India : Where chaos seems beautiful

Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi

India Gate, New Delhi

Welcome to the Jungle.

Fifth attempt to try & write something hoping it would work this time. I will not talk about AIESEC or my application process, neither will I talk about what I learned nor I will leave a moral of a fable. I will just tell you what I saw, felt, heard, touched and smelled during the time I was in India, perhaps it will be easier for you to understand what I experienced to give you a flavour of what India is all about.
I’ll be totally honest here and the first thing you will see in India won’t be neither elephants nor cows, nor people dancing like in Bollywood movies, for real. The first thing you see will be thousands of people in a very small place, you will feel unbearably hot and hear car honks everywhere and smell a particular scent originally from India. I spent my first two weeks in New Delhi and everything you know as “traffic rules”, “be kind to others” and “privacy” is going to hell when you get to Delhi. And the thing I am sure about Delhi is that this is the real human jungle. And I absolutely love this amazing city. It has got in my nerves. There is something in particular that I like about Delhi and most of the people who have been to Delhi will think I’m crazy, but here it goes. I love the sound of the honks (I feel connected to them), a particular sound that will make you feel like your eardrum will explode anytime. Everything in Delhi is Intense. After I wasn’t able to breath in the Delhi Metro, I had profound understanding of what “personal space” is. It is crazy. I come from a place where the only public transportation is the bus and when I came to India the metro network was a shock for me, with more than 3 lines with different stops and hundreds of people. If you really want to experience Delhi, you got to move around the city by metro.
In India everything is chaotic, specially food, with every meal being a bomb of flavours. Paneer Masala, Butter Naan, Aloo Tikki, Mix Veg, Dosa and Mango Lassi are my favourites. I love the way Indians use spices, adding them to any cuisine there is. If you are a person who loves to see new things and experience innumerable cultures at once, India is the perfect place to be. Stalk people live, eat without giving a second thought to what the person next to you will think, follow anyone on the road who seems interesting, I’m not kidding, you can stare at a person for more than 5 minutes and everything will be all right.
Let’s change the topic and talk about what I really want to tell you about India. When you get to a place where there are children who do not know what his/her name is or where they come from and you look at a women without clothes outside a shopping mall, that is when reality hits you hard and you start to be grateful for things that you didn’t think were important. What struck me the most (besides the Taj Mahal) is the devotion of people to their religion. During the time I was in Varanasi (the holy city in India) I asked the tour guide: “How can you believe in something you can’t see?” and he said: “It is not about seeing, it is a matter of choosing to believe in something, that way you’ll have something to hold on to.” And that’s where I started to realise what I was doing wrong with myself. It is incredible how a simple sentence can change your perspective of life.
There is no favourite place but favourite moments. It is difficult to choose a moment, but if I have to choose one right now, it would be my first visit to Taj Mahal. It’s undeniably overwhelming. It is not most people imagine it to be: clean, peaceful and calm. It’s a total madness when you try to get in but when you see the Taj Mahal, everything that is around you doesn’t bother you anymore, it is impossible to believe that for the love of a woman such a thing was built. Apart from the Taj Mahal, you’ll see cultural diversity, different religions, beautiful customs and little girls with eye liner. It’s eye catching.
Delhi, Dharamshala, Varanasi, Rishikesh, Jaipur and Jodhpur, every city has something specific that makes them different. I can not describe at this time what it is but each of them is going to teach you something, it shows you something, it makes you feel something. The question is not “Why India?” the real question is “What is India?” and my answer for that question is: “India is the perfect, beautiful, colourful big ball of chaos.”
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The ecstasy of life : My first solo trip

