taking a walk in india: photos | stories | essays

29 July 2016

First come, first served

At 5:30am before the tea seller has woken up the bird man is busy feeding pigeons, the rats of the flying world, and crows, living the thug life in cheap black suit. Some squirrels also take advantage of the confusion and steal a few nibbles.

25 July 2016

The carom boys of CR Park

It's Monday evening. People are returning from work, tired, already thinking about the next day. But the carom boys of CR Park are chilling.

16 July 2016

When night falls at Hauz Khas Village

Hauz Khas Village, the wannabe place. A man chases the light at midnight on one of the colourful alleys at the so-called village.

12 July 2016

Open Happiness

This product includes ingredients sourced from genetically engineered (GE) crops, commonly known as GMOs, which the FDA regards as safe.

11 July 2016

A Varanasi morning

Varanasi is wide awake at six in the morning. It is difficult to beat the sun at waking up. It will always be high up in the sky no matter what time of the dawn you head out to the ghats.

10 July 2016

Walkers, flowers and lovers at Lodhi Gardens

Lodhi Gardens offers a large breathing space to the people of Delhi. It is also one of the safest places in the national capital for young people to head out to make out.

9 July 2016

The 13th Himalayan Odyssey (2016) by Royal Enfield

While taking a walk at India Gate at six in the morning, journey basket ran into some people riding motorcycles. They said they were going to Ladakh.

8 July 2016

Chugging into history: National Rail Museum

A walk at the National Rail Museum takes a while, and the line of vintage trains never seems to end.

6 July 2016

Sikkim: Learning is an uphill climb

Between Gangtok and the small town of Singtam on National Highway 31-A, children wait for any passing vehicle to hitch a ride to school.

3 July 2016

Varanasi: If god was a banker

Bowl of compassion. God is good for business.

Tourists might end up outnumbering devotees in a place of pilgrimage over a period of time. And that is perhaps what had happened to Varanasi. No one is complaining though. Local competition tends to push prices down. Ancient buildings where no one would stay are converted into hostels. Educated unemployed youth become guides and use the experience as a springboard to going abroad, with some luck. People innovate and come up with all sorts of ideas to make money.

There is a parallel economy running in Varanasi. A demand-driven situation forces eateries to expand their menu beyond what you would expect to find in the religious town.

Lemon tea for the bhai.

But stay away from this guy. Or for that matter stay away from any person who roams about with a snake. If you came to Varanasi, you would hear boatmen warning tourists against talking to the sneaky snake babas. “There is a reason people don’t like them. If you are the kind who can play with a snake casually then you can easily fool a human,” a boatman says.

Also see Jaisalmer: If god was a banker

2 July 2016

Everybody likes to have a last cup of tea before boarding the bus

Delhi has ISBT. Bangalore has Majestic. And Kolkata has Esplanade. The common thing among these places is you can head out to some nice locations via an overnight bus. From ISBT you can take a bus to any good place in Uttarakhand. From Majestic, Goa or Hampi.

If you got the hill thing in you, the choices are even better from Esplanade. You can take a bus to New Jalpaiguri, the gateway to the east, and proceed towards Gangtok (Sikkim) or Thimphu (Bhutan). Going in winter? Carry a monkey cap.

Here is a short story:

Back in February 2011 journey basket took a bus from New Jalpaiguri to Esplanade, an overnight trip. The long bus ride to Kolkata meant to be the encore of a back-breaking but exciting trip to the Nepal-Sikkim region.

The wallet weighed much lighter than it was at the start of the journey some weeks ago. Every muscle hurt. The only relief would be the flight out from Kolkata the next day.

Early morning while entering Kolkata the driver's assistant came on the aisle and said someone had taken a laptop bag from this seat that he thought was his, but it turned out to be the wrong bag. There was a passport, a flight ticket and some money.

Nice. This was all that was needed to make the trip attain greatness.

The driver's assistant, however, said all hope was not lost. The man who took the wrong bag would be sending it via another Royal Cruiser bus on the same route. He lived in a village off the highway. It would reach Esplanade by 10am.

The flight would leave at 1pm. Don't panic. Life is weird.

After reaching Esplanade at 7am a quick breakfast ensued with the bus guys. The bus staff took the other man's laptop bag and kept it inside a locked safe at the ticket booth.

Towards the end of three hours of tea and political discussions at a noisy place that was putting on humidity and gaining crowd, one of the ticketing staff said the bus had come.

A quick look of the inside of the bag confirmed everything was in place. The driver's assistant who alerted about the switch got Rs500 as a parting gift.

That was Esplanade.


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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.

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