Listening to the Sound of Silence: Moral Re-Armament Programme at Panchgani

The following passage presents my recollections from one of the best moments I have ever had in my life. I was at this 4 day session called ‘Moral Rearmament programme’ conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ at Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra. Read this if you believe in the power of listening to your inner self.

 

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We all lead a hectic life.

From daily classes to never-ending deadlines, it is extremely easy to get lost in this fast paced world. Every day, we struggle with challenges that lie both outside and inside ourselves. But with time, we lose our inherent capability to fight these challenges while trying to keep up with the world around us.

The moral re-armament programme conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ (IofC) was a welcome change from the rat-race that we are all a part of. It is conducted at a beautiful location called Asia Plateau –Panchgani. To describe the experience in one sentence- it provided us with an opportunity to connect with our inner self and experience the power of silence.

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Asia Plateau, Panchgani

Our first day started with waking up early and catching the 6 am bus from our college campus that would take us to Panchgani. After an exciting morning ride, we all reached the Asia Plateau campus within three hours from departure. The first glimpse of cloud covered campus made us rejoice with happiness. We have seen plenty of cloud cover days here at Lavale, but this was different, it was as if the weather had a personality of its own!  We were all waiting for the sessions to start.

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More shots from the Asia Plateau Campus

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#PicRover- Deoriyatal Trek

Deoriyatal is a Himalayan lake surrounded a beautiful meadows of Uttrakhand. To add to the setting, the lake overlooks the mighty Chaukhamba peak, making this location one of the best campsites in India!

I reached this location in the April of 2017, a season when the entire 2 kilometer long trail from Sari Village to Deoriyatal is filled with ‘Buransh’-  or wild rhododendron. This article relives the memories of the short Deoriyatal trek through a series of snapshots.

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The trek starts from Sari Village, 14 kms from Ukhimath. The 2 kms long trek is moderately steep, but has a well marked and well laden path.

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Make sure to enjoy a glass of the famous ‘Buransh’ Juice (made from freshly plucked wild rhododendron flowers) available throughout the region.
deoriyatal trek

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Exploring the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya: Part 1- Cherrapunjee

Ah Meghalaya!

The land whose exotic rain-forests hide one of the most beautiful secrets of India- the ancient Living Root Bridges.

These Living Root Bridges, as the name suggests, are bridge like structures made from the roots of Fiscus Elastica. Interacting with locals, we found out that each living root bridge take at least about 10-15 years to become sturdy enough to hold human weight, and most of the living root bridges in the Khasi-Jaintia  hills of Meghalaya are over 100 years old.

In this article, we’ll showcase a series of such bridges encountered by the author during his trek to a village called Nongriat near Cherrapunjee.

The trek starts about 3-4 kilometres from Nongriat, a village famous for its rare Double-Decker living root bridge.

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Enroute the Nongriat Trek- Such views are abundant. 

Infact, you can witness you first ever living root bridge about 30 minutes into the trek (2-3 kms before Nongriat). This one will be marked as ‘Single Decker living root bridge’ on the sign boards. (I am unable to recollect the name of the village where this bridge is present. Comment on this blog in case you happen to know the name. TIA!)
Ticket Cost for Single Decker Root Bridge: 10 INR.

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Need to climb this bamboo structure to access the root bridge Continue reading

Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

It’s surprising how train journeys closely mimic the cycle of life. We meet people, make friends, only to let them go and find new ones- thereby knitting an endless chain of emotions- only to be felt but never to be broken. But again, what is life, but a collection of such journeys.

The following passage is an ‘as-it-happened’ description of a journey with the Indian Railways (the 12.30 Passenger train from Madurai to Rameshwaram, both of which lie in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Try not to find for a story in here, rather, seek to experience the billion personalities that make India Incredible. Here it goes.

Chug, Chug, Chug! The 12:30 passenger train from Madurai has just started to sing its rhythmic song, a melody it will sing for the next few hours till it reaches a mystical island called Rameshwaram. It is an overcast day of November 2015, the rain clouds looming over the horizon as I attempt to traverse, and hopefully document, the lush green landscape of Tamil Nadu, India.

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Tamil Nadu country side with the looming rain clouds

I yearn for the rain, as I am aware of the power of the raindrops to elate even the most dolorous environs.

As I try to get comfortable in my cozy window side seat, I am greeted by a distinct sound. ‘Wooooooo…’– a loud cheer, emanating from the far corner of my train bogie, surprises all the five occupants of the compartment I am in. The train had just passed over a small river causing a group of seven children, sitting at a corner of the bogie along with their parents, to let out a loud “Woooooo..” sound in a seemingly pre-planned unison. From that moment onward, the children failed to hide their excitement towards any river, tunnel, or even an old bridge that our passenger train crossed.
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Bhangarh : The Ruined City and The Ghosts I Met There

 

Ever been compelled to watch a horror movie in the dead of night even though you know it would lead to countless sleepless nights? Ever been infatuated with the idea of exploring a haunted house? No? Yes? I was.

