Binary of Love

Ayush & Riya

“Hey, a new coffee shop has opened just behind my apartment. Looks so inviting and not so crowded as of now. Shall we meet there?” Riya was excited.

“Ok! I will see you outside the coffee shop at 7:30. What’s the name of this place again?”, Ayush was as excited but for a different reason.

“Coffee World, you can never miss it. Its so beautiful. Its just before the cross where you turn left for my apartment. I will see you there”, Riya chirped like a bird who had just learnt flying.

“See you soon babe!”, Ayush said and hung up.

He had returned from his business trip after two weeks and couldn’t wait to tell about the big news to Riya.  She will be so excited. He stared into his laptop with a smile.

Riya smiled too. This new coffee shop, looked so beautiful. It had a surreal look. Unlike usual red & brown coffee shops, it was all done in pastels. A sober lavender name board shone with twinkling lights on the glass door. It was this unusual blend of colors and twinkling lights that had attracted Riya’s attention on her way back to office. A perfect place for a quite, romantic coffee date!

“Let me wait for a few days until Ayush is back. I will go there with him”, she convinced herself. The wait would be worth it.

Riya was ready by 7:30 PM, it was a minute walk for her so she decided to wait until Ayush messaged her, “I am here”. She gave herself a final approving look in the mirror, picked up her clutch and walked off. Riya looked stunning in a peach colored chiffon chudidaar. Her curls that she was growing for a perfect wedding look, almost touched her waist now. They were going to be married in three months! From being college sweethearts to being a married couple soon, their’s had been a typical Bollywood style story. Finding out about each other’s cast or family background was not at the top of their priority list when they fell for each other. Sadly, for their families it was the topmost in the list! A lot of tears, howling and blackmailing went into convincing both families. Riya’s parents had dreamed of getting their daughter married to an IIT graduate and were not willing to settle for anyone less. Ayush wanted to do MBA but under so much of pressure, he could hardly concentrate on his preparation. He couldn’t bear the thought of loosing Riya just because he could not go to an IIT.

Amidst all the drama, Ayush still managed to get himself a place in IIM Ahmadabad. That was the end to it. Both families gave in. Riya & Ayush got engaged among-st close family members before Ayush moved to Ahmadabad for two years. Riya continued with her job in Bangalore. They met a couple of times and also technology helped them to remain in love.

“Hey you look beautiful! I have to tell you something, can’t wait!”, Ayush gave her a warm hug. Holding hands, they walked in the coffee shop. “Isn’t it beautiful? I was dying to come here with you. Now tell me fast, what is it that you have been so eager to tell me?” Riya giggled.

“We are going to have a European honeymoon!” Ayush revealed with a broad smile and widened eyes.

“What? Really? But it was going beyond our budget. Then how?” Riya could not believe her ears.

“We do not have to worry about the money anymore. My trip went very well and our clients want me to work on this project from Eindhoven, Everything has been discussed, and I have to be there as soon as we are married. I have already discussed about your travel and its all finalized babe. Imagine, we will be living in Netherlands for next two years, we could travel to any place we want!” Ayush gave out all the details in a single breath.

“Wow! That’s great Ayush! I am so so happy. But my job? I can’t leave it, its just been 2 years”, Riya was happy at the prospect of living in Europe but the thought of leaving her job suddenly and making such a big move was making her nervous.

“Yes, I thought about it too. And then I realized that you could do your Masters there. You always wanted go for higher studies and then you will easily get a job there. We could start applying now!” Ayush had everything figured out.

“Looks like you have not slept in the flight and were just making plans about our European honeymoon”, Riya winked at him. What a twist in their life, but a beautiful one!

“Sir, maam, your coffee and cookies” their happy banter was interrupted by the coffee boy.

Snow white coffee mugs were arranged so beautifully and the hearts on top of the foaming coffee intertwined with each other. Ayush & Rhia gave each other a huge smile and picked up their mugs!

Srini & Vidya

“Did they like it? It looked very cheesy to me. I hope they are really in love otherwise we would end up like fools and they will never come back here”, Vidya complained to Srini who had just served coffee with hearts to their new customers.

