There are no rules to how you can or should create a professional and personal life around travelling. For artists Sergey Balovin and Claudia Beccato for instance, exchanging and appraising art has given them different opportunities to travel the world. Meanwhile, for filmmaker Rahul Datta, it is through travelling that he gets to observe and tell stories from different parts of the planet.
Today, these and many other similar opportunities exist for online gamers as well. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common to find digital nomads whose work revolves around streaming games. Whether you want to make online gaming your primary source of revenue or use it as a fun way to support existing online work, here are some things you need to take note of before making the jump.
First things first: you can’t be a travelling online gamer without the right hardware and software. Twitch streamer John Morton in a guide to streaming on the road lists the essential tools you’ll need to do the job right. Apart from your standard streaming gear such as a gaming laptop, headphones, and mic, this includes either a pocket WiFi or cellular data plan – ideally with upload speeds of around 10 to 15 Mbps. If you’re planning on travelling to and working in a place with Internet, this is the minimum speed you need to look for in order to avoid lag and ensure a consistent stream.
You will also need a fast smartphone that can run streaming apps like Twitch or Streamlabs. Furthermore, you’ll also want a phone with a decent camera for streaming travel-related content apart from just your gaming. You never know what type of original content you might be able to make relative to the destination you’re planning to travel to, which brings us to our next point.
Wherever you want to work and live in the world, some places are simply more suited to digital nomads than others. Right here in India, Euronews reveals how places like Varkala and Darjeeling offer both gorgeous beaches and natural mountain landscapes as well as plenty of locations for working online. Further east, Vietnam is emerging to be one of the top places in Asia for online gaming. A study by Niko Partners and Google even predicted that Vietnam’s e-sport market will hit a 28 percent five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR), the highest in Southeast Asia. Coupled with an ExpatBets guide to living in Vietnam detailing how cities like Nha Trang and Vung Tau are not only affordable and safe, but also offer tons of activities and living options for foreigners, it is no wonder the country is becoming an online gaming mecca. Meanwhile, in Europe, the subtropical archipelago of Madeira in Portugal is also emerging to be a hub for digital nomads, which can be attributed to combined development efforts from private and government organisations.
In addition, these locations are known to be friendly to gaming and digital nomad cultures as well, which means that travelling online gamers are more likely to find amiable working and living situations. Just make sure to respect the local culture, particularly when it comes to social norms surrounding filming, gaming in public spaces, clothing, and keeping noise to a minimum. If you can observe these precautions and the other aforementioned advice, there’s no shortage of places in the world where you can safely and successfully live out your dreams of being a travelling online gamer.Reading Time: 5 minutes
In the early 2020, before the COVID era, I was on a mission to explore Gokarna on my motorbike.
I found a place to stay in one of the beaches and it was a perfect location to explore and create the trip I was planning. Every day I would take my bike out and explore some remote part of the small Gokarna town and its many beaches.
One such day, I took a dirt side road towards the beach, parked my bike in a safe place and there I found it, at the end of the road - A giant!
A Honda African Twin!
Well, it is definitely a giant motorbike compared to my 150cc bike.
It was safely parked on the side of the road and covered with a sheet. But two side boxes were projecting out from the rear end and I could see a foreign number plate. Since I couldn't find the owner anywhere nearby, I decided to resort to the virtual world.
There was a sticker on the side box saying @motomogli, pointing to an Instagram account.
I checked the Instagram page and it said 'exploring the world with my cat, one ride at a time'.
That was my introduction to Martin- the man, Mogli- the cat and their machine- the motorbike. I then sent a DM in admiration and went ahead to explore the beach.
In a couple of days I almost forgot about this incident and I continued with my Gokarna exploration plans.
One day while I was looking for a place to eat lunch, I found a small shack slightly away from the road, almost hidden from an outsider's eyes. The only indication that it served food was the pictures of fish and chicken displayed on a small discolored placard.
There was no one eating but anyway I took a risk against the general rule of thumb.
After all I was exploring the area!
While I was eating there, to my surprise, came the same Honda African Twin!
Like a true traveler, Martin was exploring this small place which was probably not even on the google maps. And that was the beginning of our acquaintance.
Over our lunch, I came to know that Martin is from Germany and along with his cat Mogli they were doing a cross-continental motorbike road trip.
Martin found Mogli on a cold evening in March 2017, during one of his motorcycle trips, on the side of the road when she lost her mother in a car accident. Martin took care of the then couple of months old 'European Shorthair' and later named her Mogli.
The next day, Martin didn't want to leave the cat all alone, but he was in the middle of a motorbike trip. So he had to figure out a way.
As an experiment, he took the cat on his bike inside his tank-bag and went for a short ride. After the initial nervousness, Mogli learned how to behave well and travel on a motorcycle staying inside the tank bag.
Thus the journey of 'motomogli' started.
The tank bag became the first home for this cat. She would stay inside her home while they move, occasionally come out to see the sights. When the speed increases, she makes her way back to her home and sleeps.
Martin keeps treats for her all the time in the side box of the bike. They both found a way to work things out during the long motorbike journeys.
Though Martin says it is not very easy to travel with a cat around the world.
It was on the 24th of August in 2017, they started their trans-continental motorbike adventure. From Rosenheim, Germany, the epic journey found its way through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Iran and finally they reached UAE. In between these points, they had about 13,000 km and 3.5 months of exciting journey.
In UAE, Martin decided to take a small break in the company of his best friend who lived in Dubai. During this break, Martin did fix his bike, finished paperwork for upcoming countries , found a job, worked for sometime and replenished his travel budget.
After 7 months in Dubai, he was back on the road once again. This time he was headed towards the Himalayas. He explored the mighty Himalayas on the Pakistan side and Indian side. But an unfortunate accident temporarily brought their travel plans to a halt.
Martin and Mogli had to settle in a small cottage at the foothills of Himalayas. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Martin started penning down his experience to create a book.
When their visa was about to expire, they shifted to Pokhara in Nepal and continued the writing.
