Is traveling your passion or is it doodling on that canvas? Have you always wanted to pack those floaters and pajamas in your backpack? Felt like clicking anything and everything that you come across?
theharikumar.com brings you an all new section wherein, I will be interviewing people who have put their passion over their profession. People who are living their passion- writers, photographers, filmmakers, travelers, artists, chefs, etc. from all over the world, sharing their experiteence.
In this interview, I talk to Nivedita Basu from Bengaluru, India
“The most precious moments are never in your memory card.”
Nivedita, thanks for taking the time to talk with me on theharikumar.com! Could you start by introducing yourself to my readers?
And every time I am called upon to break the ice I keep searching for the Ice-Axe. Probably, I am the proverbial Jack of all trades and the Master in Science (Don’t take it literally though. That’s the degree I earned back in 2011).
I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and trying really hard to prefix the title of Dr. to my name (Yes! I dream meager but I dream solid).
I am a bunch of different things. I keep juggling with different roles and responsibilities and I try really hard to give my best to every single one of them (Excuse me if I sound like Shahrukh Khan). But if you ask for a single word definition of me, I would go for ‘traveller’ because that defines my soul, my spirit and my outlook towards life most befittingly.
We met at IISC Bengaluru couple of years back at a litfest. I had no idea that you were a travel enthusiast back then. When did you start traveling? Was traveling always your passion?
As far as I remember, I think we hardly interacted during the litfest. We were on different sides of the table seeing the world with different filters (Pardon my bad scientific reference). You were the speaker and I was the seeker.
OK! Coming to the point, I think I started traveling (in my mind) when I first set my eyes upon the Pyramid of Giza at the age of 12 maybe.
I don’t know the exact moment when traveling became my passion. I gave my all to ‘travel’ and it gave me back the ‘passion’ to travel more. Give and take, you see.
From a scientist to being a writer! How has your profession contributed to your passion of traveling?
Science taught to time travel and Literature taught me to mind travel. Don’t tell me you don’t see the connection. And if I have to literally answer your question, then I must tell you that my country counter spiked up from a meagre 5 to a whoopping 21 because I was awarded the Raman Charpak Fellowship in 2015 (of course PhD came to my aid in clinching the fellowship) due to which I had to shift base to Paris for 7 months. The wanderlust in me, armed with a Shenanigan Visa, got a larger playground all thanks to my profession.
21 countries and counting, wow! Tell us about the places you have been to.
You mean the countries? I will list their names down for you. You know, it is always a pleasure (Feels like showing off the Padmashree I did not get)-
India (to start with), Nepal, Bhutan, Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway. Ok! I will stop. You know, it’s hard. It just rolls off my tongue.
If you had only one day to live, where will you spend that day?
I want to breathe my last in the Himalayas. I fantasize my end. A bright suuny day, clear blue sky, green rolling hills adorning the rugged snow-capped Himalayan peaks. I, amongst them, giving up on the last inhalation. Come on! It is not sadistic at all. We had no control on our birth. We will have little control on our death. All we can do is imagine our end and it is absolutely fine to do so.
Travelling is incomplete without 3 things- Vivid Food, Companionship of Books & Precious Photography. Which one is your favourite among the three?
I am a through and through bookworm but while travelling I only read a book while I am waiting for a train or a bus or in the flight or while the train is passing through a tunnel because I am always afraid of missing out on something out there. I always have a book or two in my backpack but I keep forgetting reading them because nothing can be a better teacher than the places I travel to. I am a big foodie too but while travelling I don’t eat fancy food (unless it an absolute must like the Belgium fries, the Austrian goulash or the Polish pierogi) in order to save up for a bus or train ticket to a new place.
Cutting the long story short (After I am done with the story of course. That, my friend is called literary irony), I will vote for Precious Photography. I completely loved it when you said Precious Photography because photographs are indeed the most precious things from a trip apart from the sun burn or the chapped knee.
Your Instagram account is full of mind blowing photographs (My personal favorite is the one where… Oh wait.. That’s the second best… ok I am confused, all of them are just mind-blowing). Which 3 photographs from your Instagram account would you pick, if I were to ask you about the most precious travel moments in your life?
The most precious moments are never in your memory card. The unexpected gleeful sunshine unleashing an azure blue sky that adorns the ocean in a deep blue veil, the hurried shower leaving behind that inexplicably sweet, shoddy smell of wet mud, that sudden moment of liberation, that irregular burst of wind suddenly serving you freedom for starter, that unanticipated compliment from a stranger sitting across you, that out-of-the-blue beer date with your hostel roommate.
