Ghumakkar Interview with Soulful Sushant Singhal

February 15, 2013 By:

Given an average day, in the backlanes of Ghumakkar, the Editorial team is busy maintaining a healthy roster of high quality, honest and loving posts of travel experiences. We look at the ones which are in the ‘review’ and place them in the right slot after a thorough read-through, we work with the new Authors towards post-preparation which takes a few email cycles at least, and quietly and gradually make them independent. We also often wonder on how (a) living person(s) can continue to spam us with tour-n-travel posts often disguising under various forms of identities and we feel good on catching every single instance of it. We also help people setup their profiles, counsel on dealing with offensive or personal comments, give them a preferred slot (Ok, don’t tell anyone) of publishing and so on and so forth. Amid this drudgery, we also sneak glances at the posts in drafts, the ones which are old and seem like complete. This bit is to keep us inspired enough to run the chores. This activity happens usually once in two months and not a regular thing.
 
During one such activity, we hit upon a post written in Hindi. Thd post was on ‘Mumbai‘. Between me and our then editor, Vibha, I used to read all the Hindi stuff while she would read the larger share of English posts. When I began reading this post on Mumbai, it was akin to adrenaline rush for me. Ghumakkar.com has had the privilege of hosting some of the great works over last many years and I manage to read every single story here. Apart from Ghumakkar, I also read at other blogs, newspapers, travel magazine and what not. But this one was of a different league, totally! The regulars among you would remember this story, on the train travel to Mumbai. Just like
taking turn for reading, we also take turns for writing to Authors and it was the Editor’s turn to write. And all we felt was the pity of missing this great story for too long! And that’s how we missed on the opportunity of interacting with someone who have since then brought so much of love and knowledge here, for that time. I hope we have made up for that. With no exaggeration, Sushant Singhal, Ghumakkar’s Featured Author for Februrary 2013, is the funniest thing that has happened to Ghumakkar and our lives.

Without further ado, presenting Sushant in a candid, frank, involved and interesting conversation we had over multiple methods over last many days.

Mr and Mrs Singhal

Mr and Mrs Singhal



Ghumakkar: Congratulations Sushant.
Sushant: Thank you.

Ghumakkar: How did you chance upon Ghumakkar?
Sushant : Through ‘Google Baba’ of course! I think before our trip
to Kashmir, I was searching on the net when I stumbled upon Manu Tyagi’s post about Patni top. I found it very interesting and useful. And I read more and began to like Ghuamkkar.

Ghumakkar: And what motivated you to write your first story here?
Sushant:  I had perhaps never written a travelogue earlier but did have a story of my earlier Mumbai trip lying somewhere in my laptop. I sent it to you.  However, erroneously on my part, it was not “Submitted for Review” and was in “Drafts” folder only.  When I didn’t hear anything for three-four months, I forgot everything about it and Ghumakkar but one day, I got an email from Vibha asking if the Mumbai story was ready for submission from my side. When I said yes, within a week, another mail from her confirmed my story having been accepted.

Ghumakkar: Yes, I remember that time. It was just 7-8 odd months back. And then you wrote more and more.
Sushant: Since my Mumbai story was received well and had attracted quite handful of endearing comments, I felt motivated enough to write about my Kashmir story also. I may add here that although I have been to some other travel sites, I didn’t stay anywhere for long and I was never tempted to submit there anything from my side. Ghumakkar is unique in the sense that it offers great encouragement to its authors through comments not only from readers, other commenters and authors but from the editorial  team also. The overall effect is highly motivating to all ghumakkars so much so that reading, commenting and writing become most joyful. This is very much addictive to all authors who are infamous for their unquenchable thirst for appreciation from the audience and I am no exception.

Ghumakkar: So well put Sushant. I guess this unquenchable thirst also leads to this unending drive towards sharing more. Lets take a break from writing and traveling and head to you as a person, something which every fan of your is waiting for it. Actually a lot of regular readers are only looking at the personal section, and I am constantly in struggle to bring out something which people do not know.

Bhu-samaadhi at Naturopathy Resort, Saharanpur.

Bhu-samaadhi at Naturopathy Resort, Saharanpur.

Ghumakkar: Please share with us, who is Sushant? Your family, upbringing, your place of stay, almost everything about yourself?
Sushant: Well, I am a young man of 55 years, born and brought up in Dehradun. God Ji has blessed me with one wife and two sons who have inherited love for writing and photography from me. The elder one, a software engineer, has never ceased to amaze me with his brilliant work. While living in U.K., he expressed a desire to have a capable camera and despite discouragement from my side ended up buying a Nikon D5000 DSLR. He and his wife live in Delhi but frequently have to go to U.K. Younger son  Dr. Aditya is trying to get admission into P.G. course, having done his MBBS from Meerut Medical College. My wife, fond of teaching, can be held totally responsible for shaping both of her sons’ respective careers.

Doctor Aditya

Doctor Aditya

Akshat used to sit in unusual places.

Akshat used to sit in unusual places.

Ghumakkar: So a worthy father of worthy sons. How about going back a little further, please tell us us about your childhood, your parents, siblings, every little thing which you can share?
Sushant: My father Dr. Shri Krishna Sangal, was a medical practitioner by profession, a scientist by temperament and a poet by heart.