By the end of 2019, he started travelling and this time towards south India. That is how I met him in the early 2020 in Gokarna. He was proof reading and getting the book ready for printing at that time.
His plan after Gokarna was to go to Mangalore, Bangalore and then to Kerala and then to the southern most point of India.
This is what Martin said about his plan.
"In March 2020 after 31 months away from home, 50,000 km and 16 countries, we've reached Kerala, a day's ride away from the most southern point of the Indian Subcontinent."
But the world has other plans! Nation wide lock down started due to COVID-19! That meant lock down for Martin and Mogli as well.
So from March 2020, Martin and Mogli is in Kerala living with some lovely Malayali family. When the lock down rules have loosened a bit, they went out for a few trips. Other than that, they were staying in one place surrounded by some lovely people, without knowing what next.
But after a few months of wait, finally on December 21, 2020 when things became slightly normal finally Martin and Mogli were able to reach the southern tip of India, Kanyakumari!
It took them 3 years, 4 months, 16 countries and 53600 km!
Probably the first question that comes to mind when you hear about 3 year long almost contionous travelling is that how do they manage to do that? How are they sustaining such a travel lifestyle.
Here is what Martin's answer when I asked him this question for this post.
"There is not a single answer to it and I kinda take things as they come. So to begin with I worked 2 jobs in Germany, then 2 jobs in Dubai, when I was in Uttarakhand I wrote a book and now I'm building up my web shop. Some people also support me with donations and then I generally try to live cheap. Best way to travel cheap is to travel slow. "
Now you know one way to create and sustain a long term travel life from Martin's story.
At the time of writing this post, ie first week of January 2021, Martin and Mogli have started travelling again from Kerala towards Bangalore.
Here are some of the links if you want to know more about their journey.
Book written by Martin based on this journey ( Available in German only at the moment)
All Images are taken from Motomogli Facebook Page
Let me know what do you think about the journey of Martin and Mogli in the comments.
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In India, they call the North Eastern states the seven sisters! One of the most beautiful yet much lesser explored parts of India. In 2018 I had a chance to visit Mizoram and that is how I reached Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram.
It was an instant connection! I absolutely adore this place and I would go back to this place whenever an opportunity arise! If you are wondering why I have so much high praise for this small city, here is 8 of my main reasons to fall in love with this place.
First thing I noticed as soon as I approached Aizawl is that, this city is so so very clean. Finding such a place in India would be very difficult or almost impossible!
I can probably count the total number of times I heard someone honking while driving. Also, unlike other Indian cities, lane discipline is followed way better.
One might argue that there isn't much space on the road to cut the line and overtake irresponsibly. But if you ever been on Indian roads, you must be knowing that, for a serial offender, there is no need for much space to go zigzag and find a way out of nowhere.
This is probably my personal opinion and other's might not find it very convincing.
Combined with the cleanliness, lack of noise pollution and the cool climate, some of the narrow streets of Aizawl appeared to me like some of the narrow European streets.
On my first day, as soon as I got down from my Sumo Taxi, at the city centre, I couldn't find the place I wanted to go. The map wasn't showing the exact walking route.
So I asked someone for help. They didn't speak much of Hindi or English. But instead of saying, 'Sorry, I can't help', they walked with me even though it was the opposite direction for them and found someone who knew the place and made sure that I had received the help I asked! Such nice people!
I'm sure there might be not so friendly people too. But these are the first impression one gets while travelling and they are priceless when it is a positive one! So I'd like to believe that all the people of Aizawl are nice and helpful!
Everyone talks about women empowerment. But when you are in Aizawl, you can actually see it in action. Women can be found in almost all walks of life in the front row, taking charge, doing business and running the show.
So from whatever I have seen, women in Aizawl seemed to be independent, self-reliant, strong-willed and all these made them even 'more prettier'.
Since Mizoram is located at the North Eastern part of India, it really has a different timezone. But India as a country follows only one timezone. Hence by 5:30 AM it will be quite bright in Aizawl, people will be playing and by 8.30AM you can find people negotiating a deal on the street with street side vendors!
Since days start quite early, days end early too. At 6PM it feels like night. Shops also closes pretty early just like how they starts quite early.
Though sunlight arrives quite early with respect to Indian time in almost all North East states of India, I don't think everyone starts the day that early. While I was in Shillong, no shops, even the hostel I wanted to check-in didn't open by 7.30! Since I don't have extensive experience in this region, I can't really generalise this.
But I can tell you one thing, Aizawl is prettier at night!
Every new city should be explored through their markets. Aizawl gives plenty of opportunities to do that. This is a special market. It happens on Saturdays. And when this happens, the whole street will be closed and no vehicle traffic is allowed. The local ladies come with their produces and products and sell them in this street. Walking through this long street can be any street photographer's dream! So many subjects on all sides of the street!
The mountains, the houses on the mountains, the roads that snakes through these backdrop, the distant indistinct outline of mountain ranges and the fog that makes everything look surreal are some of the elements to fall in love with Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram.
Have you been to Aizawl or anywhere in Mizoram? How was your experience? Tell me more about one of my favourite places in India!
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Jallikkettu aka Bull taming is a traditional event conducted in Tamil Nadu. This is a very sensitive issue since it involves animals and exploitation of animals. But like coins, everything has two sides.
We, a bunch of friends visited the Jallikkettu village to to the other side of the coin, if there was any.
Here is what we have found, the human - animal connection.
Jallikkettu village in Madurai through pictures.
There are definitely two side of the story. Almost everyone feels the bull taming as a sport is a not an ethical one since bulls are ill treated during the competition.
But when you get to this village, what you see is a bunch of people whose life revolves around the bulls! Their day begins with it, day continues with it and finally the comes to an end with their bulls.
There is definitely a intimate connection between the animal and humans here.Though that connection becomes a matter of pride on certain days when the humans compete with each others to figure out who has a better bull!
Have you ever seen/heard about Jallikkettu?
