My Solo Trip Debacle -or- My Eat Pray Love Fiasco -or- (simply) My First Solo Trip

Choose Your Own Adventure books are quite popular. So for this post, I guess you could Choose The Title You Prefer. Because the post is about such a non-adventure, I had to give my reader something!

What feels like aeons ago, I quit my first job, packed my bags, locked my one-bedroom rented flat, returned the keys to the landlord, and moved to Bangalore. In the first three months, I had lived in four different residential areas, across the length and breadth of the cit Silk Board Junction. The first was a hostel of sorts. As I tried to figure out the various “mains” and “crosses” that make up the labyrinthine layout of the city, I noticed a restaurant that started using as a landmark to remember the way.

Much later, I made a huge move in my career, and thus began what I will always refer to the best phase of my professional life. Right before my transfer to the new team, the old team members and I decided to go for a short trip. We stopped on the way at this little dusty, nearly invisible bakery for breakfast. The breakfast was fine, but what I remember most is all of us laughing a lot. A lot! I don’t even remember the joke, but that memory brings a smile to my face.

The whole world, it seems to me, is “embarking on a journey of self discovery”. I am not used to doing a lot of mainstream stuff that involves me burning a crater in my pocket, but this year that’s all I seem to be doing. I bought an iPhone recently, which caused one of my best friends, a Nexus-wielding knight in sports-label clothing, to give me the nickname “iSheep”. Now while it is one of the cuter nicknames I’ve earned over the years, I don’t like to think of myself as one of those sheep-ly people.

Why then did I go on this utterly sheep-ly activity of a solo trip? Because I was curious and determined and damn near egoistic about my introverted abilities of staying out of the company of other human beings. Plus, while I love travelling, I got a little tired of waiting for everyone to be free at the same time.

Those who know me know that my dream destination is Paris. Yesterday, a Buzzfeed quiz told me I was anti-romantic, but oh, hell, no, I want Paris. The wine, the air, the love in the wine and the air (Fuck you, Buzzfeed Quiz). Here’s the thing though – pisspoor people like me don’t go to Paris. So I chose a place that, if nothing else, had street names beginning with “Rue de la lalalala”. I went to Pondicherry (yes, I know, that sounds sad in comparison, but it’s a lovely place)

So I packed my bag and set off, feeling for the first time since second grade like a “grown up”. I went to the bus station and asked the clipboard guy where to wait for the bus, and he told me to “wait near that bakery.” A few minutes later, I realized it was the same bakery where I had breakfast with my friends a few years ago. Things were looking up. This is a sign, I thought to myself.

Then the bus went around half the city picking people up. Interestingly, one of the stops was near my old hostel, right in front of the restaurant I had noted as a landmark. My mind went into some kinda cosmic-sign-philosophy-overdrive, and words like “Retrace”, “Odyssey”, “Cleansing”, “Independent”, “Journey”, “Enlightenment”, “Find Yourself” and other jargon appeared like blips, like on the Ghost Radar app. So excited was I about the whole “on my own” thingy that even peeing in a public restroom made me do a little celebratory dance (yeah, don’t ask).

sreesha-divakaran-pondicherry

That was the view from my room. Quite breathtaking. I stared long and hard at the early morning sea and thought to myself, “This is really where a person can think.” More daydreams followed, of me sitting in a chair facing the sea, writing pages upon pages of my next book, with biographers lining up to find out more about the reclusive author who can only write while facing the ocean.

A few hours later, it hit me. I was not writing. I was not looking at the beach either. I was not even thinking. I was just, sort of, simmering. Like soup. It made no sense. I realized I had more thoughts in my head while on the toilet seat, or in the shower. Not quite in a hot cottage, feeling kind of immobile, cos the lady who owned the place had four dogs. Call me a monster, but I don’t like dogs. They scare the shit out of me. Don’t you remember what happened to Thalia? From And The Mountains Echoed? So I stayed put in my room. There was the beach right there, but instead I chose to get coated in sweat and dust.

s-d-petrichor-clouds2

Then I thought maybe I could go all spiritual, hmm? I went to Auroville, a place where others have found wisdom generally found in the snowy peaks of Himalayas, or that pond in Kung Fu Panda 2. I won’t lie to you – it’s an amazing place and you must go there sometime if you get the chance. But here’s the thing:

I’ve never been very spiritually inclined.

