Mountains have a different story to tell. They stand tall, firm, high up touching the clouds and also support livestock. People are also dependent on these mountains, at least the mountains in Northern States of Indi and Nepal protect the subcontinent from the dry winds of the Gobi Desert and traps the monsoon clouds. Well, Himalayas, the mighty Himalayas have helped us Indians in many ways and we pay our tribute to it by exploring the mountains. But there is one particular hill station that has an amazing charm to it. It was the summer retreat for the Britishers during the British Raj. Even today old buildings speak of the grand way the Britishers stayed there. The place is Mussoorie, some 500 kilometers from New Delhi and one of the many places where I would love to go countless times.
Mussoorie has a charm of its own. From dense thick forest cover to the clouds covering up the mighty Himalayas, the small hill town has appealed to me in countless ways. It is just a 7-hour drive from New Delhi and I have been there almost 5 to 6 times, but always with a gaze in my eyes and wondering to discover something new this time. If the weather conditions are perfect, Mussoorie is the ideal place for spotting the various mountain ranges and in turn giving it a blue hue. Whenever I feel an urge to go, this place pops up in my mind out of nowhere.
A silent walk by the Mall Road leads to the heart of the town. This part of the town is prone to good bistros and cafe. However it is very difficult to spot a good quality premium bar here, although most of the restaurants serve liquor. There is not many plces to view here, but circling Mussoorie one can plan a trip to countless places like Kanatal camping grounds, Dhanaulti, Chakhrota, Yamunotri, etc. to name a few. Some waterfalls are here and fetch large number of tourists. Increased tourism although has almost finished their natural beauty; all thanks to littering and plastics. The major one is Kempty Falls located 13km away from the city.
But if one has a keen eye to observe nature, the blue hills can be spotted if traveled around the city. They are a pure delight and mesmerizes the human mind in many ways.
One just has to look for these. I somehow feel associated with this place and the mountains. Here’s a glimpse of the small town and the blue mountains. When I am depressed or when my travel bug kept biting, Mussoorie never failed to astonish me.
** Disclaimer: It is to be duly noted that I have not edited any one of the photos to give it a blue look and also didn’t shoot any of these photos in the Incandescent mode of my camera.
Madhya Pradesh, which is made up with two, words i.e. ‘Madhya’ which means Central and ‘Pradesh’ which means state. So Madhya Pradesh is located in the central part of India or you can say in the heart of India. Whenever the TV commercial for Madhya Pradesh Tourism used to get aired which said “Hindustan ka Dil dekho” which means in Hindi “See the heart of India”, made me curious to see and learn about this state.
I decided to go on a road trip through the heart of India. The route undertaken was Mumbai – Sanchi – Khajuraho – Orchha – Indore – Mumbai. A total trip of 2600 Kms in 6 Days. I left my home at early morning 6:00 AM so I can avoid traffic and can reach the highway by sunrise. One thing, which I prefer not to miss during my road trips are the sunrise. It’s always so mesmerizing to see the sun rise through the cloud and slowly the orange ball turns up int a huge ball as the clock ticks the right time, around 6-30AM in the morning.
My first stop was Bhopal, which was 772km away from Mumbai. It was a 17 hours’ drive from Mumbai. As it was 8:30 in the night when I reached Bhopal, I stayed in a small ‘dhaba’ or a motel. The stay along with the meal was charged just Rs.280. Sleeping under a sky on a highway with your luggage tied up on your motorcycle is totally a different feeling. As the morning sunrise hit me, I woke up to a fresh feeling and moved towards my next destination Khajuraho that was 332 kms away, but on the way i need to visit Sanchi Stupa also.
Sanchi Stupa situated near to Bhopal is just a 40 Kms drive. Sanchi is a Buddhist Complex, famous for its Great Stupas. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the Oldest Stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the great ruler King Asoka in 3rd Century BC. The original Construction of the stupa was overseen by Asoka. The Stupa has mostly Brahmi Inscription on it and mostly all of them talk about donations in small or big term. They all are of a great historical significance. It is to be remembered that it was King Asoka who solely is responsible for the spread of Buddhism from India to South East Asia.
