Liebster: Something to Smile About!


First and foremost, I have to apologize to the person responsible for this smile, for I am acknowledging the gesture far too late. Ms Indu Chibber ( is a wonderfully warm lady who blogs about mental health and related issues like stress, anxiety, trauma, behavioral abnormalities and so on. Hers is a very informative, motivational and popular blog. So, when she decided to confer me with The Liebster Blog Award, I was jumping with joy. For those of you who do not know, The Liebster is awarded to upcoming and relatively lesser known blogs to give them the leverage to attract a larger audience. It is an expression of faith in the ability of a blogger to continue engaging readers and growing. The rules state that the person awarded has to pass it on to eleven other bloggers who he or she deems deserving. Also, to make it more fun, you have to write eleven random facts about yourself, answer a set of eleven questions put up for you by your nominator and think of a different set to pass on to your selected bloggers. Oh, and you also get to flaunt the badge!

Eleven random things about me that you could do with not knowing:

1. I can't cook to save my life.

2. I wish I was born in a different generation just so I could listen to Floyd live.
3. I detest the color green.

4. Coffee addict.

5. I spent a summer learning to ride a horse. Till it decided to throw me off.

6. My dog and I share the same birth date.

7. I am not secretly religious or spiritual.

8. I love South Indian food.

9. And laddoos. I heart laddoos.

10. I have tiny hands!

11. I can never have enough books on my reading list.

Questions I have to answer:

1-Your favorite color?

Eh! Toughie! My preferences generally tend to vary with season. Currently I'm in love with deep blues.

2-Your favorite movie?

Fight Club. The Shawshank Redemption. Forrest Gump.

3-Your favorite music genre?

Rock/ Rock N Roll/Classic Rock

4-Your favorite actor?

Hugh Laurie.

5-Your favorite actress?

Kate Winslet. Scarlett Johansson.

6-Your favorite hobby?

Reading! Reading till your eyes get sore!

7-Your favorite blog?(some help from me---jeeteraho?)

Erm, well, I do love jeeteraho. But I dunno, there are way too many lovely blogs out there and it's difficult to choose a favorite.

#diplomatically averted

8-Your pet hate?

Irrationality. By anyone on any issue.

9-Your dream vocation?

One of the two guys on Highway on my Plate.

10-Your dream vacation?

Would be in Rome and France, for artistic reasons. And also Switzerland cuz I have to visit CERN.

11-Your ambition in life?

To savor it. And simplify it, if I can.

Here are my nominees:

Arun ~
Vinay Nagaraju ~
Tanay Sukumar ~
Neel Banerjee ~
Fizaah/Fizz ~
Vipul Gupta ~
Geetanjali Juneja ~
Priyaa Arora ~
Psych Blabber ~
Panchali Sengupta ~
Rinaya Jena ~

And now the questions I want to ask them:

1. What's your favorite color?

2. What's your favorite cuisine?
3. What are you most afraid of?
4. How religious/spiritual are you?
5. Are you a feminist?
6. What are your views on same sex marriages?
7. What is your favorite odor?
8. What music do you listen to when you're alone?
9. What do you like to do on your birthday?
10. What is your favorite genre when it comes to reading?
11. What is your favorite genre when it comes to blogging?

Traveller's Tales II: Kausauni

The adventure in the forest has ended and we are headed to the quiet, unassuming and peaceful town of Kausauni to feast our eyes with a view of the Himalayan Range.

