All posts by dineshbhatia2018

My name is Dinesh Bhatia, a 34 year old with a restless feet and heartfelt desire to see the world. In 2017, I picked up my brown beauty - Duster - and started my road trips. Till now covered 21000 + kms and covered eight states and UT, and more than 150 places in India. My mission is to show that it is possible for women to plan and travel independently, while staying safe and having fun at the same time. This blog is going to be a guide to travel in India, especially Solo female travel and inspirational travel tales around the country.

More the discipline, more the freedom #day26

#day26 #indiaissafe #myindia

Have you ever felt how it feels like waking up in different beds in different locations, almost every second day? Everyday you have to chose and decide what you want to eat. No one is going to do that for you. You aren’t at home where your mother is going to decide. You have to get out of your room, and think and ask yourself – “So what do you want to eat today?” That is what I felt this morning. Then I remembered a place my best friend had told me about – Murugan Idly shop.

I quickly got out of bed, even though wasn’t in the best of health. I have been feeling a little uneasy since last two days – pain in throat. So this morning too, it continued. I wished to sleep more, but then I knew no one is going to get me out of bed anyway. I had to gather that motivation on my own. I did. Also, I decided to take a cab. Yesterday I had roamed around in the city in an auto, and today a cab. The hotel desk helped me in booking. But as I was already late, I rushed to the idly shop, near Pothy’s and asked the cab driver to meet me there directly.

The place was unlike I had ever thought. A narrow under construction lane takes you to a seating space, which also looks like to be under construction. But it was clean. When I reached there, it was one fourth filled. By the time I ordered and started eating, the restaurant was almost full. It happened in a span of 20minutes only. People kept pouring in. And I knew the reason – taste 🙂 I ordered masala idly, simple idly and masala dosa. For the first time in my entire life did I like the dosa so much. I Couldn’t believe I could like masala dosa too. It just melted in my mouth. As a friend always kept telling me, “Dosa isn’t a food, but an emotion”; I guess I understood it in that moment.

After that I went around exploring the place. The best part of the entire day was the time spent at the Gandhi museum. I had been to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad too last year, but this one stole my heart. The way they have shown the Indian history is remarkable. I felt like going back and taking my history lessons again – and this time a little seriously and with all interest. I would recommend the parents to take their children there and spend some good time explaining the charts/maps to them. I also got a little emotional while going through the lane of history – learning about what all people went through at that time for independence. We forget about it and take our freedom too lightly. Gandhi Museum, Madurai #indiaissafe

#indiaissafe @ Gandhi Museum, Madurai

The independence and freedom we have got also endowed us with certain duties – here I remember Aristotle who said, “through discipline comes freedom” – more the discipline, more the freedom.

So, here we got another point to remember when travelling solo – be disciplined. It doesn’t mean less fun.

A new dimension of Feminity and Divinity with Beauty, Power and Prosperity – Meenakshi Amman

Day #25 of #myindia #indiaissafe #MeenakshiAmman #MaduraiDiaries #beauty #power #prosperity

I am in Madurai now. I had reached here on 11th October 2018 – somewhat in late evening. I have got these faint memories of Madurai from my childhood – faint in the sense of vaguely remembering the gajras and flowers shops. Now, is the time to explore the city myself.

Today I went to the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple. This temple is one of the masterpieces of Dravidian architecture, built over generations of Pandya rulers.

IMeenakshi Temple, Madurai

South entrance, Meenakshi Temple

ln this temple, Meenakshi is worshipped together with her husband, Shiva, in his form as Sundareswara. The legend goes that the Pandyan king was not able to have children. The king prayed to various gods to grant him a child, and eventually his prayers were answered by Shiva, though in a rather unexpected manner. From the sacrificial fire, a three year old girl came out. This child had three breasts, and it was foretold that the extra breast would disappear when she met a man worthy to be her husband. In addition, the girl’s eyes were shaped like fish, and hence she was given the name Meenakshi.

Meenakshi is known to be a fine warrior princess, learnt martial arts, particularly archery and sword fighting. When she reached the age of 21, her father decided to invite all the neighboring kings and princes to Madurai, in the hope of getting his daughter married. This was due to the prevailing custom of the Pandyans that women were not allowed to ascend to the throne on their own. Therefore, the king was hoping to find a suitable husband who would rule the kingdom jointly with his daughter after his death. Meenakshi’s suitors brought all kinds of gifts to impress her, but she proclaimed that she would marry only the person who would defeat her in combat. No one could defeat her, so her father had to eventually allow her to ascend the throne, in her own right. Perhaps, this was the first time in the Indian history where a woman ruled a kingdom by herself. She is also known as the first warrior queen in the Indian History.