After visiting Sanchi i went ahead towards my next destination Khajuraho. The distance of Khajuraho from Sanchi was approx. 350 Kms which I thought to get covered in 6-7 Hours. I reached the destination in the estimated time. I reached Khajuraho and decided to stay in a Hostel in Khajuraho. They charged me Rs.350 for a night, which was an air-conditioned dormitory. Someone truly said, “While you are on a journey, you will meet few people who will be a part of your travel story.” I meet three people from South Africa, Taiwan and China and we connected instantly. Therefore, we decided to watch the light and sound show which was an amazing experience followed by dinner in a nice restaurant.
The perception what people still have for India is still old and highly preconceived. They believe that in India they have Parda system still prevailing. They still believe that whenever we hear a song we start dancing on the street and many other things. As we talked and talked, I cleared their doubts with a few places to visit for their future trip to India. The next day i visited the temples, which I wanted to, visited from a long time ago. I was mesmerized by the architectural marvel of the temples. I think that I have never seen such magnificent and graceful temples ever. The architecture of the temples had Nagra style architectural symbolism. The main features of the temples are the erotic sculptures, which are on the walls of the temples. History states that at one point of time, the population was not increasing and the ruler felt that the dynasty and his kingdom can never flourish if such continued and hence decided to inscribe eroticism on the walls of the temples. Kamasutra theory and it is a world known fact that it originated from India.
Most of the temples in Khajuraho were built between 950 and 1050 BC. by the Chandela Dynasty. There were historical notes, which said that there were 85 temples by the 12th Century spread across 20 square kilometers, but now only 25 temples have survived. The Khajuraho group of temples were built together but were dedicated to two religion Hinduism and Jainism. The Khajuraho Temples represent one expression of many forms of art and are dedicated to Vishnu, which includes Vyalas, which are hybrid imaginary animals with Lion’s Body. Some 10% of these iconic sculptures and carvings are sexually themed and shows various sex positions. A common misconception is that the old carvings and structures depict sex between deities, However, the kama arts represents the diverse expression of different human beings. The vast majority of arts depict various aspects of everyday life.
After visiting and seeing Khajuraho I moved to my next destination, Orchha, which is 178 kilometers from Khajuraho. It’s Orchha where Lord Ram is still worshipped as a king and not as lord. The journey from Khajuraho to Orchha was a 4 hours’ drive. With no expectations in mind, I rode towards Orchha. I managed to find a guest room which charged me Rs.250 for a day.
Orchha is a historic town situated on the banks of the river Betwa. Bundel Rajput Chief Rudra Pratap Singh established it in 16th Century. The main attractions to see in Orchha are Raja Mahal, Jahangir Mahal, Ram Raja Mandir, Royal Chattirya and Chattarbhuj Mandir. The Mahals in the Main Orchha Fort has influences from Bundel style and Mughal style of architecture. As the great Mughal emperor Jahangir was close to Raja Rudra Pratap he built an entire palace for the stay of Jahangir as he was coming to Orchha for a visit. The ancient town of Orchha seems frozen in time, with its many monuments continuing to retain their original grandeur even to this day.
After Orchha it was time to return back to home so I decided to break the journey into two parts. First part Orchha – Indore and second Indore – Mumbai. As both the distance were almost equal. It took me 10 hours to reach to Indore from Orchha. Also while coming back, I crossed the Tropic of Cancer which was for me the best moment in this road trip. I reached Indore by 5:30 PM so in the evening I decided to go to the famous Sarafa Bazaar, which is famous for its street food. I was more excited for Sarafa Bazaar because it was covered in many food shows. After reaching Sarafa bazaar my mind was blown seeing the different varieties of unique street food. The taste of every item was unique and it was something, which I had never tried out before. It has a mix of all the flavors.
Now it was time to return home. Exhausted, drained yet replenished with a lot of experiences and meeting some amazing people on the entire course of the journey, it was a trip worth remembering. Traveling has always opened my eyes and mindset to brand new levels and it will continue to do so. It doesn’t matter where you go but what matters is how easily one can get used to the feeling that it is time to get lost and there’s no chain that can hold yourself back. Traveled through the heart of India and truly it’s incredible India.
