Friday, August 28, 2015

My First Rendezvous with Northeast India – The Mighty Gangtok (Day 2)

We started the day early and got our taxi booked from hotel for local sightseeing. The taxi driver proffered to take us to 5 local points for INR 1200/-. We started off with the farthest point – Rumtek Monastery. It took us about 45 mins to reach the location. It was situated at the most beautiful location, on top of the hill, with high mountains on the background and waterfalls on one side. The road  to monastery meanders down and spirals up through small houses and rice fields. Driving through these woods and enchanted villages in itself is a great treat to enrich the photographic memory. The entrance of Rumtek Monastery is guarded by Indian army. There is a large open space with a stupa erected in between the monastery. Main chamber of prayer was surrounded both sides by lodging place for monks. Further is the main entrance to the monastery, guarded by draped doors. A holy procession was ongoing with 25-30 monks chanting prayers while we reached inside. Walls were covered with exquisite painting depicting life of Buddha and other Tibetan deities. The air inside was pious and filled with fragrance of perfumed candles. No wonder this enlightens people to leave worldly possession to stay in such blissful place.

Rumtek Monastery

Rumtek Monastery
Our next stoppage was Dro-dul Chorten, which is in the main Gangtok city. Do-Drul Chorten Stupa is located near Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Museum. The Chorten is worth visiting during prayer sessions and also to observe the lifestyle of the monks. We didn’t get the chance to visit the most touted Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Museum, as all government offices closes by 17:00 in Gangtok. So, all the local sights got closed and we only got to see 2 points. This ended our local expedition for today and we were dropped at our hotel. 

Café Live and Loud

After much needed rest, we browsed the local market place and had our eureka moment, guess nice lounge to relax a bit. It's called Café Live and Loud. What an intriguing name, ambiance personified. A chic place with good food and nice drinks. Hot chocolate was to die for and not to forget, only place in Gangtok to do Seshaaaaa. The food was average but the ambiance was mindbogglingly awesome. I and my buddy had a nice relaxing time with some good country music playing in the background. 

                                                                                                                                    ..... to be continued

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My First Rendezvous with Northeast India – The Mighty Gangtok

"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls".

To most of India, Northeast is like an elusive hinterland with varied culture and exotic people. Having traveled to most part of India (thanks to my adventurous friends and family), Northeast has always being a more distant place, the thought of which doesn't come easy.

Living in the coastal region of India becomes “more than flesh and blood can stand” in the month of March. The weather makes us long for some surreal land of moist grass and shower of rain to sooth the tense senses. One such afternoon, when the Odisha heat became intolerable, I started searching for a place to elude from the respite of heat (after all with the summer holidays approaching). After ogling for some time, I got my sight on the travel package to Gangtok, Kalimpong and Darjeeling. I checked on google images (that is how I start usually) and spoke to my better half, and there I was booking travel tickets and hotels to stay. Hurry! Finally time to begin the thrilling journey to the Northeast.

As it was an impromptu journey, we packed some useful items like Umbrellas (it pours more than it shines), lot of pairs of socks (it gets too cold after pouring), jackets, mufflers, pair of joggers, medicines, money, more money etc etc.

We began our trip from Odisha to Bagdogra via Kolkata (no direct flight as of now). Bagdogra is a small village in West Bengal, surrounded by tea gardens. We took a private taxi for Gangtok which took us INR 1500/- after much bargaining. In Bagdogra, there are number of roadside shops with exquisite wooden furniture at reasonable prices. It took almost 4 hrs to reach Gangtok. Most of the way was circuitous, though weather was pleasant. Infact, it snowed on the way to Gangtok, which was quiet a welcome.

We had booked our hotel in advance, The Nettal & Fern Hotel. End of March to end of April is the tourist season, it is advisable to book hotel in advance. There was a low to medium tourist rush, as the season had just begun. Nettle & Fern is an itsy- bitsy and cosy hotel in the most calm and serene lanes of Gangtok, about 20 mins walk from the main MG square (most busy part of Gangtok).

Lounge - Nettle and Fern Hotel

Our room

We settled our bags in hotel room and did a change of clothes and began our expedition of the roads less traveled. "We look best when we are totally free, on holiday, walking in the pleasant weather, walking in the rain". Walking is one thing that i do only during holidays. We reached MG square in 20 mins, which is the central hub for shopping, eating, getting the information for sightseeing and hiring taxi service, etc. There is a Government travel office which remains opens till 17:00, and gives extensive information regarding travel packages in and around Gangtok. However, we were late, so we just walked around to get a bit of feel of surroundings. MG road/square is a shopping arcade, with shops selling local and Chinese artifacts on both sides of the central lane.

