Monday, 2 March 2015

‘Explore The Elements’ Photo Contest 2015


If you have been following my blog for a while now, you probably know that I am a BIG travel photography fanatic. I devour landscapes, colours and possibly anything that interests my eyes. So, when this amazing ‘Explore The Elements’ Photo Contest was announced by Thomas Cook, I knew I had to participate.

‘Explore The Elements’ simply calls for the four supernatural elements of the universe – Earth, Air, Water and Fire to be depicted through photographs.

To learn more about the contest, click here.

My entries -

EARTH
- Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth associated with stubbornness, collectiveness, physicality and gravity.

I had taken this photo in Hampi, which showcases the sturdy boulders along with the unruffled hills in the background.  

   
WATER
- Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.

I had taken this photo in Goa that highlights the free-spirited waves at a beach.


FIRE
- Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit.

I had taken this photo at a Dargah (shrine) in Bhuj that showcases the ongoing desire for life and eternity.

AIR
- Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.

I had taken this photo in a garden in Hampi, which depicts one of the most beautiful and natural forms of love. I believe love is as natural as breathing and thus, it's like air, which has no boundaries.

And now I nominate the following 5 travel bloggers who I think love travel photography as much as I do –

Francis Cassidy of The stray photographer
Michael Hodson of Go See Write
Justin Carmack of True Nomads
Alberto Molero of Wild Junket
Dan & Linda of As We Saw It

Did you enjoy my photos?

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

An Abandoned World Called Lakhpat

Lakhpat is a package of stories. It’s a majestic world that has endured the assaults of times and now rests in its unruffled glory. When I went to Lakhpat, I went to see the Lakhpat fort, but when I returned, I returned with Lakhpat – a world of its own. Besides the fact that it’s only 35 km from the Pakistan border, which intrigues you in the first place, Lakhpat has many gems to unearth.

Wikipedia - "Lakhpat is a small town and sub-district in Kachchh district in the Indian state of Gujarat located at the mouth of Kori Creek. The town is enclosed by 7km long 18th-century fort walls."

The door of Akbani Mahal

The fort is in a ruined state – the gates have fallen, the walls are broken and battered, and all you see around is bushes and barrenness. The Chhakra (auto) guy who got me there played my guide as well. He knew quite a lot of things about Lakhpat, which he kept sharing with me as I moved around. Lakhpat used to be a very prosperous land of traders before 1819 when an earthquake changed its fate. Lakhpat literally means millionaire. Interestingly, though, it still has shades of royalty in its wrecked state.  

Catching up with the BSF staff

I began my discovery of Lakhpat from the edge of the fort, where there was a stairway leading to a border outpost that had two army men on duty. I was in awe of them and the place. It was around 4 in the evening, but the sun was still blazing, which made me spend some time under the outpost shade and have a conversation with the army men. We chatted about everything from border security to Hindi movies. They were quite amazed to see a woman travelling alone and were happy to have a word with me.

The white temple in the middle of the sea was built by the producers of the movie Refugee.
Our men at the border

The glorious tomb

Later in the evening when the sun mellowed down, I bade the army guys a very reverential goodbye and moved ahead to explore the rest of the fort. As I mentioned earlier, the fort is in ruins now, I found nothing but the walls around. I just hoped to see something pleasing to my eyes. The auto guy had mentioned about a tomb and a pond, which hinted at something marvellous. And yes, it was marvellous indeed! The tomb, known as Kubo tomb, was built by Pir Ghosh Mohammed alongside a pond, which is not an ordinary pond, but is supposed to have healing power in its water. I was told by my auto guy and a young chap (who apparently takes care of the tomb) that the pond water is blessed by the Pir and can heal skin ailments. Well, I was more impressed by the tomb’s architectural beauty – it was black, yet had a divine charisma entrenched into its carvings. I liked what the young chap said to me, “Uss zamane mein logon ki ruh saaf hoti thi, nazar paak hoti thi. Aaj ke daur mein koi itni khoobsurat imarat nahi bana sakta.” (People of the olden age had purity in their souls, and thus could build such beautiful monuments. It’s not possible for the people of today to execute such pure art.)

Kubo Tomb
The reflection of the glorious past
The water of the special pond changes color - blue to white

A place where peacocks make appearances

Lakhpat isn’t the kind of a place that overwhelms you in an instant. But, if you have the curiosity to unravel its treasures, it leaves you speechless with its ‘faded’ beauty. After the tomb, I walked ahead to be enamoured by the random sights of village huts, remnants of old walls and peacocks prancing around. It was almost like when I thought that there was nothing more to see, I stumbled upon something that dragged my attention.

The existence of peacocks says a lot about Lakhpat's royal past 
The walls still stand tall
The settlement at the fort
Ruins and glory of Lakhpat
That's how you spot peacocks at Lakhpat Fort
The balcony hints at the ancient splendor 

The illustrious past

There is a broken Custom House, which was the chief administrative office for trade in the mid 19th century. It was known as the Chowk Bazaar or the Bada Bazaar. Just close to it is Akbani Mahal, which was home to an affluent trading family of Lakhpat. While I was greedily taking photos of the ruined glory of Lakhpat, a man who resided there asked me inquisitively, “What will you do with these pictures?” But as he walked along, he kind of comprehended my passion and indicated that there was so much more to photograph. Ah! Yeah, I knew. I wish I could grasp and capture all of it.

