Baggage with no benefit

When I first listened to these conversations, I was forced to think about it from a different angle. The event happened like this. My friend (a friend’s friend), Riya (name changed) and her roommate Sanaya (name changed) stay together in a sharing apartment. Just like any other sharing responsibilities, they had their designated set of works to do daily.

Since last few days Sanaya had been quiet all of a sudden. She recently had a break up hence was upset about it. Riya on the other hand tried to comfort her and change her mood in some way or the other. However, Sanaya was getting depressed day by day. Although she wanted to move on and be happy yet, she pulled herself back in some way or the other which only affected herself.

During that week, Riya had the responsibility of keeping the garbage/trash out of home for that particular week every morning. Instead of doing that, she kept piling up the trash in the same dustbin bag every day!

First day crossed, everything was as usual. Second day, third day crossed, everything same. Fourth day – Sanaya got up to a rotten smell in the entire house. She went to the dustbin and saw a huge pile of trash in huge quantity. She simply went to Riya and asked her-

Sanaya: Are you getting that rotten smell coming out of that trash?

Riya: Yes of course! My nose is very sharp 😉

Sanaya (confused): Then why are you so relaxed? You were to throw that garbage outside in the morning right? So why are you piling it up?

Riya (calmly): Yes I know. But why is that bothering you so much? Even though it’s trash and useless garbage, what’s the harm in keeping it inside?

Sanaya (more confused and now a bit irritated): Are you kidding me!? If we keep the garbage inside, only we are going to suffer and not the people outside or even the neighbours!

Riya(smiling): Exactly my point! How can you stay happy with so much garbage (burden) inside you? How can you move on smoothly and swiftly by carrying the useless baggage unnecessarily which is only imparting the rotten feeling within you?

Sanaya was stunned. Stood there for a few minutes without saying a word. She was absorbed in those simple words of her roommate. It took her no further time to understand the reality and basis of her life. With a huge smile she hugged Riya and thanked for clearing her mind off from all the unnecessary stuffs.

A simple yet a powerful message. Whether it’s a breakup, sack from job, losing a close one, business loss or any kind of failure under the Sun is a baggage which we carry from the past into our present and future. Although the context of this baggage remains the same, yet the weight of this baggage increases to become a burden which is in no way good for us mentally, emotionally or physical and also for the people around us.

So always leave or at least try to leave your unnecessary baggage in the past. Simply bring in the learning from the baggage into the present and future.

Happy Life 🙂

How to travel frequently having a full time job

How many of us wish to travel often but are pulled down due to our full time jobs? We all have at least one friend who fits in the above scenario. Or rather, some of us are the exact ones. Just imagine if you get the trick to travel frequently even with a full time job, how brilliant does that sound? Amazing right!

I have been working in a full time job since few years now, but the urge to go and visit new places, meet new people and most importantly try out amazing delicacies, has always kept a fire burning in my heart since a long time. In simple terms, explore the amazing World given to us by Mother Nature! In most of my travel stories shared with you all in my blog, maximum have been done during weekends, be it with family/friends or solo. You can check out all those with budget and itinerary!

Trips with friends and family are always welcome, but the problem comes when the time adjustment as per their availability does not match with mine and vice-versa.

Hence, I decided to take the plunge and raft with the flow. But the entire planning authority and freedom is mine for these trips and it gives an amazing sense of accomplishment and freedom!

So, most of us have 5 days job. But few even have Saturdays working. So what you can do is –

  1. First, look for long weekends where you can combine 1 or 2 days extra along with Saturday and Sunday for your trip, if not even then it’s fine
  2. List down all the nearby destinations from your location (you can always include the far off destinations with one night journey if you feel like)
  3. Check the train/bus/flight availability

If you are on a budget, then better to take train/bus. Some good websites to book online – IRCTC (I guess foreigners without user id cannot book from here, but there are other options) 

Yatra (some good offers are available round the year, just keep an eye on it)

MakeMyTrip (again look out for offers and discounts from time to time)

Goibibo (good discounts especially during the festive seasons)

Easemytrip (they don’t charge for the convenience fee)

4. Do some research about the place – Now this will be according to your taste and likeness which means if you are an adventure seeker, look out for what you can do in that place or if you are going with your family then what all options are available to explore

5. Set your budget for the entire trip including tickets

6. Calculate your travel time. If you are at a place say for example, Mumbai or Delhi and after office hours if you have to catch the train/bus at Friday night, then how many hours will be taken to reach your destination next day morning. I would suggest not to waste time beyond morning of the next day (Saturday), then you can utilize the max amount of time in the destination

7. If you are more of an explorer like me instead of a tourist, then checkout for hosts/travelers in Couchsurfing . The locals give you the better information about places and activities that tourists don’t get easily

Check out sites like TripAdvisor , LonelyPlanet, Tripoto . There are forums where you can even post your queries and get answers from genuine travelers.

