Thursday, 16 October 2014

5 Useful Travel Tips for the Budget Conscious

I have a love-hate relationship with my city, Calcutta. No, I do not like calling it Kolkata even though it has been officially changed thanks to the whimsies of the ruling political party leaders. I don't know if that is neocolonialism deeply embedded in my psyche that makes me think this way or just my preference with the more familiar, but it is the way it is. When I was growing up, I couldn't wait till I left this city forever to settle somewhere abroad. When I started weighing the pros and cons (aka when I was old enough to understand how much money matters) I realised the dream to live in some fancy destination is not really a true dream of mine, it is the dream of travelling the world then returning home that is truly mine. This city is known as the City of Joy. But, to me it does not represent this single emotion. How can it? I have lived in this city my whole life and every lane I have been to represents something different to me. More than anything else, it feels familiar. Not safe and secure, but even the presumed dangers here are familiar to me.

North Sikkim
North Sikkim
I am not a seasoned traveller. But, I would love to travel the world on my own someday, one destination at a time, strictly on a budget. This year I took 3 short trips within India with my friends. The first one was a college trip to Lava and Lolegaon, the 2nd to Shantiniketan and the 3rd to Gangtok. These are a few things I think everyone needs to know about travelling alone, especially if you are on a budget. Do keep in mind there are a lot of other things you need to carry along, like medicines, lots of clean underwear and all your chargers(for your cameras, phones and other gadgets).
  • Carry a small tube of toothpaste that can be stowed away in a small pocket in your handbag and can be accessed easily every morning. Do not throw away old containers of these small tubes. Just refill them from a bigger tube you keep at home before every trip. Hold the mouths of the tubes firmly together and squeeze it out of the bigger tube into the smaller one. You can always share a tube with your friends.
  • Do not carry huge shampoo and conditioner bottles that you use at home. They will take up a lot of space and might come out of the bottle under pressure and ruin your clothes and other things. You do not want to spend on laundry which is usually expensive at any hotel. Carry sachets instead. They are easier to carry, cheaper and are disposable after use. Every hotel may not give shampoo bottles. 
  • Carry disposable paper soaps to save space and for easy access. Every hotel usually provides a small soap, or you can buy them at your destination. But, while you are travelling on a train or a bus these will come in handy. I forgot them this time and had to make do with hand sanitizer, which is also a pretty useful thing to carry around while travelling.
  • Trolley bags, if not rucksacks are the way to go if you want to run around between hotels, trains and buses. The 1st 2 trips I ignored the need because I travelled light. This time, between missed trains and running around the railway station for about 5 hours I realised how badly I needed to buy a trolley bag pronto. A rucksack might be too big for short trips. I had helpful travel-mates who shared the burden halfway through every time, but you may not always be so lucky. You don't want to hire a porter on a budget trip. And my bag felt heavier after each hour which made me desperately want to hire one this time.
  • If you have bought e-tickets from the online website of IRCTC and are wait listed then do yourself a favour and either buy the tickets on tatkal or buy them from the ticket counter in person. This is a valuable lesson we learnt this time. Many of you may know that wait listed e-tickets get dropped on final charting. Of course I am writing this for the non-smartasses who do not  know this information. At least IRCTC will refund the money because we were on wait list. If you missed the train you would end up losing the money entirely. So, reach the station on time if you have reservation. We came back in an AC sleeper bus (which cost us a little more than the train would have) which was full of families who had met with a similar misfortune like us. The bus journey wasn't as bad as we had expected and would have in fact been a better experience if the bus reached Calcutta a little earlier. Do use the washrooms at every bus stop and try charging your phone at every stop if it is feasible.
Misty Mountains Cold-(yes I just referenced LOTR. I had thought of it while taking the photo only.)
Over all I have loved all my trips so far. India isn't safe enough for solo vacations for girls yet(although someday I would love to take a solo trip, but it might get lonely). It is always better to have someone watch your back. I learnt from my travel-mate, Anu how to be in zen mode when situations are completely out of control. I learnt I am a semi-good mimic and provide good enough entertainment even in such out-of-control situations. Here's hoping I get to travel more, to more beautiful places and to learn something new everywhere I go. Don't get discouraged by what others have to say. You don't need a lot of money for travelling, you don't need to have lived on your own to be independent enough to know your mind and you don't need to travel with a guy every time to watch over you for safety. Truth be told, I did not feel unsafe anywhere I went with these girls. We did get quizzical looks and some assumed we must be related.
Make your own memories and be unafraid to experience new things (unless it's something gag-worthy enough to make you super sick. After all, you do not want to spend your vacation in the bathroom or the local hospital).

kolkata fashion bloggers
With Anupriya DG and Soumi Paul in Gangtok

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Remember this ♫Bobby McFerrin♫song?
I don't remember ever not worrying. The worries go away temporarily (especially when I am in the company of someone or when I am listening to weirdly upbeat songs) but, they bounce right back. Has this ever happened with you that you saw someone smiling and looking happy in a picture and wondered how they do it? They make it look so easy. They make moving on and living life happily look reasonably easy. I swear to you, the more someone is capable of detachment, it is more easy for them to be without constant worry.

hot chocolate

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Durga Puja 2014 - Trends Spotted

I saw a good deal of Normcore fashion this year while pandal hopping. But, I am not really sure how many of them consciously dressed up that way. Normcore fashion is where people dress up in a normal way to look same rather than stand out. Read this *article* to get an idea of what is Normcore as documented by artist Hans Eijkelboom.

paan stall outside Badamtal Durga PandalBut I did not capture the denim on denim and other Normcore craziness during Durga Puja for you! Here are 3 of the biggest trends I spotted this year. All my fashionable friends wore gorgeous sarees every day. Well, of course I didn't. I did wear an ethnic kurta with a beautiful printed vest on Ashtami. And I gorged on a sumptuous Italian fare at Spaghetti Kitchen that day. Also watched Haider on the first day of release and loved every bit of it.I wrapped up that awesome day by promptly falling down wearing flat shoes and tearing my beautiful red leggings on the way back.

Printed leggings were everywhere, they were mostly paired with bum covering long tops and flats

the Anarkali salwar kameez was everywhere! It was a bit weird how many of these I spotted this time.

Kolkata Fashion Bloggers
No one wore the saree better or more fashionably than city bloggers Soumi and Anupriya DG. Soumi draped her saree over leggings! It doesn't get more trendsetting than that. Love Anu's necklace and clutch. Learn how to put a twist on your traditionals from these 2 ladies.

outside Badamtala Durga Puja
People really do forget all about calories during these 5 days

And with this I wish you a Subho Bijaya and Happy Dussehra!

In association with Lifestyle International I will be highlighting the food, fashion and atmosphere of Durga Puja here on the blog.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Durga Puja 2014

I have noticed my favourite photos tend to be the ones that echo solitude.
Here are a few of my favourite shots from Sashthi and Saptami.

Sribhumi durga puja
Sribhumi Durga
Sribhumi Durga
Rajdanga Durga Puja
Rajdanga Durga
Bosepukur Durga Puja
Bosepukur Pandal
Target balloon
Outside Badamtala Durga Puja
Carnival ride
Before the ride starts again for customers she gets a free ride
Chandipath on Saptami at Babubagan Durga Puja
blue sasthi outfit
Sasthi Blues - style spotted

In association with Lifestyle International I will be highlighting the food, fashion and atmosphere of Durga Puja here on the blog.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Have Some Candy

Bubblegum pink and fuchsia pink ones.
Shatteringly out of inspiration.
Too much chatter in my brain.