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

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

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iRediscover | How We Got Rerouted To Assam: Part I

“Elita, you cannot come to Nagaland right now. There is an indefinite state-wide ‘bandh’ beginning today. I am so sorry about this” read the text message.


The effects of having spent five days in heavily militarised Manipur (though very safe with nothing untoward happening at all) had just begun to wear off as we settled ourselves in Mizoram’s Aizawl.
But Aizawl was going to be a short visit from the very beginning – a mere 48 hours.
Many route-maps through India’s northeast had been drawn and redrawn in the months preceding my impeding journey to the region. I was on version 7 of that route-map the day I left Mumbai for Guwahati mid-January earlier this year.

That SMS from my friend in Nagaland about the curfew alerted my prefrontal cortex that version 8 would have to be birthed now. Evidently, my amygdala was in the least bit pleased.
Assam, Tezpur, river, Brahmaputra
Hello again, Guwahati
Unrest in the northeast has lent a bad name to the region. But if you would have read my account from Manipur (and stand by for one from Nagaland), you will know that while conditions are challenging, it is the locals who are most affected. Tourism, on the other hand, can actually help the locals because of the revenue it brings. In other words, don’t let the news paralyse your plans of exploring the region.

But back to version 8 of my route map, my friend and I were crouched over our phones at our guesthouse in Aizawl, pinching our screens reacquainting ourselves with Google Maps and finding our next best alternative.

Aizawl, Mizoram, airport
Aizawl's Lengpui Airport 
Flying out of Lengpui Airport the morning after that SMS meant returning to somewhat familiar environs after 10 odd days; during which we’d hopped in and out of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. Yes, we were back in Guwahati and it was a reaffirmation that this capital city of Assam was like how most capital cities are – urban and therefore, cacophonous, congested and also, dirty.

But among some of the things most capital cities get right, Guwahati has been redeeming with its food, in general and street food, in particular.

street food, India, chaat,
When in India's east, always say YES to puchkas (distant relatives of Delhi's gol-guppes and Mumbai's paani-puri)

Guwahati - Tezpur – Kaziranga
With our train tickets from Guwahati to Dimapur cancelled, we made our way to Tezpur. What I imagined would be a stopover to catch up with a friend turned out to be an insight into the intrigue that is Tezpur.

The cultural capital of Assam and located along the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, there is more to Tezpur than meets the eye. Mild and calm in contrast to Guwahati, Tezpur has a pace and charm of her own that you gently begin to experience once you’re on the Kolia Bhomora Setu.

My ignorance and curiosity got my friend to introduce us to her uncle who shared his many recommendations with us. And since we had just that day in hand and had to obtain a new Inner Line Permit (ILP) for Arunachal Pradesh on priority - owing to the rejig and route-map number 8 - we settled to make a visit to two key points of interest.

P.S.: Obtaining a new ILP was no sweat at all. Find your way to the Deputy Resident Commissioner’s office in Tezpur and fill out a form requesting for a new permit and submit two photographs and a self-attested copy of a government recognised ID card. And you’re done.
It is the same process you would follow for either of the three states – Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh – irrespective of where you apply for the permit.

Tezpur
Here’s a bit of a backstory.
Before Tezpur was named so, it was known as Sonitpur which today is the name of the district. Interestingly, both Sonit and Teza translate to mean blood; the former in Pali and the latter in Sanskrit. According to a myth, a battle ensued between the armies of Krishna and Shiva that resulted in a bloodshed, leaving the entire place drenched red.
When myth and history combine, they sure do create something beyond imagination!

This was some of the nuggets of information I was able to pick from our conversation with an official from the Guwahati Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India in Tezpur.

But between having some time to kill and then going to re-apply for our ILP, we made two stopovers:
(i)                  Bamuni Pahar:
These are but ruins today. A heap comprising of the most intrinsically carved rubble. To a passer-by, like yours truly, these seem unseen and invisible to the rest of the world.
I was naturally tempted to enter my own mind place as if to recreate what this structure might have been dating back to sometime between the 6th and 10th century AD – because I really wish there was more information to glean from.

Legend has it that Aniruddha, Krishna’s nephew, fell in love with Usha, the daughter of Banasura - a thousand-armed asura king, who disapproved of the match and had imprisoned Aniruddha in this place.

Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India 

Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Bamuni Hills, Bamuni Pahar, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Ruins that are now being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India

(ii)                Da Parbotia
Not too far away is yet another relic – Da Parbotia: a door frame that is a part of the remains of a temple consecrated to the Ganga and Jamuna who are carved and depicted on the lower sections of the doors, holding garlands in their hands. This too is believed to date back to somewhere around the 10th century AD.

Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Da Parbotia: the door frame

Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Temple bell

Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Carvings of Ganga and Jamuna on the door frame


Da Parbotia, Tezpur, Sonitpur, Assam, northeast
Up and close -- Da Parbotia: the door frame
  
When not rummaging through temple ruins and failing miserably at distilling myth from history, I was found wolfing down the spreads available at Spring Valley. Why I heard about the Karbi’s for the first time when I was wiping clean the Karbi Thali. The Karbis, I learnt, have been an indigenous group from Assam who have had to flee invasion and leave behind their original inhabitation in present-day Kaziranga on multiple occasions.
Today, the Karbis are the third largest tribal community in Assam following the Bodos and the Mishings.

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Kaziranga
The next morning, we hopped on to a state-run bus service to get to Kaziranga National Park – home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceros besides tigers, elephants, wild water buffalos, swamp deer and avian population. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

For me, it was my Animal Planet meets Nat Geo moment, sharing a physical space with the many creatures of the wild. Seeing these beings in their natural habitat has been such an out and out rewarding sensation.

Every once in a while, every one of us SHOULD step out of our rooms, our cubicles, our devices and more importantly, our heads and start seeing the world around us.
Seeing it for what it is; NOT what it is projected as being.

And maybe then, like Lennon sang, “…the world will live as one…”

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros, birds, avian


Kaziranga National Park, jeep safari

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros

UNESCO World Heritage Site, tortoise

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros, elephant, bird

UNESCO World Heritage Site, rhinoceros



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#BeYouForYou
I am facilitating a Be You For You workshops in July and August in Mumbai! 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

Mumbai workshop dates
July 22: https://www.facebook.com/events/1037816343022570/
August 19: https://www.facebook.com/events/457157031305289/
Sign up and register NOW

#BeYouForYou ◼ We've read books on how to win friends and influence people... ◼ Our earliest memories consist of saying "Hello" and being polite to relatives and acquaintances of our parents... ◼ Listing down 'excellent interpersonal skills' on our resume is considered a no-brainer... ◼ The HR folks at our companies deem it necessary to train us in the ways of body-language/non-verbal communication... So much about communication is about how we conduct ourselves in the world outside! But... What about the way you've been communicating with yourself? Especially when almost 90% of it occurs subconsciously...💭🗯 . Be You For You workshops are about understanding this intra-personal communication --- the self talk we keep having with ourselves and how it impacts the relationships we have with the people around us; both, personal and professional . ▶ Working professionals above the age of 21 can participate ▶Proficiency in English is NOT a prerequisite ▶Interest is writing is NOT a prerequisite either. This is not a creative writing workshop Mumbai workshop dates for the third quarter of 2017 are out! July 22: https://www.facebook.com/events/1037816343022570/ August 19: https://www.facebook.com/events/457157031305289/ Sign up and register NOW... . If you'd like to know more, drop me an email on nomadicthunker[at]gmail[dot]com #Mumbai 
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iExpress | Dear Journal Writer...

Dear Journal Writer,

I’ve seen you scrawling.
I’ve seen you furiously scribbling away.
I’ve seen you fill reams and reams of sheets
I’ve seen how the grip around your pen increases and decreases. 
I've likened that experience to looking at a time-lapse video in motion…

I’ve watched as you’ve hesitated to sometimes put words to the thoughts swarming around in your head.
I’ve watched as you’ve stared into oblivion when you couldn’t put words to the thoughts swarming in your head.
I’ve watched you sit glass-eyed when you’ve been fraught with trying to understand your thoughts so you could put them down in words.


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After you’ve written, I’ve noticed the elation that comes from feeling the weight lifted off your shoulders…
Sometimes, I’ve noticed the relief that comes from being able to express something for the very first time…
Occasionally, I’ve noticed the surprise that comes from catching yourself off-guard by your own revelations on paper…

But of late, you’ve stopped scribbling away. The reams are now musty and blank. The pen has been rendered an orphan.

And of late, I’ve been noticing a wistful look when you leaf through some of your previous scrawlings. 
I’ve heard you mutter to yourself: “Damn! I sound so sad. There’s so much hurt and pain in here.”

I’ve begun to wonder: Are you judging yourself for expressing your inner-most world to yourself? Are you terrified of how you’ve felt? Does the angst and the hurt haunt you so much that you’ve decided to stop writing completely? 
How does it feel to choke your own voice?
How does it feel to fill that void with distractions?
Does thumbing away on social media, responding to and sometimes, perhaps, even being a troll serve as an outlet for that repressed angst?
Is being pseudo-poet-philosopher on Instagram fulfilling the urge to be expressive AND authentic?