I had joined his family as his elder son 22 years after his marriage. We are four brothers and sisters. Both of my sisters are elder to me and are settled in Mumbai. My younger brother, a practising advocate, is settled in Dehradun. My father and Chachaji were highly respected figures of Dehradun. My father had been Municipal Commissioner in Dehradun;
President and Secretary of several other educational institutions also. Moreover, both of them were looked at by people as Ram and Lakshman. My father was not a wealthy person in terms of money, but commanded a lot of respect from millionaires because of his wide-ranging qualities. He was associated with RSS and Jansangh and had been to jail for 4 occasions, each time leading a group of 40-50 people, shouting slogans and courting arrest – twice before my birth and twice when I was old enough to understand and appreciate his political and nationalist views. The fact that my father was a leader in true sense of the world was evident on a number of occasions. He was a path breaker, offering himself as an example to be emulated by the society and never followed beaten path just for the sake of following traditions. I can pick and tell countless incidents from his life but time and space  doesn’t permit me to indulge in that however thrilling it may be for me.

MyParents
My Parents

Ghumakkar: No, you must. We would publish it as long as you are fine with it. I guess I said, ‘Worthy Father Worth Son” is a legacy in your family now. Please tell us about some of the incidents.
Sushant: Thanks. I actually can’t resist telling two small incidents. Being a medical practitioner, he was naturally a member of the medical association in Dehradun. In its initial days, President and Secretary of the Association came to my father to invite for the monthly meeting and wanted to know veg. / non-veg. choice for the dinner. My father told them that he didn’t take food cooked in a hotel. They tried in vain to convince my father on this point and even tried to make fun for his ‘outdated views’ on hotelling.  Ultimately, they enquired, “Since contribution is mandatory for all members, what arrangements can we make for you there?”  My father told them that if it was really all that necessary, you may kindly arrange some fruits for me, which I would thankfully take”.  So, fruits worth the cost of dinner were arranged for him but since my father could never consume all those fruits, they were passed on to others also. In the third meeting after that, at the suggestion of 3-4 other members, dinner was discontinued and was replaced with fruit juices / fruit salads for all.

Another incident worth mentioning had taken place at the time of my sister’s wedding. My father had designed a very innovative and extremely cheap invitation card for the marriage of my sister. The total cost of paper, envelope and printing was well within Rs.0.50. Since I had never seen such a ‘marriage card’ ever in my life, I was extremely worried that I would have to bear the shame of distributing this card. Seeing this invitation card, people would make fun of me and our family. So, when I got my share of cards for distribution, I visited people, and even before they could open the envelope to see the card, I used to say good bye and run away to the next home. However, on the day of marriage, guests after guests came and congratulated my father for the innovative idea. That idea has been borrowed by people in countless other marriages.

My father and Chachaji with Akshat in Chachaji's hands

My father and Chachaji with Akshat in Chachaji’s hands

Ghumakkar: What was it all about ? Please share in as much detail as you remember.
Sushant: Actually, his basic idea was to make the invitation card look like an extremely personalised, hand-written letter inviting people on the marriage of his daughter.  For this, he proceeded as under:

i) Used Letter size white paper with names of Pitaji and Chachaji, address and phone number etc., printed as usual on top (just like a routine letter head).
ii) In left margin, names of bride and bridegroom, programmes and RSVP were neatly adjusted.
iii) For the main body of the letter, he wrote a letter on white paper with black felt-tip pen (sketch pen) and got a block made of it. This had the salutation, the invitation and signatures of Pitaji and Chachaji.
iv) While rest of the invitation card was printed in reflex blue ink, the main body of the letter (i.e. the block) was printed in orange (Haldi) colour. My father got the ink at the press matched with the ink of his orange-coloured sketch pen.

v)  After 300 cards were printed with
आदरणीय महोदय,
     ईश्वर की असीम……,

Remaining 200 cards did not have the words आदरणीय महोदय ।  By stopping the press, he had taken out the block and had etched out these words from the block !
vi)  In these 200 cards, he wrote with his orange pen

आदरणीय गुप्ता जी /   प्रिय बेटा सुनील / आदरणीया बहिन जी / परम्‌ श्रद्धेय गुरुजी  and so on…… these people could never suspect that only this salutation part was written by hand and rest  of the letter was pre-printed.

Ghumakkar: That was brilliant. For my marriage, my wife designed a very simple one page card with a simple message inviting folks. Back home, there is still a tradition of sending a hand written notes in the local language Maithili (the script has almost died). Do you remember the going cost of the regular card at that point of time ?
Sushant: While people got inspired from this design, they couldn’t take this much pain / didn’t have the resourcefulness to copy the effect. It was sort of mail-merge attempted by him in 1972 and was simply loved by people.  Usual cost of a good-looking invitation card in those days ranged between Rs. 8 and 10 but this card of Rs.0.50 paisa easily scored over them!

Ghumakkar: Actually, if you do not mind then please share more of him. I can sense that you have had a great influence from your father and may be same is true for your sons.
Sushant:  I think a few of the qualities of my father percolated down into me also which is more by design than by accident. My father had always tried to mould me into a physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually strong person. I distinctly remember my childhood days when he used to give me rigorous oil massage every morning, followed by bath and Surya Namaskar.  I also remember the days of 1965 war with Pakistan. I was only 7 years old at that time but, holding a small lathi in my hand, I also used to shout in my lane, asking people to switch off a in Dehradun when I was perhaps 5 or 6 year old. He imbibed in me feelings of patriotism, and also love for languages – Hindi, English and even Sanskrit. My father and myself used it as a game to learn other Indian scripts also – Gujarati, Malayalam, Bangla, Gurumukhi etc.

My wedding day - 9th May 1984

My wedding day – 9th May 1984

There is one more thing peculiar to our family. While we always bow our head in front of an idol, we are far more interested in scholarly spiritual discourses and we look forward to hear such talks, even if available on CDs, DVDs. Studying Ramcharit Manas and Srimadbhagwat Gita myself and trying to figure out their hidden meanings is far more interesting to me than sitting and chanting bhajans in a temple. My wife also is more or less like me. She performs puja daily in her home, observes fast during navratras twice a year, karwa chouth every year, and every Ashtami each month but still, she is not a regular temple visitor.

