Soaking in the desert sun

There’s something about the splendour of Rajasthan that constantly beckons me to that State. My first trip was to Udaipur in January 2017 (Palaces, Lakes and Memories). The second was to Jaipur and Ajmer during the monsoons in August of the same year (A Royal Retreat). After four years, I got to travel to the blue city of Jodhpur and the desert city of Jaisalmer in the autumn of October 2021 and once again to Ajmer in November 2021.

My friend and I were looking for a relaxed, unhurried vacation, and Jodhpur and Jaisalmer gave us just that. There are many things to do in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Though both are ‘touristy’ cities, they were less busy, in part to Coronavirus (The Face Mask). In both cities, we stayed in superbly maintained heritage properties that were once palaces that housed the rajahs and ranis.

Ajmer was chock-a-block though, with the faithful lining up to pay their respects and ask for wishes at the resting place of the benevolent saint Moinuddin Chisti (Gharib Nawaz-Benefactor of the poor) (A Royal Retreat).

At Ajmer Sharief dargah

Only living fort in India

The Jaisalmer Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is India’s only ‘living’ fort, made in 1156 by king Rawal Jaisal. It was a unique experience for us as we climbed the narrow staircases to the beautifully appointed rooms which afforded us the best views of the fort and its bustling daily life. Walking around the fort in the late evening and in the morning gave us a sense of the lives of those who live within these walled compounds.

Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan

Rajasthan is full of forts, palaces and folklore, and is a treasure trove for history buffs. The Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur covers an area of 1,200 acres and is on a hilltop. Rajput ruler Rao Jodha constructed it in 1459. The well-maintained fort even has a lift that takes one directly to the roof.

I thought it was a castle, but it’s just a fort. I had to de-moat it. 😉 At: Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

They converted a portion of the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur into a luxury hotel. The royal family lives in one section and another portion is a museum filled with artefacts of the royal family.

Outside the Umaid Bhawan Palace museum in our block-printed cotton dresses from Jodhpur

‘Ghostly’ village

Disclaimer: We did not experience any paranormal activity. 😉

About 55 minutes (35 km) from Jaisalmer city, is the abandoned and ‘haunted’ village of Kuldhara. The archaeological site has dilapidated buildings and ruins from a faraway time. Established around the 13th century, it was once a prosperous village inhabited by Brahmins. They abandoned it by the early 19th century for unknown reasons. The legend claims that, while deserting the village, the Brahmins imposed a curse that no one would be able to re-occupy the village.

In the doorway of an abandoned house at Kuldhara


A three-hour car ride through sand dunes and huge sand mountains of the Thar Desert brought us to the Longewala post of the India-Pakistan border. The border is further ahead and inaccessible to us. The wire fencing and the iron gates in the middle of the vast desert feel unreal.

The fenced Indo-Pak border at Longewala post

The drive was scenic, with hundreds of white windmills dotting the brown landscape. Now and then, the stark background was broken by a burst of colour from the colourful attires of the women living in the many villages dotting this road.

Windmills along the route from Jaisalmer to Longewala post

En route, we stopped by at the famed Tanot Mata mandir, which was attacked by the Pakistan Army during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, during which 3,000 bombs were fired at the temple. However, as per local folklore, the bombs either missed their target or did not explode.

Bada Bagh

Highly recommended to us by our friends in Jaisalmer, the Bada Bagh (enormous garden), houses a set of royal chhatris (cenotaphs) constructed by the Maharajas of Jaisalmer in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Carved out of sandstone blocks, with intricately carved ceilings and pillars, these cenotaphs are for the kings, their queens, and other royal families.

Shooting! Scoot

Royals loved hunting, and how could we have not tried our hands at some shooting? We did not kill any animals, though 😉 We were lucky to have friends who own a skeet and target shooting range. Shotgun in tow, we went out and tried shooting at the skeets.

