Monday, 2 February 2015

Dents, Car Design...and Sustainability???

Being the philosopher traveller that I claim to be, I was toying around with an idea for a while, which came true this weekend.

On New Year's Eve 2013, one drunk fellow (Its not that I hadnt been drinking...but he was more drunk than me...believe me) hit my car badly. And that dent has been on my car for a while now. There were a few more visible dents from my earlier mistakes while parking.

I was lazy that I didnt have the energy to leave my car with the denting guy...until some of my female friends pointed it out and I thought seriously about getting it repaired. I could still not break the inertia.

One fine day, the philosopher in me started to philosophize as I looked at the new year dent. I started comparing dents to experiences in life. Being the pucca philosopher, I realised whatever I am is because of the dents or experiences I have had in life. And they are memorable.

I thought of putting memory tags on my car giving out the details of the dent: where was it dented? when was it dented? how was it dented?.  How interesting would it be to point out the dents with an arrow and then giving out the details as sticker tags. I loved the idea.

Started sharing it with my French Classmates and one freaky lady (Nupur to be exact) gave me the tagline "Every Dent is a Memory".  Another dastangoi friend, (Ankit to be exact) after laughing it off, finally gave me ideas of monetising it as well, by patenting the idea. I was sharing with him, that repairing a dent on a car is a resource wastage, with so much of labour and other materials going it it. We were sharing the sustainability leanings of the idea, when he shared that even paint has harmful chemicals and we are saving out on polluting a little less with the paint. Did we actually hit on Sustainable Car Design. Hmmmm....

I was excited but I slept over it for over 3 months. But finally this weekend it happened.

Ab Buss Musafir Travels Private Limited ka thappa lagana baki hai.

Here is the beauty...My Ford Figo. It is Figo indeed.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Adding FUN to travel & Organic Travel Design

Fun is a key element in my life and I would want to enjoy each moment of my life. With this feeling in mind, I thought of giving a surprise to one of my university friends. He was coming to Delhi from Hyderabad and I had told him that I would pick him up from the airport.

Sitting in the evening in my room, I thought of having some fun. I opened a word doc typed a placard for my friend. He belongs to Meerut and his name is Prashant, but we used to call him Dr. Pareshaan(Pareshaan means disturbed about something and it rhymes with Prashant). I typed the following message:

Musafir Travels Private Limited
(Meerut Wale)

Went to a photocopy shop and got it printed in A3 size. Then went to a stationary shop and got it pasted on to a cardboard so that it looks like a placard. I knew he was fond of alochol so took some cans of beer as well. Thought, we will sip beer as we drive back to Gurgaon.

With all the ammunition ready...I drove to the airport. Parked my car at the parking and At the arrival terminal, I took out the placard and stook at the arrival gate. With the placard in hand I was standing along with chauffeurs of top private hotels of Delhi, hiding my face. By chance i had worn a cap also on that day, which became a disguise.

When his flat landed,he called me.I said ' Sorry Yaar, I had some urgent work to do and so I have rather sent a driver for you to pick you up. So Sorry. The driver has a placard with your name. Please just come with him". Sounding apologetic I finished the conversation.

After waiting for a while, the moment came, which I had been waiting for, the surprise and the smile on his face. It was a moment. A kodak they say. Being proud of having given such a suprise, I asked him to click a pic of mine...which I am posting here.

 Another friend posted it on facebook and today I made it my facebook profile pic. There was a lot of interest generated with lots of likes.

I was just looking at the pic and satiating my self gratification and my desired to be likeable (on facebook) and loved in life.

Suddenly, an entrepreneurial thought came to my mind and I thought I should share it on this blog as it relates to travel only. Though it doesnt intend to be a professional travel blog and merely my travel jottings, nevertheless its a free flowing thought in my mind and ought to be shared.

I thought travel should be FUN. How if a family takes a trip and is recieved with as much warmth in a distant place. How if the travel agent does an hour long call with the traveller and knows them and what they want and form a relation and then recieve them. I am not saying do the nonsese that I did...But may be something loveable for the tourist.

I intend to name it Organic Travel Design or ODT. Where the trip is designed as it starts and in conversation with the traveller tourist.