“Off course they loved it. Look at their smiles. I heard honeymoon, I think they are getting married. I am the best Ms. Vidya. You just need to trust me”, Srini declared with pride. He was the associate manager & coffee boy of the shop and Vidya worked at the shop’s bakery. The newly wed couple were dreaming big in this small coffee shop. Srini had made plans. After gaining enough experience in the coffee shop, he wanted to start off with his own coffee house. Vidya was an expert baker but they needed to save before starting off on their own.

Coming from a below average background, Srini & Vidya had seen hardships of life and were determined to follow their dreams together. They spent their entire day at the coffee house returning home tired and just crashing into the bed, in their modest one room apartment.

Srini possessed and innate sense of reading his customers and that’s why all their customers had come back in last two weeks. He was sure the honeymoon couple would also return. Manager was extremely happy with both Srini & Vidya and was already speculating a raise for them.

Srini was right. Honeymoon couple did return, every evening for the next three months. They were served with exotic coffee with personalized designs every time, most of the times by Srini and sometimes by Vidya. Srini made sure that honeymoon couple’s favorite window seat, overlooking the street, was always reserved for them. He felt connected with them. It appeared that they were also trying to make big like him & Vidya!

Ayush & Riya, met every evening. A lot had to be planned & discussed. Coffee shop became their “go to” place. It felt as if this coffee shop was playing a huge role in making their lives together. And the coffee boy & his girlfriend made their evenings so beautiful. Before leaving for their wedding, Ayush & Riya, decided to give a small token of appreciation to the coffee boy and his girlfriend. They were oblivious to the fact that Srini & Vidya were married.

“Thanks Srini ! Where is Vidya?”, Riya asked when Srini served them.

“Ah, she must be inside the bakery. Let me call her”, Srini rushed towards the bakery and returned with Vidya following him.

“Hi Vidya! We wanted to give you both something. We are leaving for our wedding and will be moving to Europe after that. Last three months have been so good for us, thanks to you both for all the special things you did for us”, Ayush thanked Srini & Vidya and handed them two mugs of coffee. Snow white coffee mugs with a heart on both and a sweet message, “We will miss you – Your Honeymoon Couple”

They all laughed out loud.

Ayush & Riya gave a last look at the Lavender board, twinkling lights and to their servers! They were leaving a part behind to start something new. Srini & Vidya, wished them all the luck and asked them come back whenever they were in Bangalore.

Two Years Later – Riya & Ayush

They stood in-front of the faded lavender board of “The Coffee World”. Glass windows were not sparkling anymore, dust seemed to have settled outside and inside. Place looked abandoned.

Riya couldn’t control her tears. Her favorite memories from last two years were of their dates in the coffee shop. European dream had ruined their marriage. Riya left her job and happily moved to Eindhoven with Ayush. After a two weeks long honeymoon, travelling and seeing places together, they returned to their beautiful country house. Riya was just going to join her master’s course when they found out about her pregnancy! She cried the entire night, Ayush wasn’t very excited either. He had planned two years only for Riya & himself. After struggle with families, he felt they deserved to have sometime for themselves. Having a child so early was not in their plan.

They talked about it and decide to have the baby! Their parents were ecstatic and Riya’s mother moved in with them for a few months after Riya delivered their beautiful baby girl. Pregnancy, delivery and now baby care was happening like a whirlwind. Newly wed couple was living in a state of trance, doing what was required, not talking to each other or enjoying parenthood. Travelling took a back seat. With a new born in pram, it wasn’t easy for either of them to enjoy Europe. Riya was getting depressed, she would get irritated about the slightest issues and held Ayush responsible for her state. Ayush on the other hand, could not even fathom what Riya was going through and tried to keep himself busy at work but he also wanted to make it work between them. His tenure was coming to an end and even though his clients wanted him to stay back, he decided to move back to India.

“Lets go back Riya, lets start all over again. I know things didn’t turn out as we had planned, but I want you to be happy. You remember the coffee shop? We will go back there and plan again. It was such a wonderful time that we had there and I am sure we can get back together if we start with a cup of coffee”, Ayush was holding Riya’s hand. He was desperate to get back his ever smiling and chirping Riya.

