2013 : A Year in Review

12/29/2013 04:46:00 PM

Maha Kumbh Mela | Jan 14th, 2013 | Makar Sankranti | First Shahi Snan | Prayag | India
-my most favorite image from maha kumbh mela 2013-
even in B&W it brings out true colors of this greatest festival of humanity on earth.
Prayag Raj India

-The Golden Gate, San Francisco-
A hipstamatic image, shot on my way back to santa clara valley from muir wood state park

The First thing I register as I begin penning this article is, that I haven't written my " 2012 Year in review". I should do it sometime, in 2014. That year had a load slow transition worth writing about.

6 more days left in year 2013 and I have to admit, I never was more scared of a number than  I ever was of 13. Despite wish-lists, and letters to Santa last christmas ( Read here ), and other major moves that I had in motion, I had least of expectations from this year. I just wanted the year to go smooth and get over with, thats all.

Somehow 2013 did not disappoint me. I learned a lot, about me and my surroundings, and I have grown as a person. This write-up is my experiences and lessons learnt.

If you noticed, this year I have written double of what I wrote in 2012 and 4 times of what I wrote in 2011, i.e. I was never more active a writer in my past 5 years of blogging. perhaps also traveled the most this year, unlike what everyone who knew me thought I would. bottom-line, you could say I pretty much begin my life as a a writer-traveler this year. truly, perhaps, 2013 was a year of resilience.

-New York - New York, that is.-
Its a composite of two images shot on Broadway 7th Ave.

-Chinatown San Francisco during an evening stroll in the city-

The foundation for 2013 were laid very early in 2012 when I traveled to US and then rest of the year was gone in preparation, anticipation and in-wait perhaps, as much, that it was almost December end of 2012, before I could decide what I would be doing next. There was a lot in my plate for January 2013, more than what I could really eat. Few weeks in London, few days in Allahabad for Maha Kumbh Mela, Chadar Trek in Ladakh in late January- Early February and then a move to USA around the same time, that was. As a result, few weeks in London turned to just one night, few days in Allahabad were reduced to 24 hours. Chadar was out of my list and I was flying to San Francisco in the 3rd week of January.

Ch.1 Allahabad Uttar Pradesh India : Maha Kumbh Mela 

Not just a confluence of holy rivers, but a confluence of people, a cultural spectrum, The impression of Allahabad on me has been deep. I look back at Kumbh Mela and see faith marching out on the ghats of Ganges. There was an image I still regret I couldn't take - A few thousand people, inexorable, progressing towards the fort temple -  I was standing on a rise of the road that went down about 50 degrees in slope, I could see them all at once, the army reaching me slowly. That was one scene. the other scene, that surely addled my brain for a split second, was a few hundreds of naked man running wild in all possible directions.

Saffron | Makar Sankranti Morning @ Maha Kumbh Mela Camping Ground | Prayag | 2013 | First Shahi Snan
-The riots of yellow in Kumbh Mela 2013-

My twenty-four hours at Kumbh gave me a book worth of observations that I haven't been able to penn since but what or rather who struck me the most were the ladies hailing from rural areas of Northern India, the true travelers, they didn't need recognition, they didn't need my praise for their daring voyages, they didn't have a want for me to remember their names, they were traveling just for the travel sake.

I captured a glimpse of Maha Kumbh Mela in this small photobook, that I published in September. I will hopefully publish my memorabilia sometime in early 2014.

Ch.2 London United Kingdom : An Episode - Short, Sweet and Sour

Ah! 13, I was thinking. This was an year of immigration drama and London was just a beginning. सम्बोधन ( Sambodhan ) is a word for how you greet someone in hindi. Aap (आप) and Tum (तुम) are the most used words and for kids we sometime use "tu" (तू ) as well, but never in public. Here at london airport I meet this punjabi immigration officer, who greets me w/ a "tu" and keeps me waiting for half an hour for no reason. Anyways, past immigration, seeing my bro waiting for me was a delightful sight and then the evening just flew by.

Nothing in London impressed me enough till I reached Central London. But, in between the rain, cold and my first snow of the season, What I did notice the most, was the carefree youth. most of the people were dressed in Black, as usual, like America, arriving from, or leaving somewhere, but here and there, in dark corners, I would spot a group, cracking jokes, busting out in laughter, gliding down the elevator, or trying to walk with beer bottle on their head. drunk perhaps, most of em girls but having good fun. I actually liked the casual, mellow look on the faces and not one of hell bent on trying to impress the on-goers w/ one's style sort of look.

