Flying is Fun!

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

Traveling is a great escape from everyday life and routines. And it’s even more fun if its hassle free and light on the pocket. Before even charting on the journey, we come face to face with one big decision – travel bookings. For some, it’s not such a big deal, but for the price conscious, it can be the deciding factor of where, how, when and for how long they travel. This article explores 12 ways in which air travel in India can be easy on the pocket and the mind.

  1. Book in advance. On most websites, it is easy to see the price trends of airline tickets up to one month ahead. If possible, book your tickets in advance if you are sure of journey dates. If not, monitor the price trends to see how soon they are changing. Book the tickets when you think the price of tickets might start hiking soon, for example, one week before the travel date.
  2. Check if the fares are refundable or non-refundable. Non-refundable fares are generally lower than refundable fares. Depending on how sure you are of your travel dates, make the choice.
  3. Book return fares. Return fares offer great discounts, especially when both the tickets are booked from the same airline. If you are sure of your travel dates, it’s best to book return flights. However, if you are not sure of your travel dates, check whether the booking is refundable or not before booking return fares.
  4. Check the Fares on the AirlinesWebsites. Track the rates of the airlines on travel booking sites, but also check the rates on the airline websites, they are often lower than those on the travel agency sites and offer different options of fares, which are not available to choose on travel agency websites.
  5. Use your air miles. Have membership with all the airlines with whom you fly often. Enrollment doesn’t cost much, or is free with many airlines, and doesn’t hurt. You earn miles every time you fly, which keep getting accumulated in your account. On some rainy day, when the air fares are sky high, you can use your air miles to make the booking like a currency, and pay nothing for the flight! ( I actually did this once )
  6. Use web check-in and kiosk check-in facilities where they add bonus miles to your account. As stated in the previous point, they will come in handy someday.
  7. Rates for weekends are generally higher than weekdays. Keep this in mind when booking. If adjustments can be made, do so.
  8. Reschedule, don’t cancel. In case you need to change a flight ticket, best option is to reschedule the ticket with the same airline, and pay some charges for that instead of cancelling. Both – rescheduling and cancellations involve some charges to be paid to the airline. But most airlines have really complicated cancellation and refund procedures which are not stated clearly at the time of booking. Best is to avoid that situation if you don’t want your money to be stick with the airline for a long time.
  9. Always carry a photo identity proof. If booking is being made from someone else’s credit card, check what the airline’s policy is on that before making the journey. Best option is to carry a copy of the credit card used for making the booking with written approval from the owner of the credit card. Most airlines will not allow you to travel without a valid identity proof.
  10. Book online. Sometimes it’s unavoidable to book at the airport from the airline office, as in the case of an emergency, but it is generally most cost effective to book online.
  11. Cash in on offers. It’s often useful to receive updates and newsletters from airlines. Whenever a new route is launched by any airline, it is generally offered at a lower price than usual. Cash in on the offer.
  12. Fly light! Many airlines charge a huge amount for extra baggage, in addition to a lot of hassle for payment for the extra baggage while checking in. Pack as light as you can, sticking to the weight limits of all the airlines with which you will be traveling, since the baggage limits of different airlines can be different.
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Where is Everybody Going?

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

 

It’s past mid-September in Bangalore. It’s around 8 in the morning. I take my breakfast of vada, Sāmbhar and chutney and sit at a free table. I am at the Bangalore International Airport Terminal. An elderly gentleman asks me if he can sit at the table. “Ofcourse, please”, I reply.

As I eat, I look around. In the same moment I both see and hear – birds! Twittering ( No , I don’t mean on an android ), chirping, hopping away. Flying around all over the café. Flying from the supports in the ceiling to the chairs in the café. Landing on the floor like little kids landing dangerously on the ground from a slide swing, while people munch at their food absently, their bodies and minds having no connection with each other, shown by their blank, distracted gazes into the great nothing.

I am slowly feeling deafened by the incessant announcements for people who will miss their flights if they don’t rush now and reach the boarding gates in time. People look at me with a confused and curious look. I am smiling. They look around me to see why. They don’t seem to be able to see it! They don’t see the birds! The birds are now sitting on the chair right in front of me, twittering away. I wonder if I have some mighty power by which only I can see and hear them. I look around and take a 360 degree view of the place and the people moving about in the place. Nobody is looking at the birds! There are atleast two dozen birds. A whole airport is missing such a riot of activity.. how is that possible?

People all around. Their faces say they are either busy socializing with their bosses and colleagues, planning their next strategy or move, or worrying about the never ending, all possessing work. I’m now sitting at the boarding gate. The man sitting next to me is wearing a beautiful suit, and playing with a big phone. Have we, humans, totally lost the capacity to enjoy life? We are either worrying or trying to keep our hands and minds occupied withsomething. The man just discovered that we have started boarding. I don’t think he paused to think before going and standing at the extreme end of a very long queue for boarding. What’s the rush? It doesn’t seem possible that the plane will leave without collecting everything and everyone it is supposed to take, proven by the many announcements.

I wonder if anyone paused to look at the very huge screen display with a beautiful photograph of the colors of holi, the festival of color celebrated enthusiastically all over India. Everyone tells me they “appreciate photography” and have very recently bought the xyz camera by Nikon or Canon and want to know more about it. But no one here seemed to pause and look around or see the beauty in the tiny things. How can anyone learn photography if they don’t know how to appreciate beauty, I wonder. Another man in a chair after mine just wakes up from a very deep sleep. Again, no thinking, wakes up startled, sees the boarding queue, goes and joins the queue at its end.

There was a time when people used to enjoy travel. When people used to look around, observe and cherish the little things that make a place, a place. That make a city, a city. Now, it seems, travel has become just another mundane part of life. Now, people just dress up in expensive clothes to board flights after flights and walk into meetings and business tours without even having a vague idea of where they are. They could be anywhere. They would still be doing the same thing – worrying, planning, missing sleep, missing family, missing life. Where does this lead us? Where is everyone going?

