The India I visited in 2015

2015. Now since it’s gone by, my conscience forces me to write something. And since I’d not written much throughout last year, I thought of summarizing it here – on my blog. I will probably always remember 2015 because it was the year I jumped out of my comfort zone and fell into the lap of a new city. A city that posed multiple challenges even before stepping into it. I left Bombay for Delhi. I traded the overnight trips to Goa (home, not party) for a journey that took over 24 hours instead to get home. I moved away from everything I was familiar with and decided to start with a clean slate. New place, new people, new learnings.

After moving to Delhi, I continued to visit Mumbai once in three months, and went back home for Christmas. Apart from these places, I also ventured into new terrain. Turf that was still unexplored. Ever since I visited Manali in 2014, I’ve fallen deeply in love with Himachal Pradesh. So when I realised I was so close to the state, I didn’t waste too much time and took off to Dharamsala with my flatmate Bhavna.

Dharamsala, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh

Bhavna and I didn’t want to do the regular sight-seeing in Dharamsala. So we decided to visit a few places, and we decided to trek. We stayed with a family in Ramnagar, watched kids play cricket and other outdoor games in the village – Ramnagar, climbed up nearby hills, stopped and admired the landscape, ate ordinary food, stepped in and out of mandirs. We also visited the Namgyal Monastery in McLeodganj, walked to Dharamkot and Bhagsu Nag, climbed up a hill (some five kilometers) to reach Indrunag, from where we could see the whole of Dharamsala. And on our last day, we visited Norbulingka – an institute dedicated to preserve Tibetan art and culture. This was a trip taken in June 2015, and over a weekend.







Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal is where Bhavna hails from. So when she was heading home for Raksha Bandhan, I tagged along. It was during monsoon. Bhopal reminded me a lot of Goa during the rainy season. I mostly stayed at home enjoying the delicious food her mother cooked, watching movies with her sister – together we watched the trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. When we stepped out, we took a boat ride at the lake, visited the dargah that’s in the middle of the upper lake, visited temples and ate at a Marwari restaurant. All in all, it was a very relaxing break.




Kasauli and Dagshai, Solan district, Himachal Pradesh

I’ve already mentioned my love for Himachal Pradesh. So when my sister said she was visiting Delhi, I took the chance of taking another trip to the state, but this time, another district. We reached Kasauli before 7am and kept hunting for a place to put up. Finally we found one, settled in and left to walked around the hill. We walked to the church, through the market, ate at a lovely restaurant (I cannot recollect the name though). We also climbed down the hill to see the Mohan Meakin Brewery. Unfortunately, we had to soak our eyes with the exterior view only. Visitors weren’t allowed inside.

Post lunch we thought of going to Dagshai, one of the oldest cantonment towns in Solan. My sister had read about St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, and since we were not too far away, she wanted to visit the church. I must admit, it was one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen till date. The church was undergoing renovation, but it shined nevertheless. We left for Delhi the same evening. In a day we covered both these places.

What I loved the most about Kasauli was its people. We talked to so many people during our bus rides and each of them remimded me of a world that’s not cruel at all.





Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Now since Siera was here, she also wished to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. So I took a day off work and we left for Agra early morning. We walked around like tourists, reading and taking photographs. Before we left that evening, we ate lunch at a tiny restaurant and loved the way the chicken was cooked.





Mangalore and Udupi, Karnataka

The final trip of the year was because of a friend’s wedding. My girlfriends and I went to Mangalore for the wedding. We ate fish like we were eating pani puri or momos because it was readily available at every corner. My favourites – The chapel of St Aloysius college and St Mary’s Island. I couldn’t take my eyes off the walls, arcs or the ceiling of the chapel. That’s because this is a beautiful, hand painted chapel that narrates the life of Jesus on the walls and the life of St Aloysius on the ceiling. Apart from this, Jesus’ disciples feature on the arcs.

St Mary’s Island is beautiful too. It’s a two-hour drive from Mangalore and you need to take the ferry to reach the island. My girlfriends and I played in the water like kids and collected sea shells. I’ll let you see the photographs.







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Kangra: Away from the usual McLeod Ganj






















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My awe-inspiring experience at Adlabs Imagica

If it wasn’t for my sister, I would have still not seen Adlabs Imagica. If you’re working, and you have your weekends off, you know what it’s like to stretch your Saturday slumber till afternoon. But no, my sister insisted that we go to Imagica and explore the celebrated theme park. So I woke earlier than usual and took off to the outskirts of Mumbai. I was still not quite awake even when I reached the entrance of Adlabs Imagica, and my first impression of the place, to put it in simple words, wasn’t all that great.

After crossing the main entrance, I landed on the other side that brought to life fairytales that were read to us when we were kids. For a moment, I was swept out of reality and and transported to the fantasy world where there was a dashing hero, a villain, a beautiful scenery, lots of picturesque lands and water bodies, grand palaces, soothing music as I strolled along, and then at once, my eyes landed on the roller coaster! The kid inside me sprang to life and my sleep took a nap of its own, while I zoomed on Nitro, my fave roller coaster at Adlabs Imagica.

One after another, I took some of the most scary, freaky but thrilling roller coaster rides. The Dare Drop seemed scary too, but again, what doesn’t seem scary at Imagica? For me, it was a matter of letting loose and having fun. I got off one roller coaster and ran towards the other. Between these I stopped for a boat ride which was relaxing and didn’t match up to my excitement level. What was totally ironic is that, my Sister who dragged me to Imagica, refused to get on to any ride. So when the time came to try out the themed attractions such as Mr India, Wrath of the Gods, I for India and Prince of the Dark Waters, I made a concious effort to leak out less information about the rides and took her with me. She did scream her lungs out, but well, at least she managed to enjoy a bit of Imagica 🙂

She took the front seat during our meal breaks. For lunch, we marched towards The Imagica Capital, an Indian buffet restaurant, which caters to most of the crowd. As a staunch non-vegetarian, I was not quite impressed when I saw only veg dishes listed on the menu. The main course had only one chicken dish. Not that I was hungry and wanted to hog on, but the little chicken on the menu didn’t disappoint.

The Street Food Festival was on, and my sister relished every bit of it. The pani puri was spicy and fiery. While she was pre-occupied with the extensive chaat menu, I couldn’t wait to go out and get back to the field of fun!

Hunger started seeping in towards the evening. So we quickly took a tea break at the Red Bonnet American Diner. The decor made up of vintage cars, dinning tables and quite the American style was impressive, and the range of burgers didn’t let us down.

I covered as much as I could on that one Saturday, and I couldn’t imagine leaving Imagica without getting onto the Scream Machine. It was scary. Even the thought was scary. I gathered all the courage I had and decided to my make it my last ride for the day. Most onlookers are filled with a mixture of dread and excitement at the thought of boarding the Scream Machine for the height it touches. When the machine first started, I had my heart in my mouth. As it started getting faster, I began to relax and within two minutes, I felt so close to the sky. I could kiss it. But just as we were spinning and going higher at the same time, the ride was coming to an end. I was transported back to reality. The sky seemed far, again as my feet touched the ground.

If I’m quizzed about my most awe-inspiring experience at Adlabs Imagica, it will be this Scream Machine. It’s scary, no doubt. But it’s a fantastic challenge you could counter your fear with!















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Tansa Forest: Off the beaten path

We were on our way back to the city when one of my colleagues asked me about the forest trail. I gently closed my book and gave him a clueless smile. All of a sudden, words betrayed me and all I could think of was — average. ‘The trip was just average. Nothing extraordinary,’ I replied. For a moment, I looked out of the moving bus and then gave an honest feedback. Before I share the same with you, I ought to run you through where I was last Sunday.

I, along with all my colleagues, looked forward to a trek to the Tansa forest last Sunday. After a little bit of research, I educated myself about the Tansa River that’s one of Mumbai’s water sources, popularly known as the Tansa Lake. So now I was aware that we were going through Tansa forest to see the Tansa lake and probably the dam too. But alas! everything, and I mean it, everything turned out to be disappointing.

On this particular Sunday, the sun refused to hide behind the clouds and the clouds refused to send down some rain. We set out on out journey at 7am  and reached the spot by 11am. The bus journey, both ways, saved our day! This trip was organised by a group called Jumpstart. Since I’d heard much about the group, I didn’t mind giving it a shot. On our way, we were served breakfast that was prepared by another group called Hungry Monsters. A coleslaw sandwich and some sprouts for breakfast. I wasn’t a fan of either.