Hills and mountains have the definitive charm of their own. The hop ill station flocked by many tourists yet many fail to discover the true hidden secrets of the place. For that you don’t have to travel but there must be an urge to explore the place and which I did effectively on my visit to Matheran. It is a hill station located 80kms away from Mumbai and is always crowded. Yet the place holds many hidden places which is unknown to the people because you need to walk long distances for that.
Matheran is accessible both by railways and roads. From Mumbai it is merely a 3 hour drive through Panvel highway. Daily trains to Neral (the nearest station) are available from CST on the CST Karjat rail route and also trains to Pune stop at this station. Cabs ply from the station premises to the hill station gate and charges Rs.70/- per person. The route cutting down the Western Ghats and crossing the narrow gauge line is fantabulous and since I visited during monsoons it was lush greenery all around. It felt that the mountains have evolved into a new form and the mountains resembled those green one which we find in fairy tale books.
Its peak monsoon season in the western part of India and the sky is overcast and sometimes it was drizzling. One thing worth noting down is that the government doesn’t allow any vehicle to reach atop the hill. So the cabs left us some 5kms away from the station where a big gate welcomed us saying WELCOME TO MATHERAN. It a 2hour walk from that place till you reach the top of the hill where you will find plenty of hotels for your accommodation. The trail is easily spotted with numerous people following the same route. The best one is to reach the nearest station on the narrow gauge line through the gravelled path and then follow the railway line. It led us to our final destination. But what we discovered was a mere spectacle that only monsoon season can provide.Such marvels and wonderful sightseeing only the Western Ghats can provide and it happens only during the monsoon season. Imagine following the uphill trail while the clouds cover your entire view and no wander you get to see only a few meters ahead of you and every step to be taken very carefully. No matter it was an adventure but with a lot of precautions and on top of that incessant rainfall and water gushing from here and there obstructing swift movement trekking to uphill. The eroding red mountain soil adds more to the difficulty but the continuous movement of people uphill adds more to the excitement and thrill. Finally it was managed in a 3 hour span of time. Matheran has its own environment and weather up the mountain where sunshine and rainfall goes hand in hand during the monsoons. If you’re lucky you can spot rainbows arching over the hilltops and yes of course the flat top mountains. If clouds have mercy on you then countless waterfalls will make your stay enjoyable. Prefer to stay in the cottages rather than the hotels on the mall road. The cottages are located further inland and covered by the jungle of the place. So this adds more to the beauty of the stay. No doubt the place is rather safe apart from the drunken behaviour of some of the tourists but nothing that much harmful enough. Its safe for women but since during monsoon the place is too misty its advisable to enjoy inside the rooms rather than lurking out in the streets post 9 PM.
The places of interest in the place are plenty and worth exploring every place namely Charlotte Lake, One Tree Hill, Beverly Point, etc. But you must have that explorer spirit to truly enjoy Matheran. Just by visiting the places you’d google perhaps, Matheran isn’t you destination then. Walk, get wet in the rains, let your body get tired, let the thorns of the jungles prick you and horses come running in your way, that’s Matheran for me. Worth a visit specially during the monsoon season.
Daman, located on the west coast of India is an Union Territory. The main source of income for the locals of the area is tourism, followed by the emerging coconut industry and fishing. Tourists from all over the country go to Daman mainly to lay off for some weeks. It is a good place for resting as there is nothing much to explore except some old colonization Portuguese forts and some churches. The beaches however is one vital attraction but that too on the ground of leisure, where you lay under the umbrellas placed alongside the beach and beer and other drinks and fried fish will be served to you.
I started my trip for Daman at 630AM from Mumbai and by 10AM we were in Daman. The highway drive through the hills and lush greenery was truly amazing and one must take that drive in case someone is fond of long drives. Its the Surat Mumbai Express Highway and not a single complain about the experience. Pretty smooth and sexy driving experience I had. As soon as you enter the state of Gujarat the first town that comes along the highway is Vapi. The immediate left from the main controlling circle of the town leads to Daman.
