Tag Archives: travel

Jagriti Yatra 2017

Jagriti Yatra is a 15-day long, national train journey that will take you 8000 kilometers across the length and breadth of India, to understand and build the India of smaller towns and villages through enterprise. – https://www.jagritiyatra.com/about

Jagriti means awakening, and Yatra means journey. This yatra has been the most tangent I’ve been in my life, the longest I’ve travelled in a train, the longest I’ve been away from keyboard since mom and dad bought me my first computer back when I was 16, the most diverse group of people I’ve met, the best conversations I had that were not about technology and an event that I’d not forget for the rest of my life.

This yatra is described by many as a spiritual experience, a starting place for a lifelong entrepreneurial journey, a place where you get exposed to the problems that exist in the country that you can solve with enterprise, a place to find your co-founders. That was true for many people around me, so it must apply to others as well. For me personally, jagriti yatra was simply a yatra, a journey through some remote parts of the country, getting out of the routine and doing something new, making new friends with no added motivations. That was all I had wished the yatra to be, and it turned out to be mostly true.

I cannot write about the entire Yatra. That would be too long and tedious (and very boring to read). Instead, I’ve chosen a few aspects of the Yatra that I felt were important to write about. These need not be things that I liked or disliked, just things that stayed on the back of my mind


The train was our home for 15 days. The boogies were divided into various parts; 2 for bathrooms, 4 for male and 4 for female participants, 2 for chair cars where we had group sessions/talks, 2 were for staff and a pantry. Each participant boogie had 9 compartment, each compartment had 7 people forming a cohort. These 7 people were supposed to be from diverse backgrounds except for their vertical of interest (Education, healthcare, agriculture etc). Two such cohorts, one male and one female formed a group for discussions and presentations.

While theoretically we were supposed to be from diverse backgrounds, 6 out of the 7 members of my cohorts were engineers, 3 CS majors, 2 Civil and one mechanical. How’s that for some diversity? Although engineers that we were, we were quite diverse from individual interest perspective. That made things nice, for there were people who liked to doodle, someone who was into cryptocurrency, someone who worked with startups and mentored them, someone who worked with the government, someone who worked for school children and taught them practical science. From the inside, we were very diverse, with lots of stories that we could tell each other about our own professions and personalities.

The train was entirely branded with Jagriti Yatra posters, but not to the extent that it would grab eye-balls (it was still the same blue express train that you see running on tracks). Most of the times, people would mistake it for a regular train and bang on the locked doors and the guards would explain them that this is a special train. Except for the first day, the train reached on time at all our destinations, which is a nice feat for the railways, especially considering this to be a special train (read: low priority train).

Not that we didn’t have problems. A spring broke here, a bathroom boogie replacement there, toilets clogging up, no water for entire days and many such problems, but hey, this was part of the experience and most people took it in the spirit of the Yatra. The feeling was that if you cannot adjust to little things like these, then don’t even bother thinking about improving education and healthcare in rural India.


Imagine being thrown in a room filled with 500 strangers for 15 days. It is uncomfortable to think, but then imagine that most of those 500 people are there to make new friends, to listen to your stories and share their own. That’s how the Yatra felt. Everyone was unassuming, open minded and honest. It was like everyone was given a mask to start afresh in a virtual society and they made good use of that chance by being all that they had learnt from their 20-25 years of experience dealing with people. It was great to see everyone being nice; honest yet at the same time caring and sensitive.

All of us opened up a lot during these 15 days. My personal goal was to talk to people with whom I don’t share a lot of opinions, and understand the same from their point of view. It was a good exercise, and in spite of all the differences that we had, when it was time for fun, we enjoyed together.

The staff was nice as well. It didn’t feel very commercial, and people seemed to do what they did because they loved it, and not for the paycheck (we were told that a huge chunk of the staff was working for free as volunteers). Even they were open to having random conversations, laughing together and guiding when needed. It all felt like a mobile family for those 15 days.


