Monday, 24 December 2018

Best of my road less - travelled

The urge to pen down memories from one of my “road less-travelled” adventures has finally taken over my slothfulness. Amidst the loud cries of, “quit your job to travel the world”, exercising an option of appending a week-long vacation to a day’s official work, reminds you how fortunate you are, isn’t it? Who would even consider quitting?!

Day 1 - Just making it.

The moment your Japanese super boss questions, “Why late?” and follows with, “Taxi late?” the guilt of making him wait fades away as I nod "YES", and I keep walking with a wide grin to clear the airport security.  

A mild turbulence wakes me up and I turn aside to see my boss, pointing at a big white swirl in a weather section at a news paper, and sketching our flight path right through it.
It took me a moment to figure it all out, but a wider grin from him made his intention very clear. It simply kept me awake for the rest of my flight.

He just got me back, fair and square.

Day 2 – Work and cultural evening.

Work. Duh! (Enough said). Post lunch, the team takes me out to the KL’s cultural hub where the Malaysia’s historical things are on display with few interesting cultural shows for the public. A quiet dinner ends the day. But the real excitement begins the following day as a solo traveller with a very adventurous plan. The excitement hardly let me sleep though!

Day 3 – Expect the unexpected.

You think, you have it all figured out with a solid travel itinerary. But one can never be sure, when it is a bunch of couch surfers you are counting on in a never-ever-seen-(Is)land. Hoping for the best, I open my eyes to see a beautiful archipelago welcoming me - The Langkawi Islands.

I take a taxi, straight to a town hospital. Yea, right. A hospital. I walk in to meet one of the doctors.

Dr: Hello there, please have a seat. How are you doing today?

Me: Thanks. I am all fine. see..a new place. I am just wondering if am curious or anxious?!

Dr:  Well.. let’s find out.

And he takes his stethoscope to examine me.

I go, “Hey! Wait a minute. I am not one of your patients. I am your couch surfing buddy.”

A moment of silence followed by a chuckle, and he later takes me to his house and makes me feel home! My hope for the best was turning real.

A walk with the BOB

Teaming up with the neighbour Bob, I decide to explore the white sand beaches and dwell into some local cuisine. Bob, a well-known face walks around with swag in the curvy streets, amidst party lights, hi fives and shoulder greets everyone. Few of those, hi-fives extent to me as well. Yay! I am the sidekick!! THUG LIFE! Cheap thrills are certainly exciting.

Later that night, the Dr. takes us for a spin in his chiselled Subaru WRX.

Seat belts – √
Full on AC – √
Tamizh FM – √√

The beast rolls out slowly from its den. Just a tap and he lashes out. Driving up a hill, under the radiance of moon along the coast, soul soothing music, and psithurism all around, Dr’s car was as popular as these two, with cops making way for it to zip through. The drive got me cancer sized goose bumps. Thug life just got bigger and better.

Day 4, Facing Vali.

Bob, runs through a map in a circular way along the border marking “must-visit” places. A quick breakfast at a food joint, and ending it with a Milo shake (used to exist in India years back) was a perfect start to the day. I rent a moped (they are the most common bikes unlike India) and pep through the chiming wind towards our first point – seven well’s waterfalls that flow down the second highest mountain of Langkawi.

About an hour of bike ride in the lonely roads, I reach the destination to see a gruel trek waiting for me. In fact, I totally missed the point, when Bob mentioned, it is on the second highest mountain. I already felt like an opponent to Ramayana’s Vali. With half the energy left, I followed Bob, maintaining a distance where only a howl cry can connect us both.

Almost there, almost there and almost there, became my most self-assuring word. Finally, when I was actually almost there, Bob screams at the top of his voice, “Sorry broooo... Not enough water. I forgot to tell yaaa, that it ain’t the best time of the year to visit this place”.  Though, I was disheartened mostly, the howl cry distance meant a lot to me!

A mix of sane and insane talks filled the rest of my night. So did the roof tearing rain.

Day 5,

Terima Kasih - Langkawi.

Anything less than 3 days is too little a time to explore the beauty of Langkawi.  But the exciting stay with CS buddies made it all worth.

Tip – If you are an avid traveller, the one who looks for company rather than comfort, CS is definitely worth checking out. And if a CS profile says – no TV, no WiFi, no tour guide, only couch. You know what to do. A memory for life is what one lives for. I am carrying enough for seven!

Selamat datang – Kuala lumpur

The reality show “The Amazing Race” has always fascinated me.  The moment I landed in KL, I was on one such show. My own show.

KLIA is about 50 kms from a hostel named BackHome - a perfect central spot to explore the city, even by walk. A CS buddy named Chris(very good friend to be) had shared directions from KLIA to my hostel, so meticulous and exhaustive that, you just have to follow it literally. When it says, 50 feet from the roundabout, it is 50 feet. You go a foot ahead; you are just wasting your time. But I wasn’t competing. So, I took my own time to explore the city, clicking memories. Why worry when you have the all the time and clues to (Back) home?!

