Rain and Ravangla

It is 7.20 in the morning and I quickly gulp down my coffee and start trotting towards the taxi stand which is right outside MG Marg. Glancing back, I bid adieu to New Modern Central Lodge – the lovely place that housed me during the first two days of my travel. Even as I walk across the near empty MG Marg, trying to grasp as much of its beauty as I can for the last time, I cannot help but wonder what my next destination Ravangla is going to be like. I hurriedly buy my shared jeep ticket to Ravangla upon reaching the taxi stand (= share jeep tickets to Ravangla could be booked in advance on the previous day as well) and head to the cab.

The gorgeous mountains as they play with the Sun!

The gorgeous mountains as they play with the Sun!

The cab starts off at 7.45 am sharp and the drive to Ravangla is magnificent, to say the least – Winding roads across the gigantic Himalayas, the cold breeze, tallest trees, unending farmlands, the most exquisite birds and wonderful co-passengers. It feels like a dream. There is a visible change in climate and environment as we move away from the commercial hub of Gangtok. (= My co-passengers Simmi, Bishey and her mother are the most enthusiastic company I could have asked for. Even as they intently listen to all my stories of Bombay, they animatedly point out to the mountains outside the window and keep me updated with our geographical location. They share details of their life in Sikkim, and constantly keep checking if I am comfortable. All this in a shared-cab! These lovely ladies already make me look forward to Ravangla and I can’t wait to get there!)(= One more thing that I could not help but notice, was the availability of clean and hygienic public toilets on the route. I instantly drew comparisons with my visit to Himachal Pradesh a couple of years back, where availability of public toilets was one of the bigger challenges we faced during our road trip. Thumbs up, Sikkim!)

We reach Ravangla by 10.30 am, and even as Simmi continues her homeward journey to Kewzing (which is approximately 10 kms away), Bishey and her mother continue with me, till I manage to locate my hotel – Hotel Melody. They bid adieu with the warmest smile and wish me the best of luck for my journey ahead. I am welcomed into the cottage-like hotel by the owner / manager, Bobbit Das, and my room offers me a brilliant view of the town. It is such a pleasant day and the sun rays beaming through the window make me wonder why everyone kept telling me about how cold Ravangla is! After getting some rest, I head to a restaurant called ‘Kookay’ for lunch (Bobbit sir’s recommendation). (=Now I need to mention that at this moment, a million thoughts are bouncing all over my head! Firstly, during my conversation with Bobbit sir, I learnt that I was the only guest at the hotel during my stay in Ravangla. I don’t know how to say it, but I am scared. This is probably the first time I am experiencing the true meaning of solo travel, but I just cannot put my apprehensions to rest. My solo-traveller instincts have obviously taken over, and I have got my guard up… but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to stay here – all alone. Sigh. Maybe I should just move to some other place that is not as deserted as this one? But the reviews on tripadvisor were very positive. What other option do I even have? From what I gather, there isn’t much to do in Ravangla anyway. Maybe I should just leave tomorrow? Sigh. Maybe I should just go and have lunch first? A whirlwind of thoughts).

At Kookay!

At Kookay!

Veg thali. Slurrrp!

Veg thali. Slurrrp!

I walk to Kookay which is barely 5 minutes away from the hotel, where I meet Norzang, who is meticulously redecorating a wall with post-it notes left by the many visitors at the restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and exudes a lovely vibe. I request Norzang to suggest a local delicacy for lunch and he gladly recommends the thali. ‘It is not a local dish, but it is cooked in the local way. Maybe you can try it’, he says. So thali, it is! Given that I am the only guest at the restaurant (again!), we end up making small talk on why I am travelling alone and what my folks think of all the photos that I keep sending across to them. Soon, my meal arrives and my appetite takes me by a big surprise as I gobble the food down. To call it delicious, would be gross injustice to the food! After my meal, I randomly ask Norzang to help me with off-beat places to visit at Ravangla. What happens next, is something I will always remember. He tears off a couple of pages from his diary, and begins to draw miniature maps to help me with directions to what he suggests are the places worth visiting. Another brush with the affectionate Sikkimese hospitality!

