Marrakesh In 48 Hours – Explorers’ Guide To Morocco’s ‘Red City’

Opulent palaces, old-world souks, meandering alleyways and more… Marrakesh has a magical way of transporting its visitors into another era. Established in the 11th century AD, the 4th largest city of Morocco is steeped in history. Marrakesh is also called the ‘Red City’ for its umpteen red sandstone buildings that dot the Old Town. One needs at least a couple of days to soak in the diverse vibes of this erstwhile imperial capital which is heavily influenced by Islamic, French and Spanish cultures among others. Follow this 48-hour curated itinerary to discover Marrakesh on foot all by yourself!

Day 1:

11 AM

Koutoubia Mosque by Jorge Láscar (CC)

Koutoubia Mosque by Jorge Láscar (CC)

Allow yourself the morning to check into your hotel and recharge. After a lazy breakfast, begin your day with a visit to Koutoubia Mosque inside the walled medina of Marrakesh. Admire the timelessness of this red stone Almohad-style complex and the towering minaret from the 12th century, then stroll through the gardens in the plaza. (Entry inside the mosque is for Muslims only.)

12 Noon

Moroccan tajine (Credit: Tajines by Franx' under CC)

Moroccan tajine (Credit: Tajines by Franx’ under CC)

Before the sun begins to scorch you, step into Cafe Kif-Kif, a short walk from Koutoubia. Lunch on some chicken tajine (a slow-cooked Mahghrebi stew) with the complimentary khobz (Moroccan bread) topped with sesame. Vegans can try their vegetarian couscous instead. Expect to pay 50-60 dirhams for two. (1 Moroccan Dirham is roughly equal to 7 Indian Rupees)

1 PM

Bab Agnaou (Credit: Krzysztof Belczyński under CC)

Bab Agnaou (Credit: Krzysztof Belczyński under CC)

Walk along the fortified wall of the old town till you reach Bab Agnaou – the official gate to enter Marrakesh. Stop for a photo-op at the entrance which happens to be one of 19 gates into the medina.

2 PM

Head to El Badi Palace to witness the ruins of a 16th-century architectural wonder commissioned by the Saadian dynasty. The sprawling premise also houses several pavilions, dungeons, stables, a courtyard and a pool.

3 PM

Bahia Palace, Marrakesh, Morocco by Cebanu Ghenadie (CC)

Bahia Palace, Marrakesh, Morocco by Cebanu Ghenadie (CC)

Built in the 19th century, Bahia Palace is one of the more modern attractions of Marrakesh. “Bahia” means brilliance, and that is evident in the distinctive Islamic and Moroccan architecture of the palace.

4 PM

By now, you have been walking for hours and you deserve to relax! Enter into Hammam Rosa Bonheur (book your slot by calling them in advance) and spend the next hour being treated to a traditional hammam scrub and bath. The basic 40-minute hammams cost 275 Dh and the rates go up to 1000+ Dh for 150-minute premium treatments that include massages and meals.

7 PM

Jemaa el-Fna by www.twin-loc.fr (CC)

Jemaa el-Fna by www.twin-loc.fr (CC)

Rejuvenated by the Moorish hammam experience, brace yourself for the electrifying atmosphere at Jemaa el-Fna, the main square and largest marketplace of Marrakesh. Spend the rest of your evening being entertained by Berber dancers and enraptured by magicians while you nibble on local snacks (try aubergine fritters) from the food stalls. Most items will cost you between 5 and 15 dirhams, so eat all you can before you call it a day! 😉

Day 2:

9 AM

Ben Youssef Madrasa (Credit: eatswords under CC)

Ben Youssef Madrasa (Credit: eatswords under CC)

Start your second day with Ben Youssef Madrasa which used to be an Islamic college but is now a photographer’s paradise. The doorways are intricately embellished with arabesque artform and Islamic geometrical patterns and calligraphy. Even the tiles used on the walls and pillars have flower motifs painted on them.

10 AM

Only two minutes from the madrasa is the classical Moorish-styled Dar Menebhi Palace which is now the Marrakech Museum. Even if you are not a fan of art or museums, the palace is beautiful to behold.

11 AM

Almoravid Koubba by Kathrin Mezger (CC)

Almoravid Koubba by Kathrin Mezger (CC)

Make a quick stop at the Almoravid Koubba, a dome-shaped cedar wood building built in the 12th century and rediscovered in the 20th century. The Koubba was restored after its excavation.

12 Noon

Wander by the spice markets of Souk Semmarine and buy your stash of cooking essentials to take back home. You can also shop for carpets, souvenirs, trinkets and furniture at the shops.

