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.
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.
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.
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.
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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?
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?
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.