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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SlowRover Snapshots #16

Kolkata, Fisherman,

Old Man and his Fish

Title: Old Man and his Fish
Location: Gangasagar, West Bengal

Each day millions of Indians use boats to traverse mighty water bodies of the Great Indian Plains. On one such boat ride, I noticed this peculiar man. He had his hands inside two containers while vigourously shaking the what was inside. After witnessing this strange, incessant act for more than 15 minutes, I went ahead and inquired about the reasons for his actions.

He replied “I am transporting freshly caught fish in these vessels. If I don’t  keep stirring the water inside, the fish will suffocate and die withing minutes. I must do whatever it takes to keep them alive and fresh!”

“And what will you do with the fish when you get down from this boat?” I inquired further.

“Kill them.” came the reply.

I gave him a gentle smiled and walked to the other side of the boat.

Little ironies that fill our lives.

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit West Bengal, We strongly advise you to visit the Sunderbans. It is the world’s largest delta and a home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Vibhav

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

Valley of Flowers, Travellers and Pilgrims

I feel quite smug when I look at people performing rituals to appease Gods. I have never been compelled to fast and hope for redemption. No, that definitely does not mean that I haven’t tried to appeal to the better Nature of Gods on the morning of many an exam to ensure I score more than I deserve. But I think, that if there is a person called God, that person wouldn’t be so corrupt as to dole out marks, money and marital bliss in return for renunciation or offerings. Honestly why would a God care how many fasts you have kept and why would that God choose to praise you by rewarding you with your heart’s desire. It’s all too simple isn’t it?

In short I believe I might uncomfortably occupy that space called religious agnosticism.

This makes me quite capable of stepping into a place of worship to enjoy moments of calm, while observing the architecture, the paintings and murals.

The beautiful Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand (India)

The beautiful Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand (India)

But I have never quite believed in the rituals that people engage in. For me they are mere formalities to facilitate my visit.  Take the practice of taking off one’s shoes before entering a religious sanctum for instance. During my formative years, I was exposed to my mom’s friend who was finicky and expected everyone to take off their shoes before entering her living room. I started thinking of temples as similar places owned by finicky Gods. Like I listened to the aunt hoping to get chocolates, I followed rituals to visit temples in order to be able to observe.

You may enter - after you take off your shoes

You may enter – after you take off your shoes

My understanding of such demonstrations of faith such as walking barefoot to a pilgrimage, is limited to say the least. I can’t help but engage in a fierce debate when such instances meet my eye. A similar opportunity presented itself to me during my sojourn in the Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand (India).

Valley of Flowers – if you haven’t taken a look at the hyperlink, I’ll state the obvious, it is a valley of, guess what? Flowers!

But these aren’t just any flowers. At least not the ones you can order online for your mom’s birthday. They are flowers which are a part of the sacred Himalayan alpine vegetation.

A beauty seldom found beyond the valley of flowers

A beauty seldom found beyond the valley of flowers

Unique, bashful, temperamental, the flowers live and breathe in the valley, watched closely by the guardian mountains of the Himalayas with their burly bodies and beards of soft white. Streams which simmer with shy gaiety keep them company with their gurgling and shimmering warmth. And pretty butterflies and naughty wasps are aplenty.

Flowers being looked after by the Himalayas

Flowers being looked after by the Himalayas

No wonder it features prominently on many a traveler’s ‘bucket list‘ and finds mention in some of the greatest works of literature. Such is the enchanting beauty of the valley that Frank Smythe, the British mountaineer froze in his tracks when he accidentally chanced upon the valley and his encounter resulted in a book – The Valley of Flowers. Oh and of course, it is also listed in the UNESCO World Network of Biospheres.

Counting stars would probably be easier than counting the flowers on this plant

Counting stars would probably be easier than counting the flowers on this plant

Well, I for one don’t really have a bucket list. A place catches my fancy and I start planning a trip (sometimes when it doesn’t work out, I add the name to a secret ballot from which one day when I run out of places, I shall draw a name at random and scurry off to sip tea there).  So, with great eagerness, I set out to explore what promised to be an unforgettable rendezvous in the Himalayas where there are several species of flowers, names unheard of, some dangerous, fatal even, nevertheless beautiful.