At JSM Shooting Range, Jaisalmer


Camel leather accessories and yellow stone products (utensils, jewellery) are the picks of shopping in Jaisalmer. The typical ‘block prints’ on the oh-so-comfy cotton clothes in shops and the many curio shopping around ghanta ghar (clock tower) in Jodhpur make this place a hit for shopping.


You cannot return from a trip to Rajasthan without eating their laal maas (fiery mutton curry), Ker Sangri  (a vegetable made using dried Ker Berries and Sangri beans), Dal bati churma, street food such as kachoris and the different halwas

Laal maas

All my four trips to the State have been with different friends (A Royal Retreat, Palaces, Lakes and Memories), and after every trip, my heart yearns to go back to experience the other delights of this enchanting state of India.

A big part of the charm of these cities lies in its wonderful people and their never-ending hospitality. We are never too far away from that beautiful hotel with panoramic views, or a ‘must-visit’ place suggestion, and the unending gastronomic delights on every terrace.


Jodhpur is the second-largest city in Rajasthan and is well-connected by air from all metros. It has a good road network and a train station. Jaisalmer has an airport with limited flights and is approximately 280 km from Jodhpur by road. Ajmer is well-connected by road from neighbouring states and also by train.


In October, Jodhpur has an average temperature of 36C. The weather in Jaisalmer in October is 37°C. The average temperature in Ajmer in November was 28.8°C.

Tip: Book a cab and driver for the entire duration of your trip.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

What was it all for?

August 15, 2021

India celebrates its 75th Independence Day today. Reams of newspapers, hours of TV broadcasts, hundreds of reels, posts, and tweets are being dedicated to freedom and our right to it as envisaged in our Constitution.

Also today, over 2,000 km away in the land of the famed kabuliwalas, freedom (even though unsettled), for lakhs of people is perhaps just about to be lost. As breaking news comes in of the Taliban capturing its’ final bastion, Kabul in Afghanistan, the lump in our throats and the fear in our hearts that was building up over the past months for the Afghan people has just exploded.

Pictures of international governments evacuating their embassies, flying out last of their staff, and reports of thousands of locals scrambling to get the paperwork to leave their country from the only exit point, the Kabul airport is streaming over news wires.

Afghanistan was hoping to come out of a deeply troubled history of terrorism, militancy, and a civil war… however, the dream of a prosperous future of the peace-loving Afghans, looks all but over. Who can ever forget the horrific images of women, children and men being flogged, hanged and shot-at-will for frivolous reasons in football stadiums before the US invaded Afghanistan? They feel like they are coming back to haunt us again.

We are sitting in the relative comforts of our homes, (The ‘lockdown’ that has ironically displaced many) manifesting to the Universe (Taming the Lions, Break over….almost) about the Coronavirus vanishing (The Face Mask), beach vacations (Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside, Let’s wander where the WIFI is weak), dream jobs and houses, better salaries, or that fast car (all valid, of course). However, I wonder what the Afghans want from the Universe: The safety of their families or maybe just to see a new dawn?

Map of Afghanistan

For a media article that I had written for ‘The Pioneer’ (Published!) in 2018, I had interviewed a group of students from Afghanistan studying at Andhra University in Visakhapatnam. They were from Panjshir, Laghman, Bamiyan, Kabul, Kunduz, Logar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Kandahar, Maidan Wardak and Takhar. Some of these areas have seen widespread persecution and desecration of their cultural symbols for years.

Mahdi Ebrahimi, a Hazara from Bamiyan, one of the most affected regions recalled how they were forced to flee to Iran for many years before the Taliban was overthrown in Afghanistan. Mahdi said to me: “Unfortunately a lot of the culture is lost, but Bamiyan is still a beautiful valley with many natural lakes that attract tourists.” Abdul Zubair Nasraty, from Panjshir, recounted to me his miraculous escape when a bomb exploded at the janaza (funeral) he was attending. “I am lucky to survive, but some of my relatives died that day,” he shared.

