A Day on the Old Silk Route

It was long travelling distances leading to high altitude destinations, where cold winds were abundant and oxygen levels lower. For those of us travelling across North and East Sikkim, it had been a long and a tiring trip thus far. Each day of our weeklong travel through this little but important Indian state had been a different experience.

This post is part of our weeklong stay in Sikkim covering Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen – Gurudongmar- Lachung- Zero point – Rumtek – Gangtok – Nathula – Zuluk – Siliguri

Long ago, I had seen a jaw dropping photograph of the old silk-route winding and passing through Sikkim. It had since been my wish to see that view in real. The old silk-route had once served as a major trade route connecting China with the rest of Asia and Middle east. During this trip in Sikkim, we decided to drive along that scenic route during our exit from this tiny state. Hence, the route chosen by us was: Gangtok > Tsongmo/Changu lake > Nathula Pass > Nathang valley > Lungthung village > Thambi viewpoint > Zuluk >Rangpo > Siliguri

The Details:

Only Indian nationals are permitted on this stretch of East Sikkim and an inner line permit was obtained from Gangtok on the morning of our departure.

It had been a cloudy day since dawn break and the drive for the initial stretch felt pleasant as we passed through the wavering peace flags all along the highway. We learnt about the significance of these peace posts in Buddhist culture while conversing with our taxi driver. The white flags are installed in memory of a deceased person by their kith. Similarly, the multicolored flags are believed to bring good luck. Ideally, these flags are supposed to be installed high up in the mountains where the winds are stronger. The wind is believed to free-up the soul of the deceased or bring good energy, depending on the flag’s colour. With reducing space for hoisting more flags and the ease of finding a hoisting place by the roadside, it is now common to find them all along the highways of this Buddhist majority state.

Sooner, the clouds cleared up making way for a gleaming sun in the blue sky. We arrived at the Tsomgo lake in a while. It is a serene lake that is popular among the tourists. We clicked a few photos with the yaks grazing around its periphery before proceeding towards the Indo-China border at Nathula pass.

Nathula was crowded. People were amok and erratic. They had no idea what to expect at an international border. Some were standing in attention with a salute to the Indian tricolor, some were touching and praying the fence that marked the border. Some were putting their feet across the barbed wire to get a feel of going to China and a few more were busy chasing the men in uniform of the Indian army for selfies. And for us, it was a urge to run back to the warmth of the heater of our vehicle 😛 It was biting cold even during the peak of the day. We walked up to the point, saw the border gates of both India and China, the respective embassy buildings, the Chinese and the Indian army camps posted high up and also got a distant view of the mountains that marked Bhutan. We did a quick walk through, taking in all the good views and returned to our vehicle as quickly as we could.

The view enroute Nathula pass
The view enroute Nathula pass Photo credit: Varsha J.

After squeezing out of the maddening crowd at Nathula, we continued our journey towards Nathang valley, only to be stuck in one of the worst traffic jams we had experienced in Sikkim. The last and the major destination on a typical touristy circuit is the temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh. Baba Harbhajan Singh is a folklore hero and an ex-army soldier whose spirit is believed to be roaming around the place, protecting the soldiers posted at this extreme terrain. There are old and the new temples dedicated to him, both maintained by the Indian army. We managed to find our way out of the choco block and continued towards Nathang valley.

Beyond the army temple, I can conveniently say that it was just us all the way. The roads were deserted, except for some BRO trucks and excavators clearing up the landslide prone path and laying new roads. We passed through what the army claims to be world’s highest altitude golf course, several army camps and tiny discrete civilian settlements along our way. Our drive through Nathang valley, thereafter, was something beyond comprehension for our senses, it was so beautiful!

All that we had envisaged of this journey at the time of commencing this drive was passing through a viewpoint and reaching Siliguri for the night’s stay. But as the journey unfolded, we were in for surprises. That day, the clouds had embraced the valley like never before. The road that we were driving on, seemed as if it was curving around the edge of the land. It was clear blue sky with the sun beaming bright and the thick clouds engulfing the horizon. The rhododendron plants had blanketed the entire valley, which I’m sure must be a visual delight during their blooming season. We stopped, like at every half a mile to capture the landscape in our cameras, alas justice be done to what the human eyes saw.

The drive through Nathang valley
Driving through the edge, above the clouds at Nathang valley

But by late afternoon, the sun had started to descend to the horizon and the fog had taken over again. Our visibility of the road ahead and the possibility to see the view that we wanted, had both now become zero. Our driver soon pulled off our vehicle at a tiny settlement enroute to enquire for availability of a place for us to stay for the night. Lungthung is a tiny village on the valley, with barely 3-4 houses, that too made with metal sheets. By staying in a homestay there, we were going to be the only outsiders for that night at Lungthung!

The mercury level was already below zero. But as the night rolled in, the winds too got stronger. The clouds cleared up and the stars and the planets shone brighter than ever. It was our last night at Sikkim and the coldest too! Even as we sat inside the host’s dining room, relishing the handmade thenthuk, we felt like our roof was going to be taken away by the winds. No amount of firewood could keep us warm. Even if we simply stood up for a moment to adjust our seats, they would freeze again. But as I said earlier, it was our last evening at Sikkim before we got back to the grind. There was no way we would hit the bed early. We sat outside, counting stars quite literally… The sky was clear, the moon lit up the road below and a lone filament bulb illuminated a roof at a little distance. Apart from an occasional goods carrying army truck that toughed it out on the slope, there was no civilization around us for miles together… It was an experience so wonderful that we hadn’t imagined about remotely, even a few hours ago… Not in my wildest dreams, had I imagined that I would live a day of my life ON the silk-route!!

The moonlit view of the silk route as seen from Lungthung homestay
The moonlit view of the silk route and the clouds as seen from Lungthung homestay

Anyway, not really being able to sleep due to cold temperature and the noisy sheets fluttering outside our room, we still rolled into our blankets and set an alarm to wake up early. Our host at the homestay had recommended to walk down the road for sunrise…

The following morning, it was almost impossible for me to even think of coming out of the blanket. I snoozed the alarm a couple of times. But then something happened. My eyes had one glance at the window glass, and it was enough motivation for me to get my butt off the bed. It was a breaking dawn…. The sky had a streak of deep red, visible right at my window, seen from my bed…. It was for sure, unusual from any normal day. The view made me forget the cold and barge outside to not miss the complete visuals of an unfolding day… I woke my brother up and my friends and we all raced towards the viewpoint that we were told about. We didn’t mind slipping down a couple of times on the frozen roads.

