We started celebrating our ‘Featured Authors’ via an interview in July 2011, about 2 years back. For our first interview, it was was none other than our current Editor, ‘Archana Sundara’. As part of this interview, she shared her interest in writing and that made me reach out to her, when we had first such need. Though this was our first interview, we started this award early in 2011. Along with ‘Featured Author’, we also do a ‘Featured Story’ reward. Both of these happen every month and finally at the end of year, we do ‘Ghumakkar of the Year’ award. Vibha, who has been our Editor and who continues to be a guide and counsel, has written an editorial covering these aspects. Please read it as your time permits, it is almost like a ‘Cheat Sheet’ to grab these awards, almost akin to a coupon codes which save money. The number of awards have remained same though we have been often suggested by our loving readers on doing more of these, but we feel that so much more needs to be done for these three. Hopefully we would keep evolving them.
‘Ghumakkar of the year’ started in 2009 and our winners were Reema, Mahesh Semwal, Manisha Chitale, Arvind Padmanabhan and Manish Khamesra. It is so heartening to see that all of the above are still in touch with Ghumakkar in some way or the other. Arvind and Manish are not writing actively but I hear from them once in a while. Manish’s job is keeping him very busy and Arvind recently wrote a technical book, its called “The Infinite Bit”. Reema, Mahesh and Manisha are all around and kicking. It is a matter for pride for Ghumakkar to have such long lasting relationships and when Reema was selected as ‘Featured Author’ by the ‘Editorial Panel’ (that is Archana, Smita and myself these days), I felt almost at home. After a while, I was to interact with someone who has been there for a long time. After the usual drill of questions around her personal life, her current job of teaching young engineers and her desires of traveling almost everywhere, we also exchanged notes on how because of Ghumakkar, we have been able to know about so many interesting people. Many of them come and go and then visit again after many months but they do give us enough mental fodder to cherish on for a long term. Indeed and to celebrate this continuing, valuable and rich relationship, we do these interviews. So without any further ado, presenting Reema in a tete-a-tete with Ghumakkar.
Ghumakkar : Congratulations Reema for being the ‘Featured Author for Sep 2013’.
Reema : Thank you Nandan. It is a privilege and I have been thinking about it all the while.
Ghumakkar: You have been around for a long time, did this happen too late ?
Reema : No, actually I was not expecting it. And I think as long as someone is not expecting something, it is never late.
Ghumakkar : Thank you for allowing us to get away from all the delay. Hehe. As you would know that we interview our featured authors and the community is really looking forward to know everything, please tell us on how you found Ghumakkar ?
Reema : That was a long time ago.
Ghumakkar : Yes, that must have been at least 4 years back, if not more.
Reema : Yeah, it must be in 2009 or so. As far as I remember I was searching on internet for travel guidelines for some place where I and my family were planning to go and then I discovered this wonderful travel website Ghumakkar and I just got hooked on.
Ghumakkar : Do you remember what you were looking for ?
Reema : Yes I think I was searching for travelogues on Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani because that is where we were planning to go that year. And once I discovered Ghumakkar, I liked the stories instantly. It was hard to find such well written real experiences.
Ghumakkar :Yes you are right and Internet does give us a excellent platform to do research around coupon codes and to save money. And then you wrote here. What prompted you to write a story here?
Reema : Actually, before writing here, I had started blogging in 2007 and I simply loved it. In 2007 I also developed my passion for traveling and seeing new places when I went on a family trip to a tourist place (Puri) for the first time. So when I discovered Ghumakkar, I was elated because I could share my travel experiences in form of blog posts with a wider readership.
Ghumakkar : You wrote your first story in 2009, more than 4 years back. How has been your journey with Ghumakkar all these years?
Reema : My journey with Ghumakkar has been fantastic!! Till now I have written 22 posts at Ghumakkar and many others are still pending, entirely due to my laziness ☺ I have visited so many other places via text written by other authors and learned so much from them.
Ghumakkar : And in 2009, you were our ‘Ghumakkar of the Year’. Right ?
Reema : Yes, I was about to talk about it. I had received the honor of being one of the Ghumakkars of the Year in 2009 and had received an awesome branded bag from Ghumakkar. I still flaunt that bag. Now this honor of being featured author and having my interview taken!! It is all very very nice.
Ghumakkar : And what kept you here all along ?
