One of the choicest blessings in my life is that I get to visit the nooks and corners of India, and learn a lot from every place and it’s people.  If being born in a travel crazy family and married to a travel enthusiast were not enough, my work takes me all over too. Keeping the family trips aside, where time is completely in our hands, I hardly have plans to go around or visit anything in particular during the work trips.

What changes that though are the people who take pride in showing me around. People who wouldn’t let a visitor go away without savouring bits and pieces of the place they call home. People who are complete strangers to begin with but end up being friends at the end of the sojourn. That spark in their eyes and the leap in their step, when they finally see you manage to take time out, is worth every minute spent. I completely owe it to them for all the chaotic fun they let me have. Sleep is not the only way of relaxation.😉 Such fun times leave you relaxed and energised at the same time.

I remember reaching Jaipur by road from Delhi, at an unearthly hour of 4am a couple of years ago. Friends A & A, who were supposed to be initiating our activities there, were not only there to pick me up, but also offered to drive me around till 7.30 am or so, after which we could go home, get fresh, and start with the never ending meetings on our plate.

And that’s exactly what we did!

The Hawa Mahal came first. Stolen glances from the outside, and clicking some mandatory pictures ofcourse.😉

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Jal Mahal came next.

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Amer fort had more to offer, and our early visit took people there by surprise too. They told us that the fort opened for visitors only later in the day, and later gave into my plea that I had come all the way from Bengaluru and only had those wee morning hours for sight-seeing. Remember getting to savour the Prasad from the temple inside too, as the first thing in the morning. What a blessing! And thanks to that good habit of brushing the teeth at night too. ;)

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This was the trip during which I could even squeeze in a quick meet over breakfast with Shilpa, thanks to her adjusting to my crazy schedule. She even fed me a sumptuous fare.🙂

Jaipur had always been on my must-visit list, and this kinda satisfied the travel hungry soul to some extent.

Another city, another such noble soul – the first meeting with SP, and I had no idea that someone like that existed too, when I visited Bhubaneswar last year. But this sweet, chirpy girl took all the pains to take me street-hopping almost every single day that I was there, after the conference I was there for shut shop for the day. If you even have an inkling of how dark it gets there in the early evening itself, you would be surprised how this could even be remotely possible, just like I was too. But SP would have none of it. She would not waste a single minute. She took me shopping for some beautiful handloom beauties, got me to taste some of the droolicious chaats and even took me to the famous Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves.

If all that was not enough, she took an off the minute she got to know that one of the meetings had gotten cancelled and that I had a few hours at hand before I embark on the return journey, and took me to Puri too! Puri temple, one of my most favourite places – despite the maddening crowds and the chaos, the vibes have that effect on you.

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Heading west now, it was an auto driver in Bhuj who offered to show me around before the town rose for the day. For someone who wakes up early every day, I had little things to do wrt work, what with all the women who worked with our SHGs starting their day only post 10am. 8) I almost spent all my mornings walking down to the Swami Narayan temple and relishing that quiet and calm. This temple till date remains one of my favourites, and I am as excited as a kid to take my parents and Su there too, during the upcoming trip.

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What’s life without a crazy team to work with?🙂 The recent trip to Agra and the visit to Taj stands testimony.

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One place I wait to steal glances at, and keep hoping that we pass by, is the India Gate. My Delhi trip this time ended on a sour note in that sense, with not being able to pass by even once, but am thankful for the previous visits. What an amazing place!

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Another city, another favourite temple. The Dagadusheth Halwai Ganesha temple in Pune, which I got to visit just before it closed for the day during one of the trips, and asnthe first thing in the morning during the other, again thanks to the like-minded gang of people I get to work with.🙂

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I know this post is too long already, but wouldn’t be complete without the mention of one particular location that I almost always try not to miss, my power banks of energy and inspiration – the Ramakrishna Math.

Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
Ramakrishna Math, Jaipur
Ramakrishna Math, Jaipur
Ramakrishna Math, Pune
Ramakrishna Math, Pune
Ramakrishna Math, Bhopal
Ramakrishna Math, Bhopal

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Ramakrishna Math, Vadodara
Ramakrishna Math, Vadodara

Ever felt that places themselves find you at times? I had no idea that Bhuj had a Math; wasn’t mentioned anywhere. But a casual conversation with a teacher working in the school adjacent to where I stayed happened to mention about it, and off I went looking for the same. What a treasured experience that. It was a small place started by few devotees and was on the verge of being recognized as an official Math soon. It became a place I visited daily during my weeklong stay, and a few devotees had even become my daily companions.

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Phew! That was a whirlwind trip across India, eh?😉 I loved putting it together though. Helped me walk down the memory lane and consolidate my thoughts and feelings too.🙂