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Respecting the Terrain!

26 Jun

Its not just about creating a world record. Not just about social media, blogging, facebooking and interacting with the world. Not just about whiskering past territories at a breath-taking speed of 100 kmph. Not just about putting your footprint on the Indian peninsula. Not just about food. Not just about passion.

Its about endurance. Its about transformation. We’re talking about the lessons taught to us by mother nature in the Himalayan terrain. Where the roads can’t be called roads. Because they aren’t. They’re just strips of mud and stones which give you an average of 15 bumps a minute.

The terrain is rough. And tough even. Is wild. Is narrow. Is scary. In the real sense. Not for the faint hearted. No way. Then on the terrain, there are those murky truckers – with them fat trucks, refusing to bulge – reluctant to give you some leeway.

There are motor-cyclists who’re careful about balancing those 150+ kg bikes which make them look like rockstars – but when they’ve hit the road for about 30 minutes, all that rockishness immediately fades away. Don’t get us wrong – we’ve got nothing against motor-cyclists – we’re motor-cyclists too – but believe us – it ain’t easy.

Then them cars. Of all sizes. Light. Compact. Heavy even. Every one of which needs to get from point A to point B in the shortest span of time. However, if you follow the ‘shortest span of time’ route, you’re days are numbered.

On this Himalayan adventure, we learn’t to be safe. To be humble. To respect the terrain. To take it slow. Again, slow. Not easy. No. Easy would be wrong. All this because life’s just got started. We’re sure theres a lot more to been seen, experienced, lived, cherished and realized.

Blue Moon!

26 Jun

While lots of sights took us our breath away in the Himalayan Valley, one sight – that one perfect sight had us framed. Earlier when we entered Srinagar and caught the early morning sunrise, we thought we’d never get a better shot.

But then, in the valley, when we saw the moon popping up, we froze – the three of us just stared in tandem, in awe – and said to ourselves, we’ve been fortunate to witness this glorious sight from mother natures lap. That particular sight forced us to write this post.

Other than the mystical moon, we had tons to smile about in the Himalayan lap. The very sight of the valley was breathtaking. Suddenly one can feel so small – like an ant compared to a human when you stop and look at mother nature.

All of a sudden you can hear yourself  interacting with mother nature – thanking her for showing you this sight, asking her why you hadn’t come to observe and interact with her earlier, questioning yourself why didn’t you ever think about this beauty when you saw other peoples photographs with her.

One just can’t help but stop the car, look into the mountains, smile at the snow and say, lets take another picture. One more. And another one. All that jazz about breaking the record just vanishes. You just seem to indulge in nature and smile that you came this far.

You wanna stop at Zozilla Pass – at an altitude of 11649 feet. Then you wanna stop at Himank – the second coldest inhabited place in the world where in on 09th January 1995 the temperature touched a record -60 degrees. And then Fotula – the highest point in the Srinagar Leh Road.

Sometimes you just feel like stopping the car and staring at the sky. And then comes along Taglangla – the second highest pass of the world at 17,582 ft.

But then like they say, you gotta move on. Smile at life. Promise to come back again. Convince yourself that theres more on the other side. Move ahead like Columbus – to dream, to discover.

Snow Time in Leh!

25 Jun

Never before have we had such a ‘tantalizing’ experience like the one we had in Leh, Ladakh. Mountains covered with snow, freezing temperature, alert and vigilant military, tenacious bikers, excited foreigners, the calmness of the Himalayan range – you name it.

Lets get to details like what kind of altitudes we reached, and whether we had air / altitude / motion sickness, whether we found it difficult to breathe.

  • We reached 17500 feat at Taglangla in terms of altitude [Pictures coming up in our next post]
  • We got stuck in a traffic jam in the night where in we were stuck for more than six hours in our car in temperatures below -10 degrees.
  • All three of us suffered from serious altitude and air sickness. We were barely able to breathe and were freezing in the cold. Our heads ached, our stomachs cramped – how we wished we could get our feet into hot water and grab a cup of steaming Kawa. But that wasn’t to be.

