I have been a part of the corporate setup for almost three years. And with certainty I can say that I have written more project reports and professional mails than anything else. No complaints, I have been paid for that. That is always good, right!
In September 2017, I went ‘back to school’ and started my postgraduate in Data and Computational Science at the University College Dublin. Today, as I work my way to learn and make sense of the huge data found everywhere, I have decided to create some myself, with this blog. Hopefully, something that makes sense on it’s own.
Why I created this blog?
Now, this can be put in a chronological order!
I have always been a writer, mostly in my head and occasionally on paper. To state the truth, I was at my peak when I was ten. As a shy girl in class, I would take the act to writing school book journals very seriously and swearing by one of my favourite author then (even now), Anne Frank who wrote “Paper has more patience than people.”, I would be happy to fill in my dairy with random stories and poems.
After a decade and a half, I wish to revive the act of writing in a full swing – keeping up with my resolutions for this year, amongst several others that I am hopefully going to be writing about.
What I intend to do with this blog?
I don’t have any categories defined as yet, and so you will not find many tabs to this blog other than one travel post – the first project. I have my fingers crossed (virtually) that there might just be a few more additions to that, about the things I love and would like to write about. The likes of recommendations in books, movies, music, art etc. , some random ideas, reviews and opinion.
Why the name?
As I have passed some years along my way to life, I have come to an awakening that everyone great and accomplished has always made sure of one thing to talk about in their quest for success. We have heard it several times in our life and sometimes in a day – to always look at the bright side of everything. It is stated and wrapped up in brilliant quotes-unquotes by some really inspiring personalities from the history and today, now found in our Facebook and Instagram feeds.
But the essence of it comes to us after some years and occasionally on some days. I, for one, have worked really hard, to find the bright side or to train my mind to turn around and create it. (making tall claims!) I have had amazing people, books and some quotes-unquotes, among other things to help me with that. So, I believe life is about finding that silver lining in the clouds. So, this blog will be an attempt to journal some good things that I love, helping me find the ‘silver lining’. And as I have been a part of the corporate jungle for some years now, I have (shamelessly) taken up the jargon ‘Project’ to add in this stead. Putting one plus one together, welcome to the ‘The Silver lining Project’.
This is my second piece of writing and as nascent as my blog is, I wanted to make sure I have something worthwhile to write about. And this one is all from the heart.
Let’s rewind a bit. I came to Ireland back in September 2017, technically Dublin and stayed put there for the next few months, tangled in countless assignments, submissions, exams and everything that rounds up to a life of a postgraduate student at a University that doesn’t let you breathe. I don’t want to sound like I am ranting because that is what I came here for and loved doing. Just this. I had no connection with this city, this country and while people would keep asking ‘Will you stay here after you’re done with your studies’, I would meekly dodge my answer – you can’t tell people you don’t like their country, right? All I knew was that I loved where I came from, I missed it all through. Delhi had my heart and I found myself existing in the present but living in the past. No surprises, it took me not so long to go running back to my country, my family and friends in March 2018, only after 6 months of being here. Well, apparently 6 months is kind of a short period of time to go back, some brave ones stay for longer. There are people who loved this city that gave them the freedom they desired – no ogling eyes, no judging stares, just good Irish music, dance and whiskey (it had to come, didn’t it?). I would agree to that, Irish music is contagious and the people are so courteous – it’s hard to sink in for someone who comes from Delhi – like why would you smile at me? A ‘thank you’ for putting my bag to make space for you to sit on a seat next to me, which I invariably should have done? People wishing me to have a good day, while I ran for my 9 am classes like the earth shattered in two. Delhi people, fill the gaps here for me. I had to have a cultural shock just based on this. Simply put, I was so not used to it. The roads are clean and the air is breathable. ‘But I still miss home’ – I would often say. And so I booked my tickets to Delhi, feeling like a somewhat patriot, going back to Swades. It was amazing – I spent quality time with my family, finally had my mom’s amazing food, met many of my friends, went on an epic trip with my girls, attended a family function and just let my heart beat in my homeland. Beyond the confined definitions of amazing, I was home – this is where I have lived most of my human existence, this where I built this amazing life that I left. I was all over this place once again. I finally satiated my hunger to feel a sense of belonging (and for the street food, of course). I couldn’t be more happier. Although I wanted to forget about it, I did have a return ticket to Dublin.
