an affair to remember ...

So, its my second day here yeah! Its looking much bettah yeah!

Breakfast is … Erm! Toast and your choice of mini butter or marmalade cubes? What the …? Where’s the juice, where are the eggs, bring on the ham! Clearly not … if you want anything more than what’s on the table you’ve got to make it yourself, which is such a pity because if you know me at all, you know that I am pretty useless in the kitchen even in the comfort of my house let alone an alien kitchen … so a glass of ‘leche’ for me, some toast con marmalade, and ooh nice coffee …

Check out is easy, just give them your access card back … and I am back on the street … and its beautiful … cold, windy and empty, just the way I like my streets! :P Its almost 10:30 and there are barely any people on the streets … I later find out that the streets begin to fill up by around one and what is more interesting is … that some of them are fuller and burgeoning with life more at night than during the day. Hmm! Not that I could be bothered to see it for myself. I am very happy with my roam around all day until your back hurts, and spend the evening with your computer routine … the most activity or partial socializing I need happens at the common room of the hostel where the ‘pub crawlers’ spend their ‘pre-pub-crawling’ hours and talk about all that happened the night before or is going to happen the night after … that’s pretty much all the excitement I need in my life …

Settled in … in the hostel where I was originally supposed to stay and a few facebook updates later (yeah? Go ahead, call me a geek, me importa un carajo!)

And by the by, I just realized … not having brushed up on the little Spanish I know, I for the life of me couldn’t remember how to say ‘how much’ all of yesterday. In all the confusion what came out instead of ‘cuatos cuesta’ (which means how much) was ‘quince’ which means the number fifteen … so for anything and everything worth its value in cents or a maximum of 1 – 1.5 euros … I kept offering to pay ‘Quince Euros?’ or fifteen Euros … thank the almighty I did not get ripped off because your average Spaniard doesn’t want to rip you off … except for the few roguish ones on the streets.

So, I step out into the clear blue sky’s afternoon sun and I feel good tan da dan da … ooh! Café & Te … It’s a chain, I know that much because there is a Café and Te on every second street here, sort of like our own Barista and Café coffee day (tssss chicken tikka sandwich … yaad aa rahi hai). I am already beginning to miss Indian food, especially ghar ka khaana which I have been completely and faithfully hooked to for quite a while now … Anyway so I order an interesting looking salad from the menu card.

Tip Time – Do not order things because they look good in the pictures, figure out what ‘might’ be good or what ‘you might’ like to eat … Because my jamon ensalada didn’t turn out as nice as I’d hoped it would, it was edible but that’s about it. So, I order myself some dessert to pacify my angry stomach and then take out some greens to pay the bill … since the café owner is taking a couple of minutes to come and pick up the greens, they’re just lying on the table right? Errrrrrrr! Wrong!

A minute later a scruffy looking man comes up to me and says ‘ayudarme’ which means help me … to which I say ‘no entiendo’, meaning I don’t understand what you’re saying … he gets me but pretends not to and then starts dropping some pieces of paper he has in his hand along with the bill and the next thing I know … the greens are gone! Hell No! That did not just happen to me … I have been holding on to my possessions like a mad woman for two days now, waking up through the night to check if my passport pouch is still under my pillow, checking the padlock on my locker thrice each time I lock it … so I take control of the situation the very next second and catch hold of the man and ask him to give me my greens back … because I am being loud and aggressive he actually does drop them on the table making it seem like I am some sort of beggar or mugger more like, forcing money out of his pocket. Yikes dude! Besharam!

He walks away and I realize that this is probably the first time in my life when I’ve been able to think on the spur of the moment, been able to evoke the goddess of common sense … and saved myself from some trouble … although it wasn’t a huge sum of money but when you’re a backpacker, every cent counts … and losing money for a single meal is loss enough …

This kind woman sitting right next to me then tells me that she travels to Spain often for work and has seen things like this happen all the time … in her words, ‘these people are all around, they don’t mean to do anything really bad but if you have something out in the open like money or mobile phones or anything slightly valuable, they WILL try and take it away from you’ … as long as you’re careful about that, and keep your belongings safe inside your bag and your bag’s zipper shut, you’re sorted!

