What to keep in mind while doing solo travelling

If travelling is crossing a boundary, solo travelling is pushing one’s limit. If travelling is to know one’s fear, solo travelling is to face them. If travelling is, how much you know the world, solo travelling is how much you know yourself. In short, it is a next level thrill-seeking adventure in pursuit of happiness.

However, as exciting and daring it may sounds, it requires a great deal of courage to fight your own demons that are cluttering your mind with a common question to the entire situation, What if?

Listen to your true-self. If you’re reading this, it’s only because you’re still in dilemma and not sure from where and how to start but surely there’s an ignited spark within you that needs a little know-how of the unknown world you’re going to explore all by yourself.

So, let’s start with things you should keep in mind before venturing out in unknown.

  • You’re going to face many ups and down. You’ll feel depressed, sad and more than once all alone. But that’s why you’re there. Not finding anyone to rely on and figuring out everything by self will help you awaken the independent personality in you.
  • The sole friend and fiend when you’re into the unknown is your mind. It’ll trick you into thinking of all the comforts that you’ve left to be in this mess but be prepared to fight it back with determination more than ever.
  • When lost, check out for the resources you have in your possessions to find your way back. You can always ask for directions but if you’re not sure of others intention, just act confident and not like a lost lamb.
  • Learn, learn and learn it well! ‘How to use GPS?’ If you’re taking a risk to solo travel, you cannot go around seeking your destination relying on the human tracker. Know your stuff and gadgets. These apps can come in handy anytime, and in that time you cannot stop thanking yourself enough for your quirky manners.
  • Most importantly, travel with an open mind. Once you are on the move, acquaint yourself with new cultural practices, develop a free-thinking spirit without any prejudice. It’ll get clearer what prejudice you hold once you are there to experience for yourself. All in time!
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The Ancient Vaidya in Modern Times

A century-old shop in Sasaram city of Bihar is practising and preserving the ‘knowledge of life – Ayurveda’ with origins in the Vedic culture of India since five generations.

Amidst the chaos of city life, incessant traffic and the congested crowd, little by little footsteps were approaching down the single lane dodging the trash, traffic, sometimes even people to seek out the shop known for sustaining the oldest healthcare system of medicine.

The search began from Gandhi Chowk and ended at Gandhi Neem of Sasaram in a tardy pursuit to identify the shop from Dharamshala road to Chowkhandi.

If it’s not for the history, then a walk in the city would devoid you of the fact that it was once home to an outstanding administrator of medieval India – Sher Shah Suri. And so, everything which seems ordinary and odd actually holds the potential of being ancient and old.

“A good physician is one who lives in a place abounding in medicinal plants and who assiduously devotes his time to the acquisition of knowledge,” says Rig Veda.

Certainly, this stands true for the Kesari family whose lineage has mastered the science of herbal medicines.

At his shop, Alakh Niranjan Kesari treats his patients with ayurvedic therapy and ‘churna’, a homemade mixture of natural herbs. Sitting in the shop, listening to the patient’s ailment, he minutely notes down the symptoms and asked his attendants to bring a box of powder.

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He recounts the generations who had practised the ancient science of medic; his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and others. They were specialist of Ayurvedic medicines, and I inherited the same practices from childhood, he says.

“We are the fifth generation of our family tree to pursue this profession as a career and carrying on their legacy,” says Lakshman. “My father was a renowned vaidya (physician) of his time. The shop is still named after him which reads Vaidya Lakshman Prasad Kesari, his name resonating even in today’s time. There are patients who came in search of this shop from far district and sometimes even nearby states to get cured. ”

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Alakh Niranjan Kesari at his shop

The 40-year-old has his degree in Ayurvedic medicine after graduating from Allahabad University. “Besides selling the herbs, we also treat all kind of health-related diseases and make sure inaccessible herbs are available in our shop to interest the masses, he adds.”

Soon, the attendant Lal Bihari Bind was back with a box, labelled ‘Kapoori Churna’, effective in treating the patients suffering from gastric problems. Meanwhile, the other attendant, Haridwar Singh, enthusiastically showed me a sack of ‘Achwani Batisa,’ a beneficial herb consumed by women after post-pregnancy. They are working here for past 10 years and can recognize any plants, seeds and rare herbs.

collageLal Bihari Bind(left) with Kapoori Churna and Haridwar Singh(right) displaying Achwani.