Good thing, my parents had already planned a quick trip to Ireland and the UK, in June same year. I again had something to look forward to. And while I wanted to make sure we could cover every corner of Ireland in our Itinerary, I found myself being connected to the country for the first time in the truest sense. As we went to explore the Irish lands on guided day tours, I got to know so much more about the Irish culture which I thought was mostly about a pint of Guinness and the Temple Bar. It is so much more than that and pleasantly so, I saw Ireland like never before. Here, I was with two of the best people I know, in a country that opened a door of so many opportunities for growth. I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the beautiful Irish green lands. And thanks to a very passionate bus-guide, I learnt so much about Irish history that I otherwise never thought about reading on my own. This very inspiring Irish man, with his flair for words, made us feel the struggles of the infamous Irish famine. Ireland, under the British rule, went through nationwide long spell of mass starvation, disease and emigration, lasting for close to six years. The Irish went through struggles to fight independence from the British, which brought back similar memories to the one back home. India and Ireland, besides sharing the same colors of flag, share a deep seated longing for freedom and have risen up as nations of empathy. And I couldn’t help but join dots on how similar this country is to my own.
Further, he explained how the Irish have always extended their help to support the world, without putting up a show about it. He had very intriguing anecdotes about his life that somehow answered why Irish are known to have the appetite for everything-alcohol, like no one else. He, through some examples from the past, conveyed how Irish people are so friendly and welcoming. And I can absolutely vouch for that. On the same trip, on our way to Galway, we met an old Irish man who was heading home, with whom I held up a deep conversation for an entire journey of two hours. More so, he was a well-established professional in the same area of work as mine, who offered me great insight into my very stressful masters thesis. My parents were so happy to see me in this country. The entire travel-filled week spent with them meant the world to me. And though goodbyes are always hard, this time I had more to look forward to and discover.
Presently, I have started working, loving it while at it; earning my bread again, cooking my food the way I like, meeting the most inspiring and intelligent people who are so adorable and generous, going places, making plans about the thousand other things I wish to do. And finally, trying to be absolutely independent in all aspects, just like I always wanted to be. All in all, It’s all good in the hood.
Truth be told, I still don’t like that there is hardly any sunshine here in the winters, and talking about the weather has strangely become my favorite small talk ice-breaker at work. While I say that, I cannot wait for cherry blossoms in spring, the long hours of sunlight and the oh-so pleasant European summers. There is a reason why people save up to travel here while I get to live it all through. I have ‘the luck of the Irish’ (hopefully) and am surely grateful for it.
Now, I wouldn’t call myself an N.R.I – I totally appreciate if no one ever does. I hold on to my Indian passport with pride. More like a person who found home in two cities, countries and continents. It is the act of expanding your heart to more that comes your way. To be open to what life has to offer, to completely accept the path you chose or what came your way. Open armed while doing so.
Around a week from going back to my ‘Janmbhumi’ (dramatic, enough?), I am far more embracing and am kind of sure that I can make peace with anywhere else life takes me, rather be happier to learn and expand my life. For now, I am looking forward to tight airport hugs, being at home again and many more Indian things well in store for me (obviously, food included). There might just be a few things that have changed there, and I might not see what they are, sitting here. All I know is, I am going to have a blast just like I always do, because India is India and Delhi is love.
To those brave hearts who live away in foreign lands – A virtual high five. It is anyway difficult to live away from family and in a different country – time to pat our backs, guys – for not just surviving but making our own way.
It all started with that one day at office when we decided we absolutely have to plan a trip, take a breather from our Groundhog days – Just girls, before I would leave for my masters in September 2017. With some (half hearted) attempts, we couldn’t really give shape to it. But our heart was set- we were sure we wanted a quick weekend getaway to Bir Billing – known for holding the paragliding world cup in 2015. The plan was revitalized and given a breath of fresh air, because one of us became quite a traveller in recent times -meet Sanjana – this girl was determined to make this happen and while I was still in Dublin, we started planning for the trip – First step? A Whatsapp group, of course. With countless shared links, change in plans and at least a trillion shifts in mind of six people involved, we made it happen; once I was back to Delhi for a session break in March 2018. Long story short, we were four girls in mid-twenties – Aanchal, Sanjana, Hansa and me (you will read the names below, so helping with references) – ready to go on a trip that comes, if it does, once in a lifetime and we go from there, planning many, many more. Let me roll you to our experience and hopefully some travel tips that might prove some worth (fingers crossed)
Where is Bir – Billing?