You can find several winged companions buzzing with excitement

You can find several winged companions buzzing with excitement

Now when I head to the mountains, I do it for the vantage point above the world that the peaks offer. I do it for the emeralds swaying on the boughs of trees, the majestic robes of cloud which flutter in the wind and the Sun which blushes a deeper red while setting in the hills than in the plains. Distance from the chaotic network of roads in the cities which make life run like clockwork, from the hands of soot outstretched to hold and wring my wind pipes, from an armor of people who protect me so well that I’m at no risk of discovering myself ever. The kilometers which span between the city and the hills, bring this distance for me.

A flower which would give Black Beauty a run for her money

A flower which would give Black Beauty a run for her money

As I began the ascent to Ghangharia, the village which offers lodgings for the travelers aspiring to visit the valley, I was hoping for all of this and more. However, what greeted me was not a pristine picture but a picture which had been knocked clean off the wall and the inhabitants of the frame were swaying in the wind. An iron bridge and wide concrete roads on which vehicles were plying with great urgency, more hawkers selling more goodies in shimmery plastic packets than the New Delhi Railway Station and more people around me than I was likely to meet at a party in my city.

People clicking pictures around concrete structures on their way to the valley

People clicking pictures around concrete structures on their way to the valley

What was the reason? Apart from being a major attraction for nature lovers and Himalaya enthusiasts who throng the village to see the marvels of the Valley of Flowers, Ghangaria is also swarming with pilgrims who come to visit the shrine of Hemkund Sahib. Many of them walked beside me during the ascent, holding a polite conversation before quickly overtaking me. Some of them preferred to walk barefoot and that’s perfectly not unusual for pilgrims in India.

Sikh pilgrims I met en route Ghangharia

Sikh pilgrims I met en route Ghangharia

Now I am a perfectly jovial person as anyone who would have met me knows. However, I have a daily quota of joviality which is directly proportional to the number of people I meet. Hence, I was becoming increasingly irritable, aloof and the backpack started to feel much heavier than it was– when finally the respite came as I turned another dreary corner. It was as if I had crossed an invisible barrier dividing two countries. The air was a playful child which greeted newcomers with an enthusiasm which could knock down unprepared souls. The assault on my senses became pleasurable all of a sudden as the surroundings became beautiful. And amidst the new-found liberty of the mountains, I set the pace for the rest of the journey.

This twisted tree is the last post before the village Ghangharia

This twisted tree is the last post before the village Ghangharia

The path meandering through the mountains abruptly came to an end, vanishing within a huge intersection of a small village which by no means looked empty or quiet. I found myself moaning again. Would I never be rid of people on this trek? I had reached my destination for the day, tired and spent, but excited because of the promising aspects of the next day. I waited for the morning like I had waited for the morning I was to be awarded a Student of the Year (or something along the same lines) award in 6th standard.  Unlike that day, I did not have a nest of butterflies in my stomach who threatened to fly out through my windpipe. I had a cheery breakfast and made more acquaintances before setting out.

We cut across the village diagonally at a brisk pace to get to an official barrier. All the jagged, chaotic beauty I had been yearning for remained elusive. There still spread some beautiful, soil and moss-covered rocks between the valley and me. Had I not been so preoccupied with getting there, I would have probably paid them the attention they deserved.

Entering the valley is like going through The Looking Glass

Entering the valley is like going through The Looking Glass

I feel obliged to give a slight warning to future explorers. Don’t bother going there if it is order that you seek. I for one, usually tire of order and the chaos which it sows in my city life, the burdens of which are noticeable within a week of turning my back to the mountains. I love the mystique and the exotic chaos of the mountains which calms my mind and gives it the depth I seek. And this valley, an abode of the beautiful chaos whose song is sung by the countless species which come into existence in the delicate habitat, is perhaps the best chaos I have witnessed.

Mr. Leaf here looks really good with the yellow hair, doesn't he?

Mr. Leaf here looks really good with the yellow hair, doesn’t he?

As I rested by the river bank, soaking in the glory of Nature which surrounded me, my mind wandered. I thought about sundry things. From the botanist who had lost her life to this valley and its mysteries to the Lord Indra who sought his pleasures here. And then I thought about myself. The valley meant so much to me while I probably meant nothing to it. Just another of those thousands who flock to see the wonders it holds in its arms.