She kept on fighting battles and winning them – one after the other. For one such battle, she reached Kailasha mountain. There she meets her equal in battle, Sundareswara, who is actually the god Shiva. Meenakshi’s third breast disappears, as prophesized, and the couple return to Madurai to be married.

According to popular belief, the temple was originally built 3600 years ago by survivors of Kumari Kandam, the Indian equivalent of Atlantis. In the historical records, however, the existence of this temple is first mentioned during the 7Th century AD. The temple was ransacked by Muslim invaders during the 14thcentury, and was only rebuilt about two and a half centuries later. This is the structure that visitors are able to see today when they visit Madurai.

According to a Puranic legend, Madurai was originally a forest known as Kadambavanam. One day, a farmer named Dhananjaya who was passing through the forest, saw Lord Indra (The king of the gods), worshipping a swayambhu (self created Lingam ) under kadamba tree. Dhananjaya, the farmer immediately reported this to King Kulasekara Pandya. Kulasekara Pandya cleared the forest and built a temple around the Lingam. A city was soon planned with the temple as its centre. On the day the city was to be named, Lord Shiva is said to have appeared and drops of nectar from his hair fell on the town. Madurai has a rich historical background in the sense that Lord Shiva himself performed sixty-four wonders called “Thiruvilaiyadals“. This is also considered to be one of the Shakti Peeths in Tamil Nadu.

The formation of temple and the Madurai city –This temple is designed based on a human body. There are 5 main entrancesbased on the human senses (see, hear, smell, taste and touch). There are 9 smaller entrances to the inside complex that denote the 9 orifices of the human body (2 eyes, 2 nostrils, 2 ears, mouth, urethra and anus). In Hindu culture, it is believed that the air travelling through these 9 entrances (orifices) was the soul itself. If the air stopped flowing, your soul would leave the body. The streets of Madurai are constructed as concentric circles, with the temple at the center. This is also thought of as a “Lotus Formation”.

What we need to remember from this legend is that Meenakshi grew up to as a warrior and ascends the throne, going against the usual practise of that time – that she needed to be married to claim her rights. That she led an army of women, bearing arms, arrows, and swords, who were ready to give their life for the kingdom. That they weren’t an army of coy women. The women of Madurai, still remembers and celebrates the strength of Meenakshi during the Chitirai Festival in Maduraiin the month of April. Thousands of women gather outside the Meenakshi temple restrung their own taalis emulating the ritual when taali was being tied around the idol of Meenakshi. During the procession, every night little young plays part of Meenakshi, dressed in the best and carrying fine weapons. This inspires the young girls and makes them believe that they are also capable of the same strength and courage.

In contemporary times, this legend and celebrations around it has got its own beauty. The wider understanding is that following traditions and culture takes us backward. In this city, we can see the other side of unequal gender norms. This story of Meenakshi and the celebrations associated with it in the month of Chitirai festival can help in inspiring women to be the most powerful and courageous version of themselves.

The story of Meenakshi Amman tells us that no matter what people tell you or is ascribed, you can change the world by being yourself. That is what Meenakshi Amman taught us – she took the throne, and ruled the hearts, with prosperity, beauty and strength.

#IndiaIsSafe is an initiative for claiming India to be as safe as any other country for travelling. Every country has got its list of Do’s and Dont’s, so does India. And we can have bad experiences anywhere – even in our home city/town/country. But that isn’t reason enough to keep us away from travelling. We need to claim our spaces in the world outside our own homes and travel. If this resonates with you and you are travelling in India, do use ‘#indiaissafe’. And if it is not, then do mark those places, so that the authorities can take an extra effort for the same. 

From Delhi to Kanyakumari – Solo female road trip

#Day21 #myindia #indiaissafe

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. I did it 🙂 delhi to Kanyakumari. It took me a little while to believe myself.

It was almost evening when I entered Kanyakumari. The scene was mesmerising. I was speechless when I saw the sea for the first time. I parked my car on the roadside and went outside to soak myself in the glory of such beautiful evening.

