One way to come out of the writer’s (blogger’s?) block that I seem to suffering from for long, I thought, would be to remember places I have been to and loved being in. So here goes… Chiplun, Dapoli, Anjanwel In Ratnagiri- Maharshtra the multi species forests there are unlike any other I have seen. I don’t think I have seen as many shades of lush green and inhaled such different pleasant aromas in any forest. It was here that I ate crabs for the first time and snails (!) in a Koli village. 

Sea-side cliffs and long stretches of deserted beeches of Sriwardhan, Raigad. I went delirious with joy of having the whole place to myself except for Vasantbhau of Sarvahara Jan Aandolan and picked up beautiful shells by kilos!  

Satkoshia gorge sanctuary, Orissa- pillion riding on a bike, walking along the river Mahanadi was awe-inspiring. I hardly said anything during the entire trip and almost attained nirvana just thinking… almost!  And then daily walks around Sruti’s Orissa Activists’ School Campus in Nuagao in Baisipali sanctuary were great. The food was very bad and I had upset stomach. It was kind of surreal to go for late night loose motion trips into the sanctuary (no loo on campus) and shit amidst thousands of fireflies.  

Khirkot, Almora. My first trip to the mountains. First trip to a place where there were no relatives and I was not part of a large group. We, a classmate during MSW- Ritu and I, pretended to do a social work research project while we just roamed and climbed aimlessly for days in the mountains, chatted up whoever we met, stayed in villages and ate people’s food and barely spent any money. Of course, it helped that people remembered Ritu’s Brahmin family fondly!- they hailed from the region and had lived there a couple of generations ago. 

Laxmi ashram in Kausani, Uttarakhand in a really nice room on first floor of building made entirely of wood. Ritu and I just landed there one evening stupidly without any prior information. They were very decent and put us up for the night but made it clear that they resented having to do so. 

Jabalpur, M.P. my first proper introduction to the beauty of Urdu romantic poetry. It was as if all the guys in my sub-group on this college project trip were immersed in ghazals all the time. We worked hard, travelled 400-500 km on most days in a Mahindra jeep with tattered canvas covers during monsoons… sometimes reaching our base only at two in the morning. Lots of singing, camaraderie, beautiful friendships that continue still- Khalid, Zafar, Sadaf, lots of entertainment provided by people who were falling in love like nine pins! & vegetarian food during the entire trip! 

Sudhi and Deven bhai’s house in a little village in Jhalawar district. Its feels like it’s the last house on earth and there’s just forests beyond. And it has a neat little, well-stocked personal library. 

Hannah’s elevated bamboo hut in Auroville, TN, which was supposed to have not a single nail; the entire thing was made of bamboo tied with coconut husk rope. The furniture consisted of a couple of tin trunks with various Hindu goddesses painted on them serving as corner tables. The auroville thing of ‘the Mother’ and her philosophy left me unconvinced and uncomfortable and I irritated Hannah with lot of arguing. But I was grateful for fresh croissants for breakfast and good pasta with fresh olives for dinner. It was here that I had set my eyes on the sea/ocean for the first time and unlike my first view of the mountains I was not impressed. 

Stay in Magan Sangrahalaya in Wardha, Maharashtra. The town is steeped in all things Gandhian. We saw the kid’s snake club members do their stuff every day with awe, fear and disgust (they went about catching and then collecting fistful of geckos for their snakes to eat! ugghhh!!)  I was really happy with life at the time and talked and sang my heart out while we roamed around in Wardha, Sewagram and Bor wildlife sanctuary, which I think (in retrospect!) really bored my travel mates- Radhika, Sunita and Rajneesh. Sorry, guys! We had great conversations, learnt a lot thanks to Radhika, had fun thanks to Rajneesh, shared good laughs but not cigarettes because though Radhika smoked she didn’t like other people’s smoke L 

I love just being on the move in the deepest and most interior areas and lot of times hate arriving (for reason that is profound enough to merit a separate post of its own; but that later…). Being a development worker for me was an opportunity to travel to most ‘unlikeliest’ of places and; meeting and befriending most remarkable people (there’s another post!).