Sunday, December 11, 2016

9 days. 6 cities. A memorable solo trip in Rajasthan

Solo Trip, why? Well, I am an avid traveler by choice. My parents don’t like to travel and hence I don’t have much travel stories from childhood. Neither is my sister fond of travelling and exploring as much as I do. Making travel plans with friends does happen but does not necessarily fructify at the right time. Few ditch. Few friends do come along but that is becoming a rarity these days. Or maybe I am not fortunate enough. And being bitten by the travel bug, I just can’t restrict my instincts to travel, explore and enjoy experiences even if it means solo. For me, life is all about living it up come what may. Being a solo Indian female backpacker/traveler is a bit uncommon, though it is gradually picking up. And yes, somebody did inspire me to go ahead and go solo. That’s my friend, Anumeha. Now, why did I choose Rajasthan for a solo trip? Well, my probation period of 6 months was about to complete. And I would be finally eligible to take leaves. So, I decided to do a trip. But then, at the same time, my friend and ex-colleague, Mohit was getting married in Jodhpur. And so I decided to explore Rajasthan, it being the month of November and winter would have comfortably set in the desert. As usual, I asked few friends who would be interested in tripping along but there were no hits. So, I went ahead and booked my return tickets. And, thus, it became a solo sojourn :). 
Well, I am a planner by nature. But this time, the enthusiasm had drooped to extremely low levels, don’t know why. And perhaps, I wanted to just go with the flow and explore the city around. So, I had just booked my onward and return tickets for the trip without even having asked boss about leaves :P (I did ask for it though when it was about time!). So, this was a brief background of my travel plan. Well, I have a habit of talking about actual things by first describing the context that led to the situation. So, you’ll have to bear with it. However, there was a little bit of planning involved too. I had managed to do few hotel bookings and inter-city bus travel (Not that lazy also :P). And when the dates came closer, the demonetization happened. Oh, what an unexpected event! What a mess it could create for travelers and tourists specifically. I had to queue up at ATM’s to collect as much cash as possible. I had not disclosed to my family folks that I am travelling alone. But yeah, you must inform your folks. I did too but with a bit of manipulation.

Day 1: It was a Saturday. I boarded the 5.40 am flight to Jaipur.  I landed at Jaipur at around 7.30 am and then Uber’ed to Kumbha Marg. Jaipur is Anumeha’s home. So she had offered me to stay at her house in Jaipur where her family lived. That was so sweet of her. She messaged me her address and told me that her house is close to airport. I happily chose to stay at her home. I had never met her parents. I was so sleepy that I entered the wrong plot number in the Uber destination address and then there was fun :). We went around searching the house. Then, I called up Anumeha’s father and finally reached her house after lot of goofing up. I was welcomed warmly by uncle offering me chai, poha, bread butter toast, pyaaz kachori and dalia :)..And there, I had my encounter with the first pet in the trip, a big Labrador named ”Toffee”. She came up all over me and I gladly allowed so. But she didn’t get wary of me and continued to drool around me. After an hour or so of chit-chat with uncle, I headed off to the city which was quite far. I took the city bus and got down at the Ajmeri Gate. All the while, I kept asking co-passengers to let me know when Ajmeri stop comes by. Everybody was quite helpful. The bus was not that great, decent enough. I alighted at the Ajmeri Gate and took a rickshaw to the City Palace. The city palace was quite splendid.

It was around 2.30 pm. Then, I walked towards the place where I could find a bus to Amer Fort. On the way, an auto-rickshaw guy came upto me and convinced me to make a tour of the three forts. I then went ahead with this rickshaw and started chatting with this fellow who rode upto Nahargarh Fort. It was an exquisite view of the Pink City from the top of the Fort and probably the highest point of Jaipur. Public transport buses don’t ply upto this fort however, the tourist ones and private vehicles do. This is one of the best places in Jaipur to enjoy sunset. You can have a spectacular view of the city from the restaurant. I then moved to the step well on the way back. The step wells are famous because of the “falling in the water” stunt scene of Aamir from Rang De Basanti movie. This was highlighted by my rickshaw turned guide :). And then as we drove down towards the Amer Fort, the aerial view of Jal Mahal was amazing. Due to lack of time, I asked the guy to head towards Amer instead of Jaigarh Fort. As I reached Amer, I was surrounded by guides and I did take up one and he did a good job explaining the intricacies and history and clicking my photos :). He also showed me around Mirabai’s temple and then led me to a handicraft shop. Yes, I tried best to avoid buying but then ended up buying a necklace in Minakari art. Then, I headed towards the city stopping by at the Jal Mahal and catching a view of the lighted up water palace.  The Jal Mahal is 5 storeyed palace in the lake with waters upto the 3rd level. There was no way to get into the palace. The guide then took me around few other places by the road and I enjoyed the night view of all decked-up and multi-color tinted Hawa Mahal and Alber Hall museum. The rickshaw then dropped me at Ajmeri bus stop and assured me that I will get a bus to Kumbha Marg. It was around 6.30 pm. I got the right bus after some time and then boarded the bus to Anumeha’s place. It took around one and a half hours to get back home. It was a bit marooned area at that hour. So, I decided to get back early the next day. As I reached home, I met Anumeha’s mom. She was busy making dinner. I was completely exhausted. I had a sumptuous dinner and then went to sleep.