The city is terribly small with few thousands people living and mostly filled with tourists. Daman is pretty much disappointing in the early hours of morning. I already said that I reached at 10AM when the low tides were at its peak and the water in the seas retreated almost two kilometers back. I was travelling with my parents and even they were disappointed.
The water started coming close to the shoreline by 2PM and the crowd by the beach withstood heavy footfall. All kinds of fish delicacy shops were setup and liquor was served alongside the beach. Even I could not resist myself and had a beer or two with my dad and mom. All kinds of fish items are served there from deep fried fishes to fish fillets dipped in sauce to make it more spicy.
However to experience you must visit this place. One must visit Ciudad De Daman for the ultimate lunch all kinds of food experience because the restaurant is open air and located by the sea. One advice is to stay away from Devka Beach during the high tides as the underlying ground is really rocky and hazardous to try to swim in those waters. Jampore Beach is pretty much smooth and cool and is the prime tourist attraction.
It was almost past afternoon on a hot and humid Friday that I decided to spend the weekend differently. Parties and friendly get together, I have had enough. So I just shut down my office desktop, wrapped up every paper on my desk and reached my apartment. There I managed to see everything I require is duly in place or not and luckily I had all that I needed. Packed my clothes, camera and laptop in my rucksack and decided to start my Rajasthan Diary. I started my trip for Pushkar, a small town in Rajasthan, India. One of my friends also joined me in my trip.
I have always preferred bus services. Regular buses ply between Ajmer and New Delhi. Pushkar is only 14 kilometres from Ajmer. Local vans and jeeps are available from Ajmer. We boarded the bus at 11-30PM and next day at 10AM we were in Pushkar. Although the bus journey was very much tiring, hence I recommend people to avail the Delhi- Ajmer Shatabdi Express. Many other express and superfast trains are also available.
When I reached Pushkar a sense of religious piousness filled me although I was mesmerized to see more foreign tourists than Indian nationals. The restaurants and many others stalls have signs in Hebrew which was another thing which caught my attention. Hotels were mostly filled in even in hot summer days. Luckily we managed a room in Rajasthan Tourism’s own hotel. This Hotel Sarovar where we stayed is completely owned and managed by Rajasthan Tourism Department Corporation. It is a very nice hotel and the food quality was excellent. If rooms are available you can put up here. There is a calmness around the hotel as it is away from hustle and bustle of the main market area.
It was around 2PM that I decided to explore and my friend eagerly accompanied me, although the scorching heat of the sun was keeping the people away from the streets. But when in Rome I don’t want to be a Roman, I want to be a traveller instead. My first destination was the famous and holy Lake of Pushkar. Legends say that the lake was created by Lord Shiva’s tears. So it is one of the oldest and sacred lakes in India. Although I am not much into these mythological facts but I did not want to disrespect the belief. The scenery surrounding the lake was beautiful and it gave me delight. There are 52 ghats surrounding the lake. The ghats are basically bathing places however you cannot bath in every ghat. The common business around this area is done by the pundits. In lieu of giving the God’s blessing they dragged me by the lake and uttered some hymns and made some offerings to the lake and charged me heavy. I strictly disliked this but had no choice. In their opinion if someone is visiting Pushkar for the first time then such offering must be done in the very first place, which many religious people actually do every day. I personally found this logic very much orthodox and illogical and did not pay heed to the man. But the way he was arranging and convinced me made me feel that he and many others doing the same thing are in this profession for a very long time. It would be unfair to judge the man’s knowledge of the religious hymns and the procedures of offering to the God, so I better remained silent and had a look at what is being done here to earn a living. Countless number of temples surrounds the lake and beware of the monkeys which remain mostly in these temple rooftops. These monkeys are the real nuisance of the place.
