Romancing the Japanese Language

The first memory I have associated with Japan, was when I was a small school girl trying to pronounce Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku & Kyushuu 🙂 my Geography teacher tried her best to get us to say the names of Japan’s 4 main islands. From that moment it was hook, liner, sink for me!
I was enthralled by the stories my father told me about this great country. That it was one of the best countries in the world, that it was the land of the rising sun, that the people had very strong ethics and principles.

Few stories and incidents about the kindness displayed by the Japanese to total strangers left me speechless. I would often wonder – could this be just a tale,
could a person be this kind and offer unconditional service to another?

The first real connection I had with the Japanese was during my backpacking trip to Mainland China. I met 3 Japanese tourists who displayed disproportional levels of
courtesy, manners and offered assistance. These 3 individuals sold the concept of their entire country to me, and they dint even know the impact it had on me.
They were their country’s ambassadors and they did a fine job without even knowing that they were unconsciously advertising their country’s morals, ethics , principles and culture.
They all thought they were just touring as tourists – Wrong! They were samurais in their own way, and the living epitome of the most ideal prototype of how humanity really should be like.

Several other instances finally led me to enroll for the beginners course & I have been studying the Japanese language since August 2016.
Its been a wonderful experience, learning Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji. Everyday I learn something beautiful about the culture and eve the
conversations between characters in textbooks revels how respectful they are of each other.

I have just struck upon an endless reserve of knowledge that can keep me occupied for the rest of my life. Beautiful Japanese Language – Kireina Nihongo!


The City Wall of Xi’An

In the ancient city of Xi’An, the huge fortifications built around the city, protected its inhabitants from invasions in the past. The Xi’An city wall is a magnificent, well preserved architecture, the pride of Shaanxi Province. It stands tall and strong, has passed the test of time and quite famous for the cycling spree. It also serves as one of the hot-spots for wedding photo shoots.

I was in this peaceful city of Xi’An exactly a year back, and I am very nostalgic about the events. I stayed at a traveler’s hostel and I met backpackers from around the world. After an evening of socializing with a few and talking about what our plans were for the next day, Luka a British traveler suggested we visit the Xi’An city wall. We decided to meet at the reception at 10am and then start our adventure. Vincent from Australia, Michael from Germany, Luka from Britain and I set out to see the magnificent city wall of Xi’An.

It was a beautiful morning, a cool wind blowing from the Huyain mountains, the weather was just pleasant. Michael was braving the cool wind with just a cotton shirt and was flaunting, with a few buttons open. He got many second looks since everyone else was wrapped in thick layers of woolen overalls to ward off the chilling wind, and a few passersby gave a friendly nod acknowledging his stunt.

We walked the sidewalks and navigated through the city with the help of – it was a pleasant walk through the streets as Xi’An is a calm and serene city. We finally arrived at the north entrance of the wall and while we were collecting the entrance ticket we heard a roaring sound of drums and heavy footsteps. Out of curiosity Luka and I instantly ran to check what was happening, we took a turn, entered an arch, crossed a corridor and then we saw it. It was a show performed by impersonators of the actual warriors, a spectacular performance of the way the empire was run by the Shaanxi Warriors back in the days.

I was transported back in time and saw the love the warriors had for their land and the zest with which they pursued the attacks that came their way, to protect their land. They adorned heavy armor and it was just mesmerizing to hear the battle commands accompanied by heavy drum beats.

We have some nice pictures with them. The Xi’An city wall was an enigma in itself, we went there for site seeing but it was like a Pandoras box that opened up this awesome flash back to the past. I have fond memories of Xi’An and if you should find yourself in this beautiful town, do walk the roads at leisure and visit the City Wall. It will be well worth the time and effort.

Fallen in love with Xi’An

when I first heard about Xi’an I dint pay much attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere in the north central province of Shanxi. But as my departure date approached for my solo trip to China, I did a lot of research as to which route to take once I arrive at the Oriental Mainland China.

When I saw the country guide of China by the lonely planet, instantly i was once again drawn to Xi’an for the cover photo is of the indispensable Terracotta Warriors located at Xi’an. I did my search on the internet about the famous hangouts for tourists and Xi’An was mentioned again. A lot of emphasis was on Terracotta warriors, an archeological site.