I was determined to make this work, nevertheless, like a little soldier. But while other people somberly marched up that giant golden ball, seeking inner peace and all of that, I went “Whoa! Cool! This is like the Cerebro!” And while other people seemed to be taking their meditation session very seriously, I spent my time trying hard to focus while marvelling at the crystal in the centre of the hall, staring at others, trying to control my laughter because the gentleman behind me began to snore – in short, everything but meditate.

I mean no disrespect. It’s a wonderful community, but I am just not the right person to appreciate it. Correction – I do appreciate it, just not in the way it was intended to be.

I went back to my cottage feeling rather let down by the whole “solo” experience. I craved company and realized, maybe I’m not so anti-company as I thought I was. I most definitely function better with other, than I was doing on my own. This, certainly, was some kinda revelation to me.

And I can’t say the trip was wholly without adventure. I discovered that I can frame an entire question in Tamil, thereby impressing the locals who until then had taken me for a bewildered tourist. Of course, it’s a whole other matter that I did not understand a word of their answer. But nonetheless.

So, did I attain the nirvana that I had hoped? No.

Will I go gushing to my friends about how solo travel changed my life (till they hatch a plan to murder me)? No.

Will I go on another solo trip? As much as I love travelling, and as much as this seems to work for so many people, I don’t think I’m one of those people. So, Maybe no.

But Pondicherry’s cool, right? Oh, yes, definitely! Take sunscreen.

 

 

A Blissful Technology-Free Weekend: Gatikallu Homestay, Chikmaglur, Karnataka [#MondayBlogs]

Most of us love living in the city – we are used to the many conveniences it offers. But let’s face it, even the most hardcore city lovers among us sometimes want to run away. As a result, even the tourist destinations are so filled with (duh!) tourists that even those don’t feel like a real respite from the city! Just another crowded place, with some nice scenery!
It was in the midst of all this “There’s no place worth going!” dialogue that we discovered this hidden gem in Chikmagalur, Karnataka called Gatikallu. Chikmagalur in itself is beautiful. But this place is – I kid you not – breathtaking. I don’t generally do posts about where I’ve been; the only other one I’ve done was about Nandi Hills, and that was more about my super-awesome feat of climbing 7 km at a stretch (a first for me – please don’t rain on my parade). This also isn’t a conventional “travel” post, with technical details like the number of toll booths. Even the photographs were taken on a point-n-shoot cam, nothing fancy! I just thought some of you might consider it for your next trip or weekend getaway!
Gatikallu Homestay is a 290 km drive from Bangalore. As per their website, the route to be followed from Bangalore is: Bangalore > Nelamangala > Kunigal > Hassan > Belur > Mudigere > Balur > Kelagur > Aramane Thalagur (Sunkasale) > Gatikallu Homestay. Now the confusing part here is this – there is another homestay called Ghatikallu. I don’t quite know if they are both run by the same management, but Ghatikallu has a different website and is further up the (same) hill.
Gatikallu Homestay: Entrance

They have tents as well as cottages. When we called to make a booking, we requested for tents, but they were already booked. There were two cottages available. When the four of us reached there, they told us they weren’t expecting any more visitors that weekend; they offered both the cottages to us for the price of one! It was great during the bonfire (that they lit at dusk) to have the veranda of both the cottages to run around. They charge INR 2500 per person – this includes food (except starters) and activities.

View from our cottage. Top right: You can see the tents. Bottom Left: Our Cottage(s)

Gatikallu Homestay offers a variety of activities, including Rope activities, trekking, bonfire, music, etc. Apart from the rope activities, we tried everything. The group I went with still curses me for not letting them go for the ropes, but I didn’t stop them! I only said I wouldn’t do it, but they were free to! Oh, well. They took us in their vehicle to the trekking points, to the ancient temple and a lovely (pristine, heavenly, hidden-from-view) waterfall and the sunset point.

The ancient temple. Seriously, I wanted it to be haunted! But I don’t think it is. Sigh.

Here’s where we went trekking. Check out top right and bottom left – Makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the world!

Sunset point. Would you look at those clouds! Top left: Some kinda bunker used in movies.

If I may just take a moment here to talk about the scrumptious food: it’s not pretentious woohoohoo food. It’s homemade stuff. There is a slightly steep pathway that you have to go up (even going up to get the food is a mini adventure!) and the food is served in this big hall, kinda like a mess. There’s both veg and nonveg. Simple, yet delicious food. During dinner, they played some good music too. Before dinner we had ordered some starters – the quantity shocked us! They really know how to pamper foodies!