Reema : Quality posts, travel guidelines by people who have actually visited the places, good and responsible website maintenance and personal touch of website admins has made me stick around at Ghumakkar all these years.
Ghumakkar : Whooa. That’s a lot of praise, so early in the interview. Let me write it well. Now going back to Reema as a person, please tell us where did you spend your formative years ?
Reema : I hail from the small but famous steel city of Bhilai. My schooling is from there under CBSE Board. Bhilai is a quiet township developed by SAIL with people from different communities living in harmony. It is an educational hub with lots of coaching centers, engineering colleges and the state technical university located there. Bhilai Steel Plant is the ten times winner of Prime Minister’s Trophy for best Integrated Steel Plant in the country. Most of people being from the same work place, there were so many family friends and every other day we had guests over or we would visit someone for the famous Bengali adda session. Growing up in a small town was so much fun – neighbors who know and care for each other, playing on the streets, going on school picnics to the local zoo cum garden, celebrating Durga Puja with full fervor and pandal hopping, then as a teenager hanging out in the market place called “Civic Centre” which was the only happening place in the small town, a town where streets and market had a deserted look when an India – Pakistan cricket match was being telecasted or a good movie was being aired on Doordarshan on Sunday evening.
Ghumakkar : What about schooling ? Were you one of those studious types ?
Reema : Hmm. Yes. I was a topper throughout my schooling days, but I never quite loved studies. People assumed me to be a bookworm because of my results but I was not at all hardworking ☺
Ghumakkar : So after school, did you move to another city for your higher studies ?
Reema : Yes, I did my BTech in Bhopal. Bhopal is not too far but that was my first venture of staying away from my home. I had a very good group of friends cum roommates and we enjoyed our college and hostel lives a lot. Visits to Bhopal’s famous Bada Taal and Birla temple, hanging out at New Market, shopping at Sultania market, watching movies at theaters (once even by buying ticket in black!), travelling to college daily, getting ragged in 1st year – had a lot of fun times! After staying in Bhopal, I feel hostel life is a must for every person. It teaches a lot of things which are useful in life.
Ghumakkar : And after B.Tech ?
Reema : After that I moved back to Bhilai and joined job in the noble profession of teaching. Post marriage I lived in Pune before moving to Bangalore. I am currently based in The Garden City Bangalore or Bengaluru since 2011.
Ghumakkar : What keeps you busy these days? What do you do?
Reema : Work and home are keeping me busy these days. I am a professor in an Engineering college in the field of Electrical Engineering. So taking classes, setting up labs (since my college is new), pursuing academic interests, other related work etc keep me on my toes at work and then of course there is home and family to look after ☺
Ghumakkar: So in a span of few months, we are interviewing another professor. Great.
Ghumakkar : Thank you Reema. Moving on to your travel part of life, were you always a Ghumakkar ?
Reema : No, I was not always a Ghumakkar. Actually I didn’t even like traveling because travel to me in childhood meant going to Kolkatta (Calcutta back then – our native) in summer vacation at school. Summer and Calcutta are a deadly combination due to heat and humidity.
Ghumakkar : Our Kolkata Gang (there are a lot of them here) is not going to like this, so let me stay out. Hehe. When was your first serious trip ?
Reema : Ahh the eternal fight between Probashi Bengalis and Calcutta Bengalis. Heh heh. My first serious trip was with my hostel-mates and juniors to Sanchi, the famous Buddhist pilgrimage destination. We decided overnight that let us go on a picnic, chose the closest place, bought lots of bread and cheese slices, worked in assembly line process and packed lots and lots of simple cheese sandwiches for next day and we were off next day early morning! Sanchi is only 46 km from Bhopal and we went for a day trip. It was very enjoyable and exciting.
Ghumakkar : So that sort of ignited the itch?
Reema : I became fond of traveling to new places after getting into job and getting the benefit of vacations. And now after so many trips I have become a Ghumakkar. Also I have a wonderful travel partner in my husband who also loves travelling and road trips very much. Now my motto is
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Ghumakkar : well said Reema. I think now with various travel portal and online services, as well Makemytrip Coupons, it is now a bit simpler to plan a travel. What are some of the places you traveled to in last few years ?