So, once the travel agent has collected enough information about the tourist. He chooses the point to visit accordingly. So, if someone is more nature loving, they are taken to nature spots and if some are shopping loving, they are taken to malls and prominent shopping centre of the city. If someone in art then there. 

S, if a person is visiting 10 different spots in a city. 8 are predecided and 2 happen after the person lands and interacts with the travel agent on ground. Lets call this travel agent a Guide.

He takes you around and shows you the places you would want to go.

Also, in the preliminary call  of the travel agent, he collects informal information. Does the person take alcohol?.  I would love to land at my favourite destination welomed warmly and as I sit in the taxi, my chilled beer is ready. Now I know its illegal in some countries to drink in a car. But I ask if we can drink on a plane, why not a car. As long as the car is being driven by a driver, there should be no problem if the passengers drink. What say?

Now, this guide who takes you places will assess your needs in so detail that, it will be awesome for you. For example, you are with your girlfriend and obviously want to spend time with her alone. The trip will give you that freedom and your guide will meet you only in the mornings or in the evenings or whatever is decided mutually.

Those who are in a funky mode with family can have the guide for a longer time.

But having a friend Guide, where you go is an asset, as you would agree with me, whenever, you have hired a guide.

Guides are usually for groups but it will be great to have personal guides. Usually its the taxi guy in each city which becomes this friend of yours taking you to places. How about if you get a trained person to do that for you...English, French speaking.

Your trip is made. Imagine a travel agency, which has got well read people, who are highly paid but also work as taxi drivers and take you around.

I am sure there may be agencies like that, but the point here is that the person who takes you around reads you and makes your trip the way you want. You want to stop at a point and have fun. Have it. FUN is the key.

May be I will start such an agency one day

Musafir Travels Private Limited

Monday, 22 September 2014

Guga, Guga Chohan and Roerich at Naggar

It seems I am on a roll in my discover of my Guga ji. Read more about my earlier story on Gogamedi fair in Rajasthan.

I was just reading a bit more on the Guga in Himachal and came across an interesting article in the Tribune on snake gods or nag devtas in Himachal written by one D C Sharma. Read the article here. He talks in the article that there is a temple of Guga Rana in Naggar in Kullu valley and in fact Roerich, the great painter himself painted the idol of Guga.

More research led to me to search for any such painting and finally I found that there in fact is an idol of Guga in the Roerich art gallery complex in Naggar under a tree. It used to be a single idol at some time and now has some more idols along with. I found pictures of Roerich with the idol, which means that way back in 1931, when there were no roads to Himachal. This God travelled from rural Rajasthan to the untouched valleys of Kullu. Amazing !

The pics below are from other websites and an article on the International Centre for the Roerichs

I was also able to locate the painting or paintings which DC Sharma talks about in his article in some art websites. The paintings are now preserved in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

It seems that Goga ji or Goga Chohan as it was possibly called was a favourite of Nicholas Roerich. Svetoslav Roerich painting his father along with the Guga idol is an evidence of the fact of how associated Roerich was with Guga.

Though I have been to Naggar before but this connect was never there. I am travelling to Naggar now in the next fortnight and should come back with more news.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Gogamedi fair in Rajasthan

This entry has a personal touch, because the God in veneration of which the Gogamedi fair happens also happens to be my 'Kul Devta' or the family god.

I belong to Himachal Pradesh and my ancestors come from a village named Larha in Naduan Tehsil of Hamirpur District. The village has a temple which we call Googa Temple named after the God Googa. Its widely believed that Googa can cure you of a snake bite if you are brought to the temple and drums played alongwith. People sit in the temple campus called Chelas...they hold chabuks in their hands made up of short chains and bless people curing them of all the evil spirits. The idol of Googa sits on a horse and there are some other gods and goddesses alongwith which sit on horses. You cant miss the horses.

My family and consequently me believed it to be a local devta. Though I found one temple of Googa near East of Kailash in Delhi. I thought somebody from Himachal must have made it. Then later in my travels to Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, I found another temple of Googa there...making me wonder how widely the God has travelled from Himachal.

