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Lessons Learned in 2022

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I wrote down these learnings over the year in scattered forms, mostly in my weekly newsletter Looking Inwards. But I am putting them together here to have them in one place. 

Please relish.

Lessons 2022 Taught Me

# We can run as fast as we like. But life is always right there. Running behind. Chasing us. In this race we cannot win. For we are life itself, and she is us.

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27 Hopeful Photos From 2022 That Show Nature Defy Climate Change

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While no one can deny that the climate crisis is here, the nature leftover in the corners it is squeezed into is as real, extraordinary, and soul-warming as ever. Some of the animals, forests, and landscapes I saw this year while traveling within India and through Vietnam looked so ethereal, as if someone had painted those scenes. They were moving pieces of art. 

Every moment of my life I wonder how we are even here. The perfection of it all fills me with unprecedented joy. All the big events we plan, prepare, and wait for — graduation, foreign trips, marriages, potlucks, get-togethers, movie nights — happen soon and finish. After all the merriment, we are left with the loneliness of our being. But if we would look around, smell the air, and sit in the grass we would see life oozing out of every grain of soil, stuck to the bark of a tree, or finding its way inside through the little gaps left in the window. Once we are with nature, we are never alone. Once we are ready to be charmed by this wellspring of magic — and it is armed with enough to dazzle us — we would not be bored or think that life is ordinary ever again (this is only one of the life lessons 2022 taught me).

There is much to see, amaze at, and protect. I want to end the year with hope by sharing these photographs from 2022 that show nature defying climate change and not only surviving but also thriving in its own home. If we still let it be, it will recover all that is lost, with just a little consideration, help, and love from us.

Hoping to inspire that love.

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Meat-Free Fish Soup, Shoes, and Night Markets in Saigon

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Adventures in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

When I went to Vietnam in 2016, I found myself in a green paddy-filled country. Under the shadows of their bamboo hats, locals flitted between places unhindered by the large bamboo baskets they carried. Birds sang from their cages hung on balconies. Streets were lined with stalls selling soup, grilled meat skewers, rice paper rolls, and fruits.

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On Stuart Hill in Madikeri Coorg: Nothing To Do But So Much To Do

Living, Writing, and Traveling Slow on Stuart Hill in Madikeri Coorg, Karnataka

February 2021

We have been here in Stuart Hill in Madikeri town for almost two weeks. The popular Coorg viewpoint Raja’s seat is near Stuart Hill. I’m seated in the garden of our homestay to write.

I don’t know the origin of the name Stuart Hill. The place must have a story from British times. I could go to the Madikeri museum to get a glimpse of this town’s history. But on this trip, I’m not hungry to know. 

Even though we were here on our first wedding anniversary, we didn’t make any big adventurous plans. In the morning we walked down the path going in front of our house. That trail is fringed by jungly plants and trees on both sides. Few houses peek out of that path here and there.

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An Old Himalayan Woman’s Routine Showed Me How Hard Is Village Life in India – Lessons On Resilience and Repetition

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Village Life of India : An Old Himalayan Woman’s Life at a Glance. Notes From Gagal Village, Mashobra, Shimla

I woke up at 5. The host’s kitchen hut was filled with yellow light from the bulb. Smoke rose out of the hut’s chimney. Our homestay’s mother, whom we called aunty, was already up.

Aunty must’ve folded the mat on which she slept on the kitchen floor, had lit firewood in the chulha, and must’ve been preparing milky tea then (a common scene in village life of India). Though I never entered the kitchen —when I had asked  aunty if I could make chapatis on her chulha, she had said women couldn’t enter there — from outside I had seen her fluff chapatis on the woodfire and paste the floor with yet another fresh layer of mud and cow dung. Aunty was somewhere between 60 and 70.

(I don’t have any pictures of aunty neither would I want to post them online. So please bear with me while I add photos of everything else around her home.)

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Why You Can Do Better Than The Apple Village of Fagu, Himachal Pradesh

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Fagu Himachal Pradesh — A Misty Apple Village Where I Found the Home Stays More Commercial Than Hotels

 

Fagu wasn’t an underwhelming experience due to its location. I didn’t enjoy my stay in Fagu because of the commercial attitude of the many home stays I interacted with in Fagu Himachal Pradesh.