Coffee was no more there. Their grip on each other hands tightened as tears rolled down Riya’s cheeks. It was 7:30 in the evening, their date time and no where to go.

Two Years Later – Srini & Vidya

Life could not have been better. Business was growing. Coffee shop was soon the most famous joint in the locality. Management opened up new joints across Bangalore. Srini was promoted to Shop manager and Vidya was single-handedly responsible for bakery. She was using her baking expertise to experiment new items which were savored by all their customers.

An year later, Vidya conceived and their happiness had no bounds. Their dreams & love grew along with their baby in Vidya’s womb. Life however had some other plans for them. Vidya was in her last trimester when pandemic hit the world. Vidya developed some symptoms and was quarantined after a positive test. Being pregnant complicated the case. A month later, Vidya came out of the quarantine ward with an empty womb. Their baby had not survived. That night Srini & Vidya cried together. Srini had taken off from work to be with Vidya. More than a month later, when they returned to their small world of coffee shop, they could not believe what they saw. Their second home, was in an unrecognizable state, faded, pale, just like their lives.

Vidya almost collapsed in Srini’s arms. He made her sit on the stairs while they saw the furniture being removed from the shop.  They sat for hours until it was dark, holding onto each other, not speaking a word. Vidya finally stood up on her feet and let her hand out for Srini.

“Let’s go home Srini, its 7:30”, Vidya gave a slight jerk on Srini’s shoulder and he took her hand.

 

I am taking the liberty of leaving the two stories midway. Being an ever optimistic and positive person, I will always have a happy ending or rather beginning for Riya-Ayush & Srini-Vidya. However I leave it to my readers to decide how they want these two stories to unfold. Though its a work of fiction, “The Coffee Shop” was for real and I saw that lively place coming down in front of my eyes.  When I drove past my favorite coffee shop a few days ago, it made my heart ache at the sight of it. I wonder what happened to its employees. This pandemic has shattered many dreams and lives. Many plans were probably chalked out over a cup of coffee in that shop. Some might have materialized and some not. Makes me realize that, love is binary. It either gives you a high or a low. How high we fly in happiness and how low we stoop in grief is our choice.

 

Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/250935010457364852/

Nainital…Since…

I wrapped myself in my warm maroon stole, slipped into my sneakers and called out, “Mamma, I am going for a walk, will be back soon”. As I opened the door of our two bedroom suite, a gush of cool air welcomed me! I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, as wind made way through my loose hair, making them dance along. I turned to close the door behind me and quickly checked that my son was still sound asleep.

Walking slowly, watching my step though the hotel pathway which was filled with gravel, making sure I do not touch any of the sleeping marigold flowers planted across the pathway, I hit the mall road. Pausing for a second, deciding which way to go, I turned to my left. It was 10 in the night and most of the shops were closed, not many cars were there on the road. With a few couples walking hand in hand and a few lone wanderers like me, it was as peaceful as the twinkling lake ahead. Crossing the road, I found a staircase to walk down to the entrance road to Nainital and soon found a bench close enough to be near the water. Cool breeze made me hug myself a little tighter as I sat on the bench, watching moonlight playing games Naini waters. They were like two lovers, reaching out to each other, planting a casual kiss and then running away. I smiled at the merry thought that had crossed my mind, its not always that you are so much at peace, to look at waters & moonlight as lovers. Just then when I was lost in my own reverie of thoughts, I noticed a young man taking his seat on the other side of the bench. We looked at each other, smiled, but did not exchange any words. I guess he was also on soul searching spree like me. Such has been the power of Nainital on me and probably on many others.

I must confess, that it has not been same since childhood though. Nainital of childhood was more about fun and frolic. Every summer vacation, would embark with planning for Nani house and waiting to hear those words from mummy & papa “Nainital chalte hain”. The excitement used to be enormous, from packing the picnic basket, to reminding papa, “we will have to stop in the jungle first and then we will have buttas (corn) as we hit the hills and lunch at Hanuman gadi”. The plan remained same, year after year but excitement never diminished!