The weather was pleasant, with thick fog covering the mountains from dusk till dawn. When the chill sets, the bonfire does wonders! Our cottage did not have a TV, nor did our mobiles have network. It was so great to disconnect from technology like that. I don’t know if we could get used to that life, but a once-in-a-while cleanse like that is refreshing, and I feel, necessary!

Tea plantation

Shades Of A Day


I went to this beautiful place called Ghatikallu (Karnataka) recently. It was a much needed break – a whole weekend without mobile phones/laptops etc. I took three pictures of the same hill at three different times that day. Sharing the pics here. I really love the evening shot! 


 
Linking this post to #AtoZChallenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/)

The Long-Awaited Trip


Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

To not travel, in the words of one of my best friends, is a crime. Coming from a family of travel-freaks, I nod whole-heartedly in agreement. I spent my childhood staring awestruck at the Himalayan peaks, trekking up to Karnala fort (during the monsoons, no less!) and watching the sunset in Kanyakumari (I arrived really late into my parents’ lives, else I would’ve covered the east too!)
So, it was really sad that I had spent four and a half years in Bangalore, and had never seen Nandi Hills. Yeah, okay, stop laughing! Come on, it’s not that big a deal! So when the office organized a walkathon up Nandi Hills, I was one of the first people who registered. Was I daunted at the thought of walking 7 km uphill – yes, I was.  But I didn’t care. Even if I fainted along the way, or got lost, I just knew I had to take this trip (it was to be my first real trip in years).  
We received an instruction mailer telling us to wear warm clothing, and stay hydrated. It was a competition and 92 teams participated (I think my team finished last!) But when we reached the foothill, we realized how warm it was and the warm clothing was just extra baggage that we had to carry. We were all really enthusiastic for about half a kilometre in the beginning, after which we all went “Paani! Paani!
Our five-member team quickly split up and two of us reached the peak before anyone else. But three of us lagged behind. But we were determined not to take a lift from any of the volunteers (who kept going up and down in Wingers) Finally, I saw a milestone that said Nandi Hills – 1 km. At that moment, I swear, I wanted to kiss the milestone. But there were monkeys around, who might have attacked me and of course, kissing a milestone is just plain weird (even by my crazy standards!)
Then we reached a point where there were a lot of steps. We weren’t sure where they would lead. There was no network, so we couldn’t call anyone to find out if we were on the right route (we were about half a kilometre away from the peak!) So we sat there for a bit, when this huge monkey came out of nowhere and jumped on my manager. It was so scary that I pulled a Mohan (from the bear story that we read in kindergarten) and ran and tried to hide behind another friend (a really bold lady who was carrying a stick) I felt guilty about it instantly, but I guess, some kinda survival instinct had just taken me over. We decided the only way to go on was go up the steps, despite the fact that they looked like something out of Temple Run.
We finally reached the top, only to be told that there was a road which was shorter and easier than the steps! And of course, we were the last ones to arrive, thereby successfully extracting the chance of winning the trophy from the two guys from our team who had reached first.
But we were proud nevertheless. We had completed the task at hand, without any aid, except for a bottle of water, and without taking any shortcuts (hell, we took the longer route!) And I was particularly happy cos I had finally seen Nandi Hills! Some pics (click on them for a better view):
The ones that did not come first!(All pics except this one were clicked by me)

Back at the foothill, we were shocked to realize that we *actually* walked up to that peak that you see in this picture!

27 Years and My Wasteland of Dreams!

So I gave myself roughly seven months to accomplish a couple of things before I turned 27. Let’s review that list today. I must say, I am pretty disappointed in myself.

1) Travel.
Nope. Did not travel. I went to Chennai once, but that doesn’t count, since it was a “family get-together” kinda trip.
Forget outside Bangalore, I don’t think I even went up to Commercial Street!
But the office is coming to my rescue, and there is a walkathon planned at the end of this month (to Nandi Hills!). If things go my way, I’ll attend it!

2) Saving money to sponsor the education of a child.
The house-loan EMI took up every last penny that I had.

3) Sell the guitar.
Yes, I sold it. It was a traumatic experience. It was like giving up on all my dreams. Selling my guitar reminded me yet again that I am a failure in life.
Ironically, the day I sold my guitar was the same day that a friend (an accomplished singer and guitarist in Bangalore) decided to gift me a beginner’s guitar tutorial book. Kind of like The Gift Of Magi!

