Karmic Cleansing Retreat

So, Nashik is all geared up for probably its biggest event – the one where you would wash off all your sins in the most unhygienic way possible! So much for cleansing your mind, only for being able to do exactly what you have been doing all your life, with revived gusto and a clean slate!

Nashik has gotten its 12-yearly makeover done, which probably – according to me – is the only good thing of this fanfare. With roads widened, temporary structures in place, portable loos adorning the city, river cleaned (erm?), ghat extended, we are all-set for this mega event – by booking ourselves on vacation and vacating the town for people with purpose. Just the kind of thing to do on an extended weekend, right?

Now that the dates are so close, people have started pouring in in the city – by which I mean all the photographers are already here to get a “feel” of the place. They are just trying to capture one image, without a person with DSLR in it. This Kumbh Mela will be witness to the first time ever air traffic issues during the “snan” – with all drones bumping into each other. It’s going to be a new learning experience for the officials, and next time they will have a special team and an ATC set-up right next to the ghat. After all, documentation of people taking selfies as a proof of their purity cannot be missed, you know!

Besides, this time it is going to mark a great example of technology-meets-devotion. Around 700 CCTV cameras will keep vigil to ensure better security. LED screen have been installed to keep giving live updates to people. Community radios have been set up in buses to disseminate information to pilgrims and travelers. Of course, not mentioning the coming of age Sadhus, who have renounced even their clothes, but an iPhone! iPhone 6 to be precise.

One of the exciting things in the last few weeks was to visit Sadhugram and see the structures come up. One drive through these temporary colonies is enough to know the stature of these godmen – from corrugated sheets to air-conditioned tensile structures, everything speaks of their respective grandeur. They have now started to be occupied with various people coming in from all over the country. Numerous events and sabhas have been organized, where people lose themselves in this high intoxicating energy. It is of course devotion at work. We all know that.

Another interesting thing will be to see a lot of tourists – oops, “travelers” – coming to Nashik, and combining their holy dip with a trip to the vineyards! And why not? What is important is to attain Nirvana, one way or the other!

Amidst all the religious pomp, people like me are content having a shower of Godavari in our humble abode. At least our body is washed, if not our sins. Perks of staying in Nashik, I say!

PS – Have fun in Goa, by the way!

(This is my column in Deshdoot Times, Nashik – 22 Aug, 2015)

Done Done London!

Well yeah, I know that it is a very off-the-wall phrase from the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan, meaning “it’s a deal”. But I have used it as a very bad metaphor to have checked “Visit London” off my bucket list. I am not even sure if it qualifies as a metaphor actually!

Anyway, 2014 has been a great year! A very quick, not exactly last minute, but a sudden plan to travel around England turned out to be a brilliant one! Thank God for sisters who decide to do their masters abroad – you get to plan a I-will-go-get-her-back trip there, not to mention she is the one who actually gets you back! (Also, is it too soon for Can-I-accompany-her-for-graduation ceremony-next-year?) It was also a one-of-a-kind trip abroad, since it was only us three sisters travelling! (We really missed you Jiji!)

Well, of course anyone loves to explore any area “as the locals do”, but when you come to London, I think there is a charm in doing the clichéd touristy routine – at least once in your life – whether it is the mesmerizing view from the London eye, taking a typical picture with the red bus, booth or cab, walking over tower bridge, feeling patriotic looking at Sachin’s pictures at Lord’s, visiting Buckingham Palace, feeling a star at Madame Tussuads or paying to see our very own Kohinoor at the Tower of London.  And meeting old friends at far off land is incomparable! They are local guides to places no internet website will mention but are worth every penny! The best lunch I had there was a place Samidha hunt down for us vegetarians! :*

And London aakar agar koi musical nahi dekha toh kya khaak London aaye! It was one of the most beautiful visual treat at lyceum theatre, watching the gorgeously done Lion King. Oh my! It has been one alluring sight I have witnessed in the longest time.  While we are talking about sightly, I have to mention the day trip to breath-taking Stonehenge, splendid Roman Bath and the exquisite Windsor castle! *Note to self – Next time in UK, stay an extra day at Bath.

Inserted between was a brief trip to Manchester! Though I am not a die-hard football fan, there was no two way about visiting the plush Old Trafford stadium! One just cannot stop gawking once there! And then a visit to the delightful York was very pleasing! It is definitely a must-visit town in England, just for the sheer beauty of the countryside!

And when you are with Vinita, there has to be some adventure (read amusement park) added to the outline – so that she leaves you at peace with rest of the list! And that led to a day well spent at Alton Towers – one hell of a park! I haven’t been to any other park with this variety of roller coasters! While I am really a scaredy-cat, I did manage to ride quite a few of them! *beams with pride*

Phew! We did manage to pack quite a lot of things in the short week in England, but that place draws you to it. The swanky London architecture, unblemished streets, neat parks, swift and smooth underground, delicious cupcakes, lively city centres….Ah! I just need a reason to be back there, and I dare say – hopefully soon! And of course, Scotland is yet to be checked off the list, you know!