I had booked a cycle tour for exploring the city next morning. It was to commence at 6.45 am from Badi Chaupad, almost the other end of the city. Now, I had double thoughts on whether to go for this or not. That meant getting up at 5.30 am, calling a cab and leaving at 6.00 am.(At one point, I thought I should not go, but then, I thought it’s okay, let me go for it). Now, this is a cycling tour named Pink Inside Cycle Tour with Cylin Jaipur, a company started up by two French ladies.
Day 2: Jaipur
I Uber’ed to the starting point and then met with my fellow cyclers. One was a British lady from London, 44 years old. And the other one was a French lady around 50 years old. The trip organizer was Eleanor and there was a local guide too who was a native of Rajasthan. We got warming up and started with our bikes wearing the helmet. Eleanor informed us about the 12 km circuit and major halt points. . We moved through lanes and bylanes of the city crossing the fruit and vegetable market, bazaars and halted at many points, devouring the history of the place. Infact, Eleanor guided us up to a café infront of Hawa Mahal to get a closer view and a far better picture against the palace. We had mouth watering lassi, hot chai and kachoris on our way. Then, a reporter from DNA, Niharika, was covering us for her newspaper. Eleanor pointed out herein that Indians generally like to move around in SUV’s and don’t come out for bicycle or walking tours. She exclaimed that I was her second guest from Mumbai in the last 2 years . Niharika also wanted to understand what made me come for a solo trip being an Indian female. After the gyaan session, we cycled through other major points and then went ahead to have an authentic Rajathani cuisine called “Dal Baati Churma” at a haveli of a lower middle class family. We were welcomed there by Srishti, a Dachshund dog. All of us really enjoyed having it served hot and with a lot of chit-chat over various cities and spicy Indian food. Post this, we also stopped at an ancient Shiva temple for worship after which we went to the marble carver’s district and checked out the craftsmanship. . Our cycle trip soon ended at the starting point and we relaxed with a cup of coffee. And then I got some tips on the food joints, bars and shopping areas.

Later, I went to the Jantar Mantar and tried to understand the scientific way of measuring time. And then, I moved to places of shopping, taking tips from Anumeha on what and where to buy. I strolled to Badi Chaupad again where I bought some stuff at National Handloom . After that, I went to LMB and had pyaaz ki kachori and rabdi ghewar. . After a bit of street shopping there for skirts and shoes and bargaining around, I left for Niro’s. Just before I reached Niro’s, I came across Raj Mandir Cinema, a famous landmark. Niro’s is a must for non-vegetarians. So I relished chicken there. But before that, I noticed the famous Lassiwala just in front of Niro’s. And I had the Lassi of my life :). It closes by 4 pm. And then, after satisfying my foodie instincts, I took a manual rickshaw towards Birla Mandir. This was around 5 pm. I came across the Statue Circle and the posh parts of the city. Birla Mandir is worth a visit. I watched the sunset from there and then walked towards the Bar Palladio which the foreigners boasted to be one of the world’s most beautiful bars. So, I thought I must not miss it but at the same time I had to reach home early today. Bar Palladio is indeed a very romantic and beautiful blue haveli bar. I had an old monk there and then just Uber’ed back home.
I reached home and had tasty food prepared by Aunty. Anumeha’s brother had been to Brazil recently and so he offered me chocolates from Brazil. They were indeed awesome. Toffee, as usual, came up all over me. After resting a bit, I packed my stuff as I had to catch a train early morning to Ajmer.
Forgot to mention above: Please do have Rawat ki Pyaaz Kachori 
Lessons learnt: Do stay close to the city. Helps spend more time outside and you don’t have to think much. And it cuts down on your travel time to station and major landmarks. Take a bus from Jaipur to Ajmer.
Day 3: Ajmer and Pushkar
I had pre-booked a hotel through GoIbibo. I reached Ajmer at around 10.30 am and headed to the Hotel Vega. The view from the hotel was quite scenic giving a view of the hills surrounding this small city. The hotel room was quite good. I dumped my stuff and slept off. I got up around 1 pm and then quickly washed up. I decided to walk to Ajmeri Sheriff. It was a bit far but still thought of just walking to the place. I had read somewhere that you might try biryani at Dargah bazaar but I would recommend against it. I tried at a place and it was pathetic. There, I was in the lane leading to the famous Shrine. Quickly, I left my stuff at a shop where I bought Chaadar and prayer stuff. I didn’t have much idea on to-do’s here. And thus, the commercialization affair started. Every other person was trying to bait me, forcing to give money. I sat down peacefully for some time and then the Darbar opened. I just prayed and left. Then, I hired an auto to Pushkar. 