The day had started with some aches and missing home. I suddenly started missing home, especially my niece and nephew. I couldn’t call them as they would have been in school by then. Tried calling my mother, but guess she also would have been busy in morning household chores. I just felt a little low. But then I do try to not let any of these things hamper my trip. So I did get out of bed and reached Somateertham – Ayurvedic village and resort. I will write another blog about it. For now, just know that it’s one of the cleanliest beach I have come across. They have got beautiful property there.

My spirit was lifted up after being to this place. Then I left for Padmanabhapuram Palace which is set at the foot of the mountains and I just loved that backdrop. Again, a detailed write up about that too will be online soon 🙂

My feet is swollen a little now – with all the drive and walking around. I can spread the message #indiaissafe only when I have been on streets like any other tourist and not just covering kms in my dusty.

I started feeling feverish a little after the walking around in palace. I stopped for some tea and snacks outside the palace only. After a little while I realised that I was the only female in the entire restaurant and all males. It felt a little weird, but not uncomfortable. People looked at me, but that didn’t make me feel uneasy. The host was way too kind to offer me things to eat. That left me with a good feeling.

Then the entire route from padmanabhapuram palace to Kanyakumari is beautiful, that infused energy in me again. The thought and feeling of reaching Kanyakumari – the southernmost part of India is unexplainable. I just quickly checked in and roamed around in the city to convince myself of reaching here 🙂

I read it somewhere and would want to share it here –

“Whatever you woke up with this morning – Ill health, stolen shoes, broken relationships, failed relationships – do not let any of these stop you from running your race. You can experience more in life if you will get over the excuses and get on with the living.”

#IndiaIsSafe is an initiative for claiming India to be as safe as any other country for travelling. Every country has got its list of Do’s and Dont’s, so does India. And we can have bad experiences anywhere – even in our home city/town/country. But that isn’t reason enough to keep us away from travelling. We need to claim our spaces in the world outside our own homes and travel. If this resonates with you and you are travelling in India, do use ‘#indiaissafe’. And if it is not, then do mark those places, so that the authorities can take an extra effort for the same. 

50 Elements Essential for Solo travelling

Day 19 of #myIndia #IndiaIsSafe (07 October, 2018)

This is Day 19 of #myIndia #IndiaIsSafe initiative. I had left early morning from Fort Kochi, to reach Poovar in time. Then I had to meet Girish too – one friend I had made on my trip. One beautiful thing about travelling is that you have ample opportunity to make friends. People whom we would have never even known otherwise, and you meet and be friends.  One such kind person is Girish and such warmth in his family. I was reminded of home away from home.

I reached there home well in time for breakfast. The kids were also awake and this time I didn’t forget to carry chocolates for them – the Schmitten chocolates I had bought from factory outlet of Schmitten, on my way to Mumbai. These chocolates also found its way to various people who loved them. I am only left with two now 🙂

While driving today, I was thinking about the time when I had initially started driving. Well, before that, let me give you a brief background about myself. I have been born and brought up in Delhi only, by parents who were born and partially brought up in Haryana. My roots are in Haryana only. My parents are the first generation of professionals in the entire family – my father being the eldest of them. But then there was nothing as such dictated to us.

There is one thing that I always kept in mind since childhood – self discipline. I didn’t realise it till today, when I was driving and thinking about the first time I took out the car. It was in graduation first year (2002). The day I took the car out, it got hit by a truck. I was scared that if I called up at home, they would not ever allow me to take the vehicle again. Still thinking about what to do, I decided to confront the truck driver who had hit my car. Eventually, I somehow did manage to convince him to pay for the damages. I completed my daily schedule as planned and got the car repaired too. It was only after getting back home, that I told my parents about the day. They got a little worried, but particularly happy because I could manage it on my own. In fact, my father did tell me to call him up whenever the need arises, especially in such situations. But that one incident gave me confidence. I do drive responsibly and knowing the road and traffic sense of people, and have always managed to keep myself out of any trouble (Accidents). Then there are incidents when the cars breakdown too. On such incidents also, I have always managed to handle the situation well.