This was a surprise. Although the food was cooked in the train’s pantry, it was really very good. The food was served in nice white dishes, bowls with steel spoons. The food came in abundance, and honestly, I didn’t spend a single rupee on food for the entire 15 days on the train (except for when we wanted to try some local food out of enthusiasm), and all of the very little expenditure that happened was on the gifts that I bought for family.

To give you an idea about how much food and how many times it was served, here’s a quick timeline.

  • Just after the wakeup call, around 6:30-7:30, tea/coffee would come
  • After some time, around 8:00-9:00 breakfast would be served, either on train or on the platform. Breakfast would include bread, butter, jam, namkeens and a unique dish everyday like upma, sheera, poha, uttappa, idli etc, tea and coffee.
  • Lunch time was around 13:00-14:00, either at the role model place (the place that we were visiting on that particular day) or on train, and it used to be a proper mean with roti/puri, bhaji, salad, rice, dal/kadhi, pickle, papad, a sweet dish etc.
  • Snacks used to be served anytime between 16:30-19, and it used to typically include things like chivda, namkeens, gathiyas, kachoris, samosa and tea/coffee.
  • Dinner time used to be around 21:00-23:00, and it used to be similar to the lunch.
  • haldi milk used to be served after dinner, post 23:00, and it used to come along with warm water (almost all of us were suffering from cold and cough).

I honestly believe this was the best food I’ll ever have on an Indian express train. It was tasty, served warm and had dry fruits in it. Damn.

Formal Activities – BGT & Role Model Presentation

It wasn’t just a joy ride around the country (although I would’ve liked it even then). Right from day 1, we were made to think towards establishing a virtual enterprise in the rural India that would solve a problem in the domain of our choosing. This was the BGT (Biz Gyaan Tree) exercise. Although it didn’t help us form a nice startup or establish an idea that would win the first prize, it did help the team to come close, become good friends and have some great moments amongst ourselves.

The second was a role model presentation (role model is a name of the person/organization at the location we visit; for example, in Delhi we visited Goonj (Goonj.org). So Goonj was the role model in Delhi). We had to present about the role model that we were assigned in a creative way. That involved some team work, creative thinking, drawing and paining on the chart papers and some public speaking. Like BGT, we didn’t do it to win, but used it as an opportunity to spend more time with group members.

At the time, one wishes all of this was optional, but then one must remember that the premise of this yatra was building India through enterprise. So that was that, and in hindsight, it was all fun.

Locations and Role Models

The role models visits were the essence of the Yatra. Remove that and the yatra is literally just a group tour around the country. Role models were either people or organizations who did something substantial in the social sector, provided employment, did charity or anything that helps build the nation. Here’s a list of locations and their corresponding role models for this year.

  • Mumbai [Maharashtra] – Dabbawala
  • Kanyakumari [Tamil Nadu] – Vivekanand Memorial
  • Madurai [Tamil Nadu] – Arvind Eye Care Hospital
  • Banglore [Karnataka] – IISc and Jagriti Enterprise Mela
  • Sri City [Andra Pradesh] – Industrial zone
  • Vizag [Andra Pradesh] – Akshaypatra Foundation
  • Ganjam [Orissa] – Gram Vikas
  • Nalanda [Bihar] – Nalanda University
  • Deoria [Uttar Pradesh] – Biz Gyaan Tree exercise
  • Delhi [Delhi] – Rashtrapati Bhavan and Goonj
  • Tilonia [Rajasthan] – Barefoot College
  • Ahmedabad [Gujrat] – Sabarmati Ashram

Pretty interesting list, right? Now that I get to reflect upon it, it was a long journey, but on the train it felt like a few days. The joy was similar to that of going back to school.

To be honest, I was excited for only a couple of those as I didn’t even know what most of the organizations did or where they were located geographically. But once you visit them, they get imprinted on the back of your minds. And all of them had a unique way of working and sustaining which was worth noting. The common denominator was that they weren’t profit first organizations, rather they were all people first. I believe that was the reason that they were on this list. They weren’t all NGOs. The change makers are bringing a change whilst generating good revenue, which is encouraging.

