Category: People

Clean up traveler

Clean up traveler, before it’s too late

Posted By : Escape Route/ 401 1

Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and packets

When was the last time you were actually planning a trip and surfing through different options? So you think of Shimla ─ mostly a concrete jungle, McLeodganj ─ brimming with humans all the time, Nainital ─ even the tal isn’t enticing anymore, Agra – ideal for a stampede, Jaipur – not so pink anymore…the list of places you don’t prefer going to anymore is endless. The reason is us ─ the travelers in all our glory.

We have not been respectful enough of the natural gifts. All these locations have been covered with concrete and are mostly man-made disasters waiting to happen. We cannot do much about the damage already done, can we?

At the same time, if you look around carefully, each off-beat location is getting polluted by humans into a garbage dump with plastic, used belongings, perishables etc. Social media is a culprit too, with all the amazing filters, it calls all viewers to visit the beautiful locations but never tells you about your ingrained responsibility to preserve that space.

Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and chips packets. We are all aware of the scarcity of natural resources, depleting clean water, less and less of fresh air and definitely lesser green areas. We also see hordes of warnings about not polluting the environment and caring about the landscapes, but who cares.

Picture this, at present one has to travel at least 200 kms and more from the nearest metro city to be in the lap of nature. Passionate bloggers and photographers are covering more than double the distance to show you how the clean world looks like. It takes you minimum of 4-5 hours to leave the grime and dust of the city to start breathing fresh air. What matters is how you behave while you are breathing fresh air in that area.

Some facts to get your attention:

  • Over 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country
  • Task of value extraction is left to the informal system of garbage collectors and recyclers
  • Only 80% of waste generated is collected and merely 28% processed
  • Swachh Bharat focuses too narrowly on individual action to keep streets clean without any pressure on State and Municipal authorities

There are stark threats to the world like the climate change, global warming etc. we cannot do much about it, but we can do what we can. We are listing out a few points for travelers to help conserve Mother Nature as we trot her majestic mountains and beautiful valleys:

  1. Just stop littering – Please stop throwing while you walk and look all fancy. It is just not cool, is bothersome and affects everyone around you. No natural spot ever looked exquisite with discarded food cans, plastic bottles and other used stuff. Please stack the used items in a disposable bag, just carry it a little distance and place it in the dustbins. There are organisations like Waste Warriors and Clean Up Himalayas doing their bit, you need to do yours.
  2. Act local – Locals do not pollute the environment they live in.
  3. Conserve resources – One thing we must learn from our villages – Take only as much as you can consume, whether it is food or resources. What is the point of going to new places and not picking up their best practices?

We don’t have all the gyaan for you, but hopefully you get the thought. Please share what else do you think can be useful in maintaining the sanctity of all travel zones. We will update the article with your propositions.

PS – For each of Escape Route trips, we carry our own garbage bags and ensure that our fellow travelers make use of it for any kind of leftovers/throwaways. Littering is just not done.

Jammu

Jammu: Beyond Temples

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 444 0

The quintessential winter capital of Jammu & Kashmir, from the eyes of a native…

The city of temples, no not Benaras, not Rishikesh, not even Bhubaneshwar or Madurai… but Jammu. I grew up watching hoardings in the city that portrayed Jammu as the ‘City of Temples’, but with time I realized there are many contenders for the title.

J&K is a state with Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh being the three important pillars. Jammu and Kashmir both serve as the administrative capitals of the state for 6 months each. Jammu, other than being the gateway to heaven on earth – Kashmir, is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains. While the winters here are freezing cold, it gets really hot in the summer. The official language of this state that is home to people from different ethnicities is Dogri. It would be interesting to note that the melody queen Lata Mangeshkar sang many a Dogri song, one of which equates the language and the people of Jammu as sweet and kind.

Until 1947, the state was under the rule of the Rajputs of the Dogra dynasty that left behind an air of royalty in the region; they were known for their élan. Many also relate the city to the revered Vaishno Devi shrine and the age-old Bagh-e-Bahu fort. But there is more to the city than one would find on Google.