The most precious moments are always so unheralded that they inevitably manage to escape the lens.
However, if you ask me to choose the 3 most favourite photographs from my instafeed, I will choose the following three in no particular order:
That #proud #moment when you have done it and you can leisurely look at the other side with a sense of achievement in your #heart and an edgy feeling in your head. #travel #traveling #travelblogger #travelphotography #travels #instatravel #hiking #hikingadventures #trekking #nepal #himalayas #love #life #snow #landscape #instagramhub #instagood #instagram #followme #followforfollow #instapic #wanderlust #asiangirl
My first tryst with The Himalayas which etched an eternal love story.
We all want #freedom We all want to #fly like a #bird in azure #blue #sky We are so captivated by the idea of freedom that we convince ourselves to believe that we can do anything for it. But have anyone ever felt absolutely free? I did. One fine #winter day I was #traveling from #brussels to #bruges by #train The train was passing through #beautiful belgian #countryside which looked perfect in the balmy sunlight. The colors of #nature were accentuated by the perfect blue sky. I wanted to share this perfect moment with someone but I was #all #alone in the train among strangers. And suddenly I did not find freedom sweet anymore. However, like always, I did not give on the idea of freedom. When I finally reached Bruges, the weather wasn’t perfect anymore. The sun was covered by black clouds. While walking around I thought of hiring a #bicycle and ride to Damme a small village about 8 kms away from Bruges. And by the time I reached the hiring station it started to rain but I still thought of going ahead with my plan. No #map , no real plan, no objective in head I started #cycling Initially I felt cold, unsure and lost but as the wind slowly started blowing on my face and the rain splashing on my jacket, I felt absolutely free. I felt freedom so close that I could almost touch it. Freedom is not a picnic. The path to freedom isn’t easy. It comes in the form of adverse situations and convince us to give up and remain slaved to the idea of society, rules and etiquettes. But once we go beyond convention and start challenging the norms freedom exhilarates us. The ecstacy of being free is so powerful that we will never want to get shackled ever again. #travel #travelgram #travelphotography #followforfollow #instatravel #followme My bike #series continues
My first bike tour through the much famed European countryside.
Straight out of a fairy tale. That’s how I would describe my trip to Switzerland.
When it comes to food, tell us something interesting that you have had during your adventures.
There are uncountable food moments that I absolutely cherish. But the three most remarkable ones are (the order is according to the timeline of occurrence):
- Space-cake (I am hoping, fingers crossed, that it can be considered as food, because the experience after having it was definitely interesting) in one of the most visited cafes in The Netherlands.
- Swordfish Carpaccio (Wasn’t the best thing I had but what happened in the subway after having it makes it the title clincher) in this wonderful cafe in Riomaggiore, Italy.
- Spanish Tapas (more because of the entire experience than just the taste) in a tiny Tapas bar in Barcelona.
As an end-note if you talk of food, I think nothing can beat Indian cuisine; the variety, the spices, the aroma, the taste – everything about it is so divine that an Indian taste bud becomes resistant to satisfaction.
Paris and Pisa are two cities that I would love to visit. How was your experience in these historic European cities that boast of some incredible ‘towers’?
For me, a place is always more than historic monuments, famous landmarks, extravagant architectures and gigantic towers. To me, a place is more about the vibes, the colours, the people, the streets, the sights, the smells and that inherent warmth in every little interaction. I was in Paris for 7 months and I don’t know how it unknowingly became home. I initially did not like Paris much. Not that it wasn’t pretty, not that there was a dearth of exquisite architecture, not that Paris was falling short of panache, not that the wines did not stand up to my expectation but there was a lack in the warmth (of course I am not talking about the temperature which was pretty low when I first landed in Paris) we are so familiar with in the streets of India. However, as days passed into months I started finding coziness in quaint cafes, the cobbled streets, the army of trees lining the footpath and the red tapestries of Paris. And I realized that the warmth is in wanting to fall in love with mundane things about a place that you slowly learn to call home. The warmth is in the ability to fall in love with a city. And I was indeed in love with Paris.
About Pisa, I was there twice and each time it welcomed me with so much geniality. I think the Italian crowd has an ingrained cordiality that makes me feel instantly at home as an Indian. And of course, Pisa has great coffee, gelato and Pizza (apart from the leaning tower) which so obviously makes it unbeatable.
