2015 has been an incredible year.
From meeting some of my favourite writers to travelling surreal wonderlands, I really couldn’t have asked for anything better.
It has been a steeper learning curve too. Some of the most important things I learnt was to say no to free work, developing a thick skin and accepting the irregularities that come along in the life of a freelancer.
Barring May and September, I have travelled all through the year and it has been exhaustingly satisfying. The main highlights from this year were arguably my three visits to Uttarakhand, the 20-day sojourn in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, the special Valley of Flowers trek, the whirlwind trip through Spain’s Andalusia and returning home to Shillong thrice. My first-time visits to Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were authentically charming.
Sometimes I felt that every moment eluded me too soon—that life was moving a bit too quick. And I wanted to hold on to it like a fistful of sand.
That is why I will be travelling slow most of next year. As I chalk out my travels for the first half of 2016, I realise that making time to be present is essential. Whether it is to dig out stories and graciously put them together, or being there for a loved one, next year will be more about balancing all aspects of life for me.
If you asked me to go back in time and pick some of my favourite moments from 2015, these would be it.
George Brooks live in Sirpur National Dance & Music Festival 2015
On a cold Winter night in Sirpur, 80 kms away from Chhattisgarh’s capital, the fusion and the spectacular collaboration of George Brooks, Ustad Shujaat Khan, Prasanna and Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram created magic. It was a music experience like no other. Even now, I am easily transported back to the rhythm that Brooks’ saxophone and the percussion that the orchestra wove.
You know that moment when words escape your head and your heart says ‘this is it’? Yup, that one is also called Córdoba in my life.
Random conversations with CRPF personnel
In an extreme corner of the country, in Arunachal Pradesh, I met some friendly and warm CRPF personnel. My short yet detailed conversations with them reflected on how different our lives were. While their expectations, experiences and aspirations were realistic and very inspiring, it got me thinking how thankful I was for having met them. I expressed my gratitude and saved a selfie as a souvenir. I’ll never forget some of their smiles.
That moment in Kanha National Park…
When my eyes locked with the Royal Bengal Tiger named Munna. Spellbound and intimidated, I have never been so ambivalent. In my head, I was shuttling between the probabilities of the tiger taking a plunge at me and how majestically powerful this animal is in reality.
The Valley of Flowers trek
For me, trekking to and back from the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib was introspective. It was like a reality check at many levels. Of course, the landscapes and the people added as much value to the entire experience.
Kayaking in Mauritius
I itch to kayak. And my an hour-long paddling across a tiny section of the Indian Ocean was rewarding. At that point, it didn’t matter how hot or burning the sun was.
Relearning friendship in Mumbai and Goa
Revisiting Bombay has become essential for my well-being. This time, when I travelled back to Bombay and Panjim, I sensed a change in some of my relationships. I was happy to see how easily I accepted and learnt from these conversations and developments.
Addicted to Indian Riesling
Sula never disappoints. And in August, when I returned with a bottle Riesling and two of Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, I knew that this affair will last me a lifetime.
Flamenco and its fire
Not only did Seville’s flamenco museum give me a quick glimpse of its history, but also allowed me to try a few of the dance steps. It was liberating and fun!
Revisiting the mountains with friends, strangers and solo
I’ve learnt two very contradictory things this year—for one, I will try and never travel with strangers and the other that sometimes strangers make the best travel companions. (Pssst, I’m not deciding right away!)
My therapeutic trip to Uttarakhand’s Kumaon with my friends was followed by a short solo escape in a neighbouring district. And I returned to Uttarakhand (Garhwal and Kumaon again) to travel with diverse groups of strangers. In each visit, I learnt something new and felt more gratitude for the people I met. May be it was the mountains that brought us together?
Flying international in business class
Truly, these are life’s rewards. Flying Turkish Airlines’ business class from Mumbai to Madrid was like living a dream. Every time I feel like an upcoming professional slack, I recall the experience and get back to work.
Rediscovering roots in Shillong and Tinsukia
Earlier this year, I had mentioned about geographically travelling back to my roots. In November, I took a few weeks off, unplugged and rediscovered the magic of being home. Apart from the continuing charm of Shillong, my trip to Tinsukia (in Assam) was fulfilling. These are moments I know I will savour forever.
Which are your memorable travel moments from 2015?