While revisiting my own blog after many months of inactivity, just to post the 8th year anniversary post, my eyes landed on my hiking boots featured on my landing page video.
This video was a short GoPro clip from one of my past travels and I was wearing my favorite boots ever. It has been with me during my mountaineering training, gone on a couple of Himalayan treks, protected me during the Nepal motorbike trip, and joined me to visit a few other countries. I kind of felt at home wearing these waterproof leather Quechua boots. This is the story of my beloved boots!
It was no wonder when I had to go on a 20+ days - one-of-a-kind pilgrim's journey through Tibet to visit Mt. Kailash, I chose these boots for the trip. Well, to be honest, it was my only hiking boots.
The journey started from Delhi and went through different parts of the lower Himalayas and finally entered Chinese Occupied Tibet through 18,000ft plus Dolma pass to get a glimpse of the Mt. Kailash.
This pilgrimage involved about 3 weeks of walking through various terrains of varying altitudes.
Certain areas were filled with snow, some other parts were full of mud and slush and the roads were not that pretty. But my boots protected me well from all such 'dirty' tricks played by the treacherous paths.
By the end of the third week, my boots had transformed into a mud cake. Well, not the kind you love. Though I wore it proudly just like a warrior wears his battle scars to tell a story.
The fact is, I never cared about dirty hiking boots. I always thought they are supposed to look dirty and expressed their purpose by being muddy.
But apparently, someone didn't share my views!
I was back in Delhi after the journey and sitting on a concrete bench at Connaught Place - dearly called as CP by the locals - sipping a thick milkshake at Keventers, enjoying the comforts of a city after my multi-week walk in the lap and through the head of various mountains.
That is when out of nowhere a shoeshine boy comes, along with his fellow mates and offers me to bring my boots back to their original glory!
He thinks my shoes are dirty and it needs to be cleaned. That quickly reminded me that, a big Indian city like Delhi comes not just with comforts, but also with sales pitches at every other corner which are mostly unsolicited ones.
If you haven't met the shoeshiners of CP, take it from me - they are the most persistent salespeople on this planet! Well, it might be slightly exaggerated, but only slightly! They are like Muhammed Ali in a ring, they would never give up!
I was tired from all the travelling. This guy was annoying and wouldn't give up.
The most important thing in his life at that moment was to clean my dirty boots.
In a moment of weakness, in an attempt to escape from saying 'no' multiple times, I thought to myself, "Heck, let him do whatever", and I gave him my boots to be cleaned while I continued to sip my milkshake.
He then touched my boots for the first time and that was when everything went downhill!
This guy just sold me a service that I wasn't even looking for, by being annoyingly persistent. It was like you ended up buying a product that you never wanted, from a spam email that made its way to your primary folder or a cookie-tracked social media ad that keeps following you wherever you go.
Almost every traveller who visits India would agree to the fact that Indian street vendors are way too pushy and never gives up. And the line between an annoying yet decent sales pitch and a full-blown scam blurs somewhere on the way.
First time international visitors are often warned by friends and even by their government and get nightmares thinking about going out in the streets on their first day in India.
But J. Krishnamurti once said this.
“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”― Jiddu Krishnamurti
Just like Jiddu Krishnamurti said, if you take a step backward and look at the situation that I was in, without any judgment what you would see is probably a hard-working industrious boy who tried to sell his services to earn his living [Side note: My evaluation of this scenario as a good one probably contradicts Mr.Jiddu. Well, I didn't claim to have the highest form of intelligence]
He probably is one of the best salesmen, especially provided the fact that he sold me something already which I was not planning on buying. (Or maybe I'm just not assertive enough to get rid of him)
For a very long time I truly believed that these sorts of scams and pushy street vendors were more of an Indian phenomenon! I didn't know better. I didn't travel much. I didn't experience other parts of the world.
But when I did, I soon realised all those places with a supply-demand inequality people did things differently. Whenever someone feels the feeling of lack as a group, they all try to fight for their survival.
To get an idea, let's go back to Delhi again and go to CP and get inside an underground market called Palika Bazaar. As soon as you take the stairs down to this underground maze, you will be welcomed into a world of series of shops next to each other just like matchboxes are stacked side by side in a big circle. And you will find many shops selling the same things as their very next shop sharing a common wall. Some of them would be selling shoes and belts, some the fake branded latest fashion, and some selling exact replicas of branded watches, electronics, CDs and so on.