train-journey-on-a-rainy-day

TRRRIIINGGG! A sudden sensation of warmth emanated from my chest and found its way to pull up my cheeks. Running through the corridors, finding my way through the slow moving crowd, bashing into someone at every turn taken with constant unworried apologies, crossing the 100 meter long football field, I finally found my way into my house. Everything was kept just the way I had left it; the backpack, cap, snacks and my wallet. In 10 mins, I switched from my school uniform to some casual, seemingly “hip” clothes. Packing everything into the backpack, I set out and walked down the stairs to give the key to my mom. My mind was rushing with constantly inpouring thoughts of the train station, me sitting in the train enjoying the view, the “Will I get a window-side seat?” but most of all, “Did I forget something?”! Meeting mom at the front gate, I got into the rikshaw and as we rode outside of the campus, a sensation of freedom and boundlessness radiated all around. After reaching the train station, I got the tickets and stood on the platform waiting for the arrival of the train. Somewhere underneath all this ecstasy was a feeling of non-belief which said, “Is this really happening?”. As the train arrived at the platform, I rushed into the boogie to stop at the first empty window-side seat I can find. And gosh, I did! Sitting there inside, I received my first ever travel cautioning talk, “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Call once you reach. Take care. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. And don’t forget to call!” Voicing a continuous “hum” to my mom, I settled in. In a few minutes, the train started moving and I looked outside with a wide glee on my face as we passed the “Nilambur Junction” signboard. For the next 3 hours I just sat there staring outside the whole while; different stations while the train stopped – some busy some not, the loud monotonous calls for chai and coffee, the peanut man, people getting in and out. The ecstasy was still present in the same magnitude. As the train slowed down along the platform at “Palakkad Junction”, I stood next to the door inhaling a long deep breath. Aah, home!

Such was the experience of my first ‘solo trip’; a 3 hour train ride when I was 13. There was something special about solo traveling that I had never experienced before. A sensation of boundlessness or perhaps an ecstasy that enables one to feel every breath with infinite joy for living. This made an impression on me and I wish the same for you. Take a break, get that backpack, break the routine and lose yourself to find your true self!

 
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive” – Jack London

– Sid Ramesh

Monsoons in Parvati Valley

As the summers bid goodbye, the arrival of monsoons is eminent with silver dark clouds lining up over the blue sky in the horizon. The snow clad peaks of the Himalayas that stands tall on the gushing Parvati River like sentinel are now veiled most of the times by the clouds. The green has turned to emerald in the forest all around as the frequent drizzles are pouring more life into the vegetation as if adding soul to the ever beautiful body.

Kasol

The much better part is the decrease in rush for the public coming into the valley. As the months of May and June have now passed, the huge inflow of tourists now have changed into genuine backpackers who seek to explore the beauty of the Parvati Valley.

So if you are and hopeless romantic, love the rains, love the mountains, love the smell of wet soil, love the dampness of a emerald green forest, blooming of apples and many other exotic fruits and want to live such memories that eludes time then visit the Parvati Valley this monsoon because i know how the heat still irritates the cities, but here in the land of Shiva and Parvati, everything is reborn with the onset of drizzling drops from the heaven.All the stress, demanding tensions, futile worries and any negative thoughts or emotions would be washed away once you drench in the heavenly monsoon of the valley.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your backs and book your tickets because the lustful combination of Monsoons and Himalayas are waiting, and I await your presence to come experience this feeling with me.

Visit Kasol and look for The Hosteller to stay. For online booking go to http://www.thehosteller.com/

– Deep

 

10 Things to explore in Delhi

Delhi is a fast moving city with an overwhelming dose of culture, traditions, religions, languages and everything one could possibly think of.Also called Mini India, The National Capital is divided into 2 sections known as Purani (Old) Delhi and Nai (New) Delhi. The city was designed by British architect Sir Edward Lutyens.

Exploring Delhi is not everyone’s cup of tea because things always don’t turn out how you want them to be and there will always arise some frustrations from touring around.

But don’t let the backdrops pull you down, Keep a positive attitude!

Where to Stay?

For people who have seen the movie ‘Queen”, the idea of staying in a hostel, sharing experiences, life stories and adding new people to the journey called life will seem more welcoming and exciting . A regular vacation can turn into a life changing experience and all one needs is the right kind of place to stay in.