A flower shining like a beacon among the greens of the valley

A flower shining like a beacon among the greens of the valley

Then something interrupted me. Not something actually, someone refilling their bottle at the stream while making what seemed to me as much noise as possible. Another possible acquaintance, another interruption, who I observed chose to walk barefoot. Another pilgrim! But why walk barefoot to the valley? Not really, a splash in the stream led to wet shoes which were now drying on the bank. But my presumptuous query about the shoes managed to start a debate. Lots of words cropped up – renunciation, salvation, and beliefs – yes, all the stock phrases basically.

Then the conversation started taking an interesting turn. My acquaintance wanted to know why would I climb mountains, why would I walk when I could ride, why would I eat sparse meals in the villages when I could afford lavish dinners in the cities? Choice – was my simple answer. And then that victorious smile spread upon my new friend’s face and something dawned upon me.

The message reads

The message reads “enjoy the view of the mountains from here” – Nandadevi National Park, Joshimath

My friend got up to leave. So it was as simple as that. Being baptized in a certain religion at your birth makes you a devotee. Many a times the lifestyle choices prescribed do not appeal to your soul, your being. So people like me start thinking of religion as a factory, working through the machinery of rituals trying to manufacture identical individuals in the society. But does that mean we don’t need that kind of influence? One might choose to live by a different set of rules, or by no rules. Even negating makes you a believer. That becomes your own personal religion, albeit with fewer followers than other religions. Like the flowers of this plant, alike yet different :

Cluster of flowers spotted at the valley of flowers

Many musings later, I found myself getting up to join the rest of the group to head back. I was reluctant. I did not want to leave, not yet. But I had to. This view would have to do for now.

I was, after all, a pilgrim!

-Swetambara Chaudhary


Tripoto
The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer
Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook.

© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary. 

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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A Chance Encounter In McLeod Ganj And The Musings Of A Wandering Mind

Woods are enchanting.They are partially the reason for my fixation with mountains. While reading Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood in my childhood, I had convinced myself that woods were magical. And somehow they held more of a sway over me, it seemed to be more potent than the magic of the toys which used to come alive in her other stories. Pixies, goblins, fairies, unicorns – all could be my friends if I lived in the woods.

As I grew up, I was faced with the strict logic of textbooks which declared Santa Claus to be nothing more than an impersonator (I think he is a phenomena). Anyway, the books were still there. The Forbidden Forest deepened my liking for the woods, grave as the dangers lurking there might be. So, I can safely say that I love the rank of trees, the smell of pine cones and sweet Earth, the little rocks which make great seats to sit and ponder life.
So much for my growing up. But this story isn’t about that.

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About Goodbyes And The Plight Of A Traveller

This is not about the goodbyes you bid to people as you hug and smile with the promise of meeting again. It is about those goodbyes which ring a bell of finality, of an end.

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Girls waving goodbye while I drove away in Ladakh

Every time I visit a new place, I find myself taking an oath to return. Because I feel that I leave behind a part of my soul at all the places and it is necessary to come back and collect it later, to make myself whole again. But somehow I know that it won’t happen.
I will leave a city, a village, a town, behind.
A place where I had sat on the grass and gazed at the stars. A place where I had the first taste of coal burnt fish. A place where I camped in the darkness for the first time.
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An hour before departing from the place, a strange restlessness seems to take hold of me. As if I was Frodo leaving behind my Ring. I want to stay back, if only for a couple of hours. I can’t begin to describe how many times I have wished for the flight to be cancelled or to miss the bus which would lead me away from the place.
And then I have silently chided myself. For wanting to stay behind. Because isn’t it my aim to see the world? And the quicker I move from one place to the other, the better will my chances be of living that dream. And hence I have passed on, from one place to another.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I have not found happiness chasing different places. But it is much like the feeling you get when you are faced with the last day of school? Or the last day at work in your office? You are sad because you are leaving something behind, some people behind, a place which gave you beautiful memories behind. But that doesn’t stop you from moving forward in life, does it?
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Driving away from Warsaw, where I experienced the first snowfall of my life

That’s exactly how I feel with places. I want to see the world. But somehow I also want to stay forever at some places. The city lights appeal at the darkest hour of the night and the cool mountain breeze at dawn. Sometimes I want the opposite. And I find myself thinking again, maybe one day, someday, I would go back to those places. The places which are forever present in the memory palaces of my mind, breathing and whispering. One day, someday, when that whisper grows louder, I shall follow it. Until then, like a true traveller, I shall keep looking for new pastures to graze my mind upon.
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A man I met in Trakai, walking away after saying farewell

Tripoto

The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer. Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook. © Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary, unless stated otherwise. 