Yes, I’m judging you.
I’m judging you for not writing anymore. Not writing authentically anymore, at least. 
I am judging you for not being connected with yourself anymore.

I’m judging you for abandoning me.

Yours truly,
The Journal

***

Journal-writing is the closest to expressive writing or self-expression some of us have ever been.

For that exact reason, in my conversations with friends as well as with folks who’ve been a part of ‘Be You For You’ workshops, a topic that comes up a lot is 'the decline in journal writing'.
Erstwhile journal-writers have claimed to stop journaling either because:
(i) It’s felt like a repetitive process with little or no outcomes
(ii) They’ve found themselves on loop without having any breakthroughs
(iii) Sometimes penning difficult thoughts and emotions have taken a toll

I’ve been there too. And I’ve had times when I’d stopped journaling too.
However that wasn’t a solution. Writing helps us connect with our innermost worlds. And to not exploit this medium, is to do ourselves a huge disservice – this is more true if we’ve never journalled before!
To be disconnected from our thoughts, is to fail at understanding our emotions.
To not understand our emotions, is to fail at comprehending why we are reacting in a certain manner to stimuli in our external environment.

Humour has been, is and will be my life-saver Be it while traveling solo. Or figuring my in-roads in the journey of life. Keeping my wits close at hand has redeemed me at every fork in the road. A li'l over three months ago, an unforeseen run-in with my inner demons ruptured the vein that transports the wit in my head to what I write by hand There could have been no sadder tragedy It brought everything to a stop It's taken its time (and patience with Self is key in matters such as these). It's making a return (the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train). Going old school with the good old pen-and-paper is more helpful than the laptop. It feels like a metamorphosis. Peeling away from what was. Making way for what is. Read this line earlier today: सुकून मिलता है दो लफ्ज़ कागज़ पर उतार कर, चीख भी लेता हूँ और आवाज भी नहीं होती.. Which loosely translates to: I'm comforted when I pen two words down on paper. Because that's how I scream without making any noise... . . P.S.: It perhaps helps that my notebook has that quote on its cover 😉 A post shared by Elita (@nomadicthunker) on


For the sake of simplification, I’ll say that expressive writing is journal-writing with nuance.

The merit of expressive writing – i.e. writing to express and not impress because your only audience is yourself – is that it is non-intrusive. We express and become acquainted with our deepest, most vulnerable selves when the nib hits the page. In other words, when we write, we begin to reconnect with our thoughts and our emotions.

Be You For You takes participants through guided activities that avoid pitfalls of finding yourself on a repetitive loop with no breakthroughs or finding yourself in the throes of emotions you suddenly feel ill-equipped to manage.

Be You For You enables participants to begin taking a step closer towards self-awareness.
Because like Robert Holden has said: Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.

--
I am facilitating a Be You For You workshops in July and August in Mumbai! 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

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


iRediscover | The Kindness of Strangers in Mizoram

“So Google Maps says we need to keep going straight. But I think we should also just ask someone. I don’t want us to have walked off in the wrong direction. Not on a hilly terrain”, I was saying to my friend when as if on cue, the Universe plops Sangeeta right in front of us. We would learn her name and more, later but it was she who approached us and asked us a question in Mizo that only got her blank stares from my friend and me.

She was bright and pointed her forefinger at us and asked, “Hindi?” which got a resounding yes with the head-nod to accompany it from both of us.

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
“You’ll are tourists? Where are you’ll going?” she asked in Hindi.
“Yes, we’re tourists and we are trying to make our way to Solomon’s Temple. Could you tell us if we’re on the right road and how much longer it could take us?” I replied back in Hindi.
“Oh! Don’t worry. I’ll take you’ll. My house is on the way” she said, happy to give us company. Though I was the happier one.


Meet Sangeeta
Just as we resumed walking, I asked her, “What are you doing in this area all by yourself?” Let it be known that Sangeeta was a 9th grader who looked much younger for a 9th grader and that’s what provoked my question.

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
Sangeeta

To which Sangeeta said, “I was on an errand distributing milk and that house there was my last stop” pointing into the distance.
“It must be quite the walk for you, right?” I was concerned.

It was one thing that my friend and I chose to walk the 10 kilometres to Solomon’s Temple. We had just 48 hours in Mizoram. And Aizawl was all that we would be able to cover. So rather than trying to get on a must-strike-everything-off-our-to-see-and-to-do-list, we chose to limit our ‘list’ and decided that since nothing compares to walking when exploring a place as closely as one possibly could, we would do just that. Even when 10 kilometres through the zigzag uphill roads of Aizawl’s hills seemed somewhat daunting for us city-bred people.



