Hello, This is me!

Elita

Have Feet Will Travel Be You For You

About me

Hello

I’mElita

Freelance Writer and Workshop Facilitator

Welcome to my blog!

I am the heart+mind behind “Be You For You” and “Have Feet Will Travel”. And Nomadic Thunker is the canopy under which they are housed.

Be You For You is where my love for words meets expression. This is my entrepreneurial venture through which I facilitate workshops with students as well as working professionals on using writing and art as a medium of self-expression.

Have Feet Will Travel is where my love for words meets travel. Besides sharing my own travelogues, this is where I engage with organizations and brands as a consultant/freelancer to develop content.

Yes, I am a self-declared logophile.

And as you scroll along, you’ll learn more about the What, Why and How of all that I do (and keep adding on to)…

Be You For You

Self Exploration

"The person you will spend the most time with in your life is yourself"

We are the stories we tell ourselves. Have you EXPLORED your story yet? Do you know if you are playing Hero or Victim?

Self Expression

"If you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm...”

Interpersonal communication is key to healthy relationships. And what about the relationship with our own self - the Intrapersonal one? Have you ever EXPRESSED yourself to yourself?

Self Discovery

"Know Thyself"

We aspire to live to our full potential and may feel held back. Have you DISCOVERED your blindspots? Does it require you to course-correct?

Self Awareness

"I never change, I simply become more myself"

Through non-verbal and non-intrusive activities that require no specific language skills or writing skills (unlike Creative Writing), Be You For You workshops enable participants in re-examining the story that is YOU!

Have Feet Will Travel

Where itchy feet meets itchy hands

Travel is my muse and no journey is considered complete until I have written about it

Where budget travel meets responsible travel

At the heart of my wanderlust is the quest to cultivate more sensitivity about the world around me within the means I can afford

Where the desire to escape meets the desire to be found

I travel to write. I write to see what I'm thinking. I think to make sense of myself. I make sense of myself to thrive. I thrive to travel

Where travel meets human interest stories

Have Feet Will Travel is my online journal; a travelogue documenting solo and non-solo experiences

67

Be You For You participants since July 2016

532006

Seconds it took a non-coder (AKA yours truly) to singly revamp the blog

23

Books I want to read by the end of 2017

348

Age (in months) by which I travelled to each of India’s 29 states

All Posts

iThank | My India: #ThePeopleIHaveMetSeries



In February earlier this year, I accomplished a feat for myself - the feat of having travelled to each of India's 29 states at least once before my 29th birthday!
And I'd been thinking of a way to commemorate it, to bring it all together in a manner that is representative of my experiences of travelling around the country - whether solo, with family/friends or groups.

#29in29 I'm Elita, I'm 29 and I've traveled through the 29 states of the Indian mainland Yes, somewhere between posting about Nagaland on social media and travelling through Meghalaya about a fortnight ago, I turned 29 and also accomplished something for myself . Backstory --- It was August 2015 when the idea of striking off the Seven Sisters of the northeast from my travel bucket-list first occurred to me. It was the only part of the country I was yet to travel to. 2015 made way for 2016 and I'd gotten nothing done. But with my 29th birthday now approaching, I knew I'd found an incentive to make this happen! 7 states in 50-60 days was the plan! Highly ambitious and also somewhat stupid -- especially when you know how diverse, varied and rich the northeast is in culture and ecology... I didn't know how I was going to make this happen. I was told by many that it's "too much", it's "not possible", it's "not recommended"... And generally the kind of person who heeds to advice, I don't know why in this instance I chose otherwise Battling self doubt and a precariously balanced bank balance along with the stubbornness that it was either all of the northeast at one go or nothing at all, was a very different kind mind-game But here's the twist in the plot The right amounts of stubbornness, ambition and even greed can be just the ingredients to get you started off... Because once you're on the road, it's humility that sees you through Why less than a month prior to departure when my Dad heard about my plans, he asked "Do you have the finances?" I said I'll figure it out And today I can proudly say figure it out I did But not without the inputs and support (oodles of them in fact) from friends, friends of friends (who've turned friends), acquaintances (also now friends) who've helped me step my own game up. And before you ask, my travels are self-funded. ALWAYS. Because there are no free lunches. And even if there are, I don't eat at that table ;) . . PC: @lizysnaps #Mechuka #ArunachalPradesh #India #northeastindia #himalayasarecalling #chalohoppo #travelblogger #igramming_india #whereisnortheast #incredibleindia #theshootingstar #femaletravel #indiaphotosociety
A post shared by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


The solution presented itself in a disguise. 
In the month of June, I took a cue from The Better India and began recalling the many good Samaritans I have had the privilege of encountering through my travels (solo and otherwise) along the length and breadth of India! 

For all the ways in which we are led to believe that the world is unsafe and people are mean, I am grateful for the countless opportunities of experiencing warmth and concern from the many (sometimes, nameless) strangers encountered through my journeys!

This Series has been my tiny attempt at trying to represent one such micro-story of hope from each of the 29 states (to the extent possible) - and I am proud to state that I have 24 such micro-stories!
You can also follow the series on Instagram as well as on Facebook



Story No. 1 | From the #Meghalaya travel diary

"That's the lower and upper age-limit you're most likely to see at a farm!

We chanced upon a family working away at their potato farm while we descended on them wielding nothing but our cameras to boast on our behalf (if at all)

For a while we were a bigger spectacle for them to behold until of course we were able to break the ice and got chatty.