But I was in for a shock last year when one of my friends from the Indian railways poster in Rewari told me that he is busy preparing for the Gogamedi fair as lots of devotees travel there for the fair. I wondered if that was the same Googa as my village. Some checks on the internet was confirmed that what I thought to be a local devta was indeed the Guga Jahar Peer of Gogamedi. Wow man! now I was part of  huge mass of followers of Googa from around India. I took up a resolution to visit the temple but couldnt do it last year. But this year I am Gogamedi returned. Ha Ha.

Planning the trip was a little easy as my railway friend could have helped me in reaching that place. Very minimal information is available on the internet about this fair. There are those 4-5 lines, which are repeated in all the websites. No information on how to reach that place, where to stay etc.

So, I thought why not put it on my travel blog and write my experience as well as how to reach kind of stuff.

The nearest big train station from Gogamedi is Sadulpur Junction, which is about 80kms from Gogamedi. The good point is that the birth place of Googa Jahar is Dadrewa is about 15kms from this place and should definitely be visited if you are going to Gogamedi.

 Another option is to travel to a town called Sirsa in Haryana, from where Gogamedi is 50kms. However, there is just one train from Delhi to Sirsa during they day, while there are three from Delhi to Sadulpur. if you want to hit the road, Gogamedi is about 300kms from Delhi.

Sadulpur is a small town and it will be good to book a taxi in advance. No taxi is available online and hence i had to ask my friend to help. You could try my taxi driver...His number is 09413451545. A return journey to Gogamedi will cost 1800 bucks and if you want to go to Dadrewa as well, it will cost you around 2700 rupees.

Dadrewa is a sleepy little village and is the birth place of Googa with a temple. 

There is a pond nearby where people take bath, but the water is a bit dirty. People perform some rituals on the pond side burning some coconuts and onions. Its a sight to see people peform these rituals and take bath.

There are some shops which sell Goga memorabilia, prominent being the blue horse of the God, called Javadia. There are a lot of langars for you eat sumptuos food.

You will find many people with the chabuks blessing people. You have to bend down and the person will hit your back with the chabuk and may be with his hand as well. Thats are blessed and devoid of any evil spirits.

Putting a video below of how this blessing is done:


There are some old trees inside the Dadrewa temple complex and people had printed their hands on the walls of the temple. Couldnt find out what that ritual was.

A sea of humanity lands at this place on Janmashtami day wearing yellow clothes. Thankfully we visited a few days after Janmashtami and hence it was relatively less crowded. 

Its a very different affair in Gogamedi though, with shops spread over 4 square kilometre area around the shrine and parking places beyond that. Shops primarily include eateries and memorabilia. People come from places as far as Punjab and UP and even Himachal. A sight to catch is when people come in processions playing the dhol/drums and with colourful flags in their hands. Watch one procession here:


Getting inside the temple could be difficult affair. Even on the light day that I reached, I had to stand in queue for an hour to get inside the sanctum sanctorum. The main temple is just a room with a white mazaar/grave of Googa Jahar Veer.

People rub sandalwood or chandan on the grave. All that you get to do there is to bow your head, rub the sandalwood and move. No time to pray. Just keep moving. I prayed while walking. As you come out you may see the shrines of some lesser known saints - Pandey ji and Ratan ji.

I may point out here that Googa Jahar Veer is also known as Googa Jahar Peer...dont know whats the right word, though I saw Jahar Veer written everywhere. Incidentally, its a secular place and people from all religions come here including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, though I found very less Muslims when I was there.

As for the fair it has also become commercialised with Giant wheels, Maut ka kuan and women dance shows. There is also a camel fair but it was night when we reached there and got scared of the came back. But it must be interesting.


I found it relatively safe for women as well. The temperatures were just fine around 23th of August in the evening with minor sweating, though it was lot hotter and humid in the morning. 

Didnt find any place to stay there, though I had planned to go back in the night. There was a charitable hotel I found right next to the shrine which named Nohar, with free AC rooms, but didnt have the time to explore that. Very poor people come to this shrine and in groups. They camp in tents around the huge fields near the shrine and cook their own food. A reason why you will find a lot of people selling firewood in the fair.

It was a memorable experience for me to visit the headquarters of my kuldevta. Jai Guge di!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Thugs...the pub, not the people

I happen to be in the gang of the most prestigious group of walkers in Delhi...if I may say that...i.e KLOD_B matlab Knowing and Loving Our Delhi Better. leking uske baare men alag entry hogi.

