Category Archives: Travel

The Ultimate reason

They say a motivated person can meet any challenge. Also when you are focused on something, circumstances will complicate. This turned out to be absolutely true for me this weekend. I had qualified for the Toastmasters division contest for motivational speaking which was scheduled on 18th March 2017. The only problem was that the venue was 80 miles from my home. I had always had someone guide me while driving whenever I went for long drives. But this time, there was no one. If it were something else I would have cancelled, but it was public speaking my passion. Hence my only friend was google maps. A day before, it snowed heavily. Below is the status of the road.

A day before

My mother suggested me to go ahead and trust Almighty. I kept practicing my speech but all the while the drive was a big tension. A day before leaving I requested my manager to be available on phone incase I get lost. He replied, I would be able to make this drive if I have driven atleast 10 miles alone. This was very encouraging. Also everyone in my Monroeville Toastmasters club motivated me. My friends Ravi and Saritha also supported me. So on 18th morning at 7:00 am, I set out with google maps indicating the direction. After driving for 2 miles, the map holder slipped. I had to park at a nearby mall and fix it. Then I started driving. The snow on the road had been cleared but it was raining. At some places, the fog was so dense that one could barely see few steps ahead. Luckily there was less traffic and often it seemed, I was the only person on the road. At times I wished there was someone to take pictures of the road. There were postcard views with clouds shadowing the trees. I made it to the venue before time. I gave my speech at the International speech contest for Division C. Once I heard the speeches, it was worth the drive. Once done, I drove back home again 80 miles. This time there were many cars on the road. Although I could not make it to top 3 speeches, this trip will still be memorable to me as it was the first time when I drove all on my own. Challenges are difficult but all you need is the Ultimate reason to meet it. For me it was public speaking. I thank, Monroeville Toastmasters Club, my mother and to everyone who supported me. Without you all I would not have made this trip.

Cruising through City

One day while returning from grocery store, me and my friends decided to explore Pittsburgh downtown. We checked various options and finally decided on the Gateway Clipper Fleet ride. Its a cruise ride which covers the entire downtown. We had booked the 7:30 pm ride but got stuck in the traffic and were late by few minutes. So we went for the 8:30 pm ride. We spent the next 40 minutes exploring station square.

Boarding the Cruise

Boarding the Cruise

At 8:30 pm we boarded our cruise. It was a marvelous cruise. We sat at the open deck. The guide gave us details about various landmarks of the city.

Approaching a Bridge

Approaching a Bridge

It was only on this ride we realized the city has so many bridges, each having its own story. It was twilight when we started but it grew dark in a few minutes. With darkness, the lights of each landmark came up.

Night view of Pittsburgh

Night view of Pittsburgh

Night view

Night view

Distant view of Mount Washington

Distant view of Mount Washington

We were mesmerized by the night view of the city. On the way the Point State Park fountain looked amazing with lights all around it. The shining fountain water and the darkness just seemed to complement each other. The rivers continued to flow in their simple rhythm in spite of this change of time.

Point State Park Fountain at night

Point State Park Fountain at night

We also came to know about the history of the Duquesne Incline. It was 9:30 pm when we got down from the cruise.

They say whatever happens, happens for good. We were upset on missing the 7:30 pm ride but had we not missed it, we would not have seen the Magnificient night view of the city. So the next time you miss a schedule on a tour, don’t be disheartened, remember there might be something better in store for you.

Remembering the Forests

A Fairy tale entrance

A Fairy tale entrance

I came across an interesting site(http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/events-festivals/pgh200/events/) while browsing through the internet. I realized 2016 is an important year for Pittsburgh as its the 200th year of the city. One of the events on this occasion was the Butterfly Forest at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. It seemed so unique that I called up my friends and we planned to go there next Sunday. It was a hot day, still we managed to start by 11:30 am. As it was a Sunday, traffic was comparatively less.

We reached within 40 minutes. As soon as we entered we were mesmerized by the decoration of flowers and trees in different sections of the Gardens. The royal gardens made us feel regal, the tropical gardens made us sweat, the sunken garden soothed us with its fountains and hanging flowers, the Japanese courtyard garden filled us with awe by its beautiful bonsai, the desert garden reminded us of the harshness of life with its cactus and the list goes on. I had never seen so many colors in my life. We were enchanted by the flowers in the Orchid gardens. Each flower was unique but its beauty became even more prominent when it was placed with all other elements of the garden, namely the leaves, branches and trees.
image

Harshness of Life

Harshness of Life

A Chair of flowers

A Chair of flowers

Beautiful Mediterranean garden

Beautiful Mediterranean garden

As if this was not enough, we came across the Butterfly Forest. As soon as we entered, I felt as if I was in some magic land. There were so many butterflies. Each had its unique identity. One of them even opened its wings while I was taking pictures. We had to keep looking on all sides as every time a differently patterned butterfly rose from somewhere or other.