Ghumakkar: And why could be that ?
Sushant: I think what puts us off is unmanaged crowd, being pushed in queues, commercialisation evident in temples these days and similar things.

There is the world-famous Shakumbhari Devi shrine in district Saharanpur (40 km. from our home) where we pay visit on every important occasion in our family. There are several miles long queues of devotees during navratra there so we choose a day when there won’t be more than 30-40 families at the shrine.

Ghumakkar: Some people put this as, being spiritual then being just religious. I guess to each his own. I am a great fan of institutions (including Temples, Gurudwards, Churches, Mosques along with schools, colleges and what not) where there is respect for all. My most recent visit to a religious place was this Gurudwara in San Jose (California). It made at a very picturesque place, raised on a hillock, the structure gets a might view of entire town. Once inside, devotees are offered langar. There is a shoe house to keep your shoes safe, there is a place to pick a ‘rumaala’ (cloth to cover the head), you can wash your hands, wipe them clean and you can go with your business with zero interference. So, I so agree with what you said. As long as there is a ‘respect for all’, we are for it. I guess I am getting diverted.

Being a highly respected doctor during those times and being involved with the municipality in important positions would have meant a lot of attention to you and your brother. Tell us about your days in Doon.
Sushant: We used to live in a very congested locality in the city of Dehradun. From the roof top of the second floor of our house, we used to watch the hills of Mussoorie and whenever saw snow there, used to go there. I have been to Mussoorie via trekking route several times. While travelling in a bus, I used to feel sick right from the first mile so preferred going on foot.

Opposite my father’s clinic was a very large building housing at least 15 families in it. 6-7 boys from those families were my playmates in childhood. Ravi Nagalia used to be my closest friend who entered Navy through NDA in early 70s, and is now a very senior officer.

Instead of playing cricket, marbles, gulli-danda, I used to play kabaddi, kho-kho in RSS shakha. In our home, we used to play carrom, badminton. My favourite childhood hero was Phantom and not only I but my father also used to enjoy the illustrated comics of Phantom very much.

Ghumakkar: So you were a good boy all through. Difficult to imagine.
Sushant: So once, my father found in my possession some paperbacks of Gulshan Nanda and Ranu, he successfully sublimated my taste by offering me detective stories written by Enid Blyton, Mark Twain etc.

Ghumakkar: No good Sushant. I am sure you would have done more interesting and wise things.
Sushant: As regards wise things that I have been doing, hehehehe, the list is endless but I would reveal just one.

Even before I could earn a driving license, and even before the elders could know of my newly acquired driving skills, I had once taken away a car (Landmaster -perhaps older version of Hindustan Motor’s Ambassador) of my father’s friend filling it to the capacity with small children of our neighbourhood (nearly 12 of them). The old car was entrusted to my father for finding some good customer for it who would be willing to pay Rs.10,000/- for it.  With all those children in it, I stationed myself at the driver’s seat and had a circular trip upto Kuthal Gate (between Rajpur and Mussoorie).  When the parents of all those ‘missing’ children came to my father to enquire if he had any clue as to where all the children could had gone, my father, discovered to his great horror that not only I was also missing but the Landmaster car also was not where it was supposed to be.

Today I can visualize how he must have been going through in those moments. When after an unbearably long wait of an hour, he finally saw the black Landmaster coming in the lane like a fat, pregnant buffalow, and then 12 children jumping out of it one after the other, giggling and laughing, he was red hot with rage. I had already seen him standing in front of his clinic in the lane and if I had any option, I would never have come out of that car but as I stood before him trembling with fear, he gave me good thrashing. As revealed by my father later, he was most perturbed because I had taken 12 children of different families of our lane.

Ghumakkar: hehe. So you were on the wheel, from the very beginning. ‘Honhaar Birwaal ke hot hee Chikne paat’. We would talk more about Ghumakkari a bit later, but lets talk about your interests. Besides being a Ghumakkar, what else does Sushant dabble in?
Sushant:  Reading and photography are my other hobbies. I also enjoy teaching and training my bank’s staff a lot. I have been conducting hobby classes for photography during summers.

Perhaps the first picture clicked by my wife

Perhaps the first picture clicked by my wife

Ghumakkar: Yes, we know about your interest in ‘Photography’. When did you get hold of your first camera and do you remember the make/model.
Sushant: Can you believe it that my first camera was a 12 kg. worth of plate camera which accepted 5″ x 7″ sized negatives.  Out of this, 4 kg. went to the credit of lens itself which was a Carl-zeiss and was made of pure brass. It was mounted on a moving trolly which must have weighed 50 kg. The trolly allowed lowering, panning and tilting of the camera. I found this camera in my home and started using it. Since I could not move it out of the room, I used to request my elder sister to sit in front of the camera so that I may make her portrait. Being fond of being photographed, she often obliged me by patiently sitting in front of two photo-flood lamps. We even had a dark-room in our home where I developed films into negatives. But soon I grew tired of it for obvious reasons.

Plate Camera

Plate Camera

Ghumakkar: Wow! That is a first for me. When did you get your own professional camera and which one ?
Sushant: I kept using several other cameras – all borrowed ones till 1982 when I got my first Asahi Pentax MX 35 mm. SLR, which kept thrilling me for over a decade perhaps.

