When doorways and narrow bylanes of Varanasi have a story waiting to be captured

Varanasi,the 3000-year-old ancient city of India has many stories waiting to be heard. The essence of the city can be best captured through it’s doorways and narrow bylanes.

For the first time, I participated in a walking tour that helped me see a different side of the city. I was fascinated to experience what I saw.

Here is the hobo’s attempt to bring to light what I saw.

When the doorways have a story to say.
When the doorways have a story to say.

 

 

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What is in my backpack

One of the biggest dilemmas we all face while traveling  is what to pack and how to pack! You do not want to take too much luggage around and do not want to fall short on stuff!

When I initially started travelling, it was difficult to get over-  I need to carry a lot of clothes!  I always asked myself -Would I need the pretty little black dress? What if I extend my trip and do not have enough clothes!

I think over the years, I have evolved as a traveller and have moved beyond the clothes. However, I HATE to pack. I am a last-minute packer. I would rather carry the bare minimum and travel light.

The must carry clothes in your backpack

In terms of clothes, I always carry a black/blue jeans and black leggings.They seem to go with almost everything and one can never make out even when they get dirty! A good pair of shoes, socks, bathroom slippers, is a must.

 

How my backpack became a backpack- The backstory

I love it how certain things in my life have interesting back-stories and I love talking about them. Well, I had quit my job for a fellowship and  I would have been on the go for six-months. However, it was ironical as I was not able to travel at all!

My last day at work and my farewell present were  eventful. Read below how!

a) I was blindfolded.

b) And taken in a cab (being blindfolded) for a good 45 minutes to have the local Maharashtrian food.

Bizarre right! My friends got a cab driver who was with them in the plan and did not take the name of the location where I was being taken! I was told I got a lot of stares, some people even thought I got hurt in the eye 😛 Not surprising!

The entire process was another adventure and I LOVED it completely.  I was restless, and was asking a lot of questions like a child (Oh! I am such a child) and wanted to see the view from the window 😛

Ah, and now coming to my farewell present that my super awesome work friends and my best friend gave me. It was the most thoughtful and the best gift ever!

My survival kit for travel

My survival kit for travel

A list of things gifted to me that became my backpack!

  • A first -aid box. You do not want to fall sick!
  • An organizer bag for all the miscellaneous stuff which is easy to get scattered.
  • A torch. The times when there isn’t any electricity.
  • A sewing kit. (I am so clumsy, I cannot tell you the number of times I have torn my clothes 😛 And yes, my friends know that about me!)
  • Different kinds of sanitary napkins.
  • A jhoola bag. (Always keep an extra bag for the shopping or emergency purposes. ALWAYS)
  • Disposal panties. (The best invention ever! If you run out of water, want to extend your days, count these in. )
  • A pepper-spray. I have never used this one, but safety comes first.
  • Swiss knife. For safety purposes. (Again, India is safer, than you imagine, have never used this. Also, never explored the other purposes of the awesome swiss knife!)
  • A diary. I always need it around me to write travel related thoughts.
  • A mug for the hot cuppa coffee or a chai.
  • Lots of Warli paper bags. Only because I love the art.
  • A bedsheet- What if you have unclean sheets that you get from your hotel.( Backpackers face this often!)
  • Sleeping Bag! What is my life without you 😀
  • Hand sanitiser- Always
  • Apart from this, in case if you are thinking to travel often, I would suggest buying a tent will be a good option.

These are some of the things I make sure I have in my backpack. I like to keep it simple and do not carry too many gadgets or fancy travel items. That apart, a camera is a must! That is in case you are the kinds who wants to click pictures while traveling.

I am also thinking to invest in an electric kettle This way, I will drink lots of hot water to cleanse myself from the food eaten.  Yes, I will also carry a Yoga mat as I need to be fit!

For someone on the go, a backpack can sort off a home/wardrobe and should never be messed up with. Ever!

So, what is in YOUR backpack, Dear fellow traveller?

 

 

Why you should experience stillness while you travel

Around this time last year, I was chilling in Goa. Every time the hobo thinks about the trip, she gets nostalgic!

Goa, like I always say is a state of mind. There are times when I am working from my laptop but my mind is in Goa. The slow and  laid back life is what I yearn for.

See the waves pass by, listen to the tranquility of the water, let the breeze hit you. More so, travel solo and be by yourself at the beach.

Being at the beach has been rewarding and enriching for me.  I have gained inspiration from the waves, have learnt to never give up and to go with flow.


In another experiential travel trip, I disconnected from the world and lived without technology for five days without a phone, laptop, internet or a camera. This was my own black-hole resort.  This time, I was one with myself.  Living without technology was  like vipassana  for the mind.
You know that feeling when you want to seek solace,  just be at a place and not do anything at all?! So YOU do know what I am talking about.