Personal Learnings

And finally we’re down to what really matters: What did I learn from the Yatra.

On the first day at Mumbai, I was really surprised to find so many nice people around. I became friends with around 15 odd people even before getting on the train. None of them were from my cohort. When I met the people of my cohort, I was a little dejected. They weren’t like the people I’d met the entire day. They were silent, spoke little and the atmosphere wasn’t exactly friendly. The facilitator sounded like a serious person. I tried to keep an open mind and reminded myself that this is the kind of adjusting exercise that I was looking forward to. Like it or hate it, this was my everything for the next 15 days.

I wont get into what happened in between, but by the latter half of the journey, that cohort turned out to be very nice, very different from what I’d envisioned on the first day; honest, caring and friendly. Each one of them had a story, they had something that made them tick, they had dreams and they were in many ways just like me. I remember the last day on train, I was happy that I was returning back to my comfy home, but in many ways I was sad to let these people go. The kind of bonding you develop when you’re ‘struggling’ together is very different from the other kinds of bonding. I learned that if you try and keep an open mind, you can adjust with just about everyone and understand them. That people are very different from what they appear on the surface and you can never tell about the book by its cover.

Another key learning has been that you cannot solve a problem without knowing the problem itself. It seems obvious when I put it up that way, but how many of us just get our daily ‘national problem report’ from the mainstream news and think about the things that need to be done to solve those problems and wonder why no one is doing it? Almost all of us. But the problems don’t become clear until one moves to their origin. I heard and spoke to numerous people who left their comfortable city life at the peak of their careers and settled in villages. These people asked the villagers what their problems were and what the solution to those problems were. Often, the person facing the problem knows the solution to it as well, but isn’t in a position to implement it.

I learned that it is very easy to sit in a restaurant and talk about the magic bullet that will solve the problem of education in the country for 20 minutes and feel good about being a up-to-date citizen, but the people who’re actually trying to improve it never really stop thinking about it. It becomes their life, and it is a really unglamorous job, not something you do and land on the cover of TIME. We tend to get bored by a job in a couple of months and question ourselves, ‘Am I making a difference?’ while these people have been working on the same thing for past four to five decades. The dedication is real, and I learned what the word passion towards your profession meant from these people.

That illiteracy doesn’t mean lack of knowledge and wisdom. I’ve heard it enough times during the yatra from numerous influential people that I’ll have to believe it. Often times, educated people are sent to villages to solve the problems there, only to end up not understanding the problem or implementing a wrong solution. Classic case of what happens with many government policies. This happens because we’re not used to listening to people who’re less educated than us. We try to give them our solution for their own problem. As Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj.org exclaimed, kya aukaad hai tumhari?

In closing

I think the yatra is a wonderful experience. I didn’t plan to learn a lot there, just make friends and have a good time, but I did learn. I learned what cannot be taught in textbooks and communicated via blog posts. And you can have equivalent experience if you go travel places, talk to villagers and spark a conversation with random people on the bus, but if that doesn’t sound like your strongest game, give this Yatra a try!

Guide To Driving On Indian roads

I’m a newbie at driving. In fact, I didn’t know how to drive until November 2016, when my dad got us Zacky, a Tata Zest petrol sedan. In the last 6 months, I drove her around 7000 kms total, 2400 of which were in the last 10 days, during my post engineering vacation trip where we took Zacky to my native place, Karnataka.

So I returned home yesterday, after driving the last 740-ish km stretch from Karwar > Ankola > Hubballi > Belagavi > Kolhapur > Satara > Pune > Panvel and joyful it was as was the entire journey.

Yesterday, while driving, I thought of writing a mini guide/mythbuster on the practical aspects of driving on Indian roads, highways and mudways alike, from a rookie’s perspective and this is it. Needless to say, in case you have any suggestions or corrections, feel free to use the comments section below.