The sun rising over Kanchenjunga at Thambi view point
The sun rising over Kanchenjunga at Thambi view point

At such high altitude and low temperature, the running didn’t help to warm us up. As we reached the viewpoint, we were panting for breath and had our jaws dropping. We were gasping, awestruck in amazement at the sight around us, chattering due to the freezing temperature and everything else happened to us at the same time. The moment is inexplainable!

The old silk route at Zuluk valley
The old silk route at Zuluk valley, as seen from Thambi view point during sunrise

We were standing at Thambi viewpoint and had lost the sense of place for that moment. The Kanchenjunga had lit up in crimson in just a few minutes and the winding roads through Zuluk valley appeared deep down in a while. It was a day and an experience like never before! It was our last day at Sikkim and I could only say that the best was indeed saved for the end!

This article has been featured in Deccan Herald National daily’s Travel supplement on 29-May-2022 Edition. Click here to read.

The Story of my Solo trip is an e-book now

My visit to the arid land of Spiti was my first solo trip in all sense. I have previously spoken about its beautiful landscape and the wonderful people through my blog posts. But, on a personal note this travel has been one of the most impactful trips of my lifetime. So, here is the entire story in the form of an e-book.

Through this book, I seek your company while I backpack alone on a trip to the mountains. I want you to join me when I gate crash a mountain wedding and dance to the first snow. I want company when I confront a mummy and when I visit a vault full of millennium old paintings. Stay with me as I return home with an unsettling chaos running in my tummy. As you read through the pages of this book, you can bite into the juicy apples of Kinnaur all along, walk with me meeting people and go on a virtual trip to the Spiti valley and back.

You can get your copy of the e-book on Amazon by clicking on the image or the link below:

Click on image to buy the copy of ‘My Spiti Sojourn’

Yes, I know the language could have been tuned a little more and the English, could sound a little more polished. But, due to reading the same story over and over again, a few mistakes have outflown, my humble apologies! This book had been compiled in the first covid lockdown (Apr 20) and I have been procrastinating to publish it for over a year now, even post 2nd lockdown I (Apr 21). So, finally it had to be done….. But, I promise that my intention of sharing my story and experiences from the road has been compiled to the best of my abilities. I wish you all read, enjoy your virtual trip to Spiti and share your honest thoughts about it…

Two Premier Institutes of India- A shared history

HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), Asia’s largest and India’s first aerospace establishment was founded and is headquartered in Bangalore. If you want to walk down this journey of how aviation industry has evolved in India, a visit to the HAL Aerospace Museum, India’s first aviation museum located at the HAL premises is highly recommended. From the first aircraft, Harlow PC to be assembled at its stables to manufacturing the most modern helicopters, planes and equipment for present day requirements of the Indian airfare, navy, railways and space research, HAL’s journey has been a long one. One is bound to get amused in another world by taking a walk between vintage planes, flight simulators, mock ATC and all things associated in this subject of fantasy at the museum hall. Now, this place leads me to my next destination: The IISc (Indian Institute of Science).

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An exhibit of the Pushpak aircraft at HAL

That morning, I had ordered a plate of idlis at this little restaurant on the IISc campus. Just like any other day at that restaurant, the environment was abuzz with the chitter chatter of the people I was surrounded by. A typical scene on any given day includes the best scientists of India and abroad discussing new experiments over a plate of food in what is one of the premier research institutes in the country! Irony has it that similar discussions happened under the same roof, sometime in history. But back then, the discussions were about something more strategic and destructive. It was right here that a bunch of people discussed a war plot. What is now the top-of-the-notch science and technology institution in India, served as a hub for maintenance and repairs of the aircrafts during World-War II.

In the late 1930s, a factory meant for automobile maintenance was setup by an industrialist named Walchand Hirachand in the present day IISc campus. History has it that on his way to China, Hirachand chanced upon a meeting with William D. Pawley who was attached to the Intercontinental Aircraft Corporation of New York, an American aircraft exporter. This connection lead to the procurement of the necessary tools and equipment from the US to setup an aircraft production line in India. It was in December 1940, with funds from the Mysore state, the Hindustan Aircraft Private Limited came into being. The plan was to manufacture the Harlow trainer, Hawk fighter and the Vultee attack bombers at this factory. However, this required huge manpower that was trained in Aeronautics which lead to the establishment of the department of Aeronautical engineering.

A 1942 file photo of the HAL main gate
A 1942 file photo of the HAL main gate. Photo courtesy: HAL museum gallery

The structure that housed the aeronautical engineering department was designed by German architect Otto Koenigsberger. Otto Koenigsberger was a young Jew who had fled his country during the Nazi regime and was later in time, employed as the government architect of the erstwhile Mysore state. His architectural design is an amalgamation of European and traditional Indian styles and can also be seen in the present-day metallurgical department and the hostel office on the IISc campus along with many structures across India. Talking about the aeronautical engineering building- it is an oblong structure with high ceilings and narrow corridors that integrated natural climate control. He has also designed the closed-circuit wind Tunnel, the first of its kind in India and hydrogen plant among other things that are associated with aircrafts. With all the technical back up from IISc, it was in 1941 that Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL) assembled the first aircraft in India: A Harlow PC-5.

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Meanwhile, the threat posed by Imperial Japan loomed large in the on-going World War II because of which there was a need by the British Royal Air Force to boost its military hardware supplies in Asia. With all likelihood, HAL was most suitable as a base for the South East Asia Command of the allied forces for servicing their aircrafts. Hence, all the aircraft manufacturing plans in India were abandoned to support the repair and overhaul services of the American aircrafts and the factory was eventually taken over by the US Army Air Forces in 1943. This led to rapid expansion in the facilities and became the 84th Air depot for overhaul and repair of American aircrafts during WWII. The very same hydrogen plant on the IISc premises was used as a loading dock to supply hydrogen for the American aircrafts. Later in 1964, the factory was taken over by the Government of India and has morphed into the modern-day Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in its present-day location. However, the original Aeronautical engineering department continues to contribute enormously towards research and has its own little airstrip on the present day IISc campus.

As I finished my plate of idlis, I wondered how unassuming I was. This deceptively functional place had just served my meal that had just been cooked inside a hydrogen plant that powered the military aircrafts during WWII.

This article featured in the ‘Spectrum’ supplement of Deccan Herald National daily, on February 01, 2020 edition.

Treading the living root bridges- Nongriat

As kids, we always imagined fairies with wings flying amidst colourful gardens, rope like creepers hanging across the forest thickets, rainbows emerging on the tranquil sky. Do you agree when I say this is how most of the animated movies depict fairy tales ? Nestled deep in the rich forests of Meghalaya; with NO exaggeration, that’s how I would describe this village called Nongriat!