Kookay maps

My favourite souvenirs from Sikkim 🙂

I thank Norzang, collect my bag from the hotel and merrily start walking to Tathagata Tsal (=more famously known as Buddha Park – Yes, that is the first destination!). It is easily a 15 minute walk, to say the least. As I stride away from the dreamy town, I am left walking alone along the empty road (again!), even as a number of tourist vehicles zoom past me. However, as I near Buddha Park, the Buddha emerges through the mountains and its sheer size leaves me captivated. I purchase my entry ticket (=which costs Rs. 50) and make my way through security. The guard collects my ticket and asks me if I am alone (=First emotion: fear. Is he a creep? Why should he ask me this? What has it got to do with him? Should I tell him the truth or lie? Why am I stuck in Ravangla? So many thoughts in a fraction of a second. Funny how the human mind is so quick). I reply in the affirmative, and he politely shows me directions to the Buddha, the souvenir stores and the washrooms before welcoming me with a smile. I am completely taken aback. (=Next thought: this place is beginning to shatter all my opinions on sixth sense and intuition). 

Tathagata Tsal

Tathagata Tsal

As I set foot into the park, the view of it leaves me enthralled – the strong wind, manicured lawns, the prayer flags and the enchanting Buddha statue with the mountains acting as a perfect background. I climb down the stairs and walk along the path only to be left mesmerized by the ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ prayer playing in the park. Wow! (=I can’t stop thinking about the powerful vibes that Buddha Park exudes. It is undoubtedly one of the most serene places I have visited). In all my excitement, I make a mental note to stick around the place for at least a couple of hours more, and explore every corner that I possibly can. However, the bright sun-rays are slowly beginning to vanish, and a cloud-army is marching towards us in the sky. I am quite enjoying my walk along the elaborate path-way, but silently praying for it to not rain. As I reach the foot of the statue, I can hear loud thunders from some place far away in the mountains. I quickly take my shoes off, and enter inside the statue. I am welcomed to the sight of a magnificent stupa at the centre of the hall! To the left is a museum with 1,000 Buddha statues and straight up is the route to walk what feels like 3 floors up inside the statue. This circular-walkway runs through various wall-paintings of the story of Buddhism – its origin, how it got to India, the story of Buddha, etc. Just when I am about to exit from the statue after completing my tour of the inside, a group of approximately 50 South-Asian tourists walks in with 5 monks and they start chanting prayers and do a parikrama of the shrine. Almost as a reflex action, I step back inside the statue and sit down in a corner to watch them pray. (=It feels so powerful, almost hypnotic). Having lost track of the amount of time I have spent here, I slowly move out of the statue after a while.

Prayer Flags

Prayer Flags

My worst fears come true as I step outside – It had been pouring. The strong winds are making whistling sounds and causing the prayer flags fly – which is a vista I want to remember forever. The bright sunny day that had welcomed me into the town has now disappeared and all that is visible now, is the grey sky. The thundering has gotten louder and closer and even more vicious. (=Honestly, I love rain. A part of me was actually even wanting to get drenched. But I had my phone, camera, diary, story book, map, wallet and tickets with me in the bag… with no plastic to cover these things up. Hence, the caution). I quickly trot along the path-way, on my way back to the gate. I am contemplating hitch-hiking my way down to the town, but then decide to just make a run for it instead. As luck would have it, only a minute into my exit from the park, it starts to drizzle. I am too far away from the parking lot to ask for a lift, so going back is not an option. I then notice the other gate to the park (which has a roof) and run to seek refuge. All this while, I can feel small pebbles hitting my back. I look around to see who is throwing these at me, but not a soul in sight. It is now pouring heavily, and I am safely under the shade of the roof at the gate. It is only then that I realise that nobody was throwing pebbles at me – it was raining hailstones!! HAILSTONES! I am just standing there, at the gate, with no other human being in sight – awestruck – as the rain lashes the ground and as the hailstones fall with a force like never before, as if it was never going to stop. (=Even though I am alone and stranded, in this moment I feel happy like never before. I think I am the happiest I have been. It feels like every cell in my body is feeling the joy of experiencing a hailstone shower. It feels so wonderful to feel so vulnerable to nature. I want to absorb every bit of the beauty that I am witnessing – the falling hailstones, the clouded mountains, the roaring thunder and my feeling of infinite happiness. In this moment, I am the happiest I can be 🙂 )