I think I love #italy a #little more than the other #european nations because of its very evident similarities with #india The inherent warmth of the #people , the cacophony of sounds and the spicy palette… I think I have a clear #favourite #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #traveling #tourist #eurotrip #pisa #sunset #sky #tuscany #traveler #instagood #instatravel #instagram #insta #follow #followme #followforfollow #instalike #wanderlust #goodlife
Hamare desh mein toh Hindi, angrezi sab chal jaati hain… But you must have heard dozens of languages or more while you were in different places. Have you ever faced problems when you couldn’t speak the lingua franca of the locals?
I think, being an Indian has its own advantages. When you are born and brought up in a country which has over 22 official languages you are hardwired to make it through pretty much any given situation. Accordingly, I always got what I wanted.
And I think everyone can get what they want as long as they know what they actually want. Language and for that matter nothing can never be a barrier in experiencing what you want to (Trust me I smuggled not a trace of White Widow from Amsterdam).
Here’s a question that many aspiring backpackers would love to ask you: How do you manage your family jobs and funds for traveling around the world?
I keep getting that question. And I have this clichéd reply tucked safely underneath my tongue. It is all about the willingness to travel. No matter how stereotypical that may sound it is actually the only thing you will ever need. Because when you are willing to travel, you will be more receptive of opportunities that you otherwise completely ignore. If you are willing to travel you will walk that extra mile to make way for travel. If you are willing to travel you will put in that extra effort to make the travel happen to you. If you are willing to travel everything else will fall into place.
I am no spiritual guru or your modern day monk and I don’t want to sound like Rahul Gandhi (Of course poverty is not a state of mind) but the fact that you can travel if you want to remains intact. I am a PhD student living off a paltry government fellowship. So, no one knows better. I spend most of my earnings on travel. And I don’t wait for more money to travel more. I borrow money to travel if necessary and pay back when money comes back to me. Once a friend told me, “No money is yours or mine. It is a liquid commodity and it will keep flowing between the ends of this world.” I loved what he said and I stick to that thought process. You cannot be rich with money. You can only be rich in experiences. I know, some might think, “Oh! Sounds good in story books”, but then what would you do with a trunk full of money when you have a PM like Narendra Modi.
And of managing family and job, I think the former is easier to manage and the later is easier to quit to suit your needs.
On an average how much do you spend in your travels? Which was your most costly affair?
I am a budget traveler. But I am not very calculative to find out the average of my travels. That is pretty tedious if you think. You have to make a sum total of your expenses on all the travels you have made so far and then make a sum total of all your travels and divide the former with the later. Come on. I am calling quits.
If you ask me about my costliest affair I would say a trip to Cinque Terra and Tuscany. I missed the flight to Pisa because I had emptied a lot of bottles the previous night and I had to book the only available flight to Florence the same morning. I reached Cinque Terra so late that I could not make it to the cheap hotel I had booked via a booking site and had to instantly book a hotel that was available (which was pretty off my budget) and I ended up paying for both the hotel I could not make it to and the hotel I eventually stayed at. It was one hell of a trip.
What advice would you give to a backpacker who is still planning to start her first trip?
I don’t know what you are waiting for. Just go for it. Life is waiting to happen to you. Let it happen. No one can be a better teacher, a better healer, a better companion and better judge than your travel spirit. Travel will teach you the finer things that nothing else can teach you. It will expand your horizon of experiences and enable you to see things which you will otherwise never be able to see. It will make you more acceptable of the world around you. It will make you more knowledgeable and less judgemental. It will help you make peace with yourself.
Pack your bag and get going.
Which is your next travel destination, when are you going there and what inspired you to visit it?
I hate sharing my travel plans. I love going to beautiful places without telling anyone because I believe people spoil beautiful things. And hence you will never find me checking-in on Facebook like most people or sharing my next destination on Instagram unlike most Instagrammers. I come back with stories, photographs and mementos from my trips which I love to share though. So, once I done with my next travel, I will let you know where I was off to with my posts on Instagram.
How about India? Has India inspired you for an length and breadth tour (or have you already done that)? Tell our readers about the best places in India which they should check out.
I don’t know if you know already but this year my New Year resolution was to learn driving and drive all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari all by myself. Though 2016 is not yet over, I don’t think I can make it happen this year. Like most resolutions, it will go down the drain. However, I am not giving up. That is definitely high on my bucket list.