So were four of my friends. The big question was – where? Residing in Delhi which has seen its share of cold-blooded assassinations, bloody battles and betrayals, we thought it would be easy to spot restless, revengeful souls here. After making trips to the Khooni Darwaza, the Malcha Mahal, Agrasen ki Baoli and even a neighbouring house in the residential area of Lajpat Nagar, and not meeting any ‘other worldly’ (just because it is an accepted term, if they are in this world, how are they other-worldly? Anyway more on that later) creatures, we couldn’t decide where would our efforts find fruition. We finally zeroed down upon Bhangarh. What better place to get the thrills than a ruined city which is famed to be India’s most haunted place?

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Archaeological Survey of India has put up a stone inscription outside the fort describing the construction

On the D-day, we rose early and started preparing ourselves according to the lengthy to-do list put together by our friend. She insisted that the place was infested with djinns who cling to open hair – which made all of us pull our hair into tight buns. Applying perfume or fragrant shampoo was a definite invitation for ghosts – hence, avoided. We had breakfast with an uneasy sense of foreboding and then drove away. Throughout the 60-odd km drive to the destination form Jaipur, we were excited and discussing details with our jolly driver – Param bhaiya (In India men are ‘bhaiya’ until they become ‘uncle’ at about the age of fifty or so. It is the polite way of addressing them).

It was a bright December morning. As the majestic ruins loomed towards our eyes, the Sun warmed our souls and we walked on towards the fort from our car. And I thought, would it be just as beautiful had it not been chaotic? If this is its state in abandonment, how did it look at the peak of prosperity?

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The stairway leading upto the main fort complex of Bhnagarh

Immersed in thoughts, we came upon a notice by the Archaeological Survey of India, prohibiting anyone from staying inside before sunrise and after sunset. After reading this proclamation of the dangers inside, we ventured onwards into the realm of ghosts.

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2015 Travel Logbook – ft. Fantastic Indian Foods And Where To Find Them

Given our love for food, this post was long coming. It is a proof of how nice things happen to you when you travel.  2015 was a year of joyful travels for the Slowrover team. Individually, we travelled to distant parts of this beautiful country, getting unbelievably lucky when it came to food, This post celebrates our love for Indian Food, and we share with you, the best treats we had in 2015 (and where to find them). Here it goes

Disclaimer : You will feel very hungry. And you will need to travel.

Omelette Indulgence at Lovely Omelette Centre, Mussorie
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Cheese Omelette at Lovely’s

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Foodgasm in the making

Lovely Omelette Centre is considered to be one of the best omelette experiences in India. Extensively covered by all the leading travel/food journals of India (Lonely Planet, Outlook Traveller, Trip Advisor, Highway on my Plate), this Omelette paradise is adored by all. It offers a limited variety of omelettes (Oil/Butter/Cheese being the prominent ones).

Location: At the Picture Palace end of the Mussorie Mall (Uttarakhand), near the Church.

 

The Joy of Looking At Fresh Banana Chips Being Prepared 

Travelling through Kerala meant being exposed to both banana chips and coconut water in plenty. And they don’t love their banana chips for nothing. Check out a fresh batch being prepared in Thekkady :

Location : Malabar Chips, Thekkady. There is lots on offer here – sweet, salty, tangy banana chips and several kinds of other specialities like tapioca chips.

 

‘Tikki-Chaat’ of Vrindavan
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Tikki Chaat, anyone?

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Petrichor- The Smell of Childhood

I don’t remember my childhood.

Nothing except the smell of the monsoon rains, right before they lashed onto the verandah. Me, the solitary crawler, both enchanted and perplexed by a sudden downpour, would rush indoors to the safety of my mother’s lap. Such memories are vague, rather loosely etched on my mind. But the smell of the rains, the Petrichor, is something I can never forget.

I suspect that the ravishingly beautiful Petrichor is hard-coded deep into the minds of every human being. It is passed onto an individual through an infinite chain of forefathers. Or maybe it is simply a gift from heaven. After all that’s where the rains come from!

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Rains-Monsoon in India

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SlowRover Snapshots #24

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Title: The Appus of Mysuru
Location: Dasera Parade, Mysore Palace, Karnataka

I cannot think of any other place in India that celebrates the Hindu festival of Vijayadashmi (Dussehra/Dasera) with such zeal and grandeur.
The celebrations last for the entire duration of the holy Nine-Nights (Navratri) and is marked by the famous ‘Jumboo Savari’ or the Dasera procession at the iconic Mysore Palace.
YES, I attended this festivals for catching a glimpse of these Majestic Elephants (lovingly called as Appus!) and NO, I was not disappointed! Appus have a knack of cheering you up!

