Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Alpine Adventure

The Volvo was speeding towards Yash Chopra land. With my nose firmly stuck to the window of the bus, my eyes were busy soaking in the vast stretches of verdant greens. I was expecting Madhuri Dixit to surface any minute, running around in a flirty chiffon with Lata Mangeshkar’s lalaaaa lalalaaa reverberating in the background. All I saw was potty trained, fat cows and beautiful chalets dotting the landscape. Sitting next to me was my better half, snoring softly. The one, I had waited all my life to complete my sentences. To look deep into my eyes and whisper “you complete me’. This was before Jerry Maguire stole our line and bared his heart to his much ignored secretary.

We were on our second honeymoon, to what lesser mortals call Switzerland. Seven summers back we decided that we wanted to embark on a duniya dekho trip. Since it was our first trip to the Continent, we decided to play safe and chose a readymade package from a reputed leisure Travel Company. And why not, it promised the sun and the moon with a host of glitzy locales thrown in. It sounded like a pretty good deal.

So here we were, a motley crew from Kanpur to Kozhikode heading towards the land of chocolate and cheese. The word excitement falls short of describing what I was feeling. To be amidst straight- out- a- calendar splendour. So captivatingly beautiful that you almost forgot to breathe. The snow capped Alps, crystal clear lakes, glacier fed streams gurgling merrily, emerald green slopes dotted with pretty alpine villages, heritage buildings, cobbled streets, the sound of cowbells tinkling merrily – Switzerland seems like God’s own abode!

I knew I was in Zurich, when a portly gent from Ludhiana started hollering on his mobile. He urgently wanted to inform his beloved friends and family that he had reached Jurich and Yahan ka temperature minus jeero hai! Actually we had quite a few unique specimens in our bus. The newly- wed femme fatale screaming “Janooo... chaarries” at a supermarket in Germany only to be interrupted with a “but Aunty these are strawberries”. The solemn looking Doctor from West Bengal who would start jumping around like a pogo stick after downing a few glasses of wine...The penny wise Mumbaikar who survived on packets of Haldiram bhujiya but went mad shopping for handbags at Interlaken... And of course me, getting my kicks by observing the antics... Our co-passengers were thoroughly entertaining.

We were going to stay in Engelberg, a charming village at the foot of Mt Titlis- a glacier paradise peak famed for its skiing. Our hotel set in a mountain side gave us a vantage view of this picture-pretty hamlet. But the best part was the hotel’s own railway car. Imagine going up to your hotel in a small carriage, on a railway track? It required immense self-control on my part, not to jump up and down like an excited kid let loose in Disneyland!
Next morning we were crunching our way on the snow covered slopes of Mt Titlis. The sight of vast stretches of snow can get a little intimidating. You realize your teeth are chattering faster than a Concorde and this even after you are covered up like an Eskimo. For the first time in my life, I was missing a monkey cap. But it doesn’t take too much to warm up to snow. One minute, I was gingerly trying to make snowballs and failing miserably and the next minute, I was clutching a sled and getting ready to zip down a glacier track! The joy of going down a slope in full speed, the powdery snow caressing your face, your arms flailing in abandonment and you realize that you are screaming with unbridled joy!

After two days of a hectic itinerary, which covered Jungfrau (Europe’s highest altitude railways station), Lucerne and Interlaken, we finally got a day to ourselves. Freedom from a water-tight schedule was an unexpected windfall. But we were in a fix – what do we do to make most of our day? Do we travel to a new city, do we loiter around at the local market and shop for made-in-China Swiss mementoes? Or should we just relax. Now relaxing is something we Indians abhor, especially when we are on a vacation. For us it’s a matter of prestige, how much we have managed to cram in day! What! You covered just Louvre and Eiffel Tower today. Bunty and I took a river cruise, shopped at Galleries Lafayette, went to Disneyland, walked up all the way to Sacre Coeur and watched a show at the Lido! And now my back is killing me and I can’t feel my toes. Such fun, na?

We just had an evening to chart out hectic plans for the next day. We were scurrying around like lost rabbits in the hotel lobby, when we saw a young guy playing piano in a quiet corner. It helped that he was very good looking. But when you are married, you say a silent yayy!, look lovingly at your husband and exclaim –“how beautifully he plays”. It turned out he had a beautiful voice as well.

Has it ever happened with you? When you meet a person and feel you have known him all your life. There we were, three of us, talking animatedly, sharing stories, singing our favourite Eagles numbers, oblivious to the rest of the world. An Indian, he had been in Switzerland for quite a while and had covered most of it in the famed Swiss Rail. I can still recall the way he described Berne’s old town. The way his eyes shone as he spoke about the arcaded walkways, streets decked with fountains and the ancient clock towers. I saw Berne through his eyes. And then he described this angelic site in our own little town – a series of waterfalls at its outskirts. We now had a plan and what’s more we’d just had one the most amazing evenings. It was past midnight when we reluctantly made our way to our rooms.

