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The rain train – travelling through Kerala in the monsoon

Posted by on Jan 19, 2011 in Travel Writing | 0 comments

(14 hours and 600km in pouring rain – on spending a day in a train with the South West Monsoons on India’s west coast.)

(This piece appears in the Jan 2011 issue of India Today Travel Plus. There is no direct web link to the piece. This is a part of the special year-end edition – India, the all weather country. It has pieces on each state in India in one of the 4 seasons. This piece is about Kerala in the monsoon.).

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Gokarna – The Lost Waterfront

Posted by on Jan 19, 2011 in Travel Writing | 0 comments

(On exploring four forgotten beaches in Gokarna on Karnataka’s west coast).
(This piece appears in the Jan 2011 issue of India Today Travel Plus. There is no direct web link to the piece. This is a part of the special year-end edition – India, the all weather country. It has pieces on each state in India in one of the
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4 seasons. This piece is about Karnataka in the summer).


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A day with the South West monsoon

Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in Personal | 3 comments

(A variation of this piece was published in India Today Travel Plus. See here for that (edited, pruned) version – below is the original piece written right after the journey.)

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On traveling alone

Posted by on Mar 6, 2006 in Personal | 1 comment

There’re times when something you read or see exactly reflects what you think, but have never, ever managed to put down in writing. I came across Rahul Bhatia writing about traveling alone, and doing it not just beautifully but with the sort of truthfulness that’s a relief after you see writer after writer, traveler after traveler reduce the act of travel to clichés, to what it is supposed to be, to what you simply know by experience is, if not contrived and fake, infinitely less fun. This is simply because most travelers treat chronicles as advertisements they have to design so as to make travel look cute and/or macho, and not a depiction of what they’ve actually felt. Sexiness demands careful decoration and packaging, but all that beauty asks for is the truth.

Admittedly, what Rahul writes isn’t all there is – there’s so much more to freestyle travel. But it is so incredibly difficult to transmogrify an experience, a sensation, a feeling into dry, neatly chiseled words, almost as if to say nature is as orderly, as regimented as we wish it to be, and that we can conveniently fold and fit its sensations into the colorful gift-wrapping of words. Difficult is probably the wrong word, writing is easy enough, it’s just that the write up seems so grotesque an approximation of the reality, you just feel you’re killing the spirit of the ride by doing it. You only feel like writing about something as precious, as personal as freestyle travel if you can bring to the writing at least some of the beauty, some of the truth that you’ve actually experienced.

**

Biking alone, while a subset of freestyle travel, is so very different. You are aware, awake, switched on all the time(you crash if you aren’t), so you perceive the fine details, the trifles that, while being easy-to-miss, light up your day once you spot them.

It’s crucial to take time and distance out of the equation, the augh-there-might-be-a-ghat-ahead-to-slow-me-down, eek-the-engine-is-hot, I-simply-have-to-get-there-before-5pm types of rides with a place to get to, a deadline to meet that would perch on the back of your mind, those types of rides – on bikes or otherwise, considerably diminish pleasure by their persistent nagging.

It’s so much freeing to just go, not have to get anywhere, amble, sit back, stop, look around. 400 laid back km a day are so much more satisfying than 650 frenzied ones(as I learnt during the last trip, a frantic rush to Panjim and back). The thought made me make my plans for subsequent rides much less grandiose – I’d originally planned to run about all over south India, go everywhere and see everything. It’s a choice that, I realize, while enabling me to see more, would let me appreciate what I saw so much less. The plan is therefore revised, we have resolved to go more slowly, see lesser number of places, but we’ll see more of each of them, and love them so much more.

**
On a bike, you realize, more acutely than on any means of public transport, what no Liverpudlian will tell you – that you always walk alone. Oddly, it’s a feeling that at once releases as well as frightens you – you see clearly that there’s nothing ever that you really need or require, all you need is yourself, and yet, that if you crash, or break down, or get robbed, you’re all alone, naked, with no other resource than yourself to look to.

**

It turns out, Rahul has been in Revdanda too, a piece of knowledge that corrected a belief that no non-Revdanda-ian other than me had

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been in the place(please note – passing through a place or seeing it is NOT the same as being there). I was able to stay there only a couple of hours, regretting that I had to go on, so I will reluctantly admit that Rahul partook more of what Revdanda had to offer. However, it was determined back then that Revdanda would be revisited, so all is well.

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