An insider’s tips to Pushkar

Some of you may know that I live in Ajmer, a small town in the heart of Rajasthan.  While Ajmer is famous worldwide in its own right because of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty’s dargah. It is made even more famous due to its proximity to Pushkar.

Separated by a narrow stretch of mountain Ajmer and Pushkar while just a few kilometers apart physically are a study of contrasts in their spirit. While Ajmer is laid back, conservative, routine… Pushkar is dynamic, bohemian and full of surprises! It is no wonder then that I love it.

Here is a piece I recently did on Pushkar  at the popular travel blog at Travelyari. Do check it out!!

young Shiva – by-Satish-Krishnamurthy



The land of prayers

Ladakh – An unforgettable Road Trip

Hi Folks

I was recently asked by Shivya from The Shooting Star to write a piece for Travelyari. Shivya is one of those bloggers I admire. Young and hard-working, Shivya decided early in life that her heart was in traveling. So she checked out of her well-paying corporate job and became a ‘modern age vagabond’ :) Today she heads a travel company, writes travelogues for newspapers and magazines and generally leads the kind of life that makes people like me ‘jealous’! ;)

The piece that I have written for ‘travelyari’ is about a road trip I took last summer to Ladakh. I hope to follow this up with pieces about the rest of this wonderful journey.

Unforgettable Journey – Srinagar to Kargil by Road

The photographs in the piece have been done by my fellow travelers on the trip! I hope you enjoy the piece.

Here are two photo essays, I had previously posted about the same trip. Check them out. You may like them.

Meeting Red in Ladakh

Lonely in Ladakh

Weekly Photo Challenge – Kiss “The King Who Built The Taj”

The Taj Festival is currently underway and the Valentine’s day has just passed by. The theme for the weekly photo challenge this week is ‘kiss’. What better way to celebrate this spirit of love than with a post dedicated to the monument of eternal love – The Taj mahal

As the old king’s time drew near

What did he think about?

His many conquests and unchallenged might

Wars, victories, moments of pride

Or did he spend his time in deep thought

About the son who he had brought

To this world

The one whose heart

Didn’t shed a tear

When his own brothers he speared

Did he think in anguish

About the time

His favorite’s head was brought to him

On a bejewelled tray

Did he like a father bemoan

Not only the three sons he lost

But also the one who lived

The one, the world called, terribly wicked

Because as any parent knows

What one reaps is what one sowed

Or in his last time

Did he smile

Thinking of the treasured time

He spent with his precious queen

The girl he loved with all his heart

Since the day he sighted her at the ‘haat’

Was he scared

This fearless king

Of what impending death would bring?

Or did he welcome it with open arms

Taking comfort in the fact

That by shedding his body

He’d be free

to  be

re-united with his soul

Did he look forward

To rest his tired limbs

In the majestic  mausoleum he built

The unparalleled Taj


Did he wonder

At the irony

That he who created the mecca of love

Breathed his last

Imprisoned in hate’s custody

Taj at night


Taj Mahal is the most famous and most precious architectural heritage of India. It is standing majestically on the banks of river Yamuna in Agra city of Uttar Pradesh, India. This monument is in white marble and is among the Seven Wonders of the World. On a recent visit to Agra – The city of Taj. We devoted a day to exploring the monument that the Indian classical poet Rabindranath Tagore described as a “tear on the face of eternity” . While the Taj enthralled me what captivated me equally if not more was the tale of Shah Jahan.

The Mughal king who built the Taj Mahal in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz was Shaah Jahan’s third wife. A persian princess, who he had sighted while roaming in the bazaars of Agra. It was a remarkable tale of romance that lasted  a lifetime. When Mumtaz Mahal died while delivering their fourteenth child, Shah Jahan promised to build her the richest memorial  in the world.  It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years. Sometime after her death, Shah Jahan undertook the task of erecting the world’s most beautiful monument in the memory of his beloved. It took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct the monument.This magnificent monument came to be known as “Taj Mahal” and now counts amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. Later Shah Jahan was overthrown by his own son Aurangazeb and imprisoned in the Red Fort within sight of the Taj Mahal. Aurangazeb killed his three brothers including Shah jahan’s favored, Dara Shikoh, and was forced to spend the last eight years of his life in prison till his death in 1666. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his body was placed in a tomb next to the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal.

While soaking in the majesty of Taj, my eyes kept wandering to the silhouette of the Red Fort. And my mind to the man behind this remarkable story. What did the imprisoned Shah Jahan  see from those windows? What did he think about? What did he feel, as his own death approached. Did he have any regrets? Or was he just happy to be ‘free’ again? 

Taking off – The Jaipur Literature Festival

I am a festival person! I am not particularly religious ! And still or maybe that’s why I like to celebrate all festivals. Even the lesser known ones like sakrant, gangaur, lohri, etc. etc. But there is one festival that tops my list – The Jaipur Literature festival. I’ve been going there since the last four years. Its grown from a cosy, unpretentious affair to a large prestigious event and still the spirit remains the same. It’s still at core a book lover’s paradise.