Bir is village located in the District of Kangra in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and is around a two to three hour drive to the Dharamshala. Bir was inhabited by Tibetan refugees in the early 1960s following the exile of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans from Tibet. and so, you are sure to find some beautiful monasteries in this beautiful village, surrounded by lush valleys and snow-capped summits.
Billing is the paragliding site at an altitude of 9000 ft. above sea level and 14 kilometers north of Bir, at an elevation of 2400 metres.
How to reach Bir?
There are quite a few ways to reach the Bir village, depending on where you start from.
You may say that a road trip from Delhi to Bir seems the only legit option – Believe me, I would have loved that too. However, here we are four girls with four sets of Indian parents, absolutely refusing the idea and so we took the bus from Kashmiri Gate Bus Depot, which was for about Rs 1350 per person for one side. There are quite a few options of Volvo semi sleeper buses but we preferred the Himachal Roadways Volvo bus, as it seemed like a safe option and so it was- the seats were quite comfortable and it felt ‘safe’ (I have no idea how!). Bir is 510 kilometres from Delhi and is a 13 hour Bus ride away, which is not as daunting as it sounds. The destination stop is Baijnath, which is the region in the Kangra District. So get down there!
There are no trains from Delhi to Bir. So that’s not an option. However, if you start your journey from Pathankot, you can travel by toy train that operates till Joginder Nagar and get down at the railway station by the name Ahju.
Where to stay?
When you talk about Bir to anyone, they invariably suggest staying in the Zostel – A bunk bed sharing room setup drawn from the concept of major European cities where you can head back after a long day and just doze off. This is very popular choice for budget travellers who want a place to stay at night and still save some bucks along the way. But that’s not what we did. Why? No great stories. Just couldn’t book it at the right time. Same old, same old. Anyway, one of our friends could manage to talk to this travel agent, from whom we booked the campsite at Billing and paragliding package including dinner and breakfast for a good price. He was kind enough to lend a room in Bir for the 6 hour gap we had, before we headed for the trek towards the paragliding site- Billing. The time gap was just a good steal away for a casual walk in this beautiful village with some even more beautiful monasteries found at almost every small street you turn to. We happened to enter one which was close by and got lost in the intricately sculpted domes with all possible colours filled in. Every sight was such that it could be put to frame and so we did what we do best – click some pretty pictures.
The Trek to Billing
After stuffing some paranthas and chai, we were ready to trek. What is convenient about trekking from Bir to Billing is that you can choose how much you want to trek. It is usually a 7- 8 kms rocky mountain trek which can be done at a stretch or you may choose to do the last 3 kms, for which you will travel the rest 4 kms by road. Sanjana and I decided to take the full route whereas Aanchal and Hansa decided to do the last 3 kms, for good reasons. We were told the first 4 kms won’t be easy and entering as an unprepared traveller to Himachal, I had neither right sports shoes nor a warm jacket. So I had to rush to the nearby Tibetan market to buy a jacket to survive the chilly whether at Billing- a decent market where you can be sure to find some essentials, but also a little overpriced in my opinion. Take an advice coming from my personal mini panic attack; always carry something warm when travelling to Himachal, however much you think you are thick skinned to bare the cold. Always.
Sanjana and I started our trek at about 2-3 hours earlier and up we went finding our way along the rocky, high terrain mountain paths. We were accompanied by trekking guide – Thakur bhaiya- who helped us with the directions to reach the right destination and also becoming the best person to talk to about life in Bir. I believe we were not half bad and we did reach the meeting point at the stipulated time, a few minutes here or there maybe. Once, we were joined by the other half of the squad, we embarked on the 3 kilometres of constant chatter, some really random jokes with some context needed (mostly not) and music on speakers, playing along the way – a lot of Punjabi (because Delhi girls!) and some old soulful Hindi songs. The trek was pretty smooth and because we were time bound to reach Billing before sunset, we were geared up and tried to make fewer stops – which we were obviously not able to do because we take the act of clicking pictures very seriously and for them to be Instagram worthy, well, we didn’t have to make much efforts – owing to the beautiful scenery at every turn we took. We also found some beautiful trees covered with red coloured flowers called Burans – by the locals which are edible and are used to make some local chutney- as told by Thakur bhaiya. Just as we were about to reach, we saw the sun setting just in front of us and we decided to sit at a higher spot and admire the sun in all its glory, looking like a big well rounded yellow ball, gradually hiding beneath the mountains. What a sight it was! Here, I find myself at loss with words, unable to truly justify how magical it was. So here’s a picture.