So you can feel the rush a shop owner feels as soon as a prospect comes about 200 meters from his shop (Yes, almost all shop owners are male in this place)
He wants this prospect to come to his shop and not his neighbours. So he needs to get the attention of this potential customer before his neighbour can. And mind you, there are literally hundreds of shops and when you walk, you will find shops on both sides. And everyone wants your attention, especially if you're a tourist! So the moment you step inside, and in the sight of the first shop owner, pandemonium begins for you.
Excuse me sir, excuse me ma'am, siiiiirr, maaa'aaam, hellloooo, bhaaiiii, behennn..nice belt, nice shoes.. cheap and the best... whatever gets your attention, you will hear them all. And it never ends until you get out of the complex. But when you get out of the complex, a similar situation is outside too. You may come across a shoeshine like I did who is on a lookout for expensive-looking shoes.
So you gradually understand that the hard pitch, the persistent selling, it wasn't really a scam, it was just part of a survival mechanism.
When you travel through many Asian countries where human resource aka population is higher in supply and resources lesser, you would find many forms of these survival mechanisms. Does that only apply in the real world?
If you have ever been on a freelancer hiring website, you will see the digital counterparts of the shoeshine boys, especially in the areas with a lower barrier to entry.
Do you want a content writer for your website? Try posting your job and you will have hundreds of freelancers sending you proposals each one undercutting the price of the previous one and throwing in more and more add on benefits. 'The Developed country' freelancers almost hate the 'developing country' freelancers as they struggle to keep up with the pricing battle.
Due to the cost of living, freelancers from first-world countries can't really compete with equally competent third-world country freelancers. When you need at least 12 pounds if you're in the UK and 35 dollars if you're in Australia to get a basic haircut (if you're a man) while you can get the same in India for under 2 dollars, how can you write 2000 words for $10 or build a website for less than $100?! Your possible reaction when you see such scenario would be to hate talents from a whole region as you're unable to compete in pricing.
Then the natural question to explore would be to see if things are any different in the developed countries.
It sure is, for most parts at least, as long as the supply-demand equation remains more or less equal for most parts. Does that mean, if the equation changes, things would be different?
Here is my first-hand experience from the city of Paris, the city of fashion and sophistication.
People were waiting for the train to the Palace of Versailles. There are trains going every half an hour or so.
Everything was normal, everyone was behaving properly until the announcement came.
Due to some accident on the track or due to some other reason, the train was cancelled and the next train was coming after another half an hour or so.
One train was cancelled but the number of people to get onto the next train was accumulating. Now there were people for two trains waiting and there was only one train coming.
People started to show restlessness.
Even though I only know how to say thank you, bye and a few other words in French, I could understand that people were worried about getting a seat on the next train. It is at least 40 minutes journey and no one wants to stand the whole way.
As soon as the next announcement came telling that the next train is approaching, the entropy of the crowd increased. Most of them started to scram to get into the train. It almost felt like waiting for a Mumbai local train!
Well, the story didn't really end there.
As soon as the train reached Versailles-Château-Rive-Gauche station, people started to get out of the train and started either to run or walk like an Olympian speed walker towards the palace. Apparently, the queue to get into the palace can be longer than the train that we got there and no one wants to be at the longer end of that line.
These incidents got me thinking. Even this small change of plan - a train being cancelled and a long line- could cause this havoc at train stations in France, what you see on a daily basis in India is quite normal. It's just part of a certain survival mechanism. Isn't it?
A bunch of shoe shine boys actively finding opportunities to sell their normally unwanted service in crowded places can also be part of survival..right?
So the best salesman as part of his survival instinct sold me a service that I didn't really want. What happened next?
I was still sipping my milkshake while he carefully selected a colour from his arsenal that best matched the original colour of my boots. He really wanted to give my shoes a brand new look. That was where it all went wrong the first time.
He chose the wrong colour! And he polished my whole boots with that colour! Now it looked different and not the colour I bought, not the colour I loved and not the colour I wanted!
The second hit came later; when he finished polishing my boots into the wrong colour.
He demanded at least 6 times higher than a nominal charge!
When I protested his reason for the higher charge was very interesting. 'The leather of my boots were of super high quality.'
Yes, the same leather he repainted into a different colour, the same leather that protected me from snow, water, weather and more was now coming to bite me.
I never grasped his logic, but I understood that I got exploited. The lines between a hardworking man with a decent persistent pitch now blurred into a scam!!