On the way to Nainital, there was a Poplar tree plantation (sadly not there anymore), which we used call as “jungle” and was our first stop. All the kids, used to run into the jungle making ghostly sounds and collecting dried leaves. And then the wait for first sight hills would start. The sleepy bones would be woken up by chanting of “vo dekho pahaad” (Look, there, we can see the hills) and cheerful conversations would strike off. The yummy flavor of corn being barbecued on coal obviously led to another halt and savoring of corns sprinkled with lemon juice and salt. Not more than hour later, we would hit the bifurcation of Hanuman gadi and Nanital and everyone would start arguing whether to make a stopover or not. Kids being in favor and elders keeping time that we would loose out on our fun time in Nainital. Hanuman Gadi is a serene temple place of Lorn Hanuman and shelter to hundreds of monkeys, for us it was fun to see so many monkeys trying to snatch eatables from our hands.

After a quick stopover at Hanuman gadi, the destination awaited us, Nainital, the valley that encloses one of the more beautiful natural lake. I recall that during the numerous trips to Nainital, during summer and snow, this place has offered me something new every time. Experiences have been vast and enriching, from feeding the ducks and fishes in the lake, watching cricket matches in flat area, shopping in the bhutani market, my favorite candle shop, Naina devi temple, ropeway to snowview, building up a story of “Universal hotel” in a dark snowy night with no power in the hotel and waking up to the sight of white snowspread covering the entire lake city, fun with cousins and childhood friends, that cold coffee with icecream on a freezing winter night, pink of cotton candy, sweet tanginess of blueberries, love of strawberries, spice of chowmein, drying up my drenched bellies in front of restaurant fireplace, sailing in a shikara, a sip hot coffee from hotel garden, overlooking mall road and Naini lake, rickshaw ride from tallital to mallital, a lone walk on the mall road, I guess my heart can just go on!

 

 

 

On the contrary, I can also say that Nainital has seen all phases of my life, as a toddler, a happy school going kid, a rebellious teen, sweet 16, as a couple, a mother and as an individual, giving me whatever I came seeking for.

As a travel enthusiast I believe that until you see a place in the day and in the night, the visit is incomplete, and this valley town, is a perfect blend of both. This city buzzes with activity during the day and is as serene and peaceful in the night. Reflecting at my connection with this valley town on that bench, in that cold breezy night, I finally figured out what I had been looking for, and what my heart was searching for so long. In that split second, my thoughts were clear like crystal and my mind was as calm as the waters.

It was time to say “until next time” to my wanderer friend and the bench. I started walking uphill to my hotel. Before calling it a day, I took out my phone to capture the moment. The moment when the stars twinkled in the waters of Naini lake, and as your eyes traverse the path up the hills, all you can see and feel is the void of night skies.(sigh). Beauty of this place is unsurpassable! Will it ever be possible that I don’t get mesmerized?

Mandatory details:

How to reach Nainital: Bus or train until Kathgodam which is 34 km away from Nainital

Stay: From budget hotels to luxury stays, Nainital offers you the accommodation that you are looking for. Do make a prior booking if you are visiting in peak season

Best time to visit: Nainital is a year round destination, however, for soul searchers like me, off season (Feb to 15th May and July to September) is the best time to visit. May & June are best times, if you are in for lots of activities, shopping and games.

Places to see and things to do: Its all up there in the blog

Recommended duration of stay: 1 night & 2 days. If you are in for a relaxed holiday, then make it 3 nights and 4 days and drive around to Kaichi temple, Almora, & Golu Devta temple & Bhimtal.

Some official references:

Nainital

Gujarat – A Blend of Culture, Colors & Taste

It was some years back that we (hubby & me) started thinking about visiting Rann Utsav. All the travel magazines which covered Rann Utsav and Bachchan ji’s advertisement on Gujarat tourism played cupid for many years. And finally we decided to bid farewell to 2018 with our much awaited trip to Gujarat.
Being in Bangalore, connectivity to Gujarat seemed tough. We were travelling as a group of 8, including kids and elders and having a hectic travel schedule was not possible. So we shortlisted few destinations in Gujarat that were possible to visit in 10 days without stressing ourselves too much.