30/12/12 -

Spent half the day travelling from Ramnagar to Kausauni, passing Ranikhet on the way. The scenery changed from green forests to the valley with a gorgeous view of the snow capped mountains. The sky here looks different, covered with a thin sheet of clouds. It's very cold here. Probably as cold as Agra right now. The hotel was almost empty- which turned out to be good for us as it meant better room service.
 The town doesn't have much to offer. It's just the kind of place one heads to for a quiet, relaxed weekend. My parents had come here once before I was born and they tell me it has developed a lot since then. I wonder what that means as it seems we can practically circle the town on foot. Nevertheless, it offers a most splendid view of the Himalayas. You could sit on the balcony all day, warm cup of tea in hand, and observe the peaks change color with the sky. You could also memorize their names and find out about the mythology attached.
We discovered the presence of a Gandhi Ashram in the region and hiked down to it. It had a nice little museum where various letters and photographs related to Gandhi's life were displayed. Read about the Civil Disobediance and Non-Cooperation movements he had brought about. He had stayed here for around fourteen days and wrote a book on Yoga. Outside, soft, pink clouds were descending on the Himalayas and people were rushing to get their pictures taken against the beautiful landscape. Then, we went to the local bazaar and checked out organic food products like tea, jam, chutney, apricot scrubs, oils etc. Kausauni is famous for it's Plum and Apricot products. They are organic, healthy and delicious. The place also offers a variety of woolen items, with Shawls being the main attraction. One can find pure woolen shawls in attractive patterns and they are very warm. The prices may seem to be a little steep, though.
31/12/12 - Temple visits.
The Baidhnath temple was built by the Kurtyas in the twelfth century. It has been impressively done in stone masonry and is located by the river.The Pandavas stayed here for fourteen days. It is actually a collection of small, dark temples built for various gods in a single compound, with stairs leading down to the river. A goat is being cut up for sacrifice in the nearby land. Dad tells me the area used to uninhabited the last time he and mom were here.

Next on the list is the Baageshwar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has some really old relics and sculptures, most of them being kept under lock and key for safe keeping. I'm not a great judge of religious places, but I can tell that this place is no favorite with the real devout. It's in the way the priests rush to perform service for my foreigner cousin and completely ignore a poor old lady standing with her hands folded. Commercialised religion.

On our way back to Kausauni, we stop by a tea factory. We climb up to the tea gardens and inspect the leaves. The owners let us taste some of their samples and I end up buying a packet of white tea. It practically looks and tastes like hot water, but has numerous benefits as an antioxidant. It is also very expensive. The lighter the color, the greater the price, they tell me. We also visit a Shawl factory and observed the workers spinning the yarn, making patterns.

On our evening trek, we stumbled upon a Planet Show.  Needless to say, I jumped up in delight at the very first mention of a telescope and had all family members out in the cold evening, on the terrace. This guy had a really powerful astronomical telescope and seemed well-versed with the positions of various stars, constellations and planets in the night sky. He helped us spot the pole star, the almost faded Ursa Major, Cassiopeia and Orion. I saw the Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda for the first time- visibility in the mountains is just wonderful. The highlight of tonight's show was Jupiter- looking mighty and angry with it's moons.
Tried Kumaoni dishes for dinner- chicken, dal, raita and potatoes cooked in the local style. It's New Year's eve and we don't have a dance floor to celebrate on so we just circle around a bonfire and shimmy with the other guests. We're in bed before eleven.
1/1/13 - Happy New Year

Welcomed the new year with new and exciting adventures. First it was the Planet Show at a quarter to six in the morning. We saw Saturn, with it's rings. It was just picture perfect, so beautiful that I suspected the whole telescope thing to be a farce. Then, we saw the craters on the Moon. Next up were Mars and Venus. Covered fifty percent of the solar system in two days. Standing on the terrace, we watched the Sun rise and it's light illuminate the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. Watched the sky change color from black to pink to purple to orange to blue. What a start to the year! I felt so lucky, so happy.


Then, we went on a short trek, had breakfast and got ready for the bigger adventure- a trek to a waterfall through the forest. It was kinda scary and shaky in the beginning because of the steep stones we had to climb down to, but once that was done, it was amazing.

The view of the pine forest with the water running by on regular intervals was spectacular. Just forgot everything about fear and went up and down the hills, crossed little rivulets, climbed up the trail- curiosity makes the mind and body keep moving forward. Climbed around ninety steps made of rock to reach a breathtaking place. Waterfall, pond, rocks, caves and a Shiva temple inside the cave: it was a sight to behold. The temple seemed to be ancient as there were carvings on it's walls. A priest took care of it now and had installed all the instruments necessary for the prayer service. I found more peace and solace outside, watching the water fall into the pond, clear water with the stones shimmering underneath. Just sat on a rock and watched the water fall- the arrow of time, always moving forward...every moment different but still the same. Just didn't want to move from that place, it was so quiet and beautiful- no wonder somebody wanted to build a temple here. Seemed to me to be the kind of place you would want to go to for a getaway from daily life. A secret hideout.