Like in many small villages of Himachal, a traveler has to stick to home stays in a tiny place like Fagu. And I love staying in Indian homestays (and abroad too). For most of my travel life, I have been more than happy to know a host family and understand their way of life. Sometimes staying in a homestay could imply you have to talk and smile when you want to write quietly in a little corner. But everything comes at a price, and well, families function in their peculiar way. Isn’t travel all about embracing the unknown?

So far so good. But in this 2450-meter high apple village Fagu, my experience in home stays was far from good.

Let me take you through my Fagu journey as it happened.

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Amazing Karnataka – From Ten Years of Travel

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Timeless (And Best) Places to Visit in Karnataka India And All About the State — From a Local

I have spent six years (if not more) in Karnataka, spanning over a decade. And finally I’ve moved out (for the unempteenth time) to have a life on the road.

It seems yesterday when I had gone to Bangalore to work at a software company. Ten years ago, I wasn’t going to Karnataka. I was moving to Bangalore, the capital of the state and the software hub of India. This crowded city of Bangalore seemed like a state of its own. My local Kannada friends told me the city wasn’t so jammed and hotch-potched in their young days. They grew up cycling under the canopy of trees, taking the local bus, and spending time in parks. 

Since Bengaluru became the Silicon Valley of India, millions of employees and employers came to the city with their families. As the city wasn’t planned by any civic planner, it expanded in every direction in an unruly manner. Concomitantly, the infrastructure got so bad that everyone living in Bangalore wanted to go out to the places to visit in Karnataka rather than staying within the busy city.

But today I’m not here for Bangalore. Today I want to tell the story of Karnataka — the state of the jungles, so let me get to that quickly.

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Relishing Crunchy and Soft South Indian Dosas

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A Colorful Introduction to South Indian Dosas

 

I love South Indian dosas, and I enjoy talking about these crispy crepes even more. You have to bear with me as this article on dosas in India will be long. Like my piece on some of the best visiting places in Karnataka.

 

What’s a Dosa?

Dosa is a thin crispy or soft savory crepe, sometimes it is even thick and soft like a pancake. Dosa could be rolled and stuffed or it might be plain and open — with all other variations not out of the scene. It is served with sambhar (a curry), chutneys, garlic-chilli powder (podi, also known as gunpowder among the uninitiated), and other paraphernalia. Though now dosas are eaten throughout India, and the world, they are still a staple only in South India.

 

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A simple stuffed dosa with coconut chutney and sambhar served on banana leaf. Eaten somewhere in Karnataka.

 

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Plain crispy dosa served with coconut chutney and sambhar in Bangalore on a small roadside dosa joint. Filter coffee is a must with dosa.

 

Where Did Dosa Originate?

No one knows where the dosa — known as dosai in Tamil Nadu, dose (dough-sey) in Karnataka, and dosha in Kerala — originated. But the ancient Sangam literature of the Tamil area mentions dosa as early as the 1st century AD. As per Wikipedia, a dosa recipe is said to be found in Manasollasa, a 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia compiled by the Chalukya king Someshvara III of Karnataka. Originally the South Indian dosa is said to be of a softer and thicker form. But later in Karnataka, dose took a much crispier and thinner avatar.

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Hiking Down to the Leopard-Infested Gorge in Mehli Shimla

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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 Gagal 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

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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)

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Unseen Bangalore Photos From a Plethora of Day Outings in Bangalore city.

 

These are not your usual Instagram Bangalore pictures.

My motive behind this piece on Bangalore images — which is really nothing but a collection of day outings in Bangalore — is to show real Bangalore. Not the cosmopolitan Bangalore city of the Manyata Tech Park, Cubbon Park, Forum Mall, and Koshy’s that every outsider like me knows. I wish 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 dosa joints 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 dare to count my shift outs. Irrespective of how much I wanted to let go of the city, Bangalore (and karnataka state) didn’t leave me, not so soon.

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

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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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