I do not accept photographic assignments from my clients anymore. For ghumakkari, my Sony HX-1 compact camera seems quite versatile and small enough so as not to intimidate my family members. It also doubles as a HD quality video camera. However, if I am travelling alone and wish to concentrate on photography a lot, I sometimes borrow my son’s D5000. Personally, I have never been able to spend heavily on photographic equipment.

Company Bagh Saharanpur is photographer's paradise.

Company Bagh Saharanpur is photographer’s paradise.

G: And what machine do you use these days while shooting the marvellous wood artefacts of Saharanpur?
Sushant: In the days when digital cameras were unheard of, I used Asahi Pentax MX. When highest quality colour transparencies of wooden artefacts were required for 4-colour catalogues, I used a Russian 120 size SLR which had a German lens fitted onto it.  But I started digital photography in the year 2001 with Canon Powershot 3.1 MP camera which gave me stunning results.  It had cost me Rs.42,000 in 2001. For several years, I used Nikon D40 also.

I guess we can talk about photography for ever. So how did you reach Saharanpur from Doon. Have you been in Saharanpur for a long time now?
Sushant:  After getting a job in Bank of India, I was posted at Jhansi for 3 years and came back to Saharanpur in 1983 upon request. In 1984, I got married;  in 1985 and 1987, got my sons. In 1992, we built a house for our residence. So, even though I got postings in different cities and branches, my family remained in Saharanpur only.

Ghumakkar: And What keeps you busy and up here ? I know that you are engaged in many social activities and also run a website, all for the city.
Sushant: Besides serving my bank where my responsibilities include managing human resources here, providing training to the staff and also taking care of bank’s image-building needs, I spend some time on www.thesaharanpur.com.  This site is my humble way of repaying to Saharanpur what I got from it.

I strongly believe that Saharanpur deserves much more respect than what it has always received. I felt that the lack of modern infra-structure and facilities and the unimaginative leadership have caused the people of Saharanpur to forget about the inherent greatness of this town. It has every reason to be on world tourist map but is not talked about as a tourist destination even while one focuses on western U.P. I decided to tell Saharanpurians how great a place they belong to so that they would start having some respect for it.

Ghumakkar: Tell us more. You can’t be at a better place then Ghumakkar to talk about tourist potential of this city.
Sushant: Here in Saharanpur, we have a river named Paondhoi, which runs through the city. When I first saw this river, it reminded me of the river flowing through the Venice. Instead of condemning it to live the life of a drain, we can make it the major centre of attraction for the city dwellers – a place which they would love to come to every morning  and evening, where they would perform morning and evening aarti. However, more than 100 sewers and drains fell into it within a short distance of 4 kms. and Nagar Palika (Municipal Corporation) of Saharanpur was using it as a drain only. I used to wander on the banks of this river, contemplating how it could be revived. The biggest challenge was to change the mindset.

I and my friends started collecting signatures on ‘Letter of Pledge’ to protect the river and within a few months we could collect 20000 plus signatures. I prepared PowerPoint presentation and started showing it in various clubs and meetings. After each presentation, we asked people to sign the Pledge to save this river which they happily did. But there were a number of govt. departments – Nagar Palika, Yamuna Action Plan, Pollution Control Board, PWD, Irrigation Dept.,District Administration etc., who needed to be told to fall in line.As members of public, we could not control them. We prepared the blue print of the action plan but needed some nodal authority to issue orders to these various departments. If you have strong desire to fulfil your dream, the whole universe conspires to make your dream come true. In 2010, we got a DM in our Saharanpur who was interested enough to take up this project in his hand. He okayed our Action Plan and a Central Coordination Committee was constituted which had 11 officers from various departments and 11 members of the public. Within a few months of intense drive of cleaning and mass awareness campaign, the river was brought into a position that the tradition of performing Kewat Lila in this river which was discontinued some 38 years before could be resumed much to the ecstasy of Saharanpurians.  Thousands of men, women and children had gathered on both banks of the river towitness with wonderous eyes Ram, Lakshman and Sita descending into a wheeled boat in the river which was being pulled with ropes by hundreds of devotees.

Although, the river is not as clean even today as we would want to be, no one looks at it as a drain anymore.

Ghumakkar: That is a big win! This must be shared and celebrated. So apart from tea at your place and a visit to a paper/card-board factory, a walk along this stream is also added now. Coming back to your home, is Ms. Singhal being a discipline loving teacher?

Sushant :  What are you up to, Nandan?  Hehehe… Yes, she is a strict disciplinarian. She is very strict with herself and expects same level of discipline from me and her children too. Though she has not been able to tame me enough to do whatever I am told to do, I do respect her a lot for her sense of discipline in her life. She has many character traits which keep reminding me of my father. Thus, in some peculiar ways, my father is still with me through her.  Although she was introduced to me for the first time in the month of March, 1984 and ours was an arranged marriage, our marriage has always been looked at by family and relatives as a love marriage.

Wife at Gulmarg

Wife at Gulmarg

Ghumakkar: Insha Allah. May the love blossom. I am feeling pretty satiated with what you have shared about your family, your child hood, your life in Saharanpur. Thank you Sushant. Now, lets switch gears. Your first story is in Hindi ? Why did you choose to begin with Hindi ?
Sushant:  My heart bleeds for Hindi, I submitted my Mumbai trip as my first story which was already available with me and then I wrote few more. Now I write in both the languages.

Ghumakkar: In your profile, you write that you have not travelled a lot ? Does this change after your addiction to Ghumakkar ?
Sushant:  Yes, certainly. One of the reasons of my visit to Amritsar in October, 2012 was my association with Ghumakkar. I wanted to write about Amritsar. Now, even though I am going to Indore and Dhar on official tour, in my heart of hearts, I know that it is again the ghumakkar in me, which is propelling me to go there. I have talked with Mukesh Bhalse about my visit and both of us are looking forward to meet each other. The happy meeting is scheduled to take place  on 16th Feb. 2013 at his home – Insha Allah!