Moving on, that evening I walked out of my hostel and just a couple of streets away … behold … a beautiful palace takes my breath away … not knowing what it really is, I just look and look and try and take a few pictures but there is no way on earth that my simplistic (just like my mind) camera lens can justify this wide expanse of awe-inspiring architecture … it makes sense, it does … a city so beautiful with streets full and blocks full of beautiful buildings, would and should have such a beautiful palace no?

Dinner is … voila! Finally! Something that’s like a samosa! An empanada, a folding of dough around some stuffing … sounds good to me! (All my friends are going ‘hey bhagwaan’ right, right this second … oh! You think you know me so well …guess you do!)

The next morning … I am feeling a little touristy. Having met a sweet, young American girl called Maria the night before who literally marked places for me to visit on my map of Madrid … places that are walking distance from my hostel by the way (I am sort of staying in the Connaught Place of Madrid it seems, the area is called Sol, it’s the downtown area and one must stay here and only here when one’s visiting), I decide to walk into Tourist Heaven. And tourist heaven it is indeed. The walk to these touristy spots is more interesting than the destinations themselves. The buildings just don’t fail to amaze … everything is just so aesthetically ‘there’, you know … like where it should be, unlike where it shouldn’t be :P

I really mean it. The architecture is simply breathtaking. There’s beauty everywhere and I am on a plane above amazed …

Talking about beauty – Europeans Yeah?! They’re frikkin’ beautiful goddamit. I mean hello! Show me some real people who aren’t like porcelain doll type pretty. Please! Someone? Anyone?

Tip-Time – Girls, if you have issues with your body or body image or whatever its called … resolve them before you visit any European city because if you do not then you’re in for some serious damage that may take years of therapy to control … Don’t act smug. You know I am right! I mean this place is full of these impeccable bodied, flat-stomached, super-fashionable dressed, make-up astonishingly intact all day, supermodel type girls, who strut around the streets in their high heels whilst I am having trouble walking short distance in my FLAT shoes!

Guys – you REALLY must visit … this place will be like ‘heaven’ or something for you.

So on my first touristy day I see Reina Sofia – Spain’s national museum of 20th century art … Entry into most of these Madrid museums costs about 8 Euros, which is a bit expensive but a woman has got to do what a woman has got to do … or not? Aha! Twist in the plot?

Before going to the Reina Sofia, I reach the Museo del Prado, which features one of the world's finest collections of European Art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and a nice lady standing outside the Museo tells me that “The Reina Sofia is gratis (FREE :D) this morning and the Museo del Prado is gratis in the evening …

Reina Sofia first then … Amongst other things the highlight of the visit for me is the sculpture by Joan Miro … simply magnifico!

After a lot of walking around back and fro and back and fro … Lunch is simple fried stuff dude – good old fries, sausages, ham, and egg combo … can’t go wrong with that right? Fortunately not!

With a lot of fat in me I make my back and fro way into the evening and the Museo del Prado. Now this first touristy day of mine is a Sunday and the entry into the museum is gratis from 5 – 8 pm all right, so there is a looooonng queue waiting to get into the museum at 5 pm sharp, which is exactly when I make my way to it … but the queue is moving quickly and what’s inside the museum is totally worth the wait … besides your breathtaking and hugely awe-inspiring Goya and Rembrandt and Velazquez, there are some amazing works by others I hadn’t even heard of … of course that’s keeping in mind that I do not know much about Art just like classical music and poetry, I appreciate them but I don’t know much about them … So at the Museo del Prado I discovered ‘El Bosco’ and fell in love with his work … You really have to see it to believe it … I myself couldn’t be bothered by the tourist guides and the radio prompters and all that jazz … I just put on some good old Yann Tiersen directing the film Tabarly’s symphony … and I was good to go, good to get lost for 2 hours and 45 minutes in the sinfully red museum of art … and believe you me, the 2:45 hours didn’t do it justice … if you are spending a week in Madrid, and are interested in art, keep one whole day for the Museo del Prado …