Kailash, the Ultimate Fulfillment

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

An eternal revelation, a mystery, a conscious fire, a happening, an immeasurable energy, an ocean of mysticism, a congregation of enlightened beings, a place beyond space and time – and, a completion of lifetimes. Kailash, the abode of Shiva. The place where the entire cosmos is centered, as explained by Swamiji (Swami Paramahamsa Nithyananda). The headquarters of the cosmos.

All these, and many more ideas cross my mind when I have to recount my Kailash yatra to anyone. Yet, I am not able to say much because I know that no matter what I say, I cannot do justice to Mahadev, the One who planted the desire in me to see Kailash, and who made my Kailash yatra not only possible, but also the ultimate fulfilment life can offer me.

The Kailash yatra was only the beginning of the actual yatra – life after Kailash! Even though words are to the real experience as puppets are to living beings, having no other way to put my Kailash experience on record, I will throw a flashback on one of my most intense experiences of the yatra.

The Kailash parikrama in Tibet starts from Darchhen and after an 8 km stretch of mountains and valleys comes the first halt at Dhirapuk. At Darchhen, where the parikrama starts, the Kailash looks the way I was expecting to see it – a holy mountain, at a great distance, high up in the sky, standing out majestically from the surrounding huge rocks. As the parikarma progressed, I soon lost sight of Kailash. Almost half way through the journey, as I was gazing happily at the hills and the rivers and the yaks, I suddenly got the shock of my life. I almost fell from my horse.

Kailash was at my eye level, almost as if just a few hundred feet away! It was definitely pretty far away still, I figured that out much later, but it was so huge that it felt like right next to me. Larger than life, in every sense. I felt it a huge disrespect to Kailash to be sitting on my horse, so I got down and started walking for the rest of the journey, unable to take my eyes off Kailash.

On reaching the Dhirapuk Guest House, I dumped my bags in the room assigned to me, and went out to gaze at Kailash. I sat there, at a little distance away from people, leaned against a rock, with the horses neighing in the background and the chilly wind reddening my nose, unwilling to close my eyes even to blink. I sat for several hours. How many, I don’t know. Though I had uncountable mystical experiences throughout the yatra, in the time stretch when I sat lost in Kailash, I had no such experiences. And yet, it was the most fulfilling experience from the entire yatra. It was almost as if I wanted to absorb the very air, the very breath of Kailash and take it away with me.

After coming back from the yatra, I still feel as if that experience of being lost in Kailash has become a very part of me, my life, my very thinking. I feel like I have nothing more to ask of life, and yet, there is an immense excitement to do so many things in life, out of gratitude to Swamiji and Mahadev. That, to me, is the ultimate completion with life.

First published in Nithyananda Times

Mumbai, the City of Variables

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

‘Why isn’t anything moving?’ I asked the car driver. Our car had moved six feet in the last one hour. I looked outside the car window, and found I could not see anything discernibly, because we were stuck in a heavy downpour on a traffic-clogged Eastern Express Highway. The water level on the roads was slowly rising. Every now and then a car would honk at full blast, expressing the frustration of the driver, and then other cars would also join in, making it a cacophony of cars honking at different pitches.

I was on my way back from office and this was my first monsoon season in Mumbai. I did not see this coming.

‘The phones are not working either. This is exactly what happened in 2006 also, in the great flood of Mumbai’, replied the driver.

Was he trying to scare me? If so, he was succeeding by leaps and bounds.

My other colleagues in the car were seemingly unaffected; one sleeping, one reading the latest Indian Fiction novel, one listening to blaring, loud rock music on his noise cancelling headphones, not realizing that we could hear his music too, making the label ‘noise cancelling’ on his headphones very questionable. Another of my colleagues, looking at my impatience, grinned at me, saying, ‘This is Mumbai.’

In my first few months in the great city, Mumbai boggled my sensibilities. In a metropolis packed with 20 million people, it was surprisingly easy to strike up a conversation with any passer-by. It was the easiest thing to get directions to the closest local train station, and the toughest thing to muster the courage to get onto a train that was already packed with commuters, some of whom were hanging from the doors. And then, one day, I learnt that the trick was to buy a First Class ticket to the ladies coach, the crowd density wherein was quite rarefied.

I munched my Vada Paav moodily. It was garlicky and spicy. Vada Paav is a ‘Mumbaiya’ snack of a small cutlet packed in breads, served with a hot chilli sauce. I was partaking of the same near my apartment in Powai.

‘Have you decided where you want to go yet?’, asked my friend, tangentially hinting at the traffic situation.

After two hours of commuting and a wait of half an hour we finally got into Café Mondegar in Colaba. Our table was neatly sandwiched between the adjoining tables, so much so that an onlooker might think we were in the same group as our noisy neighbours. The caricatures on the walls of the café by Mario Miranda today bore an uncanny resemblance to the people therein. Fashionably dressed women with airs, men in suits and ties, expats smoking at the entrance door, beer kegs everywhere – it was a Friday evening at Mondegar’s alright. Three beers down, we were already discussing our next halt – should it be jazz or live rock? In Mumbai, parties only had a starting time and place.

Jack Kerouac

Astrological chart of Jack Kerouac

Vedic Astrology Spiritual Portal - Heavenly Observer

born Lowell, USA, March 12, 1922 approx. 5pm

“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright
forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson
you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the…

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If Only…

If only you could have been there
If only into your joyous eyes I could stare
If only I could hold your hand
All the world and its vicissitudes I could stand
If only the grass was greener this side
If only my pain I did not have to hide
If only I could love you all day
If only you had had the heart to stay…