We are likely to explore Indore together if convenient for his family too. However, if our children are not accompanying us, my wife prefers to have one more family in the tour. The reason cited by her is rather funny, “If we start fighting somewhere during the tour, the other family would prove handy in pacifying both of us!”. However, she can go on a vacation only when her students also are on vacations. This limits her availability for a pleasure trip to a few months only.

Happy Faces

Happy Faces

Ghumakkar: So Mukesh is going to be one lucky chap. I have spoken to him multiple times over phone but never met. I wish you luck and good times. Coming back to writing, What gratifies a writer ?
Sushant:  An appreciative audience to start with! If readers take the pain to write back, this gesture in itself is very gratifying. But if the comments are like those which I have always received from DL, Tridev Charan, Mukesh Bhalse, Silent Soul, Ritesh Gupta, Manu Tyagi etc., etc. the joy of writing knows no bounds. If, after a fortnight of writing something, I still enjoy what I have written, I know that I have been successful. If people were pleased with what you offered to them, that seems to me the biggest reward as an author.

Ghumakkar: Yes, and I guess some of the comment further extend the story or rather the comments keep evolving the plot so the interest sustains for a much larger time. Talking of Authors, which are your favourite ones ?
Sushant:  There are some authors on Ghumakkar whose work has great value as a piece of literature.  I would put Gita M, DL, Nandan, Devsmita, Mukesh, Vibha, Nirdesh Kumar, SS, Shubham, Vipin etc., in this category. They have an impeccable style of writing. It is sheer enjoyment to read their text. To add fuel to the fire, they supply great visuals too. Among those who write in Hindi, Ritesh Gupta, Manu Tyagi, Sandeep Jatdevta and a few more write painstakingly. There are many whose work is invaluable because they incorporate great wealth of information. Parveen Wadhwa’s name comes to me right at the top in this category.

Ghumakkar: And I am sure there are many more who you are missing at this point of time. What was the last memorable vacation you had with the family ? And have you already written about it ?
Sushant: Our Palghar trip (Dist. Thane, Maharasthra) of April, 2012 was highly enjoyable one. Palghar lies on Delhi – Kota – Vadodara – Mumbai rail route and is perhaps 100 km. before Mumbai Central. It looks like a village. Although we were there to attend the marriage of my sister’s son, all the families members had stayed for three days in a bungalow right in front of a beach. This great family union at such an exotic location was highly intoxicating. However, the last family vacation which we had undertaken immediately before that was of Kashmir. As my readers rightly complain, I left it incomplete after 3 episodes. I think it is not good on my part and I promise to bring it to its logical end soon.  Tomorrow morning, I am leaving for Indore and Dhar alone for official tour.

Myself with brothers (one is cousin) at Palghar beach

Myself with brothers (one is cousin) at Palghar beach

Palghar beach, Dist. Thane, Maharasthra.

Palghar beach, Dist. Thane, Maharasthra.

And yes, today while returning from Dehradun, I have managed to get consent from my wife for a tour of Mathura, Agra and Jaipur for March next month. We plan to go there by own car. Let’s hope we are able to translate our plans into action soon!

Ghumakkar: What kind of destinations attract you more ?
Sushant: When travelling with family, we do not go to offbeat places because my family doesn’t want to compromise on comfort. In order to satisfy the ghumakkar in me, I have started travelling alone. Amritsar was one such tour which I thoroughly enjoyed despite being alone. I hope to enjoy my Indore / Dhar tour also. If it goes well as I expect it to, I would be travelling alone far more frequently. If I get a friend of similar tastes as mine, that would be great but if there is no one, I wouldn’t mind going alone.

I like every such place, which can be put under the category- “photographer’s paradise”. Sea, mountains, historical buildings, forts, caves, cities, countryside, deserts, traditional fairs – I would like to go everywhere.

Retro Sushant

Retro Sushant

Ghumakkar: Where are you dreaming for next ?
Sushant: As far as dream destination is concerned, it is definitely Kerala.

Ghumakkar: It has been extremely rewarding to talk to you, any message you would want to share with all before we close this interview?
Sushant:  When we were wondering in Gulmarg, the most horrifying scene for me was the discarded cold drink bottles, wrappers, left-over food that I found on snow-clad roads and the irony was that there was a board nearby refraining everyone from doing such things. In the name of adding facilities for tourists, we are spoiling and destroying all places of pristine beauty. SS recently lemented about the barren hilltops which used to be covered with snow. While reviewing a hotel, we should give it points for its efforts to cause minimum possible harm to the eco-system also. DL had also mentioned about promoting local products as much as possible so as to give boost to local economy. I am sure not a single Ghumakkar would ever think of defacing walls of a monument but we should also mark our protest against it in a visitor book if available so that the authorities, sensing public mood, would be a little more careful about it.

I would also urge all Ghumakkars to put pressure on the editorial team so that these people would organise a tour wherein Ghumakkars would participate on sharing basis. I would love to participate in any such event if and when organised.

Ghumakkar: Yes, that is something which we really want to do and are looking for help.

Sushant, it was a heart warming experience interacting with you. We are honoured to have you as our featured Author. Congratulations again, take care and God bless!

About Nandan Jha

Nandan Jha has written 115 posts at Ghumakkar.