Of course it’s helpful to find out when the entry is free to keep budget constraint from tightening your hamstrings …

And the rest of the evening is … empanadas, bebidas, agua, frutas, writing some bit of this … and zzz! Oh! And before zzz! Enter Chi hun from South Korea … really sweet, calls himself a fool, tells me to be careful in Barcelona because he got mugged of a 100 Euros (I know, yikes!) by a man pretending to be a cop (Yikes doble!) … and the next morning, since he is leaving for Peru and wants to get rid of extra baggage, gives me his copy of lonely planet’s Western Europe guide! Hello? Like I love you, like totally! Have fun in Peru and all the bestest in the world to you :D

And I also met Josey (short for Josephine) from Sweden and she is absolutely lovely, gorgeous too in her own Swedish way … oh! I loved her, reminded me of my cousin Dips who I visit soon in London (Dips, can’t wait!). Josey is so warm and open and umm … lovely! She’s been living in the same dorm as me by the way but always returns after I am asleep so I haven’t really spoken to her until this morning, my third and second-last in Madrid … Since she is so lovely I share bananas and green apples with her that I bought from a supermarket and she is much obliged since she has been craving fruit as much as I have …

But fruit here is so expensive and so beautiful looking that it almost doesn’t look real ... Every time I buy and eat fruit here I am thinking ‘I hope this isn’t GM or some such strange mutated thing’ …

Oh! And by the way, did I forget to mention how much my back hurts? It hurts like crazy … Lugging around about 23 kgs of weight to and fro a calle (street) looking for my hostel, followed by three days of constant walking from one touristy spot to another has almost killed my back … and tomorrow I am supposed to go to Barcelona by train, which means carrying 23 kgs from the hostel to the train station, reaching Barcelona and then carrying it again to the next hostel … poof! It’s tiring just thinking about it! So, if you’re thinking about doing this, carry a Volini spray. It works like magic, instant relief! And also try and rest every hour or couple of hours of walking around … really helps … trust me, I know you’re thinking, ‘she just isn’t in form’, but I was in Ok form before I got here … this is a LOT of hard labour dude!

The Botanical garden it is then today … Beautiful again, very well designed and if you take the time to sit on one of the benches and just ‘be’ you will feel like you’re in a movie. A visit to this park deserves at least half of your day so you can see some really wonderful rare flowering plants, but you’ll have to walk around and look for them …

All right dude, enough horsing around, we need some serious food sojourn today. Perhaps we can try out the famous Paella. And try we do … but like we don’t. Maybe the choice of restaurant wasn’t appropriate … maybe. Most importantly though, I am not a seafood person … and my paella had some shrimps, and some other fish, and some other fish in it … and there was only teeny-weeny chicken … sigh! Will go to a Paella only restaurant next and try out some chicken only types … par yaar daal nahin dete yeh log paella ke saath :P

After my Paella disaster I scram to the next supermercado for some junk delights … and behold, a counter full of jamon flavoured crisps/chips. Hello? Insaniyat ke naate normal cheezen bhi rakh lo yaar … anyway …pick up some random pack, which I am afraid is also Jamon flavoured but fortunately once I start eating it, I realize they’re pretty much your regular salted chips, which is great. Hari Om!

Did I tell you about Giovanni by the way? He’s Italian and works at the hostel where I am staying … and there’s such kindness in his eyes that I melt every time he smiles … don’t worry Sim, nothing happened … he is just such a sweet person, greets me extremely warmly every time I enter and exit the hostel, talks to me with his smiling eyes and I try to return the favour with my Thyroid stricken queer ones … its quite an affair I must say. If I am eating something and he is around, I always offer it to him (which I do to all the others as well, its just the Indian in me no?) but he cannot understand why I do so … he once literally asks me … I offered him and a girl sitting with him some fruit and he said ‘why’ and I said ‘why not’ … I should’ve told him its an Indian thing but I didn’t …

