As an army kid I have done my fair share of travelling in this amazing, alive and pulsating land. It’s an enchanting land and I believe is truly magical, no matter where you live in India you can’t help but be awestruck by its vivacity. I have watched those amazing early morning sunrises from the hills of north east India and also the plains of India and each time I have been as captured by its beauty as though the sun had just risen afresh for the very first time. There is so much cultural diversity in this beautiful nation, for every state a different attire, a different dance form and of course an amazing cuisine. Be it the bhangra of Punjab or the bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, right from the Bihu dance of Assam to the amazing Raas Leela of Manipur India is just truly magical.
All through my childhood, we kept travelling and I kept experiencing new lands. For me the journey began in those amazing Himalayan ranges, in a small town called Dharamshala we would reside in a small army cantonment called Yol Camp, and that is where I fell in love with this beautiful land. I can still remember my house set on the slope of a hill and there in the background stood those mighty mountains. In the summers they were strong and bold always standing guard, but in the winters after the first snowfall they would change and put on that white garb. It was like over the night a painter had painted those mighty guards all white and the image is forever engraved in my memory. The clouds were always there right outside my window tempting me to come out and play with them. And then suddenly one day I left this beautiful town to go all the way to a land of history, Delhi.
From me Delhi was never an over crowded or scaringly noisy city, Delhi for me has always been a city of secrets. When you arrive in Delhi, you are often overwhelmed and scared but that’s only a guard to protect the mysteries of this magical city. Delhi boasts of its Mughal heritage with all those mighty monuments and the tombs surrounding it. The amazing grandeur of the Red fort and the Rashtrapati bhavan just left me awestruck. The thousands of never ending tiny lanes of the hundreds of markets in Delhi can satisfy any travelers’ thirst. And then of course who can’t avoid the gastronomical delights the city offers, right from the simmering kebabs, to the pani puri’s to the chaats and countless number of sweets. Delhi had it all and I was smitten by its charm. And then soon my love affair with Delhi ended and I moved far away to another more mysterious land tucked away in the north east of India- Nagaland.
We went to live in the capital of this beautiful and exotic state, Kohima. Before leaving Delhi, I had never heard the name of a place called Nagaland, that’s how amazing India is if you go to a place you have never seen before and it enchants you and then you fall in love. When I arrived in Kohima my memories of my beloved Dharamshala were revived with the only exception that instead of snow Kohima had rain. Rain here was like any uninvited relative it would arrive without notice and then the whole city would be washed clean and fresh. The culture of this beautiful land is unlike any I had seen with over thirty five different tribes and exactly those many different forms of cuisines. Nagaland is just so enthralling. Its lush green mountains will make you feel new and alive.The music and dance of Nagaland is very unique they use long hollow sections of trees and then tap them in order to create a form of drum beat. Located in the main market of Kohima was the food market, known locally as Keeda market and trust me the name is a perfectly fitting, because at this cozy market up in the hill were all sorts of keedas, literally they had snails, frogs, eels, various kinds of small insects all form of fish, oxes and the list just goes on and on. Beat that Delhi (lols). From Kohima I travelled to various other small town and cities names of which I could not even pronounce back then. I clearly remember visiting Manipur as the airport was located in the capital Imphal, a popular artist used to live in the main city and his specialty was that he could paint portraits in a small little seashell, Imagine that, having your face painted on a small shell.
Manipuri Raas leela is very famous it depicts Krishna and Radha performing leela in a beautiful dance form and the costumes used are nothing like what you’ve seen before.
Form the serene and peaceful north east I travelled all the way to Jalandhar, when you arrive in Punjab you notice the green fields expanding all the way to the horizon and it just calms you down. Punjab is a foodies paradise, the paranthas of every kind will keep you wanting more and the chole bhathure are just too good to ignore. Really, you have to try the butter chicken and please don’t forget the dal makhani and come winters we will be serving you sarson da saag and makki ki roti. Being a Punjabi I love everything about this land of never ending fields, especially the attire the patialas and the phulkari are just to die for. The one thing that’s unavoidable in Punjab, is the shaadis. I mean no one does weddings like we Punjabis do, the grandeur and glitz is enough to inspire bollywood movies and the endless baraats in the cold cold winters is a sight to see.
From Punjab I went all the way to the land of Nizams and biryani, Hyderabad. Hyderabad has its own magic to offer and trust me nothing beats the street food here, you can’t just get enough of the many streets of kebabs and curry. And then of course there is Paradise, the biryani at Paradise was amazing and me and my mum would never miss a chance to visit. I would often visit Charminar and the market around it and would buy tons of chandbalis for myself and all my cousins and friends. After a short stay at Hyderabad I came back to Delhi.This time I was going to be here for sometime as I had to pursue my graduation and it was really tough staying in a place for so long, it was not in my nature and I would often go visit dad on weekends. Recently after graduation my family moved to Siliguri, it’s a sweet and pleasant city with lots of scenic beauty.People here are the coolest, this is where for the first time in life I noticed that the hum-drum and the rush of daily life was absent.
People were laid back and peaceful, they would start work in the morning take a break from lunch to tea time and close by 8, I mean how cool is that. The cook who worked for us, was a localite and he would often tell us that whatever the people would earn the entire year, they would spend it all during Durga Puja, and what a sight it was. I was lucky enough to stay there for Durga Puja and oh my god! Never before had I seen such a sight in my life everyone and I mean EVERYONE was on the streets looking their best, during puja days everyone is on a holiday and every evening people would be on the streets just enjoying the million sweets and visiting each Pandal. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
From Siliguri I would often visit Darjeeling. Darjeeling is breathtaking to say the least, it is just amazing. We took rides on the toy train like kids and I would just keep collecting souvenirs. There’s a snug little café in Darjeeling and the tea and cakes they offer are amazing. I would sit drinking my Darjeeling tea and enjoy the view of acres and acres of tea gardens in front of me.
I could go on and on and my experiences would never end, because India will never stop surprising me. I have seen a lot but not really enough of my beautiful country. So this is India, full of life, colour, light and hope. Its like a memory for me, memory of all the beautiful places I have visited the amazing people I met and the unique cultures. So go out and let India surprise you. Happy journeys.