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For a very long time, everyone thought looking at the remains of the Konark Sun temple that it was a yet another beautifully made temple, in the form of a chariot with spectacular architectural elements, such as the elaborately carved chariot wheels, stunning looking horses and more. But it is believed that, one of the many secrets of this Sun temple came to light only when a mystic was found calculating time using one of the stone wheels of the chariot.
Yes, you can calculate time using the carved wheels found in Konark temple and that too with the precision of a minute!
Before going into the details of this secret, let us look at some of the architectural details of this temple.
The name Konark comes from two Sanskrit words Kona and Arka which means, angle and sun respectively.
According to an article by Dr. Avantika Lal, this implies that the main deity was the sun god, and the temple was built in an angular format. I believe maybe there could be more to this name, which I will address later in this post.
As per many scriptures from Hinduism, the Sun God 'Surya' is usually depicted as someone who rides a grand chariot pulled by 7 horses.
That is exactly how Sun temple in Konark had been constructed. Built in the 13th century, Konark temple is a classic example of Kalinga style architecture.
There are seven elaborately caparisoned, galloping horses carved out of stone which pulls the grand chariot with 12 pairs of intricately carved giant wheels on both sides. According to the archaeologists, this is just a small part of the whole temple complex.
Scholars who studies about Konark temple believes that the 7 horses represents 7 days in a week and 24 wheels as 24 fortnights or 24 'paksha' in a year. (Hindu calendar uses the Sanskrit word "paksha", meaning one half of a lunar month, which is between 14 and 15 solar days.)
So in short, it is safe to say that Konark Sun temple represents the passage of time through its architecture.
Using the sun's shadow to measure the accurate time of the day is not at all a new technology. Many centuries ago, even before Christ, the Egyptians and Babylonians used sundials. Also, the world's largest sundial aka clock which was built during the early 18th century can be found in Jaipur, India at Jantar Mantar Jaipur.
So it shouldn't be a surprise to know that Konark temple built during the 13th century can measure time. But unlike most other sundials, the one at Konark is a vertical one, almost like our modern-day wall clocks!
Astonishing facts about Konark sun temple doesn't end there. There are so many interesting things hidden behind its exquisite architecture. Before we go there, let us see how to find time using the carved, stone wheels of Konark Sun Temple. Let us get into the details of this amazing time wheels!
Each of the 24 wheels of Konark temple has 8 major spokes and 8 minor spokes. Major spokes are thick, more elaborately carved and much wider than the thin spokes.
For a better understanding and easier explanation, I am attaching an image of the wheel.
We know that Sun moves from East to West, but for the simplicity of explanation let us say sun moves from Right to left with respect to this picture.
So when the Sun rises in the morning, the sun will be on the right side creating a shadow at the spot marked as 06.
As the sun travels from east to west and reaches the peak during noon time, the sun casts a shadow at the place marked as 12.
By evening, when sun is about to set, the shadow will be at the spot marked as 18.
Thus the wheel shows time just like a clock, ironically the only difference is that the hour hand travels in the 'anti-clock' direction!
If you are thinking is it really such a great engineering feat to show the time using shadows on one side which shows 6 AM while the diametrically opposite side shows 6 PM.
Well, it gets much more complex than that!
You can see that this wheel is divided into 8 parts using major spokes which shows the time 3, 6, 9 etc. This means each part represents modern-day equivalent of 3 hours.
These 8 parts are again divided into halves creating a section of 1.5 hours. If you zoom in and look carefully, you will find the beads, one of the many finer details carved onto the wheels.
There are 30 beads between each major and mior spokes which means the 1.5 hours(90 minutes) are further divided into 30 parts. So each beads represents 3 minutes.
When you look even more carefully, you can see the beads are not circular, but slightly elongated at the sides. This shape creates 3 sections. Shadow can fall on the centre of the beads or on either sides of it. This indication help us to divide 3 minutes of the beads further into single minutes! Hence we can calculate time accurately to the minute!
Being neglected for many centuries and destructions from invaders and the British, one might wonder, does these sundials show accurate time even today.
And the answer is yes, it does!
You will find many tour guides using a pen or a long stick showing how the time is calculated.
You have to keep a thin object like a stick at the centre of the axle of the wheel. The shadow of this thin object will fall on the outer rim to indicate the time at that point.
I tried to replicate what the guide had shown me by randomly picking up a wheel which was less crowded.(Not the exact sundial wheel)
I couldn't / didn't want to touch many century old intricate carvings. So the shadow formed is not exactly from the axis of the wheel. So I wasn't expecting an accurate result.
If you refer the 'clock' image I had created earlier, you will see that the time indicated by the shadow of my finger is about 2:15 PM. If you look at the attached file info, you can see that the picture was taken at 1:45PM!
I can assure you that the result would have been better if I were to climb over the fence and touch my fingers onto the actual sundial wheel. But I wouldn't want to do that to a UNESCO World Heritage site. So please bear with a less accurate result.
If you are wondering what will happen if the wheel is completely covered with shadow while the sun passes from one side to the other side, be informed that there are 2 sundials that tells time accurately which are located on east and west side of the temple.
If you are now wondering, are the other 22 wheels just some decorative pieces, the answer is, we don't really know.
About a century ago, everyone thought that all the 24 wheels were elegant architectural pieces and nothing more. According to a legend, it was only when someone found an old mystic calculating time using the Konark Wheel, the world came to know about the hidden secret of the ruins of Konark.
From this mystic the world could understand the use of only 2 wheels. The purpose of other wheels still remain as a mystery. But some believes that when it turns night, certain wheels might act like a moondial and continue to tell time even at night! It could very well be true.
If you think, that is crazy, things get even crazier when you start observing more closely!
We now know that the day is divided into 8 parts using 8 major spokes. These parts are knowns as 'Prahar'.
If you understand Hindi, you must be familiar with the word 'Dopahar/Dupahar' which means afternoon. Which do (2 in Hindi) Prahars(period of time) do you think are part of the afternoon?
Scroll up and check the 'clock' image above to find out.
When you observe closely on the carvings on the medallion on these spokes, you will see different poses of a woman, and the activity depicted depends on the time of the day.