Lithuania – My Visit To The Country Which Had Intrigued Me Since I Read Hannibal

My curiosity about Lithuania, was deeply connected to Thomas Harris’s works. I looked at it as the majestic country where Hannibal was born and which shared Hannibal’s fate of destruction at the hands of the Nazis. And like all booklovers, I would like nothing better than to go and visit the country of the anti-hero. So when the opportunity to travel there cropped up, I was extremely happy.

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The World Wars had ravaged the landscapes of the beautiful country in the narrative. And in fact it has been an uphill climb for the country which knew such prosperity before the war. A considerable number of Jews, were forced to abandon their homes and migrate to other countries because of the imminent threat of German occupation in the early 1940s. With them they took a huge part of the country’s soul.

If that was not enough, Lithuania faced Soviet occupation in 1945. It was finally declared an independent country in 1990. And now, slowly and steadily, Lithuanians have come to a place where they can actually look back at the painful history and take lessons from it. The Grūtas Park, which won its creator an Ig Nobel Peace Prize, is a step in this direction.

Source : Andreas Moser

Around a two-hour drive from the capital city, Vilnius, the park houses the remnants of the Soviet occupation. Several statues of Soviet activists and leaders like Stalin which lay strewn about the country have been procured by the founder Viliumas Malinauskas and now adorn the theme park. According to Malinauskas, it is a way to criticise the ill-effects of the Soviet ideology which held the country captive. This is a bold step I believe. One visit to the park and you will know.

Lith4Source : Andreas Moser

The best way to prevent something horrific from happening again is perhaps to keep the memory of the event alive and breathing. However, just remembering is not enough. That is the tragic flaw of Hannibal (yes I do think he is a Shakespearean hero). He remembers each and every detail with the help of the memory palaces. But he is seething with the fire of revenge. He does not condone the actions itself but the people. Condoning such events will prevent us from making our future, a mirror of that past.

Lith5 Source : Daily Mail

The Hill of Crosses is one vantage point from where I could clearly make this observation. Twelve kilometres from the city of Šiauliai, is a hill which has over time become a mark of solidarity, a symbol of peace and hope for Lithuanians. It is here that the people found strength during the November Uprising when they decided to take their lands for their own from the Russian authorities. And again, during the Soviet and Nazi occupation between 1940-1990.

Source : Wikipedia

How did they manage to do achieve this feat? By turning to religion. They showcased their strength by leaving Crosses at the hills. This silent gesture reminded them again and again that they were not alone and their cause was not lost. The pile of Crosses keeps growing and it is a burden. A burden upon the hearts of tyrants and usurpers, upon the hearts of those who wish to take what is not rightfully theirs. Maybe Hannibal should have made this pilgrimage once. Maybe he would have if he had not been forced to elope from the country. Maybe then he would have been different? Who’s to know!

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Though Hannibal did not spend much time in Lithuania, it was his birthplace. Would it be too much to expect that his tastes, his elegance and sophistication were in some way a result of this ancestry? I was thankfully not proven wrong.

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The cobbled streets of Vilnius which greeted me as I walked on the cobbled streets of the city. The rustic appeal of the streets was enhanced by the maple leaves strewn all around, reflecting all the hues of autumn – from a mild yellow to a deep orange.

The buildings of the old town are a legacy of the Baroque movement. Beautiful cathedrals beckoned at me, to observe the peace that lay inside alongside the beauty.

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Food in Hannibal’s country was a treat for the traveller in me. Not only do they make the best potato dumplings, they also call them Zeppelin! (The fan inside me was singing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the moment I set my eyes on the dish).

Lith7Source : Ausrine art 

Another favorite was the beetroot soup which is kind of the ‘national soup’ there.

Lith8Source :Pinterest 

My trip to Lokys – the most highly rated restaurant was rather dull because of the mandate by my parents to abstain from eating meat during the Holy period of the Navratras. Still, the eggplant dish was delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try some their special stuff (though I LOVE and adore bears).