The charm of this city dwells with its residents, like it is in most cases. If one does manage to escape the touts selling first copies of kashmiri pashminas and grade-two dry fruits at Raghunath bazaar, you would find the genuine shop keepers very helpful and honest. The narrow by-lanes of the old Jammu city are full of surprises. Most of the hole-in-the-wall eateries may leave you with an unmatched taste that the outer world is oblivious to. Sardarji’s kulcha shop in the third lane next to Raghunath Mandir will serve you an incredible fill of any type of a kulcha one can imagine, soya kulcha being the top favorite.

A revolving restaurant called Falak at the top floor of KC Plaza next to the famous Raghunath Bazar is a must go-to. By the time you are served with the main course you would be satiated with the breath taking views of the entire city and the Tawi River flowing below. The KC plaza lane is house to sumptuous eateries serving Punjabi, Jammu as well as Kashmiri delicacies and the bars such as Baron at KC plaza would leave you searching for a comparable hospitality anywhere else in the world.

Bollywood has had a huge impact on the life of an average Jammu teenager. Since the kids are blessed with good looks and talent comes in handy, you would come across many success stories in Bollywood as well as the booming saas-bahu series during prime time. I recently came across and inquisitive airport security officer, who was curious to know if actor Vidyut Jamwal is my cousin, blame it on the identical surname.

Maharaja Hari Singh – the last ruler of Jammu was a man of great taste. His gift to the society could not have been better than the Maharaja Hari Singh Niwas Palace which is now a heritage luxury resort in the city. The open air restaurant overlooking the Tawi River lets you gaze at the scenic hill range while you wine and dine. Luxury cannot be more reasonable at Jammu when you can own a part of this historical palace for a couple of nights without a dent on your pocket. Any trip to Jammu for me is incomplete without an evening spent at the museum palace with my college buddies.

For all the countryside fans, Jammu’s rustic charm shows up as soon as you move out of the by lanes of the old Jammu city and cross the bungalows at Gandhi Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Chhanni Himmat, Sainik Colony and Greater Kailash.

Since Jammu also borders Pakistan at one side, our border villages house daredevil families who mostly appear on news channels as soon as there is an infiltration or shelling from across the border. Having grown up listening to the army shooting exercises as a routine affair, the noise does not intimidate the residents anymore. Jammu has diverse demographics yet there has never been a single religious mishap in the history of the city. In fact, everyone comes together and supports any cause of national importance.

Next time you are in Jammu, befriend a local and it is in our blood to be courteous and hospitable.

#couplegoals

From one married couple to another: Here’s why staying in a hostel should be on your list of #couplegoals

Posted By : Shraddha Gupta/ 385 0

I won’t lie, we both were battling inside with various levels of being reluctant – but less did we know that this hostel experience would turn out to be one of the best bonding activity we did as a couple…

Three years of being married and Mr. H and I have found accommodation in endless hotels, resorts and Airbnb’s throughout our vacations. But never did the idea of staying in a hostel cross our mind (only god knows why), until recently, while we were looking for our options in Iceland.

Let’s accept it – marriages/relationships are not 24-hours rosy. Couples that don’t fight, don’t disagree and don’t demand their own space after a few years of being together are almost a myth (no offence to the ones who still claim to be perfect together – I am yet to meet you). And hence, we all need to re-bond every once in a while to make sure that the spark is still on – till death do us apart.

In January 2017, we both took a trip to Iceland and booked ourselves into a 6-bed dormitory at KEX Hostel in Reykjavik. The hostel boasted of some really cool yet cozy common spaces, live music, one of the best gastropubs in the city, and an easy-on-our-pocket kind of budget. And in one really impulsive moment – we booked KEX – ditching all our other luxury stay options. By now from the tone of this article – you would know we had an amazing experience (almost like an eye-opener) – and here is why we think staying in a hostel as a couple is an essential bonding activity (#couplegoals) all married couples should indulge in at least once in their lifetime:

  1. You connect with each other as FRIENDS again, because sometimes we forget how it used to feel like. A hostel environment is all about meeting new people and staying with strangers in a common dormitory. Once you check into a hostel – the idea of privacy is almost nil – so forget about getting a cozy corner to romance it out. With so much happening around you – PDA is not an option – which leaves you with only one choice of being best buddies all over again.You learn to look out for each other in washroom queues and guard each others luggage in common spaces. You hunt for a table to eat together and often hold onto seats while your better half is gone to fetch his/her breakfast. You both are two ‘individuals’ traveling together minus all the lovey-dovey feelings – which forces you to re-connect as friends.
  2. You push yourself out of your couple-comfort-zone and explore more outdoors. Staying in a shared dorm with bunk beds also means ‘no bedroom’, no cuddles, and no private bathroom. As a couple this very feature of a hostel is often THE deal-breaker; but a few years down a relationship – it’s an interesting experience. It pushes you both out of your room, and makes you concentrate on being outdoors, explore the destination a lot more, and spend more time discovering new things to do outside your accommodation.Or even just spending more time in the common areas of your hostel – reading a book, catching up with people and just enjoying some good music in the company of complete strangers.
  3. You discover each others likes/dislikes/ideas/opinions/habits in the process of meeting new people.You learn new things together. The best part of a hostel experience is the constant in-and-out of travelers from all over the world. It is the perfect place to communicate with strangers and make new friends over all kinds of engaging conversations. As a couple we often slow down on getting to know each other assuming we already know our better half inside out. But people evolve and change with time – so does your partner. On a table full of different world-views and ideas – it is more than likely that you will discover exciting things about each other once again. 
  1. You are more likely to make changes to your itinerary and try new things together. Meeting travelers from all over the world in a hostel opens you up to various experinces, tips, recommendations and guides that you might not have researched earlier. This gives you both the privilege to together tweak your plans for the better and come across different things to do or better ways to lead your trip just by being in the company of new people.
  2. You start flirting with each other again. This is probably my favourite part of being in a hostel – that you are constantly trying to steal a kiss from each other or grab a quick hug – when no one is watching. A crowded hostel is everything you need if you wish to rekindle that flirty spark you two once had and trust me it’s all worth it.

Or worst case – you might not like it as much as we did – but even that very feeling will be something that you will discover together and at the least will make you bond closer…

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This blog first appeared on Streettrotter and is the original work of Shraddha Gupta, Founder & Editor, Streettrotter.

Shraddha Gupta is an aspiring digital nomad who loves life in balance and stability at the same time. A part time journalism/fashion professional and a travel writer during the rest of her days – she is trying to find the right mix of being lost and discovering herself with new goals over and over again. A social media addict, a foodie, an essential photographer and a culture enthusiast – you will most likely find her planning a new dream for herself, always.

Milan

That timeless evening in Milan

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 358 0

It was a beautiful day in Milan. She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself

It had been raining the past couple of days and the overwhelming aroma of the city kept reminding me of South Mumbai. Only, the sights of beauties such as Ducati, Benelli on roads would bring me back to the happy realisation that I was trotting the streets of Milan, one of the most popular cities of Italy.

There are many aspects that make Milan different, when compared to the sights we are attuned to in India. For example; clearer skies, lazy sit-out cafes on the sides of the water canals, all lit-up restaurants with people sipping their wines in glory. It is also amazing to observe those small football goalposts in nets, partly on water and partly on ground with kids trying to perfect their kicks.

At Milan, you cannot take fashion out of even the mundane things. We don’t get to see as voguish people doing the regular things like picking up veggies, strolling or just enjoying a cuppa latte in our side of the world. The clothes, shoes, walk, jovial attitude and confidence of the Milanese say a lot about the culture of this upmarket city.

For a shopping crazy person like me, ticking all the marks on the ever expanding shopping list is always a challenge. However, I have perfected a trick to make sure that one reaches even halfway with the impulsive shopping list, by trying a thing called window-shopping before the-actual-shopping. It helps you check best deals and compare prices before the money leaves your hand. And if you are at the Buenos Aires shopping street at Milan, be double sure about two things. One, you will get the same pair of shoes for 300 as well as 30 Euros, just keep checking till you need to pinch yourself. Second, do not consider money back as an option even if the jacket you bought has all its threads coming out from everywhere; the salesman will rather ask you to let-it-go and pick-something-else. And there is not much you can do with a tough man wearing black tights with a loud unapologetic tone.

Somehow, even in that business, Milan shows less chaos in comparison to an average Indian metropolitan. I kept looking out to see two Italians roughing it over a traffic feud or a jealous boyfriend picking up a fight about his decked up doll…but nothing, it was business as usual, just in an unfamiliar quiet way. As a regular North Indian would say, ‘machoness’ was missing.