Next thing on our list was the Savitri temple. This particular temple along with other 2 temples of Pushkar is the only temples located on the mountain top. Aravalli Range, the oldest mountain range of India, surrounds the town of Puskar. Savitri temple is accessible by walking down the main market road and taking a short detour to reach the foothills and from there continue the climb. By walking, it took roughly 25 minutes to reach the foothills. When we were supposed to ascend the stairs made of rock, there I met a British girl who accompanied us. She was Charlie Gilmartin, a young and jolly British girl enjoying her stay in Pushkar and eagerly waiting for her next destination i.e. Udaipur.
While climbing the stairs I was very much out of my breath. Realization came again that I need to quit my smoking. The stairs are carved out of the mountain rocks and are very steep. At certain points while climbing uphill its like jumping two to three escalator steps at a time. This makes the entire uphill climb very much tiring. People descending down the stairs greeted us well as they were mostly locals and took special interest to greet my new British friend. But once I was up at the mountain top the entire tiredness seemed to fade away, thanks to the picturesque view of the Pushkar town and the surrounding valley and the view of the desert far away. The entire town can be viewed from the mountain top and it was like I cannot believe my eyes what I’m seeing. Truly Incredible India!
Another prime thing to do in Pushkar is the camel safari. The herdsmen make people tour the surrounding desert region and the only oasis found in that place. Added bonus of the camel safari is watching the sunset behind the high sand dunes sitting on top of the camel. The entire experience is worth remembering for a long time. Although I had similar experience in Jaisalmer, but could not do this time in Pushkar because the charges for the short trip was high and after much discussion on the fair I had a negative nod on him.
The major shops as well as the eateries lie along the Sadar Bazar road. This is the most happening road of the town. It is a narrow town and shops and food joints lie on both sides of the street. Although the street is very much congested with cows, buffaloes, motorcycles and humans traveling through the same narrow avenue, I bet you can understand how congested it might be. But the food joints mainly Italian, Israeli and German bakery offers quality food. There are some tattoo parlours also which draw large crowd. Mainly hippie style shops attract the crowd followed by the Rajasthan handicrafts stores and the foreign exchange ones. This road surrounds the holy lake of Pushkar and leads to the main temple complex i.e. The Brahma temple, the only temple in India dedicated to God Brahma. I found the temple to be very much simple and the floors and the wall murals well maintained in-spite of the rush throughout the year. Brahma temple is dedicated to Lord Brahma who holds a very significant position in Hindu mythology and his various other forms also known as his avatars. Devotees flock to this temple from far flung areas and even from all across the nation. The other Brahma temple lie in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Pushkar being my weekend trip was very much enticing. I became a lot apprehensive about the place since I have read a lot about it, and whatever I read I was not disappointed. Best way to roam around the town is to get bikes and scooters on hire and travel like boss. Traffic restrictions are very limited and the ease of access to remote places is good. Even the locals also less interfere with the tourists and at night the town is safe. Marijuana is available almost everywhere and that brings a lot of foreign nationals here more than the Indians. Alcohol is strictly prohibited and not easily available unless you have got that special contact. I am not much into visiting temples and worshipping idols, so I did not visit the temple complexes which are in plenty. Every corner of the street has a temple. But if you’re looking for some yoga and quality time getting high on weeds do visit this place. You will have one heck of a time to remember for long and cherish for. Do get in touch with the locals; get some info on the culture and things happening around. Pushkar is ready to surprise you.
Have you ever witnessed the time when the world stops around you to a standstill, the people walking around you without any hurry or urgency of the moment, and you yourself feel pretty much useless because there is nothing much to do? Have you ever seen how your coloured photographs automatically turn black and white? Its not any camera glitch but praise Mother Nature for her exuberant beauty that makes the photos so.
If you are ready for all these feelings, then Manali welcomes you in January end or better in February. Manali is a small town in the northern Himachal Pradesh nested in the PirPanjal range of the mighty Himalayas but drives large number of tourist from all across the nation, even foreigners, mainly from Israel and Germany. Manali is the gateway to Ladakh, Leh, Spiti Valley and other hidden treasures of the Himalayas. Hence throughout the year there is a constant rush of tourists and tourism industry is the main occupation of the local population. But in February, where is the rush of tourists? Particularly in this moth snowfall is intense, with snow upto 4ft to 5ft in certain places and the roads going out of Manali into the interior of Himachal or Jammu and Kashmir is pretty much blocked due to heavy snowfall. So Manali and the adjoining Old Manali, these two are the final destination if heading north.The Himachal Govt. does a good job in time to time clearing of the snow covered roads in Manali and its surroundings. Else life would have been come to a complete standstill.