Not one of the 25 students I spoke with that day, not want to return back to their homes after completing their education here. They wanted to go back, so they could ‘rebuild’ their country and restore it to its’ former glorious days.

Maswood Sadawat from Laghman said, “I just want to study in a peaceful space, get an Indian degree because it has a great reputation in Afghanistan, go back and be a software developer.” Hikmatullah Ahmadi from Kandahar said the same: “I want to go back. I want to serve and develop my country.”

Women students Aziza Ahmadi and Nadila Bakhtayar both from Kabul also spoke to me. They said, “Our parents fully supported our decision to come to India. But not all girls are so lucky.” Like many Afghans, Aziza’s family lived in Pakistan for years, before moving back to Kabul. “The situation is still turbulent and my family has now immigrated to Turkey,” she had said. Nadila dreamt of being a businesswoman in Kabul.

I remember feeling as hopeful as they were for their future, but in sharp contrast today, there is a sense of total despair. With the Taliban’s hard-line rules and their history of a total clampdown on women’s education and liberty, what happens to the dreams of thousands of women in Afghanistan?

As I type out this blog, I cannot begin to comprehend what these lovely students and their families are going through right now.

Debates will go on for a long time about what the US achieved by this 20-year war. As we read about the latest developments, most of us feel what this soldier who served in Afghanistan then, but is no longer with the US Army, told Clarissa Ward, CNN International correspondent: “I don’t feel so much angry, as much as I feel what a waste, what an unbelievable waste.”

– Tamanna S. Mehdi

Break over….almost

For weeks now, I have been thinking about a topic to blog about, but I have hit writer’s block.

Finally today, Friday, July 9, I decided to open a Word document and just start typing. What do I write about? A lot has happened since early March when I came home for a short break. The past couple of summers have been very different (The Face Mask, The ‘lockdown’ that has ironically displaced many, Summer is here). And so has it been this year as well.

I suffered from a disc prolapse and in the blink of an eye, my mini-break stretched to four weeks and then six weeks as I underwent traction/physiotherapy. The pain was severe but with treatment, and with extended family in town, days flew by. Just as I was on the road to recovery, my father fell ill and was hospitalised. After several days in the hospital, by God’s Grace, he is recuperating and getting back to being his busy self.

It has been four months since March, and here I was hoping 2021 would be better than 2020 (The Face Mask, The ‘lockdown’ that has ironically displaced many). Well, there are five more months for it to hold on to its promise of being a better year. And even as I type out the last sentence, I realise that despite the challenging time, there have been positives as well.

1.            Apart from my immediate family, I feel privileged to have spent extended time with my closest relatives, which I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
2.            I learned new recipes. (Phases)
3.            On the insistence of my sister, I have joined a yoga class. (‘Sweat the Alphabets, Dance the Digits’
4.            I got back to my meditation practice. (Taming the Lions)

Just yesterday, a memory from six years back popped up on my Facebook —that of the logo for the ‘crafty’ things I was making and selling back then. It was an exciting time when I learned quilling, sospeso, et. al and upcycled candles, glass bottles, photo frames, and decorated gift boxes. (Craft ParTea, Phases)

My life is very different now from what it was six years back. I have countless dreams for my future—a rewarding career (Paid. Check. Published!), a beautiful home, a loving family, travelling the world (Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside, Vizag at ’18, Let’s wander where the WIFI is weak, A Royal Retreat, Iraqis, Bonding- Spiritual, Social, Cultural, Palaces, Lakes and Memories, One Lazy Sunday, Ah Vizaaag!, What-e-‘Numa, Mysticism and the Kumbh)…

These past months though filled with apprehension (Taming the Lions), were also full of warmth and love which I will cherish forever.

Days, weeks and months have flown by. Every dawn beckons a new day, a new beginning (Taming the Lions).

