Temple Run #1

This is the first post in the series of posts that talks about my experiences in Cambodia. I fondly call it as Temple Run – the title that perfectly sums up my adventures in Cambodia. When I talked about my trip to friends, family or even the backpackers  whom  I met during my journey, I was asked lot of questions. This post is about those questions that were asked by almost everyone.

How it all begun?

Post my bike trip to Bhutan, I made myself a promise – Visit at least one foreign nation in a year. And Cambodia happened this year!

Why Cambodia?

I was not surprised to hear this question. It is an off beat place and not many Indians visit it as they visit other countries. Well, the answer to this is a bit weird. It all boils down to those moments when I was attending a General Knowledge class in 5th grade. There were lot of questions discussed but one question was etched in my memory forever. Continue reading

How I met my travel buddy? (Bhutan Travel Diaries)

In case you haven’t read the earlier part, read here

After deciding that Bhutan would be my travel destination, I started to focus on logistics. The intention was to travel solo. I found out that the Bhutan Immigration rules state that the single travelers by road can not get a permit to enter the country. Being an Indian, jugaad is in our blood and veins. I started to search for any loop-hole that would land me in the “Land of Thunder Dragon”!

After a week of filtering the google search results, I found out that there’s only one way. Here’s the cheat code for solo travelers to get permit to enter Bhutan via road:

  1. Travel all the way up to the Indo-Bhutan border
  2. Go to the Immigration office at the border crossing and look out for a group of 2 or more people applying for the permit
  3. Request them that you would like to join them for permit process since solo applications are rejected. Since Indians have this perception that every stranger is a threat, the best thing to do is to approach army families who often travel to Bhutan. Refrain from asking the tour guides as they charge hefty money.
  4. Smile  widely (make sure your white teeth is visible) in front of the Immigration officer and tell him that you are here to travel and get to know his great country.
  5. Stamped!

The catch is that if the immigration officer smells any foul play, he would reject my application and make it extremely difficult to enter via that border crossing again. Well, that was a huge risk given that I will have to pay the bike rental for 10 days and can’t return it earlier than that. The Plan B was to explore Sikkim if denied the permit. But Sikkim is not Bhutan!

So, I asked my roomies if they would be interested to come along but they seemed either lazy or not interested for an adventure. I called my old friend Venki to check if he’s interested. Finally, got a travel mate!

travel buddies

Again, destiny had its own plans! Venki had to attend to some urgent work engagements and they clashed with the tour dates. And I was back to square one! Meanwhile, my roomies were betting on me whether I would travel to Bhutan or not!

As Paul Cohelo elegantly quotes in Alchemist, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

The NMIMS canteen back then was in the 7th floor and it was like the baap of Dadar station. But that day, it wasn’t crowded. I was fortunate to find an empty seat and enjoy my lunch. Aditya Chegu was sitting across the table. During the casual chat, I brought up my problem of finding a partner to travel. He wanted to come but he already made plans to travel to Meghalaya with his roomies. But he assured me that he knew someone who was as crazy as I was about travel.

2 burps and 45 minutes later…

My mobile screen blinked!

1 text message received.

I opened the message….“Hey, Pranav here”

P.S. More on Pranav in upcoming posts😉

Pic Credits: Travel Buddies

Where it all begun! (Bhutan Travel Diaries)

November, 2014

One humid afternoon in Mumbai…

I was browsing the Economic Times website looking out for macro-economic content so that I can brag about it when asked in the job interviews. After reading an article on what Raghuram Rajan was doing to keep up our struggling economy together, I found a suggested reading with the title  – “The last village in India

It was an interesting title but given that it’s a Times group website, I had my reservations before jumping to conclusions. I clicked the link that took me to the ads-only paper Times of India’s website and the article detailed about some of the exotic places in the Himalayas. Chitkul is widely referred to as the last village in India in travel circuits. You cross that village…better prepare yourself to find monks of Tibet or  face the PRC army.

The last village in India is not what excited me but the sheer idea that I could get away from this mundane life and materialistic world only to get drenched in the nature’s beauty certainly did. I started thinking how I would reach this place from Mumbai post my MBA and how much would the budget be. I had a plan to stay there for a week or two and indulge myself with some writing or wandering in the woods of the Greater Himalayas.