1 PM

Treat yourself to a different cuisine for lunch as you reach Roti D’Or which serves French and Mexican along with burgers, shwarmas and falafel. You can have a decent meal for under 35 Dh.

2 PM

Jardine Majorelle (Credit: Toni Almodóvar Escuder under CC)

Jardine Majorelle (Credit: Toni Almodóvar Escuder under CC)

Spend your afternoon in the Majorelle Garden and villa which was built by a French artist over 40 years. The place is not just a botanical wonderland but also home to 3 museums – Berber Museum, Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech and Yves Saint Laurent Museum.

4 PM

Not far from Jardine Majorelle lies Dar Si Said, a museum of Moroccan artefacts and artillery. From bags and jewellery to carpets and paintings, the museum houses things that date back to the 11th century!

5 PM

Senegalese Fataya (Credit: Gino Williams under CC)

Senegalese Fataya (Credit: Gino Williams under CC)

Hop into Blackchich Cafe nearby for some rare Senegalese and Berber dishes. They also serve Moroccan desserts with mint tea – the country’s most popular beverage.

Spend your spare time to pack in some last minute shopping or to plan your onward journey from Marrakech. The city isn’t far from the Atlas Mountains. If you have an extra day with you, rent a car to explore Berber villages in the valleys and de-stress by the lakes.

Do you think you can now explore Marrakesh on your own?

Write your answers as comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more insights on travelling by yourself. Do share this article with your friends who are planning a trip to Morocco!

Note: This article was written on special request for Ithaka.

Credit for the header image: Marrakesh by Tak (CC)

A Quick Guide To Budapest – The Capital Of Hungary

Budapest had long been on my travel wishlist and I was glad to be able to visit this Eastern European gem when it was still relatively uninundated by tourists. This city is perfect for budget travellers as the Hungarian Forint makes all things affordable. Cost-effectiveness aside, the place has plenty of history, culture and natural sights that deserve at least one visit in a lifetime. Here’s my easy guide to exploring Budapest on foot:-

Gellért Hill And The Citadella

Gellért Hill in Buda offers panoramic views of the city

Gellért Hill in Buda offers panoramic views of the city

Wake up early and begin your exploration from Gellért Hill in Buda. This hill which was once full of vineyards is named after a bishop who was forced into a wine barrel and rolled down from the top. There are several hiking trails along Gellért Hill that lead to various points of interest which also provide sweeping views of Budapest from great vantage points. The Citadella – a fortress complex, Sziklatemplom – a chapel-cum-museum inside the natural cave structure of this hill and St. Gellért Monument are not to be missed!

Tram It Out If You’re Not Into Walking

Trams connect most of Buda and Pest and even cross over the Danube!

Trams connect most of Buda and Pest and even cross over the Danube!

Budapest is little enough to be covered entirely on foot (especially if you are a fast walker like me) and yet large enough to warrant public transport and cars. Whatever your level of physical fitness, the city requires a lot of walking. So, if you think you’re going to tire out, hop inside one of their cool trams that run all across the cobblestone streets in Buda and Pest, and also across the Danube River that separates the two parts of Budapest! The locals often joke that the Pesti are not as sophisticated as the residents of Buda, but to discover if there’s any truth in that generalization, you’ll have to explore both the parts of the city. 😉

Buda Castle And The Underground Cave Network

Hiking up the Buda Castle, I wondered what lives the kings of the 13th century must have led.

Hiking up the Buda Castle, I wondered what lives the kings of the 13th century must have led.

One of the most iconic structures of Hungary is the Buda Castle. This gorgeous baroque palace built on Castle Hill is among Budapest’s World Heritage Sites, along with the embankments by the Danube. The palace complex also houses the Budapest History Museum. The funicular that leads to the palace usually has a long queue and it helps to do the trek instead. There’s also a lift inside that shortens your walk by a couple of floors. The Castle Hill has many more historical attractions which have been carefully maintained for centuries. Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church are important for their intricate architecture and viewing galleries. However, the site that most moved me was the Hospital In The Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum). This underground museum is a complex of interconnected caves right below the Buda Castle. I took one of their hour-long tours to learn that the fortified caves were used as shelter against air raids during World War II and then as an emergency hospital to treat casualties during the 1956 Revolution. A couple of years later, the place served as a nuclear bunker as people feared chemical attacks during the Cold War.

Across The Danube

Cross over to Pest from the old Buda and watch the ships go by.

Cross over to Pest from the old Buda and watch the ships go by.

