Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mcleodganj - Where all Come Together in Peace - My article published in TOI Jammu

My article about Mcleodganj, along with pictures by VJ Sharma, was recently published in TOI Jammu. Here's what I had written:

Mcleodganj, a small town about 10 kilometers from Dharamshala, isn’t anything like your typical hill station. Yes, there are mountains, temples, and even a quintessential waterfall, but one whiff of the air fragrant with the tantalizing aromas of fresh baking, Italian and Tibetan Cooking, and coffee, and a walk through the Buddhist artifacts-laden market are enough to transport you into another world altogether.   The fact that this town is also the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is palpable everywhere, from the narrow congested streets, receding into the heart of the town, to the Tsuglagkhang, Dalai Lama’s temple, towering over the town.

In this mesmerizing town, it is easy to chance upon sights and sounds that will make your heart burst with joy. At one corner, beautiful notes of the flute played by a tourist from another country may float through the air and make you feel one with the supreme power. While in another street, the more earthy sounds of tourists haggling with shopkeepers for the fair price of a Buddha statue that has conquered their hearts make you feel connected to the world we are bound to live in. But just when you are ready to head back towards the worldliness of Dharamshala, the sight of an old Tibetan lady, her back bent with age, walking slowly and turning the prayer wheels silently makes you want to stay on just for a little while more.

Besides Monasteries, eateries, and shops, Mcleodganj also holds close the Anglican Church of St. John in the Wilderness. Built in 1852, this magnificent building is nestled in the forest near Forsythganj and is surrounded by graves dating back more than a century. Reading the gravestones while walking around in the cemetery is enough to give goose bumps to even the bravest of the souls.

Summers in Mcleodganj are cool while winters are very cold with temperatures dipping below zero at times. The area records the second highest rainfall in the country. So it is better to carry an umbrella and waterproof shoes if you are planning to visit Mcleodganj. The town is accessible by air, by road, and by train so getting there isn’t too challenging. If you are looking to spend a day with yourself, trying to discover new things about yourself without having to cut yourself from the world, Mcleodganj is a place to visit. Go with an open heart, and you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Barot - A time capsule (Article Published in TOI Jammu)

Recently my article about Barot, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, was published in Times of India, Jammu. The pictures in the article were clicked by my friend VJ Sharma.
Here is the article:
Tucked away in the remote recesses of the Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh, lies the tiny town of Barot. To a large extent untouched by tourism, the town offers a peaceful getaway to travellers, away from the hustle-bustle of daily life. Surrounded by century-old, tall deodars, Barot is a time capsule and visiting Barot is like taking a peek into the bygone era when human beings still knew how to live in peace with their surroundings and with nature. The river Uhl runs through the town twisting its way amongst boulders and polishing pebbles till they glitter like silver and gold, and birds of all colours and sizes sing their various songs while flitting in and out of sight.
On the surface, Barot appears to be a sleepy village with women chasing hens and chicks to put them away for the night and folks dressed in traditional attire chatting away in the afternoon sun. But you just have to walk a few metres to come upon the Uhl Water Reservoir or the trout farm, which are not only symbols of progress but also underline the intertwining of a traditional way of life with modern thinking. Several homestays and guest houses offer affordable yet comfortable lodging and also provide you with a chance to interact with the ever-smiling and pleasant local people.
The town experiences very cold winters and often receives snowfall during the winter months. Days in summers are cool while the nights can get very cold so carrying light woolens even during peak summers is advisable. The road that connects Barot and Jogindernagar is more-or-less in  good condition with the exception of a few rough patches, but the route is very scenic, offering distraction from the bumpy ride. Even though Barot may not exactly be on the tourist circle or, for that matter, even easily accessible, but for those who want to let their hair down, the town is a good travel option.