There are writers and then there are writers. And then: there are people who are born to write. People for Whom The Words Toll so to say. For such writers, the words flow because they are free of the inhibition of societal censorship, the trappings of self-censorship, and their only focus is to say it as they feel it, and it works wonderfully well when such writers also have a command over the language.
One such writer is Ambika Bhardwaj. I love the way Ambika writes – it is funny, quirky, informative, gripping, and so easy to visualise. Absolutely brilliant. And then there is her photography. Ambika blogs at Chalain?, and has a Facebook page called Dastan-e-musafir and she would be in the top half of my Top 10 list of bloggers who write about The Himalayas. Why? Well because she’s daring as a traveller (explorer in spirit I’d say), her blogs are a roller coaster ride and she provides brilliant insights into the Himalayas – intersection of the personal, the impartial-observer, the Himalayas and its people.
Here are my Favourite posts from Chalain? (trust me it’s difficult to shortlist):
While she’s grown up in Delhi, Ambika has ancestral roots in Himachal Pradesh (her dad’s from Kangra), and travels all over the Himalayan mountains. Excerpts from an interview with Ambika Bhardwaj:
1. Why the mountains?
You got me at the first question itself! Love has no reason! It just, IS! Now I feel like an old sage sitting under a Banyan tree! But, to be truthful, I just love the Himalayas! There really isn’t any reason!
2. What’s your education, work background?
It’s quite “diverse”! Graduated in English Literature, Mastered in Social Work, worked at quite a lot of places! Almost done everything in between – bar tendering in Delhi clubs to Women Rights Activism to Client Servicing in Amex! Funny part is, I juggled between these, almost at the same time!
3. How do you fund your travels and blog?
I have a rule! Never pay for your travel or alcohol! Since I am a travel writer, photographer and videographer, more often than not travel pays me well! Of course there are barter deals as well, but they usually suck!
4. What are your key drivers?
To live in the mountains, for as long as I live!
5. What is your goal with ‘chalain?’ and ‘dastan-e-musafir’?
To enhance viewership! That’s all business!
6. What are the challenges that you face during your travels?
There are a lot of challenges: transport, network connectivity, unpredictable weather, but the mountains take care of you! We always find one or the other way out!
7. What have you learned about the people in the mountains?
I always say this, the coldest places are inhabited by the warmest people! Mountain people are the warmest!
8. What have you learned about yourself?
That I hate going to the toilet tent at 2 AM at -5 ° C!
That there are no limits! We can always forge ahead, a little, and a little more!
9. Your Top 5 tips for travellers to the Indian Himalayas
- Research well before heading off
- Pack light and necessary
- Spend time instead of ‘touch and go’
- Trust your instincts
- Try to barter any of your services rather than paying heaps to Adventure Tour operators
10. One Moment that made you feel ’this is life’.
There are a lot of such moments! I could write volumes about that!
Standing under the light of a thousand stars, involuntary crying looking at a mountain’s reflection in the water at midnight, wild powerful wind blowing my hair while standing at the edge of a mountain, continuing to shoot irrespective of the weather and my own self!
Felt more like family being with the Himalayan natives than with my own flesh and bone! I am truly grateful to the Himalayas for gifting me uncountable, “this is life” moments!