Auroville: A Sustainable Serendipity

[Some of you, I know, will disagree with what I think about Auroville, and I agree that every place has multiple facets. Please treat this perspective as that of a traveller’s, rather than as a settler’s. An Aurovillian might be able to guide you better, in case you are looking to settle there for long term.]

*Alert: Long-post*

“Of places that are, by their very nature of being, like the introverts of the society.
Of places, that do not vie for our attention.
Of places, that are tucked in a corner in an unfathomable glee of their own.
Of places that make no effort to please you, but if it happens to like you, then they open a  whole new world for you.”
Of places like Auroville.
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Categories: Auroville | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Tatkal Passport: The Story Of Annexure ‘F’

Of the documents needed for getting a passport made under Tatkal Scheme in India, there is one called ‘verification certificate’. It is referred to as Annexure F. Rightly named so. You will soon see why.

For the uninitiated, this is a document that is needed compulsorily, and can only be signed by the bureaucratic elites of the system, who, I am sure fart glitter and poop rainbows. Or ride a unicorn to work, because looks like I know noone who would do the needful for me.

To be specific, these are the unicorns people who can sign your verification certificate, according to the website.

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Categories: How To, Tips & Tricks | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Travelling Solo: How and Why?

Do you have that one friend who when you look at, you wonder how he/she travels to places unheard of and comes back with beautiful stories, while you get agitated even if there is a detour on your regular route to work some day?

What does it really take to travel solo? Are travellers born with a special nerve that helps them live the life they want? Looks like, it is not so. Continue reading

Categories: How To | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Eating Out in Auroville

[During my trip to Auroville, I stayed at Aspiration community guest-house. The fact that this guest-house itself provides very appetizing meals made it almost difficult for me to try out other restaurant/cafeterias without guilt weighing me down. That said, I did manage to tuck in food and ‘tea’ from other eateries, in copious amount.
My partner-in-crime for most of these expeditions was Marie Stickdorn, from Germany. I couldn’t have asked for more adventurous a soul to share my ‘chai(s)’ with.]

Food at most of the establishments at Auroville looks surprisingly like any home-cooked meal; with little or no effort of commercial dressing up. The practice, in my opinion, is also symbolic of focus on core content of the food. Most of the places at this township are either vegetarian only, or have a vegan-friendly section in the menu-card.

Auroville has soil-to-soul approach towards food, thereby redefining affordability as more than a monetary concept.The abundant availability of fresh raw material keeps the food nutritionally, as well as flavorfully alive. This red-soiled, beautiful township is full of places that celebrate various cuisines with equal enthusiasm. One just needs the will to saunter around and eat.

[Traveller’s tip: Buy yourself the official map for Auroville. It is one of the most organized maps I have seen while travelling in India, and has contact-details for many of these places given behind the map. It can be bought from the visitor’s center.

Also, there is something called Auro-card, which is used to make payments in quite a few AV establishments. (Some places accept payment only through Auro card. If you are staying in Auroville for a not-so-short trip, your guesthouse might issue you one.)

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Categories: Auroville, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shimla: A Room With A View (Photoblog)

Posting a couple of my favorite images I clicked in Shimla.

If you look closely, both the side panels together read “A Story Called Shimla”. The city was the summer-capital for British India. It currently, is the capital for the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh. From my perspective, it also happens to be one of the most densely packed of the hill-stations in the country. It also happens to be the city and roads with deadliest of curves.
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Categories: Picture story | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Chitrashala: A Museum In The Clouds

[Chitrashala is a museum dedicated to the Indian graphic arts. It is a part of a boutique hotel property called ‘Te Aroha’in scenic Uttrakhand. Te Aroha and Chitrashala are labor of love from Sumant BatraA Borrowed Backpack is happy to have been in conversation with him. This is the maiden interview for Chitrashala, which is open for public since 19th March 2014. (Co-incidentally, it is the maiden post in the interview format for A Borrowed Backpack too.)
It is enriching to discover the thoughts behind the magical union of intellect and passion.]