The custom house
The broken walls of Akbani Mahal
The stones at Lakhpat Fort are unique - they are known as thumri.

So yes, Lakhpat is a place where people reside; it’s a place where Muslim mosques and tombs exist alongside the temples and the Gurudwaras.    

Pir Sayed Shah Tomb

Towards the end of my Lakhpat discovery, I halted at Pir Sayed Shah Tomb that I had spotted from a distance and was already fascinated by its white exterior. All I thought in my heart was that Lakhpat was a bundle of surprises that unfold at every step of the way.

Practical Information: Lakhpat is 134 km from Bhuj and 90 km from Devpur. It is advisable to hire a taxi to get to Lakhpat as the journey is quite long and tiring.

Have you been to a place that left you totally awestruck?

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Friday, 13 February 2015

6 Most Romantic Places In India


When you think of romance, what comes to your mind? Well, I think of beauty, magic and love. There are certain places in India that personify romance. I believe these places evoke so much of mellowness that it’s hard to remain indifferent. You simply surrender to the hypnotic beauty around you and allow it numb you for a while.

So while it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I should share with you some of the romantic places in India that I have loved experiencing. But, I have a word of warning for you - Going to these places solo is NOT recommended at all!                    

Lake Pichola, Udaipur

Ah! The moment I had my first glimpse of Lake Pichola, I simply went berserk with my camera. I couldn’t stop taking pictures till the time the sun hid behind the Aravallis and left behind its poignant hues to leave me more spellbound. The sight of the beautiful Lake Palace hotel settled in the middle of the lake is unique and mesmeric. Besides, the atmosphere of the people sitting quietly by the lake, the buzz of the ferries and the royal air of the City Palace accentuate the joy of being at Lake Pichola.   
  

Marine Drive, Mumbai

A breezy stroll along the Marine Drive pavement introduces you to the simplicity of romance. No wonder the locals hog the site ferociously on any given day. But, it’s a place where you can steal a few quiet moments in the midst of all the noise and commotion. I would say there is a unique charm to the atmosphere. You can sit there for hours and gaze the horizon and still feel there is so much left to discover.     


Boulders at Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy Temple, Hampi

I don’t think I was ever at a loss of words and awestruck the way I was at Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy Temple and its boulders, from where I saw the most amorous sunset of my life. Don’t believe me, go and experience it on your own. The way the landscape rests in its nonchalance and the setting of the sun while the moon appears shyly, all of it is sheer poetry transforming into reality. 


Golden Temple, Amritsar

How can a religious site be so romantic? I don’t care if I am called crazy, but Golden Temple is divinely romantic. Besides its awe-inspiring reflection in the water, the aura of its ardent devotees and the bare-feet walking add to the charismatic experience.      


Backwaters of Kerala

I don’t really need to say much on the romantic quotient of the pristine backwaters of Kerala. Island hopping on a quaint houseboat is an incurably romantic experience. As you float on water, all you witness around is the picturesque fencing of coconut trees and the distant horizon, which solace your heart. It’s like a short trip to paradise while you are still alive.      


Nandi Hills, Karnataka

Nandi Hills is an endearing short getaway from Bangalore. Particularly loved for its sunsets and sunrises, it’s a place that beckons all the love-sick souls for romantic rendezvous. (Beware of the annoying monkeys, though!)


What’s YOUR favourite romantic place in the world?       

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Where Am I Going Next?


Although it’s exciting to talk about one’s travel plans, I find it a little inappropriate. And thus, I am writing this post after a lot of mulling over and a bit of hesitation. I always maintain that I am a spontaneous traveller, and most of the time I don’t choose my destinations. I travel as and when it’s possible. But, I am consciously making a change this year – an upward change in my travel life.

As I have said before that I am still struggling money-wise and it’s not really rosy to be a freelancer, travelling frequently is a difficult choice for me. Nevertheless, my courage, determination and passion to live my dream will take me to many new places this year. As long as you want to do something, money does come along sooner or later.

So, here come my travel plans for the year ahead –

Gujarat

I am going to Gujarat this month! I had got intrigued about Bhuj last year and wanted to make it there in October, but that didn’t work out for me. Anyway, I am finally going there. Before I head to Kutch, I hope to explore a bit of Ahmedabad, too. I have heard that it’s currently one of the most liveable cities in India. So, I am really curious to feel its vibe. I chose Kutch to be my main destination in Gujarat, because I am avidly keen to unravel its rustic life. One of my favourite movies, Lagaan has played a big role in enticing me to travel to Bhuj. Let’s see to what level the reality matches up to my fantasy.

Image source here

Panchgani 

I don’t just want to visit Panchgani as a traveller, but it’s also very much needed that I get acquainted with it. I wrote a novella four years back (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), which is set in Panchgani and thus, I want to visit it to be able to give my story a more realistic touch. So, Panchgani will be more of a writing break for me.