Precious (yes, that IS his name) is the fella with the checkered cape who chomps on roasted potatoes while he inspects his folks at work. I was swooning over his Batman-esque cape.
Granny, on the right, alternates between digging out mud with her bare hands and showering some TLC on her grandkids

Watching them in their element left me wondering how did 'family' and 'community' get left behind by people like us in our pursuit for 'development'?"

P.S.: Permission was sought prior to clicking this photograph


Story No. 2 | From the #TamilNadu travel diary


Story No. 3 | From the #WestBengal travel diary

Meet Amma and Baba
A mother and a father in the disguise of homestay hosts at the tea estate in Makaibaari near Kurseong in West Bengal 
It's not everyday that you get treated like a daughter of the house when you're in a distant town miles away from the place you call home and the people you call parents.
It's not everyday that you're lucky enough to be hosted by Maya Devi and Hari Chhetri either!

Amma is firm and gentle while Baba leaves you enthralled with his stories. Amma loves to stuff you with food as much as she loves to teach you Nepali. Baba ensures you have your cup of chai during the day as much as he ensures you have your cups of rice beer in the evening! And both would like for me to return to Makaibari some day with my future husband ;-)

P.S.: Amma has been filmed in a documentary put together by the Discovery Channel on the lives of tea plantation workers!


Story No. 4 | From the #Odisha travel diary


Story No. 5 | From the #Punjab travel diary

"Why do you want a photograph of an old woman?" she asked me in chaste Punjabi

We'd found each other on the train from Chandigarh to Amritsar. She needed help navigating her e-ticket on her phone and that broke the ice between us.

She spoke to me about her life in Calcutta after marriage, raising a family there and then moving back to Punjab. She spoke about her children - now all grown up and married; some with children of their own. 
Duly noted were her comments about train ticket pricing (it's all so expensive), the absence of 'tall' people in the current generation (she stood at a sturdy 5' 9" herself in spite of her age) and a few how-tos on The Golden Temple! 
To ensure none of what she said was in vain, I got asked whether I understood Punjabi!

Such are the conversations I long for on my travels - a peek into the lives of everyday people!


Story No. 6 | From the #Karnataka travel diary 

"Instead of sitting and reading, you should have taken the local bus to some of the local sights!" Meet Mr. Gowda, my homestay host in Chikamagalur.

His is a 350 year old heritage home on a 40 acre property of coffee bean and spice plantations. At a little over 60 years, he is far more fit and agile than folks less than half his age. He is a man content with his family (which includes 4 dogs). And while he was most curious about me disappearing into the nearby thicket when not reading (instead of taking that bus to check out temples and what-not in the vicinity), he didn't let that limit the scope of our conversations. We had somewhat similar interests: he despises cities and pigeons with intense fervour!

It was naturally then quite heartwarming to eavesdrop as he spoke to his wife and neighbour about me in Kannada; for in spite of the language barrier I caught one word: धैर्य (Hindi for guts, nerve). It's a word he repeatedly used to describe whatever he understood of my life as a solo traveller!


Story No. 7 | From the #Goa travel diary


Story No. 8 | From the #Jammu&Kashmir travel diary

Meet Mr. Namgyal, my homestay host at Hemisshukpachen...
During a walk around the village, he was explaining the concept of community farming. "As a village community, we cultivate over the same land in rotation by alternating between plots that nearer to a source of water supply and those that are not. So during some periods my family has to toil more to bring water to the plot we are cultivating and during the next cycle of cultivation another family will do the same”, he said. “Families here have been doing this for generations. I remember my father and my grandfather following these practices.”
A remote village in distant Ladakh had so much to teach us about living in harmony!

He further deepened our understanding of the Ladakhi culture, “A person is considered rich if they have enough produce from their farm to last them nine years, and what you consider middle-class if they have enough to last them six years… the poor have enough to help them survive three years!” He clarified that this meant that the family had enough without having to move a muscle for a given number of years!

I was left with the question: Could you and I with our educational qualifications and ‘jobs’ ever dare to claim to have enough - let alone for how long the duration?


Story No. 9 | From the #MadhyaPradesh travel diary

I had stayed a night at Pranpur near Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh. On the day of my departure, I was going to take the state transport bus to Lalitpur Railway station from where I’d take my train back to Mumbai.

So during breakfast at the guesthouse when the cook enquired with me what I’d do for lunch, I replied that I’d grab a bite either at the station or have something in the train.
To this the cook said, “Oh! You needn’t have to do that. I’ve prepared some lunch for you that I’ll pack so you can eat that on the go”. I was humbled by his gesture. Strictly speaking, what I’d paid for had covered my expenses until breakfast alone. I felt extremely grateful and placed my packaged lunch in my sling bag.

At Lalitpur station, the trend of trains running behind schedule continued and my train was expected to running about 90 minutes late. It was evident that I had a lot of time to kill which I seem to have evenly distributed between fidgeting on my mobile phone and keeping my senses open to any rail related announcements.

Something else also drew my attention away from my phone. A very old lady with wrinkled skin lugging a sack over her back which was already bent with age stood right in front of me, begging for money.
"Please give me a rupee” she said in Hindi.
In spite of her frailty I couldn’t get myself to take out that one rupee coin. And so I ignored her.

She sat next to me and began to rummage through her sack. Some moments later, she repeated her request for ‘one rupee’. I continued to ignore her. Then a third time she said again, "Please give me a rupee. I need food." Food.