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

The Face Mask

I started wearing a face mask while at work and out in the public since early March 2020. Within a few weeks, from precautionary wear, it was made compulsory by health agencies to wear a mask to safeguard oneself from the Covid-19 infection.

I remember the first few days when I wore it, the remarks from well-meaning colleagues, friends, and family ranged from “this is too much” to “do you have Corona?” Soon, however, as it became apparent that the Coronavirus is here to stay and spreading rapidly, the face mask has now become the norm, rather than an exception.

Many wonderful looking masks printed with pictures or slogans, and embroidered ones in different fabrics in different colours have flooded the market. The DIY tutorials online have encouraged many to get creative and make their own as well.

I, on the other hand, have a couple of white N 95 masks and some of those blue surgical ones brought from a medical store. These are pretty plain, but functional, and do nothing to enhance the way I look. And I am fine with it.


As someone who is otherwise fashion-forward, and loves to wear the latest styles, accessorise, mix and match, I am yet to bite the bullet and buy a ‘designer’ mask. Not to say I haven’t looked them up or commented on how cool they look when my friends wear them, but I still haven’t got around to buying one.

For me, wearing a face mask represents the tough pandemic times that we are going through. I do not wish to make a fashion statement wearing one. Every time I pull one down my nose and mouth, it is a stark reminder of the health danger that is lurking around the corner. Wearing fancy ones, apart from burning a hole in my wallet, would also mean to me, that I am reconciling with this situation. I would like to stay away from the stylish ‘mask marketing’ for as long as I am able to.

Just like all of us, I cannot wait for a vaccine for Coronavirus or a treatment routine to be established, so we can go back to ‘breathing’ without fear, and then what’ll I do with all the matching face masks?

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

The ‘lockdown’ that has ironically displaced many

Sitting on the relative ‘comfort’ of my sofa at home I file my feature article for the newspaper today. I cook my favourite meal of chicken and vegetable soft noodles, and wash it down with a refreshing glass of barley and lime water.

I message my friends, chat with family, Netflix a movie. Check my bank account to see if any digits are added in front of the 0, alas, no luck there.

I read the news on yet another lockdown extension, watch numerous debates on whether it should be further extended, and follow Twitter hashtags to read about politicians, doing what they do best, taking swipes at each other.

This lifestyle or a variation of this is most of us these days.

Many of us from the comforts of our homes are wondering when we can eat at our favourite restaurant, shop at the mall, walk in the park, catch a movie at the multiplex, or if we will still have a job the next morning.

Worried by our thoughts, and mostly bored, we gear up with masks, gloves, and dab on sanitiser to head to the nearest grocery store—the only chance for many of us to get out of our homes.

While we daydream our next vacation, there are thousands of men, women, and children across India, walking, carrying all their belongings for thousands of kilometres, just to reach the safety of their homes. Don’t mistake, they do not have those oh, so comfy foam insole walking shoes. Many are barefoot. Many are not making it home.

Those who are able to, have pooled in their lives’ savings just to be packed liked sardines in trucks, buses and water or milk containers. It is Indians fleeing from bigger cities to their villages and towns.

Images and videos of men and women dragging their children on makeshift hand carts, an image of a girl too tired to walk, being dragged on a suitcase pulled by her parent, is too emotionally choking to even see. A man was seen in a picture sitting on the footpath with his friend dying in his arms, while he appealed to passersby for help, none did. According to reports, the man died. Another man was seen crying inconsolably while talking on the phone, helpless as he wasn’t being allowed to cross a State’s border to reach his dying son in a town thousands of kilometres away. His son died before he reached home, according to reports.

These are not isolated incidents; these are scenes from across the Nation. While we decide on whether we should WFH or not, these hard-working labourers do not have that choice, nor any source of income since lockdown began.

These labourers are not beggars. They were earning an honest day’s wage, when suddenly one day, they no longer could, and initially were not even allowed to go back to the towns and villages they had migrated from.

