Before I pick my phone to start a conversation with a ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author’, I do have my share of stage fright. I try to overcome this by reading about the Author from the Bio in his profile. I try to extrapolate a person from those 3 lines of text, reading some of the recent stories, creating stories on the places where the Author was there and doing some further social profiling. I also apply the usual tricks of showing interest in those things that has been mentioned in the Bio, and try to put up a fake face of being someone who is so passionate about those interests as no body’s business. I know it sounds so stupid and average but then you have to do full justice for any job you take on. To appreciate and understand this better, I would encourage you to read his profile at Ghumakkar. For February 2012 ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author’, I did all of this but realized that I am as ill-prepared and un-equipped as I was a fortnight back. There is hardly anything (Ok, may be 3-D modeling is not listed) which is not there.
To make things worse, there was a scheduling gap so the interview didn’t happen at the identified time. The few hours delay, didn’t make the things any easier for me and I braced myself for a eventful and adventurous talk with Nikhil Chandra, the ‘Ghumakkar Featured Author’ for Feb 2012.
What ensued thereafter was discoveries (we both are from Bihar and did our Graduation from same college, though in different decades), anecdotes, philosophy, gyan and almost everything else which has not been mentioned in the Bio. Without further ado, presenting Nikhil in a frank, involved, highly engaged, almost ecstatic conversation with Ghumakkar.
Ghumakkar:Tell us more about yourself, things that are not mentioned in your biography.
Nikhil: What!!! Did I leave something in my biography? Haha :-) Well the word that comes nearest to defining me is “melange”. There’s so much I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to be a magician too when I was a kid :-). Then I got over it. I once wanted to be Maldini but football stopped when my school years were over. I even tried painting but failed miserably, Guitar is my latest passion but I am yet to compose my own music I could only play cover my fave is Stairway to Heaven :-) Even since I was kid I loved gardening and once wanted to excel in that. I am a dreamer too and when I was a child I thought given the right practice and effort I could fly. Well Never happened but I let my imagination soar as high as it could. I finished Mahabharata when I was 10 and turned atheist. With the benefit of hindsight I realized kid shouldn’t be taught epics or they’ll all turn atheist provided they possess inquisitive mind like I do :-). Watching movie is one of my passions and I love Scorsese, Burton, Eastwood, Capra, Coppola and Woody Allen’s movies. Another thing I love is Ludo and I was a local champion too when I was kid. Nowadays I play it everyday with my family and I also believe that a family that plays together – in this case ludo – stays together :-)
Ghumakkar: You seem to be an avid reader of poetry and fiction. From where do you get this passion about reading? And what types of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors and poets?
Nikhil: Reading runs in my family and I inherited it. You see even my name is inspired from the character’s name in the novel – Kahani puri Filmi hai – my mom was reading while I was gearing up for my stint in this world. At the age of 10 I had finished 2 great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. When I was a kid I also enjoyed India’a very own Sheldon a.k.a Ved Prakash Sharma and still have vivid recollection of Vardi wala Gunda and Lallu (which was used as script of Sabse Bada Khiladi). Literature was my favorite subject in school and I loved all three; English, Hindi and Sanskrit. Reading English non syllabus fiction started very late. It was my elder brother who initiated me into what was going to be a defining point of my life. Like my brother, I become a passionate reader. The thing with my reading is 99% of time I finish books that I read in 1 go without any break. I love whatever I get hold of. Poetry, drama, science fiction, fantasy fiction, general fiction, memoirs and travelogues; I read them all. There are so many favorite that it’s very difficult to choose a few but let me try to name some of my favorite books include 100 Years of Solitude, Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, Midnight’s Children, Catch 22, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Waiting for Godot, Catcher in the Rye etc etc. It’s the same with poets and author, there are so many a few name I’d like to mention Shelley, Blake, Shakespeare, Horace, Harper Lee, Bill Bryson, Tagore, Marquez, Tennyson, Amitav Ghosh, Camus, Neruda, Plato, Machiavelli, Byron, Mark Twain etc etc. One of my favorite travel book happens to be City of Djinns. That is kind of travel writing I’d aspire for.