Well traveled.......is what I would want to be tagged as, definitely far shorter of that as of now but hoping to reach there. Also, I genuinely believe that traveling builds tolerance, we do more of it, we build more tolerance, we build more peace, one trip at a time. Google

43 Responses to “Ghumakkar Interview with Soulful Sushant Singhal”


  1. Congratulations Sushant Ji, it was a well deserved interview although it came very late.
    And I grantee you that you will find more fun travelling alone and anyway you stand tall in all.

    • Thank you Wadhwa Ji. Basically I am not a loner so even when travelling ‘alone’, I make friends on my way. I think this is what all of us do here in this world ! We come here alone (very rarely as twins or even triplets!) and go back alone but while we are here, we learn to make relationships and this exactly seems to be the reason of our arrival in this world !

  2. सुशांत जी बहुत बहुत बधाई हो, आपका साक्षात्कार पढकर अच्छा लगा, आपके पारिवारिक चित्र देखकर, एक आदर्श परिवार के बारे में पता चलता हैं. पुनः बधाई…राम राम , वन्देमातरम….

    • प्रिय प्रवीण गुप्ता जी,
      आप सब का यह अपार स्नेह ही तो मेरे जीवन की सबसे बड़ी थाती बन गया है। आभार !

  3. We are blessed to have a person like you in this community.
    To pay respect to your parents, is what touched me completely and Tx Nandan for encouraging him to go on. , there are so much to learn and feel yourself happy to see proper upbringing, inculcating values in children, personal touch (in marriage cards) to make someone feel really special…wonderful and I love each & every thing in this interview.

    Lastly, Tx for your initiatives to revive the river and I am sure someday it will be much more cleaner than today…giving back to the society is everyone’s dream, but only a handful of people can actually make the difference.

    A special day (Basanta Panchami or Saraswati Puja) starts with a great note. Tx Nandan once again for this interview.

    • Dear Amitava,

      Thanks a ton for going through this long – long interview and still liking it! Today, on the day of Basant Panchami, there have been some skirmishes between public and the police administration here in Dhar. Today morning, I arrived at Indore but the police had not allowed me or anyone else to go to Dhar. What a shame! A day as pious as Basant Panchami is chosen to disturb peace in this peaceful area! :(

  4. Nirdesh says:

    Dear Sushantji,

    You are a rockstar!

  5. Vipin says:

    मुबारक हो सरजी….it was great to know about you more…am eagerly waiting for your post on photography…Thanks Nandan for putting this brilliant show & presenting Sushant ji in an elaborative manner…

  6. Abhee K says:

    Hello Sushant ji,

    Congratulations.It was great to know about you, your family and your interests.I liked the plate type camera :)

    NJ – Thanks for the wonderful in depth interview.

    • Dear Abhee,

      Thanks a lot. Plate cameras in their modern avtars are still in vogue and are known as View Cameras. At least they were being used till digital cameras completely took over. They offer so much maneuverability that modern cameras may never be able to catch up with that. The most important feature available in them is Perspective Control.

  7. Ritesh Gupta says:

    प्रिय सुशान्त जी….
    घुमक्कड़ पर आपका साक्षात्कार प्रकाशित होने और विशिष्ठ लेखक सम्मान प्राप्ति पर आपका बहुत बहुत अभिनन्दन | आपके इस साक्षात्कार आपके और आपके परिवार जनों के बारे में जानकर बहुत अच्छा लगा….फोटो सभी अच्छे लगे..खासकर धरती माँ की गोद में समाधि वाला….| आगे भी आप ऐसी ही अपनी लेखनी से हम लोगो का मनोरंजन करते रहे…धन्यवाद…|

    नंदन जी… सुशान्त जी परिचय कराने और बहुत ही बढ़िया साक्षात्कार लेने के लिए…धन्यवाद..|

    • प्रिय रितेश,

      कल जब मैं अमृतसर – इन्दौर एक्सप्रेस में से निकल कर राजा की मंडी, और कुछ मिनट बाद ही आगरा कैंट स्टेशन पर खड़ा हुआ तो आपकी बहुत याद आ रही थी। पर मेरी यात्रा आगरा से आगे भी जारी रहने वाली थी अतः प्लेटफार्म पर खड़े होने की वज़ह सिर्फ आप थे ! पहले मुझे आगरा से कोई विशेष लगाव नहीं था, पर अब है। और इसका कारण आप हैं !

      आप सहारनपुर आयें तो नेचरोपैथी रिज़ॉर्ट में ले कर चलूंगा जहां ये भू-समाधि लगाई गई थी !

  8. Rakesh Bawa says:

    Sushant Ji, Namaskar.
    What a fine and candid interview this was? You have opened our eyes about Saharanpur which for me was not a very good city to live in. I have just passed through this city on the way to Haridwar and find it a congested one. Baaki aap Ghumakar ke mukhya stamb to ho hi……

    • Dear Rakesh Ji,

      Thank you. During the last 10 days, I had to remain away from ghumakkar because of illness and then travel. Couldn’t follow through your post of Udaipur till its end. Even now, I am in journey and the interview was also conducted while contemplating this journey. Nandan and none else but Nandan can perform such miracles.

  9. Hi Nandan,

    Don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for being provided so much of premium space on my favourite site. You have taken great pains in bringing sense to my mumblings. It was really nice talking to you during the last two days. I was not hoping that everything could be bundled together so fast by you. A real workhorse, I must say!

  10. SilentSoul says:

    It is great to know about Sushant… one of my favorite writers here. But I missed the humorous Sushant in this… The messages in the interview were important and should not be missed. Waiting for his insights on photography

    Nandan – tks for such a brilliant interview (If I am not mistaken… longest interview ever on ghumakkar). How do you gather so much energy to do justice to job, travel, take care of family and then keeping Ghumakkar alive.