But the real blow came later.
I really loved the original colour of my boots. I had a hope that the colour he applied would wear off if I washed it properly or try to rub it off.
You know what? I tried and tried later that evening and on a few other occasions, but surprisingly the colour never came off! I thought eventually that would come off but still no luck.
After that incident, I didn't get many chances to go on a hike. Then pandemic and lockdown happened. My boots were stored in a bag in some dark corner for a while.
When I got a chance to travel again and wear the boots again, it was too late.
The sole of the boots had become brittle and pieces of it were breaking down. During the semi-lockdown, I couldn't get anyone to repair the broken sole. So it kind of decayed into death by inactivity.
But interestingly - the soul of the boots - the leather remained intact - with that dark brown colour applied by the 'best salesman' in Delhi, just like he did a few years ago! It is still shining in that unwanted colour with a new yet misfitted sole by a street shoe cobler on a shoe rack among other discarded, less used footwears.Reading Time: 4 minutes
It is that time of the year when I force myself to come up with a post to show off that I've started this blog on this day back in 2014! The last post on this blog was a year ago talking about how it was 7th year of trablogger! So clearly it doesn't mean that I've been writing all these 8 years.
It just means that I've taken an action on this day, 8 years ago. But what an action that was! Definitely a life-changing one.
I can't clearly remember, but I believe it started out as an impulse after reading one of those self-help books between quitting my job and figuring out what was next. I didn't quit my job to travel and I did start traveling to write a blog. Over these years I have seen more and more people romanticizing quitting jobs to travel and how they are following their passion.
It is an amazing feeling to follow one's passion. Joseph Cambell who wrote about a Hero's Journey once said 'Follow your bliss.' Following one's bliss or passion is indeed one of the best things one can do with their life. In a Hero's journey, according to Joseph Cambell, after facing an obstacle and being forced to take action, a Hero goes on a journey and arrives at the destination after overcoming all the obstacles. Then he returns to tell the story.
The quest, the obstacles and the journey itself - they are all very noble and inspiring components of the story. But what is happening in the era of instant gratification is that, even on a spiritual quest one is forced to draw parallels from the materialistic world.
Have you ever noticed, how even the most spiritually enlightening book also has to add a line or two about being the '#1 best seller or over a million copies sold' line on the front? Even spirituality can't be sold without establishing some sort of social proof or proof of materialistic success metrics.
These very social proof and success metrics have somewhat corrupted many individuals' original intentions. In my case, my initial intention was to take my readers on a virtual photo walk through my photos and words. After a while I learned that I could write with SEO in mind, pick a super specific niche, and by doing so I could create a bigger audience and then tourism boards might want to give me free trips, brands might want to give me free stuff or money and my original intentions were corrupted. And I no longer enjoyed what I used to enjoy doing. I no longer was following my bliss. I was following shortcuts to rewards. When I realised that I kind of shut down.
But there are people still doing it and it is inspiring more and more people to do it and now it has become a norm. Having a shocking clickbait is considered to be normal nowadays. There are software to write highly converting headlines and titles. Heck, there are AI-powered bots to write the whole blog posts for you. If you want a human touch, you can even hire ghostwriters. A few months ago, someone offered me money to write their 'personal travel blog'.
Low barrier to entry coupled with the possibility of earning money and gaining fame has diluted the passion. All the so-called passions, may it be travel, cooking, reading, or drawing - all have become different branches of a big tree called content creation and content creation has become a business. So in truth, everyone's passion has changed from whatever it used to be to content creation.
Though I must thank those content creators who struggled, persisted, persevered and made it big. Because of all of your hard work, many new legit career paths have opened up. Many of the members of the conservative society who used to think professional titles were the way to create a better life, now started to encourage their kids to be aYouTuber, a blogger or a vlogger. When they start to see the trend that, you can make money and be famous at the same time, why not? Earlier only movie stars could do that. Now my son or daughter can do it too? Then why not? Some of them even went one step further and started including super seniors too, just to increase the entertainment value. But it has legitimately opened up new possibilities and opportunities.
But traveling is no longer for the sake of travel. It is part of content creation.
Going to the place any Tom, Dick and Harry can go is no longer appreciated. Doing normal things in the most remote places doesn't generate as much interest as before. Doing what everone else is doing isn't fashionable anymore. You need to do something different, something truly shocking to get people's ever-reducing attention span and people are willing to go any distance.