All this while we continue to sit in the relative safety of our homes, passing judgment on how these ‘migrant labour’ will be carriers of Coronavirus and spread it to more people.

These people who built our houses, malls, and roads are dying of hunger and exhaustion, more often than not, nowhere close to their homes.

I do not know if lockdown should be extended or not, but it would be comforting if people did not have to walk endlessly just to go home.

The scenes are unreal. This cannot be the India of the 21st Century.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Bombay Green- The Prince of Mangoes

Move over Alphonso and Banganapalli. What’s trending these days is the Bombay Green mango, aptly named so for its skin colour.

It was about three summers ago (Summer is here) that I had my first taste of this aam at a bageecha in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. As we were driving into the hill station, we had them fresh from farmers selling the just-harvested crop from cane tokris right from their orchards.

The outside green made us wonder if it was still raw. But when cut into, it was like waking up to a whole new world.

The outer colour did have us fooled. The greenish cover made way for the most unusual and sweetest bright orange fruit housed inside it.

I had been yearning to bite into another Bombay Green since then, and what a surprise I was in for when my friend offered it to me at her home in Nagpur a few days back!

As I happily sliced and bit into this tabletop variety of the fruit, my palate was engulfed by the full-bodied, unique taste that is hard to categorize-it’s got the right hint of sweetness, not too much, just pleasurably right. Needless to say, I couldn’t stop at one.


Mangoes are the world’s most popular fruit and while Alphonso deserves the tag of the ‘King of Mangoes’, but Bombay Green as my friend tells me is not far behind and is referred to as the ‘Prince of Mangoes’.

An added advantage is that this exotic and premium variety is grown 100 per cent organically, without any carbide or other chemicals exclusively in the orchards of the Satpura range in Pachmarhi.

This variety of fruit has a niche market. It ripens and is ready-to-eat by the end of May, but is grown in limited quantities and sells out fast. It hardly ever reaches the open market. Even as film stars and other VIPs bulk order them, the other aficionados make special trips to this hill station to buy directly from the orchards.

So, it is indeed a pleasant ‘bolt from the blue’ that this variant of the summer’s favourite fruit is available in Nagpur this season.

The erratic weather pattern has impacted the mango production across the country this year and the yield is 40 per cent less than normal this summer.

Bombay Green stands out for me as the best premium quality available right now compared to the regular dump of mangoes flooding the mandis from UP.

What gets the cake, err, the mango is that it can be ordered in Nagpur now and delivered at home. Call on 98483 19195, 98230 25895, 80879 47296 to get your own box.

Not that eating a mango needs any reasons, but associated health benefits does make it guilt-free.

·         Mango is rich in vitamin E and A which is needed for healthy eyes.

·         It contains special digestive enzymes like terpenes, aldehydes and esters that help in breaking down food, leading to good digestion.

·         Keep the skin soft and shining and brings a glow to the face. It helps in opening clogged pores of the skin and treats acne.

·         It is a rich source of Vitamin H and Vitamin A- contains over 25 varieties of carotenoids. All these strengthen the immune system.

·         It can decrease the risk of getting cancer. It contains high amounts of antioxidants or phenols such as quercetin, fisetin, astragalin, gallic acid, methyl gallate and enzymes. Also, the presence of Vitamin C protects cells from radical damage.

·         Mango is a good source of soluble dietary fibre, vitamin C and pectin that helps reduce cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein levels that cause a heart attack. It also has vitamin-B6 that lowers homocysteine levels, preventing any development of heart disease.

·         It contains Glutamine acid that keeps the cells active and boosts memory.

·         Raw or unripe mangoes are a rich source of pectin which prevents heat strokes.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Summer is here

For the longest of time (read seven years), I managed to keep aloof of the euphoria that is GoT. Despite friends, cousins and family imploring me to watch ‘just one-episode to get hooked’, I held out for as long as I could.