You can find more picture of the lady in the wheel carving, here
You will find her stretching after a good night sleep, doing her hair and looking at the mirror to get ready for the day, dealing with the household stuff, managing the servants, getting ready for the bed, making out with her partner and so on, all depending on the time of the day!
So apart from giving an accurate time of the day, the carvings on the wheels give us a detailed break down of the people's daily life during that time.
These carvings on the spokes do differ from wheel to wheel. We don't know enough to decipher all the meaning.
You can also see carvings containing foliage, birds and animals. Some of the plants carved on these stones appear during certain seasons only. Some of the carving of mating of animals happen only during certain time of the year. So all these details tells us one thing. They all have a hidden meaning.
We all know that sun's position and distance from earth causes winter and summer. What if those changes are reflected on the carvings of these wheels as well?
What if the other 22 mystery wheels tell more stories about the seasons, animal behaviour, the fruits of the seasons, the migratory birds and much more, just like it tells the time so accurately?!
We all have studied that the Earth rotates on its axis, and revolves in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. Sun also moves on its own axis. So in order to create a perfect sundial one has to get more than a few things right and needs an astronomical amount of knowledge in Astronomy.
Since we can correctly assume that each day of the year, sun rays might be falling on a specific spot at a slightly different angle, we can also assume that it is probably possible to find and mark those points at a certain place by understanding the coordinates of that place and many other things.
Let us assume that ancient geniuses figured out all those 'stellar' details and combined their knowledge of local lifestyle, cultural and political environment, understanding of flora and fauna and many other things, and boiled it down and mixed it with exquisite craftsmanship to create these beautiful architectural elements of a temple. So if we are able to decode it correctly, we can understand the seasons, nature, lifestyle, culture and even thoughts of those ancient times.
Even today, the Sun God literally shed light on those untold mysteries every day and we stand in front of it, looking at these secrets hidden in plain sight without a clue.
And remember, what we see now, is only a small portion an ancient massive temple complex. Just like Odisha Tourism proclaims, this land is India's Best Kept Secret!
Have you been to Konark Sun Temple? Do share your thoughts, experience and theories. Let's try to solve the mysteries of Konark Sun Temple!
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We have started this journey from Bhubaneshwar and we are heading towards Konark. If you have missed the Part 1 and 2, some of the characters might not make sense. Though you can very well get on the bus and join this journey. In case you want to read the initial parts, it is here.
So in the last part we stopped at the point where the conductor gets annoyed that I gave him a 500 rupee note for 50 rupee bus ticket. Let's see what happens next.
After mumbling and muttering random things, he proceeded to the next seat. Luckily they seemed to have a smaller change.
All of a sudden, as if he met a very old friend, our conductor leaned against a pole and picked up a conversation with a couple of passengers. I used all my concentration to pick up any familiar-sounding words, but there was no success. So I have no clue about what they were talking about.
The conductor seemed to be in no hurry. He just stood there and talked to these random strangers.
That did explain why it took him almost an hour to reach the end of the bus which was barely 10m long.
It sounded like they were discussing something interesting. Soon a few other people also joined the conversation. Must be a very relevant topic, I thought. And yes, I was still trying hard to make any sense out of these alien-sounding tongue.
After a while when the conductor came back to his senses and figured out that he had other professional duties to fulfil, he gradually withdrew from the conversation.
Now without the leader, the random strangers who joined the thread in between continued the chat as if they knew each other for ages.
Friendships can be formed quite quickly in Indian public transport, I f reaffirmed.
You might be remembering the guy from the first part, the guy who attracts the people into the bus with 'Konarkkoo' chants.
I found him climbing the side ladder of the bus to access the rooftop. Anyone who has some connection with Indian buses would know that he was going there not to join any rooftop parties but to load or unload goods or extra-sized luggage which Indians are quite infamous to carry while travelling.
Our shouting guy, with the mastery of an experienced trapeze performer, climbed down with a big bag on his head, supported by one hand and the other hand precariously holding the ladder while his feet searched for the next step one after the other just like a firefighter finds his way inside a smoke-filled dark room.
The driver saw in the side mirror that the guy had almost reached the ground with the luggage. He took that as his cue to get back to the race towards the next bus stop. They had already spent an extra few seconds at this stop unloading stuff from the top of the bus and time was precious, especially in a race!
Even before he completely climbed down and unloaded the heavy load from his head, the bus started rolling forward.
Since it wasn't the first time for him, he skillfully jumped down, transferred the load onto the ground, grabbed his service fee and started chasing the already running bus and all of this happened in quick succession under a few fractions of seconds.
I think I know a few reasons why Indians are always in a hurry, but I can't completely comprehend the idea of playing risky games just to save a few tiny seconds.
If it is worth it or not, as an Indian, out of habit even I would do something similar one day when such a situation arise. Even then I wouldn't know why I did what I did.
The constant 'Bipp Bipp' sound brought me back to the present. The guy sitting next to me was on a message deletion spree. He was working the keypad like a robot, in a very systematic and rhymic way. Probably he didn't have enough space for more messages or maybe he had too many spam messages and he didn't like to keep them or maybe he was uber bored and found solace in his phone like many other people in the bus.
The difference in the generations could be very well reflected on mobile devices too. While my neighbour was on a Nokia phone with keypad, another young man was standing and flicking through never-ending social media feed on his more advanced touch phone. People next to him were peeping and spying on his activities over his shoulders while he was immersed in sorting his social life.
Suddenly another lady decided to answer her cellular device with a characteristic extra loud noise already very common in that crowded Indian bus.
The person sitting behind her seemed to find something in common from her loud replies. He waited till she finished her long call. With a pleasant face he asked her something and they started a new conversation.
Bus was getting busier and busier. More and more people were stuffed into the bus.
To make it feel even busier many people were talking on the phone even when some of them could barely move their hands around. Both male and female voices mixed together to create a strange atmosphere of constant chattering.
Amidst the chaos there was a man sitting by the window who decided to pay respect to all the temples that appeared on the way. Whenever he saw a temple he would bow in reverence as much as he could within the restriction of his seating arrangement, say few words and then touch his forehead to absorb all the positive energy that he had just harnessed.