So it was, Rann Utsav in Kutch, Somnath, Dwaraka and Ahmedabad (in that order) and a few unplanned stops which were worth it. Here are the details of our itinerary for all those who are reading this travelogue and want to plan a trip to Gujarat.

Day1: Bangalore to Ahmedabad

Travel: Indigo Flight from Bangalore to Ahmedabad

Stay @ Treebo Hotels in Khanpur, Ahmedabad

Khanpur area of Ahmedabad has many economical hotels and is 30 minutes by taxi from airport. Our purpose of stay was to just spend a comfortable night so that we could wakeup fresh for next day travel, and Treebo hotel worked out best for us. Staff was friendly, rooms were good and complimentary breakfast buffet helped us to start our next day with fresh minds and full tummies.

Day 2: Ahmedabad to Rann Usav (Kutch)

Travel: By road from Ahmedabad to Tent City (Dhorodo) ~410 kms

There are many trains from Ahmedabad to Bhuj and Rann Utsav management provides transfer from Bhuj railway station/airport to Tent City. However, we were a group of 8 and had hired a tempo traveler (TT) for our entire trip. We started around 9 from Ahmedabad and reached Tent City (Dhorodo) by 6 PM. Roads are really good, but I would recommend to hire an Innova for a smaller group as TT doesn’t pick up good speed and hence we spent a lot of time on road.

Stay: @Tent City, Dhordo

The moment you enter The Tent City at Rann Utsav, you are transported to a different world. At the horizon, we could see the full moon and a huge display of “Rann Utsav” in all colors. Kids were really excited. At reception, we were greeted with a beautiful idol of “Ganesha” and an extremely helpful and polite staff. Check-in took 5-10 mins we got into electric carts running for the ease of guests and reached our cluster. It was a pleasurable sight to see white tents shining in full moon night. Well-kept tents, with attached bath, a huge area for kids to play, a cozy hut in the center of the cluster, a swing to soak the sun the morning. What else can one ask for?

After a sumptuous dinner @ the dining hall, we decided to walk back to our tents and inhale the serenity of the place. In all my travels till date, I have never come across such an ethnically created place which makes you fall in love with the colors of Gujarat. The tent city was booked to its last tent and still we didn’t feel that the place was crowsed, all we could see were colors, white tents, cultural pieces all over the city & the full moon.
Being a full moon night, management had planned a special visit to White Sand Dessert @ 10 PM. White sand dessert is as white as you can imagine. When moon light meets the whites of the sand, that dessert transforms into a sea of waves. My advice is to soak yourself in that beauty as it is once in a life time experience.

  1. Plan your vacation early and choose full moon nights. I had booked our tents in July for our vacation in December.
  2. Rann Utsav happens from November till February every year. December and January nights are really cold, If you are visiting in December (around Christmas), carry woolens as it gets extremely cold during the night and early morning.
  3. Carry comfortable shoes as you may want to walk around the tent city and other places of sightseeing.
  4. I would recommend a 2 nights and 3 days stay @ tent city, to spend a peaceful time there and experience the Rann Utsav to the brim.
  5. For online booking, link is given below or enquire at Gurjat Tourism official website.
  6. https://www.rannutsavonline.com/booking.php

Day 3: Stay @ Tent City and visit to Kala Dunger
Our 2 nights & 3 days package included early morning visit to white sand desert to welcome the sun and Kala Dunger (black hill) @ 2PM.
We were too lazy and cold to wake-up for sun rise and hence spent our morning in our tents and later gorging on the gorgeous breakfast which included all delicacies of Gujarat. If you are a street food lover then you are gonna love Gujarat. “Dhoklas” and “Jalebies” became my personal favorite after this trip.
After breakfast, we explored the tent city, flea market, kids indulged in zip lining and other adventure sports. By 2PM, we were ready for visit to Kalo Dunger.
AC buses were arranged and snacks were provided to all guests. On the way to Kalo Dunger, buses stopped for a short visit to the local village of Kutch. You can be a witness to the real life of Kutch in this village and also freak out on shopping handmade items.