This post is part of my fortnight long road trip across North-east India, specifically covering parts of Meghalaya – Assam – Arunachal Pradesh I had tagged along with two other travelers and drove around the state of Meghalaya visiting Shillong – Smit – Cherrapunjee – Mawlynnong – Dawki – Ribhoi- Shillong.

A pleasant drive through the breathtakingly beautiful valleys and naturally formed creepy high limestone walls brought us to a village called Tyrna in Cherrapunjee. That’s where the tarmac ends and our car had to be parked. Further, we trekked down to the Nongriat village: where the ‘Umshiang bridge’ or popularly called ‘the double decker root bridge’ exists. One needs to climb over 2500 steps each way, so that this piece of marvel can be seen at close quarters. Root bridges are created by inter-weaving the roots of the rubber tree by the tribal folks who live in the deep forests of Meghalaya for their local commute across the bloated rivers during monsoon. A bridge fit for usage can take a minimum of a couple of decades and it only gets stronger with age. There are several such living root bridges across Meghalaya and most of them continue to be untouched by the tourists due to their remoteness. We were here, to tread on some of the most popular living root-bridges of Meghalaya.

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The route to Tyrna village

Although, there is a well laid out path of stairs all the way, we thought it was wiser to have a localite who would enrich us with the facts and figures that we wouldn’t get to learn otherwise. At Tyrna, we met a Khasi villager from Nongriat who agreed upon to guide us through our trek. We passed through several sacred groves and areca farms belonging to the villagers. After decending about 1000 steps, a small deviation to the right indicated the way to Nongthymmai village. We took this deviation to reach the ‘Ritymmen root bridge’ a single bridge and another old one next to it which has taken its toll due to the negligence by the localites. Our hearts were jumping with joy at the first experience of treading on a living root bridge, that we had only read about until then… I decided to throw my shoes away for a while and enjoy the feeling of walking barefoot on the bridge.

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The Rythimmen bridge at Nongthymmai village

After spending some time, we decided to continue the trek and our new friend cum guide, continued to enlighten us about the rich traditions and culture of the Khasis. We stopped by for a quick breakfast at a straw hut selling 2-minute noodles and lemon tea. Further, a short climb of stairs continued only to be awestruck by the marvel of indigenous engineering: The double decker root bridge, the main motivation for us to trek this far. It was like fantasy out of a fairytale: creepers hanging across a little waterfall, fed by a pristine river in the middle of nowhere! It was tempting to get our feet wet as we watched a few tourists who had stayed in the Khasi homes around the root-bridge over the previous night and enjoying their swim in the cold waters. However, spending some time admiring this piece of absolute marvel, we decided to move ahead, towards our next mission: Rainbow falls!

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Entry bridge to Nongriat village

Nature’s best kept secrets are those which are untouched due to their remoteness. Rainbow waterfalls being one of those. The small number of tourists who make it till the double decker bridge seemed to have had disappeared there onwards. The tiring path ahead was going to be tiring, we were told. But, nothing comes easy.

I was doing this trip post monsoon (October to be precise) and that’s when the caterpillar larvae take wings! Like winged fairies, we were greeted and accompanied by butterflies of all colours, shapes and sizes all along the stretch from Umshiang bridge (the local name for the double-decker bridge) till the rainbow falls. We had to be extremely cautious while walking, clear the way for ourselves with a stick, lest accidentally step on these little winged beauties. The path was so full of butterflies, that it cannot be expressed with words and the joy can only be experienced. Truly, in every sense: I was Alice, walking in wonderland!

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Another root bridge enroute to Rainbow falls

It was a walk of nearly 2hours through the thickets of the sacred forests and crossing at least 5 other root bridges and a couple of metal rope bridges that were laid across the deep river that flowed down with its seductive clear blue waters. After the brisk climb, we had finally arrived at the place where a hidden jewel of nature unfolded itself, from amid the greens…

We stood there in AWE….. the green trees and bushes had opened up to display a canvas with milky white waters gracefully tumbling down into a pool of turquoise blue and a hundred fairies flying around us. A dozen spectrums added to this heavenly scenery! On a clear sunny day, there could be 50-100 spectrums around the waterfall, giving the place its name: Rainbow falls! We enjoyed a couple of hours in calm just by sitting beside the naturally formed swimming pool as we were the only people in this fairyland and restoring our lost bond with nature that was shared long ago.

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The Rainbow falls

As described by our guide, camping at the Mawsmai caves (2hours trek further) and climbing up the hill to be greeted by the Nohkalikai waterfalls, the highest waterfall in India would have been a complete story! Unfortunately, we hadn’t known much about the enchanting beauty of this trek before embarking on it and had no preparations now, to have it extended further. So now, it was well past afternoon and distance that required to be walked back was long. The sun sets early in this part of India and that meant that we had very less time of daylight left. During our return, we stopped by at another hut near the Umshiang bridge for a late lunch where we relished a simple Khasi meal of rice and bitter lime curry.

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A metal rope bridge near Rainbow falls

The walk back from there onwards was taxing and it is a very steep climb up the 2500 odd stairs.. I stopped several times at the little homes and stalls put up by the villagers on the way to keep myself hydrated with the local energy drinks and fruit juices. I cannot forget the way our guide cum friend Denzil kept motivating me to complete the stretch. He kept reducing the count of steps by hundreds so that I would climb faster with the intention of reaching the top ASAP. Finally, I was back at Tyrna, even while there was sufficient sunlight for us to drive back to Cherrapunjee.

A small deviation from Tyrna will lead one to ‘Ummunoi root bridge’ in the Laitkynsew village, one of the oldest bridges in the viscinity. It has been truly a very refreshing way to explore ‘the abode of the clouds- Meghalaya’.

Conclusion remarks:

  • For all trekking enthusiasts, a two day trek covering Laitkynsew, Nongriat, Mawsmai and Nohkalikai is highly recommended.
  • Although, we missed to trek up to the Nohkalikai falls, we made sure that we camped overnight at a spot facing this waterfall and caught the view of the sun rising over the Nohkalikai waterfalls!

Favorite memories from the year 2022

Favorite Sunsets:

  • Sitting atop the Hemkuta hill and watching the sun casting a golden touch on the Vithala temple at Hampi, India.
  • Feeling all my stress getting washed down by the waves of the blue flag beach by walking deep into the sea at Padubidri beach, India.
  • Feeling the vastness and emptiness of the world while staring at the setting sun from the ‘End Of The World’ viewpoint, Saudi Arabia.

