Two Travel Poems


These poems are very special to me. First published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday, they talk of a time I lost somewhere in this journey called life.

Today it is exactly a month to their publication and a photograph by my son reminded me that I hadn’t shared them with you. This is the first time I have written any travel poems so please bear with me.

 

Life, some smoke, some clouds… ज़िन्दगी, कुछ धुआँ, कुछ बादल

Pic credit Shubhang Dogra from another time, another place

 

“On this summer night,
the cinnamon scented air,
laced with Old Monk,
lured me to the same German Bakery
where I once wrote poems long forgotten.”

Read both the poems here  Two Travel Poems 

 

Monday Memories 3 – Memories From A Distant Meal Or One Moment In Time (Part 2)


I promised to bring some sizzle with this post but you know I am a wimp when it comes to divulging such details.  Though I can assure you some nice leisurely Monday reading  that will make you nostalgic about those good old times when life cruised along at snail’s pace and we had time to smell the flowers and watch the sunsets and of course savor good food morsel by morsel.

Indian highways are dotted with Dhabas and theka’s (liquor stores) that sell “child(chilled) beer” . When you are on National Highway and you  know your dhabas  then only you can call yourself a true blue traveler. They can be one of those famous ones like Puran Singh Da Dhaba at Ambala, Sukhdev Da Dhaba near Karnal, Chaupal near Ambala, Pahalwan Dhaba at Murthal (vegetarian)  and if you are traveling in the blistering summer heat then 1-2 kms after Modinagar to Meerut, is Jain Shikanji  where you get amazing lip smacking shikanji (lemonade) and to-die-for paneer pakodas with tangy chutney. Anyone who has driven on NH-58 will tell you about this awesome joint.

Be it NH-58 or NH-1 we discovered some lesser known dhabas which serve food that makes you yearn for them. They may not feature in Travel blogs, Food shows or magazines but still they are on the list of all those zipping past on these highways.

We took NH-24 very often for our trips to Uttarakhand and every time visited some new dhabha  to satisfy our hunger for fresh , wholesome meal but the Amritsariya Dhaba just ahead of Rudrapur became our favorite stop. The place is owned by an old sardarji who became an integral part of all our journeys. It wasn’t just the delicious food that he served or the charm of the rustic ambiance the place offered but the unconditional love with which he always welcomed us. Sometimes all it takes it a nurturing, caring attitude to end all your troubles, all your stress and tiredness. There was a special magic in his thin wrinkled fingers, in his trembling voice, in those  delicate lines on the face and in the eyes that lit up when he saw our car approach to a halt.  Each visit gave us a sense of homecoming. As he artistically spun the dough for those soft, aromatic tandoori rotis he would as us about our journey, Adi’s hostel stay and the remarkable thing was that he never forgot anything we had earlier mentioned to him. There was a joy in the simple things he did.

The aroma of the Dal Tadka and the chicken gravy that he made with a secret spice mix still lingers in my mind. He never allowed his staff to prepare Rotis or Parathas for us. He would roll up his sleeves and do the honors himself. If you have ever eaten food in Dhaba set in the midst of fields of rice with the fresh water hand-pump gushing out clean chilled water then you will know what I am talking about. Most of the time the tea would be complimentary and so would be the packed food. He always packed us some food on our trips to Adi’s hostel in Ranikhet. A gesture that warmed our hearts. He even gave me a packet of freshly made “secret” masala for his chicken gravy and always called me “Puttar ji” (a loving word for daughter).

I know this is a food post but food is made special by those who cook it with love and passion. We recommended the place to many and everyone came with similar tales of love and caring. They all told us how much the old man missed us. A bond made over authentic rural food, sweet sugary milky tea and big glasses of sweet or salted lassi / shikanji  in summer. A bond that warms our hearts across miles that stretch between us.

The other story comes from ancient picturesque town of  Bhagsunag in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. It is place I have visited many times and each visit became memorable for more than one reasons but one thing that remained forever etched in memory is the variety of delicious food from Tibetan to Israeli to Mexican and the list goes on.

It was a beautiful summer night when we decided to dine at the German Bakery. I have eaten in may German Bakeries all over Himachal Pradesh and never tasted such good food anywhere. It was managed by two young men from Goa and between them they churned out the some of my favorite dishes. Be it lamb steak or baked beans on toast,variety of grilled and plain sandwiches, freshly made burgers, pastas, pizzas that left you longing for more, authentic Israeli dishes like shwarmas, falafel, crepes,sabih etc with accompaniments , two types of English breakfast,  mouth-watering apple crumble and apple and walnut pies to name a few things.

That one last night was made special by the crescent moon that lazily trailed holding a hem of cottony clouds.  It was a rather nippy night warmed by dark rum that we had carried with us. A chess board spread across the table, notes from guitar and hushed laughter filling the night, an orgasmic blend of aroma rising from the joints the hippies were smoking in the corner table, low lights just enough to spot what one was eating.. it was heaven on earth.

The boys had to go to bed and were whisked away by their dad to the hotel but I decided to stay back with a friend who has accompanied us.  Some times are made memorable just by sheer magic of the place and words often fall short when one tried to capture those feelings much later in life. We played a few games that stretched for hours but neither of us had our heart in the game of chess. After finishing our food we just sat there gazing at the beautiful night and entranced by what surrounded us.

The owner, a friendly chap,  brought us some more snacks, this time on the house. We thanked him and settled down for a midnight feast of delicate flavors and tender bites over coffee shots and dark rum. It was amazing to find traditional pies done to perfection. Each bite was  full of crispy pie and hot apple chunks flavored by spices. Unforgettable to say the least.

