It isn’t summer anymore, but even the winter hasn’t arrived yet. The bipolar September is that time of the year when the morning breeze contains just a a whiff of chilliness.
Yet the blessed season hasn’t yet bid goodbye to the hot summer.
The season can’t be compared to the visual feast that the flowers-abundant spring brings or yellow-orange foliage-laden autumn brings.
But the bipolar September has a hidden beauty of its own, embedded in its essential meaning. The month is the grey-area between the hot summery white & chilly wintry black.
Just like the primal life which exists amid the-not-so-well marked greyish hues where nothing is certain or well-defined ; hotness or cold; happiness or sadness; & even life or death…
The long life is also filled with the dull-blank moments like a September afternoon that blows the chilly December wind on your face, while the nasty sun still shines right above your head , turning the moment into a blessed moment of absolute & eternal nothingness.
A whirling dervish… Ecstatic music… A state of no dimension !
I never thought I’ll ever witness a whirling Dervish for real. Let alone, whirl myself!
Least of all, didn’t expect it to happen in Osho’s meditation center.
But wonderful things happen, especially, when you least expect them!
On the last day of a 4-day camp at Osho Nisarga center, the instructor, Pragya Ma, introduced us to the techniques of “No Dimension” meditation.
“Using the breath and a series of coordinated body movements followed by whirling, your energy becomes centered in the hara, the “life energy” center below the navel. From there you can watch the mind and experience awareness and wholeness – the body moving in all directions, the center unmoving.” – osho.com
Not only could I whirl without feeling dizzy, I felt a new connection with the universal energy; a connection which was always there in the first place!
It felt like a “spring of awareness” has blossomed in my heart, pushing away the dark wintry clouds of “chain of thoughts”.
Tears of gratitude flowed from my eyes, realising, for the first time, that the only hinderance between me and the universal energy is the entity “me”. Once “me” leaves the place, only God resides, even if, momentarily. 🙂
Osho Nisarga Meditation Center, Dharamshala, India
Located in foothills of The Himalayan range, Himachal Pradesh, Osho Nisarga is a lush green meditation commune. Vibrant flowers, gentle murmur of the river water, and the enchanting view of Dhauladhar mountain range, Osho Nisarga’s vibes surely takes the meditation experience to another dimension!
“The whole existence is a temple. The trees are continuously in worship, The clouds are in prayer, and The mountains are in meditation… ”
I love meditation. An intensely curious agnostic, I want to know it all, learn it all, imbibe the facts. At some point, even meditation became an intellectual activity.
Take a deep breath, be in harmony with nature, let go and what not…
But the real “let go” happened the moment I wasn’t trying to “let go” anymore. I was too astonished, too stunned, too happy to “try” something.
For the first time, “I” was just not there anymore ! Or maybe, “I” finally lost its significance.
That “I” we cling on to, became too small a reality in front of such a vast endless ocean. I became a negligible entity staring at the grand canvass, the creator painted with a master stroke.
It all started on that laid-back, lazy, hot Palolem beach.
Located in the Southern part of Goa, within 2.5 kms of market town of Chaudi, Canacona, the Palolem Beach was my first glimpse to a “hippy-style lifestyle” (concerns of budget-traveling). 🙂
Though we started the trip by staying in a “safe” hotel behind the beach, the decision to shift to Palolem beach’s cottages was inevitable – for the compulsive need to stare at the waves was simply irresistible!
On this 10 days long vacation, we literally backpacked, & stayed at Rs 800/ night or less in the beach huts / cottages ( A freelance writer can only afford budget traveling in India 😉 ).
The cool & misty mornings!
The usual day at Palolem beach started at 8 AM. Tea, breakfast (usually the delicious omelette & big tea mugs at Hi-Tide Coco Huts ), staring at the incessant flow of waves, preceded by a dip in the warm currents of the Indian ocean.
A typical beach hut
View from the cottage
Now, I love swimming, yet, the vastness & mysticism of ocean intimidated me. I just couldn’t go too far from the shore.
There’s this funny incident that happened one afternoon. One day while swimming, I slowly drifted towards a couple, who to my horror were making love right inside the ocean. 😛 ( Not a common sight for an average “decent” Indian). The moment I realized, I chuckled and tried to swim away, only to be sent back towards them by the flow of the current. 😛
The hot, & lazy afternoons!
The lazy, hot, bright afternoon called for a nap on the beach, followed by a refreshing drink.
Foodies that we Punjabis are, the later part of afternoon was spent in “hunting” for a new restaurant to eat, out of 80-100 odd restaurants located on the beach.
I don’t know what vegetarians or the so-called morally prickly vegans eat in Goa, but for me, it was a happy platter of fried fish, fish curry, coconut fish, omelette, prawns, and everything a hardcore spiritual non-vegetarian can gulp in one go.
Evening view at Palolem, like a canvass painted by the creator!
A casual stroll, a walk on the beach is how the day slowly receded into the evening. We literally waited each evening, with a camera in our hands, to capture, again & again, the glory of God in the name of his most beautiful painting – a sunset!
Orange tinge blended into a purplish blue, set against a grayish-blue sky, Goa changed the meaning of a sunset forever in my mind. The staring continued till the orange canvass changed into a star-lit sky. 😃
It is after 7PM that the phenomena called Palolem finally comes to life. Dimly lit restaurants, fragrances in the air that allure the appetite, peppy music in the background, the place takes a U-turn as the evening advances into the night.
