Passing on the love of traveling – a nomad’s perspective


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“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

I was five years old when I went on my first trip to Darjeeling with my parents. Higher studies and corporate stints made me a resident of cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore. This was also the period when I traveled with my gang of girls to places like Chennai, Pondicherry, and Ooty and groups of friends to Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Ahmedabad, Agra, and Goa. Once I discovered that I was essentially a nomad at heart, my solo trips took me to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mangalore, Coorg, Madikeri, and Chickmagalur. 

Chennai
Chennai

When T and I got married in 2011, it was a delight to discover that we shared the same enthusiasm for travel. Munnar was the first place that we visited as a married couple. Unfortunately, I lost my mother in the same year and life came to a stand-still. In 2012, an impromptu road trip from Trivandrum to Varkala and Kanyakumari helped me get a grip on my life again. Together we managed to visit Thekkady, Periyar, Alleppey, Athirapally, Cochin, Wayanad, Goa, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal. If writing helped me cope up with my mother’s loss, traveling gave me the reason to live.

Mumbai
Mumbai

Three years back after my son was born, the trips became more planned and less on an impulse. From Goa and Mumbai in Central India, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur, and Digha in the East, Delhi and Noida in the North to Guwahati, Shillong, and Cherrapunji in the North East, the three of us have explored both the tranquility of nature, humdrum of the city, sea and mountains alike. 

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Memories from 2018 – Recap series (Dec)


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I have enjoyed getting into this throwback mode and pulling out the best moments of 2018. In the last post of both the recap series and this year, I talk about December – the month of joy and holidays and bring forth my goals for 2019. The previous posts related to this series is available here.

DECEMBER

In this month, I was delighted to have made it to the list of top twenty writers in the categories of Travel Writing and Humor at the Orange Flower Awards conducted by Women’s Web. To be shortlisted among 1600 writers was nothing short of a dream come true moment for me. While I might not have won the award this year, it gave me the right kind of boost and motivation to stay focused and work harder.

Indiblogger #TheBlindlist winner
Indiblogger #TheBlindlist winner

This was also the month when the Indiblogger #TheBlindList contest winners were announced and I was pleasantly surprised to find my name and post in the list of winners.

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The forced inhabitants of a hilly terrain

The girl looked out of the one-roomed house at the dark clouds. The breeze sweeping through the Kans grass smelt of Durga Puja. A year back, she had celebrated their biggest festival with her parents in Bengal. Now she didn’t even know which part of the country they had kept her hidden.

Shades of perception
Photo prompt – copyright@soniasmusings

She had been kidnapped on the way to school. The kidnapper had gagged, blindfolded and sexually abused her. He had sold her at a brothel in a faraway hill station. She had been shocked to see his familiar face by chance.

Night after night, she bared her body to strangers as they raided it to satisfy their lust. She cried for the first few weeks and then converted her soul to stone. Last night she had spotted her kidnapper. She had covered her face and lured him into the room for the final act.

She turned to look at the brothel women watching the TV. The inspector spoke, “The man, stabbed to death has been identified as the maternal uncle of the girl who had sold the teenager for money. She lost her life due to strangulation during the struggle.”

But she had succeeded in seeking her revenge.

(200 words)

This is the 4th post written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign as per my theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the first three here.

For this challenge, I am using four photos as prompts to weave two flash fiction stories and one real story behind the picture. This is my second picture prompt. Stay tuned to read the second flash fiction that I will write around the same picture in my next post. You could also consider subscribing to my blog if you like reading my stories.

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

Reflections & Gratitude – Summing up Blogchatter A2Z Challenge 2018

When I signed up for the BlogchatterA2Z challenge in April 2018, little did I know what I was getting into. As a new entrant to the world of blogging and a first timer in this challenge, posting every single day (except Sundays) looked daunting. Not knowing what to expect, I came without any preconceived notion and pre-planned posts. Luckily I had a theme in place titled “A dollop of Bengal”. However every single word associated with the alphabet pertaining to the theme was figured out only the night before the post was due. The post was written only after my toddler slept in the afternoon. Co-incidentally I had a lot of pictures clicked while exploring places in Bengal, specially Kolkata and Murshidabad last December till February. Editing them was another Herculean task that I needed to complete before hitting the publish button.

The first week was all about balancing act with my toddler starting preschool since 4th April. The initial few days of helping him settle down along with daily posting was extremely tough to handle. The second week was comparatively easy and I managed to read a lot of posts from fellow bloggers too. The third week turned out to be the most difficult one with a sick toddler, AWOL cook and pending posts that needed to be published. By the time I entered the fourth week, the challenge had so exhausted me mentally and physically that at some point I almost thought of giving up. Yet I managed to cross the finishing line.