In a short while, it stops raining, and I dash back to the hotel. I get to my room and the anxiety of being the only guest at the hotel floods my head again. I call a friend to pour out my concerns… and after immense pacification, I finally decide to go ahead with my stay and enjoy the beauty of Ravangla. Just as I finish my call, it starts thundering and raining hailstones again – almost as if the rain gods want me to stay 🙂

IMG_3185

 

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Lost my heart in Himachal Pradesh!

This gallery contains 40 photos.

Caution: Long blog post ahead! Well, travel is an enriching experience. For me, travel is meditation. It is the best kind of therapy. Travel is not about going away from home. It is about making another one! Which is why, I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to the mystic land […]

Satluj

Having just returned from a fulfilling trip across the eastern regions of Himachal Pradesh, I am filled with memories, awestruck by it’s beauty and gripped with nostalgia even as I write.
A detailed post outlining our adventures in the mighty Himalayas is very much in order. However, there is something that I would like to share with you before that. Something that was symbolic of the entire trip, to me.
Most of us have our best and worst moments after every journey. But there is more to that. We also have this one thing- an experience or an object or a person- that becomes symbolic of the trip for us.
For me, that was river Satluj (Sutlej) and her tributaries.
The river managed to capture my heart as flawlessly as she changed her form – first as the mighty Satluj, then in the form of the beautiful Baspa, then as the serene Spiti and ultimately in the form of Pin. The virtuous river had so many roles to play and yet, she played each of them with unrealistic ease!
For me, the Satluj was the epitome of determination. Delicate, yet strong. She had made a place for herself in the mighty Himalayas..or rather through the mighty Himalayas, hadn’t she?
So even as I flip through the pages of a magnificent Himalayan experience, I cannot help but pen down the awe I feel for Satluj.

 

 

She appeared, almost out of nowhere
Chaste and clear, Blue and bare
She saw, she observed
She looked like she had her doubts
But faith was all we had.

She swerved, and we followed
She curved, and we wallowed
She turned, and we blundered
She danced along, and we only wondered.

She changed her form with celerity
She tiptoed away, with grace unparalleled
She returned when she felt like, with a mystic air
She touched us, almost
and then she left again with a teasing stare.

She ran at first, but then slowed down
She was fierce at first, but then she wore a mellow brown
She wavered at first, but then she never left our side
She was aloof at first, but then she also kissed goodnight.

She called us, with one flirtatious stare
She made us follow her, with a promise unsaid
She advanced slowly at first, and then all at once
She had befriended the mountains and the clouds
and also the glistening rays of the sun.

She kept her word and our hand she held
She stayed with us, right until the end
At the end of our sojourn, she stopped in her track
And then she took the final turn and never looked back.

spiti river

The glorious river!

 

PS: Detailed post coming soon!

…and he ran away

He ran as fast he could
So fast, that he’d begin to fly anytime.
The swiftness of his movement convinced me
that there would be no looking back.

He ran, as if to prove me wrong
I had taken him for granted long enough
He ran, to show me that he could
I hadn’t bothered about him all this while.

As he ran, I felt uneasy
Was he really going away?
What would I do now..
There was so much to do..so much to say.

I remembered how everyone said I was being naive
I thought..I thought, he’d stay
I felt like crying, but that was all I could do now
For he was long gone.

He had given me chance after chance
to mend my ways
Night and day had passed
and he had warned me that he would soon run away.