Favorite Sunrises:

  • Clapping my hands with joy at seeing the sun rising over the ruins of Hampi at Matanga hill, India.
  • Waking up in a tent pitched by the backwaters and kayaking out to watch the rising sun on river Shambhavi, India.
  • Hiking across an extinct volcano to watch the sun rise over the Arabian desert at Wahaba crater, Saudi Arabia.

Favorite Outdoor Activities:

Accomplishing the below outdoor activities in Karnataka that I had been contemplating for many years:

  • Cliff jumping at Sanapur lake, Koppala district
  • Rock climbing at Badami, Bagalkot district
  • Kayaking to watch the Bioluminescent waters at Mulki, Dakshina Kannada district.

Favorite Hikes:

Hiked new trails, explored new waterfalls, and feasted delicious cuisines in the Western Ghats.

  • Relished a variety of wild berries, took a dip at the Catherine waterfalls, and tasted Badaga cuisine while meandering through trails in the tea gardens at Kotagiri.
  • Walked through the misty grasslands to see a dilapidated fortress, stood atop the snout of a waterfall at Bandaje, took a dip in Kodige waterfalls, and tasted Malnad cuisine at Chickmagalur.
  • Discovered untapped hiking trails, visited lesser known view points and tried natural foods from the local tribal community and saw hills full of Arabica coffee blossoms at Yercaud.

Favorite Movies:

Albeit not a movie person, 2022 was a year in which I watched the maximum number of movies at a cinema, and that too solo. Apart from catching up on some highly recommended movies on OTT platforms, I watched four movies on the big screen. These four were the regional movies whose release I had eagerly waited for and was particular about a theatrical watch only. Apart from ‘777 Charlie’ which I watched with my family; I watched three other movies in the company of just myself: Rocketry, Kantara, and Gandhadha Gudi.

Apart from these, some remarkable events made 2022 special for me.

  • A trek to Kodachadri hill on New Year’s Day was truly memorable that found me socializing with more people and making newer friends.
  • Glen’, my pet dog who was one month old at the time of entering our home and warmed up our hearts in the first week of the new year.
  • I said goodbye to my first job after serving the company for over a decade, a change that I had been long contemplating.
  • Experienced a moment of realization that I was all by myself. A realization that the contacts, the people, the respect, and the inspiration I thought I had accumulated and given to people around me could all mean just ‘Zero’. A moment of realization that trusting even the people you have known for a long could be wrong. A moment of realization that the closest people could have no emotions of empathy at all.

Are Indians less patriotic?

On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, I had come across people of several nationalities, all living in harmony and brotherhood in the country. I noticed that the people from the larger Indian sub-continent are greatly respected by the locals irrespective of their nationality. By the Indian subcontinent I mean, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and to somewhat an extent, Sri Lanka. Everybody shares a common language, ethnicity, and identity of being an “Indian”. During my stay there, I witnessed National festival celebrations of three countries including Pakistan’s Independence Day, Indian Independence Day, and Saudi National day (Independence Day).

Celebrating Pakistan’s National festival:

I arrived in Saudi on 13th August’22. It was the first day of my presence in a new country, I was all excited to get acquainted with my neighborhood. But, I was suffering from a headache due to lack of sleep. Hence, I just identified a mall, some Indian restaurants, and a few grocery stores nearby for availing emergency items and called it a day.

On the 14th morning, I noticed that a big Pakistani flag was hung in a shop located right in front of the hotel where I was staying. It indicated that the store was owned/run by a Pakistani citizen, and they were celebrating Pakistan’s 75th Independence Day. For me, it came as a surprise that another country’s flag was allowed to be displayed publicly. But what piqued my interest more was meeting a Pakistani national for the first time. It needs no explanation that any form of free communication between the people of India and Pakistan isn’t accepted in both nations when we are residing in our respective countries. I decided to buy a small flag as a souvenir to mark my first meeting with any Pakistani person in my lifetime. Hence, I crossed the road and entered the large textile store.

Ranging from bangles, frocks, cufflinks, brooches, keychains, and flags, there were several Pakistani National day themed knickknacks available for purchase. The shopkeeper asked me what I was looking for. I asked him to give me the smallest available replica of the Pakistani national flag in the thought that I could paste it in my personal journal/ scrapbook. But, there was none in the size that could fit into my book. He showed me some of the other accessories available, and I informed him that none could be used in my country. A little surprised, he asked me where I was from. I told him that I was from India. Learning of my interest in buying a Pakistani flag as a souvenir excited him. He happily handed over a small stack of miniature flag stickers into my hands and asked me to keep them all, for which he refused to accept any money. He wished me in advance for India’s Independence Day and I returned the greetings for his country’s special day before leaving his shop.

Celebrating India’s National festival:

It was 15th August on the following morning, a day that India was celebrating as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ back home on her 75th Independence Day. That day, there was no sight of any Indian flag hanging anywhere outside on the streets. I decided to seize the opportunity to explore the neighborhood a little more in the name of adding an Indian national flag to my journal in memory of my first Indian national festival celebration, outside of India. I walked into a few Indian textiles stores asking them if they had any Indian flags to which they responded with a negative. I walked into a few Indian restaurants to check if they had anything on display or if they could give me any leads to where I could find one. A few of them asked me the purpose of why I was searching for an Indian flag. When I told them that I wanted to use it as a souvenir, they either smiled or had a smirk on their faces. They must have wondered that I was some crazy woman walking freely on the streets of Saudi in search of my country’s independence.

None of them had any clue where I could find one. In the pursuit of an Indian National flag in Saudi Arabia, I wandered across a few streets walking over 9800 steps as indicated in the activity tracker on my smartphone. After concluding it to be a futile attempt to find an Indian tricolor, I decided to head back to my hotel. During my return, my eyes fell on a stationary shop and I decided to give it a last try. There was an Indian storekeeper who smiled upon hearing my inquiry. He took me to the section where a bundle of small plastic flags was kept. I asked for one flag for which he charged me 2 SAR without a bill. I came out of the shop all happy after a successful hunt at exactly the 10,000th step in the activity tracker, only to realize that I was standing just a few yards away from my hotel and that I had searched all over to find a little flag.

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Indian National flags at the stationary store

Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National festival:

It was a long weekend due to the Saudi National day celebration on the 23rd of September. I was in Riyadh, the country’s administrative capital where several ceremonies were scheduled for the observance of the National day. The entire city was lit up and decorated with the theme of the Saudi national flag, which I was told was the case throughout the country. The level of public involvement and the fervor with which a national day is celebrated in Saudi was something that I felt missing back in my country on a national festival.