Today, while thinking about that day, I really that actually my parents have never ever objected against my car driving. In fact, the distance also hasn’t even been much of an issue. The only thing is the first time acceptance for road trips, when I tell them about it. They still get apprehensive – less because of security issues and more because of the tiredness or stress I might have. Their response in certain situations actually surprises me too. No-one in my entire family has driven such long distances – forget about any female from the family doing it. My brother, who’s a doctor is passionate about travelling and goes on long drives, as and when time permits. So, it was difficult for my family also to accept it initially. I somehow convinced them too.

Now I understand why I could do that. The reason is to know your responsibility. By responsibility, I mean that you do not drive mindlessly. It is essential for us to behave responsibly while on road. Thats the reason why my parents never objected to give me vehicle. They knew that I can take care of myself and my vehicle. No matter what, I will be able to handle the situation. And in case situation arises, I will take them into confidence too. This confidence of family could come through my behaving responsibly. Like I know not to drink and drive. And I do not drink while on road trips. Drinking anyway isn’t good for long drives. Eat healthy and stay healthy – that is what I follow on self – driven road trips.

With this thought, I have thought of starting another series – “50 essential elements for solo travelling/driving“. And this is the first essential element – Behave responsibly. Avoid mindless activities. Actions should be well – thought and not done in hasty manner or trying to prove a point to someone. In a country like India, each place follows a different pattern or set of ways you conduct yourself. It is important, as a tourist, to keep these in mind and do not step on anything that is sensitive. While travelling, my focus is to travel. I know that one way of solving is to respect the residents’ sensitivities. So my effort will be to not step in sensitive zones, and to act appropriately as per situation and place.

#IndiaIsSafe is an initiative for claiming India to be as safe as any other country for travelling. Every country has got its list of Do’s and Dont’s, so does India. And we can have bad experiences anywhere – even in our home city/town/country. But that isn’t reason enough to keep us away from travelling. We need to claim our spaces in the world outside our own homes and travel. If this resonates with you and you are travelling in India, do use ‘#indiaissafe’. And if it is not, then do mark those places, so that the authorities can take an extra effort for the same. 

Behind the Scenes – My India Day 16

Day 16 @Cherai, Kochi, Kerala

While on a road trip, things might turn out in a way never expected. That is one thing I had to be prepared for. Impromptu plans, cancellations/ rescheduling of certain plans, spending time in a way you never thought you would, and so on. So #MyIndia Day 16 has been that kind of day too.
Once again, there is a red alert in three districts of Kerala – Idukki, Thrissur and Munnar. My plan was to go to Munnar from Cherai, then to Thekkady and enter Tamil Nadu from there. But as this is God’s own country, the God only has got its own plan too. I was left to cancel my plans for Munnar and had to enter Tamil Nadu now. I didn’t know whom to approach. All my connections proved to be useless at this time. The only thing that came to rescue were my two guide books I had been using to plan my entire South India trip – The Rough Guide to South India & Kerala (Rough Guides) and Eyewitness Travel – India (DK Publications). So, the entire day was spent sitting in the restaurant of the resort and re-planning everything.

As I was planning and re-scheduling things, when I also got an opportunity to strike a conversation with the staff there at Cherai, Club Mahindra. When we travel, it is important for us to sit, and think too. I had never thought about the life of the hospitality industry staff. Sitting there and then in Club Mahindra, Ashtamudi resort, and once almost about to buy some shares in a restaurant, I did get time to think about their lives too.

Most of them stay away from homes, some of them even thousands of Kms away. Their day starts early morning and ends around 12-1am. They are the ones always wearing a smile and taking all our complaints with a hearty attitude too. What is holiday for us, is the highest season for them. So the staff never gets to celebrate their festivals at home. How easily does that same staff becomes family for each other! And the love, the fights – everything happens as it is in a family. They are the ones who work behind the scene for keeping our rooms and linen clean, our bathrooms tidy, charting out the menu and making sure we get our lunches, breakfasts and dinner on time. I had never even thought about the fact that the ones who are making sure of timely delivery of every meal of ours, are the ones who never get to eat food in peace. They get to eat between they are serving us. One bite here and another one there – that is how they manage their meals.

I just thought of writing about it so that next time when we want to complain or decide to shout of anyone serving us, we just take a five second break. Think they area working under a lot of pressure, which doesn’t mean we take just anything. But it surely means that we can be a little gentle while dealing/conversing with them.

Remember always to treat and behave with others, as you want yourself to be treated and behaved with. There is no other way.