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Old 1st July 2022, 17:32   #1
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Default Me and My Motherland, Solo Ventures across the Sub-Continent

“Travel far enough to find yourself one day”

Starting off things with a picture that's close to my soul.
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Every time I go to a sea shore, the mighty waves remind me of how small I’m in this world. And every time I scale the mountains, the sky scraping them reminds me of how short I’m in the world. And every time I explore mother earth, I’m reminded of how grateful I’m to be born a human and to see and cherish its beauty. Running into my mind a few laps and that’s where I remember enjoying traveling. A guy who used to be a sloth bear now wants to jump across trees like a monkey is what best describes me.

“If you think ADVENTURE is dangerous, try routine, its LETHAL” – Paul Coleho

Earlier, in my teens, I was ambushed by the thought that I must have a vehicle or a partner to enjoy traveling around the world. And now, while I would say I would enjoy even more with a partner and a vehicle, I prefer not to waste my time crying over that. While I have my Sugar, a 2017 Pulsar NS200 with me, it has always been a war when it comes to convincing my parents to a bike trip, be it solo or with friends.

Road trips always drive me crazy, but I drive responsibly, no worries there. I have been asking my parents to allow me on a motorcycle trip, all geared for a pretty long time since I’m legally supposed to ride and they have been on the back foot every time. If vitamin M was their problem, they would allow me now as a budding young man, I have started to bank my own pocket now. It was always a concern for safety, a typical Indian parent mindset, I would say. Before jumping on the trip, all I can wish for here is a girl who can love me and wander equally.

So, moving a few months back in the timeline, I decided not to waste my age’s energy running behind my parents and decided to travel around with anything that can move, except that on two wheels. My mom’s okay with me taking a car and why the hell do I need a car for thy I travel alone and yeah, I can’t afford to. Maybe not alone!

A random early morning shot somewhere in KA.
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So, it all narrows down to buses, trains, and flights. While I love road trips with my favorite allies, I always had a soft corner for the machines that move on rails. Rail trips have always been a fascinating thing for me and so, my mind already went craving to be in a train, hearing the ‘thadak thadak’ sound on those river crossings and then the ‘wiggle wiggle’ of the long hauler, moving man and material across different lands. I always wonder, how railways have made things a little easier for the common Indian population.

What I saw when I entered the Chennai Egmore Railway Station
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I guess, any machine that moves, fascinates me which never fails to explain why I did my engineering in Mechanical over anything else. Coming back to the story, I then decided to venture out, be it in two wheels or two hundred wheels.

Have you ever eaten something, loved it so much, and wanted to know about it? That’s how I started to look out for places, but yeah, my first place was not because of the food. It was completely a different story that unfolds this way.

My mind keeps on remembering this name for no reason. Maybe due to the ancient history it holds in itself? Or due to the fact that I wanted to taste rice from the rice bowl? Or due to the fact that I’m into museums and archaeological stuff? I had this urge to witness the architectural marvel that’s been standing tall for well, more than 1000 years on this dignified land. I have never seen someone amazed, so much like my history teacher telling us and wondering how Raja Raja Chozhan moved a solid piece of 80 tonnes, 10 centuries ago and how they use interlocking bricks, brilliantly.

A glimpse of what is about to follow.
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So, Big temple is the big plan for the weekend that followed.

A quick search for the tickets led me to two a couple of trains to Thanjavur, which will be fondly called “Thanjai” from now on. Seats were reserved on a random train from Bhuvaneshwar to Rameshwaram and the return leg was done in the famous, Chozhan Express, both of them running on the famous mainline that connects Chennai and Trichy, the long way. The journey now being confirmed needs a good place to rest and that’s where a travel aggregator made it real quick. And Hoorah! A plan well designed is half done.

Zooming into the day before the trip, I was a little nervous and excited. Probably due to the fact that I have been on a long train, several years back and the fact that it's been so long traveling alone after getting a lot of close acquaintances. Yes, my life in the last few months has been warm as I got a bunch of new people to call mine after a break. They filled in the little spaces, took out my lone time, and pulled me into something different, that I started to feel lonely without my people. All that solitude that I practiced had glazed out and I just wanted a shine of it for tomorrow, so as I boarded the train at Egmore on a beautiful Saturday morning.