So, my fellow KLODB walkers have often bragged about this pub and it was the favourite place for the gang to catch some beer after an old Delhi walk. Unfortunately, I have always missed it.

So, one fine day I went there with my friend. By the way, before I tell you the story let me tell you that the claim to fame of this bar (apart from its name Thugs)

is the ambience... which is of Bollywood villains. So right from Gabbar Singh to will find all on the walls.

To isliye mera jaana zaroori tha aur hum pahuch gaye. I knew that its a little rustic...but the ambience seemed to be decent.

A valet parked the car for me. Its right on the main road if you drive from Delhi Stock Exchange to Delite Cinema parallel to Ram Leela Maidan.

The menu card also is a little different. Rum with cola is called Kalia and Bloody Mary is Mona Darling.

But thats what it has...otherwise its the usual drinking station with I would say... limited menu and not so inspiring crowd...unless you join in.

Service is ok.

But definitely a place to visit for the filmy guy

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Para-motoring in Sohna near Gurgaon

Was looking out for some interesting movies on book my show and there were none for the week. Just went into the events section and found something called Flyboy. Read that its about para motoring. Didnt know what that meant. So googled para motoring and found it to be interesting.

There was the phone number of a person there. Called the person and fixed up for a slot the next day early in the morning at 6 am. He asked me to give him a call at 5 to check if the wind condition was right. Next day morning it was windy and when I called him up he said it wont happen that day. A few days later, the same procedure was repeated and he asked me to come in.

The site is about 30 kms from Gurgoan on a road that chips off from Sohna. Its right next to the Westin Resort and Spa. The site is nothing but a patch of fenced land where you can do your thing. A small outdoor lounge is there for people who are not so keen to go up in the air.

I was curious to see how it works. But in some time it was all clear. Two people sit on a cycle kind of a thing with a huge fan behind it and a parachute which takes the air from the fan. It takes off like an aeroplane and lands in the same way.

Goes to quite some height, lets say about a 1000 feet up. I have always wanted to fly a plane but off late I realised that the slower moving air borne vehicles are much more fun because you get to see around whereas in a fast moving miss out on that.

Here's how you go up

For about  a 20-25 minute ride it costed me 3200 rupees. They said it was a discount and the actual rate is around 5k. Dont know if thats true. But it was sheer fun prompting me to try out para gliding at Beed-Billing in Himachal. But thats another story.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Keylong and Rohtang

I started my professional journey at a rather remote place, Keylong, a tiny town in the high altituted Western Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh province of India. I used to work on a project to conserve endangered medicinal plant species and culture in that tribal area. No doubt I visited numerous villages around and have an attachment for the place.

I recently viisted it after a gap of about 10 years and the place still is the same unlike many other places in the world where things have physically changed. The bazaar of Keylong boasts of some 20-30 shops selling day to day needs. The hotel Tashi Deleg belongs to a local gentleman Mr Tashi, who happens to be a good friend. Its a good option to stay if you want to stay close to human habitation as the HPTDC hotel Chandrabhaga is a little away from this town.

I reached the place within a fortnight of the Rohtang Pass opening and could get some amazing shots of the Rohtang Top. Being at Rohtang is always an excitement when you are in this area. Rohtang decides if you can cross it or not as you never know when it will snow and it will get closed. You can also get stuck on the pass if there is heavy rain or snow and then you will have an experience of a lifetime there - I have had one...but thats for another blog entry I guess.

Right now I just want to show you the video I captured with snow on the top.

Also I took the Himachal roadways bus while going and some pics of the bus on its way and at the Pass. Here you go:

The buses parked at Kothi (as they start the drive up towards Rohtang from Manali)(above)

Just after the pas opens the space available on the road is just enough for the bus to sneak through...which sometimes lead to jams especially on the top if their is traffic from the opposite side. Cops do try to manage it but it could take hours especially due to the tourist traffic. (Above the bus stuck in a micro jam at the top)

After you cross the pass, all buses stop at Khokhsar the first habitation on the other side of the pass and a police check post.  Above the bus at Khokhsar.