The word lingered in my head for a bit. I had food in my bag. I handed my lunch packet over to her. She looked at it and pointed to the silver-foil package in askance - "What's in that?" I told her it contained potato vegetable and some rotis. She seemed pleased.

She looked away for a moment and then looking back at me with a smile she asked, “What will you eat then?” I was left speechless.

Her gesture was far more kinder and nobler than my act. I merely smiled back at her.


Story No. 10 | From the #Maharashtra travel diary

“Come home”, she said in Marathi.

I almost turned to look behind if she meant to say that to somebody else. But there was no ‘somebody else’. It was 3 in the afternoon. My friend and I, caught unawares by a downpour on our post-lunch walk, were taking shelter under a flimsy tree while the rains lashed directionless and the whooshing winds left us drenched and shivering right down to our bones.

She stood there with her umbrella, waiting for our response.

Strangely, I felt compelled to say, “Thank you. But it’s okay. We’re alright here.” She refused to comply.
Thankfully.

Soon three heads were jostling for space under the umbrella as we made our way to her house – which was on the incline adjacent to the road. There were just two other houses around it.
A Warli tribe village in Maharashtra's Walvanda Village, hers was a house made of karvi sticks slathered with dung and mud.
Once indoors, my bones were grateful that my brain hadn’t gotten its way in declining the offer for shelter and the opportunity to dry off. My good Samaritan offered to make us some tea; which this time I happily accepted.

There was one question I was itching to have answered, so I spat it out: How did you spot us? She smiled and said, “My sons had left to go out a while ago and when it started to rain, I stepped out to check if anybody had seen them. I was speaking to those boys who were on the cycle and that’s when I saw you’ll under the tree. I didn’t want to leave you’ll there, so I asked you’ll to come home. I’m sorry but our house is very basic…” Her voiced trailed and I began to piece together her hesitation because of how little she thought she had to offer.

Nodding in disagreement I said, “Your gesture to welcome us strangers into your home and keep us under your roof is more than we could have hoped to have. If it weren’t for you, we would still be out there cold shivering like a leaf!”


Story No. 11 | From the #Chhattisgarh travel diary

“Aapko darr nahi lagga Bastar akele aane mein?” ("Weren't you afraid of traveling to Bastar on your own?") and then through the corner of my eyes I saw his lips curl into a smile.
To his question, my reply was an unflustered ‘No’. I was by myself in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district to meet with an NGO.
.
Kondagaon, one of the major towns in Bastar, is well connected by road from Raipur - the capital of Chhattisgarh. This 5 hour bus journey takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes within the country. It’s comfortable ride at it through the flat plains at the outskirts of Raipur and the little hillocks around the Keskal Ghat.

Truth be told, in the light of everything that gets doled out in the name of news, I did have a different mental image of what Kondagaon would look like. Thankfully though, it was anything but that.

I decided to halt in the village itself that night rather than put up in a hotel which would have been another hour away.
And I spent some time just walking around. Never once did I have to look over my shoulder. At dusk everyone was returning from their fields – they were chatty, with a carefree disposition. The local people had a certain gait and pace about them. It’s something I have found in almost every place that isn’t a metropolis or located close to one. Above all I don’t think anyone gave me more than a second look. This was such a stark contrast to how we, the urban folk, view anyone who is not ‘like’ us!
.
Yes, there are undercurrents and tensions. The place has pockets that are rife with strife. It would seem like a call for truce has no takers. Because – and to cite an analogy - if the disease ceases to exist what will the doctors, the nurses or even the pathology centres have left to do?
.
Unfortunately, tourism has taken a hit; a real bad one at it. There are no foreign tourists coming into Chhattisgarh any more. Not as many as there once used to be. This is alarming because the region has accommodated groups of 50 and more between the months of October and February when the weather is much more pleasant


Story No. 12 | From the #HimachalPradesh travel diary

It was close to 5 PM with no human life (or any life for that matter) in sight. The road was nothing but a dusty pathway.
Stepping out of the vehicle tired, weary and hungry from the arduous journey we found that our driver seemed to have disappeared momentarily after his solemn announcement that we were lost somewhere on our way to Kaza in Spiti Valley

With no mobile connectivity on our phones some of us decided to be brave and venture around in the hope of finding someone who could be of some help.

In a seemingly deserted village there happened to be a home that welcomed a bunch of thirteen strangers. It seemed unlike anything I’d personally experienced before but there we were being warmly ushered in by this man who could only be heard saying, “Aap toh humare mehmaan ho. Aur mehmaan to devta sammaan hote hain.
“Guests are godlike and so I have the honour of welcoming god into my abode…”

Little did he realize that he was our godsend.

The house was quaint and warm; a sharp contrast to the crisp wind that blew outside.
Before we knew it there was hot piping tea for all of us along with a lot of ‘sattu’ for us to eat (that we would soon learn was more than just an acquired taste). We’d spent a good half an hour to forty-five minutes inside sipping our chai and uncramping our bones from the journey before we received a call that both fuel and our directions to Kaza had arrived and we could finally begin to make our way for the destination we’d set out for earlier that day.

To open your home to a group of completely unknown people so wholeheartedly and unassumingly, to provide them with whatever you have no matter how little and to wish them well as they departed without the slightest hint of any expectation but goodwill is reminiscent of a part of India I miss experiencing in the cities.


Story No. 13 | From the #Bihar travel diary

Sometime in January 2015, I’d posted a question to a travel group on Facebook: “Anyone who has travelled extensively around Bihar in the house?” To which one of the responses I received was, “Oh God! Never.”
.
It was the first time I was stepping into Bihar. At the outset, I’ll admit that while I didn’t feel brave enough to venture on my own, I was definitely intrigued by it. Thanks to all the history textbooks, I’d had a walk through the lives of some of the greatest minds (think Chanakya, Buddha, Mahavir) and been transported through battles and uprisings (think Patliputra and 1857).
.
The journey from Patna to Bodh Gaya via Rajgir was a stunner. But that morning at 8 AM I was boarding the bus as a lone female from Rajgir to Bodh Gaya. I realised that all of the seats towards the front of the bus seem to have been occupied (by men) and I had to make do with sitting somewhere at the back.

The conductor got around to issuing tickets after the bus began to move and seeing me there asked me to move to the front.

I learnt then that the two seats right behind the driver are reserved for women – so much so that the seat next to me was left vacant when there weren’t other women - even though some other men had to keep standing.

A similar thing happened when I took a bus back to Patna from Gaya.

It could be Bihar’s geographic location in what’s come to be known as India's ‘notorious north’ that puts it in this awkward bind. But in my five weeks of being on my own all throughout the state, never once did I experience being cat-called!


Story No. 14 | From the #Manipur travel diary

I was discouraged from going to Manipur. It's not a good time to be there they said. I still went.

On day 4 after checking​ out the INA Museum and osmosis-ing by Loktak, my friend and I were on our way back to Imphal

15 minutes into our wait at the stop, we spotted a bus approaching and at that exact same moment my gaze met with the gaze of a lady bystander. She smiled and asked us in Hindi if we were going to Imphal. We were more that ecstatic at hearing someone speak a language we were both comfortable with.
“Yes, we are. It seems like the bus is here too!”
“This bus takes over an hour longer to get to Imphal due to its many stops. Come along with me – we can hop into a shared rickshaw from a little ahead”

And just like that we followed her. Once inside the rickshaw she enquired,
“So where are you’ll from?
Oh! It’s just the two of you from Mumbai exploring Manipur, is it?
How long have you’ll been here?
What have you’ll seen so far?
Where are you’ll currently staying?
Why don’t you’ll come and stay with me? I can help you’ll in getting to the places around from here!”

Truth be told I was taken aback with how quickly she had not only warmed up to us but also opened up to us.

Through our conversations, I learnt of her daughter who moved to Bangalore to study and now works there as a nurse. In fact, she was making a trip to Imphal to meet with someone whom she would hand over a package to have delivered to her daughter. And perhaps that explained the reason why she extended herself so much for our sake as well. Perhaps.


Story No. 15 | From the #Kerala travel diary

"Yes, accommodation is available. How many persons should I block the reservation against? Just one? For yourself? Okay. You needn’t have to worry ma’am. Our facility is absolutely safe and suitable for a solo female traveller. Would you prefer a pick-up from the railway station?"

^That's a snippet of the telephonic conversation I'd had with my homestay host when I'd traveled solo to Wayanad in Kerala in 2013 - back when I was a rookie solo traveler.

P.S.: My host did make arrangements to receive and drop me off at Calicut airport.

More recently I was in the state, last June at Vembanad and then Kochi, homestaying my way through but feeling like I was with family.

There's so much generosity out there in the world that's just waiting to be experienced, IMHO!


Story No. 16 | From the #Gujarat travel diary

Krutarthsinh Jadeja, or K as he signs off his emails, has converted his family-owned 110-year-old haveli property in Kutch into a homestay.

An avid traveller himself, K is the kind of host who is neither too distant, nor too involved. He’s a huge promoter of local crafts, such as appliqué work, metal wares and tie-and-dye, and makes it his prerogative to sit with his guests during their meals to share snippets about Kutch – and nearby artisan villages of Bhujodi, Khamir and Ajrakhpur.

The B&B has four rooms, each unique yet exquisite and reflective of the local culture with their own little library, and K is more than happy to let a guest exchange books from their own collection. 
Hint hint, that's what I did!


Story No. 17 | From the #ArunachalPradesh travel diary

Me (after purchasing orange coloured sweetlimes): Can I take a picture of you'll?

She: Yes, of course!
(to a friend in her group) Hey you at the back look into the lens; she's taking our photograph.
(on being shown what was clicked) It's looking so good. Get it printed in tomorrow's newspaper, okay?
*giggles galore*


Story No. 18 | From the #Rajasthan travel diary

Over the years, I've made many trips to Rajasthan; with almost always stopping over at #Jaipur.

But there was this one time when I was in Jaipur for a friend's wedding and on my way back to Delhi by train. Turns out it was the day there was a cricket match that India was playing. I cannot recall against whom.
But here's the only other thing I remember: I was the one updating folks around me about the score and the fall of wickets!

Talk about breaking the ice
And I was no longer the cricket fan I once used to be!

P.S.: The photograph is from one of my favourite places in Rajasthan and India -- #Udaipur


Story No. 19 | From the #Uttarakhand travel diary

My brief experience of travelling solo around India over the past 4+ years has showed me that you can reduce the chances of being looked at with intent – whether out of curiosity or malice – by arming yourself with a book and pen or even a camera. That and the presence of mind to not portray yourself as a damsel/dude in distress, helps.

But when you spend over 36 hours on your own without being made to feel like you’ve committed a grave transgression, you are likely to slip into a less on-the-defence mode.
Which is what happened to me last November.

I had reached Dehradun after two train journeys and was making small talk with a co-passenger – a local – on the shared taxi ride from Dehradun to Pantwari. “Where are you from?”
“Mumbai”
“You’ve come here all the way from Mumbai? Just to visit a mountain village?”
“Yes”
“And so who else is with you?”
“It’s just me.”
“What? You’re here on your own? Why would you do something like that?” These questions were coming from a place of concern – a feeling I am now all too well acquainted with now. And this makes people a lot more endearing to me for some reason. 
Two hours into the journey and a couple of minutes before he was about to get off, he added:
“Just being by yourself can get lonely. It is always nice to have the company of people with you.”


Story No. 20 | From the #Nagaland travel diary

"Don't go to Nagaland. The state is under curfew, you'll only waste your time there", they said that too.
And I still went.

At 6:30 the morning we arrived, the railway station bore a deserted look. Kohima was ~70 kilometres away. Were we going to have to yield and give in?

There was just one cab driver and he was quoting the sky to take us to the capital city. He had ends to meet under those prevailing circumstances. I could only empathise!

Frequent, frantic calls to our homestay host in Kohima weren't conclusive but it helped me feel less all on my own.
.
About half an hour later, a couple exited the station. There was hope. We'd all share a ride and half our fare. But more than that we'd have each other in case there was any trouble along our way.

There was no trouble. The road continued to bear a forlorn look. Hills had been reduced to rubble from road construction work that had taken a hit due to the curfew. I lamented that the valley wasn't green.

Convoys of army vehicles were spotted after every couple of kilometres.
.
Conversations within the cab were guarded at first. And then came the thaw. Our co-travellers were army personnel. The husband had come to drop his wife for duty before he would head to his posting; their kids somewhere 'home', safe with their grandparents. 
We were reassured that we had nothing to worry about while we were in Nagaland. Things would eventually settle though we might face some inconvenience.

We bid adieu at the city centre in Kohima and I was still on tenterhooks ... but not for too long. I had this view and breakfast to allay my concerns. And locals who helped us manage our four days without any discomfort (to the extent possible).


Story No. 21 | From the #Tripura travel diary 


Story No. 22 | From the #Mizoram travel diary

After our touchdown at Aizawl, the officer who initialled our Inner Line Permit, recommended that we take a prepaid cab from the airport itself as there are no other modes of public transport.
That's how I met Ringa

Seated in our Maruti 800, our driver – Ringa – was a very friendly chap. He was moderately conversant and we exchanged snippets from each other’s lives. Cabbies like Ringa love regaling you with their admiration for their state. And Mizoram is definitely worthy of every bit of admiration.
In an extremely kind gesture that neither my friend nor I saw coming, somewhere during our 33 kilometre drive, he pulled over the cab to treat us to some sugarcane juice. We exchanged numbers after we got off at Chanmari so we could coordinate our drop to the airport in 48 hours.

We were flying out of Aizawl on a Sunday. As it turns out, the Christian state remains mostly shut as locals are attending prayer services at their churches. Ringa was also at church but he got a friend of his to get in touch with us and arrange for our drop to the airport.
That's how I met Kiran

Kiran, our new cabbie, felt a lot like meeting Ringa’s twin – except the two aren’t even related by blood. They are just friends and like Kiran would later tell us they often pass on passengers when one is busy. It helps business and also mitigates inconvenience for the passengers, he said.

What if we too could all operate from a place of self-assuredness instead of inadequacy that makes us rotten with envy?


Story No. 23 | From the #Telangana travel diary

I was traveling to Hyderabad on a project. And I was using Airbnb for the first time. Her's were the only reviews that were not just positive and goody-good but folks who'd stayed at her place had the warmest of things to say and memories to share. That and the fact that she was also an avid traveller, helped make my decision for me.
.
She was at work when I arrived in the city. So she arranged for her house-help to be around and let me in.
The house was just like the photographs on Airbnb. My anxieties were receding into the background.

When I walked into my room, I had a welcome note which well, welcomed me, mentioned that there was food (I'd arrived around lunch time) and also had the WiFi password written down!
.
I shared a kinship with her even before we'd met! And I said so in as many words when I was talking to another friend that same day.

I recall work held her back that evening and so when she did come home, we exchanged minimal pleasantries, she apologized for being exhausted and crashed.

But shutting us up at breakfast the next morning was a task. Only travellers know what I mean. But we both had work beckoning us, so we head out our own respective ways.

Over the two weeks, it felt like I was living with family. We hung out, watched a movie, she introduced me to some of her friends and we continued to yap incessantly about travel.
We met again when I was in the city in December 2016 and we picked our conversations right where we'd left them last.

Travel does make family out of strangers, I tell you!


Story No. 24 | From the #Assam travel diary

It was the last leg of my travels in India's northeast. And I was returning to Assam from Meghalaya where #29in29 had been achieved.

Majuli was the destination. We'd taken the bus from Tezpur that morning and reached Jorhat around 3 PM. We were told the last ferry to Majuli was around 4 PM. Obviously, this was concerning.

But our bus conductor noticing that we were outsiders went out of his way and got us an autorickshaw that would take us to the city centre from where we'd get a connecting shared vehicle to the ferry point.

We had a couple for company in the rickshaw. The lady got talking, asking us where we were from and where we were going. I was too nervous to make small talk. I only had the ferry on my mind.
But my friend obliged and answered her questions.

