Browsing Category India

Hiking Down to the Leopard-Infested Gorge in Mehli Shimla

Memoirs of walking down to the ravine from the Mehli village in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

 

I’m charged right now. As charged as I can be. I’m seated on dry pine needles and grass. A group of mosquitoes buzz in front of me. But I don’t care. For I’m listening to the sweetest sounds of chirping birds and the rhythmic music of freshwater falling on stones. We have driven to a jungle spot to work and write. There has been no power since morning in our remote stay in the mountains near Mashobra village of Shimla. Our village is probably called Gaggal and it is near Mohanpur, that’s all I know about our whereabouts. Our host told us the electricians are fixing the cables and we would only get power by 5, maybe a bit before

It was only 2 pm. My Mac was at 18% and my husband’s Mac was discharged. He has a big release today so he needed electricity immediately. You know what he has done to ensure he never gets out of power? He has purchased a car charger that loads up electronics from the car battery. We are perfectly remote and nomadic in every sense.

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Loitering Around Shakrala (Mehli) Village, Shimla – In Photos

Memoirs of a Three-Week Stay in Mehli, Shimla

 

Himachal feels like home. 

Here I run with little children in their parents’ green fields. I almost join the lithe girls in their hop-scotch game. I explore every obscure path that can be (or cannot be) stepped on. Every tiny dhaba seems like a food stop. I never shake off the red-black curious beetles that embezzle my white-green Kashmiri kurta. Whistling thrush is my new loud neighbor (I won’t say friend for she hardly seems to care). I click and research the birds I see from the balcony of my one-bedroom guesthouse.

We are in the village of Mehli Shimla. (Later when we would tell the locals where all we had stayed in Himachal, they didn’t understand Mehli but recognized Shakrala, a village of rural Shimla under which Mehli falls, I guess). Mehli is our first stop on this indefinite Himachal Pradesh trip. 

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Can You Believe This Is Bangalore? (In Photos)

My motive with these piece — a collection of day outings in Bangalore —is to show how real Bangalore is. Not the cosmopolitan Bangalore city of the Manyata Tech Park or Cubbon Park or Forum Mall and Koshy’s that every outsider like me knows. I wished to bring forward the old city, the city dense with flower shops, colorful food, coconut stalls, cycle hawkers, chaotic streets, and ubiquitous hot chips corners. Bangalore would be incomplete if we don’t mention its giant trees jutting out of buildings and breaking out of concrete roads, multicolored Hindu temples with a cornucopia of deity sculptures towering above, the most random stuff being sold in bazaar shops, old-style South Indian eateries authentic to their practices even 100 years later, and the feeling of the night during the day when thick Bangalore clouds threaten the residents way more than they would like.

In this essay of Bangalore photos, I share moments that have sparsely studded almost ten years of my life. Starting in 2010, I arrived in and left Bangalore so many times I won’t even try to count my moves. Irrespective of how much I wanted to let go of the city, Bangalore didn’t leave me, not so soon.

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The Pandemic, Onset of Our Indefinite Nomadic Journey, Crossing Barricaded Indian State Borders, Collective Helplessness, and Fundraiser Campaigns

On Indian Roads Amidst the Second Wave of the Pandemic, Collective Feeling of Helplessness, Fundraisers, And Hope

 

Here in Himachal Pradesh.

I’ve finally ended up in the Himalayan mountains of Himachal Pradesh, and I would live here for the next few months. This mountain excursion was always the plan for the summer and now as my fingers freeze, I wonder why I chose Himachal. Because I love the mountains or because I’m familiar with the Himalayas from my last four-month trip to Dharamshala in 2019?

In the Shimla area of the mountains where I’m at, summer is not well-known. Locals talk about hailstorms and snowfall even during the months of May to July when the plains of India scorch. During the summers, rains in the lower part of India are scarce but right now heavy rain falls outside my one-bedroom-and-hall house. I have kept the netted house door open by sticking a thick foot mat between the door and its frame. The temperature is no more than 11 degrees outside but when all the doors and windows are closed I stifle, a claustrophobia I picked up, perhaps, by growing up in a very open garden-facing independent house of my parents.

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5 Tried and Trusted Online Organic Stores in Bangalore (Farm+Homemade)

(Phone-Based and) Online Organic Stores in Bangalore That Deliver Fresh, Natural, Preservative-Free, and Personalized Food Items to Your Doorstep

 

Grocery stores in Bangalore line every street. But we can never tell the origin of the fruits and vegetables there. Is the grocery we buy pesticide-free, or are we eating vegetables swathed in medicine? 