Eventually, I was (at) BackHome. Phew! It was one amazingly slow race.

BackHome – a contemporary space that guarantees a serene time at a budget price and it truly becomes your home away from home.

Post a quite lunch, I decide to recharge my batteries for the long night ahead and my night starts by 9pm when Chris takes me out for a drive around the city. KL looks absolutely stunning in the night with Petronas stealing the show. After stopping by a few more attractions, I get some travel tips for my expedition the following day.

Day 6 – Between the two.

Two of the popular daytime attractions around KL are Genting Highlands and Batu caves.

Genting Highlands – An assortment of fancy restaurants, theme parks and the only inland casino in the country. When you are travelling with a group of friends, GH seems to be a fun place to check out. Hence I rule it out this time.

Batu caves – Majestic limestone hills with historic caves and a Hindu shrine. About 40 minutes travel by metro from BackHome. Easy decision. Batu caves, it is.

As I alight the metro and walk out, I see the most photographed section of Batu caves, the grand statue of Lord Murugan – a Hindu deity at the foot of a picturesque limestone hill.

“Almost there” became my catch phrase again, helping me climb the strenuous 250+ odd steps. I rest for a moment in the last step to catch my breath; and the view is totally worth all the efforts. I walk into some deep and long caves, occasionally sighting the pigeons chase each other. Further few meters ahead, is a main shrine that is guarded by towering walls of limestone all around it.
Breath taken! It was just 250 odd steps to heaven!

Day 7 – Back to base.

Oh, boy! My appetite for life got just served. Or should I say it just began rather?!

Had it not been the CS buddies in KL and Langkawi Islands, I am very sceptical if it would have been as adventurous as it turned out to be. The wandering monk continues to wander, making memories, living through adventures and sharing stories! Remember that, a tan is the best accessory for any outfit :)

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Backpack.... Lost and Found – Self.

“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

I thought Freya must be out of her mind.

But you know what; Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I decided to extend my trip by few more days to step out of my comfort zone and live the life, I have never lived.

To begin with,


I had no plans on what to do and where to go. A good traveller has no fixed plans apparently. But NO! That line did not inspire me. Eventually managed to book a hostel(Bedstation) in the last minute, which later turned out to be my saviour and bliss.

A great place to stay; meet strangers from different parts of life; grab a beer and talk anything under the sun; be anyone(fantasy included!) you want to be; walk out as friends!

A glimpse of Bedstation 
Random discussions with random people over breakfast table leads to an exciting plan for the next few days. The funny part is, none had a plan before that breakfast. So I head out to explore. Not necessary to stick with the group. You can just take off anytime, anywhere, with or without.

Wake up with a blank mind, have a hot shower, grab a healthy breakfast, pocket a local map and head-out, explore, get lost, and talk to locals, relish local food, find self, smile, explore more, talk more, eat more, smile more and finally, back to bed with memories. And the cycle continued.

This is exactly how I spent my few days at Bangkok and this is what I found (not read) about Bangkok.

The city is highly busy and commercial.

Overloaded Buddhism at one section of the city and rest of all the section is famous for what you know it is famous for! If you don't know, read about it. Wait!! Rather visit and see for yourself.

It is weird to believe that, I lost not more than one-fourth of a day to sleep in all those days.

Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller. Absolutely true, Mr. Batutta.

I wish to share more stories.

But it is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times- An old Asian proverb.

So. Backpack. Lose. Find. Self.

Friday, 20 March 2015

When you are not…………….

When you are not, what you are expected to be, but if you are who you really want to be, care a damn about those hypocrites and continue to be the way you really wanted to be.

The old adage “Grass is always greener on the other side” makes a lot of sense. People hardly realize that dreaming about the life they wish for, is not going to help unless you stop dreaming and do something towards it. Of course, I am referring to those things that are in their control. But those “Had you been” talks freak me out!! Life sounds so easy rosy in those talks. Wish we all know the true meaning of hypothesis.

Although above such things are common in many aspects of life, education is one of the highlighted and sensitive issues. Our society strongly believes that the right education paves way to wisdom. Agreed! Hands down! But sadly a section of us still believe that certain degrees (not necessarily it educates) leads to dignity, stardom, fame, wealth, and lastly wisdom. One such cliché is becoming an engineer or a doctor or an MBA. Every middle class Indian wants to become one of those former two. Due to this frenzy, engineering in India has become a business, and let alone the standard of education. No matter how many movies Amir khan does, the true essence will never be realised. At this rate, it would not be a surprise if being an engineer or a doctor turns out to be minimum criteria for one to get married in the near future!