The more I see of this place, the more I am tempted to keep returning.

But, for then, it was time to depart. The vacation was over and it was time to head back home and pick up our daily lives back from where we'd left them, but as stronger, rejuvenated and wiser people.
In case you've stumbled upon here without having read about the first part of the journey, which talked about Jim Corbett National Park, go here:
For a read on my journey through a lesser known but immensely beautiful part of Himachal Pradesh, go here:

Traveller's Tales II: Jim Corbett National Park

I am a frequent traveler but most of my journeys don't account for much- being the routine simple to-and-fro motions between Agra and Delhi. But this time around, I took a little detour and landed up in Uttarakhand- Jim Corbett National Park followed by the small, starry-skied town of Kausauni. It was an amazing trip and like a good, curious traveler, I took two gigabytes worth of pictures and kept a journal. Here are some memories I brought back.

Companions: Mom, Dad, Bua, Cousin sister, Driver Saab, Adrenaline.

 26/12/12 -
Reached Ramnagar, passing Aligarh and Moradabad on the way. There wasn't much to look at outside the window on the way except for fields laden with mustard and wheat which, by the way, were very welcome after the city grime. It was late in the evening by the time we settled in our rooms so we just went for a walk by the riverside. Kosi flows through the eastern part of the National Park region. It's floor is strewn with boulders it's carried from the mountains. The flow is swift, with the water making a pleasant sound where it meets the bigger rocks on it's path. We dip our hands in the water and I find it to be surprisingly warm- at least warmer than what we had been getting in our sinks at home. Later, we watch a movie on tiger conservation in the resort's grounds, warming our feet by the bonfire and make plans for imminent adventures in the jungle.

I love the cottage style rooms we got- wooden floors, slanting ceiling, small balcony and stairs leading you to another, smaller room upstairs. It was the kind you would want to live in when you retire, so we brought some books on wildlife from the library and retired to lap up the luxury while we could.

 27/12/12 -

It's a beautiful, clear morning, with the Sun peeking through the clouds. We get up for a walk by the river. It is actually green in color, due to the algae colonies, but it's very clear- you can count each boulder on the bed. We walk carefully, trying not to trip on the rocks or twist an ankle while looking out for the birds that frequent this place. We notice stone-pitched embankments on the sides- an indicator that Kosi could be quite the angry river when it wanted to be.

The people at the resort tell us that they're finding it difficult to arrange a jungle safari for us because of the rush at this time of the year. This comes as a major setback and we are left with no choice but to drive down to the forest office and see what can be done. And we emerge victorious! Fixed arrangements for stay in main forest area (Dhikala) for one night. The Director told my dad that a lot of VIPs were vying for those rooms but we were getting it since we'd faxed in our request way earlier than all the VIPs (we'd actually sent it a month in advance).
After lunch, we went for a trek in the forest around the resort with a guide provided by them. He said it'd be an 'easy' on the difficulty level, but pretty soon we were crossing drains with a fallen log for a bridge and climbing up and down rough terrain.
We came to the edge of a cliff from where we could see big Mahasir (literal meaning: big head) fish swimming in the river. The water looked so beautiful from there that for a moment one could be tempted to just dive into it. But, the rocks could be dangerous. So, we dive into the forest instead and  are greeted by a family of Axis deer (Cheetal). A bunch of local women meet us on the way and warn us against too deep into the forest- they had just spotted a wild elephant. We divert a little from our path, after noticing the wrecked vegetation which the elephant must have stomped through. Spot a  big black Sambhar deer and a lot of birds- Kingfishers, Egrets and the rare, majestic Hornbill with it's yellow beak, white wings and brown body. My cousin sister, Michelle, is a biologist and asks a lot of questions regarding the vegetation in the region. The trees are mostly Sal here.The guide also showed us the drains the elephants use for hiding, recounting a tale where he'd come face-to-face with a tusker on a similar tour with another family. Just as we are getting out of the forest, we discover a peacock dancing by the river in all it's glory.