The waterfalls were spectacularly beautiful and so was the walk that took us past an ancient monastery, lush fields and sparkling streams. We even managed to get lost in a forest and I almost gave the chef of a local bistro, a heart attack. You are not expected to jump with joy, when the chef places an almost alive fish, sitting mermaid style, staring accusingly at you with its dead fish eyes and expects you to chomp it up! You shriek right? So loud that the chef hastily removes the fish and goes running back to the kitchen. So fast that I am convinced he broke an Olympic record.

That evening, I spent hours next to the window of my hotel, listening to the valley reverberate to the sounds of an alpine horn. I sighed, as my eyes took in the panoramic views one last time. Next morning as we were about to leave for France, our next stop, I was desperately seeking our friend. I wanted to thank him and bid a final adieu. He was nowhere to be seen. There were no good byes exchanged, no warm handshakes and I left with just memories of laughter and melody.
Expedia, I hope you are sending me back to Switzerland
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97 comments:

  1. Ha....interesting read Auntius and that subtle nudge to Expedia might help. ;)
    The tour packages kind of suck. But then you also get to meet such awesome characters.
    By the by, you should write for TLC Magazine

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    1. I don't mind, as long as they are sending me to beautiful destinations. Is anybody listening!!!

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  2. Good one there, but looking at your previous track record, I was hoping for something that had a less travelogue-ish feel. :)
    Keep it up!

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    1. Oops...I always have a tough time writing travelogues :)

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  3. I agree with Sameer here...this looks like a diary entry for the most part...except the start...but still well written

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    1. Ahh well...One is always learning.

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  4. The heaven on earth, Switzerland! The unsurpassed beauty, the memories of which came back through your post:)Best of luck, Purba!

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    1. I found Germany and France as beautiful. They do have similar landscapes. Even English countryside is extremely pretty.

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  5. Pls tell me you actually went to Berne. Its the most beautiful city in Switzerland, not to be seen thru anyone's eyes no matter how handsome they are. And didja see the DDLJ standee at Titlus? And the hindi signs- I did a double flip when I saw them and had very mixed proud patriotic/ let-down about untouched beauty feelings about it. And the ice cream! If u are still there have a coffee frapuccino ice cream cup from any local migros store (its a gold cup). Spoiled me for ice cream forever. And have tomato and mozarella sandwich at Lucerne station. And shed 2 nostalgic tears for me when u do....Oh yes, I stayed in Switzerland (lausanne) for one very memorable year.

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    1. All the more reason that I should go back! Because I missed Berne. And yep...Switzerland loves flaunting it's Bollywood fixation - the Bollywood cafe...Sehwag and his wife's honeymoon pics at Jungfrau...

      And my trip was way back in 2005. Damn! I feel like a fool now. The coffee frapuccino ice cream, sounds like heaven :(

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  6. did u not see raj yaar..wahee yaar apna raaaja- simran wala

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    1. I guess I did. Can't seem to recollect though.

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  7. I took a trip to Yash Chopra land, courtesy this post. And I would love to see you in a monkey cap...:)
    Good luck for a third honeymoon!

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    1. Err...wish me luck for the fourth. My third was in Belgium-Netherlands and Norway :-)

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  8. Lovely! Wish they send you back and you could meet him again:) Beautiful clicks. Good luck with the contest, Purba!

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  9. Isn't that first photo from Lauterbrunnen or somewhere around there? I had an awesome visit to Switzerland too and it was in October-end .. just when the colors were all the more breath-taking. How I wish I had put together a travelog just like you did!

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    1. Yuss...that's the place. And I took seven years to write this one. I am sure you"ll take less time :p

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  10. "For us it’s a matter of prestige, how much we have managed to cram in day" .... reminded me of my first trip with a bunch of people to Vienna. Their morning task used to be ... how many "points" to cover that particular day. It was my first and last trip with them :)

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    1. So was mine..My first and last conducted tour.

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  11. Lovely account. I am so tempted. But what I really want to do is live in Paris. Bake under a famous chef & sip coffee with croissants at one of those street side cafes. And then eventually open one of my own. Dream dream .... & so off the topic.

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    1. Sweetheart please bake macaroons in pretty colours and make dark chocolate tarts. Will come to your cafe everyday to sip coffee and get fat.

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  12. I love Titlis !!

    and especially the "DDLJ" cutout right outside the snow ;-) :D

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    1. Damn! how did I manage to miss that.

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  13. Living in switzerland for about a year..and still so excited to read this one from you...This place is heaven...Mt titlis is one of the hottest destination under the tour packages, but there are many places, which are a bit under the radar, but still as good a place as any. I have seen all the seasons here and the beauty is different every time....

