Ghumakkar Digest – July 2014

A few weeks back I was reading the PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s  interview and her remark “Women can’t have it all.” has now gone viral. I have some strong opinions on this, but they can wait. More important than those is the question “Can anyone have it all?” In my opinion, no. As go the famous lyrics:

कभी किसी को मुकम्मल जहां नही मिलता|
कभी ज़मीं तो कभी आसमा नही मिलता||

This is an age-old problem human beings are trying to resolve. We are on an unending quest to have it all. But the truth is that we always have to make hard choices, we have to give up things. And especially if it is for following your passion, not everyone will appreciate your stand. It takes a true braveheart to go against the flow, and there are several sacrifices one has to make.

We don't want everything. We only want the whole world.

We don’t want everything. We only want the whole world.

Travellers are no different. Almost all of us give up something or the other to travel. Some give up money, others stay away from their family, and many give up comforts of a home. Giving up a cushy corporate job to take up travelling full-time has now become a norm rather than exception. Here are some of the early trendsetters: Lakshmi Sharath and Shivya Nath. There are others who take this a step forward and take a plunge with their family in tow. Consider this family for example. They have been on road for years are home-schooling their child to ensure that she doesn’t fall behind. While there are others who take this “giving up” to a whole new level, and prove that there is a very fine line between bravery and foolhardiness. Like this family.

There are many critics as well as endorsers of these travellers, and yet they carry on. And every year more and more people jump on to the bandwagon. Travellers get younger and younger every year and push against the boundaries. These are the people who chase a dream, and once they are able to make it come true, they dream new dreams. But if you ask them “Can you have it all?” They will definitely say “No, but we can definitely have what we really want.” And that is all that matters, coz who wants everything anyway.

If you have had to give up something to follow your passion, do share it with us. I’m sure sharing will make the giving up easier.

And now it’s time to welcome new Ghumakkars.

This month 2 new Ghumakkars joined our community.

Please welcome Agrta Singh and Nitish Kumar to Ghumakkar. Agrta’s action-packed trip to Corbett National Park and Nainital is a testimony to her Ghumakkar spirit. Nitish has set a new record of sorts by debuting with a series and completing it within a month of his joining. His log on his drive to Manali is worth a few reads. Both our new Ghumakkars are definitely to watch out for. We hope they will continue surprising us with new achievements.

And now a bit about them in their own words:

Agrta Singh – Myself a Senior Test Engineer working in an IT company, Noida. I am a born traveller:) I love to explore my India at its best. I love to travel whenever I get time in my busy schedule.

Nitish Kumar – Crazy abt gadgets & technology developments, Hobbies: Camera,Sketching, Blogging, movies, Polictics. You can always hit me about anything on @nkumar_ or at http://nitishkumar.net

This month also saw Ajay’s epic Road journey come to a conclusion. Tirelessly, he took us on a thorough trip across three states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra – and the union territory of Daman and Diu, spiced up with the sightings of the majestic Asiatic Lion at Gir. But before we could cry and ask for more Ajay being the Unstoppable one, immediately came up with the nail-biting account of his tiger sighting at Sariska. We eagerly wait for his next post. He’s spoilt us rotten. Kailash zoomed in on Udaipur and took us on a single-day tour around the city. While Roopesh, the rail-enthusiast and an old-timer, took us back to our roots with a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Mukesh continued his journey towards Manali. And Amidst all this, Patrick’s delightful little tale about Kausani and Ranikhet was republished because of its popularity. And all this while, Colonel Mani was exploring Sikkim.

Ajay’s encounter with the King

And as difficult as it is to decide one Featured Story from all the beautiful ones published in a month, it is a job that has to be done. Therefore, the Featured Story for the Month of July 2014, is Khecheopalri – The Holy Lake of West Sikkim by Col Mani K Gahatraj for its poignant story-telling and impeccable imagery. Col Mani managed to transport us to the Khecheopalri Lake simply by the power of his words, so much so that his journey seems like our journey and though I have never seen this lake before, I am sure I will recognize it if I ever chance upon it.

Here is an excerpt to get you hooked:

Life form in the lake along with the bog, marsh and the jungle hill that envelope it, is slowly stirring back to life. As the morning rays of the rising sun, filtering through pine and juniper jungle, touch the highest spires of coniferous hills and start dancing on the surface of this 3500 years old lake it is time to witness the beauty. At 5 am, it is the dawn of October morning at Khecheopalri Lake in West Sikkim in India. Tucked away in a corner of the mountain; hidden by the surrounding jungle and unseen from outside, this holy water body is located at an altitude of 1700 meters (5,600 feet) as a little bowl in the middle of mountain jungle.

