Category Archives: Travel

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.

A date with snow

Every year as december approaches all the movie channels show movies around christmas. As a child I used to dream about seeing snowfall. I had been at tourist places covered with snow but somehow I wanted to see how it started.

Early morning rains

Early morning rains

It was 26th nov’2014. It was chilly with temperature at 5 degree celcius. Further it was raining but there was something different about it. The water was way too cold. Slowly we saw snow flakes falling with water. After a few minutes, there was no water only snow. I couldn’t resist standing out. The snow kept on falling. Soon everything seemed to be covered with a nice white sheet.

Rain and snow flakes

Rain and snow flakes

Snow covering everything

Snow covering everything

Snow covering everything

Snow covering everything

Although it was cold, still me and my roomie went out for a walk. Standing under the trees with snow everywhere around I remembered the following lines:

Under the greenwood tree
who loves to lie with me
and tune his merry note
unto the greenbird’s throat

A snow covered tree

A snow covered tree

A snow covered roof

A snow covered roof

There are times when we dream and just keep it aside thinking it may never come true. I think sometimes they come true and when they do we are so happy that we forget to thank almighty. Let us remember how many of our dreams have come true and thank God. If there is any that is yet to be fulfilled, don’t lose hope, you never know when it may come true.

My dream trip

Today is GudiPadwa, the marathi new year. Everytime a new year comes I look back at the previous year, the wishes I had, the resolutions I made and the improvements that happened on me. At times the passing year makes me sad as all the resolutions are never fulfilled which makes me repent over my laziness. I often wish we had an opportunity to travel back in time. I couldn’t help writing it when I read this blog.

If I have such an opportunity, I would go to the time when Magadh empire was replaced by Maurya age. Its a part of ancient Indian history. I have always marvelled how a simple boy Chandragupta Maurya could topple an entire established kingdom. He just proved that even a village boy can become king. Leadership qualities are not dependent on inheritance and can be developed with the help of a proper mentor. He was guided by Chanakya who had written a book on politics. I would also travel the education center Nalanda and Takshshila. They say that was a golden age of Indian literature and arts.

We have forgotten the teachings of that age. I hope the learnings from that trip will help me build a better future for today.

Cradle to home

My favourite poet is Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. There is no feeling or emotion which he has not touched through his works. To even think that I can work like him is too much. His works always touched people.

courtesy: Wikipedia

Still based on today’s prompt, I am trying to think. If Tagore were to sit in a bus that is bringing software professionals home on a monday evening, how will he write:

As the day comes to an end, the colors of the sky change to a mild mix of orange and yellow. The twilight brings with itself the end of a working day. A monday evening for most is the day to prepare for the whole week’s work. Still for a mother its the time to go home and meet her children, for a wife its time to prepare for dinner at home and for a manager its time to sit for a weekly status call. As people come and sit in the bus, they look around and find most of their bus mates fast asleep. As the bus begins to move, it seems as if a cradle has started swinging slowly and like a child in the cradle every person begins to go to sleep. The bus passes through the office area and the market. In between it gets stuck in the traffic. The traffic noise does not affect anyone as most of them have earplugs on with songs running on their cellphones. Soon the bus the reaches the residential area. Here it stops every 5-10 minutes. Due to the breaks, every person starts waking up and gets down at his/her stop. Then they walk home yawning all the way.

The twilight gives way to the night. Everyone is at home giving finishing touches to their day’s work and preparing for the next day. The sleep of the bus hasn’t left their eyes which are just waiting to close down again. Thus a bus ride from workplace to home is like a cradle to home. I get the best sleep in bus. Let me know if you have had any other experience on the way home.

In a bus on friday evening…

Today we have become isolated, thanks to radio in our cell phones. Very few of us bother to hear the conversation going on around us while we are travelling in buses or trains. On seeing today’s prompt, I couldn’t hellp writing about this conversation somehow. This happened on my way home in the bus between a girl and a boy on a friday evening. From their conversation, it seemed they were working in the same project.

Girl: Finally the week is over.

Boy: Yes. I am so tired that I think I will doze off the moment I reach home.

Girl: I wish I could do the same but my roomie just loves to gossip.

Boy: Why do you listen? You can always go to sleep.

Girl: You don’t understand gossip is such a thing that I can’t resist. You must be having long sound sleep on weekends since you guys don’t gossip.

Boy: Not exactly. My roomie enjoys watching action movies on friday night. He generally gets the best of those and I can’t help watching them with him.

Girl: Then how do you manage dinner?

Boy: Oh we generally order pizza late night.