Me and the world out there
Me and the world out there

I have never spoken about the top 10 things to do in a place or do not believe in making a list of places I want to see on this blog. Know why?

It is simply because no travel or destination can quantify the experiences that you embark on the go. Personally, those kind of pointers are great from a research point of view. You will surely know what to expect from a destination.

However, every once in a while, leave that list behind and experience stillness.  Travel without a plan and I can vouch that you will be surprised by what you encounter, experience and embark.


You DO NOT have to travel for a fortnight or  months to experience that stillness. Sometimes, the two days are enough.

HOW to experience stillness? Or HOW to go without a plan? I would only say- Trust yourself , your journey and listen to the voice inside you!

YOU dear fellow traveler, will get the answer.

Love,

Nostalgic Hobo

 

 

 

 

How an unplanned trip of spotting Peacocks in Maharashtra became one of the best experiences

Mixed feelings had set in already

Friend’s friend: Why do you guys have to travel like this? Why cannot you book in advance? We are wasting so much time!

Friend: Ummm. We will find a place for the night. Do not worry.

In her head she seemed nervous. What if  the two boys who were traveling with us did not like the way we traveled? After all, she was the link between the three of us.

Changing the topic she said,I need a place to pee.

Me: Yes, I need to pee as well.

But in the middle of the pee pressure I was shit scared.  I asked myself was this trip a mistake? Should I have planned before?

My head popped my biggest fear as a traveler.  The fear to travel with people who are totally opposite of the way  I travel. What if  I end up having a bad trip? Instead, what turned out to be was a trip no internet search would have ever provided.

We were in Chincholi Morachi, a district in Maharashtra ,55 kms from Pune, known for spotting peacocks.

We thought it would be best to explore Chincholi through the eye of a local person.

That is one of the best travel lessons I have learnt- In locals you should trust.

This time, there were not many people around to even ask.

When we were walking by to find a place to stay!
When we were walking by to find a place to stay so stay!

Two women. The cost to pee- Rs 1000!

With all of this going on in my mind and a strong built-up pressure to pee, we found a government guest house after walking for some 15 minutes. I thought, I could free my pee. However, the government guest house wanted to charge Rs 500 as entry charge for us to pee. Which meant Rs 1000 for the two of us!(The entry fee included sight-seeing with food as well.It was past lunch time and we did not want to waste money just to pee and come back)


On a mission to find a roof over our heads for the night

We asked some hawkers  near the government guest house if they knew a place to stay. They were essentially farmers and were kind enough to invite us to their home. However, we did not want to invade in anyone’s home without prior intimation.

We did not have internet on our phone as we had reached a remote area. and network issues had started to pop up.

My friend’s  friend came running from a place with a guy’s contact of a homestay. He  asked a person at the local barber shop on the road and he guided us to Anand Farm house.

Another travel lesson  I learnt here-Travel, if you want to move out of your comfort zone!

It was a weekend and one of the person at the farmhouse said that the place was booked and packed. However, when he heard we had already arrived, he said that he will make the arrangements. Within 10 minutes he actually came to pick us up from where we were.


An overnight trip for Rs 500.

That was what the beautiful experience cost us! 500 Rs. Unlimited food, pay whatever you feel like. The hospitality and the attitude of the 65-year-old man Anand, the owner of the farmhouse  was something that will stay forever with me!

Anand had several acres of land. However, the land did not yield him as much money from farming and he said that the middleman took more margin and not much money was given to the farmer.

To lead a sustainable life, he  started the concept of village tourism by showing peacocks to tourists. Anna as he was fondly called,  had a good business sense too. He was stern, firm and one would automatically listen to him. He said that he wants his guests to be homely and does not do this for money.

The glimpse of the food served to us

The local Maharashtrian food was so good that every now and then I I would want to eat more. Seeing the peacocks was the icing on the cake. We explored on bullock carts and had one of the most humble village experience. All we knew was Chincholi Morachi is a place in Maharashtra which has plenty of peacocks.


Travel lessons 

Had we planned in advance and booked one of the most sort after guest house through some internet research, we would have never got a chance to find w In fact when we were leaving the place, Anna said that we were like his daughters and we should come again.

What we thought would not have turned out the trip as we thought it be, turned out to become one of my best trip experience. The freind who was pissed off also became open to the unplanned and go-with-the-flow trip attitude!

The hobo feels it is good to get surprised by the place and it’s people!


 About Chincholi. 

Where is Chincholi: Morachi Chincholi is a town of dancing peacocks. It is said to have 2500 peacocks. Situated near Ahmednagar-Pune highway, it is about 55 km from Pune in Maharashtra.