Despite the fact that accessibility to rare herbs and medicinal plants is difficult to procure, this family business is not at all affected. Thanks to the foundations laid down by their former generations who not only mastered the Ayurveda but also did their best to pass the heritage and thus preserving the age-old practice in modern time.

“The procurement of ayurvedic herbs is not easy. You’ll not find these herbs and spices in one place. It’s because their availability is limited to a place,” says Alakh. “When faced with the shortage of the herbal ingredients, we brought them from local mandis in Banaras and Patna, and others from Neemat, Katni of Madhya Pradesh and even Udhampur of Kashmir.”

2Vishal Kesari (left), father lt. Lakshman Prasad Kesari(background pic) , Alakh Nirajan Kesari(right)

“Our descendants were originally from Kashmir. They were cultivators and traders of saffron(kesar) who settled here after migration,” says Vishal Kumar Kesari, his younger brother.

“Among the multitude of medicines we sell, one stands out, in particular,” says Vishal. He goes in, picked up a box of powder, labelled ‘Sugar Nashak Churna’. He assured the guaranteed benefits of it in curing the sugar patients’. “The homemade recipe includes ayurvedic herbs such as Shatavari(asparagus), jamun ka beej(jambolana seeds), Gulmarg(insulin plant), Ashwagandha(winter cherry), karela beej(bitter gourd seeds) to name but few. This is the best selling product.”

The benefits of Ayurveda is not unknown to the world. It deals extensively with body health care, both internally and externally, yet very few possessed the knowledge of life.

The ancient scripts are detailed with the measures and treatments to cure various ailments, diseases even mental illness. However, little has been done to revive the science of life and to drenched in the practices of Ayurveda in India.

More worrisome fact is the oblivious nature towards our own cultural and historical roots that is inconspicuous from the eyes of ignorant minds.

 

Cave dwellers of the World

Cave dates back to the prehistoric age. Leave it or Live in, you cannot resist it. The obscure passage, pungent smell, enigmatic drawings, striking features; the multitude facets of each cave has its own history.

The nature and formation of caves are very esoteric. More of a reason for its exoteric eye-reach among travellers and thrill-seekers alike.

Travellers and cave dwellers or as I say Cravellers have one thing in common. At one point, they must have had decided to embark on a journey never walked before – to measure the vastness of the sky, to feel the intensity of light, to breathe the spirit of the season, and to seek the solace in life.

Cave dwellers or not, it has always piqued the interest of human either to evade or to confront their fate. The movie ‘Croods’ is exemplary proof of the evasive nature of human beings.

So, while you plan to have an escapade again, here’s to the caves that were once inhabited by early settlers.

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, Madhya Pradesh

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, trace the earliest human life in the foothills of Vindhyan Mountains. Home to more than 700 caves, Bhimbetka hills holds the oldest petroglyph, art and undecipherable Sankha script.

Engraved on its walls are stone age rock painting and art of all ages (Upper Paleolithic to historic periods) providing a glimpse into the everyday lives of prehistoric people and the practices followed then. Evidence shows that it is 300,000 – 700,000 years old site.

Niah Caves, Malaysia:

This cavern is known for the oldest human settlement in East Malaysia. Human remnants suggest that it is 40,000 years old. Stone tools, rock paintings and artefacts like jewellery, pottery and bones are as old as 4000 years.

This natural cave is a beauty to behold and a real treat for both travellers and explorers. Niah Caves National Park also offers accommodation facility if you want to spend a day or more exploring the site.

Azokh Caves, Azerbaijan

A living site of stone-age man, Azokh cave is considered to be the habitat of the ancient human beings – Azykhantrops.

Studies suggest that the cave was a residing place for three different hominin species (heidelbergenies, neandertalensis, and sapiens).

The excavation of the site found a  human jaw-bone of Neanderthal type (400 thousand years old) apart from the bones of wild animals like boar, lion, rhino and stone instruments dated 1 to 1.5 million years.

Uplistsikhe caves, Georgia

Forget a cave or myriads of it. There exist a cave town where rock-hewn structure, carved ceilings and extraordinary artifacts narrate a tale of time unknown to the modern world

It is the oldest urban settlements in eastern Georgia. Artifacts unearthed during the excavations go back as far as the Iron Age.

Structures include functional buildings, prisons, cellars, ceremonial places, amphitheater and lower caves.