Before we knew it the lady agreed to have us safely escorted to the next mode of transport and assured us that her husband would ensure we neither got lost nor duped by anyone.

Why she even snapped at the rickshaw driver who was taking us to the city centre saying: "Why should they pay you ₹ 200 when a shared vehicle will take them to the same place for ₹ 20?"

And she abided by her word... Not before asking us: "You sure you don't want to spend the night at our home and head to Majuli tomorrow morning instead?"

We didn't know her
She didn't know us
And yet...

To be honest, my inner sceptic was well, being all sceptical...
But that's just how it is on the road, I guess. People do step it up ...time after time after time


It was Mark Twain who said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” 

I couldn't NOT agree with him! And you... do you have stories of hope too?



--
To subscribe to posts via email, click here
For opportunities to work with me, click here

--
#BeYouForYou
I am facilitating a Be You For You workshops in Mumbai and Bangalore! Drop me an email on nomadicthunker[at]gmail[dot]com if you're interested in attending and would like to know more.
You may download the brochure here and FAQs here

Upcoming Mumbai workshop dates
August 19: https://www.facebook.com/events/457157031305289/

Upcoming Bangalore workshop dates
September 23: https://www.facebook.com/events/1854052274855147/

Sign up and register NOW 

iRediscover | How We Got Rerouted To Assam: Part II

“Where have you reached?”
“Where are you right now?”
“Ask anyone for the bus-stand and get to the bus from there.”
“No, no. It cannot be that the last bus for the day has already departed. Have you asked the people at the bus-stand? Oh okay. Ask for the shared vehicles that ply then…”

We’d just gotten off a bus from Tezpur and were a bit hassled. Amidst which, I was on a call and my friend was looking quizzically at me. You would too. 3000 kilometres away from the state whose official language it is, I was speaking in Marathi to a voice on the other end of the call!
Except that I was speaking to someone in Assam!

monastery, assam, buddhism, buddha

bamboo, sunlight, assam, northeast, india
There's something about bamboo plantations... Something about the way sunlight filters through

bamboo, assam, northeast, dibrugarh
If I lay here.. If I just lay here...


A quick rewind
Piran Elavia runs a socially responsible travel enterprise – Kipepeo – that offers an insight into local communities and the local eco-systems of the region. So evidently, Piran’s was one among the many brains I had picked on while planning my northeast India sojourn. It was on his recommendation that I first became aware of the Namphake Buddhist monastery and the community of the Tai Phaks – a branch of the Tai race that is a part of the same Mongoloid pool the royal family of Thailand belongs to as well.
And this was why my friend and I had arrived at Dibrugarh after Tezpur.

namphake, monastery, assam, dibrugarh, buddhist, buddha
Entrance of the Namphake Buddhist Monastery | Dibrugarh, Assam

namphake, assam, buddhist, monastery, india, northeast, buddha
Entrance of the Namphake Buddhist Monastery | Dibrugarh, Assam

namphake, assam, monastery, buddhist, buddha, india, northeast
Inside the Namphake Buddhist Monastery | Dibrugarh, Assam 


Through Piran, I had gotten in touch with Raviji, the caretaker of the monastery. That someone I was speaking to on the phone in Dibrugarh happened to be Raviji. And although we had spoken about my visit much I advance, the reason I didn’t know who I was speaking to that evening was because we had: (a) never conversed in Marathi and (b) he was calling me from another number!

Incidentally, Raviji is from Maharashtra and has a very interesting story. He worked as a junior clerk with the forest department for about 16 years before he met a Buddhist monk who he decided to accompany as a disciple. Through that association which lasted for about 29 years, Raviji came to know of Namphake where he has been now for over 12 years!

Conversations
The morning after we had arrived, we accompanied Raviji for a tour of the monastery which was built in 1850 and a walk through the village adjoining it.

During our walk through the village, we were invited to the house of Oksoan Tumtein – a silver haired lady who had recently gotten her son married. The coy couple would sheepishly exchange glances with each other while looking away every time they found either one of us looking their way. Such is the degree of the privacy these communities have been used to for generations that our very presence (let alone the camera) feels like a huge intrusion. But our hosts are polite.

namphake, tai phak, mongoloid, assam, dibrugarh,
In conversation with Oksoan Tumtein | Dibrugarh, Assam

Inside Oksoan Tumtein's home | Dibrugarh, Assam

stilt, house on stilt
Homes built on stilts | Dibrugarh, Assam


Speaking of marriages, over a cup of tea and with Raviji being our mediator and translator, Ms. Tumtein tells us how it is women who officiate the ceremony. In fact, the marriage proposal is brought by the older women of the family and tobacco leaves are exchanged as a symbol of acceptance of the proposal. The concept of a wedding invitation has been redundant as it spreads through the entire village by word of mouth – in other words, nobody is excluded from partaking in the celebration.

We also had a chance to meet with the chief of the village, Ngikya Weingken and from whom we learnt that the word Phake comes from two Tai words: Pha meaning wall and Ke meaning old. It is said that this community used to live beside old stone walls along the banks of a river in houses built on stilts as the area used to be flood prone.

Probing our understanding of the community’s beliefs and practices, we learn from Ngikya how the entire community celebrates every full moon. And this is outside of Karthik Poornima which happens thrice a year during which they assemble for three full days and Buddha Poornima which is celebrated on a grand scale once a year.