I visited Manali last weekend. It was my quest to experience the thrill of life in heavy snows, which I never experienced before. It seemed that the snow-capped mountains and the spine chilling cold winds have cast a deadly shadow over the town. People were in no hurry of doing things, their main intention seemed keeping themselves warm. So fires were lit at various places across the Mall Road, which is the main market place. Some were busy with shovels picking up large chunks of ice and clearing pathways. When asked they said they have nothing to do, so doing these they keep themselves occupied. The food is stocked inside their homes, due to snowfall there is no cable TV connection, mobile networks are not working most of the time and they threw me back the same question, “tell me, what can we do?” and I was pretty much singing the same tune as theirs. As I tried some hand in shovelling the snow it felt good as it kept me warm for long. Finding the hotel was not that difficult, unlike the peak seasons. Most of the hotels were run at massive discount on their room rates.
#TrekBegins #Waterfall #Ruads
When asked which the local places to explore are, Jogini Falls seemed the answer in every mouth and Solang Valley. So I started trekking up the Jogini Falls despite warning from the villagers that I might fail to find the real route to the falls due to heavy snow which eventually in massive turn of events happened. It was some 1 km more or so when I lost my route. I had to stare high up to see the Jogini pouring down gushes of water through the “ruads”. “Ruads” are the narrow caves which the shepherds use for night stay when their cattle graze high up in the mountains during the spring. Poor me, could not make out to the ruads and the mighty Jogini. The place around the waterfall is worshipped by the local people. They believe that is the place where Jogini Mata, the local goddess resides and showers her blessings to the shepherds. But the entire thrill of finding the road alone and that too in thick snow was amazing. All I had to do was following the trail of the rapid alongside me. But it was amazing, a bit of a challenge but more of fun. It was complete silence high up in the mountains. All that I could hear was the eagles and some birds chirping. Serenity indeed.
Solang Valley is more of a commercial place. The valley turns to a skiing ground in winter. Its in February when the winter skiing festival is held in Solang grounds and people from various countries flock to this place for winter sport activities. There was paragliding, ski, hot air balloons and lots to give the thrill. However the best thing I discovered was not in Solang valley but 2kms down west of the main parking lot. I am more of a wanderer. I came across a complete frozen mountain rapid. Thick snow covered its surface and it was only me on that spot. I could hear the water flowing swiftly beneath the snow and the big boulders. It was late afternoon and the entire landscape was amazing and changing its colours. The first ray of sunlight struck around 3-50PM and the ray was silvery. I have never seen sunrays, so brilliant. Hence February is the time to experience all these. Its shimmering cold, frost bite on my toe, yet the thrill to wander around could not stop me. I could not make out to the local villages by the frozen river, thanks to the bite which ultimately made my left foot some blacking blue.
As it is said “No Pain, No Gain”. I got injured, suffered bruises, feet got badly hurt, but the experience I gained from the wilderness was amazing. If you venture out to the unknown, you must know first where you really belong. Then you can start venturing out. It made me come to the conclusion that mountains are my thing, those stone blocks towering high up in the sky, I love to take the path less travelled to those towering peaks. There I belong. The mountains and the thrill they give me rejuvenates me and enriches my life from within. I get my frission from those mountains. It seems sometimes I hear the words they try to speak, yet remains unspoken. Keeping all the philosophies aside, if you want to feel the true nature of the mountains you must visit these places when these are less visited. Manali was another eye opener for me.