Buses then departed for Kalo Dunger and we reached there half an hour before sunset. Kalo Dunger the highest point of Kutch. It is a home to a 400 years old Dattatreya temple, a breathtaking view of the white sands far away and a beautiful sunset.We spent an hour at the Kalo Dunger and started our journey back to tent city. In the night we enjoyed folk dance and music, followed by dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Day 4: Travel from Tent City, Dhordo to Somnath

We relished our last breakfast at the Rann Utsav dining hall and had our last view of the colorful Rann Utsav. All we could say was “Kutch Nahi Dekha to Kuch Nahi Dekha

Journey to Somanth started @10:30 AM, I would recommend to start early as it’s ~500kms and more than 10 hours travel including breaks. Day 4 was thus spent on the road and we reached Somnath @ 7:30 PM. All we could do was check-in into our rooms, have dinner and sleep.

Tips for stay at Somnath

  1. Somnath is a pilgrimage and a small city. The main temple is located at the sea, exactly as Mr. Bachchan claims. So book a hotel near the temple.
  2. I will recommend any Somnath temple trust guest houses, like Maheshwari, Lilavati, Sagar Darshan.
  3. If you want to book rooms in any of the above guest houses, then you have to book early. Online booking is possible and starts 120 days prior and gets full with-in minutes. Link for booking online is given below:
  4. https://booking.somnath.org/GuestHouse/
  5. City has a coastal smell lingering in the air during evenings, so be prepared to endure it.
  6. Mobile phone and any electrical devices are strictly not allowed inside the temple premises. Lockers are available but there is always a long queue. So I would recommend to leave your phone, wallets etc. in the hotel room.
  7. Have proper coordination with your group about meeting points after darshna, as it’s difficult to locate your group without a mobile phone.

Day 5: Stay at Somnath

Somnath temple premises is huge and a serene place, one of the few temples, where you will find a moving queue with no pushing and pulling of devotees. If you want to perform any rituals then you will have to go to the old temple where you will find committee pandits to help you out. After darshana, we spent sometime in temple premises. It is built on the sea shore, and if you just want to hear the waves hitting the shore then Somnath temple is the place to be. You will feel presence of an unknown power.

There is a beach at walking distance but it’s really crowded and not so clean. If not for over-enthusiastic kids, we would have skipped the walk to the beach. There are other temples in 3km radius of the main temple that you could visit in an auto rickshaw. Evenings are made colorful and musical with light and music show at the temple. Temple shines out in different colors of light and with Mr. Bachchan’s voice, narrating the history of Somnath, you will feel proud to be a part of Indian culture. Day 5 ended with music and light show followed by dinner at a small restaurant near our guest house.

Day 6: Travel from Somnath to Dwarka

Somnath to Dwarka by road is ~230kms and took us approximately 6 hours to reach Dwarka. We reached Dwarka at 5PM and checked into and OYO hotel. It was 10mins walk from Dwarkadheesh temple. After freshening up, we headed for temple. My eyes were just moving on from one handicraft shop to another, deciding on what all I need to buy on the way back 🙂 Temple is crowded beyond words, mobile phones are not allowed and so no advice works here. You have to be pushed and pulled to have a glimpse of DwarkaDheesh. But all the effort is worth it. After dinner, we retired to bed to wake up fresh the next day and explore Dwarka.

Day 7: Exploring Dwarka

We started our day by visiting “Bet Dwarka”, which was the capital during the reign of Lord Krishna on Dwarka. Jetty to “Bet Dwarka” starts 30 KM from Dwarka, and takes around 15 minutes to reach the island city. City is again crowded, with lots of street vendors selling a variety of things, from sea shells, real pearls to handcraft items. After Darshan, we headed back to Dwarka.

In the evening we headed towards the beach, it was getting cooler and Sun was going down slowly. Beach has some rocks, not sharp, so one can stand on the rocks and feel the waves kissing your feet. You might feel some small fishes and shells tickling you. There are some water pockets where you can find some life shells and hold them. We spent more than hour at the beach, playing with the shells, sea waves and witnessed a beautiful sunset.

City of Dwarka was bustling with action, tourists and pilgrims filled the streets. We started off on foot to explore the streets. On every corner other corner, we found vendors selling, jalebi, rabri, samosa, fafda, kadhai wala doodh and so on. We couldn’t resist for long and ate like never before. If you like street food then Gujarat is the place to be. Our Our champ announced that he wants to have Jalebi and Rabri for breakfast next day too and “for once”, we agreed with him !! We ended our day 7 with the sweetness of Jalebis!!

Day 8: Dwarka to Ahmedabad with a surprise visit to Marine World

As promised to our son, after a sumptuous breakfast of dhoklas, fafdas, samosa and Jalebi, we started our journey back to Ahmedabad.

A friend had recommended visiting, “Marine National Park” in Jamnagar, which is on the way to Ahmedabad. And we decided to give it a try. It’s a natural marine park. When the tide is low, sea recedes and many sea creatures get stuck in the corals. During the 2 km walk, we found live crabs walking in their shells, star fish, jelly fish, wool crab, flat worm, brittle star and many fishes. We could hold and touch all these marine animals which was a unique experience. If you decide to visit the natural marine park, then I recommend to plan your visit between 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM when the tide is low.

Since we spent a lot of time in Marine Park, it was almost 8:00 PM by the time we reached Ahmedabad. I had booked a 4-bedroom villa on Airbnb.com in Ahmedabad for our stay. It turned out be a beautiful villa in a peaceful locality. Swiggy brought us dinner and we called it a day!

Day 9: Exploring Ahmedabad

We were so smitten by Jalebis and dhoklas of Gujarat that we ended up ordering that for breakfast too and then we headed for Sabarmati Ashram. The book store of the Ashram was the place we spent most time. If you are a book worm then you are going to love it. It was overall an enriching experience for all of us and our son. He finally got to see and read about our struggle for independence.

Then we headed for the Vintage Car museum and it was my turn now to be excited as a child. Blue Cadillac stole my heart away!

Kankariya lake was not a good experience for us as new year Carnival was going on there and had no place to even walk. We spent a peaceful night in our villa and packed our bags to take the flight back home next day morning.

Day 10: Back to Bangalore (Traffic)

Nothing much to say here!

Mukteshwar – Abode of chirping birds and melodies of flute

Hidden in Kumaon hills, at an altitude of approximately 2000 meters, small & silent town of Mukteshwar is a treat for travelers who are seeking peace from the usual fast pace of life.

It lacks the label of a tourist spot, shopping destination and foodies’ paradise, but yet, it is one place where I would like to go back and spend more time, exploring myself and the place.

I visited this small, picturesque town in the month of May. Intention was only to visit a cool place and get a break from scorching summer sun of Northern India. Little did I expect that this place would turn out to be such a great surprise! In month of May, Uttarakhand hills are filled with tourists, especially those who visit the famous lake town of Nanital. We had instead, decided to give Mukteshwar a chance and guess what, it was our chance to be alone with nature and ourselves.

The Arrival

The moment our car took a deviation from Bhowali towards Mukteshwar, number of cars on the hilly turns started dwindling. Totally unaware of what awaited us, and also a little skeptical about how Mukteshwar would be, we started making plans of leaving for Nanital, the next day. Out little boy was already not happy with the deviation that we had taken. All he wanted was to reach Nanital and experience ropeway, boating and buy mini games that are sold at every 10 meters on Lake Road.

We had booked ourselves into a holiday home. Mr.Bhat, the caretaker was waiting for us when we arrived. First approval came from our son, “Ghar to acha lag raha hai (House indeed looks beautiful)”. And we all laughed out loud. It indeed was a beautiful two storied villa, with a spacious living room, splendid kitchen on first floor and 2 bedrooms, with a wide porch on second floor. We instantly fell in love with the place. It was very tastefully designed by the owner, everything from sofa, beds, paintings, interiors and lights were exclusive. Porch had a perfect setting with a coffee table, comfortable chairs and flower pots with blooming roses and marigolds.

Our caretaker, Mr.Bhat, a very polite and simple man, made coffee for us, while we enjoyed the view from porch. It was almost noon and we were hungry too. Mr.Bhat offered to make local style daal & jeera aloo with hilly herbs and spices, along with hot phulkas and steamed rice.