I love to cook. And, I love to shop for groceries. I will not survive a cloth retail store, but I will be so lost in a vegetable market you won’t find me for hours.

Something about the fragrant vegetables and their vibrant colors pulls me towards them. My attraction to the farmer’s markets and organic stores in Bangalore could be attributed to my foodie nature. Food is a blessing in my simple life. I’ve been cooking since I’m a little girl. And I’ve been overeating ever since I opened my eyes.

For the past 4-5 years, I’ve been focusing on eating healthy food and living a conscious life. I’m being mindful of the source and content of my food. My diet has shifted heavily towards vegetables, fruits, whole grains, juices, nuts, yogurt, and other light food products. I try not to purchase items with liquid glucose, edible color, all-purpose flour, palm or vegetable oil, flavor enhancers, and other such redundant and unhealthy items. You would be surprised to know how little you can purchase if you vehemently avoid these ingredients.

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Homestays in India – Pros and Cons, Tips, and Tried Homes

Finding Cozy, Green, and Affordable Indian Homestays With Amicable Hosts For Short and Long Stays

 

I wrote in detail on homestays in India in this recent piece on accommodations in India. I won’t repeat all I said there about Indian homestays, but I would share my experience of traveling in India and staying in different places. 

I’ve been living in India for more than thirty years(I’m an Indian), but I’ve also been traveling in India for about 18 years. My journey started with living in paying guest houses across Rajasthan when I was 15. Then I spent four years in a girls hostel in Delhi, followed by a short stay in a shared Mumbai apartment. Finally I shifted to living full-time in Bangalore, Pune, and Delhi homes. 

Those were my engineering and corporate years. In between, I traveled within India and experimented with various kinds of stays(both with friends and alone). Now I travel full-time. After putting up at hotels, resorts, hostels, paying guests, serviced apartments, I often choose Indian home stays over other guesthouses. 

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Accommodations in India – Lodging Tips From a Local

Indian Lodging Tips: How to find good, affordable, and clean guest houses in India

 

Finding good guest houses in India could be as chance-based as cracking a lottery. Amongst the many variables that might work for against you finding a comfortable Indian lodging are location, pricing, facilities, cleanliness, linen and towels, water taps, mosquitoes, cockroaches, (noisy) fans, parking, host and the service staff, their culture, relationship between the guests, and the geography.

In this guide to finding good accommodations in India, I also take you through the history of travel and lodging in India. Because without knowing the evolution of travel in India we can’t understand the current Indian hospitality industry.

Pro Tip: Also read my guide to finding Indian homestays. The article has in-depth information on Indian homestay culture.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I started searching for isolated hotels in Karnataka (I don’t feel like crossing the border, yet). But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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A Scooter Expedition to Goa’s Secret Butterfly Beach

In Search of the Hidden Butterfly Beach, Goa

The sunrise at the Butterfly beach is beautiful, said Manveer, our Airbnb host. Then he gulped down his entire glass of orange juice.

But where is this Butterfly beach? Didn’t you say it was hard to find? I exclaimed.

I will show you the directions on the phone

Manveer walked to our table. He swiped right on his son’s photo wallpaper on the phone, tapped on the Google map application, and zoomed in.

I was staying at Manveer’s place, which is on the Agonda beach in Goa, for the second time. The first visit was two years earlier when I had gone to Goa to get some alone time. 

Remembering that fun trip when I had read Hemingway while basking in the sun on the beach and watched India England one-day series with an English traveler, I showed up at Manveer’s Airbnb again, this time with a friend. As soon as Manveer recognized me, our friendly banter began in no time.

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Hampi Photography – A Walk Through History

Hampi Photos: Stories in Stones.

I visited Hampi twice, once in 2014, and then again in 2019. Though I have been to Hampi two times and have spent about ten-eleven days in the area, I am still nothing less than dazed by not just the ruins and temples of Hampi, but by the green Hampi villages, the crispy dosas that have a different flavor in that part of Karnataka, the variety of animal life that is running around Hampi fearlessly, but now more so in national parks such as Daroji, and how it all just dovetail so perfectly together.

My Bangalore to Hampi road journey was no less than an adventure. In the linked guide you can read all about that Bangalore-Hampi road trip studded with aesthetic windmills. This 7,000 words guide is also almost a Wiki for exploring Hampi monuments, its surrounding villages, experiencing its local life and food, and understanding Hampi’s history.