I had a choice to either travel the eastern trail of take the cross-country trail, cutting through the center of the Mainland and ending down south in Chengdu. I impulsively decided to listen to my gut and decided to go to Xi’an. In a matter of few minutes I had a fancy Bullet Train ticket to Xi’an from Beijing.

Little did I know that I would love Xi’An as much as I did – for I was overwhelmed by the energy the city had. It was beautiful, cool, and the people were very warm – it felt very good to be in a land far away and yet feel so freaking comfortable. When I was on the train and was about to reach Xi’An a kind chap helped me to get off the train as all the announcements were in Mandarin. I absolutely loved the Xi’An Bei(north) Railway Station. Flaunting the city’s rich cultural heritage, the interiors of the station was aesthetically pleasing.

I stayed at the Hantang Hostel for travellers. When I saw the interiors of the dorm i was staying at, I was floored! For the logistics were excellent and looked nothing less than a 4star hotel. I met wonderful people from all around the world and we soon became friends.

Initially I had planned on staying at Xi’An for about 4 days – but soon i feel in love with the city and loved visiting the arena at the Moslem Food Street. I absolutely loved hanging out in the chilly winter and listening to artists perform some of the classics and their personal favorite. I would want to go back to Xi’an again for I have hopelessly fallen in love with this beautiful city.

Dream Wedding

Every since I was young, I remember plotting the scene for an ideal wedding. This was a plot that would keep improvising every few days, the ideas effervescent and minute details would be prominent game changers in the theme. The girls would  gather around the dressing table and we would try new hairstyles, and drape a secretly acquired white wedding veil. We would actually be so happy to pretend to be brides. 

As the days went by, we eventually saw destination weddings  through several media networks. We would all sit around and discuss our own version of the imaginary wedding in our minds. 

From the fairy tales to weddings in the family, it was always a dreamy affair. This was a topic that was always a matter of constant R&D. 

When I saw for real, what a beach wedding looked like, the documentaries aired on the telly suddenly transformed into a live play. A bride radiant on her wedding day, the glow on her face could not be emulated by any make up artist, the immaculate wedding gown draped around her chiseled body, the groom setting up the tripod to capture a private moment – all of it was a total bliss to anyone looking at them. 

A alter on the beach, awaiting the arrival of the Bride & Groom.

It was scenic, elegant, simple, the couple laying on the beach posing for the camera in complete bliss, provoked every passerby to smile, every person walking on the sugar sands would only wish the best for the couple on a day they would cherish forever. 

Camping in the Himalayas

One of the major attractions of going on treks is, to grab the opportunity to camp in tents. It’s a different feeling altogether. All our lives we are protected and shielded from the sun, the rain and the nasty cold. And here you are, wanting to leave that exact comfort behind, and try to survive with the bare minimum.

It really does call for a lot of mental conditioning, to move out of your comfort zone and camp in tents for weeks on end. When I ask few friends if they would like to go on a trek with me, the immediate response after they hear about the logistics of the camp, is “Hmmm , maybe another time!” 🙂

Some others improvise on their response and say “Nam we are quite comfortable where we are, why don’t you get us few pictures of the camp site on your way back?”  I totally understand the apprehension, but all it takes is, to give it a shot once. Just once!

While at the Himalayan Treks, I have seen quite a few beautiful scenic campsites. All the campsites are at a very prominent location, with a great view. This makes sense, because after you reach the campsite you finally relax and enjoy the scenary around. What a disaster if the campsite was in a cave, a pit, or if it was facing a wall of a rock!

The campsite in the picture above is Bhandak Thatch. It enjoys the reputation of being called the Switzerland of the Himalayas. I am glad to have stayed at this camp site twice! It’s a beautiful expanse of lush green pasture & my team mates are busy choosing their team for a game of cricket!

A Brand New Perspetive

“To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible!”

I am blessed with parents who have a keen interest in adventure, and an undying affinity to spend time close to nature.

They are avid trekkers, very different from the stereotype families among our community, the far and distant relatives.