The way to Pushkar gave me a glimpse of the city. I could enjoy the view of Ann Sagar lake. I was happy and quite amazed to see cycles available on rent and open gym around. Pushkar is much more peaceful and cooler city. On reaching Pushkar, I first went to the Brahma Mandir, the only temple of Brahma in the world. In Hindu mythology, there are three Gods namely Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva . After the worship, I walked towards the ghats. This place was bubbling with foreigner tourists. I was hungry and as recommended by my friend, Kanuka, I savoured the tasty malpuas and I must say they were the best till date. I also had sumptuous Dal Kachori in Kadi and a hot masala chai. Contended to the core, I walked towards the ghats. It’s a long walk but you won’t be bored because of the shopping stuff around. Finally, I was there. The Pushkar lake was extremely serene with peaceful atmosphere. 

Soon, it was dusk time. I did shop for some stuff and then kept asking the way back to the bus stop for Ajmer. I went on and on but there were no signs of the bus stop. Finally, I reached but there was no bus passing by. There were only tourist buses plying. It was around 7.30 pm. Luckily, I found a share van which I boarded. The way back gave us an amazing view of the city at night. Infact, there is some special lighting done at the exit which really looked beautiful. I got dropped at a point closer to the hotel. I had to take a share auto again. This time I had to sit at the rear side of the auto facing the road behind :D. Then, I relaxed a bit at the hotel and headed to the Havmor restaurant next to the hotel. I ordered a hot and sour soup. I was very elated at my solo tripping idea. It was fun. I then headed back to sleep.
Day 4 and 5: Jodhpur
I checked out and left for Ajmer Bus depot. I took a Volvo bus to Jodhpur by getting rid of my sole Rs 500 note. The bus was quite okay. My neighbour was quite chirpy and she was from Ajmer actually. We chit chatted a lot and she talked about the Mayo college as we crossed it. She was a fashion designer based out of Delhi. A freebie like me, she too loved travelling. She was heading to Umaid Bhawan Palace for her cousin’s wedding. I was heading for my friend, Mohit’s wedding at Indana Palace. The RSRTC bus took around 4.5 hours to reach Jodhpur. On the way, it stopped at a RSRTC resort which was quite clean. The bus took the route via Beawar. I reached Jodhpur at around 1 pm. I then uber’ed my way to Hotel Niky International, my stop for the next two days at Jodhpur. The event manager welcomed me and guided me to my room. I learnt that the functions would be held at Hotel Shree International and Indana Palace. I relaxed a bit and then headed for lunch to the other hotel and met my friend, Mohit. The functions had begun. In the evening, I enjoyed at the Sangeet, it being a big fat Marwari wedding. I didn’t know anybody there nor did I get introduced to any of Mohit’s friends. So, it got a bit boring all alone. However, there were two sweet sister-in-law’s of Mohit whom he had introduced to me. While I was sitting with them, one of them, who would be around 9 years old, asked me a very smart question, “Agar aap Mohit jiju ke best friend ho, toh woh aapse kyun shaadi nahin kar rahe”. I was taken aback by this question. That was smart. Little did I know that Mohit had told them that I was his best friend. I corrected her that I was the best friend in office :).The Sangeet was splendid with dance performances by the kith and kin and the lovely couple. They had shot a short movie which was showcased and was quite well played. Later on, I just left for the hotel.

