Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nashik/Trimbakeshwar - God's abode

When living in India, one cannot escape the spiritual essence small towns and cities offer. However, people look for some other activities as well when exploring a new place. Nashik is modern mix of holiness and rich leisurely experience wrapped into one - holy for its spiritual history and serene experience it enriches you with. Leisurely affair because of all the wine tasting hobby you can develop here :)

Nashik is a well known ancient holy city situated at the northwestern side of Maharashtra and is hugely popular amongst Hindu devotees as it hosts the MahaKumbh Mela  - largest religious gathering every 12 years.

There is a huge temple complex right in middle of the old Nashik city and lies on the banks of river Godavari. All references in Ramayana of Nashik like Panchavati can be found here in temples.  In fact, there are certain temples which open only during Kumbh i.e. every 12 years.  

The point is even if you are not ardently religious, you are bound to get spiritual at this place - sit at the steps of water in the temple complex and you will get the feel of it. Ramakund is famous holy tank where you can take a dip.


The feel of this place especially in early mornings and late evening is truly captivating. I found my moments of peace and quite here observing other  people performing their rituals and in general just thinking nothing. Now I do understand why holy places make up for a great meditation place!

Another interesting activity you can combine with visiting holy temples is trekking. Trimbakeshwar is another important holy place in hindu mythology , only 30 kms from Nashik city is an ideal place to trek. The Shiva temple, surrounded by huge hill ranges, makes up for awe inspiring view. You can choose a small hill nearby and enjoy the majestic view of the temple and the town. 

The hill top where where we trekked

When you have soaked in the ambience of Nashik city and had the spiritual encounter, there is another part city eagerly waiting for an entirely difference experience. It doesn't seem right to not visit at least one winery int eh "Wine Capital of India". There are a huge number of wineries - 22 precisely when I last checked. Sula and York are popular choices and offer wine tasting, tour of the factory, wine-dining among other things. You can experiment with different items on their food menu to go with a range of wines.  

Best season to visit Nashik for a lifetime memory will be of course during the Kumbh Mela in the month of April-May of the designated year. Another hot month is the month of Feb-March - the grape stomping season. Various wineries have remarkable wine festivals during these months as well.

Whatever your calling, Nashik is one city which will leave you enriched and mesmerized.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Bhandardara: journey to an unparalleled world!

So close to the hustle bustle of one of India's busiest cosmopolitan, Mumbai, lies an abode truly rustic, hardly explored, majestic in its full glory during monsoons is small hill station Bhandardara.

Why to go?
Living up to its name, a valley of treasures, Bhandardara is an excellent choice to unwind over a long weekend. Surrounded all sides by huge mountains, including Mt. Kalsubai, the highest peak of Maharashtra, and lakes in the middle- Bhandardara is a treat for eyes. There are hikes and trails nestled in every nook and corner, rainfalls coming into the view while driving, greenery at its utmost best and above all, a very tranquil environment for re-invigoration.

What to see?: There are a lot of attractions apart from soakinng in the all the beauty around and seeking visual pleasures. There are water bodies like Wilson dam, Arthur lake and Randha falls where locals come for picnics on holidays,  hikes for panoramic view Kalsubai, Ghatghar, Ratnagad fort. Sandhan valley for awe inspiring natural architecture and Amriteshwar temple for a spiritual connect. If  nothing is your calling, you can just chill around near the villages sit by the lake or wild grasslands and ponder about life!

How far/When?: Connected very well via road, it is a 185 kms journey from Mumbai and is detour from the Mumbai Nasik Expressway at Igatpuri. The road is good and drive is mostly smooth. You will also encounter ghats along the way so just be a little cautious.  Igatpuri, is again the nearest railway station. The best season to visit Bhandardara is monsoons of course when the lakes are full, waterfalls are gushing with its full velocity, green is splendid and the clouds add the touch of drama to the view.
Where to stay?: There are a few options to stay - MIDC resort being the obvious first choice. But keep in mind to book in advance since it is highly likely to get booked in monsoon weekends. Apart from the regular other small resorts and hotels near the lake, one can also opt a home stay in any of the villages surrounding the lake. We had a wonderful experience of an overnight in a small room with a bed and small bathroom just at the edge of the Arthur lake- home cooked simple but delicious meal served hot, and bonfire under a full moon. I would definitely recommend trying this one out if you are game to taste the village lifestyle and culture. Just connect with any eager locals you meet to inquire about such stays.