We grew up in a house where our holidays were planned around camping and travel. My mother set the tone by going for national level treks to Himalayas and the western ghats of India & she offered to be the base camp leader thrice. My sister, dad and I were fascinated with this unique idea, although we were extremely apprehensive at first. My sister and I hid it well. My dad helped my mom with the schedule for the next month and a half – lot of planning, booking tickets to the Himalayas and the Plan B to run the show back at home.

The enthusiastic stories she would come back with, left us all mesmerized and we sat around her to hear more and more – soaking in the narration and trying to imagine the scenario unfolded in front of us. From a very young age we were introduced to a unique yet exotic version of life. We heard about a life in the forests, among bears, snakes, how it felt to live in tents for days at end.

None of my friends had ever come even close to hearing about camping back then. We grew up in a town called Mysore – its in the South of India. My mothers adventurous stories brought about a mixed reaction among my friends. Some were fascinated and they were in awe of her, others were judgmental about the hiking and camping because a mother never really did anything close to this! This was a huge shock to others. But i would tell them like it was nothing less of a fairy tale because I was convinced this was magical. I would also turn a deaf ear to the criticism from others who thought this was not usual & they are not wrong – this hiking & camping was totally weird 🙂

My father soon followed suit and the next summer he asked my mom to take care of us while he was off in the Himalayas to validate what his wife just told him. We missed our parents when they were off on exotic adventures like this – but it was a small price to pay for the bigger benefit. They gave us a gift – A Brand New Perspective to life!

When my dad came back – he was rejuvenated, enthusiastic and full of life. He had a sense of accomplishment about being able to scale 12,500 Ft above sea level. His self-confidence soared greater heights post the trek & he relentlessly trained to build strength, stamina & flexibility.

We saw a new rigor in him. His stories were more animated and he inspired us so much that we couldn’t really wait to go there ourselves! My dad was thrilled that he could effortlessly scale the snow-clad the mountains – it’s a big deal for anyone who lived all the while in a tropical country. I guess he also felt altruistic about being able to help the youngsters who were either afraid or were terrified of the relentless terrain.

We kids couldn’t wait to go there ourselves. We had years of mental and emotional conditioning as to what has to be done when we were hiking in the Himalayas. It was a dreamy preparation all along.

When i graduated i received a priceless gift from my parents – a ticket to reach the Base Camp at Himachal Pradesh & a registration at the Chandrakani Pass in the Himalayas! It was by far the most exotic, unusual, thrilling gift anyone had ever received and I am very grateful to my parents for the experience.

This experience set the tone for the days ahead & my life has always had this beautiful streak of adventure & I have been bit by a lethal travel bug!

Dont miss out on life!

I’d rather look at my life and say – “I cant believe I did that!” instead of “If only I had”

As the years pass by, we usually have a fleeting thought if we did our best in the things we’ve accomplished so far, could it have been better? And often deep down in our hearts we are content with the choices we’ve made.

If we have regrets and dint act on them it’s because we dint feel very ‘Strongly’ about it. Otherwise we most definitely would have pursued the idea. Eg: Higher studies/ Career/ Travel etc.

After working for over 10 years, I decided to take a very bold step. I decided to dedicate a little time for ME! I quit my job and went Solo Backpacking across the Oriental Mainland China. This break not only gave me a great travel experience but it also helped me to effortlessly reflect on my life and helped me in deep introspection.

A dear friend of mine who just got back from her first trip to the US told me – “Nam as you climb up the ladder, Don’t miss out on life.” This one sentence was simple yet profound – it took me a while to reflect upon it & i now abide by this simple mantra every single day.

Way back in 2007 i had a choice to go to the Himalayas for my second national trek, or accumulate my leave balance at work and encash it when i left the organisation. I chose the Sar Pass Trek & it was the best decision i made – because the memories and the experience it gave me was priceless. I was there 14,000 ft above sea level with a bunch of like minded hikers and no amount of money could have ever substituted that for anything else in the world!

Every single day let’s try to focus our thoughts into making our life the way we want it to be, with blissful thoughts of improving ourselves and our life. For every thought you think is creating your FUTURE. Choose them wisely.