On second thoughts, I realised as one of the million social media followers, I have seen him transform from a market researcher, food blogger, curator of food walks, author, panelist to guest speaker… it’s an inspiring journey of following your passion and keep reinventing yourself. Somewhere along it seemed as if I know him, but I don’t know him.

Have you ever come across a situation that you have never met someone personally but still seems like you know that person? We have our favourite authors, sport stars, actors. We follow their work so much that it seems we know them. Internet and social media has made this more common and convenient.

Screenshot_2018-03-05-10-13-56-851_com.instagram.android

I started following Finelychopped blog some 6 – 7 years back. What made Finelychopped interesting is unlike other food blogs, it featured common eating places, some hidden gems and made local street vendors the hero. Then the food walks followed. An idea I thought the time had come, but didn’t know how and when to do. These food walks and the blog made regional food and local eateries sexy. Kalyan’s love for Bengali and Parsi food was one of the biggest reason. Over the years, my knowledge of Bengali food has increased thanks to him. His experiments with Maharashtrian food gave me personal happiness. Dadar Food Walk put my neighbourhood favourites and childhood memories on an international platform.

Another thing that distinguishes Kalyan, is his responsiveness and ability to interact with readers. He appreciates feedback, comments and suggestions openly. That’s how I have managed to engage with him. These engagements allowed me to understand him as a person and know some commonalities – like SGI. When I read his experience I realised one of the secrets behind this amazing journey.

That’s perhaps the reason I thought of calling him ‘Kajol of Food Blogging’ – an honest perform straight from the heart, not worried about stardom, the next door foodie !