This blog is the part of my series on the 12 days long road trip through Ladakh in Incredible India on invitation by Scout My Trip and OYO Rooms It takes fun company to make Highest Blogger Meet at Khandungla top happen!
Here is a brief introduction of the Travel bloggers whose amazing company made this trip memorable. You will see their names in other blogs in Ladakh road trip series: (alphabetical order)
Ami Bhat: We have known each other since a long time, so she’s already a favourite. Most of my time with her was spent in trying to trick her in revealing how she manages so many things with elan. Blogging, Travelling, a teenage daughter, family functions, her pilates sessions. There is so much on her plate and yet she does justice to all of it. She is also the fittest Travel Blogger I have met. Perhaps I should eat more of the dry muesli she fed me every morning. No, I don’t want to be like her. It is lot of work. 😛
Anuradha Goyal: She is one of the most senior travel bloggers in India. A fun company, she’s a big foodie and almost wanted to kill me when I said that I had 2 plates of golgappa. All alone, that is. Her enthusiasm for travel and food is infectious. Even after so many years of a well travelled life, she inspires with her hunger to see more places.
Johann Binny Kuruvilla: Belying the corny “Johann Sambandh” (Rhymes with Yaun Sambandh) moniker which we forced upon him, he’s an affable, chilled out guy who shares same sambandh (relation) with all. An adventure junkie, he has done ambitious treks like Everest Base Camp and Stok Kangri. He would play all the cool classical songs which I would appreciate in his presence but talk badly about when he’s not around. We took our sambandh forward and made another trip to Udupi and Chikmanlur after the Ladakh trip. He’s a fun company with whom I can talk endlessly.
Karan Bhalla: Karan was one of the coolest one around. Be it the way he speaks (without a care in the world), the happy-go-lucky demeanor he exudes or the jokes he cracks, he comes across as the guy who has the key to the secret Utopian world you have always been looking for. His casualness belies the fact that he is an erudite bird watcher and wildlife enthusiast. And a professional one at that!
Khursheed Dinshaw: We met for the first time at Khyber Resort in Gulmarg, Kashmir. Since then, we have shared a crackling chemistry. She is great with sarcasms. In fact she’s so good with it that only after 24 hours will you realize that the compliment she gave you was actually an insult, lol. She is one of the most pure hearted and talented travel writers I have met. Our friendship is beyond work and most of our time together is spent in pulling each others’ legs and talking nonsense. We have invented a way that our silly banter appears like a high level intellectual discourse to anyone who’s observing us from a distance. That said, she is one of the finest writers I know.
P.S. The dedicated journalist she is, Khursheed interviews one and all. I did ask her, “What time are you going to interview the Bactrian camels. I want to come along and see how it works!”
Lakshami Sharath: I have been reading her articles in Travel magazines and journals even when I was not a professional Travel writer and blogger. Despite the rich oeuvre she has built over the years with hard work, she is modest and humble person. I also find her to be the most well spoken and sensible person who says things like they are. I was looking forward to more interactions with her but unfortunately she left after Khardung La.
Neha Kapoor: Fun, vivacious and full of life. She’s bindas and multi talented. She can inject the dullest of places with her infectious energy and joie-de-vivre. An amazing singer, she is also a trained actress who performs in theatre in Mumbai. She regaled us with her songs, dance and mimicry gigs. However, I and she could never align on a common choice of songs. Ever since, I have been harassing her with threats of playing Altaf Raja songs the next time we are together.
Ragini Puri: The most soft spoken of the lot, she is a tiny bundle of happiness. I tried to copy her but failed to have a permanent smile on my face like her. Exuding positive vibes, she is fun to talk to. In fact, on one of the nights in Leh, we talked endlessly, lost track of time and were being locked out of the hotel, rescued only by Neha. I have met her earlier few times. However, I got to know her better only in this trip. She is also one of the finest travel writers whom I admire. A free spirited girl and a fun company, I would like to travel again with her.
Raza Rahil Hussain: The tech guy, he is much more fun than he would like to admit. He reviews cars, gadgets, mountains, rivers and the level of our sense of humor and our choice of songs with equal ease. A reservoir of knowledge that he is, we would wait for some of it to trickle down in between jokes. We were together in same car and also shared rooms on some occasions. Once he switched to Dada’s car, which would stop at all the photogenic points, he would wink at us (signaling us to stop) as we tell each other in hush hush tones, “Apna Aadmi baitha hai us car mein” (Our guy in that car,eh!)
Swati Jain: It is most difficult to write on her because I have known her since a long time now. So long, that we talk to each other only in murderous tones laced with nothing but poison. Most of our time together is spent on trivial fights such as
“That’s my seat. Why did you sit here?”