The same evening, I was sitting in the common room thinking about where I should go next and popped into the common room’s balcony for a second … and I hear someone say ‘Hola chica!’ … I look towards where the sound is coming from and see a sweet little puberty stricken boy waving at me gleefully. In my head I am thinking India mein hota to ek thapad padta, but here I guess its diff … ‘Que tal’ (how are you) he asks me. ‘Bien, bien’ (good) I say … and then he starts ranting off in rapid Spanish and I have to tell him ‘No hablo Espanol’ (I don’t speak Spanish) … ‘Poco, poco, eh’ (little?) he says and I nod my head … He vanishes and reappears seconds later … and says ‘Adios guapa’ and I wave back at him … I turn around all smiles, taking in this sweet little episode and there stands Giovanni … and I laugh and say ‘funny boy!’ and he says ‘Yeahhh! Your new balcony friend eh?’ … ‘Yes’ I say and set off to loose myself in the busy downtown streets of Sol …

Its my last night in Madrid, and I am sad that I have to leave … I like this hostel, its quaint and small common room with seating space for about 6 people, the red upholstered couches, the small plant on the centre table, the Venetian blinds and Giovanni working on the other side of the room … he seems to enjoy Flamenco and so do I … he tells me names of a couple of groups that he’s been playing on his computer … I am hoping I get a chance to say goodbye to him since its my last night … but he just leaves …

Back in my room I realize how unreasonably obsessive I am … I worry about how much the cab ride to the railway station will cost the next morning, even though I know it shouldn’t be much … I think about Sol … I think about the boy … I think about the food … I think about Miro and Goya … I think about tiny bottles of water costing a whole Euro … I think about Giovanni’s eyes … I think about the I love Madrid t-shirts that I saw everywhere but didn't buy ...



and that's how it all began ...

So Visas yeah? They’re a pain in the behind. And there’s no other way to look at it. Even if you are ‘little miss sunshine’ incarnate with your own song and dance routine about every thing good that happens to you … and good things happen to you a lot … even then, the process of acquiring visas can be really really daunting.

And it’s not just daunting because a visa is difficult to acquire … it’s daunting because people make it sound so. ‘You know my so and so aunty once tried and she was rejected four times, four, not one, not two … four! Such a problem these visas are!’ If you do finally get the visa then the baggage mishap stories begin, ‘you know once my friend’s baggage was sent to another country’, ‘you know once my friend only got sent to another country’ … These stories freak you out even further, and the only way you can still manage to go through the whole process of acquiring the visa and preparing for travel is to not really take these anecdotes to your heart … But trust me, if you’re anything like me, you will not be able to avoid taking these stories seriously.

But first things first, visas are a pain in the behind but there’s no way around them. You want to travel, you have to go through them and the only way to do it is to do it right, and do it yourself … it sucks to have to plan your travel so much but honestly planning comes in very handy. Even though once you’ve set out your ‘plans’ will certainly change but by then you will know what you’re talking about … and that’s exactly the spot you want to be in, you want to know what you’re talking about. As for the ‘do it yourself’ bit … well, it always feels less horrid if something has gone wrong because of your own mistake than somebody else’s.

So, here I am, sitting at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi and although the last month and a half has pretty much revolved around visa processes, it doesn’t hurt so much … because now, another concern is taking over me … the ‘what if something goes wrong concern’. Its pretty taxing to be travelling alone, if something goes wrong there’s no one to watch your back or someone who’s back you can watch … it’s you against the world, or you with the world … glass half full, glass half empty … your choice! And I would like to be cool and say glass half full but the amount of activity at the airport is making the glass seem half empty.

Psst, its 1.45 a.m. … time to board.

So, Heathrow huh! Its 6: 25, London time, and I pretty much slept through the flight, which basically means everything went smoothly. The only problem area was that I kept waking through the night because either my mouth was open and began to get dry or my skin was soooo dry that it actually started tearing, literally! I just realized that the cuticle around the middle finger of my right hand actually had a blood clot, hmm! Is that an omen?

