Let me show you the beauty of Sikkim

Wanting to explore the unexplored India, Sikkim had been in my bucket list for a while. On 20th Dec, I finally got to see the dreamy landscape of the landlocked state. The curvy roads, dense forests and friendly faces – Sikkim is one of the best experiences I have had in India. People have preserved the nature, maintained utter cleanliness (you will find proper clean restrooms everywhere on road), honesty (no one ripping you off) and live a simple and happy life. They also have a great sense of driving and you will not find the lawless driving and parking rampant in other parts of India. This tiny state is bordered by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.

You will never be alone here: fascinating Kanchenjunga range above your head and the bountiful river Teesta below follow you constantly between the mountains. So, what are we waiting for, lets see it in the photographs.

Gangtok

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stony street in Gangtok Market
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Rumatek Monstery

On way to Lachung

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River Teesta

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All through the region, you can see the Buddhist prayer flags flying colorfully, celebrating the tranquility of their peaceful and simple people.
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Yak tail hair are considered sacred and white hair are sold for 10k a bunch!

Yumthang Valley

This valley blooms with rhododendrons of million colors in summer but is no less picturesque in winter, the mighty peaks and dazzling snow made it the experience of a lifetime.

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Kanchenjunga peaks cannot be described in words, I could gaze at them for hours

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Frozen waterfalls

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After the intense snow fight, we headed for some refreshments in the valley (read instant noodles and coffee at a very reasonable price) –

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Katau

This unmentioned place in all the tourist books, just km away from Lachung, was the highlight of my trip! The view from above the mountains is simply breathtaking and uncrowded. Do not miss!

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The semi-frozen waterfall made a loud gushing noise.
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Sun sets at 5 or 5:30pm at most places in the mountains!

Temi Tea Gardens

The only tea garden in the state but worth a visit!

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Pelling

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The holy lake near Pelling
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Mighty Buddha statue at the Buddha Park. The statue has a museum inside it with mesmerizing wall paintings from Buddha’s life.

That’s the beauty. Some cons though – roads are bad (due to frequent landslides) and tough (very curvy mountains). So your taxis will not travel beyond 20km/hr (yep, last day, we took an entire day to travel 200km). So, do not try to cover too much in a short time and enjoy wherever you are. Cars are the only means of transport – keep 1-2 extra days just for unforeseen travel lags. Closest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal (did I tell you West Bengal is extremely dirty and has disgusting roads). Traveling from there to Gangtok took nearly 5 hours! So, be prepared for loooong travel times.

However, just looking at these pictures (just few of the hundreds I clicked) is making me fall in love with Sikkim once again. Next time, I would want to visit Bhutan too. Some day!

  

What did I learn from writing Tretar series?

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You might remember how Tretar project started in a moment of whim. A year has gone by and I was thinking working on it has helped me become, perhaps, a better person. This is what I learned from it:

Commitment. (To know that without commitment, promises and hopes will never see the daylight)
I won’t lie that there were times when I felt like taking a short cut or skip a Tretar entry. After all, I had made the promise to write a new entry every fortnight. It was the beginning of the year and I was drunk on the promise of a new year, a change in destiny and how 2014 would be nothing but smiles. I did not think that time flies and 24 ‘make-you-feel-sublime’ posts is no joke. 24 photographs not either. I struggled to write mid-way and was tempted to cheat. That is what we do when we are happy, we make promises. But I wondered how I can cheat myself? I would skip an entry and no one would notice but I would. So, I did not give myself any option to break my commitment. And, I think that is what life is about. I have had stroke of inspirations at times (I love my entry ‘girl with a tattered jeans’ which I think is one of the best I have written) and I have had lows – but what matters to me is that I showed up and wrote whenever I had to. No matter where I was or how I was, I wrote on every 1st and every 15th. This series was a relationship with my blog and I could not let it down. If we take our commitments seriously, end results are bound to be something you can be proud of.

Patience. (To understand that Rome was not built in a day)
In an age of instant gratification, it is tempting to post short stuff on Facebook more frequently than writing longer articles or blogging. But with the success of my book and satisfaction of finishing Tretar series, I can say that beautiful things take time and patience. Longer efforts tend to produce rarer and more beautiful results which are worth the wait.