I still can’t forget the happy faces of laid-back tourists, playing guitar without a care in the world, wearing that super sexy cowboy hat the likes of me only see in Hollywood movies!!! 😛
Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, Goa took all the tiredness away. Symbolically speaking, the trip took away the constant need to be excited or tensed ( a reality of consumerist society).
The Palolem sang an age old lyric to me – praising nature & its elements, giving a glimpse of harmony which is present in everything except a human mind, singing a melody that only an initiated few can hear. 🙂
Traveling is like a box full of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get! 🙂 An adventurer by heart, it was a tough call for me to leave my first job in 2012 and explore the unfriendly North East terrain. I never knew what I was going to get too! 🙂
Sikkim is where the 15 days long trip started. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’m going to take you on a ride to Meghalaya, a must-visit paradise in India.
Popularly known as the “Scotland of the East”, Shillong, the capital city, looked like any other hill station – hilly terrain, overcrowded, and chaotic. By the time I reached my hotel, I was exhausted by the journey in this unforgiving mountainous terrain. But my perception was about to be changed.
The Police Bazaar, a ride down the memory lane for my dad!
The essential vibe of this city can be captured at the Police Bazaar/ Square. That’s where we started. It was here that I began to see the city through the glasses my dad wore 40 years back. As a fresh graduate from a medical school, my dad stayed in the unexplored North Eastern region as a volunteer in a UNO mission in 1972 (anti-malaria program).
It was pure delight, sauntering along with him on the streets where he wandered once , when he was of my age. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to watch a “nostalgic smile” on his face, a sudden shift from his usual stoic “Mona Lisaic expressions” – a term I coined for a set of geniuses like him who rarely smile, and if they do, it feels like a favor for the lesser beings like me ! 🙂 A decent chap that he is, I was astonished to see the clarity with which he remembered the bars and restaurants he frequented in the Police Bazaar.
Found women of substance: At my first attempt in street photography!
Oh yes! That’s what I’ll will always remember from the trip – the women of Shillong. Proud demeanour, looking straight ahead, clad in traditional Jainsem ( a traditional Khasi attire), these betel chewers are one-of-a-kind women.
I remember how dad always narrates stories of women in the North East, a region which follows matriarchal family structure, a stark distinction from the North Indian patriarchal traditions where I grew up. It is safe to say that a woman play a dominant role in the families and are many a times is the bread earner of the family.
From a higher perspective : Mesmerizing view from the Shillong Peak, U Lum Shyllong
The next place in the itinerary was the Shillong Peak. Called “U lum Shyllong”in the colloquial language, the peak offers a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque valley. At a distance of 10 kms from the main city, this is the very spot where I fell in love with the city. They’ve installed big telescopes here to view the valley through different angles.
Mawsynram – Cheerapunjee, India: the wettest place on the planet
I’m a lazy person who wakes at 11 AM. Yet, when I travel I’m wide awake at 6AM, without an alarm. 🙂 Next day, starting at 7:30 AM sharp, we hit the road for a location that’s well-known around the world – Cheerapunjee, the wettest place on the planet.
One thing I noticed about the region is the terrain makes traveling a bit tough, not that at 29 years of age I should complain. 🙂 Moving on, it took a few kilometers for me to forget about the traveling woes. I must say, the 53 kilometers road from Shillong to Cheerapunjee was a sight to remember. The breathtaking scenery slowly transported me far away from the hubbub of the city.
It slowly started sinking in, the reason why Shillong is rightly called the “Scotland of the East”. 🙂
Noh ka ikai falls, located in the village Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee has a number of high waterfalls, & is the final destination in the area. The breathtaking scenery and the tranquil people move you into complete surrender. It gives me pure joy to witness both the timeless beauty of the mountains and the quietly working folks I saw and interacted with.
A surprise in the itinerary – the village of Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village!
Though not planned in the itinerary, the village of Mawlynnong, declared as Asia’s cleanest village, came as a wonderful surprise on the next day. A good, tiring, if I may add 84 kms drive from the capital city, the village is simply gorgeous.
Located in the East Khasi hills district, the green & clean hamlet is popular for its cleanliness. And rightly so! Hats off to the one-of-its-kind community based ecotourism endeavor of the local people.
Sadly, due to the ongoing construction, we were not able to stay in the 80-feet high “machan”, the biggest tourist attraction in the village, but we did manage to click a number of priceless pictures of the village.
The living root bridge: An example of man’s harmony with nature:
On the way out, we were told to visit another tourist destination, the“living root bridge”, located in the Riwai village, Meghalaya. One can witness the splendour and magnanimity of nature in full display – the entwined roots of two large ficus tress entwined to create one-of-its-kind living root bridge, right above the pristine river.
The bridge is a tourist’s hotspot, and is a perfect example of man’s harmony with nature. For it is gentle care of the locals that the bridge was able to flourish in the natural surroundings. Well, that marked the last spot we saw in Meghalaya.
There’s so much more to share, many more breathtaking pictures to share, if only I could. From someone who knew nothing about the far North East region, its beauty, its unchartered paths, I became someone who fell in love with the region. 🙂
It is my sincere hope, that more and more people will visit this region, and create opportunities for the locals, as the scope for tourism is mammoth here.