Until, the summer of 2018, that is- when I found myself ‘out-of-action’ and basically bundled onto a bed for a couple of months. It was troublesome for me, having a leg encased in an uncomfortable and itchy cast, perched up on pillows, sitting/lying and watching the world go by… without me.

And that’s when I bit the bullet as it were, and watched that very first episode of season 1. As Bran says in the end to Jon, I too think I was exactly where I was supposed to be- watching it! 🙂 Before I realized, I was waiting for winter too (quite literally, it was a hot summer, after all).

My life got engulfed by the lovable Starks, the scheming Lannisters, the Stallion worshiper Dothrakis, the Targaryens, Castle Black, the un-dead White Walkers and the heads of numerous Lords and Graces flying in the air. Quite gory, one would say, but, hey, all is fair in love and the ‘Iron Throne’. 😉

GoT of course didn’t change my life in any way but provided terrific entertainment when I needed it the most. The fantasy-political drama with witty and cunning characters of RR Martin was my escape, a holiday of a sort, right from my bed.

There is a plethora of good TV series out there. However, it was Breaking Bad (2008-2013) that first broke all records for the greatest television of all time. One of the first series that I binge watched, it was hard not to sympathise with the high-school chemistry teacher turned meth maker Walter White (dying of lung cancer). Cooking meth from an RV ‘The Krystal ship’ along with his student Jesse, the trajectory of Walter going from a meek teacher to being Heisenberg, a drug producer was bewitching. I used to be riveted to the edge of my seat every time his DEA brother-in-law Hank, the local gangs or the cartels came calling him.

And then, Game of Thrones. Ironically, after eight seasons, there is no throne left to sit on. Very much like in my life where nothing is permanent. Not the lowliest of the lows or the highest of the highs- everything is fluid and transient.

It is, alas time to bid adieu to the kingdom of Westeros.

But, here is another summer, full of unending possibilities.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi


I have been writing a lot lately. Features, news stories, interviews…in the past two months, I’ve written a little about a lot. If two months back anyone told me I would be getting published on a web page or working at a newspaper, I would have most likely dismissed it. And 6 months back, this was not just a distant dream; it was highly unlikely that I would be doing anything at all.

But, cut to September. After the opportunity I got a few months back writing for, I work now at The Pioneer. A chance conversation with a friend set the ball rolling. The Universe does work in indefinable ways (Taming the Lions). Even in this digital age, there is no greater joy for me than to see my articles being printed in a daily newspaper. After all these years and quite a few by-lines later, seeing my by-line in print today feels like it is the first time ever.


In The Pioneer, Hyd, 6-9-18

In The Pioneer, Hyd, 6-9-18

I have just re-started. I still have a long way to go. I’m daring to dream again.

But today is all about this. For everyone who has helped me get these opportunities, for all of you who help me with the research and the invaluable ‘connects’, a big Thank You!

Tamanna S. Mehdi

Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

My previous two camping treks were when I was still in school and as such, though I must have noticed, but I did not truly appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. It was more of an ‘exercise’ trip, and it helped that after each of those trips, I came back 5-6 kgs lighter. 🙂

I had been looking to go for camping/trekking for a while and this trip came as a great opportunity. We travelled through Haridwar, Rishikesh and Joshimath to Auli the starting point of our 5 day trek.

While walking, the rhythm of the breath moving through my body was like the movement of the ocean tides. As I breathed deeply, I learned to sense the breath in this way. It was like discovering that I had a beach front view inside of me. Mindfully walking, breathing, living and enjoying every moment was a novel experience. (‘Sweat the Alphabets, Dance the Digits’) (Taming the Lions) ( Let’s wander where the WIFI is weak )

“THE UNIVERSE IS FULL of magic things, PATIENTLY WAITING for our senses to BECOME SHARPER.”~ Eden Phillpotts


I was a part of a large group of people hiking and camping to the popular Kuari Pass top. We were also the last group of trekkers before the trail closes for the Monsoon. Providentially, for us, it would be bright and sunny while we hiked, and the rain Gods would open up the minute we reached our campsites. So, luckily, all through the hike we enjoyed all kinds of weather without being inconvenienced by it.