I think India is a treasure trove for travelers. The variety it offers is incomparable. Every state in India has its own uniqueness to allure travelers. It is very difficult to decide on what to pick and what to leave. But I will give a genuine shot at short-listing the top ten places in India which is a must visit (based entirely on my opinion which most people I know choose to ignore unless it is about travel):
- A Sikhara boat ride on the Dal Lake, Kashmir.
- The Garhwali Himalayan trails in Uttarakhand.
- The busy Banaras Ghats to understand the hullaballoo about Hinduism.
- The floating Loktak Lake, Manipur.
- The royal palaces of Rajasthan topping it off with a desert safari.
- The salt marshes of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.
- The architectural marvel of Hampi and Badami, Karnataka.
- The backwaters of Kerala.
- The white sand beaches of Lakshadweep (Andaman and Nicobar islands have become too mainstream).
- The Taj Mahal, Agra (I know I am being touristic here. But well, I guess it is fine to click a selfie with one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
When the #night falls, the #dreamer crawls. Under a #sky full of #stars, he heals his scars. In the silence of the night, he sees the guiding #light . When everybody is sound asleep, he takes his leap. Oh! The leap of faith the dreamer takes. #trekking #camping #backpacking #hiking #mountains #himalayas #wanderlust #travel #travelgram #traveling #instatravel #instagood #instadaily #instapic #instalike #insta #followtrain #followme #follow #followforfollow #travelphotography #nature
A trail in the Garhwali Himalayas
Backwaters of Kerala
It is very hard to do justice to India you see. I have missed out on so much but like I promised ten, it is ten.
Backpacking and traveling is not just a hobby, it is a way of living. Do you justify that?
I think backpacking and traveling is too involved to be just a hobby. Even when you are not traveling you are planning for your next travel. It is like living out of your backpack and thinking out of the box to make your backpack lighter.
When you have traveled extensively, you are never the same again. Travelling slowly creeps into your life and stealthily becomes your life.
Tell us something about your writing.
My debut novel “Me and That Extra ‘N’ was a Chick Lit and it was published in 2013.I was in a hurry (for what I have still not been able to figure out) to publish the book and consequently made some decision errors which I don’t want to repeat with my second book. Hence I am taking my time to write the next one. I am also shifting my genre and hence you can expect something very different from my first book.
Currently, I write for various websites. I also review books for different book blogs besides having my own blog where I share a lot of articles on a wide range of issues.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the world?
I feel so blessed all the time. I had a privileged childhood. I have an amazing support system that keeps me going. I have been blessed with working organs to see and feel this beautiful world on my own terms. I really could not have asked for more. I want to share the extra privilege that I have been bestowed upon with those people in the world who fall short of a bit of privilege.
What do you think of our blogazine, theharikumar.com?
I think it is a nuclear plant in the making. Keep creating a lot of fission and fusion.
- Full name- Basu Nivedita (as in the passport)
- Birthday- June 17th (As in the birth certificate and my parents claim that they did not forget it)
- Sunsign- Do some work.
- City of birth- Calcutta then, Kolkata now.
- Mother tongue- Bengali.
- God – Creator of Life (Yes! God gives babies like (or unlike) a hen gives eggs. And you must be surely knowing it if you are an Indian).
- Life –Creation of God.
- Love- Creation of Life.
- Marriage- Creation of love (Not for nothing they say, ‘Marriages are made in heaven’. Now you see the connection, don’t you?).
- Favorite country- India. The cacophony in India beats the shit out of every other country. I love it when people ask, “Do you speak Indian?” That single question tells so much about the country I keep closest to my heart. My motherland.
- Favorite music- I have music phases. Sometimes I have a rock phase. Sometimes I have a folk phase. Sometimes I have a junk phase.
- Fav movie- The Pursuit of Happyness. It never fails to stir me in the right way.
- Fav celebrity- Rahul Gandhi. Even Trump looks like an underachiever in front of his towering achievements.
- When you were a kid, what did you want to become- I was too busy (doing nothing) to care.
- If you became the Queen of the world, what would you do- Destroy the wall that Trump would have built between Mexico and The USA.
- An original quote – Behind every broken heart there is an unblemished soul that we can fall in love with. Ahead of every ragged, craggy and rutted road there is a destination we can fall in love with.
Thanks, Nivedita for talking to me about your passion. I am sure that your experience will be enlightening for many people out there who are still planning to go on their first trip! Next week, I will be back with yet another remarkable person who has followed her passion- passion for traveling around the world!