Anyway, I think I’ve pretty much seen all of Heathrow this morning, in and out of terminals and terminal buses et al. It has taken me a good hour through flight connections or so I feel. Boarding the connecting flight to Madrid now! 8: 15 London time, 9: 15 Madrid time.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will be serving a snack shortly, nothing fancy, just an English muffin, some juice and your choice of tea or coffee.
“Madam, would you like some breakfast?”
“Yes, please!”
Ooh! Salmon 

So its about 10:45 Madrid time, and I am looking out me window. Oh! And hey … my crummy economy seat was dirty, there was some gooey chocolaty (or so I would like to believe) stuff on it, so they upped me to a local flight’s version of first, ooooooh yeah! 

So I am looking out me window and I am thinking, ‘hey it pretty much looks the same, no’ … petit plots of land, square-ish water bodies that look golden bathed in sunlight, and the works. Oh! But wait, we’re getting closer … and … and its not so same. Its different. Its better planned, planned housing areas, commercial areas, industrial areas … planned everything. There are hillocks, many of them untouched, only some of them being worked on to create building material etc. … but there is something else … there are a lot of these farms, with equidistant trees that look stunning from high above. I would like to think these are olive plantations and I couldn’t be bothered to find out otherwise.

And kaboom! We’ve landed. 11: 30 Madrid time.

12:00. Erm! Can someone tell me where I am supposed to find my ‘baggage’? Nope. Or Nada, more like. Seriously if you don’t know a little bit of Spanish, it might be very, very difficult for you to find your way around the Madrid Bajaras Airport. I don’t remember the little Spanish I know, so it is difficult for me to find my way!

Anywho, I found some people who I recognized from my flight and so I followed them around to ‘my’ baggage collection belt … and there are MANY belts, believe you me, there are! Phew!

So, out I go, at the information centre … and finally, eureka! She speaks English! She gives me all the information she can, all the brochures she can, literally marks each one of them for me and tells me that I need to change three lines to get to my budget hostel. Ok! Thanks kind woman. Sounds simple enough!

I get out of the airport, reach the gates of the metro line … and try to pick my bags off the trolley, and oh boi! That ain’t happening, not today!

So off I go to the taxi stand. Treinta o treinta y cinco euros. Dude, you got it, my friend gave me exactly the amount as a goodbye present before I left India. 

Inside the taxi and that’s my first sniff of Madrid … Smoke! + Ham? body odour? Perfume? … god knows what, but it is different and I don’t mind it at all. My cabby is wearing Ray Bans & a funky sweat shirt, and rubbing his fingers often whilst driving. Wonder why he is nervous? Shouldn’t I be rubbing my fingers? May be he thinks I won’t give him the exact cab fare because I am ‘phoreign’! Erm! I can read man!

O boi! The city looks lovely. The cabby is now playing English songs instead of the Spanish ones he was initially playing. That’s my first taste of Spanish hospitality. As Beyonce and the likes start cooing sweet nothings, the city starts enamouring me … enamorados .. o .. o! I like what I see.

It’s the epitome European city to my completely and utterly Un-European mind and eyes.

And then I reach the street where my hostel is … and it’s the most gorgeous street ever, cobbled stone, a quartet playing Bach, policemen to give you directions (in Ingles) and everything. And then, I find my hostel … home sweet home! Or not ?!?

No, not for tonight. My bookings have been messed up, so I have to stay in another nearby hostel for tonight. WHAT ?!?

Anyway, once I am at the hostel, bathed and relaxed, smelling good again, I don’t mind it so much … now how about some food? O boi! Another disaster waiting to happen! A) The food at this café I have found is slightly more expensive than I’d like it to be (or perhaps its just conversion confusion). B) I have no idea what I want to eat. When in Spain, and don’t know what to order … order the one thing that you cannot go wrong with. Or can you not? Apparently you can go wrong with something as simple as tortillas. In my Spanish class one of our teachers made some tortilla and brought it to class. A simple preparation with eggs, potatoes, lots of fat, and chillies. But when I order it here at Marian’s Café, it comes sandwiched between two colossal pieces of bread. Hello? Why didn’t they tell us about the bread in class? Anywho, manage that somehow, avoiding the stares of some 20 other Europeans sitting around me at the street café, watching me chomp away on it awkwardly and unprettyily. 