8. If you are fine with not booking in advance for your accommodation, that’s okay but only if that’s a non-peak season. It’s advisable to book accommodation in advance especially if you are traveling in peak season

Booking.com (this is amazing to book good accommodations including homestay, hotel, resorts with excellent deals and you can even book without any advance booking fee and can cancel anytime before a specified timeline!)

My travel is mostly – start friday night, reach Saturday morning, Sunday again start for the return journey and Monday morning back to base. But if there are some mondays or fridays that can be taken as leave or clubbed with any National holidays, it’s more beneficial!

If you need any help or brainstorming regarding any place/trip, do get in touch with me. Always ready to help 🙂

Happy traveling 🙂

 

10 Best Places in India for Solo Female Travelers – Budget Friendly

With a full time job and only few weekends to spend for myself in a year, it’s a little bit of extra work of planning for a solo trip. Although there are lots of places in India to visit solo(for everyone irrespective of men or women), here are the top most as per budget, food and traveler friendly.

Source : Mumbai

Trip Duration (each) : 2-4 days (over the weekend)

Budget : Within INR 7000

Accomodation : Through makemytrip.combooking.com (these offer some really good budget-friendly deals) and Couchsurfing(the worldwide common platform for cultural exchange with travel experiences and hospitality- the best out of all the options!).

Budget : Pocket friendly (All prices might vary from season to season and person to person. These are the ones I completed my trips within).

1. Hampi – Paradise for all backpackers

Approx trip cost – INR 2000

The land of monuments and the Tungabhadra River, Hampi is more than just scenic beauty and an ideal place for backpackers, it is an experience with best of ancient touch and the warm and mordern gestures of the locals. The ancient temples, monuments and the giant rocks and boulders of Hampi will leave you amazed. The locals there speak fluent English so language is not a problem for anyone communicating in English.

Definitely take the Coracle ride once to cross the river. It’s really fun! And it is very well within the pocket-friendly budget. Have delicious foods at Mango Tree cafe with unlimited access to wifi and great ambiance.

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Tip : Take enough cash as there is no facility of card swipe at most of the places. The only ATM is at Hospet, 10 km from Hampi.

For detailed info, check here.

2. Goa – Indian travel hotspot year round for all kinds of travelers

Approx trip cost – INR 4000

The most happening place for solo traveling. Parties, serene beauty, water sports, adventure or just chilling out – Goa offers everything and is most frequented by solo travelers. You can visit Goa at any time of the year except the Summer season(it’s too hot!) During Monsoons only the water activities are closed due to high tides, otherwise every place can be explored and it’s a scenic beauty treat to the eyes during monsoon.

Try out the local cuisines and rent a two-wheeler (rent options available almost everywhere) for an ultimate enjoyable experience.

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Tip : Take good amount of sunscreen whichever month it be. Try out all kinds of booze at cheap rates than any other state.

3. Sikkim : The abode of natural beauty

Approx trip cost – INR 7000

Known as the most disciplined state, Sikkim is the abode of natural beauty and peace. You can never get enough of its serenity. The food, shopping and people are simply amazing. Definitely visit the Monastery, Phelling, Tsangu Lake. Gorge on yummiest momos and soups!

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Tip : Take a light jacket for the night in off winter season and definitely the woolens during winter.

4. Varanasi – Essence of Indian culture

Approx trip cost – INR 4500

As the saying goes ‘Varanasi is not just a place, it’s an experience’ is very true and you can experience this once you visit here. The Ganges, the Ghats, the Ganga Aarti , the innumerous diyas at the bank of the River – India’s culture reflects in every corner of Varanasi. At least once in life you must pay a visit. In the evening take a ride in the boat along the Assi Ghats and watch and immerse in the essence of Ganga Aarti.

Tip : Take proper care of not to get trapped by the ‘pandas’ at the temples.

5. Udaipur – The City of Lakes

Approx trip cost – INR 3000

Rajasthan has always attracted people from all over the world due to its rich history, culture and architecture. One of the safest destination for women travelers. The people are very friendly and helpful. The City of Lakes – Udaipur . The vintage car museum, the City Palace, the stroll near the banks of the lakes and getting immersed in the golden hue of sunset are just some of the many things you should do in Udaipur.

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Tip : Sit by the lakes (especially Lake Pichola) by the evening to enjoy the picturesque beauty and soothing breeze and try out the German Bakery stuffs over there!

6. Jaipur – The Pink City

Approx trip cost – INR 3000

Enjoy the Forts, palaces and vintage museums of the Pink City – Jaipur with delicious traditional foods that the city has to offer. The largest physical sun dial is located here at Jantar Mantar. It’s thrilling how the astronomy and engineering was so perfect at the ancient era in India!

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Tip : If you love walking, then can explore most the city by walking only.

For detailed info check here.

