As I glide towards 40, I realise there is more sand now at the bottom of my sand-clock and sadly, this one can’t be inverted. I tried to get myself around what other men and women my age were doing -balancing on a tight rope of never-ending commitments & responsibilities. The more I saw, the farther I went, until I was convinced to not follow the bandwagon. No, I don’t disapprove of people choosing to spend their lives around raising a family, scaling-up their career, slogging to pay the instalments of their dream home, saving for the rainy day, hoping to enjoy a retired life at 60. But the question is ‘did you ever really live?’ Redefining social norms has perhaps been one of my life’s tougher decisions. Battling the repercussions and not feeling guilty about making my choice came with its own share of challenges. Having said that, I still made a conscious choice. As for me, life is about feeling liberated not caged, its about ‘feeling’ alive not just breathing, its about doing now, not waiting till the end. It was okay to not ‘fit-in’..
Where it all began: My interest in travel was kindled by the small weekend treks I did in my early years of college. Having born in Mumbai, I was never too far away from the jaw-dropping forts of Maharashtra. (After all, the state encompasses the largest number of forts of India!). Back in December 2006, I booked my first wildlife tour to Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. I remember going on the safari with a Nokia N73 phone for capturing pictures! The experience of witnessing wildlife upclose at Kanha was so exhilarating that upon my return, I bought myself a Bikram Grewal bird book, a binocular and a Nikon point-and-shoot camera from the little savings that I had. Eventually, I developed a keen interest for birds. After a few years, I stepped up to an entry-level DSLR with a basic telephoto lens. I did not take long to conclude that my bird pictures were absolutely below par since both my equipment and my patience had limitations. Though my interest in bird and wildlife photography dipped due to the fact that I couldn’t afford the high-end gears, the thrill of being close to the wild never ceases to excites me. Whether it’s the wetlands of Bhigwan, the arid Banni grasslands of Kutchh or the dense forests of Karnataka, I am never too far away from wilderness! A turning point in my travel sojourn happened when I did a 14-day biking trip to Ladakh with my spouse in 2012. The raw yet mesmerising landscape and the thrill of riding through the vast and rugged mountains only left me craving for more. I was addicted!
Travel photography and Writing : The gorgeous views of Pennar river and its gorge at Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh lead me to write my first blog, somewhere in 2014. Penning down my experience after every trip soon metamorphosed from a habit into a well-planned agenda, whereby I started traveling to places in search of stories that I could share with the world. My interest in travel photography became stronger when I visited Mathura to capture the colors of Holi. It is from here that I began to develop a fascination for culture, color, people and streets. I loved the versatility, spontaneity, vibrance, elements of surprise and the freedom of perspective that this genre offered. I learnt how a good professional camera can turn an image around and thus, upon return, I bought myself a mid-pro Canon 7d mark ii. Mathura had a very strong influence in transforming me from a hobbyist to a passion photographer and storyteller. Over time, my pictures and writing have intertwined perfectly to narrate first-hand stories; from the ghats of Banaras to the Mela at Pushkar, from the Konyaks of Nagaland to the Theyyams in Kerala, to trekking the Himalayas and beyond..
How and where I travel : I am a rugged and budget traveler. Luxury is alien to me. I prefer home-stays as that way, I get a peek into the lives of the locals, their food and their traditions. Going local helps me to give back what I take. My travels are a mixed bag of people, culture, landscapes, wildlife, treks and so on. I am a mountain child. Sunrises and sunsets never fail to fascinate me. I do not exist in the whimsical world of selfies, pouts and snapchats, no!
How travel changed me: When I started off, I travelled for fun. Now I travel with the eyes and a heart of a curious child. Each time I gaze at a mountain or an ocean, my egos vanish and I feel humbled. When I walk through a forest and hear its voices, I feel abundant and alive! Travel has taught me that nothing works beyond the forces of nature, and so I’ve learnt to respect it. I know now that I can’t control everything and that even a well-laid plan can fail.
My way forward: A coffee table book with my travel sojourns when I turn 50. If I can make a tiny spec of contribution in changing the way we treat our planet or if I could inspire at least one person, I’d say that I found my purpose.
Be a Traveler. Wander limitless. Be Mad. Explore and Inspire!