Rajasthan: A place of countless forts and stories of kings and princesses. The first taste of traveling with friends…way back in 1990 as part of a school trip. A time when the City Palace in Udaipur was still a palace and not a hotel. Hot and dry. Good looking bong guys. A trendy cotton printed skirt for Rs.30. A place as exotic then as it is now.
Haryana/Punjab: Somehow I have never visited any place here except Chandigarh but have crossed it many a times on the way North. Its geography is as vibrant and bright as its people. But somehow, the overtly friendly atmosphere never appealed to me or made me want to explore more.
Uttranchal: Truly abode of the gods but now in a horrible state of disrespect to the same gods - barren hillsides and overflowing with plastic. But it still remains a place with some of my best travel memories. Jim Corbett, where lying alone near a clean river and watching a kingfisher dive, I realized the need to break free and start traveling. Rishikesh, where after a hard day’s of rafting and jumping off a cliff, we sat down by the Ganga in the evening around a bonfire, rolled up a joint and got the best high ever. Ranikhet and Binsar in the monsoons, dark and melancholic, was a totally different side of the Himalayas that I saw.
UP: Early memories of a time when Benaras was not that crowded and people traveled in horse driven tongas. I remember sitting in one when the horse reared up trying to throw all of us down. Many years later, the Bhul Bhulayya of the palace in Lucknow really astounded us as my sister and I went round and round giggling like crazy.
Bihar/ Jharkhand: A place where I was born and spent a very happy and carefree childhood, a time when the state was undivided. Bihar side was a simple life with very simple people and Jharkhand, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Hillsides filled with flame of forest and tiny waterfalls abound. My first brush with wildlife at Betla forest when I was all of 4. I still remember my mother and relatives shivering with fear on the night safari and I wondered what the fuss was all about. When my father pointed out a tree house, my super imaginative mind thought this is where Phantom lived.
West Bengal: Riding on a bullock cart through a picture perfect rural setting. Traditional mud huts which kept the house cool. Each hut had a pond along with clumps of bamboo shrubs. A place where I have tasted one of the best gulab jamuns so far. Its mountainous north region is as different from its coastal south as coal is to ice.
Orissa: Extreme poverty. The image of a guy with torn clothes which barely covered him and living in a rundown hut is still etched in my mind. A very rough yet gorgeous sea. My first experience of a storm near the sea and finding hundreds of dead turtles on the beach the next morning.
Sikkim: My first trek (in 2001) which came at a time when I was dying to break free. I went without knowing what it entails, just because I loved walking. After being so near to Kanchendzonga and the surrounding enchanted forests, it was difficult not to get affected. I was hooked and how. It was here that I had one of ‘those’ experiences which sets you thinking hard about life and how you want to lead it. It sure has been a long journey since then.
HP: Picture perfect, totally mersmerising and so varied that you can spend a month here and still find new things every day. It’s the place where I experienced my first snowfall that too around my birthday. It’s also a place where I realized that even a barren landscape can be so beautiful. It’s a land of high mountains, deep valleys, beautiful forests and enchanting meadows – a place where I want to live one day.
To be continued…..