4) Finish my “project”.
I scrapped it. I started with another one. But I focused too much on blogging. And the project is just hanging midway.

5) Get some new tattoos.
Got one new tattoo; there was a lot of teeth-gritting and scowls and frowns in the background. I got it done anyway. I liked the artist’s work. Anyone else planning to get a tattoo in Bangalore should definitely check out her work.

6) Chop off my hair.
I did. I got a Marilyn Monroe cut. But my hair grows annoyingly fast!

7) Try and drink more water every day.
LOL. Still trying to! Have a friend in office who forces water down my throat everyday, quite religiously.
I had just one glass today. Kill me now.

8) Lose weight.
Oh yeah, there was this one week quite recently, when I was tensed/angry/depressed/murderous (figuratively, of course!) I lost 3 kilos!!!

9) Learn yoga or pilates.
I did not.

10) Learn to sew and create some designs.
I did not. I checked with two ladies whose names were registered on Justdial. Both said they have stopped giving lessons. Just my luck!

11) Get some insight into the history of my state.
Very little. I did read some things online, but I want to learn more. Plus, I want to learn about my hometown. I am sure there are a lot of historical stories that would interest me.

12) Make some confessions.
Yes, I told several people what I really felt about them. Friends and foes, alike (three cheers for my outspokenness!). But… some things are still unsaid… *Confessions are so much easier on a deathbed*
Interestingly, I also received some confessions! *wink*

13) Go shopping with some friends. And don’t feel guilty.
I went once. Felt guilty and/or under pressure to hurry back. I hurried back.

I answered “yes” to some of these questions. And yet I feel that I have not accomplished anything! Until next November, then!

PS: Did you know Google gives you birthday doodles? 😀 Here’s mine!

 

Related Post: The Figure-Life-Out List

the figure-life-out list.

Sometimes after reading some of my older posts, people would ask me my age. They were clearly the musings of a confused teenage mind and people could probably relate. I don’t know. Today they are the musings of a confused older mind. Not very relatable to others, cos by this age people usually figure out things and start loving themselves and are not confused anymore. So I have come up with a list of things that I want to do before this year is out (and for me the year will be out in November, as these are things I need to do before I turn 27) to help me figure things out and be less confused. Simple things. That someone else might think are easy. But difficult for me. (There are those for whom the sky is the limit. But for me, even dreaming of the sky requires permission) Next year, I will review this list and see what has been accomplished. And maybe create a new list.

 

1) Travel. Somewhere. (if nowhere else, then least someplace outside the city I live in. Not necessarily a touristy place. Just a different kind of air to breathe) The top places on my list (wishful thinking) are Jaipur, Sikkim and Kanyakumari (I mean the “top”. Not the “only”). I have been to Kanyakumari once, but once is not enough. That place is just too beautiful and peaceful to be visited just once. In every place I visit (IF), I want to live there for a bit and eat the local cuisine with the local people. There is a lot to be learnt from that experience. Granted, that visiting places in this country has its risk. It has its faults where women are concerned and where religions are concerned and where a lot of other major things are concerned. But the fact remains that there is too much racism in the rest of the world. At least in your own country, you belong. Maybe I am snuggling into a comfort zone. But for the time being, that’s ok.
2) My mother once sponsored the education of a child. I wanna do something similar. Will get her advice on how she did it. If I am not able to accomplish this now, maybe save some money every month so that at least next year I can accomplish this.
3) Sell the guitar. I am not playing it. Someone else should.
4) Finish my “project”. No matter who feels that I can’t do it.
5) Get some new tattoos. It is a form of expression and no one should have the right to dictate tattoo-terms to you. Besides, the second one came out badly and is nothing but a meaningless blob of color now. Damn the artist!
6) Chop off my hair. I have a small face. Short hair suits me better. It makes no sense growing it cos long hair with jasmine flowers in them is someone else’s idea of perfect. Besides, I haven’t changed my hairstyle since 2009.
7) Try and drink more water every day. By the time I am 27, I should feel I have drunk more glasses than I did any time before.
8) Lose weight. LOL. The thing that has to be on everyone’s list. Accomplishing 7 and 9 might help me with 8.
9) Learn yoga or pilates.
10) Learn to sew and create some designs.
11) Get some insight into the history of my state. Learnt enough about the country, but no one taught about the state.
12) Make some confessions. People love to hear if you love them or hate them!
13) Go shopping with some friends. And don’t feel guilty. 

 

Long list for the next seven months. Hope at least one is accomplished by November.