I strongly believe, the society will progress only when one stops being part of the herd; stops being another cog in the wheel. But life teaches you lessons the hard way! Learnt it!

P.S. I still would carry the above thoughts even if I were an engineer or a doctor. But when you are not… Be yourself! You are unique, just like everyone!

Thursday, 24 July 2014


No! I have not misspelt the movie BANG BANG and this is not its preview either. Well, this has nothing to do with any movie. Rather, this is the personality of a man who has been amazingly insightful about life and beyond life. No, he ain't a saint; not (completely) crazy; not blindly spiritual; not my new role model. He is just another common man of my age. But what makes him stand out? An artist! Not by profession (yet), but by nature. Fascinated by theatre, cinema, art, nature at a very young age (when he was 4 years old!), he embarked on to this wild journey from a remote place in north-east to scale great heights in the city of dreams – Mumbai!

A seamless connection between his thoughts and delivery is awe-inspiring. It is not rocket science. It is just a plain, simple life. But you (I) have not seen life, the way he sees. Trust me, it is a different world.

I have never found answers to any of my deep and innermost questions. I do not believe in any spiritual guru and neither in his blessings. I do not meditate. But every time, I found my discussions with this guy to be so unique and very unlike my usual discussions with my circle. I do not claim that he has provided me with all worldly answers. Duh! No way! Yet, there is this sense of direction and clarity about life in general.

Unable to recollect many, just quoting a few of his views (screw my bad memory).
“Only when you let your sub-conscious to take over your conscious mind, will you begin to appreciate life. That is when you begin the true journey of life.”
I was dumbfounded.

On another instance, he logically contradicted my views against The Chanakya’s wisdom, “He who is overly attached to his family, experiences fear and sorrow, for the root of all grief is attachment. Thus one should discard attachment to be happy.”

I vehemently opposed it. I believe or rather used to believe, happiness is family; family is happiness.

Although he was not against my views, he asked me to define happiness. It is not as easy as it sounds. I stumbled, searched for it. I could not define it.

Later, he remarked, true happiness is beyond family. When your roots are tied with your family, you fail to explore the world beyond your family.
And thus, he certified the Chanakya’s words successfully.

How simple and elegant. A true artist. Dumbfounded.

Speaking of artist, I said, you see things differently about life probably because you are an artist. He denies. 
Every individual, irrespective of their profession can be an artist, he says. Learn to appreciate everything in life. Life is not a Salman Khan movie (btw he is eagerly waiting for the release of kick, not for Salman, but for Nawaz Siddiqui) where everything goes in favour of you. Learn to find the silver lining at every stage. Do not be in a rush. You will reach your destiny when it is time. Meanwhile, enjoy the journey!
Just dumbfounded!

All of this might sound like I have turned in to his disciple or you (I) may have even heard this before. But like I said, when you hear from the horse's mouth, it feels like the first time, each time. What began as a causal and curious experiment of cooking pan-Indian cuisines for lunch/dinner has now grown much more significant. It is no more a delight just to my tummy but to my mind too.

Once I poked this non-commercial movie freak, who is the best director in Bollywood currently? He replied, “Ek la**a bi nai hai”.

Maybe not currently, but I reckon in the near future, there will be one named “Amitav Deb.”

My best wishes!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Looking Behind – Comedy of Errors!

It has been 3 months now since I moved to Baroda. At times, life seemed to be fast, lively and fun. But mostly, it has been dead slow and dull. For someone who is lazy by nature, staying away alone could turn into either a boon or a bane. Well, in my case, it has been the latter largely. To be fair on myself, I have tried my hand on various stuffs to keep myself away from boredom.

Read Books  – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is collecting dust in a corner.
Watch Movies/Series  – My age old laptop is dead.
Learn Gujarati           – LOL.
Try Cooking               – My first attempt’s result is positive. Likely to pursue.
Explore City               – After 6 days work in a week. Really?
Party                           – A distant dream. FYI, I am in Gujarat.
Self-Introspection      – Who am I kidding?!

One might argue that, I have not really tried all the above. No! You are wrong! I have given it a thought (literally)!

Any suggestions to kill boredom are invited. The sooner the better as boredom is killing me real fast.

Meanwhile, I shall give some tips on ‘what not to do’ when alone. Whilst I was sick and bedridden a while back, a colleague of mine bought me a bottle of sugarcane juice. I had a little of it and forgot the rest. A couple of days later, I found the bottle rolling aimlessly under my bed and decided to empty the rest. Now, listen carefully. NEVER EVER shake a bottle of sugar cane juice before emptying it. Alas, no one warned me before. I gave it a quick shake and turned the cap a little. Just a little! That was it. A mini bomb exploded! The bottle cap went on a mission to mars, the bottle back fired on to the wall. The stale juice was all over my head and neither the ceiling was spared. The noise was so loud that my ear continued to buzz for hours making me seriously worry and the blast left my palm numb for some time! Amazed at the nature’s trick, I was profoundly laughing at myself. I thank my stars for being sick at that time, my neighbor cleaned up the whole mess while I was on a hunt for the missing cap!