Then a man sitting at the farther side of the window seat suddenly stood up to spit through the window.
The fashionable pretty girl started to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable as more and more people from the busy crowd started to look at her every now and then.
Another middle-aged lady wearing a vermillion mark on her forehead, sitting facing all the passengers, permanently focussed her attention away from the people and towards the outside.
Those who got bored by spying on the young man's social media feed now started to stare at the outside views with a grave looks on their faces.
A man sitting on a big rod of a strengthening member was dozing off even while sitting uncomfortably facing everyone.
The conversation between the stranger man and the lady wearing red saree had died some time ago. They had become the strangers they were before, again.
Amidst all the chaos and noise, I also dozed off blissfully keeping my attention away from everything that was wrong, like everyone else because that's how it was done here!
This bus journey is not a work of fiction. The incidents mentioned in this 3 part series have really happened, though the interpretations of the observations made are my personal opinions.
This bus journey is a symbol, a representation, a cross-section of a country. Since India is a vast country with more than 1 billion people, generalisations mostly never work. Due to the very reasons, you will find both good and bad, kindness and contradictions, and all kinds of yin and yan wherever you decide to look.
Every such journey, if you observe carefully will reveal some of the cultural intricacies ingrained in all of us as a society. Calling it good or bad based on our limited experience in the world might not do justice. All we can do is to observe and try to understand the differences.
I will be grateful to know your feedback on this. Looking forward to your ideas and thoughts on this.
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Haven't you heard people saying, 'I wish I had more money so that I could travel the world'? There are even travel quotes saying "“If travelling was free, you'd never see me again" and many similar ones.
You will suddenly realise that these are all actually pure excuses like it was mentioned in this article when you finally get to know the story of this couple from Kerala who runs a small tea shop, yet travels around the world.
This is the story of passion, a burning desire to see the world and overcoming the obstacles with determination. This is the story of Vijayan and Mohana, who are in their early 70's, who travel the world by selling tea and snacks.
Why would I take my motorbike out and ride through the morning traffic of Kochi city when food is available at 2 minutes of walk from my lodging, some of you might wonder. Because it is at Sree Balaji Coffee house, Mr Vijayan and Mrs Mohana serve their delicious food when they are not travelling the world and I had to meet them and get to know their stories from them!
I set the address on google map and headed to my destination. After some time when I reached Salim Rajan road in Gandhi Nagar, 'Google aunty' said, "You've reached your destination", but I couldn't find my destination!
It took me a while to spot this nondescript small tea shop on the roadside as it is very easy to miss if you are not very attentive.
I parked my bike and went inside the darker interior of the tea shop which was lit up by a few tube lights even during the day time, through an alley created by all the tea boilers and other utensils on one side and an uncharming wooden display box which had become more like a storage space on the other side.
As you enter Sree Balaji Coffee house, if you are lucky, you will see Vijayan and Mohana manning the counter and preparing food. I was indeed lucky that they didn't plan a trip while I was visiting. The shop would have been closed otherwise.
As soon as you pass this small counter which is basically heart, brain and everything of this small shop, you will be greeted with once a happy bright wall, fitted with an array of wall-mounted clocks, picture frames with newspaper articles, cover stories from magazines, pictures of the couple with famous personalities and pictures taken from around the world.
Inside there were 4 small tables, a long bench behind each table and a few plastic sitting stools ready to be arranged anywhere on the other side of the narrow tables. Each tables could accommodate 2 people at a time. But true to Indian tradition, it can be stretched to three if needed. So if you do the Math correctly and include the 'Indian coefficient factor', you can understand that this shop can probably accommodate a maximum of 12 at a time.
There were a couple of people eating when I got there. I sat under those clocks that showed the time from Argentina and Canada.
Looked like the favourite items were Poori bhaji and Dosa chutney. I gave my order and with the characteristic quickness of small tea shops, I got freshly made hot and delicious breakfast.
It was really good and it was way too economical! The prices were super nominal which shouldn't be a surprise for a small shop like that. But even for the small shop's pricing perspective, this was even cheaper than the usual.
Since it was very delicious and super economical and also because I was super hungry as it was almost 11 AM without breakfast, I ordered more food. With a few plates of food and a couple of glasses of tea to my name, I ended up paying way under 100 Indian rupees or let's say less than 1 US$!!
So this is where it all starts! I was at the very place that funds and fuels the wanderlust of this couple!
But the earlier mentioned math didn't make much sense to me. Having lived a bit of unconventional life, the math and practicality behind wanderlusting decisions shouldn't bother me much. Even then it was a bit difficult to understand how this couple had pulled off the feat of visiting more than 20 countries around the world in the past, just by running this small shop and saving up from it.
It was time for me to pay, meet and talk to the couple. But by then I could read many of the articles on the wall and get to know their story better.
It all started in 2010 with Mr Vijayan's first international trip on a Holyland trip. There is a backstory too, how the desire to travel far and wide came about.
Being an ardent follower of Balaji, Mr Vijayan frequently visits Balaji temple in Tirupati, even today. In 2010 he went to Tirupati with a bunch of friends.
It was then he saw a plane flying above their head and expressed his wish to travel on a plane someday. His friends ridiculed him and said it was for the rich, not a poor man's game. Everyone called him crazy.
Sure it is not possible for someone with a meagre income coming from a teashop to be a frequent flier. But it is possible to give wings to their dream and fly to foreign lands to satiate their wanderlust if one is determined.
By shear chance after this incident at Tirupati, Mr Vijayan saw an advertisement on the TV, related to Holyland tours. Not having passport didn't deter him from inquiring about the trip. He saw this as an opportunity and used all the money he had to get a passport and to sign up for this trip.
With that first international trip, he got the taste of distant lands and different cultures. From that point onwards the dream finally got its wings. While achieving this dream, his wife joined hands with him. He considers her, the pillar of support for all these endeavours. Thus they both started travelling around the world together.
And if you do some math again, you will find that their globe-trotting journey started well after their 50's! So who thinks age is a barrier to travel, now?!!