    Yes, the first pic is of Lauterbrunnen, that waterfall was frozen when we went there few weeks back..! :D

    'Jurich and Yahan ka temperature minus jeero hai!!! Haha....

    If you ever plan again, chuck the travel agency...Exploring is much better! :P

    Good Luck :)

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    1. Kunal this was my first and last packaged tour. Since then we have always planned our own trips to Europe,far East and the US :-)

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  14. Chandni! Oh Meri Chandni? Lovely post, and I had very bad experiences with a travel package, so I'll probably never be coaxed into it again.

    The one place I really want to see, because of a Hindi movie is the tulip gardens in the Netherlands. Silsila and the acres of flower beds really make me want to go there. :)

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    1. Shonaa....mere Shonaa in Sridevi's squeaky voice, scarred me for life!

      And you have to head for Keukenhof between March and May. We managed to make it only in June and missed the spectacle.

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  15. Purba,

    Thanks for such elaborate virtual trip. It was really enjoyable, specially antics of co-passengers. Hope you do get your wish to visit that beautiful place again.

    Take care

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    1. I hope so too....4 days were not enough to cover this beautiful country :-)

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  16. he he he Jurich and jeero reminded me of a joke i share with my senior when i call our my collor number i say __ JERO _ _ JERO Eight .. :)


    wow you been to switzerland , excellent :)

    good luck with the contest ..


    Bikram's

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    1. The Ray family loves travelling and thank you for your wishes!

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  17. Purba, this is so beautifully written, I really ask you to write some stories based on your travelling experiences..

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    1. Ohh....so glad and relieved that you liked it Bhavana :-)

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  18. Your account reminded me of the film Honeymoon Travels. Well, kind of ;-)

    The first time I heard the alpine horns, all 12 of them I nearly jumped out my skin as I was standing pretty close to them and did not realise how loud they could be !

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    1. I remember that movie, it was a delightful watch :-) But what to do, we are like that only - we are loud, uncouth, friendly, funny - anything but boring.

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  19. The tongue tour of the country was interesting no doubt, but what set me rolling is the description of the accompanying Kanpur to Kozhikode serving garnished with flavours from Ludhiana.The topping.... “Janooo... chaarries” “but Aunty these are strawberries”.... way to go Purba !!

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    1. Hehehe! there were so many anecdotes, I have lost count of them...And seriously, all of them were characters!

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  20. Switzerland is indeed a heaven in it's own. Zurich is the city I started my life after marriage and been there for 2 years. I have loads of fond memories travelling length and breath of Schweiz.
    Jurich ij a nije city na! The snippets of the small characters that accompanied you is beautiful. Yeah..and why do we want to proudly say that we "COVERED" so many places rather than saying "we've seen this and enjoyed". For us quantity is always first. Everywhere we go, we need to take that particular picture that carries the name of the country or city or place at the backdrop for the sake of saying friends "Been there, done that"!! Gosh!
    Hilarious account of travelling.

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    1. We prefer long, leisurely holidays. And I personally feel, the best way to cover a city is on foot :-)

      Thankfully this conducted tour was our first and last.

      And you lived in Zurich for two years! Wow..

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  21. All the best for the contest. The journeys are always interesting by the people one meets. Switzerland is on my list of travel too :).

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    1. It's only when you are on your own , you connect more with people.

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    2. True! But, of late when I travel, I try to strike conversation with the local driver, boatman, restaurant owner and the tales are good :). It helps if some local person is a friend, though not always possible on trips abroad.

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  22. it was a superb post
    i feel to be in switzerland and feel the coldness when reading this post.

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    1. I hope you were wearing woollens? :D

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  23. Wow!! Can't say more.

    Lovely photos.

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  24. Ah...heaven on earth...Switzerland......well written post..

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  25. Best wishes for the contest!! Nice pictures and account. Hats off if you were able to contain your excitement :D

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    1. Ha! Naah...I actually didn't :)

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  26. Purba thanks for taking me to Switzerland...when will you get me back to India? My family is missing me.

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    1. Hahaha! Only after you've had kilos of the sinful chocolate.

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  27. Pictures and the narrative, all in superb sync. Words fail me,all in all, an excellent compilation.

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    1. Humbled by your effusive words of appreciation.

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  28. awesome read..

    i was so very close to see heaven on earth while i was in Europe but unfortunately missed going there :-(

    loved this post Ma'm and thanks for making me visit Switzerland through this post!

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    1. So many picturesque destinations in Europe, too bad they are so expensive!

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  29. eh.., till now i just had Singapore in mind and now by reading this my 'should-visit-places' has included Switzerland too.:)

    @purba: good narration.:)

    @Vaish: 'For us quantity is always first'-- so true. Every one knows "quality is more important than quantity", but still they follow the former, crazy word.