Ghumakkar: That is an envious collection. 100 Years, Midnight’s Children, Catcher are all splendid books. Zen and Waiting for Godot can be a character building material though.
Ghumakkar: As you have yourself confessed, you are idiosyncratic. Can you give us some examples of your quirks? What are some quirks in other
people you are fond of or cannot tolerate?
Nikhil: One of my quirk happens to be my reading habit. I had this book Eye of the World by Robert Jordan for some months. Every time I tried to
begin with it, I somehow couldn’t. Then I had to travel to Nagpur and I took the book along. I started reading the book at 8 O’Clock in the morning and at 10 in the night my co-passenger told me “Bhaisaab light off kar lien kya…sona hai”. I had read some 1000 pages. The first thing I did the next morning was finish the book in the hotel before even changing my clothes. 3 days later I arrived back in Delhi and bought next 9 books in the series and finished them all in a week. There are 13 in the series and I am still waiting for the final book in the series “A Memory of Light” which is slated to be published this year. Train happens to be the best place to read and now I always carry at least 3 books which I do finish during the journey itself. The only thing I can’t tolerate is hypocrisy. Quirks are good I love them :-)
Ghumakkar: For how long have you been a traveller? Does it run in the family?
Nikhil: As far back as I remember I have been traveling. When we were kids, our parent used to take us to our ancestral village for summer vacation. Then owing to the nature of my father’s job, life was always kind of Nomadic. The places we lived in (mostly in now Jharkhand and Chattisgarh) were great from travel point of view. As a child I loved to travel – My cycle and I used to explore mountains and roads less traveled. Then I graduated to scooter and then 4 wheeler. Even before dad would leave for office I used to sneak into his Jeep and take it for ride. Later my education/interviews took me to many places which include Puri, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Calcutta. By brother is an inspiration in traveling too but he is more of a biker and do trips like Bhutan and Ladakh and travels only once in a year.
Ghumakkar: As you have travelled to a variety of places, can you highlight some problems travellers often face? And how do you think we can be responsible traveller?
Nikhil: As a backpacker who is always on a tight budget, call me lucky as I have yet to face any serious problems till now. Infrastructure is getting better and connectivity – as in buses etc – is quite good. Technological advancement – as in phones, tracker etc – has also added to the comfort. As an Indian traveling in India, I don’t think much problem arises when it comes to touts/fleecing etc. The problem that I often face is battery of my camera which seldom lasts for day. Again food joints are a great place to have the battery recharged on the go.
As a traveler I have often noticed that travelers create more problem for the places they travel to. A little sensitivity could go a long way in ensuring that we, the travelers don’t leave any adverse impact on the local ecosystem. Sustainable tourism is a great concept so that a place is not “loved to death”. Plastic is the greatest bane of traveling. As I had also mentioned in my “Trek to Dodital” post, I had my lesson very early in my traveling career. Travelers from Western part of the globe are so much conscious and sensitive to the places they travel do. They do not litter and they do not climb on monuments. As a Ghumakkar we should take a pledge that we would respect the character of the place we are traveling to. We use more and more “local product/service” when we visit a place. A great thing at Ghumakkar is that we all bring home new knowledge and share it with other travelers. It’s a great endeavor in sustainable tourism if the stories of we Ghumakkars encourage friends and travelers to experience the same thing, which brings continuing business for the destination. We could all through our Ghumakkari strive to add to the “sense of place,” we travel to, to emphasize the distinctiveness of its locale and benefit visitors and residents alike.
Nikhil and Ghumakkar
Ghumakkar: You’ve been with Ghumakkar since April last year and since then you’ve wriiten 14 posts already. How did you discover Ghumakkar and what makes you stay?