    • Dear Icelandic SS,

      Yeah, even I miss the humour in this interview. Chaliye, hansne ke liye to saari oomar padi hai, aage fir kabhi kasar poori kar lenge.

      In fact, this interview was conducted between 13th and 14th Feb., while Nandan and myself didn’t have time even to proof read it, leave alone adding some spices. Whatever shortcomings are there, these are from my side only.

  11. D.L.Narayan says:

    From his very first post, Sushant Singhal impressed one and all with his elegant prose, his mischievous sense of humour and his erudition on a variety of topics. It was great to learn more about the great man and even though it was a rather long interview, possibly the longest ever, yet it seemed like the proverbial tip of the iceberg; there is so much more to know and admire about him. May Godji bless him with health and happiness and may he continue enlightening and entertaining us with his masterly penmanship for decades to come.

    @ Nandan – What can I say? Your energy levels are amazing. In addition to a challenging professional career and probably even more challenging stewardship of ghumakkar.com. you travel all over the world and in addition have to deal with hack attacks and stuff. As always, your are the consummate interviewer. Interviewing someone of the stature of Sushant Singhal is no easy task but you have conducted it in your inimitable style, extracting nuggets of relevant information in an unobtrusively effortless manner. Thanks for everything.

    • Dear DL,

      Among the people who make ghumakkar.com an extra-ordinary place to visit, your name comes to my mind first of all – may be because it is so cute and small ! Just DL ! Wow! I even keep it in my pocket always as my photo ID ! hehehe. Finding greatness in me is known as optical illusion caused by telephoto lenses. When we look at distant objects through telephoto lenses, they appear abnormally large ! Let’s meet some day. All myths would be shattered in one go!

      Let me now concentrate on Photography Insight ! If I can’t complete it soon, OMG ! I can’t think what will happen of me!

      • D.L.Narayan says:

        आप की जेब में DL तो अवश्य होगा, मुझे ख़ुशी होगा अगर दिल में भी DL के लिए थोड़ी सी जगह हो।

        As far as greatness is concerned, Nandan says that it runs in your family. So it might not be an illusion and anyway, a 6 footer in India is always considered a cut above the rest. Wishing you all the best for your insight article and a memorable stay in Indore.

        And yes, the Ambassador was earlier known as the Landmaster; the only difference being that the rear end was rounded while the Ambassador had ear like projections above the tail lights which made it look far better.

  12. Harish Bhatt says:

    Congratulations Sushant Ji…

  13. Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Sushant ji,

    It was great to know about you in such details. Interview was fantastic and it enabled us peep into your life. Photographs were fabulous, specially your photo deep in the clay also I liked your retro look, wedding photo and the first pic captured by your wife.

    Once again congratulations……………….

    Thanks.

  14. Kavita Bhalse says:

    सुशांत जी,
    सबसे पहले तो आपको विशिष्ट लेखक का ख़िताब मिलने पर बधाई।

    साक्षात्कार पढ़कर तथा तस्वीरें देखकर सचमुच बड़ा आनंद आया। शायद अभी पुरे घुमक्कड़ परिवार में सबसे ज्यादा सौभाग्यशाली हम लोग ही हैं, क्योंकि बाकी सब लोग आपका साक्षात्कार घुमक्कड़ पर पढ़ रहे हैं लेकिन हम लोग अगले दो तीन दिनों में आपसे साक्षात मिलने वाले हैं।

    आशा है आपका इंदौर प्रवास आनंदमय होगा ………..

    • कविता जी,

      चलिये, बधाई देने के लिये ही सही, आप समय निकाल कर घुमक्कड़ तक तो चल कर आईं ! आपका आभार! इस समय इंदौर के ही होटल में बैठा हूं और फोटोग्राफी पर अपना लेख पूरा करने की फि़राक़ में हूं ! भगवान कल तक सब ठीक कर देंगे और आप सब के दर्शनों का सौभाग्य प्राप्त हो सके, ऐसी परमपिता परमात्मा से विनती कर रहा हूं ! आप लोग तो भोले बाबा के परम भक्त हैं, उनसे मेरी सिफारिश कीजियेगा, मेरे जैसे लोगों की तो शायद वह सुनते नहीं हैं, पर आपकी तो अवश्य ही सुन लेंगे!

  15. Stone says:

    Another feather in “Ghumakkar’s” cap, and a big thanks to Nandan for conducting this brilliant interview.

    And what to say about you Sushant Sir, you are truly an inspiration , I always look forward to your posts and your interactions with DL sir and SS sir.
    Congratulations.

    Regards.

  16. Surinder Sharma says:

    Congratulations Sushant Singhal ji, last week I was at Railway Station Saharanpur in Gurumukhi Express and was thinking about you. Hope will read your next post soon.

    Regards

  17. Saurabh Gupta says:

    I have made the comment but it is lost anyways……. a very big congratulation to Sushant Ji and thank to Nandan Ji for this long & exclusive interview.

    It’s really very nice to learn about Sushant Ji and best of journey for your proposed trip to Agra-Jaipur.

    Thanks & Regards.