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    1. Singapore is ok...I recommend Malaysia, especially Langkawi.

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  30. The charm and serene beauty of Switzerland was flowing through your writing. It was fun reading your accounts of an entertaining bunch of co-passengers. The wonderful evening listening to the piano guy, talking to that wonderful friend; exciting next day on your own; and at the window, reminiscing on the final evening: a wonderful trip indeed. :)

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    1. And he summarized my entire post in his few lines :-)

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  31. Seems like you had a good time in Jurich :P

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  32. now i shouldn't have visited you, Purba!

    this is so beautifully described that I'm almost upset that my hubby hasn't taken me to Yash Chopra land yet :(

    off to give him a piece of my mind....

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    1. Hehe....threaten to sing Chandni-Sridevi style :D

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  33. Hilarious in parts and touching in others!! Such people we meet on our travels do leave lasting impressions on us... Would love it if you read my experience and share your thoughts :)

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    1. Sure, would love to read about yours :)

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  34. With such detailed descriptions and an amazing narrative style, I am sure you will make a good travel writer.You should try your hand at it quite often.
    Hope you bump into your friend someday and we end up reading that story here, that would be perfect example of what our lives are: a full circle!

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    1. To be frank Arnab, I couldn't even recollect his name! LOL

      And the thought of writing travelogues, scares me no end. It's tough not to make your narrative sound like a drab report.

      I'm not sure how far I have succeeded :-)

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  35. Loved the short and crisp description of the co-travellers. Vintage Purba!

    Wish you the best for the contest, but wait, it comes with a rider -- it won't be your fourth honeymoon, but you will have to tag me along. Poor me!

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    1. Let me start counting the eggs, before they hatch :D

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  36. OOps, 'poor me' is not for going with you, but you know why, don't you?

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  38. Refreshed my memories with my wife in Switzerland.... any pic you click there turns out to be awesome.

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    1. Geez, we Indians love Switzerland, don't we!

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  39. So here's a wave from an old regular, who decided to hibernate for a while..Was going through one post after the other on my Google Reader and I realised how much I'd missed in over a year I have been under the radar. But in this year, I did some travelling, a bit of seeing the world - your post is inspiring me to pen them down too..:)

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    1. And so glad to have you back! Looking forward to reading the chronicles of the Chronic Nomad :)

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  40. Hi Purba, I found your blog hilarious and yet so captivating in its observations. I read only the last 4 posts, but I think I can spend hours here going through your writings. Following you now!

    I recently started a blog about books and book reviews. Can you please have a look at it? http://riversihaveknown.wordpress.com/

    If you like the blog and think I can make it work, please do become a follower. I'm looking forward to your feedback, so that I can improve.
    Hoping you like the blog as much as I liked yours!

    thanks, Amritorupa Kanjilal

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    1. Will take a look at your link soon. And thank you for following my blog.

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  41. You excel in writing travelogues. With your trademark humor, it doesn't get boring at any point. It's a 'Jeero'boring post!.

    Sometimes the people whom you travel with turn out to be more interesting than the place you visit.

    The very first post I read here is a travelogue, and this is yet another brilliantly written post.

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    1. Really! And I used to think I suck at writing travelogues. But now I insist on taking you seriously. Excuse me, while I do the silent jig :D

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  42. Wow..Now I saw Engelberg through your eyes...I also have this crazy habit of watching fellow travellers plus I make up my own stories about them...
    So can we expect a France story as well?

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    1. A shameless voyeur, I love observing people. Far more interesting that indulging in inane banter.

      France was fun too. Who knows I might when inspiration strikes :-)

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  43. Nice blog-travelling for me though .. after a long time , though I can't travel that much ...being an IT guy ..it has always been .home to office and back.. affair ..and weekends are resting ..no going away ..tires completely to charge the battery for the next.

    Great ..Travelling experience ..and nice snaps ..."Thoda Aur .pics add karo tussi". in 2 pics kaise kaam chalega ..

    Happy Holi wishes :) Enjoy.

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    1. I'm sure there"ll come a stage when you will be able to take time out for things you enjoy.

      And Happy Holi to you :-)

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    2. Ya when I'll meet someone ...spcl ..may be then I will try ;)

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  44. I think its a horrible horrible mistake to even attempt reading your posts in a silent library, I just laughed out loud and got some disapproving stares :)

    And you just saved the best bit for the end...super awesome Purba!

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    1. And after reading your comment, my smile stretched from East Coast to West :-)

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  45. Lived it. Loved it. That is all

    =)

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  46. Madame. Where is the French part of your travelogue? That would interest me more since I can show off, "Oh.. So you did not go there? When I was in Paris, I did this at so and so place. Too bad you missed it."

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