Camping at Billing
After 20 minutes of admiring the sunset, we reached Billing and had pahadon-wali Maggi and chai at dusk, with no access to electricity. Keep in mind, that Billing is at an high altitude and is very chilly especially during the night, so do carry some warm sweaters or jackets.
We rested for a while at our camps, chatted some more and headed towards the bonfire area. We sat beneath the star studded night sky and started singing almost all the soulful songs ever known to mankind. It was the night we sang our hearts out. Did we just destroy some songs along the way– maybe. But dear oh lord! We were mesmerised by the clear sky and, with star gazing and singing – you are sure to get high, if not on alcohol but on life itself. This was my personal favourite moment of the trip, because here I was doing what I love – singing – with some of my favourite people on planet earth, with at least a million stars, if not more, shining on us. Sigh!
We ate some delicious dinner, made by some locals and then, rested in our camps, with two of us in one camp. With no electricity, only one phone at only fifty percent charge and no working portable charger (don’t ask how that happened!), it was a great time to unplug from the rest of the world and live the memorable moments that were in the making, that one starry night. (There it is – a prose)
Final call: Paragliding
The morning after was the day when we were about take the final plunge – quite literally in our case. We woke up, had some more paranthas and chai, and were all set to go. We walked along the valleys – a picturesque view with some parachutes sailing away like birds, near our camp site.
We reached the meadow from where the flights – as they call it- took off. The pilots are licensed and so be rest assured, you will do just fine. The flight depends on the wind and weather conditions and apparently the pilot’s confidence in them. This was the moment of truth for all of us. And though this was my second time paragliding, I had had my share of fretting moment too. Once you get past that, and follow your pilot’s instructions like a bible, you are sure to experience something magical. It is no exaggeration in me saying that I felt like a bird, and so did my friends. You are suspended, high up in the air and as soon as that happens, all you ever feared or worried will happen to your life, vanishes in the same air. The pilots would ask you if you want some more thrill and get the glider in zig-zag motion, opt for it if you want. Some of us did and liked it.
I was enthralled by how beautiful the Bir village is, as I looked beneath, suspended in the air. The flight is of 20-25 minutes, which seems to pass by in an instant just as you get accustomed to being a bird –Really, I was planning to build a nest after this (for whoever was asking for a bad joke!) . I was the last one to land on the Bir plains, amongst the four of us. And so we shared our experiences and pictures. This is one thing which if is not in your bucket list, then has to be added. For some on the go pictures and videos, we had paid for the GOpro camera, which we held on to on our flights. Also, there is a photographer at the landing spot, who randomly takes pictures of your landing (so smile whilst) and you can buy those pictures for Rs 150. We did that of course!
Same Day at Bir
As we landed at the Bir village, we were starving and rushed to this beautiful and famous café called The Garden Café – we would recommend to not to miss out this place, for any reason at all. The ambience being the hero here, the setup is homey with compartmentalised sitting areas. The food is to die for. We ordered the pasta (which was ok!) but the pizzas were, as unanimously agreed, the best we have ever had. We ordered one vegetarian and one chicken pizza – which I am sure were both made in heaven. Then, we had chocolate pancake, made in heaven as well. I had my long due dose of caffeine, and the other part of the squad had lemon and ginger tea, in the hopes to cancel out the pizza (give rest to the guilt, at least).
After some food hogging, we had another two hours to kill before we were to take our bus back home. We decided to roam around the village, just a casual walk and so we went and entered another monastery, which I later got to know was the famous Chokling Gompa Monastery. It was beautiful, to say in the least and a must visit. We didn’t stress over anything that moment as we were just going with the flow wherever the small streets were headed. Randomly taking some turns and exploring the Tibetan market. This place is so mesmerising that we lost the trail of time and literally ran like a pack of raccoons to catch the bus in the main market area. And so we ended our trip with more doses of laughter and added anecdotes, ready to be shared for some more years to come until we embark upon another trip (already in the pipeline)
Some other places you may visit:
The Deer park Institute
The Bir tea factory
A four hour drive to the Tirthan Valley
I would not be the best person to make claims of knowing these places as we were time bound and didn’t explore them, so make a Google search of these places, and once you reach, tell me how they were : )
Favourable time: The flying ‘season’ is from September to October where the real deal of paragliding happens- the paragliding world cup happened in October in 2015. The months from March to May would also be good – worked well for us at least.