7. Jodhpur – Rajasthan treasures

Approx trip cost – INR 2500

The Blue City – Jodhpur is famous for the Mehrangarh Fort, one of the biggest in India and the Golden City. Along with that the world’s largest Royal residential heritage hotel – Umaid Bhavan Palace is located here.

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Tip : Try walking up the road to the Fort through the narrow backstreet from where the view is breathtaking, especially early in the morning and late evening.

For detailed info, check here.

8. Pondicherry – Touch of French culture

Approx trip cost – INR 5000

The French Colony of India is a place which has something that most of the place has in scarcity – peace and serenity. The delectable French cuisines, the old buildings, the small clean beautiful lanes, the Aurobindo Ashram, the simple people leading their simple lives, the shops for some great shopping experience – you can enjoy all these at Pondicherry. Do spend the evening at the Ocean rocks, it’s a beautiful experience.

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Tip : Take the direct bus from Chennai if you are opting for public transport or better book a cab for more convenience.

9. Khajuraho – Ancient architecture of India

Approx trip cost – 5000

A bit surprised? Yes Khajuraho is one of the best places for female solo travelers to visit and explore. Ofcourse a little cautiousness is needed just like any other place, but once you get the idea you are good to go ahead. The temple is the biggest attraction here and two lakes are also present nearby.

Khajuraho railway station is located in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Along with that the Khajuraho airport is another option. By roadways, you can take buses which are available from Satna in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi, Delhi and few other.

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Tip : While buying souvenirs at the shops outside the temple, negotiate as much as you can as they don’t give up easily.

10. Jhansi and Orchha – History of bravery and valour

Approx trip cost – 4000

In Jhansi, the Fort is the only attraction but the Orchha Palace is something not to be missed. An official guide at this place would be helpful to understand the details.

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Tip : Take a shared tempo from Jhansi to Orchha and vice versa for a distance of around 10 kms. It is cheap and convenient too.

So step out and explore and enjoy the beauties of every part of India! This list of course is going to increase as days pass by. If you know any other places which should add up to this list, please do share in the comment section. Happy traveling 🙂

10-Day Vipassana Course, India

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live”

-Buddha

Before reading about this course, it is advisable to read ‘Vipassana – What? Why? How?‘ in order to understand more easily and clearly.

The 10 day Vipassana course is the beginner’s course taught at Dhamma GiriIgatpuri, Maharashtra, India. The registration can be done online and offline as well. My course was during the Monsoons and the best time in the Western Ghats of India. Picturesque breath taking views of Dhamma Giri and its surrounding areas is no less than a treat for the soul.

I came across it online and to my surprise it has been there for years without many people not even knowing about it! I decided to go for the beginner’s course to learn the actual technique and see for myself what exactly it is and how it works.

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At Dhamma Giri you need to reach one day before the course starts for the registration process. Hundreds of people from all over the World come and queue in for the course. Once the registration process is completed by approx 6:00 pm, everyone is given instructions for the upcoming 10 days.

Overview

You need to carry your own set of clothes and necessary items like medicines, toiletries, bedsheet, blankets etc. Although bedsheet and blankets are also provided for those who could not bring along. However, there are certain strict rules to be followed for the entire duration of the course :

  • No possession of any reading/writing material
  • No sacred/religious stuffs (for chanting, praying etc)
  • No music or any kind of electronic gadgets
  • No communication among fellow students (Noble Silence). However, you are allowed to speak to the Teachers for any query related to the technique and Dhamma workers(Sevak/Sevika) for any problems in accommodation
  • No eye contact with fellow students
  • No telling lies
  • No harming/killing (even insects!)
  • No sexual offence
  • No wasting food
  • No intervening in the opposite gender areas (Female and Male sections are entirely separated)

If you are able to follow these thoroughly only then you are allowed to be a part of the course. Moreover, there is also good reason about why noble silence is observed throughout the course. Will come to that later.

There is a huge gong that rings at the exact timings of the day (punctuality is nailed like anything!). The entire course is FREE of cost! Yes! The accommodation, facilities, food everything. The only fee/investment is that you have to be true to yourself. At the end of the course, if you feel benefited then you may donate something completely at your own will, if at all you feel like. The routine that needs to be followed for the complete course of 10 days –

4:00 am > Wake up Gong

4:30 am  – 6:30 am > Group Meditation

6:30 am – 8:00 am > Breakfast and Bath

8:00 am – 11:00 am > Meditation

11:00 am – 1:00 pm > Lunch and your personal time

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm > Meditation

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm > Tea

6:00 pm – 9:00 pm > Meditation

9:00 pm – 9:30 pm > Q&A with the Teachers

Looks a bit scary isn’t it? But to get the benefits and learn the technique in its pure form, discipline is a must.