I looked at him eagerly
Expecting him to wait
I gazed ahead hopefully
Waiting for him to turn and return.

I felt guilty for not respecting him
while he was there
I felt alone..
Now I had to pave a new way. 

Had I listened to him a little more
Would he have stayed today?
Had I done what I should have
I might have not had to face this day.

I could only see the road that I had left behind
He ran to blur the road ahead
He had promised that I would be sorry
And then he ran way.

As I stand on the threshold of  a new life that awaits me outside college, I cannot help but feel emotional. To be honest, the feeling of college having ended hadn’t yet sunk into me until toady.
Gripped with nostalgia, I cannot help but look at the five years that passed so quickly. The memories will remain etched in my heart forever.
I feel a sense of nothingness. I feel guilty. I feel bad.
There were times when I’d happily declare how many lectures I had bunked in a day. But now I realize, that I won’t have lectures to attend at all..on any day! It suddenly strikes me, that nobody will give me a free lecture..ever again. Proxies, attendance, canteen and punishments will only be a thing of the past.
I wonder why I didn’t do all the things that I should have. I wonder why I didn’t realize that I’d regret that last day.
But Time had seen this coming. Time reminded me day by day. Time had given me chance after chance.
But eventually, even as I stood waiting for him, Time did run away.

Adios SYBCom A :)

We were meant to be different, weren’t we?

What with almost all our friends (YES! 900 of them!!) opting for Advertisement, we were only 90 of us – courageous enough to have opted for Computer Programming! 😛

We were meant to meet, weren’t we?

REWIND>>>>JULY!!

–> Yes! College reopened! A little more than a month to go for the dreaded IPCC results, class attendance was at its peak and most of us did not even know each other!
–> All I remember of this time is Gnanesh and I sharing our trekking experiences, Samannaaz volunteering to set up the projector in all ALL the FC lectures and Nishit happily announcing to all the professors that he was off to Harvard Summer School 😛
–> Wait! We also played our first fish pond with Deepa Ma’am and had Prajit sing in class! This was an ice-breaker, for sure 🙂

COME…OK, DON’T COME AUGUST!

–> August came and so did the IPCC results and so did my jaundice *Sigh*

–> This was supposed to be one of the most happening months in college. The farewell programme for Mrs. Kher, Umang ’11 and loads of fun! I sure seem to have missed a lot of fun and activity! 😦
–> Oh yeah! Thanks Bhavik, for creating that fab group SYBcom A group on FB 😉

YO SEPTEMBER!

–> Jaundice over, I finally resumed college! 😀
–> A couple of weeks to exams, and there was absolute chaos in college for important markings, notes, etc etc (as usual :P)
–> I guess, most of us knew each other fairly well by now and Radhika ma’am finally managed to Gnanesh’s name right!
–> The FC project topics were announced leading to some much required excitement in an otherwise drab and exam infested month!
–> In other news, this was when we managed to extract out first free lecture from Chitra ma’am (FINALLY!! \m/), there was a mad scramble for Deepa ma’am’s famous “charts” :P, exams came. Wait. Wasn’t this was also when we started planning our super ambitious class picnic? Essel World? Remember? Oh you do? OK thanks bye! 😛

WE’RE BACK IN NOVEMBER 😀

–> After almost a month and a half of ‘funning and frolicking’ we got back to college!
–> The FC skit practice was a major ice breaker, I must say.
–> We got Melanie ma’am as our new Commerce professor!
–> What I remember most is mutual grievance over the non happening of the class picnic, discussing interesting issues with Radhika ma’am in every FC lecture and hopelessly hoping to have free lectures every day! 😛
–>And remember, guys? We tricked Chitra ma’am into wasting one whole Economics lecture over the Students’ Forum discussion?! ONE WHOLE ECO LECTURE!!!! *wipes a tear* 😛
–> Boy! Hadn’t we started loving college, already? 😀

DE..DE..DECEMBER!!!

