Pune - city of the legendary (and controversial) Osho Ashram where people from far flung corners of the world come together to learn yoga, meditate and slip into an alternative way of living; known as the Oxford of the East for being this university hub crowded with high profile colleges and educational institutions;
Ahmedabad drives home the essence of India - a celebration of life so earthy, so real. Amongst all of Gujarat’s festivals like Dussera and Diwali nothing extols this characteristic more than the Navratri celebration of folk dance and music – men, women and children dressed in fabric so beautiful, onlookers are dazed by their colours and mirrors; the mirth of dandiya ras and garba ras all night for nine nights; and the excesses of an indulged palate in a twist of flavours - tangy, sweet, and subtle. The city’s history is obvious – it was named and built by Ahmed Shah the Sultan who built mosques incorporating Hindu and Muslim features, Jain temples, lavish Mughal architectural adornments and fortifications, and the colonists who rebuilt the city ravaged by infighting and famine.
Knowing Bhopal for what it truly is today, takes crossing a rather steep and tumultuous bridge. It is almost impossible to associate Bhopal with more than the ghastly tragedy of December 1984, when deadly methyl isocyanate leaked out of the Union Carbide factory killing and inflicting horrific damage on thousands. Decades later, the controversy still boils, and every now and then comes a new take on the gruesome saga.
Ernakulam is ostensibly the most progressive city in Kerala state boasting hundred percent literacy. Legend will have you believe that that the reason for its prosperity is because the gaze of a much revered goddess Pazhyannur Bhagavathi is fixed on the city, unwavering. The city lends its name to the greater district of Ernakulam synonymous to what is popularly known as Kochi.
The city of Gwalior, named after the great fort built venerating the local wise-man-saint Gwalipa, is today the capital of Gwalior district. The fort built on a plateau - the Rock of Gwalior - overlooks the city of Gwalior.
At Ranthambhore you are filled with a sense of space- desolate, silent and watching. Mysterious desert lands, awesome hills that surround, and your being geared for the next sighting of the Emperor of the Big Four. The adrenalin dance that accompanies a chance sighting is over the top and yet so real you can taste your fear and reverence.
Thanjavur is a unique South Indian temple town, in that it is the home of The Big Temple. It evokes a flavour of South India as she was hundreds of years ago and still is essentially, even today. A flavour so strong it can only be compared to the aromatic experience of South Indian degree coffee that leaves no room for allusions to other brews.
Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, and in a sense cannot be compared to the effortless beauty that the serendipity isle is known for – be it in terms of ancient history that fills the pages of every travelogue and postcard with enormous tranquil Buddhas, winding roads sneaking circuitous around hills layered in green tea plantations, golden beaches domed by island blue skies, masked dancers exorcising evil and illness, endemic wildlife or music and twists of island-spice tastes.
In Hyderabad, as indeed in all of Andhra Pradesh, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful movie. People here are so movie crazy that some of them would even forego a meal to watch one. The stars are demi-gods, movie halls their temples, and indeed every wall on every street a canvas on which to splash the most colourful movie posters imaginable! Passion is the operative word to describe almost everything the people here involve themselves in. A pickle made here will not be content being a mere pickle; it will be simply the most tongue-tingling, pungent and unforgettable one. An affluent home will not stop short of sheer opulence; a wedding will happen over not one but often 3 whole days; a movie facility will not be less than 2000 acres vast and will go the entire distance; the names of people will easily and commonly contain over 45 letters, and so on and so forth!
Kandy, the old world capital of Sri Lanka, is several gentle nudges of serendipity in a beautiful journey through time. Unlike the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, Kandy is historic but not antique. Despite its majestic preservation of culture, the ‘Royal City’ is inclusive in its modernity. Historic symbols eternalizing the history of its kings; streets lined with stalls and little one-stop shops offering everything from fragrant local spices to intricately worked local jewelry; yearlong festivals that fill the streets with colourful processions and parading elephants in traditional dress; an imposing white Buddha dominating most vistas; a timeless tradition of performing arts and crafts are only some of the features that make Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second largest city, one of the most visited tourist destinations of the island.