Day 1:

The first day was exciting and confusing with all kinds of mixed feelings. The instructions are given in Hindi and English. When settled in the group meditation hall, a sloka in Pali language greets you (by Acharya S.N. Goenka , the founder of the Vipassana Centre).

It is made clear at the beginning itself, that Vipassana is not a religious ritual/practice or dogma or cult or any kind of blind faith. It is a proven science and technique of mind and body. The first thing taught is to just ‘observe’ the breath. The natural free flowing breath, without regulating it or forcing in any way. As mentioned in my previous article, Vipassana is all about seeing things as it is. As Nature has provided. The Universal Law of Nature.

So the first thing is to just observe the breath. Within few minutes you will realize that your mind has already wandered away here and there instead of focusing on the breath. How irritating isn’t it? Your own mind doesn’t listen to you when you tell it to do something, it does its own free will. Your entire body starts to pain for sitting continuously in the same posture.

‘The mind controls us instead of we controlling the mind”

Within few hours you will come across all kinds of thoughts, memories and feelings coming out like a volcano from your inside. These are all the thoughts that have been there buried deep inside from the time you actually have gained sense since childhood.

At this time, some people get annoyed, some become overwhelmed, some cry when not able to take the charge of these thoughts that flow like a river. The solution is simple – you just have to accept and let go!

“Nothing is permanent. Everything arises and passes away – The Universal Law of Nature”

The thoughts, the feelings, the pain everything is impermanent. Towards the end of third day you will be able to focus and observe your breath in a much better way. You feel much relaxed not only at the surface level but from deep within.

Day 2, Day 3 : 

Continuous learning to just observe the breath in its natural free form. The duration increases where you can focus on your respiration without the mind wandering anywhere! That’s the first happy and victorious moment of your inner struggle.

Day 4:

Vipassana – the technique is taught. The focus on your entire body from head to toe. The sensations of all kind whether gross or subtle, slowly and steadily you feel every kinds of sensations in the body.

“The sensations are always present, every second in every cells of our body. We just don’t feel it until any kind of pain”

The focus on the free flow increases and with deeper concentration. The mind becomes calmer and much sharper than it used to be. The entire process is like a deep internal surgery to get all negativity like stress, tension, worry, agitation etc out from oneself. In short, to get out from all miseries.

Day 5 to Day 9:

The extreme pain, discomfort slowly fades away and finally you feel much happier and relaxed. Each day is a test and each reward is much sweeter than the previous day. You realize that you can sit in a single posture continuously for over an hour without even flinching an inch! Mentally and physically you become more aware, alert and calm.

Day 10:

The ultimate day when the vow of silence is finally over! You smile. The people around you smile. And that is the moment you connect and feel only love and compassion towards every being. Hatred, anger all gone! A 10 day retreat to a better version of oneself. To know oneself in a deeper way.

Above I have mentioned that noble silence is a must to learn this technique. This is because –

Firstly, when you communicate verbally new thoughts and actions get created every moment which comes in the way of concentration of the mind.

Secondly, every individual experiences different emotions and feelings. So once you start talking, as per the basic human nature you start comparing automatically – ‘oh, he/she is feeling such gross sensations while am feeling only subtle, that means am missing something‘. No! that is not the case. Everyone experiences certain things differently and so this kind of judgement hampers the process of learning this technique in the correct way.

This day Guruji (Acharya S.N. Goenka) explains how to utilize this technique in our day to day life. How to help and spread this awareness to others who really need this approach for his/her betterment.

There is no criteria or category to share knowledge, show kindness, love and compassion. Personally I feel like every individual whether they feel like they are the luckiest person on Earth or the saddest person, everyone should know and learn this technique for the betterment of oneself. Creating peace and harmony and showing love and compassion is never too much for anyone. There is no limit to it. A little gesture goes a long way.

“However many holy words you read, However many you speak, What good will they do you If you do not act on upon them?”

-Buddha

But just by reading and listening from others never help much. The truth needs to be experience yourself, only then it’s a truth for you at the experiential level.

“Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam”

Be Happy 🙂

 

 

 

Vipassana – What? Why? How?

“You must experience the truth yourself. Only then it becomes a truth for you. Otherwise it is only someone else’s truth” 

 – Acharya S. N. Goenka

When the word Vipassana is uttered, lots of descriptions and myths come to surface due to ignorance. Some are like ‘Isn’t that something by which you can be a Buddhist?’ or ‘That breathing-concentration-exercise, ya I do it everyday along with Yoga’ or ‘you want to become a monk/nun by practicing Vipassana?’ , and the list goes on.

Well, just to remove this dust from the facts – Vipassana is an ancient technique founded in India around more than 2500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha (the enlightened one). Here I would like to explain in very simple words and try to keep it as brief as possible, since this is a vast topic and one can write a lot about it!

What?