What’s next? Hmm! Think I will just relax today, have been on the run for 3 days now, preparing for the trip … must chill out dude! Hostel sweet hostel, and computer sweet computer. Blimey! The plug … doesn’t work here. Off I go to find an adaptor. I ask the hostel reception for information about where I can find one … and later realize that this is their answer to everything … Q. Where can I find an adaptor plug? A. At the Chinese shop.
Q. Where can I find some sandwiches? A. At the Chinese shop. Q. Where can I find some toothpaste? A. At the Chinese shop.
So, at the Chinese shop, the owner speaks impeccable Spanish and it takes me a loooonnng time to explain to him what I am looking for. At some point during the conversation I think he suggested cutting the original plug of the cable and attaching a Spain compatible two pin one, and fortunately one of his gestures made me understand what he was suggesting … so of course I did my ‘horrified’ face to make him understand that what he was suggesting was out of the question. Anyway he tells me he will try and get me a plug by noon next day and I leave his shop saddened, almost wanting to fly back home the next day if not the same … what on earth will I do here without my computer?

Back at the hostel a 10 minute nap and I am up and about again. Must go out and walk around, must do something … what a floozy, moping around in the hostel!

So on the street, I find another shop that has a lot of electronic equipment although it isn’t really an electronics store … I ask the man if he has an adaptor and he speaks English and says he has all sorts of adaptors, I just need to show him the plug! Holy guacamole! I literally run back to the Chinese man to fetch back my computer charger from him, which he had kept with him to help him with his hunt for the adaptor … And I reach his shop panting, he greets me with enthusiasm, and I really cannot make him understand that I want my charger back … he takes it out and there attached to the plug … is … is the white beauty! The elusive adaptor … Sigh! Now, I can start enjoying myself 

Back at the hostel, here I am … telling you about my day in this strange, new land, not so sad anymore but missing home … and enter room – Mariella … and she is a vision. Europeans are so beautiful, even more so when they’re sleeping. The next morning I see her sleeping soundly in her white snug comforter and she looks picture perfect, breathtakingly so … Goodbye Mariella, my first European roommate in Europe , it was lovely talking to you for 3 minutes precisely…

P.S. – the highlight of yesterday was sitting in a noisy common room of the hostel where so many people had gathered together that it was becoming difficult to hear myself think … but I loved it! It was like being at a party without having to socialize  … and what was even better was Gary one of my closest people back home was online … She has been to Madrid and done the exact same things that I am doing now … She gives me hope and says ‘I will love it’! Fingers crossed!


hello world, i've been waiting for a chance to see your face ...

as some of you already know, I am setting out for Europe for a couple of months. the preparation for the trip has been a bit of a harrowing experience ... visas, gear etc. lack of information, lack of knowledge of how crummy visa servies are etc. etc. etc.

i figured if not anything else, my trip could inspire a few blogs that might be helpful for those setting out on a similar-ish journey ...

so come one, and come all ... let me share my wisdom with you
(i can hear my friends splitting their insides laughing already ... sigh! if only they knew ...)

So, newho ... I am to spend a month in UK, and I still haven't got my UK Visa. Today, I sent the following email to the embassy's complaints department, twice.

Dear Sir, Madam

Name: Shruti Sharma
Application Number: ---
DOB: ---

I should have been in Spain at this moment. But I am not. Because my passport is snuggly sitting in your custody. I am only going to Europe for two months to do some research for a novel that I am working on. And already the experience of just acquiring visas has been so harrowing that I feel like I am beginning to forget how to write ...

I have re-scheduled my trip twice by now because of visa delays and I beg you to not make me do it a third time ...

By the evening I had a text from my agent, asking me to come pick up my passport tomorrow. Trust me, humour works wonders everywhere. This incident proves my theory: there is no need for seriousness, live life in jest.

will let you know how it works out :)

dear backpack seekers

So, everyone's been telling me that I must aquire a backpack, which is like a talisman* for travel especially Eurotrips. So, I figured, hey I want one too. Turns out, it ain't that easy to get one, if you're living in India that is.