SR Travel Tip: Mysuru is famous for its grand palace that is lit up by TEN THOUSAND light bulbs during the Navratri celebrations! You cannot afford to miss the sight of this palace if you’re in Mysuru during Navratis!

Additional Readings: There is much more to the Mysuru Dasera Parade than what the article captures. Read this and this if you are interested to know more about this 400 years old tradition.

SlowRover Snapshots #23

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Title: The Colours Remain
Location: Jamali Kamali, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi

Beyond the bustling lanes of Mehrauli, in the domineering shadows of the Qutab Minar, lies a oft forgotten gem known as Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Despite being widly covered by the plethora of the Indian travel bloggers, it still remains way from the eyes of the usual tourist.

The tomb of Jamali Kamali is arguably the most famous (and supposedly haunted) structure of this 20o acre park. Some say that the two tombs at the Jamali Kamali Mosque are of a gay couple called Jamali and Kamali, while other sources rubbishes the claims and address them as husband and wife. While the scholars are busy trying to refute such scandalous rumours, I couldn’t help but get enchanted by the intricate colourful engravings on the inner walls of this Tomb. Whatever the truth, Jamali Kamali did leave behind a colourful legacy.

SR Travel Tip: The Mehrauli archaeological park also hosts other historical marvels such as  Balban’s Tomb, Rajon Ki Baoli,  and Metcalfe’s follies. A weekend sojourn to this hidden gem of Delhi is highly recommended.

Further Reading: Djinns of Jamali Kamali  || Saga of Jamali Kamali


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Climbing a Bamboo Skywalk: Best things to do in Meghalaya

“What did you say name was again- Prophet Star?”
“Yes.”

“As in P-R-O-P-H-E-T  Star?”? I enquired.

“No. You’ve got it wrong- It’s P-R-O-F-I-T Star. And by the way, you need to pay my 20 rupees as an entry fee before entering this Bamboo Skywalk- Hurry up, I don’t have much time.”

I paid up, of course, but not without reconfirming his name a couple of time. It’s not everyday you meet a man with a name so apt, for his job was to sit at the entrance of this amazing Bamboo Skywalk in Meghalaya, collecting profits from keen adventurers–here to witness one of the most spectacular scenes that the wettest place on Earth had to offer them.

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SlowRover Snapshots #22

Bamboo Skywalk (Meghalaya)

Title: The Bamboo Skywalk
Location: Nohwet Village, Meghalaya, North East India

You’ll rarely find its mention in any Meghalaya itinerary found online or in travel guides. Neither will the locals persuade you to give this hidden gem a visit.

But find it, you must!

This Bamboo Skywalk is located in beautiful Meghalayan village called Nohwet, at a distance of about 80 kilometres from Meghalaya’s capital city-Shillong. Sadly, this village is often skipped by tourists who prefer the proximate (and more famous) village of Mawlynnong (Too mainstream, I tell you!).

Each year, two brothers build a bamboo skywalk/view point, more than five stories above the ground, with their bare hands.  For a nominal fee of 20 INR you can, from atop this skywalk, witness the true consequences of the world’s most profound monsoon (this is the wettest region in the world!)- a 180 degree view of numerous waterfalls, more than you can bother to count,  and the mirror-like the flooded plains of Bangladesh.

Want to see more of Meghalaya? Click here and here to access more images from this beautiful state.

SR Travel Tip: If you ever get a chance to visit the godly Indian state of Meghalaya, keep a day exclusively for Nongriat Village– home to the double decker living root bridge of Meghalaya! Click on the hyperlinks to access more amazing content from us.


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SlowRover Snapshots #21

Tibetan Monks of Nepal

Title: The  Monks
Location: Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

You need to traverse a total of 365 stairs to reach the Monkey Temple of Kathmandu- ‘The Swayambhunath’. The climb is  steep, often disclosing an impossible to climb gradient of ascent. But once you reach the top, it is a sight to behold. The entire city of Kathmandu is in front of you, showcasing its sea-like expanse against the background of the mighty Himalayas.

Despite being a Hindu temple, the temple complex is usually maintained and frequented by Buddhist monks who perform their traditional rituals daily. The ceremonies are not only elaborately orchestrated, but also colorful.

-Vibhav


SR Travel Tip: Another must visit place in Nepal is the town of Pokhara. Located beside the beautiful Phewa lake, Pokhara boasts of magnificent landscapes and exotic eateries.