Let's bring a 98-year-old grandma who can't walk on a high-altitude hike. Let's drive an SUV through the most pristine lake ever. Let's dance on top of the most sacred spiritual symbols of some indigenous culture. Let's intrude and take selfies with the shyest people on earth. Creativity is endless.
Travelling is no longer for the sake of travel. It is part of creating sellable viral content.
I could possibly say thanks to my traveling days for shaping me into the person that I am now. Travel to me was mostly about troubleshooting and traveling in India on a low budget has given me plenty of trouble to shoot! It shaped me from someone who couldn't even go to a bank and fill out some forms to open an account all by himself to going to unknown places where unknown languages are spoken without a proper plan and being able to survive the experience. I feel sort of invincible going to a new city and figuring out their public transport system and getting from point A to point B in the cheapest way, just like a local. I feel like I've achieved something. That sense of accomplishment is what I seek when I travel. I don't necessarily have to share it with the world or document it to complete my experience. That experience itself is enough.
That is one reason I stopped writing here, stopped posting on Instagram and so on. Another reason is that I didn't want to be addicted to a system that controls you and lose all my control over the system. Waking up and scrolling through other people's lives, subconsciously comparing and being influenced by it, wasn't a habit I was looking forward to cultivating. So I simply stopped. And boy, I couldn't be happier.
And on this 8th year, should I go back to follow my bliss and restart taking the readers on a virtual photo walk? I'm still deciding. It will be good to revisit the original intentions though. I'll see how I feel in the coming days. In the meantime, thanks for reading.
PS: You could also read it as a rant from someone who couldn't monetise their blog 😉 You be the judge.Reading Time: 3 minutes
On September 1st 2021, this small space in the internet celebrated its 7th year of existence. A small project started out as an escape from monotony, soon helped me take different paths in life, literally and figuratively. Slowly and steadily it was guiding me and re-routing me to different things which I had never even thought that I would pursue in life.
In certain odd ways this blog has become the place where I documented my experiments with life even though you can't really see any such experiments. But in my mind, I know that some of these journeys I have mentioned here have shaped me, taught me and introduced me a very different version of myself.
Initial days of blogging were full of excitement. Those were the day of learnings, experiments, virtual friendships, appreciation and more. Over the period of time, it made me do many interesting things and one among them was self-publishing a book. All those things cumulatively led me to land many opportunities which were not even in my wildest wish lists!
While travelling I've been offered jobs, business partnerships, paid gigs and more because of having this blog. No, I am not talking about sponsored posts and FAM trips and free trips and all that. I am talking about real world travel gigs that came to me where someone helped me or where I could help someone to create something valuable. All thanks to travel. But for making me travel and to be at the right place at the right time, I have to be thankful to this blog which constantly ignited the fire to seek new experiences and places.
Along with these opportunities, came the urge to earn from the blog, reach more people and to make it more search engine friendly and all these stuff, because almost everyone was doing it and people who had started during the same time I had started were reaping benefits. On a retrospection, going after such temptations would be one of the wrong decisions I have taken for this blog, along with not being consistent.
Gradually I became regularly irregular and all of sudden I started writing and posting to please the SEO gods. The combination of these things might have miffed off the last few regular readers of this space and they stopped coming. Then I realized I won't be able to go far without a little bit of appreciation and support. That is when I myself stopped coming back here.
One of the latest comments I have received here sums up my journey so far. Here I quote the comment that made me think
"I see you’ve made lots of changes to your site. I was trying to find a post with the famous pictures I remember so well … the beautiful angles and light that you used to capture … and figured this one promised pictures. Was not disappointed.
Am not too sure if many of your other posts are interviews or travel advisories? Just a thought … when I come to Trablogger I am looking for the exceptional photos you used to post. Will need to browse a bit more to stumble on them This was a quick hi.
Clearly I have changed over the years!!
Refreshing the notifications every 10 minutes to updating the plugins twice a year has been the two extremes of my journey over the 7 years.
Every year, around this time I'd come here and make those 'New Year' resolutions which lasts not more than a month. Here I am again, to make some more promises for the 7th year of blogging.
Like mentioned in the comment above, I think I should go back to my original idea of taking people on a virtual photo walk. So from now on, I will try to go back to the basics and remind myself why I started this blog in the first place. So if you are reading this, come join me for more virtual photo walks. Hopefully I will stick to the plan and post more, at least on this 7th year!
Thanks a lot for your support.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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