At the end of the National day celebrations, I and a few others who had accompanied me for the weekend were at the airport terminal in Riyadh, waiting for our return flight. We noticed that all staff working at the airport and the shops were wearing representative brooches or sashes. By then, I had realized that I had the national flags of two countries as souvenirs with a backstory of how I got them. I didn’t want to miss out on adding one from Saudi to the collection because that’s where I was to celebrate the national days of all three countries in 2022. I asked one of the staff about where I could get one for myself and that’s it. She got a sash not just for me, but one for each person who had accompanied me. Her colleagues and she were extremely excited to give us the sashes and click selfies with us wearing them. And any money offered in exchange was refused to be taken, as they called it a gift for us from them.

Conclusion remarks:

Sitting back on my flight, I was trying to recollect my experience of how a national festival was perceived by three different countries. As a foreigner, I was given a gift (free of cost) by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with excessive excitement. Whereas, being an Indian, I expected myself to be warmly greeted by a fellow Indian on foreign soil and share the same enthusiasm to wish each other on India’s national festival. Instead, I bought an Indian flag from an Indian (it was a small cost by any reference, that could be waived off). It was not the free item I was seeking, but at least an Indian to be able to guide me to a place where I could get Indian products. The expectation was to meet another Indian who shared the same excitement to celebrate India’s festival as that of a Saudi or a Pakistani.

Are we Indians less patriotic? What are your thoughts?

Annual Summary

What is life without a bucket list and what is life without celebrating little accomplishments? It is important to be grateful for big successes and for the small joys.

Here’s a gratitude post summarizing each year of mine for the good things that have happened with me.

Lessons Learnt by a Trek Leader

Who is a leader? One who holds the group; One who owns the group; One who carries a group.

‘A team may have members with varied backgrounds, thinking ways, and cultures. But a leader is someone who despite the difference, is expected to maintain cohesiveness and lead the way to the success of the team. The quality of a good leader is being fearless, able to face challenges, and remaining unshaken.’ This is what we would define, and every other personality development trainer would teach.

But are we ever taught to think that like all members of a team, a leader is also human? Are we made to think about why even the best leader can fail? Are we taught to ask the leader if they had a good day?

To answer these questions, I would like to take the reference of my personal experience in this aspect and break the discussion into two parts. First, I would like to list the aspects of leadership I have learnt by taking on a role of a trek leader since 2019. In the second, I would like to discuss the realizations made while reflecting upon the situations that were created that brought me closer to a meltdown in 2022.

Part 1: Being a trek leader

There were times when I had to adjust. Once, while on our way to Kodachadri, our bus broke down. In the middle of the night, I had to stand on a highway and wave at every other bus that came our way which could accommodate the entire group. finally, when we managed to find a bus, there were two seats. I, being a trek leader had to adjust and sit on a crammed floor of a traveler just so that the rest of the team had the comfort of the seats so that they all could sleep well and save energy to complete the hike successfully on the following day.

There were times I had to carry. When a team member fell with an epileptic attack, when someone sprained their ankle or a bunch of new trekkers was all bogged down by the weight of their backpacks right in the middle of a trail, I have had to support them.

There were times when I had to convince others. The worst thing that can go wrong on a trip is to have all four tyres of your vehicle flat. With a group of thirty people, it was no joke to be stranded on a village road at midnight. When all attempts to find alternate transportation was futile, it was a leader who had to convince the team to agree into taking a tractor ride to the destination.

There were times when I had to hold the team together. When a murder took place right in front of the team, the morale of every member was shattered. Nor was I, being a trek lead prepared to face something like that. But I had to hold them all in decent spirits let not the visuals and the fear take over the minds of the remaining members.

I have had to control. Control the schedule, control the people who deviated from the rules, channel conversations and involve everyone to participate in the group.

I have had to assure anxious parents to trust me with their daughters’ safety while traveling with me and I had to assure unsure solo travelers about their apprehensions to backpack with a leader who was unknown to them. All to only come back after the trip and receive positive testimonials about me.

Being unbiased with the age, gender, caste, and economic strata with whom I interact, I have been told that I inspired people (in many ways that I do not know). My no-fuss, no allergy, and ever-willingness to try any food that looks new and the ability to snooze in any space when I am sleepy solves half the problem and makes it easy for people to connect with me, I have been told. I have been confident in my ability to adapt to absolutely any environment and figure out a way to make it a memorable journey. I have always believed that my ability to adapt and connect to people on an individual level has been my strength.

I have always believed that successful people should be able to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. No human is perfect and without shortcomings. But a true leader will work on the weaknesses and not let them bog him/her down. With an awareness of what makes him/her weak, it allows one to be better prepared to oversee a situation that might arise posing the same threats. This self-awareness is vital to being a confident leader.

Part 2: When a leader is shaken

What does it look like when the confidence of a leader is broken, when the leader is made to feel that he/she has always been wrong about himself/herself? How does it feel when the leader is made to feel that he/she was never correct?

A recent personal experience of a series of events dragged me to the edge of having an emotional breakdown. When I sat back and reflected upon the decisions, I had made in the past year which had finally gotten me to where I was at the time of this meltdown, there was a lot of self-realization I made. None of which pointed towards any evident wrong decision-making ability of mine but to the situations that were created for me to act.

Cut to August 2022, I was on an overseas business trip to a country which is considered to be on the conservative side compared to the rest of the world. I had been accompanied by a team of seven men and one girl. Despite being with such a large group, I was hit by a feeling of abandonment. It was a feeling of being unavailable for and by the people of my tribe when I needed it and of being restricted from physically going out to do things that made me happy.

It had shaken me so much that I used to have emotional meltdowns at the drop of the hat. I had begun to reanalyze and doubt all my decisions made in the last year, the on-goings, and the future ahead created by my own decisions. The situation brought with it, my inability to trust human beings in the same way that I did until stepping into the new land. I had failed as a person and all my leadership skills learnt over the last few years felt void, if it needs to be put in that perspective. All I needed was an anchor to bank myself in a land unknown across the ocean.

To me in this case, it was my boss at work who put on the hat of a leader. After spending a few weeks by then in the new country, it was the first ever interaction I was having with my boss. It was the first face-to-face interaction between us and the most basic question for any conversation to begin, I was asked about how I was doing in the new country. The most basic and simplest of questions had me shaken and the accumulated dam of emotions was broken. A word of assurance that there was someone to look up to was all I needed to get back on track, and this was one such. It was an interaction post which, I was alright and back in form to continue with my regular duties.

Lessons learnt from a leader: The first two may be generic, it is to have a good personal relationship at work or off work. The third lesson is specific to the workplace.