The canopy

The crisp morning air has a whiff of approaching winter and though smug and comfortable in a warm jacket, I savor the morning chill brushing through my face. Walking the short distance from the Trekker’s Hut, across 100 meter long Tsozo Village market I see few doors opening and early morning smoke puffing through roof tops of few houses, perhaps brewing the morning tea for early risers. Day is just breaking and the world here is still semi dark and silent. As I cross the small clear water stream, over a culvert and continue walking along a narrow cobbled footpath that meanders into the woods I find myself entering into a different world of nature and its silence. Sound of crickets, frogs, insects and occasional chirping of birds greet me. The stone path spirals like a tunnel through juniper and pine trees across giant ferns bowing down towards the footpath as if greeting visitors to the lake. Along the slope of the path there are roughly chiseled rocks with painted prayers written in Tibetan scripts…”

If you haven’t read the story yet, do read it now. Click here.

Congratulations Col Mani and thank you so much for this beautiful story.

This month also saw a new edition of Ghumakkar Insights. Bed and Breakfasts and homestays are increasingly becoming a preferred stay option for regular travellers. This month’s Insights article focussed on how to make the most of your stay in a homestay. Following is an excerpt:

“Those who aren’t familiar with the concept of homestays, would probably have guessed by now that homestays are different from hotels in several ways. Essentially when you are opting for a homestay, you are choosing to stay in someone’s home. It is a great way to experience local culture up close. And, especially if you are travelling alone, the thought of coming back to a family after a tiring day is especially warm. In Swapnil’s words, “Wow!! In a strange, mystical, faraway land someone was waiting for you and was concerned about your journey.”

Apart from travellers, homestays are also a popular option for students, who often visit faraway land as a part of exchange programmes. Parents are able to breathe easily with their children staying with a family, under the care of grown-ups who can watch over them.

My room at the Isle of Skye BnB

The rules, facilities, and expectations may be different for each homestay so it is good to do some research before you book. Following are some things you should know before you book a homestay:

The location and rates
Like any other hotel, it is important to know how close your homestay is to the public mode of transport and other facilities. Based on your preference, you may want to choose a place that is smack in the middle of the city or set aside away from the hustle and bustle. It may also be worth finding out how secure the area is. This is the key in ensuring that you will have a pleasant hassle-free stay. With so many options available, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is important to know what exactly you are looking for from your stay. It helps in filtering out the unsuitable options right in the beginning…”

Need more tips? Click here.

We can’t really conclude the month without visiting the Featured Author Interview once again. So here is an excerpt:

Ghum : What all is already planned or being planned ?
Jaishree : In October 2014, we are headed for Kerala again for 12 days, then in December we are yet to decide between Orissa and MP. Come March 2015 – and hopefully we all are in Sikkim again.

Ghum : And if I remember correctly, you have been to all of these places before ? So why again, so soon ?
Jaishree : Yes. We have been to Kerala in 2005 and that is almost 10 years back. Manish wrote about the trip extensively but this time, we are not doing Munnar, Thekkady or Kollam. The plan this time is to do some trekking in Waynad, then we go to athrapalli, there is this scenic drive via the Sholapur Jungle and finally we get to do some birding and then to verkala. So it is a new place since we do less every time there is always more to do next time. Our first trip for Kerala was for 15 days, the next trip would be 12 days and I am sure we can make a few more. Whether it is cochin and coorg, a lot seems to be always left.

Ghum : How about Sikkim ?
Jaishree : Same is the case for Sikkim. It would be mostly western Sikkim, some small treks.

Ghum : I guess, it is time to go a little back and know more about you. May be that way, our readers would be able to place you better. You are from Rajasthan, right ?
Jaishree : Yes, I was born in Bhilwara , Rajasthan and I stick to Bhilwara for all of school education.

Ghum : Tell us more about Bhilwara and your childhood.
Jaishree : It was a small town then. We played on streets. There was an occasional Bicycle on roads. We would play Rope skipping, Satolia(pitthu), gilli danda, Oonch-neech. Carrom, Ludo, char-bhar, cards were the popular indoor games. There was no such thing as home work and unit tests. Later on Lamberetta and coolers arrived but in few houses.”

Jaishree in deep thought at Amazon Lily pond, Botanical Garden, Dublin, 2003

Want to know more about Jaishree? Click here to read the interview.

Thanks once again Jaishree for your valuable time and the continuing association with Ghumakkar. Look forward to reading more stories from you.

Our Featured Author interviews have had a great run this year so far. Starting from the adventurous Dr Taher and unstoppable Ajay who recently completed a series on his road trips, we moved on to Indologist Manisha. April saw us interacting with a long-time Ghumakkar Roopesh and in May we found ourselves chatting with poetic Avtar. Nandan concluded the season with his engaging discussions with the dreamer Vasanth and the Joyful Jaishree.

Moving through our own fast-paced lives, we hardly ever get a chance to look at things from someone else’s point of view, and we never really realize that the world we all live in is different for every one. This is what these interviews opened up for us. Each interview took us on a new journey and each writer revealed an entire new world to us. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for being so generous with sharing their life experiences with us. We learnt a lot from you, we really did!