A mighty WAP-7 making it way to the platform.
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As I was embarking on a long day journey, I was reminded of how my parents were excited that I have grown and started to understand the fact that, sometimes, you won’t have a gold plate to eat, but eat, as you have something to eat. Doesn’t make sense? Never mind, I landed up on the Thanjai soil and asked if my best friend, who is a native of Thanjai can come to pick me up and take me to the Big Temple. He nodded a big yes and asked me to come to stay at his home, which is quite a tour from the city. Gestures like these are the reasons why some people stay in our hearts forever.

We decided to stay at Thanjai itself as we were running quite short of time and after a quick nap, went to the Big Temple to be simply amazed by the Chozhan architecture. I just can’t pen down the sight that my eyeballs caught and the feeling that my soul glazed through. It was magnificent in any way it can be looked at. Maybe, I’m overrating it quite a bit, but it was worth a sight.

I'll let you decide.

What your eyes catch as you just step in.
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Yours truly clicking a picture of the marvel.
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A look at the architecture I was talking about.
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We stayed inside the tall standing walls for some time and came back to buy something for my home and my people, in remembrance of the trip. We walked through the night-lit streets around the temple, eyeballing the famous ‘Thanjavur Thalaiyatti Bommai’ which translates to Thanjavur’s dancing dolls. Bought one for my home and continued shopping to get a few goodies for my people and jumped into a cinema hall to make it up for the rest of the night. And yeah, soon after the movie, we bunked into the beds to mark the end of the day.

As the sun sets in,
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I would call it the end of the Thanjavur visit as I find the next day to be a casual one, waking up late in the morning and boarding the return train.

While it was not as exciting as it seemed to be, I'll go grab a coffee to come back to continue it.
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Old 1st July 2022, 18:09   #2
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Default Re: Me and My Motherland, Solo Ventures across the Sub-Continent

“Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show”

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While I was rejoicing about the Thanjavur trip, the next one was knocking on my door. It was the one to the cultural capital of the state of Karnataka that I had planned along with the former one. I have traveled to a lot of places for a guy my age, but the journey which takes me to a different state in the country has always been a handful. The feeling of being safe in your home state, and the feeling of knowing the food, language, and culture have always been nice feelings that didn’t last this time. To sum up the feeling in one word, I was thrilled as if I were going on an adventure to some uncharted land, yet to be discovered fully. Terra Incognita will be perfect.

I have always daydreamed about the place, probably due to the fact that this famous sweet named after its origin is always loved in my home or due to the fact that Tipu Sultan’s name was ringing in my head always during my 9th-grade history classes. I cannot think of any other reasons why Mysore had to be on my list, except for the fact that I always wanted to do the Mysore-Bandipur-Ooty route, which has nothing to do with this trip.

I might be exaggerating things a bit, maybe that’s how I write? Or maybe that’s how the trip turned out to be? Whatever! All I can remember was a busy Friday evening and I was sleeping well past 6 pm when my mom woke me up, to catch the train at 9 pm quite far from where I stayed. So, jumped out of the bed like a lazy bear, dragging my legs across the house without even a set of dresses packed up for the trip. It felt as if there was a quake in my house as my mom was running around helping me pack stuff for the journey. Oh, I don’t want to forget my sister, who was as excited as me as she wanted a bunch of perfume oils from Mysore, who was helping me pack my stuff as well. The sun said bye to meet me at Mysore, the next day and the night began. I ran to the local railway station with a big backpack on my shoulders, to get to the next train so that I can board the one to Mysore leaving in 2 hours from then. Skipping a bit, all I can remember was me sitting on the Upper birth of the coach as I found the seats to be a little crowded for me. There was a big gang of working fellows going to Mysore, next to my berth inside the coach, and the chaos they were making before falling asleep reassured me that I’m not alone, on this mighty planet. They had the most fun that night and watching them was reassuring and yeah, I hit the bed? Maybe we can call it a plank with a layer of hard cushion that’s better than a slab to lay my body on.

The night as I was sitting at the railway station.
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The coach that I was traveling in that day.
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The night was a very unusual one for a boy who is used to Latex beds and Oh boy! There were at least 10 different stories and dreams, my mind had that night. You would have a few things when you do something new to keep track of or to know that you are on the right path and the first one hit me late during the night. It started to feel really cold and I knew, I’m somewhere around Bangalore and had to pull a blanket out of my bag to make things up. And these were some of the good days when I didn’t need an alarm to push me out of my bed.