In the pursuit of….

We savored our food to the last bite and then set out to explore the unknown and unseen. We could hear a beautiful melody of flute and curiously walked towards the direction of melody to find its source.

Mr. Bhat had told us about the handicraft shop, Avani, and it was difficult to miss. A small hut shaped shop, with hand–woven clothes, colored with natural dye, stood out at the corner of the road. The shopkeeper, who was again a local guy, hired by Avani group, explained the process of making dye and clothes. We bought a scarf and organic crayons as a souvenir from Avani.

Our pursuit towards the source of flute melody continued. After 100 meters walk, we succeeded. There he was, eyes closed, oblivious to the presence of tourist, he played his tunes. It was a small café and he was standing at the entrance. We stood there mesmerized till he finished his tune.

 

 

Next stop was an organic products shop, bought some fresh hilly turmeric, aloe Vera and strawberry crush. Roses brushed each other in mild breeze and we walked ahead, in search of choco-brownie, needless to mention that who demanded it 🙂

As if Mukteshwar was hell bound to prove us wrong, a small choco-house popped up at the next corner. What happened next, needs no guessing, fresh baked brownies and some more handicrafts made way to our bags.

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Mukteshwar temple, and we decided to reach there by car since it was more than 5 km away from our stay. On our way to temple, we found out that the area near temple was more densely populated with many hotels and resorts.

Our guide at the temple, took us on a trail towards “chauli ki jali” and narrated stories about the significance of the place and temple. It is said that if a barren woman passes through “Chauli ki jali” then she is blessed with a child.

Many tourists had come to the cliff for rock climbing and zip lining. With a deep gorge beneath them, I am sure these adventure sports brought in a surge of adrenaline rush.

With divine darshan of the Shivlinga at Mukteshwar temple, we headed back to our gorgeous villa to enjoy sunset with a sip of coffee.

After yummilicious dinner of Pahadi kulath ki daal, paneer makhani and parathas, we retired to our beds and promised ourselves to wake up at sunrise.

 

Mukteshwar Morning

It wasn’t difficult to wake up before sunrise, chirping birds did the job. All of us including our little one was up even before sky started turning orange. We sat in our cozy beds, inhaled the morning breeze, and aimlessly looked at the hills. It feels so satisfying when you are not particularly planning to do anything and just enjoying the moment. That was our moment.

However, spell was broken by our boy, who was excited to see Himalayan range shining in the first rays of Sun. So we put on our jackets and started on foot to get a better view of sunrise. It was one of the most beautiful sunrise and Himalayan range sparkled for a split second. Mr. Bhat told us that the Himalayan range is clearly visible on a clear sky day or after rains. And during winters, entire town of Mukteshwar gets covered with white sheet of snow.

Not wanting to go back to our holiday home, knowing that the trip is coming to an end, we wandered on twists and turns of Mukteshwar. Mr. Bhat showed us his home in the valley, where his wife was taking the cows out for grazing.  Jingling of cow bells melted with the sounds of chirping birds.

It was now time to head back and pack our bags, but all we wanted was to extend our stay for one more day. I am sure, another day wouldn’t have been sufficient though. With the aroma of hot aloo parathas and coffee, we bid goodbye to Mr. Bhat, and Mukteshwar.

Mandatory details:

How to Reach:

By Rail: Kathgodam Railway station is the nearest railhead to Mukteshwar situated at a distance of 62kms.

By Flight: Delhi to Pantnagar flight, and 94kms by taxi from airport.

Stay: Tranquil Home Stay. For booking contact: 9837040943, 9720096446, 7351481899

Best time to visit: March to June during Summer/December to experience Snow

Recommended duration of stay: 2 nights and 3 days

Travel tips: Carry warm clothes as it gets cold during evenings and mornings. Comfortable shoes would help to explore the place on foot. Try out food at local cafes or with local people.

 

Checkout Uttranchal tourism blog for more details and places to visit (that we didn’t)

https://www.euttaranchal.com/tourism/mukteshwar.php

 

Enjoy your trip and do leave comments.