Could I forget Hannibal’s love for music? I was waiting to be enchanted by Lithuanian art and the opportunity presented itself when I got invited for a violin recital at the town hall. The first half of the recital was dedicated towards expressing feelings of great joy. i could feel my feet moving in a happy tap-tap as the bow moved against the violin. During the intermission, I felt as happy as I could, drinking some espresso and treating myself to some handmade chocolates. Then came the second part of the recital. The range in the artist’s work was clear as he drowned me in a sea of sorrow as I felt the bow move across the violin with short twangs and lengthy movements.

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I was deeply affected by the music the previous night. But then the puff pastries happened. When in Lithuania, watch out for all these wonderful bakeries which dole out goodies made in HEAVEN. They taste magnificent. And I thought what more could I possibly see around here?

I did have the ancient Trakai on my list though. and so I was driven to the castle town. The magnificence of the castle greeted me across the bridge.

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  As I walked in towards the gates, I took in the size and architecture and the beautiful lake amidst which it was majestically perched. Happy school kids out on a trip, families showing their kids around and lovers walking with their hands linked – it was the perfect place for all.   l8 (1)

I read up all the information put up in different corners regarding the glorious past of the Grand Lithuanian Duchy of the fourteenth and fifteenth century. (Yes, the castle is THAT old. My proud Indian father kept comparing the fort to Chittorgarh – that grand abode of the fearless, warrior clan – the Rajputs. That’s another story) The tales of the Civil War were narrated by our friend and the impressive armory had much to say.

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Unknowingly, almost naturally, I had become friends with a bunch of schoolkids who were there for a school picnic. They kept following me, playing peek-a-boo at times and making much noise in general. You know what was the most entertaining thing for them? That someone could be called ‘swaatee’. To avoid causing great agony to non-Hindi speakers, I like to use my shorter pet name ‘Swati’ when introducing myself (in fact even Hindi speakers at times).

Indians are taught the importance of speaking English, and speaking it correctly early in life. Most of us have no problems in pronouncing a certain English name like James or Thomas. Now sometimes, the child in me thought everyone puts in efforts to get someone’s name right. Boy was I wrong! Those kids ran around the entire castle shouting out my name with an absolutely unique pronunciation of their own. Hannibal would probably put in a lot of effort.

While walking out, I set my eyes upon a pillory that was used to punish criminals and set to take pictures. And those kids ran out and trapped their friend so that I could get a perfect shot.

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*******

I stayed at this comfortable modern establishment called ‘Comfort Inn’. The buffet breakfast was great. But I think I would love to go and stay at the Shakespeare Hotel. There is something absolutely enthralling about it. The hostels like July are amazing to stay at.

Another of my biggest regrets is not having visited the Curonian Spit. I hope to take a trip soon and walk on the sand while the Baltic sea rages on one side and the Curonian lagoon on the other.

Lith10 Source : Pinterest 

I did fall in love with the country. With the architecture, the food and the people. Making friends with people allows you to come closer to yourself. And that is the whole point of travelling. Isn’t it?

-Swetambara Chaudhary


Tripoto
The author is a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook. © Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Swetambara Chaudhary, unless stated otherwise. 

The Ross Island- Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces

Ross Island is a deserted island that is a part of the Andaman archipelago in India. Once the seat of the royal Britishers, it now lies in utter ruins. A shadow of its earlier self.

Despite this, Ross Island has a charm of its own.

This post covers the macabre beauty of the  Ross Island.

Welcome to Ross Island

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This sight greets you at Ross Island

Sights like these are abundant:

IMG_4069Nature, the Ultimate Conqueror

Ross SIlandA little perspective

Nature has engulfed everything here, EVERYTHING:

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IMG_4166Only the memory remains!

But there’s more to see here:

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Some views are more beautiful than others:

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Whoaaa!

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An old swimming pool!

IMG_4215An ancient tree at Ross Island

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The Presbyterian Church

IMG_4234-001The Ross Island Cemetery

IMG_4243Yes, this place has a beautiful pond!

Wildlife’s abundant too :

IMG_4196Deers roam freely here

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Liked the images? Check out our other post on Andamans.
Click here to read more about the history of Ross Islands.