A butterfly posing for my camera

A butterfly posing for my camera

This whole trip just emphasized how important it is to maintain the forest. All this beauty will perish if we do not conserve forests. I was glad we visited the gardens in 2016. We even visited the souvenir shop which had eco friendly things for visitors. So the next time you are in Pittsburgh, make sure you visit the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Lamp in the middle of garden

Lamp in the middle of garden

The Seven Confusion

digit7

Recently I came accross the number seven for a number of things. This reminded of an incident. I was travelling from Baroda to Mumbai in Shatabdi. I still remember my seat number was C1,40. My ticket was checked and approved a few minutes after I boarded the train. The train stops for 10 minutes in Surat which comes two hours after baroda. The snacks at Surat station are so popular that everyone gets down at the station. As surat came everyone sitting around me got down to serve their tastebuds. I returned to the seat quickly and was sitting almost alone in the bogie. At that time a mother-daughter pair came and started looking for their seat. I was a little confused at this action as the bogie (railway carriage) was full when I had boarded and everyone’s ticket was also checked. Suddently the daughter came upto me and said,

daughter: Can you get up from my seat.

I was shocked at this order and replied: I have a confirmed ticket for this seat.

daughter: I just now saw in the sheet outside. My seat has been confirmed from waiting list and its this seat.

Me: Well yours was waiting list, mine has been a confirmed one since the last 2 months.

daughter: Check your ticket, I have just verified from the list outside.

This annoyed me and I replied, “My ticket has been checked and approved by the TTE an hour ago”.

This argument continued for sometime where both of us didn’t move from our grounds. Ultimately the girl decided to verify again from outside. She asked her mother to sit on the neighboring seat. The guy on that seat had a confirmed ticket which too was verified by the TTE(Ticket Examiner).

After few minutes the guy returned and the same argument occured between the mother and the guy. Finally the TTE was called who checked the list and replied,

“I checked all the tickets here. Your seat is in C7 not C1”.

To which the girl replied “Oh is it seven? I thought it was one”. At this, the entire bogie started smilling.

The whole confusion occured because the girl had read seven as one. I don’t know about the girl but whenever I get anything with digit 7 or 1, I always doublecheck the digit. People try to avoid the seven star but I try to avoid the seven confusion.

A spiritual exploration

Last week a colleague of mine suggested that I should visit the Washington Kali Temple. I immidiately contacted my friend asking them if they are ready to visit that temple over the weekend. They agreed and so on Saturday morning, we all got ready by 10:00 am. The sun shone brightly and there was a cool breeze. It almost seemed as if the weather itself is taking us towards the temple. After a drive of 40 minutes we reached our destination.

The Washington Kali Temple

The Washington Kali Temple

Apple trees around the temple

Apple trees around the temple

Surrounding Greenery

Surrounding Greenery

As we reached there, we were greeted by beautiful apple trees. The temple stood amidst large green trees. It was so peaceful that one can meditate. As we entered the temple, we were greeted by this beautiful quote by Swami Vivekananda. This reminded me about the story of the Chicago Conference attended by Swami Vivekananda.

Beautiful words by Swami Vivekananda

Beautiful words by Swami Vivekananda

A part of temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva, another to Navagraha and the rest was to Goddess Kali and Goddess Durga. We refer to our Goddesses as Ma(mother). We even saw a mongoose eating peacefully in the temple compound and realized that everyone is welcome at the doors of the Ma. The photos of Ramakrishna Paramhans dev reminded me of my home. The compound had beautiful flowers. After a long time I had come across such a beautiful representation of co-existence of humans, animals and trees. It was so serene that we forgot all our worries and started praying.

A beautiful sight

A beautiful sight

Beautiful flowers around temple

Beautiful flowers around temple

We were told by the priest that its an auspicious day and there will be a small ceremony. We attended the ceremony and offered our prayers. Then we had the bhog. I almost felt at home, as if my mom had prepared lunch for me since I had returned after a long time. The peace and tranquillity of the temple continued with us all throughout the weekend. Thanks to my friends Ravi and Saritha for this trip. In our fast paced lives, we often forget the importance of small things like spending some time with ourselves, praying and appreciating everything around us. But once we do these, life becomes so much more beautiful. Don’t you think so?

A green weekend

Last monday, my roommates asked me to keep my saturday free, the reason was to attend a potluck. It created an image of lots of food and loud talks with friends. Our contribution included Paneer tikka and Parathas. So today as I got up, one of my roommates was already done with cutting vegetables and the other was preparing the dough. As we were preparing the spicy mix for tikka, I was told that we would be using a barbeque. I was energized immidiately as I had never seen a live barbeque. We completed preparing the Parathas and dipped the veggies and paneer in the mix. The scheduled time to start was 10:00am but by the time we started it was 11:30am.

