The year’s been good so far as travel goes. I wanted to travel a lot this year and I have been doing it fairly well so far. I have managed to be out of the city at least once a month every month of the year.
Jan – Goa and Gokarna
Feb – Madhumalai, Bandipur and Mumbai
Mar – Mysore
Apr – Mumbai (ok, no travel in April)
May – Sravanabelgola, Mantralaya, Hampi and TB Dram
June (so far) – Mumbai
January – A torrid month in personal life meant I was more than looking forward to a break from the ennui. Vinay and I planned the trip over a drink at Dhaba (aren’t all trips planned like this?) and we roped in Roley, my junior from L. Destination was Goa and the mode of transport, our Santro. This was my second trip in less than a month to involve self-driving. We had an amazing time as we covered the ‘hippie’ route to Gokarna, Baga beach and back. It was the perfect Goa trip as I totally freaked over the sun, sand and the sea. Finally, the demons that arose from the last Goa trip lay slain. Goa is the best holiday destination. No doubt about it. You just have to let yourself go, let the sea and air do it’s work and trust me, you’ll enjoy it like nothing else. We just hung all day long under the sun, without a worry in the world. Evenings were spent again by the beach as we had dinners on plush sofas and whiled away the whole night just talking a lot. Philosophy, love in life and lives of love were discussed over spicy starters, smoke, KF and Pink Floyd. The drive itself was fantastic and I discovered some amazing music – Mark Knopfler’s a god with guitar and Bob Dylan with words. It was just what I needed and this trip figures as one of my best!
February – Apart from a taxing Mumbai work-trip ( I had to travel some 35 kms to work every day through dust), I also managed to get out of the city to the Bandipur stretch yet again. My cousins, brother and brother’s German friends accompanied us. This was a completely relaxing trip where I had to just lie back and soak in the luxurious treatment my cousin, Vijay had ensured for us. The most memorable event was the bonfire party we had in complete darkness right in the middle of Madhumalai forest. We chanted German songs, cooked potatoes in the fire and made merry all night.
March – A much-planned trip finally happened with my school friends. Very similar to the Bandipur trip, this too was a very luxurious trip with loads of money spent but worth all of it for the fun. We stayed at the Mysore Gulf Club, courtesy Ashwini’s influence and the place was very good value-for-money. Our plans for the weekend were very simple – Get Pampered! Which we promptly achieved. Saturday was spent with a lot of bowling (I love bowling!), some eating and then, a lot of dancing. Similar to my L-baddy court parties, I went berserk on the floor, losing awareness and sense. I was a source of amusement for friends but I had a total blast dancing with all of my left feet. This was followed by what was the best part of the night – music, chatter and booze on the top of Chamundi. We drove up and halted at a spot that gave a beautiful view of Mysore down below. The next morning, we treated ourselves to a great ayurvedic massage at Indus Valley, where a very close friend Bindu stays. I got my first real massage and it’s quite a treat! We spent the rest of the day with some more bowling, a walk near a lake and finally, the drive back to Bangalore. Two days away from Bangalore, even if it’s just games and fun, is always relaxing.
April – Week long official Mumbai trip. More about Mumbai and what I enjoy below.
May – Apart from the short, fun ride to Sravanabelgola, I also travelled with parents to Mantralaya. This was my first trip with parents in two years and my first to Mantralaya in more than a decade. I have fond memories of Mantralaya. It was the place all of our extended family – cousins, aunts and uncles- always used to go to. The place as I remembered was sparsely crowded, with few buildings and a rocky river bank. The river Tungabhadra is known to flood the temple complex often. I also remember the baths by the river, fighting with parents for toy shops and the super oota at the temple. Mantralaya has changed a lot over the years but it still retains its charm. The mild chanting of shlokas all around the town, the hustle-bustle of devotees and the faces that betray the burden its owners carry. Faith can be such a powerful mover as I saw dozes of devotees go through gruelling faith-exercises such as the Urul-seva (rolling side-wise around the temple in wet clothes and on gravelly stones) and just walking around the temple for hours at a stretch.
Since we traveled by train, the trip was like a double bonus. Train journeys in our country completely fascinate me, especially if you have a fun bunch in your compartment. Even otherwise, I usually just sit by the door, idly watching the landscape rush past me. The stations have an unique life and energy of their own, with busy TCs and vendors. After I got back, I dicovered a fan-club of the Indian Railways, the IRFCA, that has tons of interesting information on Indian trains.
We also covered visits to the TB Dam (mammoth dam with a beautiful light-house garden on the top), the ruins of Hampi ( we just saw a fraction of the rich-in-history ruins), Aane-gundi that has nine brindavanas on a tiny island and a small village at the end of the earth that has a Lakshmi idol that is supposed to have appeared out of a piece of sandalwood. Tha taxi we hired came along with an interesting local driver who also treated us to mangoes on a farm and a sugarcane off a cane-field. I enjoyed this trip, mainly because I went in with no expectations. When you are on a pure observatory mode, you tend to absorb much more than when you are seeking to do/find something.
June – Just back from yet another Mumbai work-trip. I got to stay at hotel right next to the beach this time (thanks to ICICI!). I love the short trips to Mumbai because they always infuse life in my existence. No matter how much I may dread the prospect of the crowded and smelly roads, I know I will also get to live it up a notch in Mumbai. I talk more, I walk more and I can work more when I am there. You just cannot avoid life in Mumbai. I think a bit of me will always love Mumbai, though it cannot convince the rest of me to spend life there. Since Mumbai is also much more welcoming, you can see a myriad mix of cultural vignettes – kids playing football, an old couple walking together, another old couple not walking together (the husband walking ahead and the wife struggling behind) , a gang of teenagers animatedly discussing their future USA plans, two Gujju businessmen loudly talking about shares, a middle-aged lady walking vigourously and of course, a young couple kissing- all in one stretch of a beach. If this does not cover most of life, what else does? Mumbai can offer whatever you want, depending on your mood. For instance, as Ghatak says, you can choose to see the lovestruck couples, who have converted a scenic stretch on the Bandra flyover to their own lovers’ park, rather than the traffic with a monotone of horns, lights and smoke.
Both me and my cousin, my partner-in-crime in the last roadie, are itching to get going on the bike again. Hopefully that should cover my travel plans in June.