1. People will overtake you from left. And you do the same.

If you are learning how to drive from the Internet, chances are, you might be tempted to follow this overtake-only-from-right rule. 3 minutes on any Indian highway are enough to tell you otherwise. Heavy vehicles will hog the rightmost lanes leaving you with no choice but to overtake from the left. Rest assured, after a while, it feels normal.

2. Speedlimit is like the Unicorn

Everyone knows about it but no one actually believes in it. Hence even if you follow the speedlimit, people will come honking from behind. Make sure you don’t overspeed beyond what you can control and slow down appropriately during night/rains. Large vehicles/SUVs/tourist vehicles are usually not very considerate of other vehicles and their safety on the road (Stereotyping = probably. Personal observation = yes). Maintain safe distance and let them pass.

3. Horn is your best friend

Dogs, cows, donkeys, people with ear phones on, people chatting on phones, people who are too cool to look before crossing the roads, people who are drunk are just some categories of obstacles you’ll encounter on roads. Honking, while not peaceful, might just prevent a mishap.

4. The vehicle in front of you WILL cut into your lane

There’s no one in front. Just a pickup truck in the middle lane at some distance. No reason for it to switch lanes. You approach it from the right crusing at over 100kmph. Just 30 meters to go and it starts to slide into your lane. He doesn’t have a rear view mirror, so not even his fault, right? You hit the brakes hard and send everything in your car flying.

Don’t let that happen. Honk. Blink. Do whatever it takes but make sure the person you’re about to pass realizes you’re coming.

5. Heavy vehicle drivers are the best and the worst people on roads

You’ll be terrified by how rough these heavy vehicle drivers drive. A small touch by a bus is good enough to send you rolling down the ghat. Most don’t have proper indicators, tail lamps or even rear view mirrors. ST bus drivers rally on the roads. Patience? LOL.

Those are one half. The other half of these heavy vehicles are driven by some of the best drivers you’ll see. They indicate every time. They will let you pass if possible, or warn you when not. And the most important trait. They’re patient. They would not cut into your lane at random. They’re proper drivers who understand what it is like to be at the receiving end of road rage.

6. Low beams?

I read that one should use low beam when driving slow and high beam when fast and when there’s no one in front of you or in the opposite lane. You might know that as well. Do people actually do that? Yes, half of them do. But the other half don’t resulting in times when you’re totally blinded by oncoming traffic. Literally. Try to blink to get their attention. Some might heed. Others might not. While there’s not much you can do about it, go slow, keep an eye on the lane boundaries and vehicles in front and behind you, so that you don’t bump into anybody.

7. Red means stop. Orange means slow down. Green means look and go.

Just because the signal shows green does not mean you can close your eyes and pass. Look out for that late guru trying to sneak out, rickshaw and taxi walas for whom signals don’t apply, ST buses and simply ignorant pedestrians. Whatever happens, do the right thing here. The car 20 meters behind you might remind you 10 seconds before the light turns green that you should start crawling, by continuously honking. Don’t get intimidated by it, and of course, don’t do it yourself.

8. Allow pedestrians to cross

It is very easy to forget pedestrians when one is driving, not letting them pass over zebra crossings, dangerously cutting them in traffic etc. A little bump of your one plus tonne car is all it takes to seriously injure them. What’s more? To save a couple of seconds, you might actually cause a lot of harm to both people and machine, causing longer delay, unnecessary fights, even loss of life. Show patience to people on foot/bicycles.

Also, several villages and towns (and their people) are notorious for being lawless and getting violent if you are involved in a mishap regardless of wrong doer. Your best policy is to drive cautiously in rural places.

9. Be extra careful on empty/low traffic two way roads and blind corners

It is possible that a heavy vehicle just down the curve is merrily driving in between the road, overtaking another heavy vehicle or a joyous motorcyclist cornering at high speeds drifting in the wrong lane. Low traffic can retard your reaction time and it is very easy to misjudge the safe speed for a corner. A lot of these factors make blind corners an usual spot for unfortunate events. Have that on the back of your mind and slow down on unsuspecting blind corners.

