Posted on

Break a leg and other happenings at Bat Travels

Break a leg and other happenings at Bat Travels

 

Well, I actually broke a leg. And then we had a great show. So there, the headline has been explained. What follows is the drama around it and lots of detail.

In my line of vision is the right foot shoe lying alone where it has been discarded when I walked in in my house from my tour. It is covered in dust, and is looking miserably alone. So it the right foot chappal lying at my bedside. But two right-foot footwear don’t make a pair. So they are sulking, missing their better halves who are probably cozying up in the shoe case, as I type. Remember, they are leftist? Radicals!

If you are looking for drama around the fracture, there is none. Just old age, I guess. Which in itself is very dramatic. I say old age not because am old. I meant it in the way that am getting old. My birthday is around the corner, you see.

While we are on birthdays, Divya celebrated hers on our trip. She got a great band to perform, picked up an awesome venue, packaged it like a tour and managed to sell it. Initially when no-one was picking our trip we thought people can see through it. But as the days came closer, people just joined in. It could be because of the long weekend. And most people are normal, in the sense that when they don’t have a plan they leave the panicking to the last moment. So limping on one foot and one walking stick, I showed my happiness at the turn out.

If you talk to the people who joined our tour, they will tell you how good the music was. (By the way, Kanishk Seth and his band performed for us.) They will also tell you about the riverside venue and how they could hear the gurgling water all night long as they slept in tents floating over the river. I will tell you where I slept. In a tent pitched on the ground. I was not taking any risk. For I can’t swim. And these days, I can’t even walk.

The greatest gain from this fracture has been the walking stick. Now I don’t have to walk up to the switchboards. Standing 3 feet away I can switch off the fan. Sitting on the bed I can pull the bottle of water closer. The newspaper that I had thought I had done reading and had tossed on the floor can now be nudged back lovingly. Dogs now look at me with new-found respect. Cats, well cats never really looked at me. They still don’t. What should I do to make you look at me? Break another leg?

In case any of you know of cool activities that can be done on one leg, do leave behind a comment. I don’t promise I will try it. But I will definitely give it a thought. Please refrain from suggesting the adventurous activity ‘bathing’. Have already done that stuff. Woohoo!

Picture credit: Karthik Shriram. (follow him on Instagram @karthik_shriram)
Posted on

Visually impaired, will travel.

Panoramic view of Rome

The visually impaired also need a holiday. A holiday that treats them like equals. Disability tour or disability travel may not be the answer. Inclusive travel, most likely, may be. The lesser conversation we have about how different the disabled people are from able-bodied, the better it is. In fact, the conversation should be, how alike we all are, disabled or able-bodied. And therefore the need to go to a new destination, unwind in the new vibe, and come back learning a thing or two about an earlier unknown place, is universal. Also is the need to take a break from the people we meet every day and the workplace we mundanely show-up at every day.

Our Indian society and the family structure sure has its own merits. And the demerits are also not less. While the kinship is strong and the support system helps in raising a family. So are the clutches of control. Parents bring up kids to be obedient. Answering back is not appreciated. In their argument, parents garb it all under the cloak of care and for-your-good. But unless you let the child attempt a flight, you won’t know how high it can go. For parents with children having one form disability or the other, there’s a fine line to operate around. Too much protection and the child won’t discover his or her individuality. It will always remain a child and will have to be taken care off. On the other, pull back a hand to let it find its own footing. And of course, not to oversee the emotional toil all this takes on the parent. Amidst all this, letting the child choose a holiday of his or her choice is like passing a bill in a coalition government. Not a smooth sail for many.

You could say that I don’t know anything about disability since I haven’t grown up with a family member who is disabled. Yes, I haven’t. But you know what, am a social underdog, because am a woman. And as a social underdog, I understand the sentiments of other social underdogs. And to win in this society, the underdog has to rise up and claim what is truly his or her. So yes, I get you. Having said that, I know that you have more barriers to cross than me. So no, am in no way mitigating your battle by comparing it to that of mine, a woman.

Coming back to travel. The theory is that pre-historic human beings travelled from one landmass to the other to discover and explore new lands. This slowly led to the inhabitation of the whole planet. This theory, in a way makes us give more credit to the urge to travel. We need not shrug travel away as a luxury. In fact, it’s a basic human need. One that runs in us since pre-historic times.

The travel industry is growing exponentially. It is creating more jobs and more revenue for the government and stakeholders. The social media too is throwing up more photoshopped and filter-added images at us than ever before. We all want to go on that cliff and watch that sunset. Or to that tourist destination and eat that meal. Looks like everyone is travelling. Where are the social-underdogs as far as travelling is concerned? The ideal holiday-er is husband-wife with a child or two in tow. Fits the social description of the ‘right kind of people’. They snuggly fit-in in the social weave. We, the ones who are not within the structure created by the society, somehow flutter away the calm of a hotel reception. Because we come in all permutation and combination that disturb the simple minds and ask for a change in the rules. We travel with a group of friends and family hotels see us as hooligans. With a boyfriend and girlfriend we become the immoral ones and forcing the check-in staff to ask, “how are you two related?” As gay/lesbian couples, well, nothing like that exists in India. And as a disabled traveler, how can you be travelling?