-Vibhav Bisht


The author is a hardworking lazy-ass! He loves to travel though!
Feel free to disturb his naps on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Slow Rover on Twitter!

© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Vibhav Bisht. 

Pari Tibba- The Witch’s Hill

Pari Tibba or the Witch’s Hill, is my favourite part of Mussorie, India. Away from the hustle bustle of the Queen of Hills, Pari Tibba is a haven for all those who are looking for complete solitude (and also a chance to witness the best of Mussorie Ridge). I was first introduced to this place by Ruskin Bond, who has mentioned this magical land in many of his stories.

Hence, I decided to explore it. In this article, I’ll tell you how to trek to Pari Tibba.

Actually, it is more of a stroll rather than a trek, for this region can be covered within a few hours on foot. And once you conquer the top of the hill, the sight is truly spectacular.

Reaching There :

The trek to Pari Tibba technically starts from the famous Woodstock School at the eastern end of Mussorie. Mussorie lies at approximately 286 kms from New Delhi . It is a 5-6 hour drive on a route that passes through the following cities:

Delhi -> Ghaziabad -> Modinagar -> Muzzafarnagar -> Saharanpur -> Roorkee -> Dehradun -> Mussorie
Total Distance -286 kms

After having a light breakfast (Try ‘Lovely Omelette’ at the eastern end of the Mall) head towards the Woodstock School. You’ll pass through the famous Landour Bazaar (Old Mussorie) which is quite an experience in its own way .

An old Bike Repair shop at Landour Bazaar

Woodstock lies at a distance of 3 km from here. The Pari Tibba trail starts from here.

THE TREK :

As mentioned above, it is a simple enough trek which can be completed in a few hours. From the main gate of the Woodstock School, take the side road which descends towards the hostel building of Woodstock.

The gentle trail near Woodstock
A cemented trail emanates from the back of this hostel. Follow this trail which will lead you towards Dhobi Ghat Village in a few minutes. A quick tip: Stay away from the dogs of this village!

Moving on, from here it is a gentle ascent for around two kilometres. The track bifurcates after a while and you need to take the path going right. En route, you might also notice the ruins of old British houses which were abandoned by their owners due to constant lightning hits(Hence the name– Witch’s Hill). A steep ascent during the last stretch of the trail leads you directly to the top a small but beautiful hill.

Welcome to Pari Tibba!

A small temple near a clearing let’s you know that you’ve arrived.

Relaxing at Pari Tibba

Pari Tibba is a great picnic spot. It has some of the most deliciously breathtaking views of the Himalayas.

Just Perfect!

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After spending a considerable amount of time extolling the beauty of this wonder, you can descend down the same path and retrace your steps till Woodstock.

If time permits, you have the option to cover the Lal Tibba region of Mussorie. Or maybe someplace else.

You’re never short of options at Mussorie.

-Vibhav Bisht

Tripoto


The author is a hardworking lazy-ass! He loves to travel though!
Feel free to disturb his naps on Twitter and Facebook.

Follow Slow Rover on Twitter!

© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Vibhav Bisht. 

5 Ways To Respect Others When You Go Abroad

Guest writer Amile Jessica of the international travel super-group ‘Unexpected Wanderlust‘ writes about ‘how’ and ‘why’ you should respect the locals while travelling globally!


From a young age, I dreamed of a life of international travel. In many ways, travel was my first love. It prompted me to quickly consume as much information as I possibly could about the world around me, to constantly change for the better so I could become smarter, stronger, and more capable to do what? Travel of course. It got to a point where I had to ask myself, why do I even care, what is it that I like so much about this?  Which lead me to my next love: a love of life, of other people, and of the human experience.

But this love is much more complicated. When you feel connected to the human race, you also feel responsible for the incredible amount of pain so many individuals face at the hands of greed, ignorance, and recalcitrance. You feel aware of your own privileges to do something about this, and don’t want to squander your possession of a voice, which has power to advocate and fight for others so that they can be heard too.

People are so wonderful and amazing!!! (of course I asked these women if they would be comfortable with their photo online before taking the shot-- they were very excited about it)

People are so wonderful and amazing!!! (of course I asked these women if they would be comfortable with their photo online before taking the shot– they were very excited about it)

Then traveling can feel selfish, and even downright harmful. To be an honest ethical individual I must then ask myself hard questions about my life long passion and path: Is this worth my time, efforts, money, health, and energy? Does this genuinely help make the world a better place? Does it make me a better person?