The Hosteller, Saket is one of the best backpackers hostels in India, travelers visiting North India seem to swear by it and rightly so. The hostel also provides WI-FI, books, games, etc. The hostel is located nearby the Saket Metro station which offers good connectivity of the guests to all the parts of the city.This hostel helps bring tourists closer as they have many fun activities such as movie and karaoke nights,etc

How to Move around in Delhi?

Local DTC Bus System provides both AC and Non-AC transportation within the Delhi and NCR region at minimal fares.

Delhi Metro has its branches spread all over the city providing fast Air Conditioned transport at meagre costs

Local Cabs and Autos – One can easily find a Green\Yellow tuk tuk anywhere in Delhi or people can even book a cab for themselves using the Ola or Uber Mobile App

10 things to explore in Delhi

  1. India Gate – Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, India Gate sits at the centre of New Delhi at the arc end of the Raj Path. Built in 1931, the arc type gate has more than a lakh names engraved on it of the British Indian Army soldiers killed during the World War ISwaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi
  2. Old Delhi – The walled city was founded as Shahjahanabad by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Old Delhi is known for its vibrant and diverse cuisines and the hustle bustle of the market place.The Old Delhi market is a spreader from Red Fort to the Jama Masjid where one can buy traditional items to Modern Gadgets. Dont miss the Paranthe Walli GalliSwaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi
  3. Humayun Tomb – Having the graves of humayun and many other acclaimed Mughal warriors, the tomb was built in the mid 1500’s to house the Mughal Emperor Humayun.You can walk around the surrounding gardens and then proceed to climb a flight of stairs to the main deck. Then you can walk around the inside of the building and see the many marble tombstones.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  4. Nizamuddin DargahCaste no bar. The place makes your heart worthy, love for Almighty Allah, love for brothers n sisterhood makes your soul peace.You jostle with people and more people in the narrow alleyways – the crowds are everywhere, and when you reach the open square of the Dargah- there is a sudden calm- the qawwalis on Thursday evenings are a treat. Listen to centuries old songs sung in praise of this famous Sufi Saint Nizamuddin . The environs belong to the times he lived there be transported to him. Sufism promotes a culture of kindness to all mankind.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  5. Sacred Heart Cathedral – The Cathedral Of The Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic cathedral belonging to the LAtin Rite and one of the oldest church buildings in New Delhi. The cathedral organises functions on certain days of the year. Prayers are held in the morning and evening every day. The major ceremonies held at the Cathedral are Easter and Christmas. The most important of the festivities during Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the Christmas Vigil Service an hour before midnight Christmas EveSwaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  6. Bangla Sahib Gurudwara – It is one of the most prominent Sikh gurdwara, or Sikh house of worship in Delhi and known for its association with the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan, as well as the pool inside its complex, known as the “Sarovar.”The place offers you eternal calm. One can sit in the main hall or next to the pond and can feel immense delight and relief.Seeing people doing selfless services and the free meals are something to relish.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  7. Qutub Minar – Qutub Minar, at 120 meters, is the tallest brick minaret in the world. Qutub Minar, along with the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, form the Qutub Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The tower is located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi. An amazing historical and archaeological site, it remains a mystery and the main structure (Qutab Minar) remains standing firm and beautiful as if it’s not aging.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  8. Lotus Temple – Among the numerous recognizable landmarks which are scattered all around Delhi is the remarkable Lotus Temple. Designed in the shape of a sacred lotus flower, there are 27 flower petals which are constructed of marble and make up the structure.Though it’s dedicated to the Bahá’í faith, it’s a religious worshipping grounds for people of all religions (as such is the philosophy of the Bahá’í faith).Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  9. Akshardham – Akshardham’ means the divine abode of God. It is hailed as an eternal place of devotion, purity and peace. Swaminarayan Akshardham at New Delhi is a Mandir – an abode of God, a Hindu house of worship, and a spiritual and cultural campus dedicated to devotion, learning and harmony. Timeless Hindu spiritual  messages, vibrant devotional traditions and ancient architecture all are echoed in its art and architecture.The mandir is a humble tribute to Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781- 1830), the avatars, devas and great sages of Hinduism.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 
  10. Hauz Khas Village – Hauz Khas village in Hauz Khas, South Delhi houses a water tank, an Islamic seminary, a mosque, a tomb and pavilions built around an urbanized village with medieval history traced to the 13th century of Delhi Sultanate reign.Lakes and buildings take you back to the old period of Indian civilisation.Now it is famous for cafes,restaurants,eateries,shops,art and entertainment hub of New Delhi.It is an excellent place for someone looking to hangout with friends and for those who enjoy the nightlife.Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi 