• A leader should be available for his team always. Whether or not related to work, it is essential to build a relationship of trust with the teammates.
• Keep clear and timely communications within the team. Whether there is a work update or not, communicate to stay connected.
• Assign clear work roles, and expectations, and follow up on progress.

Takeaways on a personal level:

• Any leader can be shaken. They too are human.
• In the end, nobody but only you will remain to care for yourself.
• Whether you see a person happy or strong, a greeting and a smile at a stranger cost you nothing but it can heal a person.

Pamper Your Heart By Visiting These Dubai Famous Attractions

Dubai and its wide range of fascinating attractions, make it an outstanding addition to your travel bucket. With plenty of hair rising experiences, one can have a time of their life at this Arabian delight. Pamper your heart, by visiting the museum on illusion, known for its over 60 exhibits and to trick your minds, with the optical illusions displayed through different patterns, colors and holograms. At night time visit the Dubai glow garden, which has an extravagant theme, of ecstatic display and attraction made with biodegradable time such as CD, fabrics and energy saving LED bulbs.

Another extravagant addition to your travel bucket, is the Dubai miracle garden. The garden has plenty of floral exhibits, made into humongous structures. Discover the Emirates A380 Flights and the floral clock, which are made with fresh floral species. Lastly, have a time of your life, by visiting the Dubai global village, which highlights the cultural integrity of more than 95 countries and their attractions.

Some of the other places you can explore in Dubai are:

  1. MOTF – The museum of the future is one of the most fascinating attractions in Dubai. The museum of the future has three different levels that render plenty of captivating missions, discoveries and inventions that will keep you intrigued throughout your tour. One of the most extraordinary additions is the Amazon rainforest, which has splendid screens displaying upcoming climatic changes of our planet. This will definitely make you come back for more. On the second floor, one can find technological marvels, and digital inventions that highlight the exquisite future of the youth. The museum of the future, also has 3 fabulous exhibitions, ‘Future Heroes’- Imagine, Design and Build on the 1st floor which has hair rising exhibits that you can admire. The DNA library at the MOTF, is where you will find out about endangered species. Take a tour of the entire museum and discover its awesome interiors, which have 77 meter dome shaped exteriors. This is considered one of the biggest examples of modern engineering and makes you marvel over the exemplary work of architecture as well.
  2. Global Village Dubai – The global village Dubai, is another striking attraction that celebrates the cultural integrity and the splendid rituals of all different traditions across the world. Spread across an area of 160000 hectares, this mega project is considered one of Dubai’s most successful recreational centers, combining tourism, leisure activities and entertainment projects, in a unique and memorable extravaganza. As you enter into the global village Dubai, enjoy around 40,000 live entertainment and cultural shows that are perfect for kids and adults. There are more than 75 countries that the global village of Dubai throws light upon. Discover mini replicas of some of the world’s most celebrated heritage locations such as Taj Mahal and the colosseum. All the enlightening performances, performed by classic acrobats are a must watch. The iconic attraction has a wide range of rides, that will take you upto soaring heights which will have you screaming your lungs out. Discover the cultural food of different nations, and make thousands of amazing memories with your loved ones.
  3. Miracle Garden Dubai – The incredible Miracle Dubai garden is another fabulous attraction that makes Dubai so popular. The miracle garden has millions of different florals that are used to resemble some of the most iconic structures that you will ever witness. As you enter into the garden, you will find the A380 flight which is made up of five hundred thousand live flowers and plants, making it one of the largest floral exhibits to beaver made. As you delve deeper, you will find out the floral clock which is 15 meters in circumference, the garden exhibits dynamic floral designs and arrangements. You will definitely be intrigued by the meticulous and intricate designs that has been installed in this attraction. At times, you will find awesome dance performances, and a wide range of displays of amusing floral species. Also post the life sized hearts, butterflies and other such fasting floral exhibits. Learn more about these intriguing floral exhibits and the way they keep changing throughout different seasons, times and more.
  4. Museum of Illusions – The museum of illusions is another extravagant attraction that promises to make your Dubai venture even more incredible. Inside this museum, one will find a splendid range of exhibits that will definitely blow your mind. The extraordinary optical illusions have been created in crazy ways to make you question the science behind it. There are over 60 exhibits, which promise to trick your mind and senses. The plenty of mind-bending exhibits, optical illusions, holograms, stereograms as well as a playroom with puzzles that will marvel at such artistic qualities. The Rotated room is where you can take 80degree upside down photos, while the room settings remain on the ground. The optical illusion wall has images, with colors, lights and patterns that will trick your mind. The hologram exhibit has 3D images that portray outstanding images. The head on the platter exhibits where the tourists can click fun pictures, with their heads that appear to be inside a large box above the table. Sit on the illusion chair and trick others with your captivating small size instantly.
  5. Dubai Garden Glow – The Dubai glow garden is a one of its kind attraction that can be best enjoyed during late night ventures in Dubai. The garden has present exhibits of a variety of humongous artistic displays, which are made with light saving bulbs, and recycled fabrics. Such fantastic attraction and the conservation of energy theme behind it, makes it a fabulous attraction to explore in your tour. The entire park has mini replicas of world’ biggest landmarks and heritage attractions, but made with biodegradable items and LED energy saving lighting. Inside the park, you will find out, art park, which has a total of about 5,00,000 pieces of recyclable stuff, like CDs, put into beautiful displays that you can admire. Above the magic park, ice park and dinosaur park, made with awe-inspiring lighting that will make our night light up.

Famous Attractions in Singapore That You Must Checkout

Singapore is a place of technological marvels and skyscrapers. With the highly illuminated lights that dance around at night, showcasing the contemporary building, it almost feels like the stars have descended here. Singapore is well-known for its quick development, as well as the numerous opulent hotels with breathtaking views that are being developed there as well as new and beautiful retail malls.

There are numerous clubs that will have you moving, as well as a vibrant nightlife that you can enjoy with your friends. In the middle of all modernity, Singapore boasts a number of nature trails. At the Botanical Gardens and Pulau Ubin, you may explore Singapore’s verdant side. Budget-conscious tourists should definitely visit this location because there are numerous amenities that will make you feel at home.

Singapore is home to a wide variety of attractions, including neighborhood dive bars, busy temples, verdant gardens, and cheap marketplaces. Scroll down this list if you’re seeking for the ideal location to visit in Singapore.

Singapore Night Safari

By exposing visitors to the residents’ nocturnal lifestyles, Singapore Night Safari gives the classic zoo experience a fresh spin. There are four distinct habitat areas in the park, each with a route that allows you to see these secretive critters going about their “day.”