Next morning, I got up and had a heavy breakfast at the hotel. And then, I left for the Mehrangarh Fort by Uber. The view of the blue city from the top of the fort was mesmerizing. There is zip lining activity also over there. But I didn’t go for it. Quite a lot of foreigners frequented there. Then, I left for Umaid Bhawan Palace. Uber is quite handy in this city. Here, there is the vintage car collection and museum exhibiting heritage collections. Later on, I left for Janta Sweet Home, near station. I had Mirchi Vada, Mawa Kachori, Pyaaz Kachori, one gulab jamun and one lassi. These were the recommended ones. But since I am not a sweet-tooth person, I did not like the Mawa kachori. Others were really tasty. Then, I headed to buy Lehria sarees and Rajai and headed back to the hotel.

It was the Baraat time. I wore the saree by myself and reached the Baraat location on time. Got clicked :). And then enjoyed the Baraat and Jaimaal. I didn’t enjoy the food much at Indana Palace. I managed to while away the time somehow and then left for the hotel.
Day 6 and 7: Jaisalmer
I had pre-booked the Laxmi Travel bus for Jaisalmer. I checked out at 6.30 am for the bus stop. I could see just 5 other tourists travelling to Jaisalmer and the rest were locals. Out of 5, two were female foreigners. The bus was a passenger one and kept stopping here and there. The bus had stopped for midway break at Pokharan at a very lame place. There were no toilets around. I managed to spot a toilet in the corners and it was locked. I managed to get it unlocked and heaved a sigh of relief. The journey was for 5 hours. The roads were deserted as we were heading towards the western part of Rajasthan which is actually a desert. I alighted at the bus stop and called up the Zostel guy to pick me up. A Zostelier turned up on a Royal Enfield  to my utmost surprise given that I had a trolley and a backpack. But I love Enfield ride :). I managed to sit at the back with such luggage. It was just 1.5 kms to the Zostel.
This was my first stay at Zostel. It was an experience in itself. All hotels in Jaisalmer are in Haveli format and this one was too. I loved the décor. I got an upper bed in a mixed dorm. As I entered, I found a French guy in the room at the verge of leaving. I kept my stuff on my bed and went for a bath. Putting my things in another small travel bag, I got all pepped up. I had to leave for the desert “Sam”. I had pre-booked a hotel recommended by Anumeha, the Oasis Camp Sam. On enquiring at the Zostel reception as to how can I reach the Sam, they bullied me. They were charging me around 2400 bucks for the vehicle and since I was solo, it was not making sense to me. I did not get into the trap and called the Camp guy and asked how to reach via public transport. He advised me to take bus which goes to the Sam village. So, I walked to the main road and then took an auto and the auto guy guided me to the right bus and made me sit and also told the driver the stop where I need to drop off. I just managed to squeeze myself into some space in the bus near oil barrels. The bus was cramped with villagers. It took around 1.5 hours to finally reach the camp.
The desert is around 40 kms away from the city. I checked in to my Swiss tent which was again a first time experience. It was huge. I relaxed for some time and then headed for the camel ride. It was the time of the sunset. Again for the first time, I was doing camel ride. It was a nice experience. Here again, the camp people and the camel guy were surprised that I have come alone to the desert. The camel guy would be around 13 years old. He asked me as to how marriages happen at your place. I quite plainly told him that if I come across somebody I like and would be interested in spending my life together, then I inform my parents and the marriage would happen. He innocently replied to it asking, “Kahan pe dhoondoge? ..Aise hi koi kaise milega. Maa baap hi dhoondhte hain gaon main and yahan shaadi hojaati hai. Warna aap kab tak dhoondoge? Yeh toh galat baat hai”. Again, I had no answer. Later on, I enjoyed the sun setting down amidst the sand dunes. I got off the camel and spent some time on the sand clicking photos and sitting. While I was enjoying alone, few guys started teasing me calling out different names to me and started passing comments. I ignored them. After some time, they were gone. I just hoped they did not belong to the camp I was staying in. First time during the trip, I felt bad. Later on, I drove back and was welcomed by the camp with tilak. The stage was set for the cultural performances. Everybody was out and about. There were families and couples. Slowly and gradually, people took their seats and the evening begun. We were welcomed by the Kesariya song. And then folk dances followed. There was a drinks counter as well. Chai and pakodas were offered. After that, the dinner was laid out. It was quite a good Rajasthani Thali. The owner of the place, Maule Khan, was conversing with everyone. He came upto me and assured me that the camp is quite a safe place and feel free to stay. Most of the staff was aware that I was up alone here. Maule Khan comforted me or rather encouraged me exclaiming that only people with a big heart travel alone. I just nodded to it. Yes, it is not easy. He then offered me a lift to the city the next morning. And I agreed to it. Later, I went back to my room and closed the gate by tying up the knots but still I kept the lights on while sleeping. And to my amazement, a dog kept coming inside my room around 3 times during the night by pushing through the tent gate. So, it was wise of me to keep the lights on and I shooed the dog away when it kept coming. It was highly irritating. But, I didn’t mind.