Nikhil: It was through Google that I first discovered Ghumakkar. If I remember correctly it was a post on Gir by Manish. I kept returning back to Ghumakkar whenever I needed to research on a destination. Then one day I thought why not write for it. Sharing is good and who knows I might help other travelers same way Ghumakkar was helping me. Another aspect which made me stay with Ghumakkar was the local flavor. Being at Ghumakkar was like being with friends so I stayed and I am really enjoying the ride. There are some really passionate Ghumakkars here who do inspire me to travel more, write more and shoot more photographs. Another thing which makes me stay is that since my relationship with Ghumakkar began, I am traveling more and I am traveling responsibly too. With a post at Ghumakkar in mind, I actually see more, remember more, do more and traveling indeed is good.
Ghumakkar: Did you always want to write ? How long you have been writing ?
Nikhil: I have been scribbling for many years but serious writing has happened only in last 3 years or so. I started writing at a tech site of mine called www.teengocheers.com (teengo means Three). As someone from Bihar, I always had an opinion on Politics so I wanted to write that. Then I wanted to write on abstract things and that sort of drives me more. To share with you, I am not a fan of self-help books, at least at this point of time in my life so I thought that I should write on this topic as well, mostly against them. Ha Ha.
Ghumakkar: What about travel writing?
Nikhil: I started my travel writing on Blogger.com , late I switched to my blog called www.chandrablog.co.uk and then the real serious travel writing started after Ghumakkar. Ghumakkar pushes me to travel so that I can write more and if I want to write more, I need to travel more. It has become a great example of a symbiotic relationship.
Ghumakkar: Your posts have so far taken us to the Himalayan heights, National Parks, Historical monuments. Where are you headed next?
Nikhil: Well the nature of my job doesn’t allow me to go on long trips as I only have weekends at my disposal. Hence you’ll see more of Himalayas. This year, I have plans for Himachal especially Dauladhar range and a few treks to may be Beleni pass and Kareri lake. A trip to Ladakh on Bullet is a dream which I have for last few years and I am keeping my fingers crossed this time. But then whenever I plan to travel in advance it somehow doesn’t materialize.
Ghumakkar: The series “Of Seven Capitals and New Delhi” is very inspiring. How did you come up with the idea? And what motivates you visit
the monuments and write about them so regularly?
Nikhil: Thank you! Well I was writing a post for my blog on Delhi’s Centenary when the idea to write this series germinated. This series is my tribute to the city I love and made my second home. Motivation to visit the monuments are part Ghumakkari, part photography and getting to know Delhi as I had never before.
Ghumakkar: How does it feel to be awarded the featured author of the month of February?
Nikhil: It’s an honour and I feel great. And who does not like to receive “an occasional pat on he back”.
Ghumakkar: And has Ghumakkar changed the way you travel ?
Nikhil: Oh yes, most certainly. Now I see more. I have been in Delhi for 12 years, i have not given a thought about those structures but now I am writing so i know 100 times better than what i knew few months before. Thanks to Ghumakkar.
Ghumakkar: Before I end, tell me your favorite Ghumakkars.
Nikhil: This one is difficult. There are many but some stand out. I really like Aditya’s logs, more than the log the photos are simply out of this world. DC is a fabulous writer and photographer. I like Shubham’s style, much more free flowing and fluid. Among Hindi writers, I like Sandeep Jatdevta, Mukesh. Then how can I miss SilentSoul, then we have Aurojit. I can go on and on , I believe each one of them has their own ‘Core Competence’. lol
Ghumakkar: Would you like to say something to your fellow Ghumakkars on this occassion?
Nikhil: Carpe Diem! Don’t wait, seize the day. Traveling is an essential ingredient of self discovery and NOW is the right time to do it. Travel responsibly and respect local culture and ecology.
And here is the bonus pic, showing the man behind the fabulous interview, the one on the right.
Thank you Nkhil for the talking to us. I wish you many more trips. May the travel bug never leave you.