Clicked lots of photographs today- taking back the scenery with me but wish I could take back the scents and the sounds too- the chirping of the birds, call of the wild animals, the gentle gushing of the Kosi river, the smell of the teak, the lemony smell of cyprus- everything pleasant and rejuvenating- like the stillness of the clouds descending down the hills, the anticipation of meeting something wild, the excitement of being in the wild.
Only distractions are the TV and the newspapers- I wish they weren't around.

 28/12/12 - Elephant Safari.

 Couldn't sleep too good at night because of the excitement. Got up at 0530 , before any alarms could ring, and got ready for the day. Our ten-and-a-half feet tall elephant- Laadli, was waiting to take us on a ride through the Sitavani forests. It was biting cold when we started but soon the Sun came out. It was a clear day- in stark contrast to the foggy ones we'd been having in the plains. Laadli went up and down cliffs, trampling through the undergrowth, brushing past bushes and trees, (which wetted us with the morning dew) and crossed the Kosi river four times to reach the forest.

Once inside, we immediately spotted a group of deer- a family of  the spotted Axis and a couple of Sambhars. Continuing down the forest path we saw a small Sambhar deer running. Our heads turned in the opposite direction instantly in anticipation of a beast chasing it, but all we heard was a low growl. The mahout told us that it was a Tiger, a female one most probably, making a sound while walking. That got our heart beating real fast! We strained our ears to listen better and the Tiger seemed to be moving through the thick bushes. We followed it and a couple of other elephants also came behind us, which created a commotion and made us lose track of the sound. We continued through the jungle and saw pug marks. It was a young Tiger cub, probably twelve month old, looking for it's mother and other sibling. We searched through the thick foliage as Laadli crashed through the forest, bringing down plants and bushes in the process. We heard the sounds again and stopped to listen but couldn't trace the exact direction. Laadli wasn't quick enough for a swift Tiger cub, I guess. The mahout informed us of the Tiger activity that had been taking place in the area in the past few days. He showed us the carcass of a bull the Tiger had killed and dragged across the river. A little later, we saw the carcass of a young deer the animal had devoured. Only the legs were left uneaten. Our time was almost up so we collected some wild berries and started making our way back. Mom's cap got caught in a tree and fell down but was quickly retrieved by Laadli through her snout. A mishap happened on the way back. A couple of adventurous young dogs started messing with Laadli and she got mad, charged away in rage, making a trumpeting noise. The mahout had to beat her with a stick which was a bit of a mood dampener for all of us. But, anyway, she calmed down and gave us a nice salute when we got down.

 The next thing on our checklist was the Jungle Safari for which we had obtained the permit for a night stay in the jungles of Dhikala. We travelled around thirty kilometers inside the national park, in an open jeep. Then we went on a Tiger sighting expedition. The guide told us he'd seen a Tiger in the morning itself, but, from my experience I can say that all guides say that. So, well, we started out hoping for the best. We made our way to the grassland and were greeted by a phenomenal sight! A huge herd of elephants stood by the Ramganga reservoir- the females with their cute little young ones and the male tuskers a little away from the group. We stopped around twenty meters away from them and observed them pick up the grass with their snouts, dip them in the water to clean it and then put it in their mouths. We turned around to see an even bigger herd of deer feeding on the grass. There must have been close to a hundred deer quietly grazing the field. It was simply breathtaking. The animals, blissful in their natural habitat, the brilliant blue of the reservoir and the hills in the background.

 Then we went on the tiger trail, the guide made us all stand still for a minute so he could figure out the calls of the wild animals. Unfortunately, none of them screamed tiger, so we went ahead and did some bird watching- Stork, Changeable Hawk, The Fantail, Weaver birds and their nests. After that we made our way to the road where the tiger had been spotted most recently- the 'Thandi Sarak'. We saw some deer and as we were driving along the road, Michelle and I saw a pair of slender mustard feet in the bushes. We swore it was a cat, but the guide would not agree with us. He thought it to be a monkey. He was probably right, though. We then went to a tree house. It was pretty tall and we had to climb three sets of ladders to get to the top. But the view was wonderful.

