I am an independent traveler and a documentary photographer. Creating new trails and following the unknown paths satisfies the traveler in me. I am also an avid history and culture enthusiast looking for stories and structures lost with time.
Born in the City of Joy, I befriended the camera at the age of 9 and started clicking with my treasured point and shoot film camera, gifted to me by my dad on my 8th birthday. My subjects were always diverse ranging from friendly animals in the surroundings to still life indoors, but of all I was mostly fascinated by nature’s bounty in its amazing landscapes. The fascination gave birth to the wanderer in me and by the time I was 20, I had my footprints on almost all the states in my country.
What is the best part of traveling in India?
India is like a magician’s hat! You will never know what you are going to experience in the next minute. The sheer diversity in her landscapes and cultures make India one of the most fascinating destinations on earth and a top ranker on everyone’s bucket list. In my journeys across the length and breadth of India, I have been surprised every now and then by seeing and knowing things which I never read or heard about a place. You can end up discovering a lost temple or an unknown ritual in the most uncharacteristic place and then smile at yourself saying the guidebooks cannot know everything about this country. The best part isn’t only about the surprises; it is about the complete package India offers. You can be amused at the splendour of the mighty snow capped Himalayan Mountains as well as soak in the palm fringed white sand beaches of Goa and Kovalam. You can be waiting for the sight of an endangered tiger species in one of the dense forests or taking a camel ride on the magnificent sand dunes of the Thar Desert. That is India for you, all the ingredients poured in to make the best package.
Tell us about your most memorable travel experience?
I am at my best when I am on the saddle of my motorcycle. My favorite trips have all been on the back of my machine, as it gives me complete freedom of time and space. I am free to stop at any place I like and follow the unknown trails ending up exploring something new. No points for guessing, my most memorable travel experience was a solo motorcycle ride to the God’s Own Country, Kerala. The unknown tea garden trails on the misty mountains of Munnar, the conversations with the skilled fishermen at Kochi on their catch, the breakfast with aapam and fish curry at the boatman’s hut in Alleppey, followed by an awe inspiring boat ride through the narrow backwater channels watching the daily chores of rural Kerala, undoubtedly makes this the most memorable travel experience.
Which is your absolute favorite place to visit in India? And why?
It is really difficult to choose that one absolute favorite place from the list of multiple favorites; still I would love to put Ladakh at the top of all. The coldest desert of India with its breathtaking terrain and unique landscape beckons me every time I think of traveling. The remoteness of Ladakh and the unexampled lifestyles of the nomadic tribes in the region will keep it at the top of my list for quite some time, unless too much of irresponsible tourism ruins its charm.
Tell us about the places you have been to which is off the beaten track.
I have loved to explore the non touristy circuits and the road less taken, always. There are quite a few places I would love to mention which are still not infested by package tourists. Astaranga an unexplored beach of Orissa displaying eight colors at sunset, Satkosia an unknown gorge by the Mahanadi river with amazing views, the colorful villages nestled on the tip of Sunderbans in West Bengal, the lost heritage of the Rajpipla kings in Gujarat, unexplored villages of Kerala with the backwater canals as their only travel mode, the forest trails of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the uncharted trek routes in the foothills of the Himalayas near the Singalila National Park in North Bengal and the unplumbed beaches of the Konkan coast are some of the places I can list from many “off the beaten” tracks I have traversed so far.
How does travel affect you as a person?
Travel for me is next to spirituality; it lifts one up from gross materialism and opens one’s mind completely. The more I travel, the more I get uplifted spiritually and I realize how miniscule we are in this huge stage of drama set by nature. People and their cultures are an essential part of the travel experience and the refinement of thoughts of a person is directly proportional to the diversity of cultures he has mingled with. In all these years of my travel, I have learnt to respect cultures, respect the beliefs and mindsets of people living in different diasporas. I have celebrated the human spirit along with people living in the most challenging conditions. Travel has helped me to let go of all my inhibitions. Now I can lie down anywhere under the sun and live on anything my stomach can digest.
Any advice for those planning their dream trip to India?
Respect the culture and traditions of the people you are supposed to meet on the road. India is too diverse and more than a jigsaw puzzle, to be interpreted with ease by a few guidelines. Be well informed about the places you are planning to visit and closely observe what the locals are doing. If you follow them, I am sure you will enjoy the fruits of India better, like they said When in Rome, do like the Romans. And last but not the least, travel out of the touristy circuits to experience the true India.
Which places would you recommend for someone coming to India for the first time?
The places will vary as per the interests of the person. If you love trekking and the grandeur of mountains, head to the Himalayas without any doubt in your mind. Ladakh, Kashmir Valley, Spiti Valley and Kinnaur are the places you cannot miss. Sikkim and Garhwal Himalayas (Uttarakhand State) are the second options and for the adventurous, I would recommend Arunachal Pradesh, nestled in the lower Himalayas with virgin forests and unexplored hill stations. If you love to get soaked in the beaches head to the sun kissed emerald waters of Goa or the palm fringed white sands of Kovalam. Looking to explore the majesty of the erstwhile kingdoms of India? Head to Rajasthan or the ruins of Hampi. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, then you can get on a safari at the Corbett National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park or at Kaziranga National Park on the back of an elephant. Sunderbans, famous for its mangroves and the Royal Bengal Tigers will leave you enchanted if you are a nature lover. Make sure you plan your holidays in such a way that you can cover at least one festival to taste the unique cultures of India. Be it the Durga Puja at Kolkata, the Holi at Vrindavan or the Onam at Kerala. A visit to India is never complete without at least one cultural experience.