If you are one affected by wanderlust then you have surely seen quotations which praise travel for it’s ability to expand personal horizons and squash prejudices in their tracks. But is a change of scenery enough to make us ethical people? Enough to make us forget the harmful stereotypes and one-sided perspectives that have been born and bred in us from day 1?

Travel can certainly open the door to deeper feelings of empathy and global human connectedness, but as we open this door we often hit many innocent people along the way. Travel alone does not and cannot act as an antidote to oppressive behavior. However, it can act as a powerful catalyst for diplomacy and change when paired with mindfulness, self-reflexivity, and intentions deeply based in ethics, which embrace humanism and social justice.

Below are 5 ways that all those who are interested in travel can better respect those peoples which we go to such great lengths to admire.

Bridge the Language Barrier with Patience and Respect

When traveling abroad it can be easy to become frustrated by language barriers. You’re tired, in a rush, and feel like you are going in circles so you snap at the innocent citizen who you’re asking for help. Remember that you chose to come to a country where people speak a language different from your own. Come into the experience expecting frustration and remind yourself to be present whenever you feel impatient. Laugh at yourself and the situation. Keep a language guide with you, and study some phrases before hand.  If you’re in the country for an extended period, try picking up a new language! Always remember: just because a person does not speak your native language does not mean that they are stupid.

Just because I hit travel rock bottom, does not give me an excuse to bring other people down with me.

Just because I hit travel rock bottom, does not give me an excuse to bring other people down with me.

Think Twice Before Using Your Camera

We get it. Nonwestern clothing looks really cool. But that does not mean that it’s okay to get your camera all up in the face of a random pedestrian, street hawker, or cute little kid. When in doubt ask yourself how it would make you feel and then respectfully ask permission.

Poverty is Not Your Eye-Sore or Your Fantasy

It’s difficult to not have high hopes and expectations of a place before you go. Movies and other types of media influence our perceptions of places we could only imagine before, and now will actually see. But places don’t exist for spectators and movies will almost always tell an embellished story. Many travelers, when faced with poverty that they were not expecting to see, cringe internally and come away from the experience with criticisms of a country like “the people smell” or “the city is dirty.” These criticisms play into negative stereotypes that do not take into account a history of oppression, whether it be colonial or corporate.

The inverse can also be true. We often use traveling as a way to experience something different. But when a country is not the type of different we expected it to be we feel like we’re not getting our money’s worth. This happened to me when I was traveling through Morocco. A native Moroccan that I was staying with told me he would take me to the best kebab place. Of course, I got my hopes up that I’d soon be eating kebab in some seedy back corner cafe surrounded by locals, but instead he ended taking me to a restaurant in a packed shopping mall. Internally I threw a little temper tantrum, I was in Morocco for a limited time and I wanted to go to a real Moroccan place. But I was wrong. I was in a real Moroccan place and I was surrounded by locals, even if it wasn’t the real Morocco that I expected to see.

This popular ice skating rink in a shopping mall in Rabat is a part of "Moroccan life," as are old medinas.

This popular ice skating rink in a shopping mall in Rabat is a part of “Moroccan life,” as are old medinas.

Make Personal Efforts in the Cultural Exchange Process

While learning about new cultures is not everyone’s first priority when traveling abroad, many of us do want to leave the experience with a deepened cultural perspective. That being said, while many native citizens are excited and more than willing to educate foreigners about their customs and history, it is not their sole responsibility to do so. Reading a few pieces of literature from popular native writers as well as some books about the local religion, food, history, and so on can truly deepen a travel experience and give you a great starting point with which to engage the locals you meet along the way. Making an effort to learn on your own shows others that you desire to move beyond shallow tourism and toward an authentic cultural exchange.

On a trek through the Peruvian Andes, this guide and I really bonded over the fact that I had learned about the native Incan language Quechua through reading literature from the popular Peruvian author Jose Maria Arguedas.

On a trek through the Peruvian Andes, this guide and I really bonded over the fact that I had learned about the native Incan language Quechua through reading literature from the popular Peruvian author Jose Maria Arguedas.