 A little way down the road, we heard the alarm call of the Barking Deer in the grassland. It kept calling and calling and we guessed it had spotted a Tiger. So we parked the jeep on the road and climbed on the rails. Tiger sighting is a job for the patient. You have to be very still, very alert and very silent. We stood there for around thirty minutes but didn't have any luck. Our two hours were almost up so we made our way back to the rest house.
 The rest house was pretty basic and gave us a good idea of living in the forest. It was awfully quiet and dark and well, there was no water in our cabin, so we were 'roughing it out'. But it had a splendid view of the reservoir and the full moon night made it even more beautiful. 

 29/11/12 -

Woke up to another Elephant Safari. Slept pretty soundly in spite of the chilly jungle night. Got up at 0530 again. It was still pitch dark, with the moon high in the sky. Full moon. Our elephant this time was shorter than Laadli- around 8 feet. Sonpari she was called. Went into the Dhikala forests through the grasslands. The sun was rising on end and the moon was up on the other. It was quite an enchanting morning. Dew was settled on the grass, frozen into icicles. Fog had descended down the hills to settle in the flats and over the reservoir.
Heard the Sambhar call as soon as we entered the jungle, and followed it in all our early morning excitement. Ran amok a herd of wild Elephants instead. They were probably only two hundred meters away and we were afraid they might get enraged seeing us, but they left us alone and made their way inside. They had their young ones with them. The Sambhar was not calling now, but we were still continuing in the direction of the earlier call. We tried to reason with the Mahout that it could have been a false alarm- maybe the Sambhar was just communicating with it's young.  But he assured us that he knew that particular sound signified the presence of a dangerous beast in the vicinity of the deer. We decided to let it go and turned our attention to the pug marks he was showing us. Some of them looked pretty fresh and we started following them. Once more, we were crashing through the jungle, storming through bushes and weeds, up and down ditches and holding on for dear life. Finally, we reached a sort of clearing and saw a pair of Sambhar deer. I saw some movement in the bushes near them. It was a pair of feet, brown and yellow, a stomach and a tail! My heart skipped a beat but I realized a few seconds later that it was a jungle cat. But it disappeared into the thick lantana bushes even before we could alert the other members of our group.

The tiger was close by but hidden in the thick foliage. Then we went back to the grassland, slightly disappointed. Spotted some birds, more deer and discovered that the grassland was full of Cannabis.

 Quick breakfast and we are back on the safari- this time by jeep. But no luck again. No elephants either. Just some deer, a Stork and a body of water. The landscape of Corbett is beautiful. Every moment, every step has something new to offer. Turn your head in any direction and you will be greeted by the beauty of the unhampered wild. The water of the Ramganga, so clean, creating a brilliant reflection of the blue sky and the green trees, donning a multitude of colors in different regions of the forest.

 On our way back from Dhikala, we drove down to the Crocodile point. Saw a couple of Gharials lazing around in the sun. Also, a jeep got stuck on our way back, blocking the path for us. So we got to walk outside! Nicked a few pebbles as souvenirs. I should probably not be writing this on the web as it is completely forbidden for tourists to get down from their vehicles at any point of time, but, anyhow, it was just harmless fun. The real flouting of rules is done by the VIPs who come barging into the National Park in their fancy, private vehicles, breaking the speed limits among many other things.

At the entrance to the National Park, there is a small Museum with stuffed animals, bones, maps and other kinds of data pertaining to the forest. So, we finally get to click a tiger. 
 Back to the hotel, back to civilization. Got the sad news of Damini passing away just as I switched my cellphone on. The holiday mood evaporated in an instant and sullen thoughts filled my mind all through lunch.
 In the evening, we hiked to a Shiva temple built in the reign of the Pandavas.
Muscles were cramped and aching, but spirit of adventure just won't subside.

And that's the end of the first part of the trip. Curious to know more? Go hither:

For a read on my journey through a lesser known but immensely beautiful part
of Himachal Pradesh, go here: