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the ajanta caves

There’s an indescribable feeling you get when standing over a cliff. It’s almost foreboding and tempting at the same time. The cliff in question overlooked the Ajanta caves. A short hike down, and the minuscule caves almost seemed to grow, until they towered above us.

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Each of the 29 caves varied in size, from barren rooms no bigger than a closet to huge halls with pillars and statues and remnants of colorful paintings. Around the valley was a giant water reservoir, in the form of cascading pools. It seemed easy to picture the life that must have once populated this area, but it was actually hard; a second glance and the caves became as lonely and desolate as they had been before.

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The statues depicted Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism. Each cave was calm and quiet, a refuge from the sun outside. It was unbelievably hot, walking between caves provided a mental argument about whether I should wear my shoes and take them off (29 times) or brave the scorching bricks instead. I’m no coward, but even I can acknowledge that some challenges just can’t be done.

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As the temperature continued to ascend, I spent longer in each cave, on the pretext of looking around at the paintings and sculptures. Although they were faded, you could make out demons and battles and kingdoms; gods and goddesses and the Buddha himself on the path of enlightenment. It’s amazing to imagine how long the artisans would have taken, trekking through the wild and carving the statues and painting the stories, straight out of nothing. It’s even more amazing that their stories have survived for so long.

Our tour guide, was apparently made from far sterner stuff than we were. As the journey ended, I was dripping with sweat,  while he was miles ahead, telling my family about the caves (It was actually incredible, what he knew and how he remembered details about every single cave). I’m not among the lucky few blessed with a photographic memory (an affliction that haunts me around exams each year) but I can remember common themes of the Bodhi tree- where Buddha attained enlightenment, several Bodhi- sattvas (people who have also attained enlightenment) and an eerie cave shaped like a church where voices echoed loudly.

As we trekked back up to the modern world, I could have thought about the beauty of the timeless caves, the countless hours they took to decorate and the monks who spent their lives here, devoting themselves to achieving nirvana but instead I thought about how grateful I was for the air-conditioning inside the car.

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kicking off the new year

 

This year is going to be my year.

I say this every year without fail, so I’m surprised that I still believe that 2017 has great untold opportunities waiting in stock for me. Nevertheless I’m holding on to every possibility that this year will actually go 100% right. Perfect. As planned.

In order to turn this new year around, I decided to make some New Years Resolutions. Don’t get me wrong; I’m the queen of breaking those resolutions, generally around the 3rd January. But this time, I was determined to succeed and I cleaned my room, and bought new clothes, and gave the old ones away, and fixed my trainers, read Kunal Nayyar’s memoir-of-sorts twice, before realizing that my first resolution should have been to work more on the blog.

While I may not have the time to travel as much as other bloggers; I still feel that I should be uploading more than once in a blue moon. I definitely don’t have an excuse for watching reruns of The Mentalist for an equivalent of about three weeks. So, this year I’ve decided to hold myself accountable for posting at least once a week. Fingers crossed- I can reach February people!

And here’s my advice for anybody who’s struggling with their resolutions; make those decisions at any point of the year, and don’t wait for New Years to change who you are. Like me. I chose January the 4th.

And don’t post an article about New Years a week after New Years.

 

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7 travel life hacks

I’d like to say I find travel easy. But the truth is, I really struggle with the organizing-packing-planning part of the trip. Or how many times I’ve missed activities or sightseeing because of my tendency to be scattered all over the place.

I could definitely win a prize for cringeing  the most during travels to exotic places. An outhouse with mud and no paper? No thanks. A hotel without any phone chargers? *sighs and screams internally*

Therefore, I’d like to share my top 7 travel related life hacks with you:

–   Use clothespins to protect toothbrushes from touching dirty counters. This is a literal lifesaver, especially because clothespins are easy and cheap to buy and find.

– Keep any spare money in an empty chapstick container. When you’re done with the chapstick, just wash up the container, roll the notes, and slip them inside. Another option, for women, is to keep it inside a sanitary pad pouch; just make sure that you seal it.IMG_2138.JPG

– If you forget the plug from your phone charger, or the hotel has a different outlet (the struggle is real!) you can use the back of your TV. Most TVs have a USB outlet that’ll charge your phone. Just don’t forget the aux cord.

– Make a temporary waterproof phone case by placing your phone inside a Ziploc bag and sealing it tightly.  Warning: this probably won’t work if you dive into a lake. It’s more of a hack for rain, or puddles.

– Line your backpack with a bin bag. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve returned to my hotel, to find that everything in my bag has miraculously managed to open out, and somehow my water bottle decided to leak. I actually found this from Buzzfeed (the rest I’ve used from day to day travel) but this is probably my favorite hack- hands down.

– Plan your clothes beforehand. Believe it or not, but rolling your clothes is apparently more space efficient and so much easier for all the people who can’t fold properly *coughs loudly*. Also an ideal outfit to wear to the airport is probably slippers, trackpants, and layering from t shirts to hoodies (depending on where you are). Slippers are more time efficient, in case security requires that you remove your shoes, and trackpants are just really comfy.

-My last hack for travelling is to leave a day extra. This may be hard for those on a time deadline, but you can use the extra day to complete any last minute tours or destinations. Otherwise, use the time to just explore the city without a plan and just kinda wing it. This gives you a chance to see places you’ll never have seen before, and gives you a chance to explore the hidden gems in any city.

So, yeah. Those are my favorite travel life hacks. I’m gonna be posting from Alibag next week, so I’ll keep y’all posted.

 

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if i had a million dollars

So, my exams are finally over, and I can start blogging more often again. I’m definitely relieved, although that’s a short feeling of obliviousness until my papers are handed back. Such positivity.

But as I haven’t been able to travel recently, I’ve decided to complete a tag that I found online. I’m not sure exactly where I found it, sometime during those three-hour internet quests, that I make too often. Anyways it was really interesting to see what everybody had to say about their dream destination; New York, India, Hong Kong, UAE, and Africa were some of the popular choices.

So, if I had a million dollars…where would I go? Well let’s see. I feel like I’d either do Europe or Australia. Australia is actually my first option, but I have a crippling fear of snakes. I genuinely don’t mind the sharks, bugs, or possibilities of being stranded in the Outback. It’s the elongated carnivorous reptiles of the suborder serpentes that really scare me. Also, I’d like to thank Wikipedia for that definition of snakes, and Google images for producing several pictures even though I didn’t really want them.

However, Australia is just so dazzling, with the vibrant sunsets, the indigenous animals, the rugged outback, and jagged moss covered cliffs above the foamy sea.

But I’m equally tempted by the cyan colored canals of Venice, the faded rising houses from the shallow seas of Greece, the remains of the Empire in Rome.

Since I’m at a crossroads, I’ll use my perfected methods to make any hard decisions.

I’ll flip a coin.

And Australia it is!

I’m not sure where my journey would begin, but I’d like to start at Queensland and do a whole circle of the country. I’d definitely love to camp under the starry sky of the outback, try some water sports, visit the Sydney Opera House, and see the famous Uluru.

And yes, I’d flip a coin to choose my next destination.   🙂

 

Picture above: A view of Fraser Island from my bed.

Also, please don’t get me wrong; if I actually had a million dollars, I’d donate most of it to charity.

why i hate airplanes

 

It’s a fact that I hate airplanes. Like how the grass is green, sky is blue, and homework is illegal. I’m still waiting for the day that NASA will invent a new form of commercial travel. Floating bubbles maybe?

It’s ironic that I’m scared of them, especially since they’re one of the main travel modes. Also, I like heights, and driving at fast speeds, it’s just being boxed up in a metal bird kinda freaks me out a lot.

In order to board a plane you need to go through millions of security checks. Necessary? Absolutely. Fun? Not in the least. I tend to freak out whenever I walk through a metal detector, wondering whether the metal button on my jeans in will get me arrested.

Frankly, I don’t really mind duty free but it doesn’t really get me pumping. So I’ll be waiting in the lounge, staring through the foggy windows, the flashing lights as the trucks hook up the planes. It looks pretty scary up close and that sterilized lemon smell in the plane? Eugh.

I have nothing against flight attendants. In fact, I admire the courage they have to be in a plane for so long. What I do protest against is that tone they use. The smile, like they’re welcoming you to your very own tropical paradise. I’ve gone completely claustrophobic by this time, and my head has begun to spin. I cram myself into the seat and take a deep breath.

Infinity passes before the captain’s voice comes on, wishing everyone a safe and happy voyage. Then the flight attendants come up to give a safety demonstration. I’m no ‘professional flight researcher’ but I guess that about one out of a thousand people will actually pay attention.

The other 999 are browsing the inflight magazine, listening to music, working (or pretending to) or watching with slight interest, keenly waiting for the movie selection. After the attendants sit down, I always feel a pang of guilt for not paying attention-maybe next time?

I always make a schedule for the long haul flights- I’d like to spend the first hour reading, maybe listen to music and then see the movie selection. Instead, I lounge back (to annoy the people behind me) and turn the movie on, not a second after takeoff. It’s great. Two of my favourite movies which I missed ‘cause of exams. So I plug the headphones in, and jab at the buttons with intensifying fury until the movie starts. It’s awful. Literally the whole Percy Jackson cast has been condensed into a tiny box, all their fights distorted. Any chance of the movie working, and then the captain’s voice will perk up again to remind you that salted peanuts are on their way.

The food comes, and a nauseous feeling sets in. The wrapped up foil dish doesn’t look too appetizing and  you remind yourself that you won’t get food for the next 5 hours or so with all likelihood that the Starbucks in a foreign country may not have your ideal Starbucks beverage.

Hooray! You made touchdown. I feel a surge of relief and begin to shake out the pins and needles from my legs. You say goodbye to the ladies standing at the entrance, this time with a spring in your step and sprint up the ramp, away from the plane.

That’s an honest first rate description of almost every flight for me. And yeah I guess that maybe I really do hate airplanes, but without them I’d be unable to travel.

I’d hate that even more.

Pic credits- Unfortunately most of my flights happen at obscene hours where I’m unable to use flash or get a good shot- this one’s from tumblr.

in manner of moving

 

We just shifted into our new apartment. At first, before the move, I was under the impression that I would have to say bye to all of the friends I had in my building. I was pretty relieved when my parents said that we would just be moving to another wing- same apartment.

See, I actually don’t mind moving house. Of course I don’t like the packing stage, when I uncover long lost objects that used to be so important. Or the unpacking stage when I can’t decide where I should put everything. I start out by organising every meticulous detail, and as my boredom levels increase, I resort to shoving everything in a cupboard. Sometimes I have to go for days without TV or Wifi which sends me into a state of panic. I plan on camping for months in the desolate wilderness with my friends, so this is ironic. Then, there are my friends. Most of the moves- I haven’t really had to say goodbye to them thanks to social media, or the fact that it’s just a different house in the same area. However, I still never look forward to saying bye- even if it’s not for long.

A couple of good tips that I would advise about moving- they’ve helped me over the years is to ‘spring clean’ while you move. Get rid of any unwanted stuff. Every move I’ll find myself sitting, covered in old Christmas cards and yearbooks. Oh- and don’t get me started on those dried out markers and rogue crayons I find everywhere. Another great idea is to add some pillows, or soft fluffy objects to a box full of breakables. It works- trust me.

When I reach the new house, I explore every corner and start pretending that I know where to put things. The truth is, unless I have a really really strong image of a certain object, I am clueless as how to organise my room.

Often I’ll stare at the design magazines for ages, where people have posted their amazing rooms, some simple but cute, some artsy enough to be the home of a tumblr goddess, some chaotically messy. I try to pick out a theme for myself but usually I blend most themes together.

Plus,when I grow up I plan on living in at least 50 different places a year- from loft apartments in London to a beach house in Bali, mansion in Prague and my cave in Hawaii (Please don’t ask).

So, while it’s not easy- I gotta say it’s pretty cool to move.

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Top: Rock climbing.

Bottom: Just.