10. Concrete vs Asphalt roads

Our highways are a mix of asphalt and concrete roads. The grip levels change a lot as you move from asphalt to concrete, so does the noise and your overall confidence in turns. Get used to of the concrete roads before going into a high speed corner as the tires are more likely to lose traction on concrete roads, especially in rains.

11. Check your tires and tire pressure before hitting the road

No matter what you drive and how many safety check boxes your ride ticks. In the end, it is how the rubber mates with the road that makes the most difference. Unsurprisingly, mishaps involving tire burst are mostly due to worn out or under or over inflated tires. Make sure you check the recommended pressure for your particular tires (on driver side door panel) and check the pressure of each tire. It hardly takes 5 minutes, but can be the difference between a safe ride home and a blowout in the middle of the road, possible loss of control. Not to mention the better fuel economy you get by running on recommended pressure figures. The thread depth is an important factor for safe grip levels in rainy driving conditions.

12. Most motorists are nice

Just another (arguable) subjective observation; most people on roads, just like you and me, are good people who simply want to get to their destination safely, without worries. Most are willing to help if they spot anybody in trouble. Most follow the traffic rules, drive safely and won’t even come to your notice. But it is for the few outlaws due to whom you have to assume everyone on the road is crazy. That way, you can keep yourself safe. Not only that, knowing that most people are good citizens, just like you, will make it easier for you to ask for help or even help someone in need on the roads.

13. Music is nice, but loud music can exhaust you faster and retard your reaction time

The title says it all. It is proven that loud music retards your reaction time, which is critical when dealing with an emergency. At 120kmph, a delay of 1 second in reaction time can mean traveling 100 extra feet down the road, which can be the difference between stopping at a safe distance from an emergency and becoming part of one. Also, the calmer and quieter the music, the longer you can stay fresh and continue driving, as opposed to taking frequent brakes every 50 kilometers or so due to exhaustion of your mental resources.

14. Finally, in midst of all this, don’t forget to enjoy the journey

While crossing the ghats, it was raining heavily in some places. Once I even had to slow down to almost crawling speed due to the heavy rains and water saturating on the sides of the road. Although it was a pretty tensed situation, I think I was pretty lucky to have witnessed that cloudburst there, which made all vehicles turn on their hazard lights and look like fireflies on the streets, surrounding mountains covered with thick clouds and cool breeze all around.

What I really want to say is, the roads will never be without surprises, but keep an open mind and you and your passengers will be greeted with the best vibes that mother nature has to offer. Safety first, but make sure not to miss out on the beautiful journey because of the few negatives. I have already fallen in love with the roads of India, and man! they’re addictive. Once you get the taste of long driving your beautiful ride through the various terrains this country has to offer, there’s no going back. Here’s our Zacky in all her glory.

That’s all for this little guide. Thank you for reading!

Trek To Brahmatal (Uttarakhand)

Hello! It has been more than a month since I shared something here. Although there has not been much, I’d like to share my experiences of the trip I went on last month. It was one of those trips that I’d remember for a very long time.

Since our first trek in the Sayadri ranges in January 2016, I and my friends had this big wish to go on a Himalayan trek. Finally, in October last year, we decided that Bramhatal would be it. (Not embedding maps because it was too much effort. Also, heavy images ahead. May take some time to load. Patience!)

There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, it was an easy trek. The only real challenge was a bit of high altitude sickness, but it was marginal. Secondly, it was the same group that we went to Sandhan Valley with, so there was this trust factor. Thirdly, it was scheduled for January, hence there was no chance it would coincide with our term tests.