The trek is not as ‘easy’ as my pre-trip research made it sound. At some places, it was very steep climbing and at times with narrow trails with sharp 90 degree cliff drops. However, all the huffing and puffing lead to devastatingly beautiful views which were heavenly to say the least- worth the suntan and the sore limbs. As it is said, “the best views come after the hardest climbs.”

In fact, I also had a pleasant surprise when on the very first day of the climb at Auli I bumped into a friend I had studied in Melbourne with. It was a pleasant coincidence that he was there holidaying with his wife. Such a small world!


In any outdoor activity, the focus completely shifts from us as individuals to our surroundings- making them the natural center-stage. Throughout my treks, the focus moved from the green rolling hills that were our campsites to the snow-capped mountains that glistened on the horizon. Sometimes, it was the soft clouds drifting in-between us as we made our somewhat arduous walk, and sometimes it was the angry dark clouds bellowing at us from above.

The pitter-patter of rain as we sat huddled in our tents with our cups of hot soup or curled up in our sleeping bags. Or, in sharp contrast, the clear starry evening sky, with the smoke curling up from the cooking tents as the meals were being prepared.

There were the gurgling sounds of fresh water streams we hopped across on our trails, small ponds awash with rain water, and wild strawberries and berries that grew with abandon in the forests as we trudged past them. Alternate to that were the patches of farmlands in the villages we criss-crossed with their organic produce of potatoes, rajma, apricots and colourful flowers.

The grazing sheep, the mooing cows, the tottering ponies, the sheep dogs that followed us… it was nature at its best. It suspended all my anxieties, thoughts and trepidation making them trivial in front of the the vastness and expansiveness of the Universe.

Sheep scurrying past our camp

Many a time, I found myself sitting in silence over-looking the deep gorges with a mighty river meandering in the distance, or on large branches of trees staring into nothingness as birds hummed in the background. As a quote I read by Jon Kabat Zinn says, “Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity”.

Gastronomical Delight

It feels slightly odd to talk about this, especially on a camping trek, where food is nourishing, but quite basic. In a delightful break from my previous treks, the food served at every camp here was a delight. Though vegetarian, the zeal with which the cooks whipped up not just North-Indian, but South Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisines with a selection of desserts, evening tea-time snacks and different soups would give any eatery in the city a run for its money.

I could not believe that after a tiring day I was having steaming hot macaroni, Chinese Manchurian, noodles, pani puri, samosa, cream of mushroom soup, idli, sheerkhurma, gulab jamun (the list is endless) at high altitudes in dense forests and grasslands, with no motor-able roads for kilometres, no electricity and completely cut away from any other civilization.

Needless to say, I doubt anyone of us lost any weight on this trip! Haha…

We 50

Location: Kuari Pass (4264 meters above sea level), Uttarakhand

Trek route:

  1. Auli to Gorson Bugyal (3300 mts)- 4 kms
  2. Gorson Bugyal to Tali (3500 mts)- 8 kms
  3. Tali to Khullara (3650 mts)- 10 kms
  4. Khullara to Kuari Pass (4100 mts)- 4 kms
  5. Khullara to Tugasi -5 kms

Transport: Delhi to Joshimath by road. Then, to the 5-day trek start point at Auli by road or cable car.

Group Organized by: Mr. Farooq Haque at ‘Within n Beyond’

Tour Operated by: The Wanderers- Mrs. Farzana Haque. Ph: +91 9850427609

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Taming the Lions

I often hear about ‘positive thinking’, benefits of meditation, staying calm, giving gratitude, etc. Lots of inspirational stories and many speakers try to motivate the benefits of these.(Mysticism and the KumbhBonding- Spiritual, Social, Cultural) (Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside)

My parents, some family members and close friends have also advocated these to me. Everyday messages on the same lines flood my inboxes…these messages are fantastic to read, but can they be really practised in our daily lives?