MG Marg, Gangtok

Lal Bazar

Tired from the trip and trek, I reached back to my hotel and dined there. Unlike the hotel, the restaurant was quiet chirpy and crammed. To our luck, the hotel restaurant was quiet on that day. We celebrated since that day was the karaoke night. We took a corner table and ordered pasta and banana smoothie (my two favourites). Amidst the merriment and cheerfulness, I noticed the out of ordinary warmness and geniality among people. 

Penne Pasta in white Sauce

There were a gang of oldies, sitting next to our table, who started chatting with us. Trust me, in an instant, we started feeling as part of the gang. They shared the addresses and we promised to visit them during our stay there. What a lovely bunch of people! Food took sometime, which I took no notice of, having occupied by celebration and lovely company. The food was unbeatable excellent and pasta was baked to perfection. After having a sumptuous meal, we bid goodbye to our new friends and promised to visit during next visit (because of busy schedule, only 3 days). I went to sleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

                                                                                                                              be continued

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How and why I changed my rant mode to an optimistic one on this Independence day!

Today didn’t start out like all the other independence days I’ve celebrated in the past. I usually have such positive energy and love for India that these days are extra special to me, and all the issues take a back seat on this day. But not today.

I read this article about 25,000 farmers seeking the president’s permission to hang themselves on the independence day. I went numb for an hour or two. Ironically, little children would be singing ‘Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan’ and ‘Mere Desh ki Dharti Sona Ugle’ somewhere today. I didn’t have the energy to put up a beautiful picture and wish anyone a happy independence day after that.

I was getting angrier with each forward message and post I came across. Not with the people, of course. Just because of a sense of disappointment and helplessness. I kept thinking about rapes, politics, injustice towards women, and women being unfair to men in retaliation. The baseless fights and abuses you see on social media just because someone voiced an opinion. Brainless movies termed successful because they are in the ‘100 crore category’, and black money moving in different businesses. Actors, politicians and babas being placed on pedestals, while soldiers and other hardworking people being disrespected. Numerous bans for the most insane reasons, scams, fights for religions, and prejudice against anything that is remotely different from the age-old rules carved in stone.

Also when adults ‘have to’ follow the rules or terms dictated by family, society, government, or by the ‘wise’, misinterpreting cultures and religions since generations. Add a bunch of more rules for the children, and they are well on their way for the same kind of life. Oh, and God forbid if someone tries to rebel or just go on an unconventional path. Each person around them would try their best to pull them down and tear them to pieces, bit by bit.

I am sorry. I didn’t want to tread on this path again. I know we can introspect and debate on each and every issue I mentioned here. However, I started writing this just because my thoughts changed its course later. I came across some ‘out of the box’ videos and pictures in different genres. If one was funny and witty, the other was a brilliant satire. One was inspirational, and one portrayed the landscape of the country. Videos that would immediately demand respect and admiration.

Then I came across this beautiful video. It touched my heart. And it brought out many aspects of me. It called out to the dancer in me, and reminded me how beautifully the most complicated things can be expressed in the simplest of ways. It touched the patriot in me, and I just fell in love with my Tiranga even more (if that was even possible). It revived that naïve, vulnerable human in me, who still thinks anything is possible, and that I can still hope in the potential we all have. It took me back to a simpler time and made me believe once more that any work done by us in any way at all will gradually change the picture.

Please watch this video. And more importantly, feel it. The art, the words, the sentiment, the pride, and the promise.

This is the reason I am writing here. We are all angry. We know what the issues are. We know what the solutions can be. Some are not in our hands, but instead of feeling helpless, let’s focus on the ones which are. Let’s try and make this world better in our own simple ways. I found a video I connected with. Maybe you can find a video you relate to. Not just a video. Maybe an article, book, picture, movie, incident, or an experience. Whatever touches us and makes us feel optimistic about our future.

Let’s start by not letting people throw flags on the streets tomorrow, and maybe deciding on a good deed for the day. Won’t it be better than ranting and being sarcastic towards the people who are blissfully ignorant or enthusiastic today?

Happy Independence Day!

This article is written by Krishna Raval Maithel. Follow her on Twitter here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Good leaders love chaos!

Sweat in peace, so you don't bleed in war!

Our mistakes are permanent, we don't have the luxury of coming back and saying this quarter we lost a little bit and we make it up in the next quarter. It doesn't work that way.

We make a widow in this quarter and she remains a widow for the rest of her life.

Our mistakes come home in body bags.

Spend your 19 minutes on this video and we promise, you will not repent! Thank us later ;)