We started preparing for the trek from November, regularly running 5kms to increase our stamina. We also booked our train tickets, to and fro. Then the long wait began. It was my first trip out with friends and I was really excited. We literally spoke about it every single day in college, all 4 of us. We were scheduled to depart on 21st January to Delhi. The last week was the most difficult. I couldn’t sleep at night, for the thoughts of what was about to come kept me awake. I’m sure Ankit, Manasi and Jyotirmay felt the same. Last two days were reserved for shopping and packing. Not much though, since we were not going to bath for the next 10 days anyway!

Saturday 21st – The journey to Lohajung

Finally the day came, it was a Saturday. I took my 13kg backpack and left for Thane where all four of us met. We had to leave for Delhi that day. So we left for Hazrat Nizamuddin from Mumbai Central. The journey was a bit hectic, for our seats were separate and the train was crowded with unreserved passengers. But the views outside the train made up for that. Really enjoyed the transition from a comfortable 27 degree Celsius in Mumbai to a chillish 15 something in Delhi. We got down by 7 in the evening, and then by the Metro, we headed for the ISBT bus station, from where we were to board a bus for Kathgodam, Uttarakand. Had some Palak Paneer at the bus stand and boarded the bus. The bus journey was comfortable enough, but the cold wasn’t. By the time we reached Kathgodam at 6 in the morning, the temperature had already dropped below 10. The coldest I had ever experienced. I was shivering like I never did before. Talking was not possible because my facial muscles had just refused to coordinate.

Just 20 meters away from where the bus stopped, we met other guys from our trek. There was a jeep awaiting us, which would take us from Kathgodam to Lohajung (our base village), a little town in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, a ten hour drive through the ghats, terrifying and nauseating. Trust me when I say this, it was a very beautiful town. Look just about anywhere and you’d have a wallpaper like scenery, old houses, beautiful people and snow covered peaks in the background. And it was cold. I believe it was 6-7 degrees when we reached there. Walking barefoot on the floor wasn’t possible. The water would numb your hands if you dared to touch it, so washing face was out of question right away. We were welcomed with hot Pakodas and tea. The food there was surprisingly good. Great Dal, Rotis and Sabzi. Rice and a sweet dish at the end. So our trek leader briefed us about the next day. We had to start early in the morning to reach the Bekatal lake by afternoon. We were introduced to the kitchen staff who would carry all the heavy equipments on Donkeys (Kachhars) and make us good food throughout the trek. Also, we had a local guide, Ranjeet dada, who, in spite of being a Redhat Linux certified professional, preferred to be around the mountains rather than Linux boxes. A really cool guy who loved to talk and tell stories. He runs his own ISP in the Van village of Chamoli, and had quite a lot of knowledge about networking and *nix in general. We packed our stuff, and went to bed early.

Tuesday 24th – Trek to Bekatal

We started at 8 am, after having a good breakfast. It was through the town, walking on mud roads to the top. It was not difficult, but exhausting. We continued to walk for some 6 hours that day, taking short breaks every 5-10 minutes, occasionally taking long breaks. We had to ascend some 1000-1500 feet on that day, on a trail of some 5kms. We reached the camp by 2 and were given Rhododendron juice. It was too good, and addictive too. Drank some three glasses of it before I had to stop myself from refilling the fourth time. Then it was lunch and we rested in our tents for a while then. In the evening, we went to explore the Bekatal frozen lake nearby. Seeing a frozen lake is a magical experience. It was just like the one Bear Grylls features on his show ‘Man vs Wild’. It was awesome!

At night, we lit up a bonfire for some heat and had fun around it, all of us. We were served dinner around it (which we insisted since we didn’t want to go away from fire). The food was great and guess what, they made us dessert at 9,500 feet. It was fruit custard, and it was delicious. We chit chatted around the fire after dinner and at around 10, we were served ‘hot drinks’. No, it wasn’t alcohol, but Bournvita. It was delicious.