From 2010 to till now they have visited about 25 countries which includes Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Peru, USA, China, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and many more. And on all these trips, they went together.
Right from 2010, the main income that funded their trips was coming from this small tea shop, believe it or not.
This might be a surprising revelation to all those who lament that they don't have enough money to travel!
This couple has devised a financial strategy of saving up 300 rupees every day towards their travel funds from the income generated at the tea shop. If that was not enough, they would bravely go ahead and take bank loans to fund their travels. They would then come back and pay off the debt little by little. They have also sold and pawned gold jewellery on a few occasions it seems!
According to them, it takes about 3 years to pay off the bank debts! And when the debts are paid off, it is time for yet another trip and this cycle continues. They have been doing this for many years and continuing to do this till now, even though it is not as easy as it sounds.
Unlike many of us, they are not worried about the future or saving up for emergencies and so on, and thereby forgetting to live NOW.
Like Paulo Coelho said in his 1988 book 'The Alchemist', "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it", this couple also got some help from the universe.
Their amazing story made a few headlines in the local newspaper at first, a few years ago in 2013 and slowly people started to get to know more about them. In 2015 Hari M Mohanan, a filmmaker from Kerala made a short film about this couple after reading one such news, which later won the Best Film-Non-Fiction Category’ in the Filmfare Awards, 2018.
In 2019, popular YouTuber Drew Binsky found out about this couple's story and made a short video which became viral.
This was later tweeted and shared by Anand Mahindra of Mahindra group with a request to crowdfund a campaign to gift the couple with a travel package for their anniversary.
Series of such events helped their world travels in various ways.
Finally, when there was a small gap between serving food and dealing with the cash transactions, I could speak to Mr Vijayan and Mrs Mohana.
They then shared some of their stories and future plans.
It was one of their bigger dreams to visit USA. Most Indians who tried to apply for any sort of US visa would agree how difficult the whole process can get.
They were also having certain troubles with the visa. But some of the influential well-wishers got them sponsorship and finally, they were able to visit the US.
One more example of the universe conspiring to make something happen when the heart desires!
Also, I could see many posters from Soman's Leisure Tours Pvt Ltd who sponsored some of their international trips. Through many turn of events and with the help of such well-wishers, the list of visited countries is increasing for them.
They also shared their plan to visit China, but this time it was not just the two of them but along with their family members. He also expressed his wish to see their story turning into a book. Looks like the dream he shared with me 3 years ago is a reality now. (Though the book is in Malayalam language.)
It is very clear from the real life incidents on this couple that whatever maybe your dream, whatever maybe your circumstances, if you have a burning desire to achieve it, it is very much possible.
Like Mr Vijayan shared in the short film if you worry about the future, if you worry about closing the shop for many days, if you worry about not being able to pay off the debts, you won't be able to do anything in life.
So stop worrying and start living!
Also, in that process of chasing your big dream there will be people to ridicule you, tell you that those are too big of a dream, discourage you by showing you all the obstacles on the way, but all it matters is to have the focus on the burning desire in your heart which propels you forward.
Coming back to travel goals, if you ever see or hear anyone complaining that they don't have enough money, enough time, too old or any other excuses, do share with them the story of Mohana and Vijayan.
Let Vijayan and Mohana to inspire us to chase our dreams no matter what it is.
What do you think about their story?
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Here is the second part of the memoir of fun and interesting bus ride to Konark Sun Temple. If you have missed the first part, read it here.
If you have read the first part, you must be remembering the young guy sitting on the gearbox of the bus, facing all the passengers and eyeing at a pretty girl. If you were wondering anything interesting happened yet, read on, the second part of this bus journey.
Just like the girl broke his hopes with a quick disgusting head tilt, the 'noisy silence' in the bus was broken by an obnoxious polyphonic ringtone.
Can a ringtone be obnoxious, you might wonder. Yes, it can! At least this one was.
Somehow that polyphonic sound brought me about 14 years back when I first lay my hands on the latest mobile of that time. My Nokia 1110 (The older brother of N1100) had a similar ringtone, obviously not that obnoxious though 😉
Good old days were when skillfully controlling an ever-growing snake to make it swallow randomly appearing balls used to be one of the most entertaining time passes. It was much more peaceful compared to the current constant social media noise of people fighting over religion, politics and whatnot.
But I couldn't stay in my nostalgic memory for too long.
By then the woman had picked up the call and started fighting against the roaring sound of the bus and gushing wind that was coming through the open windows, to send across her message to the person on the other side of the call.
Like everything else on that bus ride, that was not going to be a short affair.
The bus guy who was shouting "Konakkoo" earlier felt personally attacked and he got back to his game as soon as the next bus-stop was reached.
He probably wanted to defeat this woman on this loudest noise-maker competition. Though his time to compete was very limited and ended right after the bus left once it loaded the people from that spot. But this lady's war with the ambient noises continued for a good amount of time.
Suddenly, it looked like the bus driver decided to take revenge for his colleague as he started to outperform his more than average honking game.
Then I realised that he had just picked up another street race with a bigger bus!
Bigger bus reaching before him to the next bus-stop meant the big fish devouring all the food which would have been a feast for this small fish. It also meant this small fish starving without anything left for it.
He obviously needed to win this race to get more people and to pack this bus above its legal passenger-carrying limit to make the most out from this trip.
Since the street bus racings were a common thing, no one seemed to care about it. They simply sat back and enjoyed it as if it was Monaco Grand Prix on a Sunday afternoon. They also seemed to enjoy the background soundtrack created by the driver with his honking instrument for this particularly intense scene.
Finally we did it. We got the podium position and reached the next stop before the other bus!
Victory for us! And we got our prizes.
Another old couple got in from this stop. But they didn't have any seats left. No seats? No Problem! The lady also joined the gearbox seat.
Sometimes, that is the beauty of travelling in India, you will get to see how a limited resource is getting fully utilized.
I have seen many such examples while travelling in trains.