Next morning, I got up at around 6 am and took a bath. It was cold :P. After some time, I went ahead to see the sun rise and had a cup of chai. In an hour or so, the breakfast was ready. Hot water supply started. I packed my stuff and had a good breakfast. My bag was kept in the car and then we left. Maule Khan asked me to give a review on GoIbibio which I instantly did. I was dropped off at Hanuman Chowk. From there, I walked to Zostel, around a km away. And then, I packed my stuff and checked out. The luggage was kept in the common room. I then headed to the Fort on foot. It was again around 1 km away or more. I took a guide there and headed up. Jaisalmer fort is a living fort. Even the Chittorgarh one is. The view of the Golden city was amazing from the top. There are lot of hotels and guest houses in the Fort itself. You must have the Kanchan Icecream’s Makhaniya lassi there. I had googled up on the must-eats in Jaislamer based on which I headed to the Dhanraj Ranmal Bhatia sweets place. It is near the Fort only in the lanes. The guide walked me through it. I tasted the recommended Ghotua and Panchdhari ladoos there. Also, I ate a Pyaaz Kachori. Each was equally tasty. Then, the guide took me through the lanes upto Patwon ki Haveli and another Haveli nearby explaining things along. Also, he cited about the various film shootings here and there, specifically, Sarfarosh. Then, we also went to the Heritage hotel and the victory tower. I had a cursory look.

It was around 2 pm. I took a share auto and left for the Gadisar lake where I saw lots of catfish being feeded. After some time, I walked back to Zostel and spent time on the roof top restaurant which gave a good view of the Fort as well. I relaxed there stretching my legs. There were Indian families put up there as well as foreigners. I had to while time till 5.30 to catch a bus at Air Force circle at around 6 pm. I ate a sandwich and packed parathas for the night journey. This was the Hanuman Travels and I had booked a sleeper seat. The bus was not great but then there are not many options. Quite coincidentally, just opposite to me were the same foreigners, who were seated parallel to me in the bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. We smiled at each other at the coincidence :). Again, the bus stopped at Pokharan after almost two hours for the break and again, the stop was pathetic because of the washroom.
Day 8: Udaipur
The bus reached the last stop at around 5 am i.e one hour before time :O. It was quite cold. Nevertheless, I booked an Uber to Zostel. The Zostel was up on a hill this time. I don’t know how I managed to drag my trolley up the hill in the dark. It was 5.30 am. The Zostelier at the reception was sleeping. I was lucky that I had taken the mobile number of the Zostelier the other day. I called him up and then somebody opened the door. There was no space anywhere around not even in the common room. Everybody was sleeping. I managed to sit on a chair. As it dawned, I went outside to see the sun rise. It was chilling outside, almost 11 degrees. Here, a friend of mine was joining me. The friend reached Udaipur and reported at Zostel at around 7 am. Neither of us got a dorm by then. We would get it by 10 am. Here, I came across a pet pug named “Baadshah” who was cosily sleeping on one of the cots. I like pugs. So, I went upto her and picked her up. And she was damn light. We then went upstairs to the roof top restaurant and had breakfast. A friend of mine, Mohit Gupta, had suggested me the itinerary for Udaipur. After breakfast, I got a bed in a female dorm where I dumped my luggage and went ahead to bath. We then walked for a few while and took an auto to the Jagdish temple. It was quite an exquisite carving. After worship, we walked to the City palace nearby. We took a guide over there. The guide told us that the Ruia’s grand wedding worth Rs. 300 crores was coming up in the next few weeks. And so, the Sky productions team was all about the palace busy moving stuff around for the setup.

The view of the lake city was great. But there are much better views from different places. I ended up buying different types of sarees in the shop at the entry of the palace. Mohit had suggested Rajasthani thali at the Garden Hotel as a must-try. So we walked upto the place and it was around 1.5 kms away. It was all worth walking because I felt quite hungry by then. Finally, we had a sumptuous thali. It is also a heritage hotel. There is the vintage car collection. After having a heavy lunch, we planned to walk across to the Sunset point. We rested a while at the garden opposite the hotel and then walked towards the boating area. This was around 1.5 kms away. The boat ride on the Lake Pichola is a must as you get a view of the palaces around. Then we went to the Ropeway sunset point. The ropeway takes you to the Karni Mata mandir. There, after some time, I realized I had forgotten my sarees bag. We rushed to the boating point and I was finally relieved when I got it back. We again went back to the sunset point and enjoyed the view. Later on, we headed to the Bagore ki Haveli where the folk dance and puppet show takes place for an hour from 7 pm. It was a long queue but it was totally worth it. The ticket was for 90 bucks. What a show !. The night view of the lake city is amazing and gives you a feeling of Venice. 