Book stalls to browse in, famous authors to listen to, undiscovered writers to meet with, endless cups of coffee over never-ending discussions, soaking in the sun while listening to Kabir’s dohas or Gulzar ji’s poems, and tons of good literary vibes!

This week I am taking off from the blog to attend the festival. Along with the Dalai lama This is the list of speakers expected at the festival this year. Here is the five-day program in detail.

The Greatest Literary Show on Earth!” -Tina Brown

So now that I’ve given you a sneak peek into the treat I am heading for…. Ta da! will be back with some new ideas and  lots of inspiration :)

The Jungles of Satpura – First trip in the New Year

We wait with bated breaths as the leopard looks at us. Directly, fearlessly, his spotted coat shining in the evening sun. A little distance off a deer grazes unmindful of the danger that lurks.  Held in the hackles of the leopard’s intense gaze we stand still in our tourist gypsy hoping to get a glimpse of the swift cat preying. After two endless minutes of breathless silence the leopard breaks the hold of his gaze, gets up swiftly and disappears in the knee-length grass. We snap out of the trance and the cameras begin to click again. Its our first day at the jungles of Satpura in Central India. We have already spotted the Chausingha (a four horned deer ) considered to be a rarer sight than a leopard in this sanctuary, an amazingly cute sloth bear while he was out termite hunting and uncountable number of deer, bisons and wild boars.


With bated breath we watch as the leopard looks at us

A sambhar watches us

A sambhar watches us

Ours is a large group of  seven adults, and four children ranging from three to nine years. We have taken a fourteen hour train journey from Ajmer,  and a four-hour car ride riddled with frustrating train crossing stops from Bhopal to spend the first few days of the new year at the Satpura wild life sanctuary as a  gift to ourselves. Its our first day here and we are already happy.

The sun rises on river Sonbhadra and

The sun rises on the backwaters of Tawa Dam. We took a boat everyday to reach the sanctuary.

The Giant Indian squirrel makes her first appearance to us

The Giant Indian squirrel introduces herself to us

The phones don’t work, there is no electricity or television in our fancy resort and yet we know this is going to be a holiday to remember. We are closer to nature than we’ve ever been. Sure we’ve been to Ranthambore, more than a couple of times and seen the tiger up close. But compared to those jungles the expansive jungles of  Satpura seem wild and untouched. The tourists are  fewer, the naturalists who accompany us more passionate and informed and even the driver who drives us more environment conscious. In all my trips to Ranthambore I have never come across a driver who stops the car to pick up a really (and I mean a really ) small sliver of blue plastic some careless tourist has allowed to drop in the jungle.

Surrounded by tribal girls at a forest rest house

Surrounded by tribal girls at a forest rest house

A gaggle of comb ducks looks on

A gaggle of comb ducks looks on

Here at Satpura, most tourists come in to see the big cats but end up  falling in love with the lesser known but equally fascinating winged residents. We understand why, as we are lovingly introduced to the sanctuary’s many birds – the orange breasted thrush, the oriental magpie robin, ,  the white breasted kingfisher, the magpie robin, the black ibis, the jungle babbler, the sun bird, the crested serpent eagle and the woodpecker among many others. The long graceful tail of the paradise fly-catcher takes our breath away and the incessant song of the “did you do it” bird has us in splits! the children listen in rapture as they are told the difference between the fish owl and the jungle owlet  and taught how to identify a high-flying bird by the way it flaps its wings.

field notes satpura 1

Field notes – enlisting the names of birds we saw Satpura

field notes satpura

Some more birds we saw in the jungles

In all we spend three days in Satpura. Going to the jungle every morning only to emerge for lunch and return again in the afternoon till the park closes for the night. We take many jeep safaris, a long boat safari and a very memorable elephant safari, when we ride on the back of “Priya”.  Priya’s daughter “Lakshmi”, a one and a half-year old baby elephant accompanies us on the walk , much to the delight of the children. Like any toddler she keeps getting into mischief, stopping to smell a fresh clump of grass or wavering off the path to examine something new that interests her, much to Priya’s chagrin. Lakshmi’s patience gives way just as the safari is about to finish. She sets off full speed running to the base camp, all the while beseeching her mother to hurry up behind her. Much like a human child, expecting a treat at the end of a long walk, she just can not wait for the walk to end.  We treat her to fresh apples, which she accepts politely from the children, all the while using her trunk to tickle their faces and play with them. They are charmed and so are we!

The baby elephant 'Lakshmi' follows us as we set out for the jungle safari

The baby elephant ‘Lakshmi’ follows us as we set out for the jungle safari

A sloth bear crosses our path as it goes termite hunting

A sloth bear crosses our path as it goes termite hunting

My favorite moments –  Though  seeing the leopard was special, of course! The moments I will treasure forever are many more. Like the one when I saw for the first time the giant Indian squirrel. I watched amazed as the orange and grey cutie jumped from one tree top to another almost giving the impression it was flying. Or the time we stumbled upon a group of dragonflies nesting on a slender tree stalk as we crossed them centimeters away on the back of our elephant.  Another minute that is etched in my memory is when the crocodile we had been filming from our boat realized we were too close for comfort, gave a loud alarm like siren, did a sudden flip in the air and dove into the river millimeters from our boat. The moment we took our first look at the breath-taking ruins of an old Shiva temple estimated to be more than thousand years old by the local tribals. Or the time, on our third day, when during the boat safari my seven-year old son pointed out to three birds sunning on a sand rift saying” Mom look! a Grey heron,  a Black Cormorant and an Egret.