    Come visit Delhi and look for The Hosteller to stay. For online booking go to http://www.thehosteller.com/

– Rusin

3 ways to Hack Ease in India

 

Useful Mobile Applications

Rent Set Go

If you are searching bicycle, camera, lens, motorbikes, musical instruments, tents and camping products do check out this platform to solve your problem.

 

Ola Cabs

Ola Cabs is a mobile application that helps people to avail local taxi services in almost all major cities in India.

 

Captiva Tour

Captiva Tour goes beyond the dry facts and tells you authentic, engaging stories of places and monuments.

 

Temporary Bank Account in India

 

Foreign tourists during their short visit to India can open a Non-Resident (Ordinary) Rupee (NRO) account (Current / Savings) with any Authorised Dealer bank dealing in foreign exchange. Such account can be opened up to a maximum period of 6 months.

 

Passports and other valid identification proofs are required for opening the accounts. Authorised Dealer banks are also required to follow the Know Your Customer norms while opening of the accounts.

 

Tourists can freely make local payments through the NRO account. All payments to residents exceeding INR 50,000 can be made only by means of cheques / pay orders / demand drafts.

 

This could help travellers eliminate travel agents and commission they pay, thus allowing them to use online platforms such as bookmyshow.com , redbus.com, irctc.co.in etc to book tickets.

 

Tourist Quota in Indian Railways

 

International Tourist Bureaus issue reserved tickets to the Foreign Tourists and NRIs holding valid passport against payment in US dollars, Pounds, Sterling,Euros and indian Rupees. These Bureaus also sell Indrail passes which are issued to foreign tourists / NRIs on production of valid passport and valid visa.Indrail pass entitles the pass holder to travel as he likes over the entire Indian Railways with out any route restriction within the period of validity of IRP. Indrail pass however, does not guaranty reserved accommodation.

The fares of Indrail Passes are in US dollars. The important rules are printed on the Indrail passes.

The foreign tourists can also purchase Indrail passes from the General Sales Agents appointed abroad and Rail Travel Agents appointed in India.

A separate foreign tourist quota has been provided in all classes and almost all the trains for the facility of the tourists.

A tourist can obtain reservations against Indrail passes from any reservation office over Indian Railways.

For getting any clarifications regarding use of Indrail passes and facilities to the foreign tourists, the passengers should contact at :

International Tourist Bureau, First Floor, Station Building,

New Delhi Railway Station, New Delhi- 110055

Phone : 91-11-42625156, Fax: 91-11-23343050

 

Invitation to Kasol

To all backpackers out there,

For every soul of our backpacking species , the term KASOL is equally exciting as a whole adventure itself. So by great fortune I came down upon the chance, to be offered the role of a manager, of this upcoming hostel in Kasol, by this super hospitality start-up called The Hosteller. Considering the fact that It was 3 years since my last job , this had to be something special that I agreed to join. And special it was, and is. 

Kasol Blog Photo

The Parvati valley and its hamlet of Kasol has for ages , held and captivated the minds of the travellers and wanderers from around the globe. From singers looking for inspiration , artists seeking motivation, to simple sages and people just wandering , everybody is a part of the crowd in Kasol. The young , the old and some who never age, are all here, with their diverse background and various interesting stories. The cosy cafes , the delicious German bakeries , the hanging bridges , the towering cedar trees , the blooming Himalayan flowers , the blue sky , the white clouds , the apple orchards , the wooden houses and the green grasses, all add to the myth and legend of Kasol which I am glad to explore and invite you all to do so along with me.  