It was recommended to go to Hotel Amrai now to enjoy dinner by the lake but my friend was too tired to travel. It is just 1.5 kms away but if you walk across the bridge, it is hardly 600m away. So, we just searched for a place to eat along the way to Zostel. Many hotels were shut by then. It was around 8.30 pm. So finally, we ended up eating at the Chirag Roof Top restaurant. It was a good place with good décor and good music. The view of the bridge was also great. Afterwards, we walked upto the Zostel. And then there, another drama was awaiting. The day was not over yet. The Zostelier allotted me a bed which was already occupied by a lady who assumed her stay is being continued little realizing that the Zostel guy had already sold it out to me assuming the lady had checked out. So, there was a miscommunication drama unfolding now. Zostel was 100% sold out but luckily a guy had checked out earlier than scheduled. So, I was being requested to shift to a bed in mixed dorm. After some pester, I was even on the verge of moving out. But then, I started telling that it was my first Zostel experience and it is not going good. So, the co-owner, Tushar, understood that I will give a negative review online and hence, asked me to hold on to this bed and he would ask the other girl to shift. The altercation continued for a long time. I was not able to sleep till 1.00 am but it was Zostel fun :).

Day 9: Last day  We started early the next day for Monsoon palace. We had a quick breakfast at a street side place. The samosa, poha and chai was good. We booked an Uber till Monsoon palace. The Monsoon palace looks like a castle amidst the Aravalli ranges. The view of the lake city from this palace is breathtaking. Pre-wedding photography shoots were going on. We then headed towards Moti Magri. Had a glimpse of the Chetak Smarak, the museum which showcased models of Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh forts and Battle of Haldighati. History, read in the childhood, came alive. We had an awesome masala chaas at the restaurant there. The guy sold me the masala too :). I asked the uncle about the best place for sweets and snacks and he recommended JMB (Jagdish Misthan Bhandar). We then Uber’ed to JMB near Suryapole. We packed quite some stuff there and also tasted pyaaz ki kachori and ghota. Both were really tasty. So, I packed Pyaaz Kachori for home and further travel. From there, we moved to Hotel Amrai for lunch by the lake side and I must tell you, you cannot ignore it while in Udaipur. I enjoyed a pint of beer along with chicken. It is again a heritage hotel where you can even book suites/room with lake view. Post that, we walked to Zostel and left to catch bus for Ahmedabad. You could very well take a flight to Mumbai from Udaipur. But, there was significant savings in taking a bus to Ahmedabad and taking an overnight Duronto to Mumbai. So, I did it :).
And I crashed on my bed at Monday morning 7 am. And then, reached office by 9.30 am as there is a bio-metric sign-in :(.
Thanks to all my guides, be it real or virtual, all were equally important :). And I have missed many more anecdotes!
Writer: Sangeeta Patel

Friday, March 25, 2016

On Heritage Walks

Well, today, I felt like writing about the heritage walks that I have done lately. Two so far. The first one was in Mumbai itself. A walk in Bhuleswar with RaahGeer (, an initiative by Deepa Nandi and her colleague. Well, it began on a fine Sunday morning. Enthusiastic individuals from different parts of the city gathered at Charni Circle at around 7 am. And, then we started the walk. Deepa started off introducing herself and Raahgeer and we had a short introduction among ourselves. Most of the junta was architecture college students. Few from media, some history lovers and me :). We had a local guide too to take us through the place and give us anecdotes here and there. So, it began with the Goshala where the guide, Manish told us about the diary industry and how it can be harsh for the animals. Along with that, he explained us a few tenets of architecture in the buildings around particularly, the Jain and Gujarati influence. And then, we had the famous Chocolate Tea at a nearby place. And, then we headed through the busy and narrow lanes hopping on from one Jain temple to another. Then, we also visited the first temple of Mumbai, dating 1000 years old.Swami narayan mandir, Hanuman temple..I remember seeing a collapsible staircase in the Hanuman Temple. Never seen one :). Well, that's called creativity in a space crunched city :). And then, we came across mouth watering veg treats; places which host the best vegetarian food in Mumbai. Infact, one place sells almost 40 different varieties of khichdi. Can you beat that ? :P Moving on, we explored different forms of architectural motifs, signs, designs in dilapidated buildings, corners. Well, a Banaras in Mumbai, I must confess !!.
The walk further ended at the Mumbadevi temple and Crawford Market. We dispersed with good memories and then hogged on yummy food :).

