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...Surfing on the internet for ‘Weekend Getaways’, we had almost given up when my wife uttered those words – almost prophetically – and we got our destination. It’s the Queen of the Hills, one of the most famous tourist spots in the country but I never had a chance to visit Shimla. The plans made during my college days never materialised and I was left with a longing to visit the Himachal Pradesh capital. The time was perfect now – May was just over and June was turning out to be another scorcher. We started early and the road journey became increasingly pleasant as we drove out of Delhi, crossed Haryana and entered Himachal. I couldn’t help but notice was the number of bikers heading towards the hills – most of them were on Royal Enfield. This rekindled another yearning, to own one of them, the finest specimen of biking history. Well, that wish remains and I’ll talk about that later, for now it’s Shimla. ...TOI on Jan. 23, 2017, 10:22 p.m.
...The conversations at any gathering in India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, automatically take a political turn as I found out to my surprise when I landed up here. Even a poignant function can turn into an arena of freewheeling debate. The attendees, like any other, had different political leanings and everyone was wearing his heart on his sleeve. The discussion started on a mild note when a substantial number of people were eating. Demonetisation acted as the fuel. “You tell me, what has Modi government achieved by implementing this scheme? If you want me to pay through cheques and other digital means, why launch a Rs 2000 note in the first place? Basically, you are telling me to jump across a nullah and are also making a bridge. This is foolishness!” said one of the participants animatedly. ...TOI on Jan. 21, 2017, 3:19 p.m.
...“All the other animals are either looking for shade or are already under it, but not this ass,” he added. This was one of the many jokes I heard on my way to Tanot border outpost (BOP) as part of TOI’s web series on the Border Security Force (BSF). It is an Independence Day special but the preparations began months ago. We visited the western frontier guarded by the BSF in the month of June — a known scorcher. The temperature was already touching 50, but there was no crinkle on the soldiers’ faces. And the jokes never stopped. “You know, you’ll find many dead animals in this arid area because of dehydration and extreme heat, but there is one animal who always survives — the donkey,” said the soldier accompanying us as the Maruti Gypsy negotiated sharp turns and traversed the serpentine road on its way to the BOP. I noticed some trees and shrubs on our way. I was told this greenery is because of the rain last year which happened after 22 years. ...TOI on Aug. 8, 2016, 3:06 p.m.
...Being a journalist has its perks, you see. As we landed at the Jodhpur airport, I could already feel the palpable excitement in the air – the airport comes under the administrative control of the Indian Air Force and the sound of the jet engines, the extra restrictions and men in uniform gave me an idea of what lay in store. We undertook the visit to the Rajasthan frontier as part of the special Web series for Independence Day. The pilot announced that the temperature outside was 33 degrees Celsius. I was surprised, it was the month of June and we were yet to feel the Rajasthan heat. As part of our plan, we immediately left for Jaisalmer to be close to the border which would help us in our shoot. When we reached Jaisalmer after a nearly five-hour-long drive, it was already half past four in the evening and I thought we’ll have to wait for the next day to begin our shoot. ...TOI on Aug. 6, 2016, 7:39 p.m.
...The place is located in Thar Desert in Rajasthan, where the Indian forces dented Pakistan’s offensive and gave a fitting reply by winning the decisive battle. Longewala is fraught with memories of the war and the inscriptions there give details about how Indian soldiers halted Pakistani forces’ advancements by showing exceptional courage and ultimately beat back the enemy forces. A war memorial has been erected at Longewala to honour our soldiers’ heroics in the December, 1971 war and also houses Pakistani tanks and Indian weapons which were used to destroy them. But the highlight of the place is ‘Border Cafe’ where images and dialogues from the 1997 blobkbuster movie ‘Border’ are plastered on the walls to give visitors feel of the war-like situation. A short film is also played by the Army there which gives visitors a glimpse of the battle the 1971. ...TOI on July 9, 2016, 6:08 p.m.