People generally refer to Lakshadweep as a hundred thousand islands, hence implying the name as Laksha i.e. One lakh and dweep meaning Island in Hindi. Hence justifying the name for a hundred thousand islands or Lakshadweep. However history doesn’t suggest that. During the spice trade Kerala was at epitome of all the trade purposes. Traders from all around the Arabic nations used to gather at Cochin port of Kerala as it was considered as the hub of all spice trading before Vasco Da Gama made his epic voyage to India. These islands are only 220 miles away from Cochin and falls directly on the spice trade route by sea. So these Arabic people discovered these islands on their way and used it as a halting place from where they used to again start their journey towards the mainland. They named it as Lakshya meaning direction in Urdu and Hindi and Dweep meaning island in the same language. However as per their concern these islands were those which fall in their direction of the trade. During the time when the British ruled India the authority of these islands were given to the East India Company by the then rulers of Kerala. The British people named it as Laccadive. This name implied to these islands for a long years until in later 1960s the Indian government after its complete takeover of these islands named it as Lakshadweep and is the smallest union territory of India. Irony is the present population of India still considers these as a collection of hundred thousand islands while in fact there are 36 islands out of which only 10 are inhabited.
My journey for Lakshadweep began in 7th January 2015 when I boarded my flight to Kochi from New Delhi. Being a vivid lover of the mountains, the sudden plan of visiting the beaches was one which gave an adrenaline rush since I have always anticipated changes. It was only for a short stint that I managed my leave from my office and decided to get set and go. This perhaps was my quest for redemption, an act of re-energising me and an act of emotional attachment because of I’ll be seeing my parents after a long time. Deep inside I was preparing myself because I might become sea sick, after all I have to stay during the course in the ship only. Cigarettes, yes releases the pressure in nerves, had a pack or two and yes I was ready. Evening 7-30PM I was in Kochi and the next day will be something different. Ship will depart from Ernakulam Wharf in the early morning.
Kalpeni Island :- Embarkation process from the ship started pretty early which I did not expect. Local fishermen’s’ boats ferried us to the island. Whoa! First impression of the island was pretty bad. I felt like I came to a place of massive colonisation. I saw small huts, broken boats lying along the shore and big boulders guarding the shoreline from the mighty waves. I was a bit awestruck in the beginning until I reached the other side. When I landed on the north side of the island I had to pinch myself to believe that its not a dream but reality. It seemed someone has painted the entire canvas, green tall coconut trees, shallow seas, and clear blue skies. Felt like I have visited the paradise on earth. In the distance there were small fishing boats and I managed to see the fishermen throwing the nets for their catch onto the shallow seas. I felt like there’s one giant blue canvas right in front of me. Blue and the various shades of blue. The Kalpeni Island has exuberant beauty. The roads are cemented and are narrow. The roads carve their way along the shore, the sea on one side and thick coconut cover on the other. This was the road I took while traveling to Zwaid from Koomel beach. Snorkeling is a vital attraction which is available in Zwaid, the southern part of Kalpeni island and on the north lies Koomel beach. Best part is lying down in wooden chairs placed along the koomel shore. Warm and cold winds blow throughout the day giving delight. Mother Nature is so closely observed here, from rich marine life to the breaking of waves along the coconut tree lined white sandy shore. Kalpeni people are rich in their culture and traditions. They have a separate language called Jasiri although these days spoken in major parts of the island group. Jasiri is a mix of Arabic, Malayalam, Hindi and Mahl. I came across a folk dance performance by the local men of the island. The song and their energy filled dance performance was so charismatic that I had to record it for viewing it later which I did and I don’t know how many times. Best drink available is coconut water and various other drinks made from coconut which is nothing but a pure delicacy. The dark waters of Arabian Sea and the jaded blue waters of the surrounding shallow seas are brilliantly spotted all along the Kalpeni island shoreline. Kalpeni is nearest to the Kerala coast or better the Malabar Coast. No mobile networks are available; hence getting lost is the feeling which can be easily derived from the experience.