Wednesday 25th – Trek to Bramhatal

We started early again. Had a good shit (seriously, a challenge in the woods ;P), brushed my teeth and had breakfast. Left for Bramhatal. After an even more exhausting day, we reached Bramhatal. The routine was the same on reaching, juice, lunch, rest, tea and then we set out to explore Bramhatal which was some 15 minutes away from the camp. It was beautiful. The night was similar, with bonfire and good food. The next day was summit day.

Thursday 26th – Summit day

It was the Republic Day. We did our morning rituals and gathered near the India Hikes campers. We hoisted the Tricolor, sang the national anthem and took some photographs. We were some 25-30 people together, and it definitely was the most memorable Republic day mornings ever. We then started the walk to the summit. It was at 12,500 feet, and the thinness of air was evident. It was not the longest walk, but definitely the most tiring. We kept walking and at around 12, we reached the summit. It was the top of a mountain, snow covered, surrounded by grasslands on three sides and Himalayan ranges on the fourth. One can see Mt. Trisul (22,000 feet) and Nanda Gunti (19,000 feet) from the summit. It was a clear day and we made full use of it. We hoisted the tricolor again on the summit and took pictures.

The descend took some two hours, and we reached the camp by 3. The rest of the day was just usual stuff and the next day was back to basecamp, Lohajung. It would have not been any more interesting from here, if it wasn’t for the sudden snowfall that started when we were about to go to bed. The temperature dropped to 2 degrees and we were all dancing, when it began to snow. We ran into our tents and slept, assuming we were covered!

The Tricolor on the summit. Nanda Gunti on the left and Trisul on the right!

Friday 27th – Back to Lohajung

So that night, at around 1.30, the tent broke down. The weight of the snow on top of it was too much for it to handle, and it fell on our faces. The ice cold surface of the tent was touching my forehead and nose, but I only woke up at 5 am. My reflex was to call for help, believing that the tent has got buried under the snow. Thankfully it wasn’t exactly buried, but just broken. We spent the next two hours holding the tent with one hand and trying to sleep. It was terrifying!

Daylight made its way in, and we tried to open the tent to see the situation outside. It was seriously frightening, for the grasslands and plains that we saw a day ago had all vanished and replaced by dead white snow. It was snowing so heavily that it took me an additional 15 minutes to gather courage to move out of the tent to take a dump. That was the most daring shit I had ever taken; a foot of snow, chilly winds and -6 degrees. It was nature at its best and worst, simultaneously.

I spoke to our leader and casually told, ‘No way we’re going to descend in this weather, right?’. He said we have to, no options. We cannot survive here. My heart sank. He told us to get ready in 30 minutes and we did. Slowly, gathering courage, we started walking in that foot deep snow, following the footsteps of the person in front. Snow was getting collected on our shoulders and bags and it felt great, but also added weight and had to be shaken off. It was probably the bravest thing I had ever done, walking on the slopes with snow hitting my face on one side but maintaining the balance so that I don’t slip and go sliding all the way down a thousand feet. It was for real.

This went on and on for the next 7-8 hours, which were quite easily the toughest 8 hours of my life, slipping and falling multiple times and thinking ‘I don’t want to die here’ to myself. My shoes, socks and pants were all wet, and my hands had become numb due to the snow. Our faces had turned blue. Finally, we reached the base camp at about 4. I took a bath since I was feeling very, very dirty. It was a bad decision, because after that I was shivering so much that my mouth just lost any coordination that was left. It was all kha-kha-kha-khaana ki-ki-kither ha-ha-hai. It was fun. I slept for some time then. I woke up to a great non veg dinner, Gulab Jamuns and more Bournvita.

After dinner, the entire team had a good chat. We were given ‘High Altitude Trekkers’ badge for completing the trek, and ranked amongst ourselves who performed the best on the trek. Then it was story time by Ranjeet dada who shared some of his experiences and the lifestyle of the people in that area. Amazing.