Image source here

Kashmir      

My Kashmir trip is long overdue and now I really want to get done with it. I am hoping to make it there in April or May. I was supposed to be there last year in the summer right after my Darjeeling trip, but it couldn’t happen. I was trying to hit too many goals together and all of it seemed too far-fetched at that time. I realised that Kashmir needs a lot of research and planning. Oh yes, I have my eyes on good flight deals!

Image source here

Ladakh  

I really wish Ladakh is off my bucket-list this year! I have read, heard and seen so much about it virtually that I feel deprived as a traveller and as a photographer. I want to go there primarily for the landscapes. I am waiting to squeal like a child at the first glimpse of the divine land called Ladakh. Ah! I am planning to combine Kashmir and Ladakh. I want to head to Kashmir first and then take a road trip to Ladakh. Does that sound like a good idea?

Image source here
  
Jaipur, Pushkar and Chittorgarh

I am dying to revisit Rajasthan during the monsoons this year! It is my ultimate favourite destination in India. However, I will consciously avoid going to the places that I have been before and explore some new ones, such as Jaipur, Pushkar and Chittorgarh. But I am flexible with my plans. I want to keep it spontaneous and just follow my heart wherever it leads me.

Image source here

So that’s about it. I don’t have anything on my mind for autumn as of now. All I can say is that there is going to be a big surprise for me and for my readers towards the end of the year. 

What about you? Tell me one destination that you are determined to tick off in 2015?

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Friday, 6 February 2015

How Travel Breaks The Biggest Myth Of Life


I believe the biggest myth of life that people carry in their minds is that nobody should be trusted. This myth does have a background to it, though. People tend to doubt people only when their trust is broken. There are so many wrong things happening in the world that we are losing our faith in one another. We don’t want to trust strangers. In fact, we are wary of trusting even our acquaintances and friends sometimes. BUT, I have realized that travel forces you to trust strangers. You have no choice. You can either choose to be confined to a life with just your near and dear ones, and shut all doors of discovery and experiencing life beyond your home, or you can step out and choose to trust strangers.

The beauty of life

It’s strange, but true. All of us, at some point, make a choice to trust people who we don’t know at all. That’s the beauty of life. If we stop placing our trust on one another, life would have no meaning. So, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that TRAVEL cajoles you to trust people and believe that there’s still some a lot of goodness left in the world.


Hesitant to visit a mosque?

There are so many false notions we carry for years and years until we hit the road and get to see the real picture of the outside world. We have been made to believe that it’s not safe to travel to places that have people from a certain religious community. For instance, people hesitate to travel to Muslim countries presuming that it might create some unpleasant situation for them. To be honest, I also thought the same way until I visited a Masjid (Mosque) in Hyderabad, where I found some lovely people. They were as warm and kind to me as anybody anywhere else would be. I was asked to wear a Hijab (scarf), which is a must to visit a mosque. As soon as I started taking photos, a couple of devotees told me to go inside the mosque to get a better view of Charminar. I didn’t know I could take a beautiful reflection shot of Charminar – a monument that has been clicked by so many photographers that it’s a clich├ęd site now. I found a bunch of shy Burka-clad women sitting together and looking at me inquisitively. I stooped to take their photo, but just asked them customarily if they were okay with it. They were cool women. I mean it was a religious place, and I guess I am not supposed to point my bulky camera at people. But, the atmosphere was so chilled out and nice. I was as comfortable as I would be anywhere else.


Are you ‘always’ unsafe when alone?

When I travelled to the Thar Desert with a chauffeur, I was edgy throughout the journey. And, much to my dismay, I had to return alone, too. Though I wouldn’t recommend a woman to travel alone at night (I had no choice), I was taken care of very well by my chauffeur. Likewise, there have been many instances on my travels when I have laid my trust on strangers and everything had turned out just fine.

Is it wrong to trust people?

One incident that really touched my heart was in Pelling (Sikkim), where I hired a cab to go to Darap Village. I had to withdraw money from the ATM, which was a little away from the cab. Since the cabby had already placed my suitcase on top of the cab, I was hesitant to leave my luggage at his mercy. The cabby, comprehending my nervousness, assured me that nothing wrong would happen and I could go and withdraw money. I kept looking back while walking towards the ATM, and the cabby kept assuring me that the people of Sikkim were good and that nobody harmed anybody. What I liked about this episode is that the cabby was so proud of his people and his region. There was a sense of complacency in his attitude, as if he wanted to promote the fact that goodness was their basic character.  


Every time I am on the road on my own, I am reminded that life is good – the people are good. Well, I am not denying or belittling the unfair and sordid things that happen in our society. All I am trying to say is that not everyone is waiting to pounce on you and kill you.

Travel connects you to the goodness of life

Travel allows you to break those boundaries of myths and really know the truth. It’s a shame if you don’t travel and never cease to live with shallow notions about other people. When you are a total stranger in a city or a village, you have no choice but to go by what you are told by its natives. I guess travel teaches us a big lesson about life that the best way to live is to trust in the goodness, accept the kindness of people and forsake the old dirty garb of doubt.     

What do you say? Has travel helped you break the myths of life?

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