All said and done, inspite of the hardships we faced, the result was sweet. We went through it and it was an experience that’ll stay with us all our lives. We’re glad we’re doing Tantalizing India!

Dal Lake in Srinagar

24 Jun

Reached Srinagar and thought we’d been on the run continuously for over 6 days, it was about time we caught up with some rest. We knew we had gained a lot of ground but it was important to maintain momentum. Kargil, Leh and Manali were up next and we knew the terrain wasn’t going to be very kind to us.

We parked our car close to Dal Lake and started negotiating with ferrymen and houseboat-wallas. A lot of them wanted to purely milk us – if you know what I mean.

All this while, an interesting character with a few grey hair was watching us closely but said nothing. We moved towards him and started talking. His name was Rahim Chacha and we quickly briefed him on what we needed – a houseboat to ourselves for four hours, some lovely kashmiri lunch a ferry ride to the houseboat.

He said he knew just the place for us and before we knew it, we were in his shikara ferrying to our houseboat. At the houseboat, we were welcomed by Mohammed Sahab who introduced himself as the owner of the houseboat. We exchanged pleasantries, had a few hearty laughs and talked about the situation in Srinagar.

We were welcomed onto the houseboat with a steaming cup of Kawa. Kawa – traditional green tea with spices and almond, is consumed all through the day in the chilled winter climate of Kashmir.

Sameer disappeared to catch up on some sleep, Ratheesh whisked Rahim Chacha away with his ferry to get a haircut and I got interacting with our fans on facebook thanks to my ever charming Apple Macbook Pro powered by Tata Photon Plus, taking and editing pictures with our Nikon D60 and writing about our experience.

The houseboat was a treat in itself – two bedrooms with attached bathrooms that flaunted bath tubs, a living room, a dining room and a balcony kinda sit-out.

At about 12:00 hrs, we were served Wazwan. Wazwan is a multi-course meal in the Kashmiri tradition. It was one of our core objectives to have Wazwan when we hit Srinagar. Shafi – our butler meticulously served us the following:

  • Kabab (Minced meat roasted on skewers over hot coals)
  • Tabak Maaz (Ribs of lamb simmered in yogurt till tender, then fried)
  • Rista (Meatballs in a fiery red gravy)
  • Lahabi Kabab (Flattened mutton kababs cooked in yogurt)
  • Doudha Ras (Mutton cooked in sweet milk gravy)
  • Rogan Josh (Tender lamb cooked with Kashmiri spices)
  • Gushtaba (A velvety textured meatball in white yogurt gravy,a specialty)

What touched us about Srinagar was it’s hospitality. Both Raheem Bhai and Mohammed Sahab were extremely humble, good hearted with a smile on their face. Shafi – explained each and every dish of Wazwan to us while he served us and made sure we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Needless to say, the beauty of Srinagar left us asking for more. But then we also had a record to break. Enjoy the pictures.

Good Morning Srinagar!

22 Jun

Done with Punjab. Rajasthan Dusted. Madhya Pradesh stamped. Our next destination – Magical Srinagar. We landed up at Srinagar this morning.

However, prior to that we were fortunate enough to witness the Sunrise about 80 kms from Srinagar. We don’t want to say much – let the pictures do the talking.

We absolutely loved the sunrise here. Never before have we seen nature smiling at us in such a fashion.

After witnessing one of our best sunrises ever, we headed to Dal lake to camp for four hours in a beautiful houseboat before embarking onto Kargil.

Keep watching this space for our update on the houseboat and Dal Lake.

3 Dudes meet a Duder | Beard Power

22 Jun

If meeting Aijaz Pathan, was intriguing, what followed next is something that we never thought we could come across against. We were catching up with Rajasthan and we’re cruising comfortably, when we spotted an age old blue colored Maruti 800 drifting along the highway with a couple of Babas in it.

Sameer’s eyes sparkled, a wry smile appeared on my face and Ratheesh waved out to the Babas and whaled out ‘Jai Bhole!’ – the Babas responded in unison and smiled. Ratheesh asked them if they could pull over to have a short conversation with us and to which they agreed.