In addition to the expected presence of leopards on the Leopard Trail, additional wildlife include lions, flying foxes, civets, and porcupines. The pangolin, binturong, and other common and endangered species are among the native Singaporean creatures whose habitats are visited on the Fishing Cat Trail. Malayan tigers and spotted hyenas are featured on the East Lodge Trail, and the Wallaby Trail educates tourists to Australia’s marsupials.

There are private excursions, buggy rides, informative seminars, as well as once-in-a-lifetime experiences like a feeding session for Asian elephants, available.

Jurong Bird Park

The largest bird park in Asia, Jurong Bird Park, is home to more than 5000 birds representing almost 400 different species. The Waterfall Aviary, which covers 20.2 hectares and is the largest walk-in aviary in the world, is the main attraction.

Gardens by the Bay

Many people have heard about and admire this location. Every traveller should put it on their bucket list. Gardens by the Bay, a well-liked tourist destination, will take you to a fantastical location. The magnificent Supertree Grove, which is located in Marina Bay, is at its most stunning at night.

You have the sensation that you are in a magical location while you are there. There are numerous places to see, such as Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. This elevates the experience to genuinely outstanding. There are three sections of the Gardens by the Bay complex: the centre, east, and south. When the trip becomes too exhausting, you can use the promenade to pause and grab a snack or a cup of coffee.

Little India and Arab Street

Little India and Arab Street are well-known tourist destinations. You’ll feel quite at home there, apart from the busy metropolis, among its quaint shops, inviting cafes, and old-fashioned mosques. Arab Street is renowned for its distinctive architecture and marketplaces. It also serves genuine Arabian cuisine.

During the colonial era in Singapore, there was an Indian community known as Little India. Little India includes a wide range of markets, Mosques, and upscale retail opportunities, similar to the Arabian Streets. The most well-known Hindu temple you can visit is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, and there are also eateries serving Indian food.

Singapore Flyer

Singapore is best viewed from the air. You see the entire city from the air. Consider making a stopover plan. Or you might just sit still and observe the sun go down (if you are lucky enough to be there at sunset). Asia’s largest enormous wheel, the Singapore Flyer, which is essentially an observation wheel that reaches 165 metres.

The flyer gives you a look at the technology that powers the vehicle as well as a brief overview of Singapore’s past. It’s a good idea to brush up on your information throughout the travel. This location offers breathtaking views of the Singapore skyline, Gardens by the Bay, the F1 track, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other regions of Malaysia.

Universal Studios

Sentosa Island, an exciting tourist destination in Singapore, is home to Universal Studios. Unquestionably, this is one of the most well-liked destinations for family vacations. The ideal spot to go for a day of fun is Universal Studios. There are several eateries, cafes, and retail spaces that serve delectable cuisine and provide entertainment.

You can also go to Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” to take pictures with well-known movie stars. Additionally, you can go to the “Walk of Fame” to take pictures with famous people. The Lost World of Dinosaurs, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt Zone, and many other attractions and events at Universal Studios will keep you engaged.

Botanical Gardens

It is highly recommended to visit Singapore’s Botanical Gardens. You will feel rejuvenated after visiting this charming location with so many beautiful green areas. The first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Singapore is this garden. There are indigenous and rare species there. Lover of the outdoors will adore this well-known tourist destination. The national flower of Singapore, the orchid, can be found inside the park.

The Botanic Gardens also have a number of lakes that are home to ducks and swans. This is the ideal location for admiring Mother Nature’s splendour and unwinding to the calming sounds of birds, wind, trees, and swans. Popular places to escape the busy metropolis include this Park.

Chinatown

In the midst of the busy market, China Town is vibrant and alive. A trip to Singapore without stopping through China Town is considered incomplete. The colourful shops offering traditional Chinese goods are found everywhere in this bustling resort, along with its authentic Chinese cuisine, bright red lanterns, and bustling streets.

Additionally, the area is home to the magnificent Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple. These are two of the most well-liked attractions of China Market. To top it all off, you must visit Thian Hock Keng, one of Singapore’s most vibrant Chinese temples. The oldest temple in Singapore is this one, which the Chinese constructed in 1820.

Singapore Zoo

A fantastic site to visit is the Singapore Zoo. You will be astounded by the variety of rare and stunning species that call its confines home. A terrific spot to take the family is the Singapore Zoo. Giraffes are among the 300 species that it is home to. To accommodate various animal habitats, various zones have been made.

Polar bears, racoon dogs, and other arctic animals live on the frozen tundra. Insects and beetles abound in the lush rainforest that occupies Fragile Forest. In Fragile Forest, flying foxes can also be spotted. Lion-tailed Macaques and Java Langurs can be found in Primate Kingdom. It’s a terrific idea to spend the day at the Singapore Zoo. Numerous additional activities are available, including the Splash Safari Show, the Orangutan Exhibit, and the Jungle Breakfast.

Changi Museum

Singapore’s Changi Museum is a well-liked attraction. More information about those whose history involved Japanese occupation during World War II can be found here. The museum conveys a narrative through its pictures, sketches, and letters. With a gift store and chapel in the middle, the museum can be divided into five sections. Each zone has a number of murals that Bombardier Stanley Warren meticulously recreated from the originals. The Changi Museum also offers audio tours that you can take. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall and the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum are also noteworthy institutions.

S.E.A Aquarium

For both kids and adults, the spectacular SEA Aquarium on Sentosa Island is a fascinating and instructive attraction. More than 100,000 marine creatures are housed in this welcoming environment for families. Sharks, turtles, and bottlenose dolphins are just some of the magnificent marine creatures you will encounter on this trip.

In addition to the incredible aquatic life at the aquarium, the complex has other other attractions. Dolphin Island offers encounters with dolphins that are interactive. To swim with many different predator species, including sting rays and manta rays, you can also dive into the Shark Seas Habitat. A trip to the SEA Aquarium will be an amazing experience during your tour of Singapore.

Changi Beach

One of the best things to do in Singapore is take a day trip to Changi Beach. The oldest park in Singapore is the beach park. Between Changi Point (Changi Ferry Road) and Changi Point sits the calm 28-hectare beach known as Changi Beach (Changi Ferry Road). A 3.3 km long park is present. This tourist destination provides a range of entertaining pastimes, such as a stroll along the beach on a nice day.

Here, you may also take your family on picnics. And from there, you can even see the sunset. A excellent place for camping and BBQ gatherings is Changi Beach. Nearby is Bistro@Changi, a restaurant. Changi Village offers a wide variety of tasty seafood alternatives.

Are you rich?

You know what rich people do?