-A scene from Chinese parade New year 2013, Union Square San francisco-

IMG_0620 -A View of Alviso Salt Panes from my flight from London to San Francisco Early in 2013-

Ch.3 San Francisco : The Old Love and the New Hatred 

A tiring half-day long flight and 4 hours of wait and witless grilling at the immigration, The fun I had in London, was a thing of the past. This is the forth time I was landing in San Francisco and I never ever had any issue before. I felt humiliated, But it dint take me long to forget the entire episode, or perhaps not because I don't think I want to be at SF airport ever. Anyways, post the entry, things were on the move, My bro was now around, and I used this time to explore the areas I had been to years back.From Santa Cruz to Half-moon bay in south to Muir Woods up north and Alviso in the heart of Bay, I did few short treks and wander-trips w/ bro and friends with in California. Also attended a chinese parade, the biggest outside china, and I thought that was alright. Mostly I was plotting a trip to Alaska and a south american backpacking trip, ( You'll see Bolivia in my wish-list that I recently shared. By the way, The Google map I created was lost and so did the booklet w/ all my research :-/ or I should have shared the plan w/ you all.) None worked. and I moved to East Coast in March end. And Glad I did. ( Not my initial thoughts, but the way how I feel now)

Jersey City New Jersey Fall Arrival w/ November 2013
-A view ( of Not so great fall season ) of Jersey City from my Studio Apartment in The Beacon-

In getting to know my new Neighborhood | Portraits | Murals | Jersey City | New York
- the very colorful jersey city, New Jersey United States-

Ch.4 New Jersey : Shades of Spring in the Garden State

When I left San Jose, The Cherry Blossoms were in bloom. Jersey, however, as I arrived, was dry and as ugly as it could be. You must have read my rants upon my few weeks of arrival. the counties here were anything but like bay area and almost impossible to survive for someone like me. I took residence in multiple hotels in different counties. At max, I liked my stay in Hazlet. But again I can't express enough my disliking for the counties and jersey shore, that perhaps are better places to live and roam around if you have a large family.

As I moved to Sayreville, Spotswood, both Jersey weather and life were much better, but It was not supposed to last long. Spring that came late this year, went as quickly as it came. But it was beautiful nonetheless. I had some awesome time surrounded w/ newly found greenery, maples and weeping willows. Who would go trekking if you have a river flowing at your doorstep? I spent few beautiful summer mornings when I woke up to birds chirping and quack-quacks of a duck family doing the daily round near my window. It was a nature heaven.

Ch.5 Appalachian Trail: Constantly Saying Yes & No

One honest mistake of sharing the apartment w/ some crazy people and the whole feel of heaven goes right in to a gutter. Honestly I have met better Nepalese, one in fact saved me from drowning in Kerala. These guys here almost drowned me in to depression. Anyways, this period of 3-4 weeks or so is the worst 2013 gave me. In return I sacrificed my Seven hundred bucks and moved closed to New York. Coming back to Appalachian, The trail is something to do for 6 months. My section hiking plan, once hindered, has been mostly blocked for one reason, and that is Deer ticks i.e. Lyme Disease. Historical or not, I almost walked on the trail in my trip to Poughkeepsie, But I never had courage to do it full as planned, because of this fear of the disease. I still don't. I think there is always drawbacks to doing too much research.

- Northern Lights as seen near Fish Creek on Denali Highway on my way back to Anchorage from Fairbanks, Alaska-

"Caribou Alaska Herd"  in The  Arctic Landscape as seen from Dalton HIghway Wild Life - Coldfoot - Alaska USA 
-Wild life on Alaska as seen near Arctic circle

Ch.6 Alaska

"Nature never did betray The heart that loved her - William Wordsworth"

Alaska was nothing like I ever imagined. I dint have any itinerary. I had no plans. All I had with me, was a wish to see northern lights, even when I was sulking, while closely monitoring KP index diminishing as my travel date was coming closer. then my flight was delayed. I lost a day in Minnesota. We drove on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. We had rains, snowfall, storm and what not. the weather was supposedly negating every chance of seeing What I came to see, and then out of no where it appeared the very moment when I gave up, surprisingly even declared they are just clouds and no northern lights.

Alaska was one funny tale of truly living real honest hours of adrenaline rush. An unscripted story in all sense and it taught me a lot, about myself, about my connection w/ nature, my people and god. never before in my life I thought I was lucky. I worked 10 times hard for what I really got in result, and All I can recall is, muttering and constantly convincing myself that I am at least lucky while traveling. and this other day, I was talking w/ my mother for long hours, repeatedly telling her, how lucky I had been in life, for the kind of situations and trouble I had been in, I was always out of 'em unharmed and untouched.

people weigh different situations using their own scale and understanding, but the place where I come from, its very easy for someone like me to get mentally raped by both selfish people and the environment outside. I am that vulnerable. But I have to honor my blood and give my family lots of credit for the strong value system they have brought us up w/, a will to fight the wrongs and staying positive and honest while handling the pressure to survive.

