Thursday, January 30, 2014

2013 - An year of Achievments

2013 seemed to get over so quickly. May be because it was so eventful.

Memories from 2013

  • Started the year with some jungle adventure - driving at night through thick forest full of wild animals at zero visibility and sub zero temperature near Nepal boarder and feeling the fear while leopard was hunting very near to us at Sathiana in Dudhwa... followed by some crazy chasing of pug marks of the "Royal Bengal Tiger"at Bandhavgarh
  • Road trip to Spiti with a heterogeneous set of people in June was a good learning experience.
  • Monsoons were great as ever.... celebrated rains with Elite friends at Siliserh and trekked up to Triund and experienced the most stunning landscapes from up above. 
  • Staying with tribals had always been my dream so a visit to Odisha villages was like dream come true. 
  • Closed the year with an awesome bunch of young ladies at Kangra. Flying in the air is something I always enjoy. It was fun jumping from a cliff at Billing (2290 mt). 
Some disappointments in first half of the year led to lots of brain-storming which in-turn led to some great achievements.
-Founded a new division of Chaloletsgo!  In July CLG Elite - an initiative to bring together people who have crossed the middle age and now want to live life their way who believe that the best is yet to come. Getting together, watching movies, traveling, singing along, indulging in hobbies like photography, painting, etc... that’s what we do. "Celebrating Life" is our motto.
- Released our first publication "PUSHKAR – the desert town" in Oct. here's the e-version
The second edition of our annual photography event in Pushkar "Rendezvous with Life" in November reached a new level. More than 1500 people from over 30 countries visited in this 4 day event. 

Met a whole lot of interesting people and added lots of memories!
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A relaxing weekend trip to Lotwara

Comfortable stay, good company, simple fresh food and great hospitality are the ingredients of a relaxing weekend trip for me.

Last weekend I went on a short break with some of our "CLG Elite" friends to a small village in Rajasthan called Lotwara.  The hot masala tea that was served as soon as we drove into the fort was such a relief after a long drive of more than 6hrs in a cold morning of January.

Enjoyed the company of my "Elite" friends

The owner of Lotwara fort, Giriraj Singh ji showed us around the fort that has a history. The place where baithak use to happen, some old family pictures of Rajputanas, lineage of the royal family, his livestock, the plantations, Banganga river bed... it was a different world altogether. While we were taking a round looking at the goshala, the small pond with blue lotus, the hound... our lunch was being arranged. We all digged into the home cooked delicious food... this is exactly what our hungry souls wanted at that moment. Simple food - alu gobhi, dal, raita and hot chapatis served with lots of love satisfied us to the core. We no longer felt the need to take rest... we were all set to explore the area. The warm hospitality is what I like the most about Rajasthan tourism.

Some 7 kms from the fort is Chand Baori. This is one of the oldest and most attractive step wells in Rajasthan. Built by King Chanda of the Nikumbha Dynasty between 800 and 900 AD and was dedicated to Harshat Mata, Goddess of Joy and Happiness upon completion.The step well is around 65ft deep. The intent of Chand Baori was to conserve as much water as possible. At the bottom of the well, the air remains 5-6 degrees cooler than at the surface, and Chand Baori was used as a community gathering place for locals during periods of intense heat. How I wish I could go down the stairs and experience it for myself but the authorities have closed the entry as there had been many accidents recently.

Chand Baori, Abaneri

Just next to it is Harshat Mata Temple. There are many broken structures lying around the temple which locals say are the ruins of some other structures destroyed during the Aurenzeb rule. 

While we were on the way back to the fort we got a call from the kitchen inquiring when will we be back. So nice it was to see hot tea waiting for us when we reached back. After refreshing ourselves we went out to see the village. Well maintained roads, 4 primary and secondary schools, an ITI college, a hospital, a marriage hall - this small village of around 10,000 people is self sufficient. We walked past the market, vendors selling peanuts, shopkeepers winding for the day, families gathered around the fire lit in the courtyards, kids playing around. A happy village it was! So heartening it is to see that our villages progressing fast.

I was amazed to see peacocks roaming around the village so freely... they were all around like we see pigeons here in a city.  Never before have I seen 5 peacocks sharing the same tree along with numerous parrots. Their sound was almost deafening. So thrilled I was to be there around sunset... the ball of fire dipping down and vanishing behind the florescent yellow mustard fields looked marvelous. 

Bon-fire was ready when we reached back. It was fun to be a part of a warm session of gossip and songs along with mungfali and popcorns.

Evening-chat session

I woke up to the loud chirping of birds. Just above my pillow was a small jharokha from where the light was trickling in. It was a very cold morning and everyone else was sleeping but I could not sleep any more. The loud chirping of birds, the cool breeze, the shreak of peacocks all seemed to be calling me.  While on the rooftop of the fort, I realized it was worth giving up the laziness. Perfect start to the day it was!

After a sumptuous breakfast that was served with lots of love and care was enough for us to keep going for another 6 hrs of our travel. The warm hospitality that they offer is the best thing I like about the people of Rajasthan. As suggested by Giriraj ji we visited Jhajurampura on the way. Driving through the green fields of mustard and the remote villages we reached there. It was amazing to see the faith of the crowd there who'd come to take a holy dip in the hot water spring. 

After having a hot cup of ginger tea we started our journey back to the city. I wonder why we have moved away from this simple rural life!

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