Is it so easy and life altering to change thoughts ingrained in our psyche over the years?-thoughts ranging from self-doubt, loneliness, anger and other negative feelings that crowd through us every day?

Passing through a challenging period in my life right now, I desire to try to bring a change in the way I think. I chance upon an app in the App Store and try their ‘7 days of calm and happiness’ to see if it is easy to feel these despite the daily challenges.

Day 1: A few minutes of concentrating on my breathing and trying to calm myself down. Every few seconds I find my mind wandering, but I calmly bring it back to my breathing.

Next is a 10 minute session on feeling gratitude for all that I actually have in life. Wow! I do have a lot of blessings to count!

Day 2: I concentrate better on my breathing- following my breath as it goes in and out is slightly better than day 1. My mind still wanders, but it is easier to bring it back to the task on hand.

This is followed by a session on self-love and realizing my weaknesses without passing judgement on them. Listing my positives and my negatives without criticizing made me feel strangely quite contented.

Day 3: Breathing while concentrating on every part of my body from scalp to toe ensues. I breathe into each part individually trying to feel the signals they send me.

This is followed by an exercise of ‘letting go’. This is not so easy. Letting go of pent up feelings of anger, resentment and past failures and future uncertainties is challenging. While doing the exercise, momentarily, the mind ‘let’s go’, but doesn’t forget.

Day 4: Today’s session is about pulling out of ‘auto-pilot’ and ‘living in the moment’. This is difficult, as my mind is crowded with many thoughts and constantly wavers. But, as the session goes on, it becomes easier to bring it back to concentrate on the breathing exercise.

It is an exercise to appreciate the moment that we are in right now. Though hard, the few minutes of meditation does help bring a perspective to my life.

Day 5: The exercise on concentrating on breathing today involves taking breaks through the day to ‘do nothing’. Again, my mind wanders, but it is easier than earlier to bring it back. Breathing into each part of my body- the knots in my shoulders and back though they don’t dissolve completely, but they feel softer.

The session to embrace uncertainty and look at it is an opportunity is an ideal situation, but requires lot of effort.

Day 6: The session today is about building patience and better mental and physical health. Counting 1 as I take a deep breath saying 2 as I breathe out helps to maintain my focus on breathing. The first few times the mind is concentrated, but again it wavers. It requires an effort to leave the comfort of ‘thoughts’ to bring it back to concentrating on breathing.

Apart from breathing into different parts of the body to soften them, the exercise also urges us to breathe into our emotions and feelings. As I do that, I feel a softening of my anger- I feel less angry at certain things that have been troubling me.

Day 7: Today is the last day of the exercise. It wishes to inculcate being ‘aware’ and taking time out for hobbies and other leisure interests. The exercise is about breathing into each part of my body one after the next and only feeling the signals they send me and not alter them. It is a fairly long session and as everyday it is a challenge to keep my mind only on the breathing.

The next part of the session urges me to think about the last time I laughed, and what I like to do for a hobby or my idea of relaxation. It is a jolt to me that I cannot find answers to these basic questions right away. As I breathe in and out trying to soften my tense muscles, it makes me think about them.

Doing craft is my hobby and I remember feeling so creative and joyful every time I made something. The session inspired me to decorate some pieces.


Focusing only on breathing and not thinking about anything else is hard. Meditation is not something that I look forward to do daily. But practising it this past week, I do sense a change in me, however small, but it is unmistakably there. I feel calmer and more accepting of my circumstances. It has served as a reminder for the many good things in my life, instead of only focussing on the not-so-good.

I haven’t tamed all the raging lions in my mind, but they feel more pliable now. (Published!)