As soon as we reached the forest, we introduced ourselves to other groups members, slid lunch packets in our bags and started following the trail. At first, a friend said, ‘this looks like my backyard in Chandigarh.’ Mind you, a couple other friends echoed the same statement. There was nothing new to see. The forest looked ordinary. We were told that there was a lot that could be seen and heard. Even the birds decided to take a nap, I guess as we strolled through the forest. We saw some unusual trees, but couldn’t figure out what they’re called. At this trip, I was expecting much more. I wanted the organizer to tell me more about Tansa — forest, birds, wild animals that are seen around, the lake, dam and everything I could grasp. After an hour of wandering about in the forest we reached a slim river. We decided to sit on the rocks while the sun kept getting hotter. After this, we continued the trail until we reached the lake. Within almost three hours, we were back to where we started. That’s it? It’s over? We’re heading back home?

Yes, we sat by the lake for some-45 minutes and then got into the bus, one-by-one. Oh, did I forget to mention about our lunch? Well, we were served pasta that lacked taste. We were also given ‘hotdogs’ that were stuffed with soggy patato patties. From the food to the trip, Sunday was a complete disappointment. I wouldn’t want to be harsh, but I really thought I’d wasted an entire day. I could have rather spent that time reading up more about Tansa and seeing pictures on the web.

P.S. I usually take a lot of photographs when I’m out on adventure trips, but at Tansa, I captured only 13 pictures. Here are a few.












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Waterfall Rappelling on the Outskirts of Mumbai

One fine day, one of my colleagues suggested that we do something adventurous this monsoon. Everyone chanted “Let’s go. Let’s go”, and within a day we knew where we were heading to. Now the only problem was that the trekking plus waterfall rappelling was taking place on a Sunday. Not that we didn’t give it a thought, but eventually, we were a group of seven friends at work who made it to Mahuli, a village on the outskirts of Mumbai. We were being guided by a group called Shalom Adventures.

We boarded a train at 8am from Dadar to Asangaon. What followed after getting off the train was completely unexpected. One by one, we had to mount a tempo that was our ride till the trekking spot. After a not-so-heavy breakfast, we left out baggage at one of the village houses and started walking on the beaten path that was going to lead us to the top. The rain, however, was playing games with us. But let’s confess, it wasn’t behaving like a stubborn kid.

After climbing up the hill for almost an hour, we reached the spot from where we were to start rappelling. From here let me write about what was going on in my head when I was about to begin. I wouldn’t really make it sound bad and say I was scared. I wasn’t. But when I started rappelling, I stopped thinking. Every thought just disappeared. The only thing playing on my mind was — Am I doing it right? I tried hard to grip my feet onto the rocks, but it was getting difficult due to the heavy showers. I stopped for a moment and peeped how far I was from an open well of water that was waiting to caress me. As I was rappelling along the waterfall, there were thick droplets hitting me while I was descending.

After that, I was just happy. Adventures have a charm of their own, and on Sunday, I was charmed. Now, let the photographs narrate the story.












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First Adventure Calling: Coorg

By the end of September, I’d almost geared up for the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) that was shortly to commence in Mumbai. I even confirmed my 7 days leave with my boss. But a brief conversation with a close buddy from Goa set my mind thinking. I was mainly hungry for a break from my routine work schedule. So if I wanted a break, why not accept my friend’s invitation and drive down to Coorg? So with a heavy heart, I dropped the idea of attending MFF and packed my bags to see Kodagu (Coorg), a district in Karnataka that’s pretty famous for its scenic beauty and local coffee. But let me admit – neither of us had our research in place. Not even the route we were taking to reach Coorg. Truly, adventurous? Not at all! We were just being susegad Goans.

Alright! On a serious note – the moment I read articles on the tempting coffee Coorg produces and the delicious pork cooked with exclusive coorgi spices, I was convinced that my first adventure trip will not go in vain. The excitement began to grow, and I was way eager about my trip.