–> This was when the final installment of ice-breaking happened! College days, class picnic, FC skits et al! 😀
–> College days :
This was the best!! Carnival day, Chocolate day, Gang day, Sports day! And I absolutely love how we bonded during Traditional day! maximum attendance, but no attendance sheet :P. Antakshari, and all the singing, class photographs, endless photo sessions and rose dedications! 😉
Also, sports day was fab! (PS: Sam & I won the throwball competition! #justsaying :P)
–> FC skits :
Thank God it got pushed to Jan! Phew! Although we did practice for it, that one extra month of practice worked wonders for most us 😀
–> CLASS PICNIC!! :
Thanks to Parv and Karishma, we finally did manage to have our first class picnic! *emotional*
Don 2, a fab lunch at RK, and some binging at Temptations got us to bond like never before! Those who missed the picnic, missed a hell lot of bonding, madness and some shameless couple stalking, too 😛

HAPPY NEW YEAR – JANUARY! :

–> With the new year came a renewed spirit of friendship!
–> I simply love how Radhika maa’am coaxed us into going for Sherlock Holmes! The confrontation with Chitra ma’am, the mass bunk, almost 40 of us at Cinemax and….POPAT!!!! *ROFLOL*
This flopshow *has* to be the highlight of the month 😉


–> The first surprise birthday celebration and cake cutting happened – Karishma.
–> In other news, the FC skits were fab! We sang, we danced, we clapped, we laughed! Thank you, Radhika ma’am for coming up with the brilliant idea of having us enact a skit! Presentations would’ve been drab and boring!

‘LOVE’LY FEBRUARY :

–> The last month of college! 😦
–> Birthday celebrations again! – Saili, Gnanesh, Krishma. The surprises we planned for each of them were super fun! Thankfully Saili came to college, Gnanesh didn’t figure the surprise party we planned for him, Krishma didn’t turn up and left the cake for all of us 😛
–> Exam time tables, scramble for notes, free lectures and the same old story!
–> We watched Kahaani after the last exam, took a looonngg break from articleship, bade adieu and finally found some free time to cherish all the memories of the year that had just passed by! 🙂

MISCELLANEOUS:

–> The secret entrance on the 4th floor was a major life saver 😉
–> Gnanesh’s secret crush on Shephali ma’am isn’t that secret after all 😛 (OMG! I hope he doesn’t kill me for this!!)
–> Priya, we will give you a surprise party on your birthday, too 😛
–> KPK, I guess you’ll need a little more publicity! 😛 and Yash, you are free to change your name to Sachin! 😉
–> Hardik, thanks for always being such a good sport! Drumil, you need to get us the Essel World tickets now ;). Kaushal, don’t worry, you’ll pass Computers :P. Vidhi, you’ll regain your lost weight just like me. Anu, the next time, we will ensure that your gift wrapping skills are utilised to the optimum level!
–> Raj = Cute terrorist (At least Radhika ma’am says :P). Kartik, I still haven’t figured who kept putting your proxies :P. Jinal, you raised way too many queries in Don 2! Harshil, Minal, Pooja, Priya, Ankita, Meet, Riddhi, Vibhuti, Shilpi, Monal, Devanshi, Tarjani, Niyati, Ragnyi, Mitali, Shilpan, Siddharth, Nishith, Karan, Nikhil, Shruti, Isha – it was awesome to have you as friends! 🙂
–> Jay Shah will always be Jay Shah. :P. Shwet, thanks for Kher ma’am’s farewell pics!
I have tried to include everyone in this list! (At least the ones who attended :P) Please pardon me if I have missed your name. It is unintentional. Arnav, I am not mentioning you here because of your lack of attendance :P.

This was way too much nostalgia and reminiscence for me!

I’m so glad to have made awesome friends like you! Thank you for being a part of my life and making this year such a memorable one! 🙂

Years will come and years will go…but it is these memories that will remain etched in our hearts forever! 🙂 

PS: I might have missed out on a lot of other ‘College happenings’! Please feel free to add to my list of memories 🙂