We started talking to them and asked them where they we’re off to and they replied they were headed towards Kota in Rajasthan. Apparently, they’re avid travelers and keep driving around. So why was Tantalizing India making a blog post on a couple of Babas driving around to Kota?

Well, heres what startled us. One of the Babas had a beard which was kind of folded round n round. Upon noticing which, Ratheesh couldn’t help but ask, ‘Baba, yeh daadi…….’ to which the Baba smiled and replied ‘Yeh…….’ and he started unfolding his beard.

When the beard unfolded Tantalizing India was taken aback – Sameer was like “No way…..”, Aadil went “Holy……………” and Rathesh popped “O teri…..”. The Baba’s beard measured 5 feet and 5 inches. Again, 5 feet and 5 inches. And we’re not kidding – it was longer than the Baba’s body. He said he hadn’t touched his beard from the last 45 years and since then it was growing.

Any takers on whether Limca Book of records has anything for the longest beard in India? ;-)

Aijaz Pathan MP Wale

21 Jun

Shortly after entering Madhya Pradesh yesterday, we hit into a small village called Gandhinagar. Lots of truckers and traffic prevailed on the the highway that we barged into.

As we went a little further ahead, we noticed that a stout man – may be in his thirties very narrowly escaped death by a speeding trucker. We immediately turned around in our Ford and went about in our search of that midget.

Got into a couple of streets, a little bit of digging here and there and we found our man. They call him Aijaz Pathan. Aged 32, this guy barely managed to reach our waist in terms of height.

However, an aura of positive energy surrounded him through and through. Smiling with popping eyes, he seemed kindled and at first scared when we came about asking for him.

Initially when questioned, he told us his name was Manoj but as we soaked into a conversation, he eased out and started interacting with us. Aijaz stays in a small joint which houses his father, nine brothers and one sister.

For the last five years, he’s been working as a daily wager. He does odd jobs that earn him his daily living like transferring goods from here and there on his four wheeler cart. Previously, he used to work in a tyre manufacturing unit.

Aijaz has never travelled to any destination till date. He’s been born and brought up in Gandhinagar and has seen no other place than Gandhinagar. He states that he likes it in Gandhinagar and doesn’t really care about visiting other places.

He works from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening. Enjoys chatting with his buddies and sleeps everyday from 8 pm to 9 am. Currently unmarried, he’s proud of the fact that he makes his own living.

What we liked about Aijaz is that inspite of all the hardships he’s faced in life, his body language still elucidates confidence, keeps flashing his smile every now and then and says he’s very content and happy with life.

He stays close to Badi Masjid in Gandhinagar, Madhya Pradesh.

Jugaad in Rajasthan!

21 Jun

If you happen to visit Rajasthan, the chances are that you may come across some odd-looking vehicles zooming past the road. Something very similar happened with Tantalizing India.

We entered into Rajasthan yesterday and we’re cruising at about 50 kmph when we saw some rather cool looking unusual vehicle forms. Immediately Sameer hit the brakes, I grabbed the camera and we barged out to see what this really was.

Ratheesh was already on the guy who was driving this weird vehicle and started conversing with him while I frantically started taking pictures. Upon questioning Naresh, a local who was driving this vehicle, he brought to our notice that what he was driving is called ‘Jugaad’.

Jugaad are locally made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages of Rajasthan as a means of low cost transportation. Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which has to be used because of lack of resources.

Jugaad vehicles cost around Rs. 16,000 is what Naresh told us. They are known for having poor brakes and can not go beyond 60 kmph. They operate on a combination of kerosene and diesel fuel and are just ordinary water pump sets converted into engines.

The brakes of these vehicles very often fail and one of the passengers jumps down and applies a manual wooden block as a brake. End of the day, Rs.16,000 and you’ve got a vehicle – a four wheeler that can haul a lot of people – in real time terms – true blue ‘Jugaad’.

Happy Birthday Sameer!