 

Once upon a Moon Trifecta: UFO and Super Blood Blue Moon

Telescope or not, “could it be that I captured a UFO darting to and fro the Blood Moon?”

I wouldn’t be saying this if it wasn’t for the NASA live broadcast that captured the similar object flying past the moon.

Read the end of the story to see pics.

I’m into astronomy. Though, I have a meagre understanding of what it actually means but I consider myself so. I love stargazing the colourful gas, Stardust, enigmatic formations of vivid colours. It led me to believe how surreal and beautiful our universe is beyond our thinking horizon; Intense, magnificent, powerful and far from reach but despite that, it cannot stop a human mind to seek solace in it.

Recently, when the news of Super Blue Blood Moon phenomenon appearance hit the world again on January 31, 2018 – after 1866 – even I couldn’t help myself but wish to be a part of the rarely seen trifecta.

I saw no reason why I should resist myself from missing out on an opportunity like this – I am exploring my options, curating my interest, be it travelling, visiting museums, freelancing or sky-watching. “I’m going to Nehru Planetarium”, I decided. I thought of bringing someone with me. After all, this was my first time but I found none to my rescue, and so I was on my own.

I did some reading on what will happen, and it was all splattered with super, blue and blood moon.

Supermoon, because the moon appears bigger than usual due to the proximity it shares with Earth during elliptical orbit.

Once in a blue moon yet it never turns into one. Bummer! It’s just a name for the second full moon in a single month. Now, we know where this idiom came from.

Blood! Apparently, as the moon plunged into Earth’s umbra receiving no sunlight, some light refracts via Earth’s atmosphere reaching moon’s surface shrouding it with a reddish glow. It does turn into red!

I searched for the timings in India; 6 pm to 9 pm, it was!

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THE DAY ARRIVES!

On January 31, 2018, I have had no idea whatsoever as to what I’m going to do or witness. I stepped down to the Lok Kalyan Marg (the nearest metro) and hired an auto to Nehru Planetarium. The time must’ve been around 6 pm. As I arrived at the gate, the guards there directed me to take the front gate, and so I walked the way I came from.

I was amazed to see the number of people who showed up for this celestial event. Though, the ratio was much less as compared to our population yet enough to form three swirling line. And then there were media reporters, all set with their cameramen.

What A Coincidence!

As I was making sense of my surrounding, I heard a voice asking me, “where’s the line tag-end?” I turned to see a man in his twenties, fretting and perplexed.

Where we are standing, I guess,” I replied.
A bevy of girls hastened to form the line. We too without much thought moved to occupy our space before wasting any more time analyzing the situation.

What’s this line for?”, he asked.
In my mind, I was as clueless as he was. I looked around to see where it starts and found a big telescope installed there.
“Must be to peek through telescopes,” I said.

I’m here for the first time, and I have no clue what I’m doing here,” he added.
“Not to worry! This is my first time too.”
I was relieved to know that I’m not alone, after all. By now, I felt a little better knowing we’re on the same page. Our conversation gears up from there.

What brings you here?”, I questioned.
“The news caught my eye, and I had a chance this time to witness the eclipse, but I was not sure. So, I called my friends to come over.”
“Even I asked my friends but they were all occupied somewhere or other, so I decided to give it a solo try.”

I was amused at the coincidence points we shared until now.

They’re running a little late,” he continued.

Again, a bummer! My whole idea of him being courageous enough to show up alone turned upside-down. Soon, a woman behind him showed interest in our conversation and joined us.

The Anxious Waiting!!!

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As the night was progressing, more people showed up joining the line tag. The chatty girls ahead of me were making a point of how damaging it could be to watch the eclipse with naked eyes.

It was hopeless standing in a still queue – as if one side of the universe is static and other is expanding. I thought to have a look around but leaving a queue would mean more delay. I turned around and saw the woman going in opposite direction leaving this man in charge of her space.

Where did she go?”, I inquired.
She went to see if she can cut short into any line and thus making more space for us two.

Only if I could have arrived a little earlier,” I muttered. He told me he was here on time but was waiting by the gate for his friends.

He had not had the slightest idea of what’s going on. He thought some kind of projection would work in a hall or room in order to witness this phenomenon and on top of that he said as happens in movies.