What I found rather intriguing and fascinating is how the day of the week and the birth order determine what a child would be named. However, if it is a boy his name begins with the day of the week, whereas if it is a girl, her name ends with the day of the week!

lunch, food
Lunch preparations underway | Dibrugarh, Assam

tai phak, namphake, assam, dibrugarh
The chief of the village, Ngikya Weingken | Dibrugarh, Assam


The past and the future
We were told that the Tai Phakes have had to be constantly on the move owing to displacement due to climatic conditions or political situations. They have been known to have extended from Yunan Province in China to Hokam Valley in Myanmar via Thailand and to Assam in India over the centuries. It was during a Burmese invasion that the Tai Phakes sought asylum by settling along the banks of Burhidihing – which is the present day Namphake. Their entry into India can be traced back to 1776 (if not earlier) and it is said that their population – of 2000 – has remained almost constant ever since!

Currently, the Tai Phakes are settled in the Dibrugarh and the Tinsukia districts of Assam. The Tais practice Buddhism.


Here's to those itsy bitsy tiny moments The ones that creep in on you out of nowhere Leaving you beaming May be it's a person or a meal or a four-legged creature or the celestial torch of the night sky... . . My time in and around the Namphake Monastery earlier this month was spent indulging in conversations over lal chai (red tea had sugarless and accompanied with jaggery) while the Moon bore a silent witness as I'd recap the ongoings of each day before hitting the bed at night. I often wonder what energy draws me to the places and people I meet - whether or not I'm traveling! Do you? . . . #Namphake #Assam #India #monastery #buddhism #northeastindia #moon #travelblogger #naturephotography #igramming_india #whereisnortheast #incredibleindia #_soi #instagood #indiaphotosociety #bbctravel #lpmi #hgwanderlust #travel #_woi #cntgiveitashot #girlwhotravels #ngtdailyshot #sheisnotlost #passionpassport #ig_indiashots #instatravel #thevisualyatra #portrait #HaveFeetWillTravel
A post shared by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on



As a spectator from the outside one can barely tell how seamlessly they have integrated themselves within the geography of Assam and yet retained their own culture – which is said to be in its purest essence and had been the catalyst that triggered the curiosity of the royal family of Thailand.

“The princess of Thailand visited us in 2009 after our community and our origins got mentioned by an international magazine. Subsequently, the king made a visit too and this was telecasted live. We’ve seen a surge in the influx of tourists as well as writers and researchers who want to talk about us (and earn a buck or two by doing so).
The thing is, exposure of this kind is a double-edged sword. You know, there is talk about turning this village into a tourist hotspot and what they mean by this is to make it a mini-Thailand. Do you see what that would do to a community that has been able to retain its distinct history and way of living simply because it remained ensconced away from the mainstream world? The same reason that has garnered us all of the attention is going cause the dilution and the downfall of our distinctiveness!” That same evening we’d had a chance run-in that developed into a heartfelt conversation with a gentleman named Aicheng Weingken – who was Ngikya’s uncle and the former village chief.

tai phak, namphake, mongoloid, assam, dibrugarh
Chatting up with Aicheng Weingken | Dibrugarh, Assam


For a community that hasn’t had a single FIR registered and maintains a zero crime rate till date, opening its doors to the outside world raises many questions; questions to which the community has to collectively arrive at a consensus on.

But how?


--
To subscribe to posts via email, click here
For opportunities to work with me, click here

--
#BeYouForYou
I am facilitating a Be You For You workshops in Mumbai and Bangalore! Drop me an email on nomadicthunker[at]gmail[dot]com if you're interested in attending and would like to know more.
You may download the brochure here and FAQs here

Upcoming Mumbai workshop dates
August 19: https://www.facebook.com/events/457157031305289/

Upcoming Bangalore workshop dates
September 23: https://www.facebook.com/events/1854052274855147/

Sign up and register NOW 


iCelebrate | An Anniversary And An Announcement

I was in capital a couple of weeks ago to facilitate a workshop with an NGO and had called for an Ola Share while getting from Noida to Delhi. It was the week the rain gods had graced the city with their presence. Now for someone who hails from the coast and has experienced monsoons very differently, i.e has been through a deluge, faced the brunt of frequent flooding and is used to watching sheets of water just fall out of the skies, rains in Delhi seem like a misnomer.
Because what I had witnessed was nothing more than a mugful of water trickling from the sky.
But that is not the point.
The point is that that mugful of water caused me to take three hours to traverse what was otherwise meant to be a 50 minute ride!

Despite it being an Ola Share, besides the one co-passenger who had long since gotten off, it was just the driver and me in the cab. After over an hour of us sitting in silence since I first got into his cab, he broke the ice, saying:
“At this rate you’re not going to reach your destination until evening, Madamji.”
“Arre! Please don’t say such things. I’m just about succeeding at calming my nerves on being stuck like this when it’s not even raining.”
“Well, for people like us this is an everyday ordeal. I’ve been stuck in traffic like this since morning.”
“That is exactly what I have been thinking too. Having to go through this on an everyday basis cannot be easy for you.”
“What can be done? It’s just that we don’t have the words to express what we go through.”

 “We don’t have the words to express” -- Something about those words reverberated on the inside.
***
Exactly this time last year on the 9th of July 2016, I ran my first ever workshop of Be You For You.

An introvert by nature, emptying my head, heart and soul on paper had been a very natural phenomenon. But it hadn’t only been limited to emptying myself out. Writing had helped me make breakthroughs as well as make peace with otherwise challenging if not tumultuous issues.