They make their money earn for them. A series of wise and sensible investments in form of real estate, development of existing real estate, deposits, shareholdings in companies, etc. People who were born with money or born rich enough are made known that it takes an effort to stay rich. Rich people have a strong enough financial backup if things go awry. It’s okay to lose a little money in the name of learning because they can afford not to repeat it.

What do people who become rich in a short duration do?

Spend their money on things and experiences they might not have had previously. They spend it like water without a thought for saving up for contingency, because they are blinded by the glitz and glamour the short fortune is showing them. They become used to the artificial sense of being rich and try to fit among the actually rich people, regardless of their personal financial background. So one fine day, when the income stops or rather their luxuries surpass their income, hell breaks loose, because they weren’t prepared for the struggle of remaining rich without a strong financial backing.

Salaried people without any strong financial background are more prone to the above scenario, when they start earning more than they what they expected in a short period of time. Not necessarily salaried people, there are lots of other people who can be like this. They fall into fake reality of being rich wherein, they are living their life on a month to month basis, solely dependent on their salary.

If you ask me which one I belong to, I honestly don’t know. I am a citizen of Bangalore born to working parents (pure middleclass upbringing). I never have money, yet I’ll have a little.

Bioluminescent Experiences in Karnataka

Karnataka is “One State Many Worlds, without a doubt! To explore a different aspect of travelling through this beautiful state, I take you on a path that is en-Lightening, in literal sense- ‘Bioluminescence’. Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring phenomenon of production and emission of light in living organisms. Apart from the visual treat to senses that they offer, the presence of these organisms can tell a lot about our environment as well.

With the Arabian Sea forming the entire coastal belt and the Western Ghats forming most of the green-cover of Karnataka, it is easy to witness bioluminescence anywhere in the state. Traversing a path from the southern rainforests of the state to the northern plainlands through the coastal beaches across all the seasons, here is a list of the different kinds of bioluminescence that one can experience in Karnataka.

  1. Fireflies: An aerial illumination for spectators, these insects produce light to attract a potential mate. Abundant during the months of pre-monsoon showers and summers, the untouched sacred groves and the organic farms of Kodagu and Malenadu offer a post sunset visual delight. A good number of fireflies indicates the good soil and air quality.
  2. Bioluminescent planktons: These light emitting micro-organisms are present in the sea water. They produce a greenish-blue light when disturbed. This means, they produce light irrespective of day or night but can be seen with normal eyes after dark. These glowing waters can be viewed at their brightest best on a no-moon night between two consecutive monsoon months. But what is not the brighter about it is the fact that the brighter the sea glows due to these planktons, the poorer is the health of the sea water.
  3. Bioluminescent fungi: This can be the hardest find of them all. Enter the core of the rainforest during the peak of the monsoon season, with a slow and careful walk and without use of any torch or flashlights. Only if you are lucky, you can spot these glowing sticks or the fallen barks covered by the glowing fungi. Documented sightings have been found in Karnataka, but I’m sure the Western Ghats are home to more species of luminant mushrooms.
  4. Glow worms: These are larvae of some insects that can be largely found along the banks of streams, rivers and under the foliage on moist ground. An indication of healthy soil, these worms emit light to ward off predators and visually offering a delight to the human eyes.

Have you witnessed any other bioluminescent experiences? Are there any specific place that you wish to share your stories about? Do let me know in comments below!

A Rare Connection of Hockey Between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

I have been fortunate to meet many like-minded people online, through travel blogging. Recently, I happened to meet one of such friends offline, during his visit to Bangalore. He greeted me with a souvenir, a nice palm leaf box containing chikkis. He explained that it was the ‘panai olai petti’ containing the famous candies from his hometown. After I returned home, a little bit of online browsing about this souvenir unfolded some interesting facts for me.

The palm leaf box containing the Kovilpatti chikki
The palm leaf box containing the Kovilpatti chikki

Talking about the southern states of India, two neighbours have a lot in common. What triggered this thought were the names of places starting with the letter ‘K’, one from each state. Kodagu and Kovilpatti from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively. Meanwhile, the ‘C’ is what makes these two ‘K’ places famous. ‘Cauvery’, the holy river originates in Kodagu and ‘Chikkis’, the peanut candies of Kovilpatti has earned a GI tag for itself. Enough is written and done on the internet about either of the places.

Palm leaf boxes of Kovilpatti mithai being Repurposed as planters
Palm leaf boxes of Kovilpatti mithai being Repurposed as planters

But what turned out to be more surprising and a rather rare connection between the two ‘K’ places of these states is their common love for the National sport of India- Hockey. In my earlier post, I have mentioned how the largest festival in the world dedicated for any sport (hockey) is celebrated in Kodagu. But what I learn now is that Kovilpatti too, shares its history with Indian military and the influences of the British to have a strong hockey culture. With at least a dozen hockey clubs and several players making it to the Indian national team over time, the people of Kovilpatti have an unabated enthusiasm for the national sport.

What I do know is, that there are several other lesser-known places in India where people celebrate sports other than cricket. Only initiatives by governments, support from sponsors and adequate media publicity can encourage and motivate more people to nurture a sporting culture in our country, anything other than cricket.

I Belong to Everywhere: Uttarahalli

This is an attempt to bring back nostalgia. Continued from- “I Belong to Everywhere: Napoklu

‘Uttarahalli’ translates to ‘Northern Village’ in Kannada. The irony is, it is located in the southern-most part of Bangalore. This is the current place of residence of my family and is also the last post in this series. This home seems like a perfect retirement plan for a family that seeks a little bit of nature in the midst of a bustling metropolitan city.

With very little vacant space available, my parents try to grow their own vegetables and fruits, welcome birds and squirrels to have meals with them and sip their ‘kaapi’ while watching the sun go down. These are some among many other things they do to keep themselves running through the day.

The sparrows in my portico
The sparrows in my portico

The area is soaked in rich history as well.. While the ‘Vasantha Vallabharaya swamy temple’ dates back to the Chola era, an adjacent cave is believed to be the place where Rishi Mandavya had meditated.

The Turahalli forest is a small patch of lung space nearby, that joggers, cyclists, conservationists and the realtors all seem to have an eye on!

The latest addition to the landmarks is ISKCON’s ‘Krishna Leela theme park’ located on the Vaikunta hill. The sunrises and rainbows on cloudy days are mesmerizing, adding a backdrop to the view of this temple from my doorstep.

Annual fair of Vasanthavallabha temple, Vasanthapura, Bangalore

This is the last post of this series: “I Belong to Everywhere“. I hope you all have enjoyed time travelling with me hopping on- and off from Bangalore to Kodagu. Which place did you like the most? What place would you want to go after reading my posts? What more do you want to know about, from these places?

getting lost in traveling through places and time…

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