The station as I walked out,
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Woke up real quick, and brushed my teeth as I knew my next stop for a break would be an afternoon. Jumped down the train to hit the glaze of the early morning sun, sneaking past my face, the tender cool breeze sliding through the warmth of my body, putting shivers like a fluffy dog, who’s just got into a drizzle. Walked my way out of the railway station to find a bus and the only thing on my head was to be at the Chamundi hills before the fog runs out. Clicked a few pictures, and walked out to be helped by a bus conductor who found out that this kid doesn’t belong there and he suggested, I take a daily pass that cost me about 60 bucks which indeed was very helpful.

The daily pass that help up well.
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After a small tour through the city, moving along the places that I wanted to visit later, I started to feel the note of the bus getting busier and that’s where you know, you are climbing a hill. And I remember getting down at the top of the peak, where the visibility was very low. I can hardly see anything after a 50 feet distance. It was mesmerizing as I could feel the rush of the liquid inside me pushing all through the veins and the heart getting it right.

The Chamundi temple all in its glory!
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Walked a little to find the gopuram of the temple, clicked a few pictures, and decided to return back. All of a sudden, my left brain started to work and I knew I have to roam a little while to make it to the room at the check-in time, even if I ask for a pre-check-in. So, went inside to offer my prayers and came back out, only to see the fog thinning down a bit.

The fog that was covering the peak.
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‘Grrrlll, grrrrllll’ was the sound that I could hear through my loud blasting earbuds and I know I should be giving my growling stomach a little work to make it through the day. Found a small tented breakfast wala serving steam-fused idlis right out of hot andas and a rice variety that I found very new. My body is not used to rice in the mornings but my mind wanted to try that one and yeah, I don’t even remember its name, but it was holding my stomach pretty well and my tongue smiled too.

No clue what was that, but it looked like this.
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Hopped on to a return bus to the city and the time matched well to be in the Mysore palace, right when it opens. The palace itself was magnificent and the premises made it so perfect to wander across. This was the most normal time during the entire trip where I wasn’t thrilled enough, maybe due to the fact that I was rushing through it or my mind’s fixed on what I heard and read about the palace that it shines the most after the moon comes up.
I enjoyed walking outside the palace, clicking a few pictures and the clouds made sure that I won’t get roasted by the sun.

Some of the pics that I click of the palace.
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Oh, man! It was amazing.
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A view from the inside gallery!
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After spending some warm time there, started walking to the hotel where I booked my room, which is like a 10 min walk from the palace. The clock already struck 1’o clock and yeah, it was time for lunch and my mind wanted to try the Mysore masala dosa, one of the reasons, why I was in that place during that point of time in my life, would the stars know it? Maybe, but my taste buds knew me very well, and man! It was worth it. While I won’t be picking a Mysore masala dosa every day or even once a week, it was mouth-watering at least for the first time I had one. I’m not into it though, as it was a little sweeter than I like it to be. But that’s what it is! I don’t know if I was tired or the food that I had wanted me to close my eyes a little, so I went to the room only to get a quick power nap that was able to carry me, for the entire remaining day. Took a bath to make things better and found myself walking to the bus stand, 4 hours apart from when I had my lunch.

Yours truly, somewhere inside the palace.
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Somehow managed to find the bus number with google maps and the local people there and boarded the bus. I wonder how difficult it would be if I had no google maps on my phone. Man! While I have been bamboozled by it a few times, it was always a boon to me when it comes to traveling. Life’s easy with technology? Probably depends on how we use it. These were the thoughts that were running throughout my mind as I was on a 90mins trip to the next stop, which is the KRS Dam and the Brindavan gardens, famous for their dancing fountain.

A crossing that moved us across the beautiful Kaveri.
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Moving through the folding and unfolding valleys, shaded by dark clouds that might break free anytime with cool winds carrying dust and darkness into your face that’s grinning like a child seeing things for the first time, as the sun sets past the horizon is how I would describe the moment I was sitting by the window looking through it, with my mind munching plenty of thoughts, that drove me in the past and that would drive me tomorrow, it was a calm evening after all.

Soon after the bus stopped at the gardens, I found a way to get the entry tickets, and boom, I was on the south bank. I had to go to the north bank, taking a walking bridge to get to the dancing fountain. All along the way, through the gardens, I was clicking some photos and it was perfectly timed to be there as the show started as it got dark.