I could imagine this whole stream of events glazing in front of my eyes. It’s like these tiny moments of imagination that make my heart-beat stop for a second, give the much-needed adrenaline rush and drench in joy. The thought of going there had such an impact on me that I wondered what it would have on me when I actually visit this exotic place.

But things don’t go out as planned always. May be that’s why life is such an interesting journey to me. If someone would ask me…what’s my favorite journey, LIFE is my answer to them. There are many hair pin bends and steep curves than any road that’s been there or will ever be built.

And on one such steep curve, I came across this tiny place called Bhutan overlooking India’s shoulder and taking comfort in the warmth of seven sister states. The Himalayas cut across the length and breadth of this tiny mountain nation and their only connection is India. It is one of the very few untouched nations in the world’s tourist and backpackers’ circuit. Woah!!

I started to read right from Wikipedia page to every other article written by Tom-Dick and Harry that I could get my hands on. One can’t quantify time when doing something that’s close to one’s heart. And it’s true…damn true! I couldn’t see how hours slipped under the hood  like seconds while I drowned in articles about Bhutan and my interactions with the travel forums and biking groups.

I can vouch that the time I traveled in planning for Bhutan in some ways outweigh the real trip. I started to discover things about me that I was never aware of. There you go, my Johari window too expanded to let in more light!

The best part of my story was that it all started with my plan to travel to a place I thought I knew like a pro on a bike that I wasn’t sure if I could ride. Welcome to bag packing and travel at will!

Welcome to Mission Happiness Trip!

P.S. This is the first among the series of posts narrating the experiences I had on the dream trip to Bhutan, my first ever biking trip. 

Pic Credits:  Travel Blog

To read the next part of the series, click here

Virginity is Overrated!

The white colored innova stops right in front of the gate erasing the muggu* with its tyres. The chauffeur opens the door and a young man in his late twenties steps out. He is welcomed by a garland of flowers and smiles of the crowd waiting for his arrival. The music band starts to play shehnai loudly to make sure they are paid their contract amount in full.

After the mandatory pleasantries, the bridegroom’s family members were seated comfortably in the extra-cushioned couch. The bride’s family members were looking at the bridegroom and were passing on comments about his looks, the dress, the hairstyle and what not! The center table is filled with sweets made of ghee which filled with room with their aroma.

Few minutes later… Continue reading

‘Diary of an Introvert’ – Part 3: The First Kiss

In case you haven’t, read the first part: The First Meet,  and the second part: St. Joseph’s, before you read further!

On the road to Saddharma Sadan…

It was dark and he was waiting on the road that leads to the Saddharma Sadan – NIT’s girls hostel. He looked at his watch and it was not working. He looked again towards the gate but couldn’t find anyone except the guard.

Someone called his name from behind. He turned back and was thrilled to see her. She smiled and he smiled back at her.

“What took you so long to come and see me?”, he asked.

She took his hand into her’s and planted a kiss on his fingers. One touch of her completely energized him and he felt as if his heart was crushed by someone to the core. He loved that feeling. Continue reading

Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo (I AM NOT CHARLIE HEBDO)

2 days back, I woke up to see my social media timeline filled with posts like

“I am Charlie Hebdo”

“This is the death of Freedom of Press! #RIPmankind”

“The only way to respond is to share the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo and see how many people can those terrorists kill”

The messages carried out a strong emotion. The sent out a strong message. I was amazed as to what had happened. I read about the incident from the online pro-active media and was disturbed. It was an attack on the freedom of speech. It was not right to kill them at any cost. Continue reading

‘Diary of an Introvert’ – Part 2: St. Joseph’s

In case you haven’t, you can read the first part of ‘Diary of an Introvert’ : The First Meet before you read further.

10 June 1995

“I want to sit at the corner”, I said firmly banging my fist on the desk.

“I am sitting here. And Francina Ma’am told me sit here”, she fought back.

I couldn’t do much on hearing the name of Francina. She is a nightmare to us. I placed my bag in the drawer and sat in the middle of the bench. I hated it. I hated her. Continue reading