Girl: What about those calories?

Boy: Another roomie of mine is a footballer and he drags us for a game and thus we lose all that we put on. How do you manage those calories?

Girl: Oh my roomie loves to go for shopping and so we end up exploring a mall every weekend. Sometimes we also go for a movie. But then we walk a lot in the mall.

Boy: My stop has come. Have a nice weekend.

Girl: Same to you. See you on monday morning.

Generally people are on a holiday mood on Fridays. Therefore even if they plan to sleep the end up staying awake late. The best part of the conversation was both the boy and the girl stayed up late because of their roomies. Let me know if you happen to have the same experience.

How my boring bus ride became interesting

I was coming from Mumbai to Pune. It takes around 4-5 hours due to traffic in mumbai. Once you are out of mumbai, the mumbai-pune expressway is just too good. The bus passes through lonavala. I was as usual sitting in the bus fiddling with my cellphone which was running short of battery.

I didn’t realize we had reached lonavala. All of a sudden the bus stopped. We all looked up. After 15 minutes someone came and said, something went wrong, it is being repaired. We all got down from the bus. It was monsoon and lonavala was at its best. The clouds falling over the mountains was just mesmerising. There was a beautiful fog. I realised what a beautiful scene I was missing. Today we have become so accustomed to our gadgets that we just ignore the simple beauties of life. I gave up all the worries, kept my cellphone inside the bag and began to enjoy the ride. A little way further, the bus stopped at a restaurant. In that beautiful cloudy, foggy yet breezy weather, I had onion fries and a cup of steaming hot tea. There was a small bookshop there. As I was going through the books, my eyes fell on a book “Anything for you, mam”. I bought it and began reading. It was a cute, urban love story set in the backdrop of engineering college. The book made my ride even more enjoyable.

After coming home, I couldn’t help writing a review on that book. But I would’nt have enjoyed the ride so much had the bus not stopped. As murphy’s law states “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. We must accept this and learn to thank anything and everything that happens.

shocked by a honk on a lonely road (Part 2)

The first part was mentioned in the blog https://sanchitahobby.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/shocked-by-a-honk-on-a-lonely-road/.

We reached Buffalo in the morning. After a quick breakfast we thought we will freshen up in a motel and then go to visit the Niagra. We roamed and roamed but somehow we were unable to find a motel. The roads were also lonely so we were unable to ask any directions to anyone. Suddenly we heard a honk by a cop car. This left us shocked…

We were unable to think about a reason for the honk. In the 5 seconds before stopping the car we checked the lights inside and indicators for lights outside. Nothing seemed to be wrong then what was the reason. Those 5 seconds of anxiety were like ages. We stopped and my friend Arun, who was driving, rolled down the window. The cop car stopped on our side and the driver rolled down the window. He gave a pleasant smile and asked:

Cop: What are you looking for?

Arun: We are looking for a motel but are unable to find one.

Cop: Oh! Do one thing, rather than take a turn in the next lane, go straight and take a turn in the lane after next. There you will find many motels and restaurants.

Arun: Thanks.

I can’t express the relief which we all felt. We realized we were going through the same lane again and again. I don’t know how much gas we might have spent on the same route had that cop not guided us. We did find the motel at the place mentioned by him. Also the weather was perfect to see the beauty of Niagra. Here is a pic of the falls

Niagra falls

Niagra falls

A colorful sky

Today is 14th january. This day is celebrated as Makarsankranti/pongal/Uttarayan in India. This is the first festival of the year and probably the only festival to have a fixed date every year. I was brought up in Gujarat and loved the celebration of Uttarayan. Even in the chilling january, people used to go to terraces or playgrounds and fly kites. This used to be a whole day activity. People also take their music systems with themselves thus enjoy music with flying kite. The sky seems to be a collage of different colored kites. People just love the sun in the chilling winter. This combination seems to add extra energy in them. We used to meet up our entire neighbourhood on their respective terraces.

Festival also implies eating delicious meals. Jaggery has a special place in most of the dishes of Makarsankranth. In western India its gudpoli and chikki wherease in eastern India its pitha. My mother used to make pitha and thus we used to have a nice exercise of climbing up the stairs to the terrace for flying kites and then climbing down the stairs to eat pitha. The preparation has to be made a day before. A holiday is declared in most of the organizations.

Pitha

Another kind of pitha

Today special kite flying competitions and fairs are held. Shops are filled with readymade sweets but what was made by mothers and grandmothers still has its special place in my heart and mind.

Happy MakarSankranthi
Happy Uttarayan
Happy Pongal