Main story 1. Excitement in the air

All sporting events are tagged with a festive element that goes up with the rusticity of the setting. On the gaiety front – counting out the induced ones – few compare with the desert competitions of Rajasthan or the traditional water games of Goa. The snakeboat race of Kerala takes it up by another notch being a backwater sport. At a broader level, this spectacle too symbolises, like most other rural events, the triumph of the human will over the vagaries of nature. And my journey to Alleppey for the …

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The still before the storm

The bunds that hold back the lake water from overrunning adjoining paddy fields glisten in trepidation. Rain trees canopies a calm that quivers in anticipation. Palm fronds hold their breath. The usually gregarious marsh toads fall uncannily silent, eyes wide and unblinking, lethal tongues sheathed. The cormorant makes several desperate swoops into the water only to come out empty-beaked; the panic probably at odds with its skillful timing. Sturdy hyacinths meekly make way for the houseboat sloshing towards the pier to be moored. Pirogues are manoeuvred deftly and quickly towards …

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Book review: India Junction – A Window to the Nation

This may not exactly be the most opportune time for a book on the Indian Railways, by the Indian Railways, what with the political and passenger angst around the recent fare hike. Then, there may not be a more suitable time either – despite all the allied brouhaha, public awareness on what ails the chugging behemoth is on a never-before high. Reasons and recommendations be divided facts are staring harsh and hard right in the face: To break even, fares need …

A lovely facade - the Duronto

He was occupying my seat – number 33 – when I boarded the Duronto Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Ernakulam on July 5.
“The terrorists were nice?” He asked incredulously into the phone in Malayalam. Now my assigned seat was a window – a good fortune which interminably brightened up my journeys – and I really wanted it back. But catching that bit of conversation put me in two minds: He obviously had something to do with terrorists and Hollywood had taught me that the nicer ones were usually the most …

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The efflorescent shower, marigold garland and crimson tilak – de rigueur of a star-studded hospitality welcome – take valiant moorings when you enter Fort Auwa. Rightly cued, the jeep that picks you up from Marwar Junction stops just short of the yett from where you are requested to proceed on foot allowing the red carpet ceremonies to unfurl in their full sublime import.  A Buick is parked at the far end of the bailey – where Thakur Kushal Singh used to assemble his commanders for strategising attacks against the Mughals …

Ten

The swelling tribe of the solo traveller is no fluke and has more to do with whom you go with than where you go to. Your fellow traveller is unfairly vested with the power to make or mar your trip. To mangle it or make it memorable. A well-travelled fella who isn’t garrulous is a godsend; a brooding hot one and St Christopher is your daddy. Then for most of us a lot of bad karma gets sorted on the road – flat tyres and forgotten luggage, revolting bowels and …

Among the most picturesque

This is one of the most picturesque treks in the country; the irresistible landscape overwhelms even the locals – you will find many of them sitting over a rocky outcrop and admiring the view. Join them for a few memorable minutes, listen to their tales, share yours, take pictures. And continue with a spring in your step, happy having met some of the nicest folks on planet!
The Kuari Pass trek is also known as Lord Curzon’s trail, named after a viceroy of the Raj who was an avid trekker and …

Sur, the Battutian coast

‘It is a fertile land, with streams, orchards, palm gardens and fruit trees of various kinds… has fine bazaars and splendid clean mosques…’ wrote Ibn Battuta in his epic tome, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325 – 1354 about Oman. The only medieval traveller who visited the countries of every Muslim ruler of his time as well as Sri Lanka, China and parts of Russia during the course of his momentous 75,000 mile journey – a feat that remained unsurpassed till the advent of steam engines – Battuta set sail …

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A magical cocktail of people and place, the Har Ki Dun trek will not only bring you up and close with the legendary Garhwal landscape but also with the famed charm and warmth of the pahaaris, the mountainfolk. What might on the surface seem a life of languor, you will soon enough realise to be a fight for survival; fought with courage and ardour, an infectious smile and candour. Walk into a strange village and you might be greeted by umpteen pleas for ‘toffee’ but those outstretched palms clasp firmly …

For the travel/film buff: Filmi Escapes

A review of Lonely Planet’s ‘Filmi Escapes: Travel with the movies’
Leading Hotels of the World, a luxury hospitality consortium, has listed a ‘Midnight in Paris’ package; those who can’t afford the Panoramic Suite which was featured in the Woody Allen movie take pictures of the prestigious Hotel Le Bristol Paris. The New Zealand government gave the producers of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ an unprecedented incentive of US$ 150 million. After the critical acclaim of the 2008 drama ‘In Bruges’ the Belgium town decided to revolve its marketing around the …

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A tailor usually takes pride over the fine cut, the thread even, but Saheb gloated over the fabric.
“This kind of wool you get only in the Garhwal region.” He said running his fingers fondly down the braid of his coat, eyes urging me to do the same. He took a long pull from his beedi through cupped palms before continuing.
“The place has to be beautiful if you want something as pretty as this.” I had found Saheb, a tailor from Taluka, the last motorable point from where you begin the …

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