As happens with inevitable flow of time, Kasol has commercialized too, it has grown in its reputation and attraction , that today it is not only visited by travellers , but typical tourists also. Sadly , that declines a little portion of the magic it once held as a backpacker’s paradise.  This is why we decided to open up our hostel here for the core wanderers , travellers and backpackers. We are also proud to claim us as the first backpackers hostel in the Parvati valley, and with it we hope to fertile Kasol again back to its true magic.

Fortunately enough our hostel is perched on a higher grounds , a little far from the hustle and bustle of the main commercial centre of Kasol , yet it is just a 5 minutes’ walk from there.  Glad shall I be , if you choose our hostel as your home to discover the valley , as we expect true core backpackers and travellers.

Our hostel is made of finest cedar wood and is a Himalayan architecture to gaze upon itself. Add to that , some creative vibrant artwork on the wall, by other backpackers and wandering souls making it lively and amazing.  And being perched on a higher level gives a view of the far extended valley , with horizons covered in cedar tree with its emrald leaves.  The busy town of old kasol , cradled in the valley by the rushing parvati river adjacent to it, is a beautiful view from our balcony of the private rooms we provide. Perfect for people who enjoys solitude , yet , enjoys mixing and knowing with other people too.

The front yard with open space has a cafeteria to serve your stomach with great tastes from both the western and Indian culture.  The backyard is a part of the apple orchard which continues far in step cultivations, is as beautiful a sight to wake up as one can imagine. We have also added tents to give the adventure feel to the people, whose soul yearns for camping and wants to sleep under billions of stars. I hope like me , a lot of you shall fall in love with our land.

We know the value for money , as we once too wandered with a penniless pocket. Our dorm bunk beds help backpackers , students with shoestring budget to fit himself in nice warm blankets and find a cosy bed in the cold chilly nights of the mountains, yet enjoy all the good basic facilities like hot water , laundry and great food , and most of all the charisma of Kasol.

We already have two hostels in Jaipur and Delhi , loved and adored by backpackers around the world , now with one here in the Himalayan valley, we have the icing on the cake , literally during the winter months!!

So are you not already planning your trip here??

From the 70’s , the crowd of Israelis made their home here, in the laps of Himalayas, and even now some of them choose never to return from here. So what is it that enchants their heart and mind? Why is the youth captivated and infused with the magic and mystery of this place , so much so , they never leave? Such question has always been around my mind and finally, I hope , along with you all, we shall discover this myths and secrets. So I hope together , we shall not only travel this valley but live the experience called KASOL.

Come with a smile , return with memories. Thanking You,

Yours sincerely and waiting,

– Deep

Manager , The Hosteller , KASOL

 

Valley of wilderness – Parvati

To all backpackers out there,

For every soul of our backpacking species, the term KASOL is equally exciting as a whole adventure itself. So by great fortune I came down upon the chance to be offered the role of a manager of this upcoming hostel in Kasol by this super cool hospitality start-up called The Hosteller. Considering the fact that it was 3 years since my last job, this had to be something special that I agreed to join. And special it was and is.

The Parvati valley and its hamlet of Kasol has for ages held and captivated the minds of the travellers and wanderers from around the globe. From singers looking for inspiration to artists seeking motivation, to simple sages and people just wandering, everybody is a part of the crowd in Kasol. The young, the old and some who never age, are all here with their diverse background and various interesting stories. The cosy cafes, the delicious German bakeries, the hanging bridges, the towering cedar trees, the blooming Himalayan flowers, the blue sky, the white clouds, the apple orchards, the wooden houses and the green grasses, all add to the myth and legend of Kasol which I am glad to explore and invite you all to do so along with me.