  18. हास्य-व्यंग, भाव-कल्पना, शब्द-सहित्य उत्तोलक व अन्तर ह्रद्य से छायाकार घुमक्कड़ तनावांत जी का साक्षात्कार जब प्रकांड पंडित, शब्द्सज्जा व शब्द्वास्तु के ज्ञाता माननीय नंदन झा लेंगे तो निस्संदेह घुमक्कड़ परिवार के लिए किसी पर्व से कम न होगा ऐसा मेरा विश्वास था जो आज साक्षात है. नंदन ने जानकारिया उकेरने व सकेरने में कोई कसर नहीं छोड़ी तथा तनावांत जो पहले से इस परिवार के सदस्यों के दिलों में जगह पाए बैठे थे आज दिल के राजा बन गए.
    परवीन वध्वाजी अपनी बांसुरी लिए उत्तरांचल के दुर्गम रास्तों पर एक सच्चे घुमक्कड़ की भूमिका निभा रहे हैं और यह परिवार नंदन से उम्मीद लगाए बैठा है कि वो धुन भी ज़रूर घुमक्कड़.कॉम पर सुनाई देगी.
    (मगर तनावांतजी, नंदनजी व परवीन जी, ‘सूरज बन कर देख् लिया ना, अब सूरज सा रोज़ जलाकर’, यानी जितने स्वादिष्ट व्यंजन की आदत आपने इस घुमक्कड़ परिवार को डाल दी है अब उससे कम में काम नहीं चलेगा, हा हा हा …)

  19. Nandan Jha says:

    @ All – Many thanks for all the love you guys have poured on me. I am sorry for not being able to comment and acknowledge. I am traveling and been able to read the comments on my phone. I would respond to each one in a few days.

    We are also going through very bad phase of site performance issues and I hope that we get over it soon enough. Requesting encouragement and support during this painful phase. And I am sure that we would get over it with all the wishes from so many of you :-). Take care.

  20. I am surprised to see ‘ my congratulation message posted 1week ago is not in the list” may be some internet problem at my end…
    Any way congratulation to Sh. Sushant Singhal ji once again and thanks to Mr. Nandan for this interview..

  21. प्रिय मित्रों,
    जैसा कि आप जानते ही हैं और नन्दन ने ऊपर लिखा भी है, हमारी प्रिय घुमक्कड़ साइट खुद भी कहीं अज्ञात स्थान पर घूमने चली गई थी ! जब नन्दन के महती प्रयासों से, ढेर सारी मान-मनौव्वल के बाद वापिस लौटी तो कुछ कमेंट फिर भी गायब हो ही गये। उन सब मित्रों से, जिनके कमेंट यहां दृष्टिगोचर नहीं हो पा रहे हैं, मैं क्षमा-प्रार्थी हूं ! मैं भी सप्ताह भर के प्रवास के बाद कल रात्रि वापिस लौटा हूं अतः कमेंट के उत्तर में देरी हेतु भी क्षमा याचना करता हूं !

    @ Stone : Thank you for your kind feelings. Each one of us inspires rest of the ghumakkars here and this is the beauty of this site.

    @ Surinder Sharma Ji : It is really shocking that even though you touched Saharanpur’s railway station but we couldn’t meet each other. Please do let me know next time about your visit to this city of mine.

    @Saurabh Gupta : Thank you very much Saurabh Gupta. The site was hacked again and it was only due to tireless work and devotion of Nandan that we could see it again. No wonder, some comments got misplaced somewhere.

    @Tridev Ji : अब क्या कहूं आपको ! आपके गुदगुदाते कमेंट्स की तो बड़ी सदियों से प्रतीक्षा थी ! आशा है आपकी बिटिया का पाणिग्रहण संस्कार पूरे विधि – विधान, हर्ष और उल्लास के साथ सम्पन्न हो गया होगा ! हम सब की ओर से उनको हार्दिक मंगल-कामनायें !

    ॒@ Naresh Sehgal : I hope you have understood by now why some comments got misplaced somewhere. Thank you for caring to write again. Your love and appreciation means a lot to me.

  22. JATDEVTA says:

    मुबारका, गुदगुदाते लेखन के लिये शुभकामना। यू ही मुस्कुराते चलते रहो।

  23. AUROJIT says:

    Sushantji,

    Firstly hearty congratulations for being the featured author.

    The detailed post and information about your more serious side was quite engrossing.

    Organised trip for Ghumakkar appears to be a great idea and response of editorial team is
    encouraging :-)

    Thanks,

    Auro.

  24. Nandan Jha says:

    Thank you all for the encouraging and motivating comments. I am catching up so sorry for the late revert.

    @ Amitava – Thank you for the appreciation. I have always been very curious to know. Thanks again.

    @ Vipin – Thanks. The credit for being elaborate belongs to Sushant, entirely. :-)

    @ Abhee – Thank you.

    @ Ritesh – Thank you.

    @ Sushant – If not you, it would not have been anywhere close to what it finally became. I get inspiration from you. I remember that during your Ambarsar trip, you would come back hotel, all soiled and tired but still would have the energy and drive to download your pics, put things on charge and what not. I remember those words and get back to writing again. :-)

    @ SS – I would also think that this is the longest. I just keep doing things :-). A lot of times, I miss quite many. My motto is the lead song of “Chaltee ka naan gaadi..”, sung by Kishore. Yahan chalti to gaadi kahte hain pyare, so I try to keep moving. he he. big words.

    Regarding humour, I guess both me and Sushant are pretty serious and focused people. Please do not try to de-focus (intact Sushant is so focussed that he spent a lot of time writing on ‘focus’ in his post on camera-baazi) us.

  25. Nandan Jha says:

    @ DL – Thank you. You have been a generous fella all through. Lucky and rewarding to be interacting with you.

    @ Stone – Thank you. We could not meet but hopefully it would materialise soon whenever you are this side or if I visit again.

    @ Saurabh – Thank you.

    @ Tridev – Thank you Sir.

    @ Naresh – Thanks.

    @ Auro – Hopefully the trip or a walk or something, goes beyond the proverbial “Waiting for Godot” and happens in reality.



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