Now, see! this is what happens when you’re not on the same page. You found the other person silly. I too showed up in hope of watching the moon turned into red, orange through a telescope without having a plan? But at least, I knew the concept of open sky and field to observe the celestial object.

The Planetarium Setup

The night was getting dark, and all I could feel was the commotion. Not a face was recognizable. Neither his friends showed up nor the woman who left us.

Standing in the queue was a futile exercise. I took a leisurely stroll. Families with their own personal telescopes were there. There was a poster for feature identification on moon’s surface. A Chinese food point was around the corner. Reporters changed their position and set-up many times since then. Moon will go through a different phase, not place, I murmured.

IMG_20180131_183119

In the dark, I lost the line I was in. Somehow I managed to figure it out. Thanks to those chatty girls.

The woman was back with a big smile on her face. She asked us to have a round of walk if we may wish.
Somewhere, a lady was explaining the details of the phenomenon, and so we were off in her voice direction. Somehow we managed to reach there in the dark.
A few more clicks and we were back. His friends were finally there. He felt all fluffy around them.

The Hubble Space Telescope…and it’s gone!

While we were all waiting for the moon to appear, I was getting a vibe of the festival Karva Chauth celebrated in northwestern part of India, wherein the ladies fast till moonrise.
Upon checking feeds on my mobile, Super Blue Blood Moon spotted in different parts of India and world started making the news.

The wait was not over for Delhiites though. It was no wonder. The moon must have a hard time rising above the pollution level of Delhi.

However, I had made my mind that I’ll be leaving before 7:30 pm, even if moon shows up or not.
Suddenly, the lady over mike announced that there is a tiny spot going down in the rising direction and it is Hubble Space Telescope. Man, I tried hard to spot that but all I could hear was – there it is…look carefully…it’s going down…down, down and it’s gone.

Maybe she was asking with all those telescopes to look for it, I discern.
But one thing became clear to me. Even if moon shows up, it wouldn’t make a difference now. Evidently, I’m going to see the same moon

The Wait is Over!

Nevertheless, I was still happy with the first-hand experience I received with a new found confidence, conversation, charisma.
In fact, the last conversation I had with the woman, we both realized that we came here alone. Yes, she thought the man was a friend of mine.

This is India. All the swirling and ever-expanding line scattered in a second. I heard the commotion and nowhere found the queue I was in. The moon was up. It doesn’t matter where the telescope is. The queue is a crowd now.

An Unexpected Phenomenon: UFO approaching Super Blue Blood Moon

I too moved away, and there it was! A red moon! I was thrilled. And it was absolutely different from what we saw on the Internet yet a satisfactory one!

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The moon made my night. I clicked few pictures, ordered half-a-plate of momo’s and headed to home.

IMG_20180131_190910Time: 7:09:11 PM

IMG_20180131_190920Time: 7:09:21 PM

IMG_20180131_190949 (1)Time: 7:09:50 PM

I couldn’t make of the white bright light heading towards the moon and away from it(see the above image). And there’s no way knowing it. Perhaps, it was one of the Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) as Hubble Telescope had already gone down.

Telescope or not, “could it be that I captured a UFO darting to and fro the Blood Moon?”

I wouldn’t be saying this if it wasn’t for the NASA live broadcast that captured the similar object flying past the moon.

The Real Trouble

Everything was fine until I crossed the exit gate. There was not a single auto near-by the planetarium. Vehicles were moving at their pace on the two-lane road without a stop. I looked around for the people like me and found the families with their own car. I started moving in a direction following my GPS tracker but it was 30-40 minutes walk and the lane I was walking – it was dark and lonely.


For a time, I got tensed. I waited at a bus stop. I asked the people there, and they told me it would not halt at any metro. On moving further, a bus finally stopped.

Seeing the people on the bus, I got in. I thought the bus would stop at any metro station, but I was wrong. The bus conductor told me to step down the bus and to catch a bus from another side of the road. On the opposite side, two women were sitting at the bus stop. I asked them if any auto by any means is there, and she directed me to a direction not far from there, but all I could see was darkness, so I decided to stay where I was. She told me it’s okay. You can get one here too.
I was about to book an Uber when I found an auto that safely dropped me to the metro I came from. And what a relief it was to find my way back home.

Safety Tips for Women Solo Traveller in India

Reaching a destination is not all. The first thing to keep in mind anywhere you go is to make sure you know how to find your way back home safe and sound.

Know your means of travel and schedule your plans accordingly.