Those who feel that visual impairment is a great hindrance when it comes to travel, have surely not heard of James Holman. In 1832, he was the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe. When he set out to circuit the world, it was unheard of a lone traveler to do so. Blind or not. He had what every blind person does, a sense of the surroundings through vibrations. A Sense of the World is the name of the book written on his adventures. The description of the book reads as: He was known simply as the Blind Traveler. A solitary, sightless adventurer, James Holman (1786-1857) fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, helped chart the Australian outback—and, astonishingly, circumnavigated the globe, becoming one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored. A Sense of the World is a spellbinding and moving rediscovery of one of history’s most epic lives—a story to awaken our own senses of awe and wonder. Holman lost his sight at 25, but he didn’t lose his spirit.

Like James Holman, we all just need to be more open to newer experiences. Most of the time the comfort that familiarity brings is too drawing and warm. One doesn’t want to deviate from the known. But how about testing yourself with the unknown. Try an experience you have always said no to. And not because it is an adventure sports. No. I mean the kinds that you think won’t interest you. Like a drag performance, or a painting exhibition. Or a trip to Siberia. Sign up for it. Newer experiences not just enrich our lives. Here the motive is also to claim our spaces in the world. So go out to places you haven’t been to and own the space. We, the social underdogs, need to be seen more.

 

Travel has its own set of benefits too. When you travel to newer places and indulge in newer experiences, you are out of your comfort zone. In such situations, the mind gets more creative, developing new neural connections and triggering original and creative thoughts. The new smells, sounds, sights and places require mental processing. You are giving a new puzzle to your brain to play with. As read on TripSavvy: After stepping away from home for a while, you’ll return with renewed energy, a new set of mental filters, and ready to take on the next big project or challenge. Call it a life reboot. Getting away for some time, even though it requires effort, will greatly enhance your attitude and productivity once you return home. Sure, you may have some mail piled up and matters to attend, but those are simple challenges easily knocked out. Breaking up the monotony for a while is a great way to reduce stress and give your life an injection of excitement. Don’t be surprised if shortly after your return, you’re already counting down days until the next trip!

Most travel also doesn’t go as per plan, such situations helps one face the uncertainties of life. It is also a great tool to self-discovery. Know your limit, know your expanding interests and also know the human being you are evolving into. And like Mark Twain has famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, meeting people from different cultures is also a myth-buster. Sometimes for the flair of writing or to make a story sound interesting, certain quirks are added in the process of story-telling. Travelling helps one shed these. Like India is more than a land of snake-charmers and magicians with the rope-trick. There’s a famous movie on this very theme, Ankhon Dekhi. Sanjay Mishra is playing the protagonist not believing everything at face value. It is hilarious, and thought provoking in the same breath.

Also when you travel, you are uninhibited, and will most likely be your real self. The fear of being judged is non-existent. Conversations flow easily and the probability is that you will open up your real self faster too. So the chances of you making real friends are on the higher side.

Some research before you embark on your trip always helps. When we were planning our 22 day Europe trip in June, we started planning from January. We started with drawing a broad itinerary, like what places we want to go to in Europe and the beginning and end date of the trip. Once we knew that, In February our flight tickets were done. In February itself we started looking up places to stay too. AirBnB was the obvious choice. We started drawing out an itinerary for each of the city we were visiting, because on it depended our length of stay in the city. One does get biased towards a favourite, like Paris had two days of doing nothing. In March beginning we booked our stay, and by March end our inter-city travel was sorted. In April we applied for our visa. In May we chalked out the itinerary better. And then obviously we had shopping to do too. We were ready for our trip by May end. The visa was a cliff-hanger, we received it 4 days before travel. So apply with more days in hand. And keep a basic list in mind about the things you would want to do in a city. And wouldn’t want to miss for anything in the world. These mental lists help in making last minute decisions.

Also when booking a stay with AirBnB, the reviews are of great help. They will tell you about the location from the tourist spots, good places to eat nearby and about the rooms in general. When we were in Rome, basis the reviews we had read, we asked for a room towards the back of the house. That way we avoided the traffic noise in the night and could sleep peacefully. At these stays, because the atmosphere is a little homely, you end up meeting travelers from other parts of the world over breakfast. We met a Pakistani couple in Rome who were visiting the city for their son’s wedding. We embraced each other like long lost relatives and she kept telling us stories about the things that happened at the wedding the previous night.