20 Jun

As per our last post, the previous 24 hours had been simply wonderful. Reception by Belgaum Fans,  Surprises by our families, Dinner at Home, Radio City, Dil-E-Punjab, a whale of a time with Ronak, the works.

While we were having dinner at Mirch Masala last nite, I excused myself with Ronak and got out of the restaurant for a few minutes so that I could smuggle the birthday cake Ronak had got for us upon me and Ratheesh requesting him for Sameer’s birthday.

After dinner, we left for Gandhinagar. As soon as we got into the car, Sameer crashed since he’d driven all day long. He slept like a baby. Shortly after Gandhinagar, we made a stop, while Sameer was still sleeping and got the cake out and placed it on the bonnet of our car.

We woke Sameer up and told him that the car broke down. He woke up as if a bolt struck him with lightening and rushed out to see what was wrong. When he saw the birthday cake on the bonnet, he started smiling. And we started loading him up with some birthday bumps.

Happy Birthday Sameer! Wish you all the happiness in the world!

From Aamchi Mumbai to Apnu Amdavad!

20 Jun

We had a whale of a time when we did Mumbai to Ahmedabad yesterday.

We drove off from Belgaum at 02:15 hrs after meeting our fans in Belgaum and having a good shower at my place. A little over two days on the road and we realized what simple pleasures of life like meeting friends, family and the freshness of a good hot shower can do.

The road Belgaum – Mumbai is a delight to drive where in one can comfortably clock 100 kmph. We finished Sattara and Pune early morning after which at 08:00 hrs we decided to make a quick pitstop at the Food Mall on the Pune Mumbai Expressway. We checked into Cafe Coffee Day and ordered three steaming choco cappuccinos into which we soaked and relaxed on the oh-so-comfortable couches.

We set off after a few minutes to Aamchi Mumbai where in we did a live interview with Radio City 91.1 FM. That was the first time any of us were on air and three of us we’re thrilled. Onto Gujarat then and about 12:00 hrs we stopped for a quick brunch at a local dhaba called ‘Dil-E-Punjab’ Dhaba located at Chellar Bhata.

The Dhaba is owned and operated by Mr. Dilbagh Singh who hails from Punjab. Dilbagh Paaji has been operating this Dhaaba from 1980 and has a team of 9 people helping him run the place. We had skipped breakfast and intended to skip lunch as well so we though we’d do a quick brunch.

We asked Dilbagh Paaji what his speciality was and what he thought we should have at his place. He suggested Dil-E-Punjab da Dal Tadka. Bring it on is what we said and believe you me we were left licking our fingers.

The three of us were lost for words – the tadka – he marowed on the dal was wow!  He suggested we wash it down with some cutting chai and that exactly what we did. All this and the bill? A mere Rs.140. 6 rotis, three dal tadkas, three onion platters, three cutting chai’s and a portion of curds. We thought we had a really sweet deal.

Next up, while we were on our way to Bharuch, we noticed that a couple of cars were frantically waving us on the highway and passing on some signals. We lowered our glasses and said hi. The again signaled something which we weren’t able to decipher so we asked them to pull over.

Apparently these guys – all from Bangalore were on their way to Leh. A group of seven from various backgrounds included but not limited information technology, telecommunications, film making and DJing had taken a good 16 days off from work and their sole intention was to sulk in the beauty of Leh. ‘Leh Hogona?’ is what they had printed on their tshirts. Pretty cool stuff we thought.

Our close friend Ronak Prajapati was waiting for us when we parked in at S.G. Highway to treat us to a much awaited filling dinner at Mirch Masala in Ahmedabad. The entrees included a couple of platters of lightly skewered kebabs followed by a couple of main course dishes accompanied by cheese naans. Let me not get into the details of what we had coz if I do, I’m certain I’m gonna ask Sameer to take a U turn and head to Ahmedabad again.

For dessert, Ronak called in for a round of hot pipping jalebees which we happily greased ourselves with. We’d like to thank Ronak for taking time out and treating us to this amazing experience. He’s a fantastic guy – really!

A little after 11, we left for Gandhinagar followed by Godhra and onto Indore and Bhopal. Stay tuned!