Reema : Well, let’s see…since 2007 I have visited Puri, Konark, Vishakhapatnam, Araku Valley, Lucknow, Alibaug, Kihim, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Lonavala, Khandala, Goa, Digha, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Pondicherry, Mamallapuram, Kanyakumari, Poovar, Ooty, Coonoor,Shillong, Cherapunjee, Guwahati, Mysore, Srirangapatnam and many more places around Bangalore. I am basically a beach loving person. ☺ My next trip is in this month end and I hope to visit Mangalore.. again a beach place.
Ghumakkar : Please tell us more about some of the good and not so good memories ?
Reema : There are so many good and bad memories linked to all these places. In Puri, I tasted one of the best cooking of all the hotels/restaurants I have ever visited! Araku Valley was the first mountainous road I travelled and suffered a lot due to motion sickness. But recently I visited North East India and had no trouble whatsoever! The MTDC resort in Mahabaleshwar is one of the best places I have stayed in. When we were going to Digha, we missed our train even after running like crazy through Howrah station. ☺ We had to catch the next one. There are no words to describe Goa..it’s simply incredible! In Cherapunjee I explored the inside passages and chambers of an ancient cave (Mawsmai Cave) where at some places I had to sit down and cross the gap between the formations. It was something I never thought I would be brave enough to do! I even had the chance to see the Bangladesh border in that area! In Guwahati, I had a bad fall at the Kamakhya temple and my arm got cut badly by my broken bangle. The Nilgiris Mountain Railway ride between Ooty and Coonoor, winding through the tea gardens and hills is a must have experience for any traveler. Similarly the boat ride through the backwaters of Kerala at Poovar proves the tagline of Kerala tourism – God’s own country. Last but not the least, watching the sunrise with the Swami Vivekanand Memorial in foreground and conch shell sounds emanating from the temple at India’s southernmost point is one of the most breathtaking experiences!
Ghumakkar : Besides writing and traveling, what else Reema dabbles in?
Reema : Besides blogging and traveling, I am interested in photography (amateur) and reading books (fiction). I have a Flickr account and a separate photography based blog. Though I dislike routine cooking, I like making new dishes. In fact I am thinking of starting a new recipe blog! George Bernard Shaw said “There is no sincerer love than the love of food” ☺ Food also constitutes an important part in my travel though I am not adventurous in trying new and exotic dishes. I still remember that small outlet beside the Beach Road in Vishakhapatnam. Vizag did not impress us at all in the food department and our driver took us to that small entrepreneurial venture of a Bengali family. It was heavenly! Needless to say, my favorite cuisine is Bengali and I am a strict non vegetarian person ☺
Ghumakkar : Yes, and we have a few hard core foodies here as well. I guess food is a very important connection between you and the place yo are visiting. Continuing further on traveling and writing, as a travel writer, what should one focus on while sharing an experience?
Reema : As a reader of several travel based websites both commercial and non-commercial, I have found many articles lacking in vital information or tips or worse sometimes misguiding for the person who is going to visit that place. I believe in providing practical information which the tourist and the traveler (both are different you know!) may find useful for their journey. So I think while sharing an experience it is important to focus on the place and minor but important details. I think word of mouth is very important for traveling and tourism.
Ghumakkar : Right. I think a balance between a practical set of information and one’s own experience is probably everyone is looking for. But it is hard to find that sweet spot, and I think it lies differently for each one of us. Who are your favourite writers at Ghumakkar ?
Reema : Many. To name a few, it would be Mahesh Semwal, Amitava Chatterjee, Devasmita Chakravorty (I hope she writes more, she has been away for a while) and the editors whose editorials are always a wonderful read!! There are many more and I am 100% sure that I am missing all the right names here, so apologies.
Ghumakkar : Thank you Reema for interacting with us and for sharing about yourself. From Bhilai to Bhopal to Pune to Bangalore, you have come a long way and from Ghumakkar side, we wish you a happy and satisfying time.
Before we close, we would want to know one more thing. What is that one vacation you have been itching to go ?
Reema : First of all, thank you Nandan for this opportunity. I guess having these interactions is what makes Ghumakkar different and engaging. The one vacation I have been itching for is to go on an Europe tour which will include all the great beaches and historically famous places. Guess I need to save money and plan it really well. My sister has been living in Europe (France, Portugal and now Denmark) since last few years yet I haven’t had a chance to go there. :( I hope the plan materializes in the near future.
Ghumakkar : Thank you again for taking time out, sustaining our requests and for sharing so much about yourself. We wish your dream comes true soon. May the whole world conspire to make it happen. Thanks.