I often wondered how and why this had been possible; until it occurred to me that writing is non-intrusive and non-invasive and employed with the right outlook (which I had on multiple occasions equipped myself with through training) can lend itself to enabling powerful mental makeovers!
And this was something I felt passionately about.
Why my own travels had begun to leave me with soul-stirring thoughts because I would always come back and write about them on my blog.
[Read: The Backstory of #BeYouForYou and #HaveFeetWillTravel]

So draft after draft of concept notes later, I felt courageous to not only share my idea of Be You For You with the world but also pilot it and watch it take form for the first time before my very eyes in July last year.
At the root, was firm the goal of encouraging and galvanizing people to begin expressing themselves. To themselves, first.
And that’s why that conversation with the cabbie struck a chord.

Self-expression.
How often do we pause to consider its relevance and importance?
In my observation, seldom, if ever…

From the very moment our senses have awakened with us in the morning to the moment they finally shutdown, we are constantly communicating with ourselves. In other words, we are telling ourselves stories – stories about how our day is going to be, stories about what we thought of the relative we bumped into at the mall, stories about why we’re dreading a particular meeting…
In short, stories about everything that is, that has been and that will be…

Is it not strange then, that for all the books and training programs being made available on interpersonal communication i.e. the process of interacting with other people, there is not enough material on intrapersonal communication i.e. the process of engaging with ourselves?

In the past year, I have had the opportunity of being a part of this intrapersonal journey with those curious and motivated to express themselves better. The feedback has been more than just encouraging and at a scale much bigger than I had fathomed about a year ago!




Participants leaving the workshop have had the following things to say:
  • "This workshop has definitely led to a shift in my thinking process.  It has provided me with a lot of insights and tools to help me touch base with my core."  
  • "I'm leaving the workshop with a great set of tools to help me navigate my place in the world and the belief that I can be in control of how (and what) I think and feel"
  • “This has led to more self-awareness, more ways to be expressive. Definitely a lot more insight into myself.” 
  • “It’s going to help me get into the habit of looking inwards and taking better care of myself using the tools suggested.”
  • “This experience has brought a lot of wisdom and positivity for me and the inspiration to express myself through writing a little more often.”
  • “I feel a lot more confident about being me and penning my thoughts down"
  • “I am leaving the workshop with a big to-do list and a slightly clearer mind. I am learning that it is okay to be self-compassionate.”
  • “I find that I have stumbled upon a medium to disconnect and reconnect with myself.”


But that is not all.

Every once in a while, I receive texts informing me on how someone has been implementing a writing technique that was introduced to them for the first time at a Be You For You workshop.
Every once in a while, someone will share a piece of expression they have created for the very first time in their life and they attribute the nudge to a Be You For You workshop.
Occasionally, someone will express how they are getting better at understanding themselves and therefore better at managing their own interpersonal relationships because they have been articulating themselves out since attending a Be You For You workshop.
Some have gone on to making journaling a regular practice. Others have revived their blogs. Still others have reintroduced crayons and colours back into their lives.

It is heart-warming every single time.

Heart-warming because almost every one of them prior to attending a workshop spoke of how they:
i)                    didn’t know how to write
ii)                   didn’t like writing
iii)                 didn’t think they were creative enough
iv)                 didn’t have a good enough vocabulary
v)                  didn’t know English that well
vi)                 didn’t…
vii)               didn’t…
viii)              didn’t…
And yet… Look at the strides they have been taking since.

P.S.: As these aren’t creative writing workshops, none of the above mentioned excuses are even valid in the first place! If anything, participants are encouraged to create new vocabulary and better still doodle because the focus is on expression.


What is true for individuals is true for organizations too – be it for-profit or not-for-profit. Self-expression is not only relegated to the realm of personal development. It is as much as part and parcel of organizations as their workforce communicate with its different stakeholders, sharing with them the collective story of the organization itself.
And Be You For You has begun to make inroads in working with organizations too.


But Be You For You wasn’t meant to be just one workshop. If anything, the journey so far for both participants as well as for me has only been Step 1!
And what better occasion to take this forward than the day of its first anniversary…

On Saturday, 8th July 2017, a bunch of folks who’ve attended the Be You For You workshops during the past year, signed up and attended an advanced level of the workshop – Be A Better You For You!
Because if ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, then with better self-expression comes enhanced self-awareness.


This past year has been a journey of a different kind. A journey of tapping into my entrepreneurial side. A journey of travelling within and encouraging others to embark on…

A journey that would not have been made possible were it not for the support and encouragement I’ve constantly received from a bunch of folks – in the guise of offering space to run my workshops, recommending friends to attend, being strong advocates and sharing the event notification via every known platform, putting me in touch with other folks who can help me take this workshop to other cities, advocating for the workshop within their workspaces… the support has been tremendous and humbling.

But this is only just the start…

Below are dates for the upcoming Be You For You workshops:
Mumbai -- 

Bangalore --
Sign up and register NOW...


For collaborations, drop me an email on nomadicthunker[at]gmail[dot]com

--
To subscribe to posts via email, click here
For opportunities to work with me, click here

Quotes I Live By

“To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.”

Bill Watterson

Cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver

Poet

सुकून मिलता है दो लफ्ज़ कागज़ पर उतार कर, चीख भी लेता हूँ और आवाज भी नहीं होती

Unknown

**

SEND ME A MESSAGE