"Look Mom a grey heron, an egrid and a black Courmaint"

“Look Mom a Grey Heron, an Egret and a Black Cormorant”

"You're too close for comfort" - This croc said before she plunged into the river

“You’re too close for comfort” – This croc said before she plunged into the river

Yes Satpura was magical. The days were spent in the jungle, the evening were used to star gaze and hear experts speak passionately about the mating habits of the frog or the dragonflies. We saw a silk farm, studied rock paintings of Bhimbetka and met Jingles and Bhalu – pet dogs at the resort. The food was good but the conversations were even better. There were no phones, television, not even face book, twitter or the newspaper to encroach upon our time with nature. Three days of complete relaxation and infinite learning , just the right way to begin the year.

Temple ruins in the jungle estimated to be more than 1000 years old

Temple ruins in the jungle estimated to be more than 1000 years old

Setting for dinner in the bush

Setting for dinner in the bush

Location: Located in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh

Getting there: Madhai – where we stayed takes three to four hours by car from Bhopal. We reached early morning by train to Bhopal and stopped en route at Bhimbetka to reach Madhai by noon

We stayed at : Forsyth’s Lodge, Madhai, Satpura

Weekly Photo Challenge : “solitary” Lonely in Ladakh – A photoessay

Solitary – Alone – lonely – by oneself! The weekly photo challenge this week is ‘Solitary’ . All photographs in this album have been clicked  by my travel companions and me during our recent trip to Ladakh! Here are some of our other photo essays on Ladakh

Other posts on ‘solitary’

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  3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitude « Anecdotal Tales
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  23. Solitary Becomes | A Rich, Full Life In Spite of It
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Travel Theme : Texture – ed forever

The theme this week at Where’s my backpack is texture. I’ve again delved into the “Ladakh files” for these photographs. while some capture only textures, others capture everyday life and subjects against textures!

Other Textures at where’s My backpack

Travel Theme: Red ” Meeting ‘Red’ in Ladakh” – A photoessay

With snow-capped mountains, bearing the onslaught of bitter cold winds, overlooking desolate deserts, The Ladakh region, in India has one of the starkest topographies anywhere in the world. On a recent trip to the region I discovered that the barren moonscape terrain has been clothed in colors of Life. ‘Red’ being the chief among them! This photo essay is an attempt to showcase the ‘Red’ signifying – religion, faith, tenacity, innocence, friendship, protection, respect, grandeur  – of life in Ladakh

The theme this week at Where’s my Backpack?  is ‘Red’. Hope you enjoyed my composition. Do visit other entries at

Travel theme: Sunset – A photo essay

The setting sun at coorg

Tell me O wise one!

Is there anything as sublime

as breath taking as

the sight of the setting sun?

Sunset at the sand dunes near Khimsar, Rajasthan

Each time the sun goes down

on this beautiful golden desert town
fervently to the sky they raise their hands

sending a million prayers up
For peace, prosperity and mercy

on their barren yellow land

Khimsar, Rajasthan

The night fairy beckons

the day monster’s gone

Bathed in glow I wait

For twilight’s melodious song

Sunset at Andamans

Dark clouds

part your heavy veil
grant me
one last long look of this  vale


The one whose pallet holds

so many shades of gold

Can you even fathom

what his soul may behold


Bereft of hues

still splendid

the incandescent sun

takes leave


As my darling we part

give me a last lingering touch

The morning we will begin anew

our never ending love


‘My Sun’ it never leaves me

His bright chatter fills every moment of my day

The setting sun doesn’t perturb me

I  listen rapturously to what ‘My Sun’ has to say

The theme at Where’s my backpack?‘ this week was Sunset. I have a million pictures of the sunset. Its one of those things of nature I can never get enough of. These are the few I picked from my old photographs. Hope you enjoy them!

Weekly photo challenge : “Fleeting Moments”

For what is a traveller?

If not A Collector of Fleeting Moments ….

The photographs in this post were taken on our road trip to leh – Ladakh. this summer. This is the first cut, random shots , clicked through the window of our car………..

As most of you know, I barely know my way around a camera. These snaps have been clicked by my travel mates : my cousins – Shilpa and Abhinav and the hubby : Siddharth. You will see many more of their shots in the next few days. right now we are deluged with unopened baggage , unread mails, undone homework and unsorted photographs!!!! In that order. Nice as the holidays were, Very glad to be back! see you all soon

Also check out other entries on fleeting moments

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  27. Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment 2 | My Sardinian Life | La Mia Vita Sarda
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  40. Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting Moment III « The Wanderlust Gene
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