February 18, 2018


'I beg young people to travel. If you don't have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown, eat interesting food, dig some interesting people, have an adventure, be careful.
Come back and you are going to see your country differently, you're going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water. You're going to see that global climate change is very real. And that for some people their day consists of walking twelve miles for four buckets of water. And so there are lessons you can't get out of a book that are waiting for you at the other end of the flight.'
-Henry Rollins

Every time I read these lines, it leaves an imprint; tells me why travel is important and not just over-rated, helps me become a traveler everyday, look at life non-materialistically and begs the young soul in me to travel more.

It does not matter how and where we travel, whether 2 miles or 2000 miles. It changes you, makes you look into yourself, look beyond the standard horizon, tells you where serenity lies and where peace resides. My recent trip to the Himalayas in India is one such example I set for myself to seek where my peace resides. Its in those little things when you watch a flowing river, hear a bird singing, feel that cold breeze brushing on your body and realizing how Science has created beautiful wonders.

Somewhat of a planned trip with friends, which went twisting around as we traveled along. After a good flight to the capital, Delhi, we merged into the most densely populated city in India. A short search and we easily found our way into Delhi metro with help from the local-ites, who by the way were the sweetest guides. I, personally, was amazed by the fact that Delhi metro was almost similar to what I experienced in Vienna, which is known for its transport connectivity. It was not my first time to travel by Delhi metro but the first time that I observed and realized how much importance these things hold. A short stay at the capital with expensive cab rides through the well known traffic got us through the day with a visit to the India gate, the Qutub Minar precinct & an awesome evening shopping at Sarojini nagar market (A must visit for any female, with an assurance of empty suitcase carried along). That freezing evening made us stop by a chai tapri for a quick recharge, where we accidently tried a "Fan" popularly known as khari. It tasted way more better than a cup of tea with a twist of ginger & honey and sided by crackers. We immediately bought a pack full of Fans and rushed to the station to catch our train to Rishikesh via Haridwar.

Touchdown Haridwar, which to be honest, I had never imagined would be a destination I will visit with my friends but I am glad, I did. Our delayed train to Rishikesh charged us with frustration as it ruined our plans in Rishikesh for the day and on reaching our hostel we had to cut short the activities we had planned, which ruined our moods furthermore. While gathering some positive energy we went for the 16kms river rafting in the Ganges, which turned out to be the best adventure sport I had done till date. The instructor guided us about the raft and consequences if any mistakes were committed. It scared me at first but then, that's what adventure is all about, isn't it?

As we sat on the raft, still, at intermediate segments without moving our rows, I looked at the instructor, looking past the Ganga, he looked so content with the job. So happy amidst that beautiful water. I asked him if this job is 365 days a year and while he told me with a slight sigh in his tone that it closes in monsoon, I felt like telling him he's lucky. He's lucky to sit here in full energy and force, unstoppable by the rapids and the flashy winds. He's lucky to have a work which gives him joy and not just money, lucky to be not stuck amongst the crowd but rather float in the Ganga and live his life king-size.
I wish I could tell him, people visit here for leisure and your daily job is associated with leisure. I wish I had told him what I thought. Not to prove how I romanticize all this but to tell him, just another human being, that hes's doing great in his life.

The instructor would say "Ganga maiyya ki jay!" before every rapid and we were supposed to repeat what he says. Not being a religious person, I am against chanting but something in his energy made me do it. Not because I started believing in Ganga as a goddess, but believing in the fact that religions definitely do not make people, people make religions, they believe in the force that drives them daily. These honest forces of his belief in Ganga, showed why people who stay the simplest are the happiest. How dedication to your work, no matter what work it is, is important and how these beliefs need to be just true at heart, not as a show-off.

As the massive force of the Ganga left me awestruck and we took a dip in that freezing cold water, the water currents ran past us and it struck me how deep that water must be but yet we were in it with our life jackets, trying to float and swim like babies.

Post rafting as we tried to rush at the Ganga aarti held everyday, we somehow missed it and instead had to settle for a dinner at Chotiwala dhaba which was an infamous restaurant in Rishikesh. Seeing all those sad faces because the trip wasn't going according to the plan, I tried inducing some motivation in everyone for the next day trip to Auli, the most awaited destination of the trip.

One hell of a roadtrip to Auli with all kinds of motion sickness, rocky roads, Himalayan ghats, and beautiful terrains led us to this small town of Joshimath, base to Auli. We reached there by night when all the dinner buffets were finished and we had to survive on Maggi for the night. We woke up to 0 degree Celsius with all the layers we could fit into and rushed for a cable car ride after a quick breakfast. Again missing the tickets for the cable car, we settled for a car ride to Auli, which fortunately was the best decision we had taken and took us through the best of roads covered with snow.

Snow, white, ice, everything nice. That's what Auli was all about. So peaceful, so serene and almost unreal views of the mountains left us overwhelmed. Slipping like babies and falling on our butts on the frozen ice surely gave us bad injuries but those seemed to have no attention while we were busy digesting the experience of that snowy mountain.

A further extension to Auli visit was a so called hot spring hidden somewhere between a small village called Tapovan near Joshimath. Though the hot spring was extremely disappointing, it left us with strong visual memories of that black rock formation and settlements tucked between the valleys and also, a taste of native Momos, after which, we returned to our base.

A planned overnight journey from Auli to Dehradun had to be replaced with a daytime journey till Rishikesh back, due to risky drives in the mountains overnight. Again, collecting some positive energy after cancelled plans, we traveled back to Rishikesh. This time, overlooking the Prayag Sangams of the rivers, where Science didn't fail to amaze me once again.
We reached just in time for the Ganga aarti, saw the aarti and went back to a hostel at night by the Ganges riding in a tuk-tuk. Tried a nice calm cafe by the river hidden inside a shop, which to our surprise served delicious food from around the world except for North-Indian food.

After a lot of contemplation, on our last night of this trip, we decided to let ourselves breathe and enjoy where we stood and so we did. Chilling on a night by the Ganges, chatting about life, how we fucked up, how we enjoyed this so called planned journey and how we should do this more often.

Today, when I write about this, I know it's not a story with a climax, it does not have a cyclonic action but as I sit here, I do know it was this experience which will count, this travel which taught me something, made me loosen up myself and tell myself how things never go your way, you have to find a path and keep going. Why I say this, is the very first quote in this post which holds true for a reason.