I don’t think this would have been possible without the following few people –

  1. My family – My father, father in law and mother in law for letting me write in peace while taking up additional responsibilities of handling the toddler and household chores. My husband for his continued support and encouragement ensuring that I finish this challenge. My toddler for not breaking the laptop or running away with my notebooks when I pleaded with him to co-operate.
  2. Blogchatter team – Your enthusiasm and motivation is what got us going
  3. Fellow group bloggers – Blogchatter sorted us out into groups. I was privileged to have been part of one where members ensured they read each other, provided constructive feedback and lifted each others spirits when things didn’t seem to work out. I have said this before and I will say it again – Varad, Sayan, Ruchi, Jai – I am glad I found friends like you through this challenge. Tina, Roma – you are the kindest mentors I have come across. Saba, Snehalata, Shweta, Rohan, Sayanti, Shipra, Sudha, Shilpa – I am so glad to have connected with you.
  4. Fellow bloggers – Through social media and daily linkies, I interacted with many talented bloggers. Balaka, Priya, Akshata, Meha, Lavanya, Mayuri, Deepa, Dr. Roshan, Arjun, Kanika, Pratikshya, Ashwini, Seema, Pooja, Dr. Amit, Neha, Medha and Namratha – it has been a delight to read each one of you and an honour to read your comments on my posts
  5. Kalyan Karmakar (Finely Chopped) – His was one of the first blogs that got me interested in food blogging. Ever since I started blogging, I have sought his advice whenever in doubt. Ever ready to help, it was a pleasure to read his comments on few of my posts. His encouragement definitely inspired me to write better.

As I end this challenge and start working on my e-book next, I only have immense gratitude and a sense of belonging as my take-away from this contest. Having lived away from Bengal for sixteen long years, it was indeed challenging to return to Kolkata in 2016 and start afresh. I wasn’t even sure how much I could relate to the city anymore. It is while working on my theme that I realized how Bengal /Kolkata/Berhampore is still such an integral part of my identity and existence.

I am definitely looking forward to the second edition of this challenge next year. But next time, I definitely plan to be a little more prepared in advance so that I can  spend much more time in interactions and hopping onto others’ posts.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of my journey.

 

A dollop of Bengal – Zoological Garden

Z could have been Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery or another Tibetan Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang , both located in Kalimpong. But Z had to be India’s oldest formally stated zoological park  – Zoological Garden, Kolkata.

Zoological Garden –

Zoo - entry gate
The entry gate of Zoological Garden

The Zoological Garden, Alipore (also informally called the Alipore Zoo or Calcutta Zoo)with an area of 46.5 acres opened as a zoo in 1876. It is famous as the home of the now expired Aldabra giant tortoise Adwaita, who lived for over 250 years till his death in 2006. It also houses one of the few captive breeding projects involving the Manipur brow-antlered deer. The Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and finds maximum footfall during winter season.

History –

The zoo had its roots in a private menagerie established by the Governor General of India, Richard Wellesley in his summer home at Barrackpore as part of the Indian Natural History Project . The foundation of zoos in major cities around the world caused a growing thought among the British community in Kolkata that the menagerie should be upgraded to a formal zoological garden.

In 1873, the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Richard Temple formally proposed the formation of a zoo in Kolkata, and the Government allotted land based on the joint petition of the Asiatic Society and Agri-Horticultural Society.

Zoo overview
Inside the Zoo

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A dollop of Bengal – Yauatcha

Y could have been Yuva Bharati Stadium in Salt Lake famous for its sporting events or the Yellow taxi that has an old world charm about it. But this series is not just about bringing back nostalgia but also aims to provide the latest updates in the city. Hence the one that makes it to my featured post of the day is the fine-dining restaurant Yauatcha.

Yauatcha –

Yauatcha -Dumplings and Squid.jpg
Dumplings and Squid along with beverage

Located on 5th floor of Quest Mall in Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Yauatcha is the first Michelin star restaurant of the city. This restaurant with its origin in London had already opened branches in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore prior to its launch in Kolkata. It has a bar and dining area. There is also an enclosed area for private dining and private parties that can host around thirty people.

Ambiance –

Yauatcha - View
View of the sky from the restaurant

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A dollop of Bengal – Xmas

X barely had any other option to write about except the festival that rises beyond religion to be celebrated with zeal and fervour in the city – Xmas or Christmas.

Xmas –

Xmas Park Street Carnival 2
Christmas Parade on Park Street

Christmas Parade on Park Street

The shimmering lights, Christmas songs, rock music, delicious food, the decorated trees, gifts, aroma of fruit cake and plum-cake bring life to the city during the Christmas season. What makes this a unique affair is the fact that the festival is not just celebrated by the Christian community here but people from different communities. They offer prayers and sing carols during the midnight mass in the churches. It is an amalgamation of faith, food and fun for everyone.

Few areas of the city that bring life to the celebrations are –

Park Street –

XMas Park Street WhatsupLife
Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife

Park Street lighted up during Christmas Eve – Source:Whatsuplife

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