As I have already written about the logistics of traveling and the history of Hampi in the aforementioned travel guide, allow me to jump right into Hampi pictures. I clicked most of these photos with my Nikon DSLR and Google Pixel. Other photos (mostly old Hampi photos) have been taken from around the internet to contrast between the past and new Hampi. I have also added some ancient photos just to give more context to a temple or a carving or a view in case I didn’t have enough relevant pictures.

I hope you enjoy these Hampi images for I had a lot of fun putting this Hampi photography essay together. Machu Picchu could be one of the world’s wonder, Bali is on everyone’s bucket list, Himachal Spiti’s Valley is a craze amongst travelers, but Hampi stands right there in the line.

Let’s go.

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Serendipitously Spotting Sloth Bear and Leopard in BR Hills, Karnataka

From Bangalore to BR Hills – Venturing Into the Hearts of Karnataka Jungles.

Biligiri Rangana Betta hills or popularly known as BR hills lie about 180 km south of Bengaluru. 

Just a 4–5 hours drive away from Bangalore, it is no surprise that the hills make for a perfect weekend getaway. Having been stuck in the city for two months straight for personal reasons, I was in desperate-need-of-greenery-and-fresh-air and quickly finalized upon Biligiri Hills as my weekend destination. The trip was with my husband so it had to be short to accommodate his full-time job. But even a 2–3 days road trip soaked us in so much nature that we savored it through the next few months of the dry pandemic era in which even stepping out of our tiny abode for groceries felt like a luxury.

I hadn’t expected to see much wildlife in BR hills, as my ventures into the hearts of the Karnataka jungles (such as the Dandeli Sanctuary) before hadn’t borne me much fruit, or, to say, I never saw the big cats or even the tail of an errant elephant. But little did I know that my desire to see Karnataka wildlife would finally come to color in the Biligiri Rangana Hills, officially known as the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which was formed in 1974. 

At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level, BR hills stand where the Western Ghats meets the Eastern Ghats, and make for an ecological hotspot. In addition to the location exoticism, the BRT wildlife sanctuary is quite large, 540 km² in the area to be precise, and is also an official tiger reserve.

 

Nilgiris_Biosphere_Reserve karnataka tamil Nadu India.jpg

Map of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve(part of Western Ghats). Source: http://www.cepf.net/ / CC BY-SA

 

Not only did we see two sloth bears, at different times, sprinting across in front of our jeep, but we also spotted a leopard hidden behind the thickets, wild bisons appearing all macho, mama and baby chital(spotted deers), an Indian grey mongoose tottering around, a tortoise couple resting on a log in a pond, vultures and owls perched on high and dry tree branches, lone sambhar deers, barking deers melting us with their innocent eyes, Malabar squirrels nibbling through nuts perpetually, colorful birds of various kinds, langurs, wild monkeys, and wild boar. Phew. 

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Belligundi Waterfalls – A Hidden Jewel of Sharavathi Valley

From Bangalore to Shimoga – In search of the Belligundi waterfalls in Sharavathi Valley

The first time I came to Bengaluru in 2010, everyone told me that this tech city is the base to explore the green Karnataka state. 

Back then my knowledge about Karnataka was limited to the first page of Google that showed a standard list of destinations in the state: CoorgHampi, Chikamagalur, Gokarna, Ooty, Mysore, etc. My batchmates from IIT Delhi who had done their third-year internship in Bengaluru had specifically told me that there are a lot of water bodies and waterfalls near Bangalore. Though the phrase water bodies had sounded strange, I was thrilled to move to Bengaluru.

To know more about the things to do and places to see in Karnataka, I browsed through its pictures online. Mighty tigers, shy leopards, sloth bears, colonial and heritage buildings such as the Bangalore Vidhan Soudha and Mysore palace, lush tea and coffee estates, tall palms and coconuts fringing the highways, sunrises from hills, caves, turquoise beaches, foreigners in groups, women in heavy traditional gold jewelry — the plethora of pictures that came up when I searched about Karnataka gave me an idea about the state. 

Frankly, I was still clueless about what I was going to experience here.

My decade-long romance with Karnataka has enriched me both physically and spiritually. But when I discover places like the Belligundi waterfall, I wonder if I would ever be able to say that I have seen enough of Karnataka. 

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