A few pics of the fountains there!
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The fountain dancing with the lights to the beat of the music played looked good and I know, I had to start early so that I don’t have to be caught in the return crowd that starts soon after the show ends. So, halfway, I walked away to the south bank to leave the place with delight.

The walking bridge that took me to the North bank.
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The colorfully lit up reservoir.
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I won’t forget the night as I didn’t know where the bus starts back to Mysore and I had to walk to and fro for a good mile to sort it out myself. I could have easily asked the locals there but was let down by the maps. I wonder if I should complain about google maps or if it is my bad, not asking for help. Maybe I’m learning the hard way and will be a lesson for the next trip.
Boarded the return bus a little late and was back in the city by 9 pm. I didn’t want a heavy diet and so decided to have some quick chats to end my day. Went to a chat corner to eat some brilliantly made Bhel puri and Pani puri. Satiety is what best describes my mood then.

Again, there were a lot of thoughts that were running in my mind as I was walking through the barren roads of the city in the dark. The nightlife, although I was only on the streets till 11 pm, was quite interesting, mind that I’m already coming from Chennai where I have seen a lot of them already. While I already find Chennai pretty safe for women to be out in the night with friends, not alone though, Mysore gave the right vibes too. Even in the farthest chat shops and eateries that were alone, I was able to see girls testing out their taste buds, enjoying the calm night setup.

Somewhere during the day.
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I was not surprised by its name, that it’s called the cultural capital of the state. I might be overrating a little bit here or it is due to the fact that I was expecting a little less activity during the nights. Even during the daytime, I find the men and women moving in and around comfortably. Cheers to that!
Diverting back to the story, all I can remember was jumping into the bed, craving a tight sleep and hoping that could give me a pleasant morning. Oh boy! It indeed was a good sleep after quite a long time and I remember waking up at 9 am to the photons that peeked into the windows of the room and to the sonic waves that the locality was making. A quick bath is what I needed to make sure that my body doesn’t run out of charge until the next morning to be at home.

Checked out of the hotel, which was actually a budget one as I was not keen on a luxury trip. It had decent facilities and would rate it okay for a bachelor and forget staying with families there. I would really name it here if it was that much worth it and so, certainly it is not worth talking about is what I was thinking as I walked into a restaurant for a brunch. Yeah, it was around 11.30 am and I was happy settling for a good meal that can hold my shape until the evening. I ate a Karnataka-style mutton biryani which reminded me of the previous day's breakfast that I was talking about. So, assuming that this is how they make biryani’s there, I started to the famous Mysore Zoo to spend my remaining daylight. It went very well as I already love going to animal parks and zoos.

The only zoo that I have been to before was the one in Chennai and the Mysore one was pretty large and felt quite lined up as you walk across all the animals before you hit the exit. Yeah, you can skip a few to the exit, but the place made it unnecessary. While I might be underrating a bit here, I found the zoo to be okayish rather than exciting. There were a lot of empty or ghosted cages, probably due to the effect of the virus we were fighting. Other than that, I found it to be more exciting than the Vandalur zoo that we have here in Chennai. I was happy to be at the place during the time and the clock started to tick towards my return leg. I had the train to catch at 9 pm, later that day and had a couple of things to do before I turned back home.

Remember why I came here and what my sister and friends told me to get back to them? Yeah! It's time to do some shopping for my buddies and so I went to the market in Mysore to buy a few things. My sister would ask my parents to throw me out of my house if I won’t buy her a couple of perfume oils while my friend would break up with me if I’m going to go back home without the Mysore Pak.

So, I was venturing into the bazaar of the city and it was a beautiful mess. Everyone is running for nothing and the shopkeepers are there shouting and asking if I wanted to walk in as you walk past their stores even if you don’t need a saree or flowers necessarily being a man. Maybe they want me to buy it for my mother? Who cares! After several lookouts, roaming through the crowded market streets, I ended up stopping at a perfume oil store that had a dozen of oils, scented agarbhattis, pooja items, and such. After a long round of testing, negotiations, and talks, I ended up buying perfume oil and agarbhattis for my home. I picked up small quantities of Lotus flower, Mysore flower, and Sandalwood oils and I must say, they smell amazing. While I found them to be on the costlier side, sometimes it’s worth it if it’s from a special place. I know I wouldn’t get these oils, especially the sandalwood anywhere else for a lower price.