The next heritage walk happened in the city of Ahmedabad. I feel the best way to understand the culture, city pattern, lifestyle, architecture of a city, you must do a heritage walk. So remember to look up for city walks when you are venturing a new city next time :). This was organized by an NGO in association with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. It is conducted on all days of the year, commences from the holy Swami Narayan Mandir in the city. They start off with a video projector of images of ancient city and the various landmarks. And the walk started off with blessings and aarti. We walked through the various pols of the ancient city, understood the concept of a pol and the various forms of architecture, the significance of the forms, the bird feeders, the earthquake resistant structures, the old stock exchange, the confluence of different styles of architecture, the Jain temples, rain water harvesting forms. The guide explained us the significance and reason of an M.G. Road in every city near the station, the Gandhi Bridge, the difference between pir, dargah, maqbara, etc. It finally ended at Jami Masjid, which is why they call this walk, "From Mandir to Masjid". It was a really informative walk. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Leap Day

February 29, 2016. An extra day. Well, I don't remember what I did on the 29th February of 2012. But, yeah, this year, this day, I will always remember in my life. I got closure in both my professional and personal life. I have been aimless on both the sides since quite a long time. Professionally, I had been looking for a change since a long time. I was not finding sense in what I was doing since four long years. It was becoming a drag. Just a doer. This was not what I did an MBA for. I believe in creating and delivering value. This job was sounding like a nagging wife. Something you can't get rid of and still keep doing it. I had been looking out and making efforts for a change. But nothing was clicking anywhere. Finally, it happened on this day. I got a breakthrough in the role I wanted to try. New frontiers. New charters. New people. New culture. New challenges. New boss. New place. But yes, I am game for it. Thus, I heaved a sigh of relief.

However, on this day, I didn't have any guy in my life with whom I could share my happiness. I was so much reminded of Chetan Bhagat's famous lines "There's no point in getting a promotion on the day of your breakup." This day, I also got closure on personal front. The guy I loved got married to someone else. And so, it led to an official closure towards him. Difficult to breathe in. But yes, shit happens. I don't know where my personal life is heading. 

What I am today, it's all because of my never-give-up attitude towards life. And,I refuse to give up in life. I refuse to give up. I refuse to give up. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Blogger returns !

Well, it's been a long time since I have written here. Infact, I had almost forgotten that I used to pen down my thoughts here. Guess, that's because I have been focussing my energies on something more important. In pursuit of important things or rather priorities in life, we often tend to forget what we really like to do. In my childhood days, I was fond of drawing, sketching and painting but this talent had also faded away somewhere. And I have realised our pursuits are so endless!

I believe everybody is in pursuit of something or the other in different phases of life. Pursuit of happiness, love, money, passion, dreams, good health, fitness, music, work, play and the list just goes on. Life is a play, a Tamasha. As Shakespeare puts it right, Life's a stage and we are merely the players. We need to play our roles sometimes according to others and sometimes according to our choices. The thing called "guts" is so rare. And common sense even rarer. Just incoherent ramblings of mine. Yes, I will keep coming back to this space. For me, for you, for others !

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Exemplary Willpower

It is tough to fight a deadly disease like Cancer but then a few like Ananda Shankar Jayant face the music with their passions. I am jotting down the speech given by her as a TED Talk. I am highly inspired by her words which is why I am posting it in my blog. 

[Sanskrit] This is an ode to the mother goddess, that most of us in India learn when we are children. I learned it when I was four at my mother's knee. That year she introduced me to dance. And thus began my tryst with classical dance. Since then - it's been four decades now - I've trained with the best in the field, performed across the globe, taught young and old alike, created, collaborated, choreographed, and wove a rich tapestry of artistry, achievement and awards. The crowning glory was in 2007, when I received this country's fourth highest civilian award, the Padmashri, for my contribution to art. 