Kavaratti Island :- Kavaratti is the commercial capital of Lakshadwep. It is recognized as the capital city of all the 36 islands. The people of this island have a life of their own. They have their cars, buses for transport and even the roads are metalled and are pretty wide. So it can be considered as the largest of all the islands when it comes to area only to be followed by Agatti Island which has the airport of Lakshadweep. I did not have the permit to go to Agatti hence could not make out to that island although I wished to. Kavaratti is no more less than Kalpeni. The shallow seas are so wide that the ship had to anchor some 2km away from the island in the deep seas. Even the shallow seas are high in its tides and waves. It took almost 40minutes for us to be ferried to the island from the ship. The sea and the lagoons seemed bluer here. It seemed that the sky had cast its reflection right onto the sea. As I said it is the commercial capital, business has flourished far and wide in this island, from tanneries to mills and many others. Even they have a separate coconut production unit of their own. Snorkelling, Knee Boat rides, speed boat rides and kayaking is major water sports available. The most thrilling of all is the glass boat ride. The boat has a glass bottom and as it moves across the coral reefs the rich marine life is quite easily spotted. From schools of tuna to pilot fish, sardines, tortoise and many other species that do thrive in these reefs was unknown to me, thanks to that glass boat that made me realize the existence of the vast marine life surrounding Kavaratti. If you are a good swimmer then Kavaratti awaits your arrival.
Minicoy :- This island was the last on the bucket list. I waited for long time to visit this island. I have read much about it in my school geography classes that the island is extremely rich in marine life and lagoons surround the island. That was some 15 years back. I was perhaps in my 7th or 8th grade that time. Now was my turn to see it in my own eyes as it is said ‘seeing is believing’. Minicoy stunned me completely as my first reaction was where the hell I am. Is this somewhere in India? I was so damn awestruck by its beauty. The first visit to the Minicoy lighthouse established by the British was so thrilling. I had to climb some 230 odd stairs to reach to the top to have a complete 360 degree view of the island and its shores. To my surprise the green foliage and the blue seas variety seemed much widespread here. The shore to my left had black water while the one to the right was a lagoon and plenty of lagoons to that side. Had my turn of doing scuba diving here for the first time. I had myself registered to their 1 hour of lectures on vital instructions and felt extremely enthusiastic to try it for the first time. Amazing it was. As the captain of the ship said that if someone has to try scuba diving Minicoy should be the island to try. He wasn’t bluffing I realised. Many other tourists tried it in the other islands but I felt pity for them as they missed the real beauty. The scuba diving experience was amazing. Prior to the dive with all those masks and a loaded oxygen cylinder, I felt like I am living my life to the fullest. As I stood in the shallow sea and listening to the vital instructions from the trainer it was a gigantic nervous excitement explosion which I could sense. Finally it was the time as I explored the magnificent sea bed with all the eels and other fishes that came close to me and I made some soft touches to their fins, and quickly they moved away. Once in a lifetime opportunity I must say and I entirely stumbled upon it and enjoyed my time to the fullest. Keeping the Scuba diving thing apart, I enjoyed some local made coconut drinks and tea of course. They made a fillet of some rice preparation with stuffed sweetened coconut inside which was a dish I have had never before. All in all Minicoy gave me plenty of memories to be remembered.
As I entered my cabin in the ship for one last time I felt bad. I was just leaving paradise for the sake of my job, which sucks but pays me good but has no meaning at all. But got a reality check of career and making life. These islanders they also do have a life but of lesser expectations. Hence they are in peace. No violent acts or no squander of things, speaking my heart out literally I found some peace there in Lakshadweep which will remain in my fond memory for a long, long time.
Major Source of Income for the islanders
These islands are well known for the enormous amount of coconut production throughout the year. As it is known that coastal areas of India are all filled with coconut trees. Main production of these islands is only coconut and is the cash crop. The people has the advantage of utilising the large shallow seas which is filled with a rich marine life i.e. crabs and fishes. Fishing is the major source of income of these islanders and exporting coconut items and various other coconut by-products like oil, ropes, powdered coconut, etc. Alongside these two they have the privilege to work in government offices setup in the island, however on my visit found only a public works department office, a police station and only a telecom customer service office. Since Lakshwadeep falls under the Govt. Of Kerala so the islanders have the opportunity to work for the government in the mainland. However in the last decade various renowned universities of Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi (old Cochin) has established a particular quota for these islanders where they go for educational purposes so that they can establish themselves well in near future. Survey suggests that some have started basic business of their own in the island only.