In Milan, they don’t cut the pizzas into those nice little slices; so you just fold one and gobble it up than fighting it with a fork and the usual blunt table knife. Unlike the sophisticated lanes of the coveted Hauz Khas village in Delhi, where the Michelin un-starred pubs entice you with a plus one or plus two on drinks, cafes and bistros in Milan entice you with endless servings of free snacks alongside a 5 Euro glass of wine.

It must have been my fifth serving of some amazing nachos when I found her blue eyes staring at me. Most of the times I am colour blind, but I am very sure it was a turquoise off-shoulder dress that she was wearing. With her black long hair, she sat elegantly as I was fixed on the most beautiful pair of blue eyes. I couldn’t breathe; all the food inside my mouth almost choked me and I had to down it with some of the wine on my table. She smiled and chuckled, making it embarrassing. I heard her friend ask what was funny but she hesitated to point at my face. For any sane guy, that would have been the apt moment for an introduction, but not for me. I had to wait it out till there was another choke building up and the awkwardness had reached newer heights. Like a fool, I finally got up and said ‘hi’. I was greeted with two smiles, one obviously better to my eyes than the other.

“How are you doing?”, I asked and was offered a seat. That was easy; I should have done that earlier… I actually said that, which was thankfully missed in the introductions. “Noah”, she introduced herself as we stared right at each other.

She was prettier than it seemed from a distance, at least her attitude made her so. And I found her at loss of words, just like myself. To our rescue, her friend Christine just could not stop talking. They were waiting there for her boyfriend. “Whose boyfriend?”, I asked. “Mine”, said Christine cheerfully as Noah smiled.

Christine had an Indian boyfriend called Varun. What followed was over thirty minutes of talk by Christine about how much she knows about India and how Varun has promised to bring her to India and everything else. Noah and I spent most of our time stealing glances. Noah liked India, but she did not want to come to India for a short trip, she wanted to explore. Noah didn’t like going out much, she would rather stay at home and watch TV Series than sit at a lousy cafe on a regular evening.

But since, it was Christine’s and Varun’s third month anniversary, she had to be part of the celebrations. How cute! In the middle of all this, Christine suddenly got up and jumped towards…Varun, it was him. While I was waiting to meet an Indian brother to find a common ground, it took me a while to get up as in all her excitement of meeting Varun, Christine had jumped right up, pushed the table and had sent a glass of water in my lap. Never mind, will look at the damages later…”Hi Varun, kya haal chaal?”, I said and I was greeted with a blank look in response. “Vrooon“, he corrected me.

Christine begged him to speak to me in ‘Indian’, and he goes, “Namuhste, kaise hain aap“, which was followed by a great applause and hugs and kisses from Christine. While I was still trying to fathom what had happened and to get over Varun’s err Vrooooon’s ponytail and tattoos, Noah handed me over some tissues alongside an apologetic smile. “Let us paarteh, you want to come bruh?”, asked Vroooon.

As much as I wanted to stay, I still had to go to my hostel and get into dry pair of denims before I could get to know more of Noah. I told them I would join shortly and Vroooon asked me to see him at the third lane under that big grocery shop. Noah asked if I’ll be alright and further explained the exact directions to the pub. I smiled and told her that I would see her at the grocery store and we go together to the place. Generally, i wont quote bollywood but our long handshake parted with each finger bidding adieu to each other.

I kept staring at her walking away in the excitement of knowing someone special. I began to fantasize about how the night shall unfold and just when I was about to name our kids, she looked back and signaled me to hurry back to my hostel. I never did really feel any wetness from the water, on my way back. I changed into another pair of denim and t-shirt making me look alright for the occasion.

I thought if I should take flowers on my way back, but that would not have been alright. I have two more days in Milan to make it work and who knows what the future holds…India and Italy might have better bilateral relations from thereon, I thought to myself. I reached the spot and realized that all the transit had made me 20 minutes late from the decided time of rendezvous. I rushed to the grocery store entrance and then inside it, checked across the road and even in other shops around. But maybe, 20 mins was too much of a wait for Vroooon and Christine…