And as this was happening, I was having an eye on this strange guy who has been following me for quite some time and he literally creeped me out for a few minutes before he had a word with me. He found out that I’m a tourist there and wants me to take a look at his owner’s wood workshop where they make stuff using sandalwood. I was nervous, moved by the thoughts that, what if this guy takes me to an offbeat place and scams me. I was freaking out until I went to the shop that was right on the main road. He finally turned out to be a good guy, who, I don’t know how he believed I would buy something from him.

I then walked back to the bazaar and a few people that I enquired about there suggested that I get Mysore Pak from Guru sweets there. They were guiding me to the place and every one of them said, you will easily find it at the end as you will find a lot of people buzzing around the shop. It worked as it looked like a honeycomb, with bees buzzing out. And without even thinking twice, I queued up after a bunch of people which took me 30 minutes to be at the cash counter. Bought some packs of the special Mysore Pak and came out of it as if I were coming out of my exam hall after a long exam as if I achieved something big.

I was not quite convinced and landed up in another sweet shop, a few meters away to buy some more of the Mysore Pak. This shop is called the second-best one in the city, while to be frank, I found the latter one to be tastier than the former one. Everyone has their own taste preferences, right.
And then, I walked back to the bus stand, resting for a while, putting in some thoughts for my brain to process. Oh, man! I travel to get rid of these thoughts and it keeps coming back even if I get the smallest of my time.
As the sun started to disappear, I also wanted to do the same from the city and just before I was about to take a bus to the railway station, the streetlights were turned on, and wow! I was feeling as if I were in a different place altogether. The streets around the palace are maintained by the palace board and they take great efforts in keeping it alive. The palace looked a whole different during the night and my heart didn’t want to leave the place. I sat there for a good 30 mins and then walked backed to the bus stand to be at the railway station at 8 pm.

The lit palace during the night.
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How do I forget to tell you all about the snack that I had during the late evening that day? I had a local chat called ‘Churmuri’ and man, it was amazing, at least to me who tried it for the first time. Also, had some pani puri from a roadside shop and I would simply put it as the best pani puri I had in a very long time. It even tickled my taste buds if I think about it. Packed in a churmuri for the night as I was reluctant about the food that I would get on the train and hurrah! I boarded the train to be back home.
After a tiring weekend, I had a good sleep on the wiggling train and I had to wake up on an alarm as I know I won’t be on my own after the amazing days. I saw the sun rising up in my hometown and it was an amazing feeling to be back home after a trip.

“A man travels in search of what he needs and comes back home to find it”

Would y’all agree if I say that you need a place to call “home” even if you want to explore the world? Else, you will be lost in the process of finding yourself!
With this, I’m signing off for the moment and will continue to wander across until I come back with a story about the World capital of Biryani!

Me and My Motherland, Solo Ventures across the Sub-Continent-img_2363.jpg

au revoir et merci

Happy times ahead, fellas!

Last edited by Jagann13 : 1st July 2022 at 18:12.
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Old 1st July 2022, 18:20   #3
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Thanks for sharing. Really nice story and great photography!

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Old 2nd July 2022, 10:16   #4
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Awesome story telling.. but for me those B/W photos steal the show...
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Old 3rd July 2022, 11:42   #5
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Beautiful pictures. Reminds me of my days back in Chennai. I want to travel by train again.
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Old 3rd July 2022, 23:35   #6
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Kudos to your story telling and photographs! First thing I did after reading was open IRCTC and check for tickets to Mysore. Waiting for the Hyderabad post.
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Old 4th July 2022, 06:21   #7
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Default Re: Me and My Motherland, Solo Ventures across the Sub-Continent

Nicely done!

There are a few rail sections in TN which are worth exploring. Especially Cuddalore/Mayavaram/Tanjore and then further south towards Rameshwaram. Some of these are very unique and are a great fun to go around.

Given how good the road network is in TN; we tend to underestimate the railway. It definitely needs to be experienced!
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Old 4th July 2022, 06:55   #8
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Very warmly written travelog accompanied by some nice pictures.

Reminds me of my 1992 college trip when I had covered some of these places.

It was nice to see you talking about the souvenirs like the ‘Thanjavur Thalaiyatti Bommai’. Such things always have a special value, and a picture or two of such stuff in the travelog gives a cultural perspective as well.
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Old 4th July 2022, 09:53   #9
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Beautiful. There is something so philisophical about the railway tracks that it keeps reminding me of the twists and turns, arrivals and departures, just like in real life.
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