With over 30 interviews published so far, it has been a marathon run for us. We now need to sit back and take a short break, reflect upon things and revisit. But we will be back. And soon! We plan to start afresh and we will be ready with a new list of authors to hound with our intrusive questions. And even if we have already interviewed you before, we may get in touch with you again with a new set of questions to probe some more and uncover a few more gems.

But in the meanwhile, keep travelling and keep writing. And don’t forget to welcome Agrta and Nitish and to congratulate Col Mani on his achievement.

Till the next time…

-V

  • Interesting introduction for me. Wish if it was economically that viable to be a traveler (over curent job of mine) for people like me, I would really never had stopped roaming around and writing about it.

    • Thanks, Nitish. I guess Anupam resolved your query. And on another note, several travellers have gone ahead and done just that. Browse for them and read their stories. You never know where your inspiration lies.

  • Dera Vibha

    You are right, “One can’t have it all”. But what you miss is the main question. Should you have got that otherwise? If you answer in affirmative, then you may complain about it. “To have it all” is a very wider term, and when you see someone with proven successful carrier complain about it, there is something specific and I think it to be looked into on specific issue/subject.

    Yes, true that brave heart goes against the flow. But that does not mean one need to be a brave heart in that sense to chase his/her dream of travelling. What we the Indian know best is, what we call in Hindi, “Jugar”(Manage). We are short of almost everything but still we do “Jugar” to get it. We do “Jugar” to get a leave from office, arrange finance and “Jugar” the trip by cutting it according to our cloth and yet enjoy the beauty of Taj at Taj.

    So do not stop doing that “Jugar” and you will get it.

    Vibha, as always you have skillfully written this monthly digest too. Thanks for that.

    @Nitish – Please remember its all about doing that “Jugar”. Best of Luck.

    • Thanks Anupam for your lovely comment…always brimming with a positive energy. But as long as you know the cost you have to pay for the choice, and accept it, I don’t think you have a reason to complain. The trouble is that a lot of us start with it thinking we can do it all, and when we aren’t able to, we feel as if we’ve failed in our responsibilities. We have to plan realistically and be aware of human limitations. We don’t need to be superhumans…we just need to be human…

  • Sharmistha Dan

    Col Mani’s post was indeed the best I have read in recent times. I like it so much that I read it more than once. There is always something to learn from fellow Ghumakkar – their way of writing, their passion for travel and so much more.

    • Thanks for your comment Sharmishtha…glad you enjoyed Col Mani’s story

  • I think it is an ongoing tussle of finding and sustaining that divine balance. The way I see it is that it may not always be one single big passion winning, but it could be a mix of many smaller one (like ‘The Long Tail’ analogy) and possibly all can co-exist. Of course, each one of us is learning and fine-tuning their own methods as they learn new things. And from the same logic, sacrifices are also numerous. Whether it is saving on going-out for meals and movies, so that you can have one extra day at Goa or sleeping less and reading few more stories at Ghumakkar.

    And after everything is said, none’s passion is bigger or smaller than the other guy’s passion. It is a individual’s call on what makes sense to them and as long as it does, all is well.

    Thank you Vibha for sharing this digest with this beautiful and thought provoking log. You summed up the sentiment very well about the ‘Featured Author’ and I do hope for a new season, soon.

    Congratulations to Mani Sir, the story is so well told that it was a sure winner.

    And one more time, welcome aboard Agrata and Nitish.

  • Thanks Nandan. Even in our normal lives, we, mostly, try to do everything. If for our careers, we have to hire help to cook at home, we feel the need to justify it. Career-oriented women are often also the most guilt-ridden. And several proudly proclaim, so what if I am working, I am fully capable of handling household work as well alongside. Well if you can, kudos to you. But very often, all this leads to us feeling inadequate and overworked. Instead of acting like superwomen, why cant we simply accept that we cannot do it all, and proudly seek help in whatever area we need to…just a thought…

  • Thank you Vibha for according Khecheopalri Lake story the honor of Featured Author of the Month. It is a great inspiration for me to keep travelling and writing and share my experiences with the world. I shall most certainly endeavor to find more time to to chase this dream till I ride to the sunset ((that should be another travelogue !!), as of now I am only 70 something : )

    Article on Home Stays is very interesting specially for me that I love Home Stays as also I am running one at my home in Siliguri. It is called “Colonel’s Rhino Home Stay”. Rhino, because I spent my Military life of 37 years (only) in the Assam Regiment where troops hail from the 7 sister states of the North East with Rhino (of Kaziranga) being our Regimental Emblem. The details can be found in its Face Book Page by the same name as also through “Being Rhino”.

    This acknowledgement will not be complete without thanking Nandan. Thank you Nandan for your your support, help and inspiration. You have been awesome !!

    Thank you Sharmistha, I am so happy that you enjoyed the article and thank you all fellow Ghumakkars, God Bless and Happy and Safe Travelling to all travelers of the world.