Around 2 o’clock in the night we took leave from the friends who had made our stay in Bhangsu so special and headed for the hotel. Fingers linked together we maneuvered the narrow winding lane and walked on the moonlit path leading to the hotel. The rest of the gang was snoring to glory and we, still intoxicated by the sumptuous food and drinks, sat on the terrace till the clouds took over the little town and it began to drizzle.  Among all my travel food memories I cherish this one a lot. I somehow never managed to go back and now as I write this my heart is yearning to escape to those lovely hills. My room seems full of those aromas from the kitchen of that fantabuous German Bakery. Maybe it is time to pay a visit.

I will come back next Monday with some other recollections from the past , till then bon appetit.

 

Dharamshala Adventure


Summers had set in and we were ready to explore yet another destination. We were offered accommodation in Dharamshala and so, instead of going to the unexplored places, we normally go to, we decided to visit the land of His Holiness Dalai Lama.
We went to Dharamshala from khajjiar which is near Dalhousie. It was a six nights five day trip.

Dharamshala lies on a spur of the Dhauladhar range, the Pir Panjal region of the Outer Himalayas; and commands majestic views of the mighty Dhauladhar ranges above, and the Kangra Valley below.

It is the land of awesome peaks, of Tibetan monasteries, and of meandering streams cascading down the majestic mountains rising up to 4000 feet. The gorges, wild daisies growing like a carpet of yellow n white, the springs leave you asking for more.

The main town is divided into two halves .The lower and the upper Dharamshala.
Upper Dharamshala has a distinct character of its own and is influenced by the Buddhist culture .It is known as McLeodganj and is the seat of Dalai Lama. This place reflects the Tibetan way of life and is tranquil n serene .The crisp breeze is filled with the chanting of hymns n tinkling of prayer wheels. It’s a world in its own. Heavenly, calm and breathtakingly beautiful. The locals are friendly and warm people and one can easily relate to them. The evening prayers, the meditating monks, the laughter of the little children dressed in maroon outfits, the mighty statue of Lord Buddha in gold, just takes your breath away. It was a treat to our spiritually starved soul.

Apart from the spiritual stuff, the place offers some of the mouthwatering Tibetan food, from thupkas and dimsums, to a wide variety of local food, hand woven carpets, artifacts and spiritual music and books. The place is a heaven for food lovers, the constant flow of westerners has added to its flavor with German bakeries offering delicacies, out of this world.
One can spend hours at this captivating place, walking down the trek routes, all along the hills.

The lower Dharamshala is a traveler’s base camp and a place where you can see people from across the world. It’s a busy town dotted with cyber cafes, crowded market place, restaurants, eateries, cafes and local shops.

The place is known for its beauty, elegance and charm that it expresses through the natural scenarios and the mystic ambiance. The coniferous forests and the snow capped mountains are a welcoming treat from the hustle bustle of the city life.

We were in a mood to chill out completely and didn’t want to go to usual places of tourist interest .Both the kids were ecstatic to find video parlors, cyber cafes n their favorite eating joints, and that was a bliss .We were left to do our own bit.
Loaded with ample supply of booze and the task now was to relax and find a good German café .Tucked on a hill side our search ended at a lovely café which not only offered great food but also had board games like Dominos, chess and carom and regular sessions of guitar playing.

The whole day, we explored the spectacular places like Bhagsunag waterfalls; the side of the rocky hill had been cut and paved with stones, to create a walkway to the waterfall. the path is approximately 1.5km. And very steep .it is a place one can spend hours without tiring..The water is fast and cold and one can sit on the huge boulders admiring the beauty surrounding the place.Bhagsunag also has an ancient temple of Shiva and is the ceremonial temple to First Gorkha Rifles. The monasteries and the nature trails in the forests, the local kotwali bazaar, church of St.John nestled between the wilderness and built in Gothic style , war memorial are the other places we explored , and, in the evening we returned to the café for steaks n barbecue, freshly baked breads n cakes. The owner, a young lad from Goa, was a friendly soul and after a little negotiation, allowed us to have our drinks at the far side of the café, dominated by the westerners. These hippies and regular travelers lived in their own world of dope n drinks and had little to do with anyone around .The music from their guitars and flutes floated sweetly in the night air. It was an experience of a life time for us.

Playing chess till the darkness and the cold enveloped us, we were transported to some other world .Slowly the crowd thinned and even our party broke up, but I was not in a mood to give up the intoxicating experience of the night life and persuaded our friend to stay on . Promising rest of the family, to return to the hotel, at dinner time.

It was our last night there at Dharamshala, and we wanted to make the most of it. Walking down the narrow lanes in the starlight, we saw a totally different aspect of the majestic Dhauladhars .Though most of the hill stations look the same at night; here something was captivating the senses. The air was pure n cool mixed with a heady cocktail of incense sticks and aromas coming from various road side food joints. We came across groups of hippies huddled together smoking pot or something similar.
One thing that I regretted, was taking my handy cam and not the digital camera or any other Camera for capturing the enchanting beauty of the place.

The nights are alive in Dharamshala, with so many soul cafés organizing rave nights, full of trance and techno music and dance .there are new events every night and places are mainly frequented by hippies and youngsters visiting the place.
Though I was very excited to go for an adventure of a different kind, the on growing pressure from the two male members of the group made me change my plans.
We reached the hotel well after the dinner time and sneaked into beds, only to be awakened and scolded for being so irresponsible .After a bit of buttering up things calmed down and we offered the angry lot, some scrumptious baked stuff, we had got packed on our way back.
No one was in mood to sleep so we kept chatting till the wee hours and then after a quick nap, packed our bags to say good bye to this celestial place. Getting up at around six we started our drive back to Delhi, full of happy memories and a longing to come back to this heaven on earth as soon as possible