Saturday 28th – Back to Kathgodam

The next morning, we had some Maggie and black tea, took some group pictures with the staff. They packed out bags on the top of a similar jeep and we set out for Kathgodam. It was better this time, since I enjoyed the scenery and didn’t feel nauseated. Just and hour before reaching, we learned that our train got canceled. We took the public transport buses, and started our journey back to Delhi. We reached Delhi at around 2 in the morning.

Sunday 29th – A day in Delhi

Knowing the reputation of Delhi, we decided to spend the night at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, so we took a cab from ISBT to Hazrat Nizamuddin and spent some time there, in the waiting room, which was already filled up to the brim. Here we got a chance to freshen up for the upcoming day, so we used it. At around 6 am, we kept our huge backpacks in the cloak rooms, taking the essentials with us, we started our Delhi expedition. We explored a lot of good places that day; Connaught Place, Guru Bangla Sahib, Raj Path, Jan Path, Rapid Metro (Gurgaon), JNU campus (just outside), Hauz Khas village, Chandni Chawk, Red Fort and then back to Hazrat Nizamuddin, in that order. We boarded the Deheradun express that night and reached Mumbai early morning on Tuesday.

Seriously, what a trip!

A Visit To The Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

So in the last week of July, 23rd, on a Saturday, I was wondering what should be done tomorrow, Sunday that is. It was going to be my last weekend in Delhi, and I wanted to make it memorable. I had the option to spend the evening with my colleague, but I also had the option to visit Taj Mahal. I had always admired Taj Mahal, I mean, who doesn’t. This was my chance to visit it. It somehow felt like I’ve earned it.

And visiting Taj Mahal was not just important because I really wanted to see it, but because I was scared to go all alone to Agra to see it. I was really scared to go there, and the entire Saturday afternoon I was thinking, Taj Mahal can be visited anytime, let me just spend some time with my colleagues, for they might not be there always. But deep within, I knew that the only reason I didn’t want to go was because I was scared. I was scared of going all alone to Agra, a foreign city which I knew nothing more than the name itself. Let’s see. If I manage to wake up early, I’ll think of going I said, and slept.

Sunday, 24th July, here is a page from my diary.

Woke up at 6. Plan was to go to Taj Mahal but knew nothing above it, how to go, where to take train (from). Nothing.
Thought ‘let’s go to sleep, will call Sukhpreet and make a plan later. Taj Mahal can be visited anytime.’ But something kept telling me this opportunity won’t knock twice, and years later, you’ll remember this decision. Or you won’t.
Anyway, got ready, (had) bread sandwiches (the cheese ones) and got going. Took metro to Rajiv Chawk and then changed to blue line for Indraprasta. Rickshaw to H. Nizamuddin station and then Mangala express.
Right now sitting in the sleeper boogie with general ticket with earphones in my ears and writing this piece.
All of a sudden, I feel so courageous, so different. This day is going to be awesome, I can already feel it.

Awkward selfie.

By the way, I randomly saw the train standing on the platform ready for departure. I went and sat in a reserved coach with IInd class tickets.

And you can bet it was an awesome day. A great weather in Agra welcomed me, and quickly got along with a great person there. He was the rickshaw driver, whom I paid Rs. 500 for a day’s rent which included

Station -> Hotel (for lunch)
Hotel -> Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal -> Agra Fort
Agra Fort -> Shopping center
Shopping center -> local Hanuman temple
Temple -> another-shopping place
Shopping place -> Agra station

Amazing. Bought a Saree for mom, which was handmade with bamboo threads by the prison workers! Also some petha.

On my way back, did the same thing. Went and sat in the first train I could spot going towards Delhi; in the reserved compartment; with a second class ticket. But not so lucky this time. The TC fined me with Rs. 300, but also gave me the seat, so I guess it went okay. Reached my flat by around 9:30.

All in all, a great one day trip. I feel it isn’t necessary to describe Taj Mahal here, but the experience, the people and the difference of cultures was just amazing. That day, I was so proud of myself, can’t describe it here. Closing this essay with a quote I read somewhere and only believed on that day, Working makes you money, but traveling makes you rich.