As soon as I stepped out of the car at Madikeri, the breeze whispered something into my ears, and the very next moment I was hugging my sweater. Within a couple of minutes we found ourselves shelter in a 3BHK bungalow in the heart of the headquarters. After giving ourselves an hour to freshen up, we were out on the street, hunting for the best restaurant that’d serve us Coorgi pork. Coorg Cuisine was lucky enough to have us grace their restaurant for lunch. We ordered for pork, rajma, mutton curry, steamed rice and rice rotis. The rajma turned out to be very delicious and the pork burnt our tongues with its spicy nature. That was the first and last time we ate pork in Coorg. Even though I’m not a mutton fan, I must admit that it was delicious.

The one item that was never ignored during any of our meals was coffee! I could roam all over with a flask, hoping it would automatically refill every time I poured myself a cup of coffee. However, I had enough to quench my thirst for coffee. Our breakfast had a stable menu of idli and medu vada on all three days that was at its best. I’m quite surprised; mutton doesn’t get its due coverage. It seems to be one of Coorg’s top food items. The one food item that’s undoubtedly disappointing is cottage cheese (Paneer). Every restaurant served us an edible form of rubber. And that really saddened me. Just for that time, I missed Mumbai.

On all three days, we started our journey around 10 am. On day two it was the much hyped Abbi Falls that we visited, followed by the breathtaking track to the Mandalapatti Hills. The journey through the ardous mountainous roads got us swinging from one end of the jeep to the other. But when I was on top of the hill I didn’t mind the bumpy ride. It was worth it. I was surrounded by hills on all sides. While some had their tips covered with clouds, other hills glowed with the rays of the sun. They looked so pretty in different shades of green. It felt amazing to be on top of the world.

On day three, we had plans of visiting the Elephant Training Camp at Dubare, but were unsuccessful due to our timings. However, we went river-rafting for about half an hour.  It was fun rowing the boat. Some of my friends had thoughts of going swimming, but the water was quite cold. We then headed to Nisargadhama, an island surrounded by river Cauvery. It looks more like a picnic spot surrounded by bamboo trees. You need to cross the hanging bridge to reach the forest with tree-top shelters and eventually the Deer park. Once again we were unfortunate with the Elephants due to our bad timing. There was not much to see here, so we immediately took off for Bylakuppe, also known as mini-Tibet. This place is very famous for the Golden Buddhist Temple that houses 7000 odd monks who are pursuing their monastic education. We weren’t very lucky, so we didn’t get a chance to enter the Temple. Check out the place for amazing ethnic Tibetan artefacts. We then tried to make it to the Harangi Dam, but our eventful day was interrupted when we halted to ask for directions. We were told that no one was allowed to visit the dam. So we reversed and took the road going back to Madikeri. It was evening, so we thought of dropping by Raja Seat to witness the sunset. The weather was getting cold now. Nevertheless, we got the scene where the sun was setting, but was blocked by a huge cloud. That was one of the best moments I had in Coorg. The rays reflected on the mountains through the cloud making it an amazing experience. If you think our day was coming to an end; no, it wasn’t. We then went to a store that was selling all kinds of Coorgi specialties that included spices, honey, chocolates, masalas as well as coffee. We made our purchases and headed to our bungalow. Visiting this store was the best decision, because on the following day the whole of Coorg was deserted due to the agitation regarding river Cauvery. It was our last day at the hill station. Somehow we managed to reach the Bangalore-Pune highway by 8 pm, and then sped to Goa.

In my conclusion, I’d say Coorg is quite an over-hyped place. The food is not economical. It costs more than it costs in Mumbai and Goa. The scenic beauty is fabulous. Stop your car in front of any person belonging to that place, and they will never refuse help. It’s quite funny how they responded in Hindi. We’d roll up the windows and try to talk in their accent, and then continue laughing for the rest of our journey. However, Coorg is a lovely getaway if you want a break from the hustle-bustle of the city. Just rent out a cottage, sip on some coffee, visit local places and allow nature to talk to you.

Abbi Falls

Our Ride to the Hills

Mountainous Roads

Surprised? 🙂


Deer Park

The Golden Buddhist Temple at Bylakuppe

An Old Monk 😉

Food. Food. Food 😀

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