Another great tip is to carry lesser clothes than you need. That way, when you buy clothes abroad, you won’t feel that guilty and your luggage won’t be weighing a ton either. Also, do try all the local fruits. They are packed with flavor and juice, are cheap and healthy too. And sometimes just junk the touristy things and instead walk through the streets of the city. Sit at the restaurant the locals are frequenting and have a meal. Nothing lets you experience the city better than such walks. And the joint the locals are visiting are probably the best in terms of taste and value for money. Do ask your host for recommendations. They might also suggest what to eat, depending on your preferences. Like our hostess in Bruges advised us to not visit the local chocolatiers. She said that their chocolates were no better than the Belgium made chocolates available in supermarkets across the country. And local chocolatiers sold their produce at an exorbitant price too. Hence we bought our fill at the supermarket. Though I must admit, the display at the local chocolatiers were a sight to behold and very tempting. Mounds of chocolate cubes, glazed and shining, at times sprinkled with castor sugar or dressed with decoration. They knew the seduction game.

With so much around the world to see, I wonder why we are still bound to a 9 to 5 job. We definitely need more holidays. Like the famous meme doing the round says, you were not born to pay bills. Adding my two bit to it, you were born to discover new places, meet new people and keep evolving.

Kamshet

A two and a half hours drive from Mumbai, Kamshet is a picturesque hill station in the Western Ghats. It is a paragliders’ paradise and featured in the top 10 must visit destinations in India for adventure enthusiasts. Fresh and crisp mountain air will immediately welcome your arrival. We stay at Native Place, a boutique resort on the side of a beautiful lake is just the serene place you would want to relax at after a day of paragliding, trekking and bonfire.

Posted on

First timers

A selfie clicked in the bus on-route to Kamshet

The first trip is done and what a trip it was. When I was leaving for the trip from my house early in the morning on December 2nd, I took a moment to check what I was feeling. As I was stuffing my phone charger in my red bag, I asked myself, what am I feeling? Am I excited, as I usually am when I am leaving for a holiday? I wasn’t. I was anxious. I was worried. I was worked up. I was definitely not looking for adventures. I wished for everything to go smoothly. At that moment, I took a deep breath and told myself, that I should be excited and happy, like I am when am leaving for a trip. But deciding to feel a certain way is not really a guarantee of feeling that way, is it? Ask the ones with a freshly broken heart. So with an anxious heart I went down with the lift.

When we were all in the bus on our way to Kamshet, just an hour into trip, I looked at Divya. She was sitting in one the front seats. I was in the last row. We looked at each other and smiled, our smiles saying, dude this is really happening. Just a few hours into the trip, I was laughing, cracking jokes and sharing high-fives. It was like a roaring party.

The trek through the jungle was treacherous in bits, but in stretches it was so quiet and peaceful that my travel pal Tony started humming to himself. And while paragliding, Rahul refused to land. Well, actually he was so light-weight that every time his pilot tried landing, the wind would take him off again. Chetna convinced her pilot to make her spin in the sky. Shubham had to convince the pilot to take him on a flight. Tilak loved his flight so much that he wants to learn paragliding. Biswajit refused to paraglide, his fear of height taking over. Sharad was jokingly advised to slip in some stones in his pockets to add some weight, so that he doesn’t meet Rahul’s fate. Kenny tried his best to capture everyone’s take-off and landing on his camera.

When we came back to our hotel, BeenaG wanted to spend the night in the hammock under a tree. Half way through the night she decided otherwise and slipped into my tent. Siddhesh probably slept for just a few hours, his insomnia kicking in. I was up because Biswajit was snoring in the tent next to mine. Rumour has it that Anand was snoring too, but I have no proof to that. Shiv slept through all of this, and some say he was snoring the loudest. The next morning we had a stone throwing competition at the lakeside. Rahul won it, his throw landing the farthest in the lake.

By the way, I would have never known had my travel pal not pointed out that I have a blind-friendly laughter. Those who know me, know what he meant. Yeah, the joke was on me.

 

To have a look at our pictures from the Kamshet trip go here

And to read the reviews of the trip go here

Posted on

That’s how it looks from close

A massively cluttered desk

So many things are happening at the same time. The to-do list is never over. And mornings are about catching up with the previous day’s list. Starting your own thing is not cakewalk. Well, we never thought it will be. Will we swap our entrepreneur life for that of our employee life? Nope.

Over this small period we have met some amazing people. And some not so amazing ones. The day we had gone to register our company, we met our lawyer and CS outside the Bandra Court. Trupti her name is. We got our company name registered, our partnership registered, all that paperwork. You know, for us since we had been Creatives in Advertising, paperwork has been something we have successfully avoided, unless it is tax-filing time. So we were trying our best to concentrate, understand it all. After all the work was done, when we were leaving we noticed the tshirt Trupti was wearing. It was a Batman tshirt. Instinctively one of us said, “Hey, your tshirt! Trupti replied, with a huge smile on her face, “thank god you guys noticed. Wore it especially for Bat Travels.” Trupti is now our friend for life. Though we bug her a lot. So can’t say if we are her friend for life too.

Entrepreneurship has also allowed us to make some life changes. We are cooking our own food mostly, to save money that is. But eating healthier in the process, if you discount that occasional Maggi. We are also going for long walks in the evening, to take a break from sending 1000 mails a day, talking to another 1000 people over calls. What we are avoiding is calls from our parents. Somehow the pressure to prove ourselves to our parents has arisen again. And with unseen vigour this time. Will be meeting them in 10 days, dreading it.