While I squeezed and sat at the door due to lack of space inside the train, some people were sitting on top of the open door of the train! On another occasion, I have seen people making hammocks out of their clothes and creating makeshift sleeping arrangements on a busy train.
After going through many such situations, coming up with so-called 'jugaads' aka 'MacGyvering' aka coming up with brilliant ideas to improvise something on the fly to use the limited resources to its more than maximum potential, has more like a basic instinct for most Indians. Though you will find similar experiences all over the world wherever there is a supply-demand mismatch, ie when demand is higher and supply is lesser.
Sitting on the gearbox is just one of the millions of examples of such a jugaad. But for untrained and uninitiated eyes, these small incidents might look like a fascinating cultural intricacy that is hard to understand.
During all these chaos and philosophising, I almost forgot to introduce my new co-passenger. Well, till this point he was sitting there silently minding his own business. Hence there wasn't a need to introduce him yet.
So somewhere on the way, I got my co-passenger. He was a guy in his 50s. He gets a guest appearance in this story when he got a call.
He wasn't very aggressive, so was his phone speakers. After answering the call he couldn't hear anything from the other end. His phone speakers couldn't compete with the other noises present in the bus.
Since he couldn't reply properly, the call got dropped and made its appearance a few seconds later, again. This time the guy gave me a tug and pointed the phone at me and said something in Odia.
He wanted me to read him the name on the screen. Like a person who spoke fluent Odia, I got his phone and read out the name for him. He replied back something in Odia again and I shook my head as if I understood.
Fortunately, he then went back to his phone and started typing something. It was again a nostalgic feeling to see how he pressed the keypad to navigate around the phone.
While he was busy with his phone, I was happy that I could help him irrespective of the language barriers.
Most foreigners who have visited India would agree that majority of the Indian people are very helpful and they go a few extra miles to assist someone in need. Even if you don't know the language, you will try your best to help a person.
The paradox happens when you go out to help someone and you don't even know the right answer, but you'd still help!
Then comes the problem, especially when you ask someone for direction. This is something I learned the hard way during my journeys in India.
Never trust a direction from a stranger straight away!
If you don't get at least 3 confirmations, don't go too far in that direction. Confirm, confirm and confirm constantly on the way. Otherwise, you will have to travel in the wrong direction Since someone was too proud to admit that they didn't know the answer but still wanted to help.
Once I walked for 4 hours before I could find the starting point of a trek because I followed someone's directions without confirming it! (That story for some other time.)
So the helping mentality of Indians is a very interesting topic to analyse. But the most interesting thing is that you will find their kindness and genuine helping attitude in some of the most uncommon places.
Bus reached yet another of its million stops between its origin and destination!
Another middle-aged young lady got in with a huge bag in her hand. There were no seats, even the gearbox seats were already taken.
Someone in the front seats offered to carry her bag. Now her bag was on someone's lap and with major baggage gone from her hands, she was preparing to stand comfortably.
Then someone thought, "why don't we just squeeze in her as well?!"
A seat designed and designated for two then magically accommodated 3 women and a huge bag!
In the coming stops more people got out and there were more empty seats. Everyone rearranged themselves.
If you were wondering what happened to our guy who was sitting on the gearbox, he just got an upgrade. He got a seat on the front left side, inside the driver's cabin. It looked like a perfect upgrade for him.
He was still with a Mona Lisa's smile and frequently glancing at the passengers. High hopes were still running in his mind, it seemed.
But the clear view didn't last very long for him. More people got in and the bus was crowded again. People started to stand in the bus again.
There was another young girl also in that group of people who were standing. She was desperately looking for a seat away from the wresteling match that was happening inside the bus.
Like a saviour, the ticket inspector appeared. He told the 5 people who were sitting on the long seat at the back to make space for one more person. People just agreed to that idea and squeezed their full arses to a side, made some zigzag sitting formations and did some other magic tricks. Thus the seat for 5 transformed into a 6 seater and the girl finally got a place to sit.
I don't think in India, anyone calls the ticket inspector with that name, not even with "ticket checker". For me at least, he has always known as a "conductor."
Not the material that allows the flow of charge or the guy who creates wonderful opera. It is the humble ticket conductor.
He finally reached the rear end of the bus to collect money for the trip.
If you are not aware, there is a dedicated person called ticket conductor who collects money and issues your tickets depending on the length of your trip.
So this guys walks up to each and every person on the bus throughout the trip to check if everyone has bought the tickets. That is how it works in most places in India (except in Delhi where you have to reach out to an elegantly sitting conductor and request for your ticket!)
Finally the guy came to me and I handed over a 500 rupees note since I didn't have any smaller denomination with me. He just handed me a small strip of printed paper, the ticket which might be as big as my index finger with a number 450 written on it.
Now that small piece of paper was worth 450 Indian Rupees! If I lost that paper, my 450 rupees was almost gone!
So the actual cost for my trip is only 50 rupees but I didn't have any smaller amount other than the 500. And almost all conductors, without many exceptions, hate big denominations, especially on a morning trip.
That is the time when they don't have enough smaller change to give everyone. If everyone else gives them big notes, very soon they will run out of change to give back. So either they cuss you for giving such a big note for a small amount or give you the ticket with the balance amount written on it so that you can claim the balance at the end of the trip when he will have more change.
And there is a third option. That is to do both, cuss you and give you a ticket with a balance amount written on it. I think I got this option.
While giving me that small strip of paper he was saying many things in Odia. Since I didn't understand anything, everything was fine. Ignorance is bliss!
But what he decided to do next might(not) surprise you! Yes, that is a big arse click bait.
For the next, hopefully the last episode, you will have to wait. But till then you can tell me what you think about the story so far.
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"Konaarkkko konaarkkkko konarkko."
The guy was shouting loudly with that characteristic voice which you might be able to identify with that of a tea seller at any Indian train stations or a lottery seller in Kerala or a tarkariwala in Bangalore or a kabadiwala in Delhi!
I have no idea how they all sounds quite similar irrespective of their profession, language, or geographical location just as much as I couldn't understand what this guy was shouting in Odia.