As happens with inevitable flow of time, Kasol has commercialized too, it has grown in its reputation and attraction that today it is not only visited by travellers but typical tourists also. Sadly, that declines a little portion of the magic it once held as a backpacker’s paradise. This is why we decided to open up our hostel here for the core wanderers, travellers and backpackers. We are also proud to claim us as the first backpackers hostel in the Parvati valley and with it we hope to fertile Kasol again back to its true magic.

Fortunately enough our hostel is perched on a higher grounds, a little far from the hustle and bustle of the main commercial centre of Kasol, yet it is just a 5 minutes’ walk from there. Glad shall I be if you choose our hostel as your home to discover the valley as we expect true core backpackers and travellers.

Our hostel is made of finest cedar wood and is a Himalayan architecture to gaze upon itself. Add to that, some creative vibrant artwork on the wall by other backpackers and wandering souls making it lively and amazing. Being perched on a higher level gives a view of the far extended valley with horizons covered in cedar tree with its emrald leaves. The busy town of old kasol, cradled in the valley by the rushing parvati river adjacent to it, is a beautiful view from our balcony of the private rooms we provide. Perfect for people who enjoys solitude yet enjoys mixing and knowing with other people too.

The front yard with open space has a cafeteria to serve your stomach with great tastes from both the western and Indian culture. The backyard is a part of the apple orchard which continues far in step cultivations is as beautiful a sight to wake up as one can imagine. We have also added tents to give the adventure feel to the people whose soul yearns for camping and wants to sleep under billions of stars. I hope like me a lot of you shall fall in love with our land.

We know the value for money as we once too wandered with a penniless pocket. Our dorm bunk beds help backpackers and students with shoestring budget to fit himself in nice warm blankets and find a cosy bed in the cold chilly nights of the mountains yet enjoy all the good basic facilities like hot water, laundry, great food and most of all the charisma of Kasol.

We already have two hostels in Jaipur and Delhi loved and adored by backpackers around the world, now with one here in the Himalayan valley, we have the icing on the cake, literally during the wintery cold nights.

So are you not already planning your trip here?

From the 70’s, the crowd of Israelis made their home here in the laps of Himalayas and even now some of them choose never to return from here. So what is it that enchants their heart and mind? Why is the youth captivated and infused with the magic and mystery of this place, so much so, they never leave? Such question has always been around my mind and finally I hope along with you all we shall discover these myths and secrets.

So I hope together we shall not only travel this valley but live the experience called KASOL.

Come with a smile and return with memories.

Yours sincerely and waiting,

Deepjyoti,

Your host @The Hosteller – KASOL

People I met in Delhi Metro

If we are next to each other in metro, we are talking. I am probably listening.

I am fucked up in a way. I want to know how are you fucked up?

So I ask you a lot of questions. I am also curious about how you live your life and hopefully I learn something new or might gain a new perspective.

So let’s commute together in the metro –

  1. All I wanted to do was brag to my colleagues that “I brought a girl from the metro to our event, The Hosteller-Bookmark”. That would have been cool. So I made her quite uncomfortable by asking her 4 times if she wants to come to the event. She turned it down because she said she was sick (?).
  1. A photographer. He was coming from a fashion event. I had to see his pictures. We started commenting on every girl in the picture. He said he got numbers of many pretty girls from the event. I told him that my girlfriend is a photographer too. And I certainly hope she doesn’t collect numbers from the guys in her events.
  1. A retired post office employee. I wanted to know about the thefts they made in the Post office (I know some people who got their packages tampered). But apparently he was proud to retire as an honest employee. So no inside stories for you guys!
  1. A police officer on duty in the metro. I had a quick head scan of my pockets after hearing this. But thankfully we ended up having a good conversation about his job.
  1. “I will call the metro helpline number. Go away asap”. AND I RAN. Apparently I boarded the women coach by mistake. I hardly had a seat for a second and was about to do my “thing”, when she yelled this at me.

In the past 6 months, I have initiated conversation with lots of people. But I have never been on the recipient of this.

My parents always said “don’t talk to strangers”. But sorry mom and dad.

This is just too much fun.

– Brinder Singh