 But nothing, nothing prepared me for what I was to hear on the first of July, 2008. I heard the word "carcinoma." Yes, breast cancer. As I sat dumbstruck in my doctor's office, I heard other words, "cancer," "stage," "grade." Until then, cancer was the zodiac sign of my friend, stage was what I performed on, and grades were what I got in school. That day, I realized I had an unwelcome, uninvited, new life partner. As a dancer, I know the nine rasas or the navarasas: anger, valor, disgust, humor and fear. I thought I knew what fear was. That day, I learned what fear was. Overcome with the enormity of it all and the complete feeling of loss of control, I shed copious tears and asked my dear husband, Jayant. I said, "Is this it? Is this the end of the road? Is this the end of my dance?" And he, the positive soul that he is, said, "No, this is just a hiatus, a hiatus during the treatment, and you'll get back to doing what you do best." I realized then that I who thought I had complete control of my life, had control of only three things: My thought, my mind - the images that these thoughts created - and the action that derived from it. So here I was wallowing in a vortex of emotions and depression and what have you, with the enormity of the situation, wanting to go to a place of healing, health and happiness. I wanted to go from where I was to where I wanted to be, for which I needed something. I needed something that would pull me out of all this. So I dried my tears, and I declared to the world at large ... I said, "Cancer's only one page in my life, and I will not allow this page to impact the rest of my life." I also declared to the world at large that I would ride it out, and I would not allow cancer to ride me. But to go from where I was to where I wanted to be, I needed something. I needed an anchor, an image, a peg to peg this process on, so that I could go from there. And I found that in my dance, my dance, my strength, my energy, my passion, my very life breath. But it wasn't easy. Believe me, it definitely wasn't easy. How do you keep cheer when you go from beautiful to bald in three days? How do you not despair when, with the body ravaged by chemotherapy, climbing a mere flight of stairs was sheer torture, that to someone like me who could dance for three hours? How do you not get overwhelmed by the despair and misery of it all? All I wanted to do was curl up and weep. But I kept telling myself fear and tears are options I did not have. So I would drag myself into my dance studio, body, mind and spirit, every day into my dance studio, and learn everything I learned when I was four, all over again, reworked, relearned, regrouped. It was excruciatingly painful, but I did it. Difficult. I focused on my mudras, on the imagery of my dance, on the poetry and the metaphor and the philosophy of the dance itself. And slowly, I moved out of that miserable state of mind. But I needed something else. I needed something to go that extra mile. And I found it in that metaphor which I had learned from my mother when I was four. The metaphor Mahishasura Mardhini, of Durga. Durga, the mother goddess, the fearless one, created by the pantheon of Hindu gods. Durga, resplendent, bedecked, beautiful, her 18 arms ready for warfare, as she rode astride her lion into the battlefield to destroy Mahishasur. Durga, the epitome of creative feminine energy, or shakti. Durga, the fearless one. I made that image of Durga and her every attribute, every nuance, my very own. Powered by the symbology of a myth and the passion of my training, I brought laser-sharp focus into my dance. Laser-sharp focus to such an extent that I danced a few weeks after surgery. I danced through chemo and radiation cycles, much to the dismay of my oncologist. I danced between chemo and radiation cycles and badgered him to fit it to my performing dance schedule. What I had done is I had tuned out of cancer and tuned into my dance. Yes, cancer has been just one page in my life. My story is a story of overcoming setbacks, obstacles and challenges that life throws at you. My story is the power of thought. My story is the power of choice. It's the power of focus. It's the power of bringing ourselves to the attention of something so animates you, so moves you, that something even like cancer becomes insignificant. My story is the power of a metaphor. It's the power of an image. Mine was that of Durga, Durga the fearless one. She was also called Simhanandini, the one who rode the lion. As I ride out, as I ride my own inner strength, my own inner resilience, armed as I am with what medication can provide and continue treatment, as I ride out into the battlefield of cancer, asking my rogue cells to behave, I want to be known, not as a cancer survivor, but as a cancer conqueror. I present to you an excerpt of that work "Simhanandini." 




Thursday, January 26, 2012

People say some things happen for a reason...But I would say there is a reason behind every thing that happens and whatever happens, it happens for good. This makes me think that whatever you want or like to do sincerely, you should go for it without caring about the endless list of risks and social stigmas. At least then you would not blame someone else for what you are or what you land up in, be it success or failure. You will be responsible for your own actions and learn to create your own destiny if destiny forsakes you. Keep fighting and you will able to create a miracle and I am not joking, miracles do happen. And I will make a miracle happen !

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Love your hair and it loves you back"

How I wish I were

Without my hair

I can't even dream of it

But Dove gives me a look petite

And as I lay in my couch

Cutting open the shampoo pouch

Yes, Dove adds a special touch

With its nourishment

And the vitamin's enrichment

I love to flaunt my hair

Showing its flair

Now no more whines

Because it makes my hair smooth and shine

No hair falls, no dryness

I really thank you your highness :)