Ch.7 @WheretogoAM

if it is broke, DO fix it!

The inevitable cycle that this life and death is, one can not throw her/himself out of it, nor one can avoid it in one's spectrum. we all have to face the fears of losing people we love. I have lost both my maternal and paternal grand parents. some of my favorite people died unnaturally, All my pets died and I even thought I am cursed somehow and I shouldn't have pets. I had to deal w/ all these deaths and move on and I learned it slowly. But no one I ever knew took their life intentionally, ever, and thats why when I heard the news of Anita, my twitter chat co-host whom I interacted briefly over tweets, the news really shook me. More than that I was depressed, I couldn't find any justification of dying for love.

You read it right. I don't believe in dying for love.  don't believe in dying for anybody.  Love doesn't ask you to die for it. those who love you wont ask you to die for them. Love can only encourage you to live and only live. when it comes to heartbreaks, these days its as common as having another meal or conversation. Its not about not expecting anything out of others or not loving people, its just about having much strength in thyself and being a survivor. There is nothing in this world that can or should make you kill yourself. Support or no support from the world, of all the things, Respecting yours and others lives should be your priority.

I had to get this out of my throat where its been stuck for months now. I just hope each of us have enough strength to survive and learn to see happiness in tiny moments of life, because as inevitable the cycle of life and death, sunrise and sunset, day and night is, remember every sad moment has a happy moment waiting in line to embrace us.

RIP Anita Mac.

Ch.8 #travelindia 

One good thing that happened this year was twitter, I hadn't used it much earlier but since last December as I became a regular on twitter, and began participating in and hosting twitter chats I did realize there is no better interactive way of expanding one's knowledge, and to give back to the community than participating in a lively discussion. I am not an expert of world travel, or India or US or so to speak, but for what I know, I do it well. Blogging regardless of its business prospects serves dual purpose of saving one's memory in writing while helping out a wide range of audience with authentic information. But seldom comments and feedback go beyond how good and helpful the article is. -to - I enjoyed reading it a lot - or - Please add this info or that. My flickr experience says its more of you pat my back while I pat yours and thats exactly why I have not much interest in building a fake network, I just publish because I want to.

Chats however are discussions and they are live. More interactive and fun. Its not that Indian govt is paying me to promote tourism in India. In fact the day I make travel my business I know I will not be able to enjoy it. So my entire objective is to share the knowledge I have because that is only how I know the society works and grows too. My #travelindia attempt was just that, to give back to the world traveling society and my country of course, ( other than earning dollars for it ) there's no commerce string attached.

July 29th Oh first day of Shravan, the holy month of Shiva, I started #travelindia with friends I made on twitter and this has been a great journey so far. again in no other manner but I want #travelindia to grow and fulfill the objective I started it w/ that is to be a source of authentic knowledge and a community of good hearted travelers who can help each other out in need.

I will write the journey in a separate #travelindia post, I'll publish in first week of 2014.

Horse Shoe Bend Arizona
-Horse shoe bend, Colarado river Arizona-

FairyLand Point in Moonlight - Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
-The Fairyland point in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah United States-  

Ch.9 Arizona & Utah 

Not even done reminiscing and relishing my sacred memories from Alaska and I was on my way to Arizona. South-West was one of my most sought after trip this year and for good reasons. I had been long dreaming of canyons and red rocks. But this trip turned out to be something more than that. It strengthen my belief that No matter how mad and crazy the city life has become, the life around small towns and villages is still laid-back, peaceful and good no matter where you go in the world. People are genuinely good. selfless, and helpful and they have no expectations whatsoever from you.

For a Journey, the southwest trip, again, wasn't anything less than a roller coaster ride, this was yet another well studied but not planned road trip and we covered more than what we hoped for. Life again gave me an earful in the form of the deer that died after getting hit by our car. Time did test our courage and as I said previously somewhere, You can only know your metal when in bad situations. I indeed did. 

Ch.10 Falling in love w/ Krishna

How many of you read/watched Mahabharat, or read the post I wrote earlier this year? I am not sure if i said this before, but this experience of running through the entire series again after years did change something in me and that I feel is worth sharing.

The way the character of each Indian God or Goddess is sketched, they are all extremely unique. In fact, I would believe its one quality in each human being that is picked, shaped, decorated and worshiped in the form of one god. the supreme ones have a sort of combination. So here is the thing. People like or are attracted to those individuals who, either are just like themselves in nature, or usually those whom they want to be like. those we love, we sort of epitomize them to that imaginative being who we actually love.

I always loved Lord Shiva and only him. this I say while I declare I don't have any strict worship ritual or stuff that I do or follow. I just like the image of him, A very simple, straightforward, no-blabber, honest and kind, He's all that while he is also the most destructive force. I think I have always secretly searched for him in every individual I interacted with through out my life. This and when I always unlike'd the way Lord krishna did things in his twisted ways.