Act. (To realize that showing up is more important than perfection)
Previously, I would start writing posts but many would never get out of ‘drafts’ folder. This is because I tried to keep perfecting them and they would never match the standard I sought. With Tretar, I had deadlines and I realized that writing them on time mattered more than writing them perfectly. I would not have 24 posts if I did not have a reason to act. This is what one should follow in life and work too. Perfection is an outcome of persistence and showing up.

Fun. (If you have to do something, make it enjoyable)
I wrote every piece because it made me happy, I wrote what I wanted and how I wanted. This is the most liberating thing in the world – to do something for your own happiness without getting trapped in the scale of popularity and likes. Better yet, do things at your whim, for no rhyme or reason. Enjoy the spontaneity and novelty of such experiences.

So that was an exacting, and hence, rewarding journey of Tretar. Here are the 24 posts all in one place. Which one is your favorite?

Tretar 1, Why we look at sky
We are made of stars
Tretar 2, Back to fairy tales
Someday we come back to loving the fairy tales
Tretar 3, The People That Define Us
Four kinds of people that surround us
Tretar 4, Living the Journey
To know that the journey is the real destination
Tretar 5, the Song of the Quiet
Being comfortable with your introvert self
Tretar 6, Fighting for the Basket
Setting your priorities straight in a dialogue with your future grown up self
Tretar 7, the Gift of Darkness
Turning darkness to a gift
Tretar 8, the Wings of Faith
Technique might not make you fly but believing might
Tretar 9, Disturbing the Universe
Have the courage to defy what universe has in store for you
Tretar 10, the Curse of Choice
When you want something badly, eliminate the alternate choices
Tretar 11, Eternal Sunshine of a Worriless Mind
The priceless realization that things that make us happy have no correlation with prices
Tretar 12, I came from the Wilderness
The splendor of the wild and how we are like those animals
Tretar 13, Spirit doesn’t Retire
Because we are eternal
Tretar 14, Empathize
Because everyone has gone through a turmoil and we are better off understanding than judging
Tretar 15, a Journey on Rails
A glimpse of magical world of railway stations
Tretar 16, the Girl with the Tattered Jeans
Because things we love most can wear out and that does not mean we should stop loving them
Tretar 17, Stay True to Yourself
Don’t live someone else’s life
Tretar 18, Making Choices
An eternal tug of war between ‘should’ and ‘must’.
Tretar 19, Colors of Life
We live to experience passion, love and miracles of nature
Tretar 20, Embracing the Change
Every beautiful transformation begins from a painful change
Tretar 21, Revealing your Truth
Knowing your purpose
Tretar 22, Reasons of the Heart
Because your journey is your unique path and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else
Tretar 23, Today is my Favorite Day
Enjoy today, because it is happening
Tretar 24, You are the Universe
Stop acting small, you are the Universe in ecstatic motion

  

Tretar 24, You are the Universe

[This post is the last post in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

A year and 23 posts later, it is time for me to write the 24th. No doubt I shall put a piece of my heart into it.

It is not happy people who are thankful but it is the thankful people who are happy. On that note, I am thankful for every experience, travel, and moment this year. Good or bad, it is what life is about and it is about how we respond to things.

I would like to share this insightful cockroach theory by Sundar Pichai-

At a restaurant, a cockroach suddenly flew from somewhere and sat on a lady.
She started screaming out of fear. With a panic stricken face and trembling voice,she started jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach.
Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group also got panicky. The lady finally managed to push the cockroach away but …it landed on another lady in the group.
Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama.

The waiter rushed forward to their rescue.

In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waiter.
The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt. When he was confident enough, he grabbed it with his fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.

Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior? If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed?

He handled it near to perfection, without any chaos. It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.

I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it’s my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me. It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.

More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

Lessons learnt from the story: I understood, I should not react in life. I should always respond. The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.