Why you should visit Chincholi?: If you are looking to spot peacocks, want to have an agro- tourism sort of trip or want to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the place to be.

 

Where is home?

Where do you belong? Where is home?
Whenever I travel, I am always asked this question- Where are you from?
Emm… my mind always says- I am a hobo! I cannot be from just one place!
Even though I am born and brought up in Mumbai and relate to being more of a Mumbaikar than a Punjabi, I am in search for the perfect home.
Pico Iyer, one of the travel writers I love to read, sums it this up so well. This is also one of my favouirte travel quotes.

What and where is home.
What and where is home.

What I saw as a traveller at the Kalaghoda festival in Mumbai

Perhaps, the best way to explore a city is to observe it through the lens of art, theater and culture and the social movements deeply rooted in the history. 

One such event which is synonymous to the city where I am born and brought up- Mumbai is the Kalaghoda Arts  Festival which takes place every year in the month of February.


What does Kalaghoda mean?

Kalaghoda literally means ‘Black Horse’ . A black stone statue was built by a Jewish philanthropist David Sasson and King Edward 7 was mounted on the statue.

The area at Kalaghoda has art galleries, museums and libraries. This part of the town, is also one my favourite places to just be.

I leave you with wandering pictures that I could relate to.

Somewhere is always a good place to arrive.
Somewhere is always a good place to arrive!
Preserve not perish
Preserve not perish. The world is indeed a beautiful place to explore, see and discover.
Hello Bastar
Hello Bastar

Bastar, is a district in Chattisgargh, a state in central India. Many Indians assume that the place is unsafe and it is labeled to breed Naxalisim. The hobo feels that at times, you have to look beyond the obvious to do justice to the rich art and cultural heritage.

 Bastar artifacts are made by the tribal’s and many of them depict the rural lifestyle of the tribals.  These artifacts are prepared from Dhokra technique and use cow dung, paddy husk and beeswax and red soil to prepare the handicraft. The process to see these being made  is worth a watch and calls for a visit!


I saw a poster -‘Lost? Learn Geography’ with a world map  and this led me to one of the stalls. After a bit of interaction with the owner, I learnt BrownBox Toys created some interesting illustrations related to travel. It makes books and toys which take children on ‘trips’ to exciting destinations around the world.

What an interesting way to teach children  about Geography through some fun activities. I really wish when I was a child, I had these things to learn from.

For all you armchair travellers and children alike
For all you armchair travellers and children alike.

Event: Kalaghoda Arts Festival

Where: Kalaghoda, south Mumbai

When: February 6-February 14

Websitehttp://www.kalaghodaassociation.com

Mumbai http://www.kalaghodaassociation.com/cat.aspx?Id=349

Entry: Free

Disclaimer: There is a lot to the festival apart from the travel things I spoke about. The festival is worth a visit to see the vibrant side of Mumbai.


When the hobo gets nostalgic

While these were some of the travel related things, some of the iconic places at Kalaghoda have shut down or on the verge of shutting down. Simply because they are not able to keep up with the competition of commercialisation or have had management squabbles. For instance, the iconic Samovar Cafe located inside the Jehangir Art Gallery that shut down after five decades.

Rhythm house, another iconic shop for music lovers shut soon and has a goodbye sale going on.

Feels odd to see these iconic places to shut down which were once the heart of the city.

The goodbye sale at they Rhythm House
The goodbye sale at they Rhythm House

Do you have some art and cultural stories to share? I would love to hear them.

Love,

Nostalgic Hobo

 

 

 

 

 

How was the Yatra for you? More so, how does it feel to be back?

Yatra

ya·tra

/ˈyätrə/

noun

Meaning: A procession or pilgrimage, especially one with a religious purpose- Powered by the Oxford Dictionary.    

Perhaps, the Oxford dictionary got the meaning of Yatra wrong. Eventually, you will know why.


Exactly a month before, I got an opportunity to travel in one of the most bizarre ways! It has been a fortnight that I am back to my “normal” life. At times, when I am sleeping on my bed and have all the comforts around me, getting up in the morning hasn’t been the same.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I am up- Why is my bed not moving?! Why is it so peaceful around me.  Why do I not hear people shouting Chai Chai? (Tea, tea).

Why do I NOT hear the sound of a moving train! I sound like a retard eh?

That is a glimpse of the madness!
This is a glimpse of the madness!

If this was not enough, I do not have a sleeping bag with me where I am nicely tucked in, nor can I wake up my cohort with singing random songs. (I used to also open the sleeping bags of my cohort, put my cold hands on their face- that was the only way some of them would wake up! Oh and I was a facilitator, responsible for ensuring 5 people in my cohort were up and ready on time. Apart from easing the process of living in a train for 15 days!)

Continue reading How was the Yatra for you? More so, how does it feel to be back?

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