Fortunately in the metropolitan cities, you can still find dodgy, cobwebbed, petit shops that store a backpack or two above 45 L, which is what you actually need if you're travelling for a couple of months or so ... or if you're travelling to colder regions and need to carry warm clothes ... basically if you have lots of 'really necessary' stuff that you need to carry. But, be careful, even if you purchase an 80 L bag you can only carry stuff that you really need because there's only so much that your airline or your shoulders will allow you to carry, so 'Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.'

here's a small list of places in new delhi and bombay where you can buy backpacks. i compiled it from all sorts of internet conversation threads by hiking enthusiasts ... if you're in other cities, perhaps you can get in touch with these guys and find out if they have outlets in your city ...

1. AVI Industries

Our Imported BOLL (german) Backpacks are available with Rocksport Outdoors, New Delhi.

80 L bag was unavailable when I visited. They can order it from Bombay on request.

Address : 127, Rajendra Bhawan, (next to Siddhartha Hotel)
Rajendra Place. (Exactly Opp. the Metro Station)

Ph: Manish Gupta - 9810215848 (owner)
Aditya - 9999703875 (shop attendent, very very sweet fellow)

If the bag of your choice isn't available you could write to: they may deliver.

2. Adventure 18

Opposite Venkateshwara, Ramjas College,
18, Satya Niketan.

Limited Options (One german bag when I visited)

3. Stikage India

7 UB Jawahar Nagar, Kamla Nagar
(Main Mc Donalds on Bungalow Road in the Kamla Nagar Market ... this shop is in the lane behind it. just call them for directions once at Mc Donalds)

Ph no. - 23850036/26

Limited options. They have cheaper options though, starting 1300 Rupees. Not all options on the website are in stock. Check with them on the phone before visiting, to see if they have what you like in stock.


4. Gupta Sports House

25 F, Connaught Place
(Directions: With Janpath market on your left, go straight through the red light into the inner circle. Before you hit the inner circle road, on the left is Palika Bazaar, and on the right is this shop)

They had only one german 80 L and one 45 L bag. Make sure they have the bags before you specially make a visit.

Phone: 23315407, 41526009
E: rg_gsh1920@yahoo.co.in

5. Outdoortravelgear

This store is in bombay. They can deliver to other cities.


7. Carabin Inc

K 17/ 4A DLF 2

I do not know anything about these guys. Just found them on the internet. Didn't visit them.

Phone: 9811076556; 9811615298


I eventually bought a BOLL Mirage 60 + from Rocksport. I am hoping it will prove to be a good investment.

Oh! and I simply couldn't resist buying carabiners or loop hooks or whatever you call them from the shop. Apparently they come in all sorts of sweet metallic colours. Weeeeeee! Mine are purple and red and I don't have a clue how or when I am going to be able to use them :D ... Of course, whilst buying them I pretended that I was 'certainly' going to use them ;)

Cheerio old folks ...

* Talisman - An object marked with magic signs and believed to confer on its bearer supernatural powers or protection


inheritence of history ...

my family has had these coins for generations ... no one knows how many generations really ... sigh!



the oil ...

I was about 12...

My father worked in a bank at that point, and was posted in some godforsaken part of Rishikesh. He lived in a house in the middle of nowhere. Technically the house was a part of a certain colony but it was clearly a very underdeveloped colony. There were no other houses within a one kilometre radius of my father’s quaint, little bungalow that he had rented for the three years that he was there.

The only neighbouring house was an empty one. It was a small unit called ‘Yoga Bhavan’ associated with some ashram nearby, so the yoga students at the ashram could rent that place if they wished to.

The first time I visited my father in Rishikesh, I was appalled at his decision to live in a strange, empty piece of land with just one little house across it. My mum, my sister, and I had gone to live there for a couple of months in the summer of ‘95 during our summer vacations. And I, for the life of me couldn’t understand who I was going to go out to play with, in the evenings. My older sister? For the love of god, really? To top it all the land around the house was pretty uselessly empty. There were no trees to be climbed, no nooks and crannies to be explored, there was absolutely nothing … It was the strangest feeling.