To this point of ‘it is my response that matters’, I turn to Rumi-

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.Rumi

Katau Sunset

I recently visited few pristine places in a northeastern state of India – Sikkim. The Himalayas (including Kanchenjunga) line the landlocked state that borders with China, Tibet and Bhutan on 3 sides. The sheer size of Himalayas around there makes you feel that nature and universe are so big and you are a glorifying speck of that same universe. Call it a sweet coincidence but my book ended with a conversation in Himalayas and so did my year. This quote of Rumi and this image of the gorgeous peaks remind me that nothing I do or react shall belittle who I am. Whenever you are tempted to react angrily or shout or be mean, ask yourself if it befits the person God has made you to be? Whenever you are ready to throw in the towel, ask yourself if you are really that fragile. I bet a booming voice will answer you back – ‘You are better than that. Heck, you are created by the same hand that created this beautiful world and life. Justify that creation, act as per your stature.’

Be gracious, just like the universe. Be your magnificent self that you were created to be. In storms of your life, stand tall. Don’t let anything or anyone reduce you for you are born to be grand and may you always remember that.

A very very happy new year to you!

  

Tretar 23, Today is my Favorite Day

[This post is the twenty-third in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

If I could unravel myself in this moment, I would. I would tell you the secret to life. I am an enthusiastic photographer and have captured a lot of moments. While I love my photographs, I also am wary of creating memories – because memories, no matter what, make you wistful. Whenever I look at a beautiful scene in my archives, I remember the good stuff. For example, this photograph from US Route 1 in California (supposedly one of the most scenic routes) is a picture perfect moment. It would seem that the past was so glorious and you are comparing every moment of your present with it. This is because we tend to romanticize memories. Try it out. Whenever you look at an old photograph, you would feel that it was the golden past and present can never match up to it. The fact is you would have felt exactly the same when you were living this same golden moment.

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Our ads, movies, those emotional whatsapp messages are all built around this theme – glorifying the past and being emotional – trying to offload your responsibilities by thinking that the good times have gone by. We like to victimize ourselves but the fact is we are constantly losing our present in this tug between ‘what was’ and ‘what can be’. Such a cliche message and yet I feel that this Tretar series would be incomplete without this one request to my readers – Please unburden yourself of the past and future. Live in the moment. While it is critical to unburden yourself of the hurt of the past, it is also important to not carry around the weight of a past that always seem better than it really was.

And this very moment (even if it is in my not so fancy room as this gorgeous California cliff) is as glamorous as any past I can invoke. In this silence of the night and company of the people I care for in my thoughts, I can smile. I created something in this moment and for me, that is more beautiful than watching a sunny sparkling day. I don’t want to wait for a day in future when I will read this and think – oh, that time was so perfect! I would rather say that right now – This is so perfect!

“Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
A.A. Milne

  

My awesome interaction with Professor Damodaran

What makes some men so unforgettable and awesome? I believe humility is the defining quality of a great man. I have always been a fan of Professor Aswath Damodaran, the famous Corporate Finance teacher at NYU Stern – my Alma Mater. He is one of the two Profs I referred to in my post Teacher.

He is a master at his subject, great with students. I remember his prompt replies whenever I emailed him from school or my job for a concept related to Corporate Finance. But what has truly blown me over is this little email exchange I had with him.

This is what I emailed-

Dear Prof Damodaran,

I hope you are doing awesome.
I was a fulltime MBA student in Class of 2012. However, I dropped out after the first year (after having taken your Corp Fin) class when I got a great job at a startup. I eventually wanted to come back to India and start something of my own. I did come back in 2012, tried out few things, have finally found financial independence which gives me time to write – which is my bigger passion. I ended up publishing a spiritual fiction novel that has received good feedback. And while that is far far away from Corp Fin, I did want to send you a copy as I have always looked up to you as a great teacher and source of inspiration.
So, it would be great if you could send me your mailing address or if you prefer a kindle version, please let me know which email address should I send it on.

Thanks for everything,
Nistha

And I got this reply in less than 10 minutes-

Thank you. This will be a first time I will be reading a spiritual fiction novel but it sounds like something worth trying. I just bought it on Amazon. I am glad that you have found your passion and hope that you keep writing.

I have very high respect for good teachers and he is as good as you can expect a mortal to be.

Update: I exchange couple more emails with him and this one goes one step forward-

Nistha,
You write well and from your heart. In my book, that makes you a success. Of course, it is a bonus when other people read you and like what you write. (You should be proud about the nine five-star reviews for your book.. though I know that you would have been happy even if they had not given you the reviews).