Rarely we come across places which are so bountiful and complete within itself, that travel may even seem an intrusion and disturbance to the perfect balance it maintains. Every where around you see a harmony with nature, mankind in a rural setting - friendly and content. This place transports you to another world -  Bhandardara is perfect to unwind, relax and replenish yourself with all the good energies mother earth can provide you with. Do have your share of paradise in the next monsoon trip you plan!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Blue comforts : Memoirs of a couch

The thrill of decorating a new home is like painting an empty canvas. I had numerous visits to the furniture stores in that month. We had to fit in pieces of dining table, beds, wardrobes and sofa-sets to convert our flat to livable space. And I was so excited.
Shopping for furniture means choosing a long term partner for your house. Different shapes and sizes of sofa sets were talking to me through the shop windows. A shining black leather recliner winking at me from a distance and alluring me to take him home. A covered cloth sofa sets in bright summer colors offering a competition to palette. They even adorned flashy and digitally printed cushion covers with ditsy celebrity faces or artistic Buddha pictures to add to the glamour. I was attracted to one of such bright blue fabric sofas. Italian making. While I was engrossed in feeling the fabric of this newly found gem, my husband on the other hand spotted a meek wooden sofa in the corner. In the world of modern architecture and design, authentic teak wooden sofas had lost its demure. And the shop sales team had shoved him in the corner. Where he could miss eyes of many.

On my husband's firm insistence, I gave a side glance to him. He was looking with half open eyes as if afraid of being in the spotlight. But it was too late. We had already started encroaching its private space. Sitting on the davenport, inspecting the jalidaar design on the sides, gorging on the wonderful natural wood polish on fine teak, pushing our heads back to get a feel of the comfort, we had already started exploiting it. After our shares of inhibition and detailed thought process, we finally decided to give that quaint little furniture set a chance. We had fun with the customization process, jute fabric with blue and cream pastel colors among other things.

The excitement of getting our first piece of furniture home is truly amazing. The feeling of new crisp fabric under your fingers, the smell of freshly painted wood. I inspected every inch of the sofa set when it arrived and I was pretty pleased with the end result. A single seater futon of the identical twin was my favorite. For no particular reason. And I placed it in the direct attention of the guests. In the centre of the arrangement. Right in front of the television.

For few days, the sofa humbly enjoyed his new home, standing majestically at the focal point. He had now opened up to his new owners offering highest level of comfort. Well technically, people might argue that this is not possible. But to me, as an emotionally attached entity, he spoke of immeasurable amount of serenity. Relaxation came out instantly upon submission.

However, his days of glory were short lived. With the news of our new settlement, the universe started conspiring to send guests at our home in huge volumes. We had began entertatining people at our house on weekly basis with night out parties in living space. Our poor little sofa had now addtitional responsibilities. At times, it was even bearing weights in range of 100-120 kgs. After each visit, it was bruised and scratched unapologetically. Long sharp fingernails of a female friend or edgy metallic bracelet on Male's hand, the exploiters were naive and the attacks were unintentional. Wet wipes from the house maid or simply poor varnish quality from the manufacturers, the sofa took it all. And soon, what once was the trendiest item in the house slowly became used , done and dusted.

 Now the days of admired acclaim are diminishing as most of our guests portfolio have visited the house atleast once. The sofa has been appreciated for its beauty and comfort enough number of times. It still stands with a pride, although bruised and torn, the comfort and luxury it provides to me is inexplicable. As a secret ritual, I reach out to the sofa on solitary days and nights, curl my legs up and bend my head backwards. And the couch still embraces me like his own taking me to new rides of snugness. Every single time.