It took me half my life of struggling to survive in this world to understand that sometime twisted is the only way to do things and that twisted is not always wrong. I do not anymore hate individuals who follow that path now, though Its also true that one is the way one is. I have faced many problems in life, just because I am too honest and straightforward and most of the folks don't like the harsh truth coming from a little girl's mouth. But I don't want to and I am not going to change myself even if it does cost me as hell like it did again this year. my writing this here perhaps is to affirm just that.

-Marlon Brando-
 my most favorite photograph of his from hundreds i have seen on internet. makes me smile every time i look at him

Ch.11 M for Marlon, B is for Brando

I am gonna go on a guilt trip now. I love bad boys. Yes.

One person whose life and who has most influenced me this year is Mr. Marlon Brando. Sadly I never knew him when he was alive but no its not that I discovered him only this year end. Perhaps 2 years back, I read the famous dialogue from the play ( and the movie ) "A Streetcar named desire" somewhere and then I went on watching the movie which of course was epic for more than one reason. The Most interesting however was, that I couldn't really believe if that Hot guy was actually a 1950's hero, because Whomever I watched in my "Year end Old classics ritual" they were no where like him. Alright you can kick me, I might have watched Godfather earlier but I don't think I was ever bothered about movies or actors that much. But Streetcar 2yrs back, is not what made Marlon Brando my favorite.

A good amount of time this year I invested in watching old flicks and with keen interest in understanding the culture in those times. Movies can give you a good dose and I, these days, prefer a good movie over a book, because I cant focus much and I have time constraints. I have read Indian history, So I have good knowledge about what happened in India. But I think I was least aware of what America or Europe was like in 1900s. Anti-semitism and AIRFA were aliens to me, and I definitely dint know that there is hardly a country left in this world, that hasn't gone through a period of war and revolution.

Anyways, besides the history and greater knowledge that I gained watching his movies and knowing more about him, As it is impossible for anyone to not get infatuated by personality of this man, I have no shame in saying I was no exception. But more than an actor and a Hot looking at that, I think I was more attracted to his way of doing things. The world always weighs you for your success and failures, and where you end up ultimately. I am perhaps not that troubled and I have control of my life in my hands ( Well I am not in hollywood yet ) but I can totally see an adamant and realistic me in him, and perhaps he is the only person I virtually know whom I could relate myself to that extent.

So After watching almost all his movies, and a good number of Elia Kazan's, starring Dean and Peck, I began reading "The songs my mother taught me". Obviously my romance bubble was busted as I reached chapter 50 and read about Jill Banner, until then I was ready to get on a time machine and go rescue my prince charming. ( Well I belong to warrior clan, we are not gender biased) But anyways, Why I have to write about him is because his life story does give me a good reality check. and again as I said earlier in ch. 10 its the matter of choice, if one wants to change her/his basic traits or continue to face issues and stick to what s/he feels is right.

I might just keep doing that.

-The fashion street, Broadway New york city : I love that blue lipstick-

Ch.12 New York New York
Goodness gracious, I am on my last chapter finally - and I am exhausted. honestly. (or else I really wanted to process a few new images for this post, I cant do it now.well, they'll show up in 2014, in individual posts) -

I always wanted to spend a winter in New york, have a studio, do my stuff. For now, all I want to say is, I have enjoyed living here for past six month more than I have anywhere else in US and this is when I say - I am perhaps the most boring individual living in NYC. - No clubs/pubs/eat outs or socializing of any sort. But I am an hopeful one. I think I have a potential to become a true New Yorker. I don't know what that means yet though.

When the new year rings in 2 days later, I have no idea what it'll bring in for me. But this is how I wannit. I am open to learning a thing or two new. I am ready to travel more, experience another side of life. Hope I get to stick around soak more of nyc energy, but more than anything, Here's me hoping to have a very very active & energetic 2014.

I had a good nap. Its time for some heavy Action.

P.S. I have omitted a chunk of text from this article, related to current affairs and sexual harassment issues outside india, I would want to format it better and post it as a separate post all together for women traveling solo, also as I mentioned, I could add only a few new images in this article, I promise you on "2013 in (new) Pictures"  in January.

Now Let's enjoy the ball drop at times square:

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  1. Great to 'see' and 'feel' beautiful places through an honest and engaging host. There is a sort of fresh individuality in your writing. Keep it up. Will keenly follow your tweets and blog. Wishing you great traveling, interesting experiences ...and wishing you ...an interesting encounter with a ShivBrando. Cheers. @PremPalanivel

  2. @PremPalanivel - Thank you Prem, appreciate your feedback and thanks for the wishes specially the encounter part :) Have a great week ahead. - Poonam


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