The first evening since there was nothing else to do, I went and explored the ‘yoga bhavan’ and found nothing. Disappointed I went back to my mother and asked her to take me out somewhere but she was too tired to do so … so I just walked around outside, in the empty land around the house, feeling pretty darned miserable.

A few days passed like this, uselessly, listlessly …

It was a week after we’d arrived that my father finally announced that we were going to have guests for dinner. My mother dutifully busied herself in the kitchen to churn out some delicacies, without complaining about the short notice my father had given her. I figured she must have been as bored as I was.

The guests arrived in the evening around 7 … three foreigners, or two foreigners actually who were really, really fair, and the third one was really dark … he couldn’t have been a foreigner now, could he, I thought to myself.

They sat quietly with my parents in the veranda, ate dinner at 9, and then went to sleep at the Yoga Bhavan. I was quite disappointed again. Nothing eventful happened, nothing. They didn’t talk loud enough, and my Punjabi mind couldn’t understand why they spoke so softly.

After that night the foreigners acquiescently became part of the quietude of that strange piece of land, in that strange colony.

The next time I saw any of them was three days later when I caught a cold. The really dark man came to our house, spoke softly to my mother, gave her a sort of a present, and left. I asked my mother what it was and she said nonchalantly ‘it’s some sort of medicinal oil’.

‘What is it for?’ I asked her with my cold-laden hoarse voice.
‘Its for your cold’ she said. With that she took out a handkerchief from the Almira, put two drops of the oil on one of corners, marked the corner with a pen, and then handed it to me, saying ‘smell the handkerchief from time to time, the oil will help your cold’.

I looked at her strangely yet took the handkerchief from her and sniffed it …

It has been a little more than fourteen years and yesterday I caught a cold. This morning I unearthed a bottle of the medicinal oil, we keep a stock of it now, ever since that day in Rishikesh ... I put two drops on one of my mother’s handkerchief and I sniffed it … the first 2-3 times the oil was too strong and overpowering … by the 4 – 5 time it mellowed down and that’s when it hit me, this tsunami of nostalgia, and I felt tears welling up as the last fourteen years became but a moment in time … and I was transported back to the strange house. This strange, lonesome, aching fog enveloped my heart and I realized I loved it … the strangeness and the loneliness, I absolutely loved it.

I am on that path again, the path leading to and from the house …

The dark man is walking along with me. He is my uncle. His colour shouldn’t matter but he’s scarily dark … his heart is the purest colour of flesh. He knows secrets, all sorts of them. He tells me about the world, he’s seen it all. He tells me I have a beautiful heart and that I must learn to use it completely … I tell him I am afraid because when my grandmamma went away one morning, it hurt, real bad. He says its supposed to hurt, its ok, the hurt is part of the experience of love … he says that we shouldn’t stop people from entering our hearts just because we are certain they are going to leave one day … I decide that I want to be like him when I grow up, maybe not as dark from the outside but certainly as pink on the inside …

Fruits, I can see the fruits … big, round ones, sort of like ‘ber’ but unusually large ones that I have never seen anywhere else but in that strange piece of land.

Bougainvillea, black coloured bougainvillea flowers … I don’t think they’re supposed to be that colour.

A stepped alleyway a little away from the house, the steps snuggling in a blanket of moss and lichen … I have never seen another human being use this path … my mother, my sister and I are climbing down the path, crossing the road it meets, and fearlessly walking into Rajaji National Park … a little distance into the forest and we reach the banks of the river Ganga. My mother sits quietly and watches the sun set and my sister and I dip our little feet into the water … that’s when our anklets finally stop making the little tinkling sounds … and the world comes to a standstill.

Just outside the house lives a family of purple frogs … the youngest one is my friend, and every evening it waits for me to finish my homework so I can go play with it …

I don’t remember much from my childhood. I had a great childhood, very peaceful, normal, happy … but I just don’t remember much of it. Some people do. I don’t.

But I remember the Rishikesh house, I remember every little detail, and every moment of the time I lived in it …

Every time I catch a cold and unearth the oil bottle, I open a window into that part of my life … on such special days I can tell you, I can tell you about those times … those times in that strange lonely house that my heart really, really loved …