“Who gave you the constitutional rights to eat my Maggi?”
“What made you think that you can play that song and get away with it?”
However, when our mutual murderous rage cools down (mostly after 5 p.m.), we are the best of friends. Familiarity breeds contempt. And maybe strong bonds too!
Amazing bunch of folks at Scout My Trip. (Alphabetical order)
What these amazing bunch of go getters have achieved is not easy. Managing a 12 day long road trip across the high altitude hostile terrain of Ladakh is a herculean task which Scout My Trip team executed effortlessly.
Amit Nikam: The fact that he belongs to Maharashtra already made me his fan. Maharashtra is my favourite state (I am an outcast. I love Sahyadris more than Himalayas!) and anyone from the state becomes my default favourite. A cool chap, he was behind the wheels of the coolest car. A red Thar, that is. Also a doctor by profession, he was supposed to be our savior in a medical emergency.
Deepak Ananth: The craziest of them all, he would regale us with his high energy antics. There is never a dull moment with Deepak. I fondly remember the jugalbandi on Chatur Naar done with him and Samarth. In car! A hard task master he knows how to get things done. He would crack the wackiest of jokes even in trying circumstances. This really helped keeping the morale of the group high. I wish I had the immense energy which he has.
Harshit Vishwakarma: Harshit travelled with us briefly. He was the official photographer and film maker for the 12 days road trip through Ladakh. A soft spoken introvert, he would have a tough time trying to convince all of us to give wild poses for group photos. He would also corner us early mornings for brief videos bytes which OYO Rooms shared instantly on their social media pages. He is also an artist and never leaves an opportunity to draw on people’s muddy cars. And the people approve!
Neeraj Sinha aka Dada aka Yayawar: I had seen dada only on Facebook and Twitter before I met him. I had envisioned a serious, ‘Don’t mess with me’ guy. Dada turned out to be totally different. Personally, I liked his sense of humour the best. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is not. Sometimes, he would not even crack a joke but still make us all laugh with his comments, sarcastic tone and body language. He kept justifying his eldest member status with, “Meri koi sunta hi nahi hai.” (Nobody listens to me)I was expecting him to discipline the unruly bloggers that we were, but he didn’t bother moral policing us. Amongst us, he was the most knowledgeable person on all things Ladakh. He even knew the exact points from which you can get the best shots. We silently tagged along!
Pratik Jain: The quirkiest and cutest of them all, Prateek happened to be my scout on some days. He hated my taste in music and instead played his Jhankar Beats songs from 80s which I hated. He was the most unpredictable of the lot. At one moment, he would be a bad ass mafia, another moment he would be cracking jokes around. He was the only one whose jokes (or was it just his way of speaking?) sent me on uncontrollable laughing bouts. He also emerged as the most popular of all the road trippers at the end.
Samarth Sankhla: He was the priest of our ‘Sanskari Car’. Me, Ami and Swati loved him so much that we didn’t want to leave his car. I can’t say the same about him though. Our ‘priest’ would indulge in all the unholy activities though such as mimicking others, singing and dancing to old Bollywood songs, usurping all the attention with his inimitable entertaining antics. His dead pan humor crackled us every day. The mehfil he helmed single handedly at the night in Nubra valley was the best thing about the trip. Not to forget, the many jugalbandis we had in our car and the earth shattering dance he and Swati did on the last night in Manali. I just got lucked out to travel with the coolest scout in the group. He was effortlessly cool. Ever since, I have been coaxing him to watch Bollywood film Tamasha, rediscover his talents, switch careers and become a full time Stand Up Comedian. But he’s more interested in road tripping and stuffing his face with idlis and dosas. Never mind.
Shakeel Khan: It would be a cliché if I reiterated that his was the fastest and the cleanest car. A photography enthusiast, he would always reach the destination first on most days and sometimes sent us pictures of the destination on whatssup. We would still be shamelessly hogging on cheap pani-puris far far away while he would be snuggling in the luxurious bed in the destination.
Vineet Rajan: It’s a myth that Vineet doesn’t smile. He smiles when he makes 100 % sure that no one is watching. I suspect he locks himself up in a dark room every 30 minutes, smile as much as he wants to and then emerges plain faced to keep the ‘unsmiling Vineet’ legend alive. Though you should see him when he dances sans a smile on his face! Smiles apart, Vineet along with Deepak and Dada were the strong pillars we relied on. His attention to details and management skills make him stand out. He also knows how to manage a large number of people, all with their own whims and fancies. And when he is not burdened with responsibilities, he knows how to let his hair down.
The view from my #SoulWindow is full of camaraderie!
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