On the way

On the way

It was a beautiful drive with dense forests on both sides of the road. When we reached the park, it seemed as if time stood still. The small office at the gate seemed like a hut.

Entry at Patapsco valley park

Entry at Patapsco valley park

One of our friends had booked a shade. We were the first to reach but none of us knew which shade was booked and who had booked. One of us was just going to call up to find out who had booked when Saritha, my room mate, noticed a small board with the list of bookings for the day. That list was handwritten with coloured pens. There it was mentioned Ravi Sampara, who happened to be one of our friends. As we bought our entry tickets, we were given a map of the park. It was an amazing park with Spring at its best.

Our Booking

Our Booking

We reached our wooden shade. There I saw a barbeque for the first time. Soon Ravi joined us. The shade somehow reminded me of Treasure Island where the travellars would have food and talk loudly.

Barbeque

Barbeque

Our shed

Our shed

But my reverie was broken when Ravi plugged a radio and Saritha started playing modern day songs.

Connecting the radio

Connecting the radio

Then began the daunting task of setting up a barbeque. We created the fire using the lighter but it kept going off as soon as we put the coal. Then one of us suggested breaking the coals and finally we were able to get the coals heated. Thus we got an opportunity to apply the lessons learnt in school.

Breaking the coal

Breaking the coal

Setting up the barbeque

Setting up the barbeque

The rest of the group joined us in next hour. Sagar brought his grill and we transferred the hot coal in it. Then we prepared the paneer. Everyone had brought food from their homes. As a result we had a royal lunch in forest. We began with a small brunch.

Dahi wada and wada pav

Dahi wada and wada pav

Egg curry, parathas, salad and chicken

Egg curry, parathas, salad and chicken

We walked a bit and played a small game with stones and balls. It simply reminded me of school days. We returned in 2 hours huffing and puffing. Again we had some refreshments. Then one of us suggested going to the waterfall. Hence all of us packed and cleaned the shed. We drove a bit and then again walked for half a mile to reach the fall. It was exhausting but the sight was worth the effort.

The river

The river

We returned after after spending an hour near the river. It was a day well spent, away from all the comforts of home, in the lap of nature with friends. We spend so many weekends lazing around. If all of us spend atleast one weekend per month with nature and family, life would be so beautiful. It is so simple to be happy. It will give us an opportunity to bind with our family and at the same time save electricity. I thank all my friends Saritha, Miti, Ravi, Harshil, Karim, Pushpalata, Sagar, Amrth,Mehul, Deepak, Neha for such a great day.

The longest drive

They say you don’t get a notice before an adventure. I didn’t believe it until this valentine’s day. My friend Ravi suggested going to Annapolis. After a little bit of discussion, me and my roommate Saritha, agreed.

A picturesque view on the way

A picturesque view on the way

It was a beautiful drive. We had a nice time wandering around the streets of the historic city. Around 7:00pm it started snowing and we decided to return. The moment we entered the highway, it started snowing heavily. I was reminded of the movies on space, where one can see starts coming as the space ship moves forward. The snow fall had become a snow storm. As we went ahead all we could see was snow coming towards us. The speed was reduced to 20miles per hour. After 10 minutes it seemed, the street was covered with ice on both sides. Soon all the cars had their headlights on.

Driving in a snowstorm

Driving in a snowstorm

Then Ravi said he was unable to see the white lines separating the lanes. We looked around and no lines were visible but all the cars were moving slow. In another 20 minutes, the whole 3 lane road had become single lane, with every car moving slowly. Saritha tried to lighten the mood by playing low soft songs. But we all horrified when the car in front of ours suddenly started skidding. It had almost become perpendicular to the direction of traffic when somehow the driver managed to controll it and align it to the moving line. This left us shocked and motionless for a few minutes when David who was sitting at navigator’s seat picked a hotel’s menu and read sandwich as “sanda wich”. At that moment I realized my jaw as hanging out of fear but that remark lighted the atmosphere.

Vehicles maintaining long distances in a blizzard

Vehicles maintaining long distances in a blizzard

My phone was running out of charge. The route never seemed to end. It was scarry but we saw at some places people came out of their cars to help others. These are the times when humanity shows itself. After 3-4 hours of driving we reached home and I heaved a sigh of relief. Thank god we all reached safe and sound. All of us were so tired that we went to Dunkin Doughnuts for a coffee. Then Ravi(who loves to cook) suggested we all gather at his place.

A sumptuous dinner after a snow blizzard

A sumptuous dinner after a snow blizzard

We agreed and after 2 hours we had a sumptuous meal of daal, chapati,paneer biryani and raita. As they say “Alls well that ends well”. I have been to many drives but this was the longest drive of my life. I just thank my friends Ravi, Saritha and David for being with me through this.