Lesson learnt – When someone gives you something for free, consume it ASAP!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Weekend Madness! Courtesy - THERHT!

Worried of missing my destination Nagda (I recommend clicking it to know (more) about this place!), I decided to stay awake during my 6 hour journey. But by 1.30 AM, I could not resist taking a nap counting on my co-passenger’s promise that he would wake me on time and of course, I always count on Indian railways, seldom has it reached on time. After my hour hand had swung 360* few times, the same odd smell from Harihar struck bells and I sensed Nagda was just nearby(For those who are wondering, Grasim industry is in both towns). I alighted and there was my man, waiting ready to receive me grandly! (Oh Wait!! How I wish it was the case! I am speaking hypothetically! True friends always make you wait!). Eventually Rohit turned up in his Indigo (2002 model :P) and we zipped away. 

Situated on the banks of Chambal River, Nagda is a small industrial town with tall chimneys coughing out pollutants. But the Grasim colony is certainly a cut above the rest of Nagda. To my surprise, every Tom, Dick and Harry smiles and waves at my friend leaving me bemused with two options. Either, Nagda, being a small town, I am seeing the same set of guys circling every street or ‘THERHT’ is the ‘Modi of Nagda’. Wondering if I should prostrate completely or in a semi-fashion, I met the elders at his house and my back recommended a semi is good enough and executed it multiple times. On the other hand, I have to admit it was strange and nice, seeing Rohit behave (I still think he acts) responsibly to his inmates. Authoritative to his younger and obligated to his elder brother!

Post feasting on some authentic breakfast, we went around the colony. Every street, every building looks identical and a newbie like me will end up roaming for light years. Landmarks and milestones don’t work either (tried them too!). Later, the heavy lunch made me realize how he bloats in a matter of few days. The food was so delicious that I ate as much as he did (Which I claim as a record) and I ended up swirling and coiling semi-consciously for hours in the bed. To burn some calories, we decided to go for a swim. Apparently only Nagda residents are allowed to enter the pool and have to carry an ID card. But Rohit, like every other day, made his way through using his deceiving skills and got a pass for me too.

On constant nagging for a party from Gaurav (A mutual friend) and me, he agreed for one (A silent party though!) post dinner. Studies show that there might be a positive correlation between intelligence and alcohol consumption. Gaurav proved it wrong and so did we! (Gaurav – I am guessing you will disagree with me on this). Many (e)X, Y, Z subjects were discussed during the long marathon. It has always been a pleasure listening to THERHT’s non-sober talks. So was this time.

The visit was a much deserved break and certainly was worth its weight in gold. The weekend madness will continue!

Behind the sceneEvery average Indian male scans the name chart in his train coach, not just to see his name, but also at others, hoping it would be his day! As I was reaching my coach, a stunner was in the same coach. Curious to know more, I hurriedly scanned the charts and did not find any relevance to the detail on the chart with the one seated. With my longing dying down rapidly, I tried looking up my own name to confirm. WHAT THE! My name was missing! Later I realised that the charts were outdated. DAMN! Indian Railways derails my dreams too! 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Elixir of my life – Alluring at its best!

Malted barley, hops, yeast and water don’t make much sense when they stand alone. But when you put them together and manipulate the natural process, you get the elixir of mankind! A curious mind would reckon what I am talking about. And only those minds would understand the true essence of this random piece. The harmless* mixture – the reason behind euphoria for some, dysphoria for some and endless other emotions vaporing out of their souls, has been a distant dream for me in the dry state here. Had it been a case where it is absolutely impossible to find one, it would have remained a dream. But it is India! There is nothing called as unavailability of banished ones and Yeah! Dreams come true! Don’t they?!

After being ubiquitous, it was seldom seen, heard and it was a ‘TABOO’ here.  Having laid multiple baits with few (Reality-with almost everyone I knew here!) friends here, I made up my mind that the one who hands me the elixir will be promoted from a friend status to my best friend! Days became weeks, weeks into a month and the wait was getting cruel. The night is darkest just before the dawn! And as promised, the dawn was coming! (Again, curious minds would recognize this punch line!)

One of those baits had worked and eventually I managed to lay my hands on the elixir of my life. Without a surprise, it was truly an elixir and casted its spell over me briefly over the night. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait.

Funny yet a very true FB quote strikes me at this point, “Oh NaMo! Please do not replicate your state’s model in India. It is quite hard to drive down to neighboring countries!” I bet he wouldn’t dare to do that unless he has plans to lose his PM seat!

* depends on individual & their appetite level/pattern. The author does not promote it by any means!