With the help of a few bus drivers who spoke Hindi, I finally understood that the guy who was shouting, soon going to be part of my journey.
He was shouting out, to let people know that the bus was going to Konark.
It was the end of the first month in 2019.
I was coming back after my Malaysia and Thailand trip and landed in Bhubaneshwar as it offered one of the cheapest flights between my last destination, Thailand and India.
After spending about a month in Malaysia and Thailand, and trying out various public transportation to move around, it was kind of like a blow on my face when I got back to India. ( 1 month won't give any serious cultural shock but there will be definitely some comparison going on in your mind)
Though I love travelling in India in extreme conditions ( I once spent 5 days straight in a packed train with 3 other people sharing the upper berth) , at times the very chaotic nature of travelling in India can come across as a shock, especially right after when I return from foreign lands that have better-developed infrastructures.
Since the change of scenery at Bhubaneshwar in Odisha was very striking, I decided to note down the incidents happened on this bus journey.
I found it to be very interesting and I am going to share this interesting bus journey from Bhubaneshwar to Konark.
In India, getting into a bus at the bus station comes with a few advantages and one of them is to pick the seat that you want to sit as the buses tend to be empty at first.
I picked one of the last twin sharing seats on the right in an almost empty bus. The guy was still screaming at the top of his voice to get more people to the bus.
Initially, people took the seats that were far from each other, just like matter settles down to find equilibrium in a large space. Atoms to dust particles to human beings, do many things instinctively even without knowing the reason behind them!
Those people who came together occupied seats together while the single ones found their own seat, just like me. Though my side has a bit more of sunshine and people tried to avoid that side.
Heat energy from the sun can definitely increase the internal energy and nobody wanted it except a few like me!(inert, maybe?)
I was having fun thinking and remembering the high school science class, about how energy works, while the guy outside was attracting more customers by converting his high vocal energy.
His efforts slowly started to show results. By then it was time for the bus to leave the bus station. The driver appeared from nowhere and joined his assistant in bringing more customers.
True to the Indian style, he long pressed the big button that produced high pitched rhythmic noise that sounded like a song from Rangeela or some other 90's Bollywood item songs.
Thus "Konaarkkkoo konaarkkoo" shout finally received its much-needed BGM and we were all set to leave.
Interestingly enough in India, people wait for things till the last minute and do things in the heat of the moment. There were a couple of people who wanted to run after the bus and jump into it, right when it had started moving.
The bus driver knew he had to leave probably at least 5 minutes earlier. Though his natural instincts wouldn't let him leave on time even though he was honking and already sitting there for some time.
Finally, all of a sudden he hit hard on the accelerator pedal and steered to the right and quickly released the clutch pedal, from the side of the road to the main road just in time to perfectly block a fast-approaching vehicle from behind.
The vehicle that was coming from behind hit hard on the breaks, honked incessantly to express anger and annoyance and a few moments later things went back to normal.
Of course, everyone on the road knows that size matters and it is an unwritten rule that everyone seems to follow.
There is never a dull moment in this trip, I thought to myself.
By then more people started to get into the bus from the next stops on the way. Slowly all seats were taken. Though I still hadn't found my partner yet. I was still sitting alone enjoying the whole fiasco and other similar chaotic scenes through the open window.
Then a slightly old couple got in. All the twin seats were already taken and not many want to sit in the jumpy and bumpy last-row-long-seat. There was a single seat available and that was next to me, but the old guy didn't want his wife to be sitting next to a 'young man'. So they both decided to go and sit at the last long seat together, even though that might not be their first choice.
People were getting on and off during this time creating more space and then filling them up again. The bus had already left the first town area by then.
Then another middle aged gentle man got in.
Why was he a gentleman? Because he was wearing a sleeveless overcoat on top of his nice shirt, just like some important politician would wear. This was definitely a more expensive choice of clothing compared to all other people on the bus put together and especially even more expensive to the guy sitting next to him in a torn thick sweater. On top of that, he was carrying a big red colour hardbound diary. Must be an important person.
I thought I was acing my judgement game.
In front of the man with a red diary, there was an empty seat. A lady wearing a red sweater came and found the seat. There was another girl falling asleep(which was probably why the man with a diary avoided sitting there) at the window side seat and her long shawl was lying on the empty part of the seat. The lady in red sweater simply grabbed the long piece of clothing and put it right back at the lap of this sleeping girl and occupied the seat, like nothing had happened.
By then the important guy with the red diary did not seem to enjoy the wind coming through the open window. Since he was important, he didn't have to consult with anyone. So he went ahead and decided to close the window which was basically shared between the two seats.
Well, nothing out of the order happened here. Things went on as normal. It was just a window shared by 4 people, after all!
It was getting busier. All seats were full again. Bad luck for the young chap who just got in.
Obviously, the young chap came and couldn't find any seat he liked. All were already taken. So he decided to make himself at home on top of the big bulky box like part of the bus. He proclaimed the gearbox to be his seat.
The gearbox can at times get a bit warm, but who cares. Also, this 'seat' enables one to watch almost every passenger, as you will be sitting facing the crowd.
This guy seemed to enjoy the attention he was getting by facing the whole passengers on the bus.
Well, technically it wouldn't be right to say facing the whole passengers as there were a few people sitting in the driver's cabin at the opposite side to the driver which was basically behind this guy.
He looked unfazed by the fact that he was facing almost everyone on the bus. It might be due to the confidence he derived from the fact that he looked quite handsome because of the extra money and time he spent to get his beard trimmed to perfection.
Every now and then he was trying to lock his eyes with a young girl sitting at the window seat many seats aways from him.
This girl who liked to keep herself updated with the latest fashion trends in that area was wearing a black and white striped t-shirt and a red lipstick and was present in the bus from the beginning.
Looked like our gearbox chap had some hope going on in his mind, that he would be able to impress her with his perfectly shaped beard and magic in his eyes.
What will happen next might not surprise you, like those clickbaits claims. But you will have to wait for the next part to continue reading this story.
What are your thoughts till now? What are your Indian bus journey experience?
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