Have handy apps installed on your smartphones like Ola and Uber, especially when roaming to places at night.

 

 

Basant Panchami: The trails of Saraswati from a mighty river to majestic Goddess

Basant Panchami is a highly revered festival especially in the eastern states of India. It is celebrated annually on the fifth day of Hindu calendar month(magh) as it marks the onset of Spring.

Saraswati : The Origin

‘Saras’ (flow) and ‘wati’ (she who has) i.e. she who has flow is Saraswati.

The Goddess Saraswati is just a personification of the mythical River Saraswati.

The earliest reference and relevance of Saraswati came from the sacred text of Hinduism, Rig Veda, wherein it described it as a river mightier than the Indus and Ganges and even mentioned her location, to be somewhere between Yamuna and Sutlej rivers.

In her glory, the genesis of Vedic took his first breath. The ancient Vedic text, Rigveda, was composed on the banks of Saraswati River. She was primarily a river who, later on, personified and worshipped as a deity.

Saraswati: The Goddess of Knowledge

What would be of the world if it’s devoid of music, art, science or knowledge? Ignorance, it is!

Goddess Saraswati is an embodiment of eloquence, consciousness, enlightenment, knowledge, music, art, wisdom, nature and power.

Often portrayed as clad in an immaculate white saree, seated on a white lotus, adorned with garlands and veena in her hand in a tranquil state. She is the consort of creator Brahma.

In Hinduism, Ignorance is a demon Apasmara, whom Lord Shiva subdued through his cosmical dance and musical beats of Damru to preserve the knowledge in the universe.

An Anecdote

In my schooling days in Madhya Pradesh, Saraswati Puja seemed more of a myth as the river bed of sacred river itself. No holidays or celebration. It was as usual as any day can get.

However, my mother used to make sure that the three of us offer our prayers before leaving for school (the reason, I am acquainted with the Goddess of Knowledge).

The other reason why I thought this festival has lesser significance was due to the coverage it received from media. I know the Durga Puja celebrated with much zeal in Bengal, Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra, Holi in Uttar Pradesh, Navratri in Gujarat, Bihu in Assam and many bordering states alike even when I’m not residing in that state.

And that was least of my concern then. After all, the land of many religions – India, is a home to over 33 millions of deities. No doubt, why I live in such a rich, culturally and ethnically diverse country.

So, it took me by surprise one day when I came to know that here, in Bihar, we celebrate Basant Panchami as Saraswati Puja(of course, I knew that). What startled me was the fact that celebration was real. No classes or official uniforms but school to celebrate the auspicious day with prayers, sweets (Prashad) and then to our way with friends gibbering all the way, witnessing attractive ‘pandals’ around the city.

The sheer excitement to pick the very best dress among others was a pressure not less than that of final exams approaching nearer(although in a good way!).

It was more like celebrating Republic Day in school, however, an updated one, with casual dresses.

And in the fervour of the festival, I even remembered the following Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ to please the Goddess of wisdom – Saraswati.

Raja_Ravi_Varma,_Goddess_Saraswati

या कुन्देन्दुतुषारहारधवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता

या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना ।

या ब्रह्माच्युतशंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा पूजिता

सा मां पातु सरस्वति भगवती निःशेषजाड्यापहा ॥

This post was originally written on 22 January, 2018 on the auspicious day of Saraswati Puja.

 

The cockles of one’s heart

Listen! to the heartbeat. Isn’t it throbbing, serenading your soul?

Feel!  the deepest desire egging on to seek the soulful travel!

 

The meandering lanes teasing, every time you took a turn and meets an exuberant crowd.

Yes, That’s Travel!

 

The clattering sound you once hate but now can’t wait to make one,

CHange is TRavel!

 

Mingling with people, only to know how chatty you can be. How dare one say you’re an introvert?

PErsonal Growth is TRavel!

 

Finding yourself amidst the archaic monuments and lost land,

EXploring is TRavel!

 

Strolling through balmy beaches while waves come and go soothing your feet,

BEach Bum is TRavel!

 

Out of the mist, the mountains soaring high and seems as if touching the sky,

TRekking is TRavel!

 

KNowing what lies beyond the shrouded hills and vast open sky,

KNowledge is TRavel!

 

EMbracing every walk with Nature,

Warming the cockles of one’s heart is Soulful TRavel!