ABB: A private museum, that is uncommon, how did the thought occur to you?
Sumant Batra: It is not uncommon in developed countries for collectors to structure and institutionalize their collections, interests or hobbies into private museums. Hobbies, if structured creatively, can benefit the society at large in research, education, recreation, preserving culture and heritage. In India, we are yet to realize the significance of museums. Museums play a very key role in development of societies. There are very few public museums. Private collectors hold their collections close to their heart. But I am glad to note that many avid collectors are now institutionalizing their hobbies and have set up private museums or galleries. Look at Kiran Nadar, Tarun Thakral and Aditya Arya. Tarun Thakral and Aditya are pursuing their passions more keenly now. For me, Chitrashala is a humble effort to preserve and conserve the Indian vintage graphic art, which is a national treasure as it forms a priceless part of our cultural heritage and history. It would be unfair to keep the others deprived of access to my collection for research, education or visual delight. Hence, the museum.

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Categories: Entrepreneurship, Uttarakhand, Uttranchal | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

MTB Shimla 2014: Trailblazing At 7000 Feet

[This post follows the picture-story post on the event. Here is the link to it.]

11th April, 2014
I was just about to call it a day and hit the sack, when a voice within me suggested that I check my e-mail. I did. The inbox had a mail from the organizer’s of MTB Shimla 2014. It said that if I wanted to be a part of the event, I needed to show up at Shimla before evening the succeeding day.

Delhi to Shimla is a 14 hours journey. How I managed to show up is a story for another day, but I am glad I did.

11th April, 2014.
Hotel Holiday Home, Shimla.
I reached the venue, where briefing presentation for MTB Shimla 2014 was in progress. The room was packed with bikers, volunteers, management-team and the excitement each one brought along with them. The presentation briefed about the plans for the next two days. Route, itinerary, arrangements, doubts, hopes and fears, all were discussed.

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Categories: Events, Himachal Pradesh | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

MTB Shimla 2014: A Preview

[Dear readers, the photographs used in this post belong to HASTPA- Himalayan Adventure Sports & Tourism Promotion Association. If you like any and would like to use it somewhere, please take permission from HASTPA. The souls at HASTPA are pretty generous and would allow you happily! ]

#MTBShimla2014. The weekend that was!
Here is a sneak-peek into it. While I craft the main blog-post, please savour this.
The event was rife with expectations, determination, excitement, camaraderie in the most scenic, but challenging of back-drops! It had so many stories to tell. So many moments to share!

It roared about friendship:


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Categories: Events, Himachal Pradesh | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Indian Railways: How To Find Out If My PNR Will Get Confirmed Or Not?

This websites seems to be not working. All those of you who have come looking for this information, please scroll through the comments after the posts, too. Some of the startups, dealing with PNR prediction have left the links to their respective websites, and those might help you.

[With this post, I am going to add a new category called ‘technology’ to this blog. All travel related tech-discoveries go here. You are welcome to send your suggestions for the category.]

How many times have you booked train-seats with high, triple digit wait-listed ticket and lost sleep over whether or not would you get through? Or worse, how many times have you booked train-seats with high, triple digit wait-listed ticket and are greeted by a not-so-packed train and wondered what the hoopla was about?
Travel related uncertainties bring helplessness and anxiety by truck-loads. I know this because I go through this kind of anxiety at least 4-5 times a month and that is how I discovered this tech-related-awesomeness!

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Categories: How To, Technology, Train-journeys | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Highway Story-3


Date: 13-04-2014
Location: Haryana Roadways bus, the non-AC one.  Boarded from Shimla, for Delhi at 09:00 pm.

I was too tired after a busy weekend in Shimla, and wanted to sleep though my journey the minute I boarded the bus. Unfortunately, it was being driven by maniac of a driver, thanks to whom, for the first time in my life I felt giddy on a hilly terrain.
Anyway, as the road ahead gradually lost its deadly-curves, I drifted off to sleep. The bus reached Chandigarh and I woke up briefly to change my sitting position and went back to sleep again.

Meanwhile, a guy boarded from Chandigarh. Would refer to him as Sir Chandigarh for this post. Must be around 33-35 years of age.

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Categories: Highway Tales, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab | Tags: | 5 Comments

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