Educate Yourself on the Impacts of Voluntourism

So now that you’ve read this article and are fully committed to becoming a more ethical traveler you might as well go all in and sign up for some voluntourism right? Think again. Voluntourism is often criticized for creating more problems then it solves, which makes sense considering the issues this world faces are much more complex then a two week or a summer stay can accomplish. Even though these travelers might mean well, voluntourism contributes to damaging white savior mentalities which implicitly state that poverty is a spectacle which outsiders are entitled to enter into at any time, and that the only thing stopping issues from being fixed is a lack of local leadership.

If you would like to productively make use of your time in another country, embrace your outsider status and teach English (or another language which might be in high demand). Consider this teaching a man to fish; teaching English allows others access to a useful skill (in today’s marketplace), which will help aid them in benefiting their own communities long after you’re gone.

What are some ways that you respect other cultures when you travel? 

-Amile


© Copyright for all the images owned by SlowRover and Amile Jessica

What Is Love?

What is Love? Is it what makes us try a little harder everyday? Or what makes us give up everything to follow one person around? Is it what make us look out for one person or what makes us look for ourself? Let’s see what Anahita Fotedar has to say about Love in this guest post.


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We live in a paradigm of fantasies & fault in our stars. We live in a paradigm of text message break-ups & instant attractions. We live in a paradigm between the social right & what we feel is right & somewhere along this road, we tumble our way out, without giving ourselves a moment to recover.

We hardly give ourselves time to acknowledge our feelings & then we hardly give time to ourselves to heal because we are so caught up in the rat race to reach the end, to keep up with the peer pressure & most of all to not be called out as an outcast, a loser, a nobody.

There are so many books & NYTimes guidelines these days on, “how to figure out you`re in love?”, “guidelines to love?”, “guidelines to relationships!” and so on & so forth. I don`t get it, how can you base love on empirical results, how can you treat love like it`s  a scientific experiment?

And this is post, is just a rant, so before I begin on my opinion, please keep an open mind & even if I don`t make sense, just read it out, maybe you`ll agree on a very significant point or disagree on the insignificance of this statement.

We`ve read about love in books & often times we wish to relive the kind of expression & emotion the book conveys to us, in our so called “real life”. But what exactly is love, how do you define love? Does it necessarily have to be something that stems out of a relationship that has grown from friendship to best friends to lets finally play Romeo & Juliet or is it something we acknowledge while sitting across that handsome man reading Jeffery Archer and looking all dapper & oh.my.god I am already imagining how sex would be like or is it something we fall for when we get a snippet of a persons personality in the way they type down a tweet?

Seriously what is love?

I can`t possibly fathom the number of times, I have fallen in love with the way someone tweets, or with someone sitting across me in the metro indulging in an extremely intellectual conversation or the way I am itching to write this post, because I am in love again. By this it doesn`t mean that I carry my heart on my sleeve & I wanna sleep & open up about my past to the person sitting next to me giving me the heart eyes. Seriously no.

Love makes you feel happy. Love makes you wanna do things with a 100% intensity. Love makes you wanna dress a litter more sassier. It makes you do a little twirl occasionally. It makes you healthy, seriously it happened to me. 😛

And when it ends, sure there is pain, a feeling of dejection, but there is also growth. There is that slight maturity, there is that slight knowing what suits you & what doesn’t.

And if you`re not going to indulge in these small little experiences, how are you ever going to learn about yourself? How are you ever going to spread some joy? Take it from someone whose gone through every possible thing in this world, if you can but spread even 5 seconds of joy in someones life, even if its just commenting on how well they eat the goddamn apple (I don`t know why I come up with such bad anecdotes) but it will make there day, somewhere they will either laugh it off or appreciate you, the fact is love gives you the strength to be a little happy, to be a little reckless.

And there will come a time when you will know, you`re in love again & you will know it`s intensity & you will also know whether it will end in a heartbreak or a surprise.

The fact is that if you don`t give love a try, you`re missing out on the greatest roller coaster ride of your life.

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Are you in love tonight?

P.s.- I will die an optimist & perhaps that would wrap my soul in layers of pain. It`s okay, because at least I know what living & loving feels like.

– Anahita

(Originally posted on Anahita’s Blog. Check it out here. )


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