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[P.S.: The 48 hour time-period was pre-decided for us by the availability of cheap flights for the first leg of our northeast trip to Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. It was an opportunity cost for the overall time saved in getting to and out of these states.
More on how to plan a budget trip to the northeast in subsequent posts. Promise.]

Back to Sangeeta, who on hearing my question said, “The walk is good for me. Anyway, I am so fat. This way there’s hope that I’ll lose some of this weight.”
There was something of a disdain that I picked in her tone.
A disdain towards her body.
A disdain that made me very very uncomfortable.
“But you’re a child. You’re not supposed to feel like this about yourself!” I couldn’t stop myself from blurting that out aloud. But someone had already made her feel ‘bad’ about her physicality. I was a random stranger and I was not going to be able to rewrite her inner narrative!

“So why have you’ll come to Aizawl? Where are you’ll from? Is this your first time?” she had a string of questions for us. It was as if the words I’d uttered to take away the shame she felt towards her body never reached her ears.
And I let it be.

We talked about Big Boss which was her favourite on TV; though it was her filling us in about it since we don’t care too much for TV. Certainly not Big Boss! She talked about school – her favourite teachers, her friends, the extra-curriculars she was a part of.
Pretty neat company to have, if you ask me. It was something of a struggle explaining to her what we did for a living but that was the most challenging it got. Oh that and the extremely steep inclines she took us through to avoid the longer route – via the main road!


Solomon’s Temple
After parting ways with Sangeeta, we plodded onwards to Solomon’s Temple. We did miss a turn and made my prophecy come true. But once we reached its premises, I recall being stumped by the magnitude and expanse of the structure!

We had walked 10 kilometres. The incinerating heat was directly over our heads. We were exhausted. But all of it was forgotten when I found myself in front of Solomon’s Temple in Kidron Valley.

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With the foundation stone being laid in 1996, this place of prayer and worship is still under construction. Such is the scale of this endeavour that a local I got talking to said that it would be another two-five years before it could be considered complete.


Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
The altar at Solomon's Temple | Kidron Valley, Mizoram - January 2017

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
One of the four pillars at Solomon's Temple with 7 David's stars

Cabs and cabbies of Aizawl
The touchdown in Aizawl the previous day marked (i) our arrival in Mizoram – AKA state number three (of seven in the northeast) and, (ii) the realisation that I ever since I could recall, I had been misspelling and mispronouncing the capital city as Aizwal (for reasons I do not know).
Unlike the travel hacks we had to deploy outside the airport at Agartala and Imphal, it was all too straightforward here. Our inner linepermits [ILP] (yes, Indian citizens require an ILP while non-Indians require a PAP to enter Mizoram) had been obtained in Guwahati prior to our departure to Agartala. At Aizawl airport, the officer who initialled our ILP, recommended that we take a prepaid cab from the airport itself as there are no other modes of public transport within and around most of Aizawl.

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
Cabs of Aizawl

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. Cruising through the zigzag road from the Airport to Chanmari (where we were putting up for the two nights), I was enamoured by how hilly and green it is.
I was able to stumble on very little information – both in the online as well as the offline world - about Mizoram during my planning and preparation stage for this big trip to the northeast. Which is why I was lapping up everything I could from our conversation with Ringa.
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.

To not feel like our every move was being monitored after four and a half days in otherwise warm Imphal, meant we could be everywhere we wanted to be here in Aizawl. I have held my freedom of movement a lot more dearly since. We mostly just walked around Aizawl market aimlessly, imagining how pretty the state would be during Christmas! I had not known that Mizoram is mostly a Christian state either (just like Nagaland and Meghalaya).

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
Being 'foot-soldiers' in search of food. Glimpses from Zotes's Bakery and Fela Fels in Aizawl

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
Streets of Aizawl

Aizawl, Mizoram, hills, northeast, India, Mizo
When Nature tries to blend in... 


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. The streets that were teeming with people the previous two days was now bearing a forlorn look. 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. His acts of kindness shall remain forever imprinted in my memory.

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.
Needless to say, the conversations with Kiran also had me making copious mental notes. He shared his views on how the ILP was a hindrance for tourists wanting to come to the state and how he was in awe of what Sikkim had been able to accomplish for itself in terms of tourism. He spoke of how perhaps because Mizoram is a Christian state, social welfare is a top priority – the government provides free housing to the homeless, environment and ecology are key. He spoke of people from the state being genial without being pushy and how that makes the state quite safe for both locals as well as outsiders.
Kiran also shared with us his dislike for Delhi – where he has worked for some time among other places before returning back to his home state – because he finds it unnecessarily aggressive and competitive!

And before we knew it, we were already back at the airport bidding adieu as if we weren’t strangers who’d just met for the first time 75 minutes ago!


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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

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