Vipassana is the technique by which one concentrates on the mind and body and the sensations that arise and pass away. It is the way to see things as it is – as Nature has provided. Dhamma or the Universal Law of Nature lets us see and feel things as it is. It is important to realize that nothing is permanent. Everything has to pass – the good and the bad too.

Human beings are the most rational and intelligent beings on the Earth. However, people most of the time remain tensed, stressed, unhappy, worried, depressed, etc. Somewhere or the other they look for happiness and contentment outside. But just hold on here! Are you really looking for the most important feelings outside your mind and body? Think again.

Whatever we feel inside – stressed, agitated, excited, satisfied and all other feelings that we feel inside our mind and body are same that we experience and see outside too. This is purely science which explains that when we are happy and content, the sensations in our body changes and so the breath. The sensations are pleasant at this time while the breath is subtle and relaxed.

On the other hand, when we are angry, stressed and depressed, the sensations are totally different and so is the breath. It becomes faster and restless. This makes us react differently making things worse most of the time. What is inside us, the same we see outside too.

Also, have you ever noticed that instead of you controlling the mind, the mind controls you? Try the simple experiment – focus and concentrate on your breath (the natural free flow of your own breath as it is), without thinking anything else. How long could you concentrate? 2 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds? Your mind stays with you on the breath for hardly few seconds and then it wanders off to its own free will here and there. Your own mind doesn’t listen to you! You become agitated and impatient on this behavior of your restless mind. But calm down and relax! Everything has a solution, a practical proven solution. Vipassana it is.

“Meditation brings wisdom, lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads your forward and what hold you back and choose the path that leads to wisdom”

– Buddha

Why?

From the time of his enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha wandered from place to place, year after year overflowing with love and compassion, he taught Dhamma to the people in the villages and most of Northern India. The theme in all his addresses was the same – sila (morality), samadhi (control over one’s own mind) and panna (wisdom, insight, purification of the mind by wisdom). He taught a practical technique to help mankind to come out of all suffering and misery and lead a life of peace and happiness.

For all different kinds of feelings that we feel within us especially the negative ones like depression, anger, agitation etc, we find a quick fix to these in the outside world. Example, when we are stressed, we try different stress busters – eat the food that we love, music, dance, reading books, going for a long walk, talking to the loved ones,etc. Yes! it works. But these solutions are just on the surface and help deal with the situation momentarily. But what happens when the same thing happens over and over again?

What if we get a deeper solution to our negative feelings and thoughts? What if we could control our own mind and thoughts for our betterment everyday? Sounds great isn’t it?

It’s very much possible through this practical technique which has been tried and tested by millions of people over thousands of years! It is not a quick fix but a deeper cleanse.

Vipassana is not merely a concentration technique. It is “observation of truth within from moment to moment. You develop your faculty of awareness, your mindfulness. Things keep changing, but you remain aware – this is Vipassana. But if you concentrate only on one object, which may be an imaginary object, then nothing will change. When you are with this imagination, and your mind remains concentrated on it, you are not observing the truth. When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana.” – as described by Acharya S. N. Goenka. To know more details about this angel who brought back this technique to us in its purest and original form read here.

How?

To achieve something great and deep in life, one has to abide by some rules. In this case they are discipline, being true to yourself and learn the exact technique as it is as taught by the Vipassana Master himself without customizing it a bit for our ease and comfort.

To learn this technique in its truest form, there are Vipassana centres all over the world by Acharya S. N. Goenka. The first learning is necessary to be learned in the centre because of few reasons – let’s take an example. When we need any surgery, we go to hospital, for learning any new course we go to schools and colleges of that particular subject or interest. Similarly for learning Vipassana, we need to learn from the place where the environment is only for Vipassana and nothing else.

To train and tame our mind, we have to concentrate on something. Buddha chose it to be the ‘breath‘ after trying out different things. We can concentrate on any other object like candle flame or chanting in our minds – but in this case the object is outside and mind would concentrate on that ‘something’ else. But ‘breath’ is the only thing that stays with us from our birth till we die. ‘Breath’ is the only thing that’s present with us in the ‘present’ time without any external factors.

Hence, focusing on breath, the natural breath (as it is) as it is coming in and going out, without regulating it a bit is the first step. Simply observe the breath. Every breath that comes in and goes out is never repeated. Every breath is a new one. This observation points to the very important reality of ‘arising and passing’. Nothing is permanent.

Once the focus is stable and our mind is not wandering here and there, we start observing the sensations in our entire body, from head to toe on the surface level. We feel and observe every kind of sensations that arise and pass away – heat, cold, itchy, gross, subtle, pain, pleasant and tons of other sensations that are continuously happening in our body at any given point of time anywhere. Slowly once we feel this, we go a little deeper and feel and observe the sensations inside our body and not merely on the surface level.

Once you understand and grab the technique you realize how impermanent our sensations are. And how directly these are related to our feelings in the real world. This shows and explains us the nature of ‘craving’ and ‘aversion’. How craving for any pleasant sensation leads to clinging to it. Similarly, how we dislike any unpleasant sensation and avoid getting through it. It gets clear how this actually helps in real life to deal with everything happening with us and within us all the time. Once you start practicing Vipassana, every outlook in the real life changes to a positive one and you start feeling the positive change inside you miraculously!

As mentioned in the beginning, the truth is true when you experience it yourself. Only theory will never help in learning Vipassana or any technique for that matter. Only through disciplined practice one can come out of all miseries and sufferings in life which are buried deep inside us without our knowledge.

How I began learning about this technique and the detailed explanation to its basic 10-day course of Vipassana (Igatpuri, India) is penned down here.

 

 

 

Best place to have food on Iftar in Mumbai – Mohammed Ali Road

What comes to your mind when it’s the month of Ramzaan? Iftar food! Undoubtedly, one of the most delectable and finger-licking taste could be found this time of the year. But the question is where should you go to have this food? The answer is Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai.

Next question is, with a plethora of such a huge variety of items, what should you eat? Here is a quick guide to help you enjoy the Iftar moments.

Head straight to Md Ali Road, under the JJ Flyover. The entire street is fully packed with people and foods! Yes, it’s madly crowded. But just relax, take a deep breath and take the plunge into the ocean of food lovers. Reach Minara Masjid and walk through the entire street bursting with food joints.

Tip : There are other Masjid around. Be sure to check in map or ask someone the way to Minara Masjib. It is under the flyover.

Most of these food items mentioned below are available at almost all the restaurants and food stalls. However, as per the public reviews and personal experience, Chinese n Grill, Hindustan restaurant , Faham restaurant and Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Durbar tops the chart. The food stalls are no less too.

The fast is traditionally broken with dates or a glass of water. It can also be done with a delicious dish – Haleem  (also known ad Khichda in Mumbai). This is made out of wheat, lentils and meat. The preparation may vary from region to region all over the world, however, in India it’s a standard and a favorite in this month.

No food walk can be complete without the kebabs. The various types of juicy and mouth watering spicy hot kebabs are a must try. The open food stalls offer a long list to choose from.

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Kebabs and tikkas

Have a plate of Tandoor Quail from the food stalls opposite to Islahi Dawakhana. The chicken angara is another must try with tandoori/rumali roti.

Surti Barah Handi – a slow cooking meat dish will leave you wanting for more. The cooking is done in earthen clay pots, adding to the authentic aroma and texture leaving the meat as tender as possible with gravy.

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Rolls and Mughlai paranthas

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Nalli Nihari, another tender cooked meat dish is a must try with roti at Chinese n Grill. Needless to say, the Biryani is always there to gorge in.

No treat can be complete without desserts. The ones during Iftar has a special highlight. These traditional desserts are a must try. Phirni, pink sherbat, badam sherbat, rabdi, malpua and many more.

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Phirni and Rabdi

Given the choice of delicacies, everything cannot be tasted in an hour or two, so take quite sometime and enjoy these yummy treats to satisfy your taste buds and soul.

Andamans – the coral treasures of India – Part 3 – #Havelock Island #TravelIndia

The final section of this single trip to Andamans – Havelock Island. The stay was at El Dorado. The cruising from one island to the other was done by Makruzz cruise liner. Neat and clean, well seating with snacks options, entertainment(TV) and exceptionally punctual – all the short cruise journeys were really smooth.

In Havelock we stayed for 2 days. The resort El Dorado was really big, again with a private beach. There are numerous cottages of various types – deluxe, standard, etc. Breakfast was complimentary. The food as usual was delicious!

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El Dorado cottages

Day 3

There’s an Elephanta Beach where you are taken in speed boats for Snorkeling activity. The scenic beauty, the soothing greenery all around and the deep blue water were like some kind of charm working on us. There were few in-between islands while going towards Elephanta Beach which were not allowed to be visited by tourists to protect the flora and fauna and biodiversity. That sounded nice and gave a hope that the Government there was trying to protect the natural aura of that place by any means.

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Elephanta Beach

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Snorkeling was amazing! You can either take the mask and go snorkeling yourself or if you are the first-timer, there would be an instructor to guide you. The corals and fishes were so near the surface that by just entering few meters into the water, you will get a clear glimpse of those aquatic wonders! It was fun, relaxing and blissful!

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After that I went for a short swim for sometime since the water was so clear and alluring. The Elephanta beach closes down by 3 pm and everyone near to clear that spot all together.

The lunch at B3, located at the ferry point of Havelock for the Elephanta Beach, was delicious and yummy!

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Fish curry prepared in authentic local style with plain rice

At night went to Full Moon Cafe’, at a walkable distance from El Dorado. Mostly frequented by travelers and Foriegn tourists, this place offers some of the amazing sea foods. There’s also a small section of mini library from where you can take books and read and also contribute from your own collection.

Day 4

Next was the Radhanagar beach. This is an official beach for swimming and having fun in the water. There are Life Guards around and small utilities have been created for public convenience.

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Radhanagar Beach

But what struck me at Radhanagar was – a small tiny path which led to the woods. The tall straight numerous trees, green grass, no specific road in that, melody of only the bird chirps and the waves breaking on the shores. We went inside and kept walking. There was no human sight but only peace! It was so beautiful and relaxing to just sit there in the woods without uttering a single word and just absorbing the calmness. A dense sort-of-forest area just few feet away from the deep Ocean was totally amazing. Although ‘amazing’ is just a tiny word to describe the experience. Didn’t want to leave that moment and come back.

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The tiny path leading to the woods at Radhanagar
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The palm like a human hand – Nature’s twist in the tree!

Havelock was mostly relaxing. Infact this whole trip was sort of relaxing and little bit of adventure unlike my other trips. Apart from taking any tour package, one can easily explore Andamans at his or her own pace. Rent option for 2 wheelers are also available. There are lots more to see and explore on one’s own way. There are certain trek routes which one can explore and enjoy.

From Havelock we headed to Port Blair the next day from where our flight was scheduled. Andamans – an experience, a memory and most importantly the Nature’s wonder treat for the soul! A must to have in your travel list. Happy traveling 🙂

 

 

 

Andamans – the coral treasures of India – Part 2 – #Neil Island #TravelIndia

As mentioned in my previous journey experience, we spent the first day at Port Blair exploring Corbyn’s Cove Beach and Cellular Jail. Next day we went to Neil Island.

In one line – this is the abode for Nature Lovers. Eccentric beauty, calmness, marine eco system are a treat to the eyes and soul. Although couldn’t capture all these in the camera but managed to frame some of it (photos below). The experience Neil will provide is soothing at the same time adventurous!

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Reached Neil in the morning and the stay was at Pearl Park Beach Resort. It’s an excellent resort with individual cottage style rooms with a private beach!

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Beach at the Resort during Low Tide

Day 2 :

Scuba Diving! Yes! Got to know that it starts from 7 am to 12 pm. So we booked the slot and went for it. Although I wanted to go for the training and try it out alone, but that involves spending atleast 7 days there and then go alone for the dive.

They took us in a boat to quite a bit interior where the water was 11 meters deep. Individual instructors were there for assistance. The experience under water is something which I cannot describe in words. But just like it’s said in the film ZNMD, it’s like a meditation – it truly is. Sheer bliss! The most quietest and beautiful place on Earth. Colorful fishes and corals of different shape and sizes gives us the feeling of a new unknown world.

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By the time we returned from the sea, we were extremely hungry. Had these amazing local cuisines – Crab curry, fish curry with regular rice and vegetables. Needless to say the foods at all places in Andamans is yumm!

Later that day headed for Laxmanpur-II bridge which is popularly known as the Natural Bridge or Howrah Bridge. This is the place where a nature lover can spend the entire day! The entire area is having small and big water ponds – rather ecosystems and the marine life is simply amazing! And at every place there are different types of corals, fishes, start-fishes, sea-cucumbers, frogs, original raw shells, and the most colorful crabs I have ever seen anywhere!

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Natural Bridge or Howrah Bridge @ Neil Island

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When these Velvet Corals are touched, it closes down
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Raw shells under water
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Raw colorful shell at Neil
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Startfish!
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‘You wanna mess with me?’ – Colorful giant crab!

Most tour operators don’t take the people to Neil and instead takes them to other places. Personally along with other places, would suggest to spend atleast a day at Neil Island.

It’s beautiful and mesmerizing!

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Another Moon shot with my Nikon 🙂

Next coming up is Havelock Island. Stay tuned 🙂

Pawna Lake – Camping in the lap of Nature

It is always a necessity more than desire to take a break from the daily routine and spend some time in the lap of Nature, far away from all the chaos of City life. It so happened that I got to know about this place from a friend and immediately decided to land up in that valley surrounded by Western Ghats all around. We called up the person at the Pawna Camping Site for the booking approx 3 days before. The Lake is located beside the Lohagadh Fort and the Tikona Fort, surrounded by lush greenery and fresh air to breathe.

The journey from Mumbai to Lonavla was a real hectic and adventurous , although it should have not been the case only if we could have taken up a direct bus to Lonavla or cab to Pawna.

One friend was from Navi Mumbai, another one Mumbai and another from Thane. So we decided to meet at Panvel.

Note – If you are travelling by bus , then better to take Shivneri directly from Thane or Dadar. It will reach destination much faster compared to other buses.

Unfortunately we took a red-colour passenger bus from Panvel bus depot which reached Lonavla after 3 hours! (By that time we could have reached Pune. Phew! )

From Lonavala, the Pawna Lake is approx 12 kms. If you are taking your own vehicle you can directly take it near to the lake. However if you are travelling by public transport you either have to hire a rickshaw or a cab from Lonavla to Pawna Lake. The same rickshaw or cab will bring you back to Lonavla bus depot the next day morning. And yes, you have to mention that to the driver obviously 😛

The timing of the Campsite is from evening 4 pm to next day 10-11 am.

After reaching Lonavla around 3:30 PM, we hired a cab from there to Pawna Lake. It took Rs. 1000 for the to and fro journey. There is no as such specific road or markings to show the way to the Lake. We somehow managed to reach there after taking directions from quite a few locals. Finally got the view of the Lake. Reached and parked the cab the end point of land. There were 2 boats to take us to the camping site.

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A view of the Pawna Lake from the Road

The Camp site is an island located at the center of the lake surrounded by water all around. Only mode of transportation from there are the boats.

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The end of Land near the Lake
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The boats- only mode of transportation to the Camp Site

We stepped onto the boat and reached the Camp site.

I must mention here, the calmness, the serenity , the rhythmic sounds of the roar in the water and the beautiful bird chirps took away all the tiredness. It was so refreshing and so peaceful.

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The tents and Bonfire Set up

The tents and bonfire was already set up before our arrival.

We kept the bags and started to explore that place. It was greenery and water everywhere. There are Resorts on the other side of the land which was visible from the site. Another side the Tikona and Lohagarh Forts stood majestically.

It was simply beautiful!

Evening time – they serve the snacks which included unlimited tea and pakodas. After the sun down, it was time for bbq preparation. For veg there was paneer and all vegetables. For non-veg, it’s chicken bbq.

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Onion Pakodas – evening snack
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BBQ

If anyone wants anything extra to be prepared or arranged like cold drinks or extra snacks, those need to be informed prior, since the location itself makes it a bit difficult to arrange things on time.

There were quite a number of groups who brought music players and games. As the bonfire was lit up, bbq served and music reverberated in the starry night, all started dancing and singing to the beat.

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Bonfire!

The cool breeze, the beautiful night went on and slowly the music turned from beat to soothing and romantic songs. The Sky was completely covered with the starry blanket.

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The Moon with its Companion Star 🙂
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Another Moon Shot with my Camera like all other Places 🙂

Dinner was really delicious served by them and there was a variety of options.

Next morning it was beautiful all around. The general time to leave the camp site is 10:30 to 11:00 AM but since there were only 2 boats to ferry the people to the other side of the lake, it was around 12:00 PM for us to leave.

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Early in the morning with the Sun behind the Clouds
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The Return Journey!

Finally, the-one-night-camping at Pawna was over and enjoyed thoroughly by us. Would like to visit that place again sometime 🙂

 

Panchgani – Mahabaleshwar, another treasure of the Western Ghats

Another abode of beauty in the Western Ghats. Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar are at a distance of about 19 km from each other. Both the hill stations are famous for the delicious bright red coloured juicy fruit ‘strawberry’. This region of Western India leads in the strawberry production accounting for approx 85 percent of India’s supply.

Apart from the strawberry giant the other attractions of Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar are the scenic beauty and the ‘Mapro Garden’ which is host to the Annual Strawberry Festival.

Another weekend trip. We started off from Mumbai in bus at night (after office) and reached Panchgani at 5:00 AM in the morning. We decided to stay in Panchgani than Mahabaleshwar as it is comparatively cheap in terms of stay.

So after seeing few places we decided to stay at Shubham Hotel. The man was old and humble. Helped us with few extra mattresses and we wanted to accommodate in a single room to spend the time together(we were around 8 people).

Note : If you love to walk then you can cover the Panchgani main road and have a beautiful sightseeing by walking itself 🙂

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A view in Mahabaleshwar

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Apart from all the sightseeing points, we went for some entertainment at the ‘Entertainment Park’ where there was Go- karting and electric car racing.

Then to calm our hunger pangs we headed to ‘Mapro Garden’. There is a huge variety of products ranging from jams, fruit beverages, crushes, squashes, etc.. Also there is a food court where pizzas, sandwiches are available from freshly baked breads from their kitchen!

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Yummiest Strawberry ice cream shake ever!

In the evening, took a boat ride in the Venna Lake during sunset. The cool breeze, the soothing sound of water, the calmness was sheer bliss. And to top it up the row man played the beautiful song ‘Taj-da-re-haram by Atif Aslam’ in his cell phone. Everything was too relaxing and serene. It marked the end of that trip till the next time 🙂

A Strawberry festival is celebrated there during the month of March/April every year.

Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar is another one of the best places to rewind and relax from the daily hustle and bustle of life. Best time is the Monsoon and Winter-especially for the strawberries. Also one of the budget trips for a solo traveller/ with friends/family. Enjoy!