Want to see/know more about Nepal? Click here
PS- Click on the hyperlinks to discover exciting secret content! Let us know which one you liked best! Happy browsing! 
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SlowRover Snapshots #20

Ross IslandTitle: Old and New
Location: Ross Island, Andaman, India

Beauty, it is said, lies in the eyes of the beholder. All things are beautiful, however, it is us who should be able to see the magic within.

Ross Island is a perfect example of this apparent subjectivity. An island, which was once the seat of the mighty British Empire, now lies in ruin. But they say the ruins have an ability to speak to your soul; to fondle the emptiness within.

And Ross Island does just that. The island, deserted decades ago, is now full of dilapidated structures reminiscent of the glorious past.

However, if you look close enough, you’ll manage to find beauty in this negative place.

-Vibhav Bisht

Want to see/know more about Ross Island? Click here!


SR Travel Tip: Andaman is a treasure trove of travel escapades. We highly recommend an sunset dip in the most beautiful beaches of all – The Radha Nagar Beach of Havelock Island.


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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #19

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Title: Colours of the Dal Lake
Location: Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Cozily perched in the lap of one of the most beautiful valleys of nature, the Dal Lake possesses the wizardry to enchant even the most reluctant tourists.

The ‘Shikaras‘, or the small boats, that ply across this calm body of water are considered the highlight of this region. A sight of a distant, yet visibly colourful, shikara with its reflection etching the mirror-like surface of the Dal lake, and the hues of setting sun being reflected in the background. It seems that the term ‘Heavenly‘ was coined exclusively for such experiences.

 

-Vibhav

SR Travel Tip: If you get a chance to visit the Kashmir region of India, make sure you try the renowned ‘Wazwan‘ multi-course meal of Kashmir. Being a foodie myself, I can vouch for ‘Wazwan’ being one of the best food experience in India.

 

Want to know more about Kashmir, India?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.

Also, if you liked this post, you’d love this page as well. Click to check it out!


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My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) – The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

If you missed Part 1, read here – My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) – An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide Points

Alam (our driver) was telling us about his daily life before we stopped at the suicide point. He was used to making three, sometimes four round trips to the Kolukkumalai factory. That is six to eight hours of driving on the rocky terrain at a tardy speed of 5-10 kmph with frequent stops to let other cars pass and to click pictures. He was from a village in Tamil Nadu from where he and his parents would come to work in the tea estates in Kerala every day. Sometimes they took thirty minutes to walk from their village, small village problems he said, not like the cities with roads and highways. I thought about myself, spending an hour stuck in bumper to bumper traffic to reach the glass windows, the claustrophobic steel of my office. Well, this did look like a tiny village problem.

This pretty meandering path running between the plantations is the rocky road we traversed at a speed of 5-10 kmph

This pretty meandering path running between the plantations is the rocky road we traversed at a speed of 5-10 kmph

Now that the day was ripe, more jeeps had joined us on the rickety road. Alam turned up the sound system and then we realized how very special our jeep was in comparison to the others. He was a fan of Pop music and was humming to Justin Bieber’s hit single ‘Baby Baby Baby ooooh’. Akon, however was his favorite star. Conversation was stemmed because of the music so we lifted the flaps which acted as doors of the jeep to let in the sunshine and the view. Everything was surreal, the rocks, the endless cover of green symmetry. There were the dreamy, so-clean-it-could-hurt-your-eyes-if-you-stare-for-too-long jade inhabitants of the plantation our aim was to explore today, lined up all about us in a surreal symmetrical fashion. The tea gardens were a reminder of order, that was absent in my daily, chaotic existence of caffeine fuelled writing and sleep held ransom by internet.

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #18

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Title: Her First Smile
Location: A village near Munsiyari, India

Her name is Keenu. She, alongwith some other naughty kids of her village, had come to visit us, while we were camping a few hundred meters away from their remote Uttrakhandi Village near Munsiyari.

While the other kids were busy running around our tents, little Keenu had her eyes fixated on my cell phone. It suddenly dawned upon me that it was probably the first time that she had come across this miracle consumer product. Not only was she delighted by the bubble like icons on my phone screen, she giggled each time the phone made sounds.

Perhaps her major delight was reserved for the last. For when I finally started my phone camera on ‘selfie mode’, she gave an expression that was part happiness and part disbelief. After all, this was the first time she was watching her own face on a phone screen! I’m glad I pressed the click button right then.

Not all selfies are bad, ay?

 

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Munsiyari in Uttarakhand, India, do not forget to visit the ‘Master Ji’s’ Museum. An overnight trek to the Khaliya Top is also highly recommended.

 

Vibhav

Want to know more about Uttarakhand, India?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


 

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