Once you have had a taste of Buda, cross the Danube to Pest. There are many bridges that run over this river, the prominent ones being Chain Bridge, Liberty Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge. The river is a nice way to tour the entire stretch of Budapest’s embankments. There are countless cruises that have live commentary, food and entertainment onboard. An evening cruise lets you marvel over the glittering banks as you pass by famous buildings and go under the bridges.

St. Stephen’s Basilica – Budapest’s Largest Cathedral

St. Stephen's Basilica is the tallest building in Pest.

St. Stephen’s Basilica is the tallest building in Pest.

The Budapest Cathedral or St. Stephen’s Basilica is just as tall as the Hungarian Parliament Building at 96m. This is to signify that the country considers the spiritualism of the church and the laws of the world to be of equal importance. Even if you are irreligious, visit this church which took over 50 years to be built. The spiral stairways inside lead up to an observation deck that offers views that are spellbinding!

See The Rooftops Of Budapest

I watch the Old Town from the viewing gallery of St. Stephen's Basilica.

I watch the Old Town from the viewing gallery of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

It is from the observation deck of the Budapest Cathedral that I saw my life’s very first double rainbow! 🙂 The rains had just stopped when I had finished climbing the 364 steps to the dome to watch two beautiful rainbows in the clearing sky. From up there, you can see a lot of Pest and Buda – the magnificent royal palace, the tall spire of Matthias Church, all the way to the Tatra Mountains in the distance.

By The Pesti Bank Of The Danube

Attila Jozsef's statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet's lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

Attila Jozsef’s statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet’s lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

An evening walk along the riverside of Pest will take you to the third largest parliament building in the world. Guided tours are available inside the Hungarian Parliament Building. Some distance ahead, there is an art installation called ‘Shoes By The Danube’ which displays iron statues of 60 pairs of shoes permanently installed to remember the victims of the holocaust who were shot there.

The Great Market Hall

Central Market Hall - Budapest's grand marketplace for shopaholics and foodies

Central Market Hall – Budapest’s grand marketplace for shopaholics and foodies

The largest indoor marketplace in the city – Central Market Hall has numerous stalls that offer fruits, vegetables, chocolates and countless Hungarian specialities. I loved munching on a strudel from one of the stalls here which comes with assorted and unusual stuffings such as pumpkin-poppy-seed. The second floor has eateries and shops which sell clothing and interesting artefacts among many other things.

Jewish Quarter And The House Of Terror

House Of Terror - Budapest's war museum

House Of Terror – Budapest’s war museum

Hungary has a lot of Jewish history, most of it heart-wrenching. The largest synagogue in Europe, Dohány Street Synagogue, has heavy security and employs strict screening of all its visitors. The complex also has a museum, a cemetery and a Holocaust memorial – a weeping willow tree which has names of the Hungarian Jewish victims inscribed on its leaves. Terror tourism is emotionally painful for spectators, but an important way to sensitize the public on the horrors of wars, racism and anti-semitism. You cannot do without a tour of Terror Háza Múzeum (House of Terror Museum) where thousands of people were tortured and imprisoned by the Nazis. The voice recording of a former prisoner describing how they were abused chilled me to the bone as it played in the lift.

Along Andrássy Avenue

Hősök tere (Heroes' Square) recognizes the founders of Hungary

Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) recognizes the founders of Hungary

Andrássy Avenue, a World Heritage Site, is an important and long stretch of road in Pest that leads to the Heroes’ Square – the largest square in Budapest. Along the street, you come across a number of shops, squares, museums including Terror Háza, the State Opera House and many commercial and residential buildings and villas.

In Case You Have More Time

I smile after a couple of hikes in Buda

I smile after a couple of hikes in Buda

There is so much to see and do in Budapest that you need a long holiday to fully enjoy all of its attractions at leisure. I was able to spend a day in Margaret Island which sits in the middle of the Danube. This city also has a handful of thermal baths which promise to relax your nerves and cleanse your body with their medicinal properties.

Have I convinced you to visit Budapest yet?

Let me know by commenting below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more travel guides to beautiful destinations. Do share this article with your friends who are planning a trip to Budapest! Make use of Goomo flight coupons when you book your flights or hotels for your next vacation.

You Travel And Live Better When You Are Proactive

Many people tell me they wish to do a lot of things, visit a lot of places, but they wonder whether they’ll have enough time and money to achieve all those dreams. The answer to the first doubt about “time” is quite plain. We are living longer, and we’ll certainly have a lot of time post retirement to pursue our hobbies and wishes once we are free of our full-time jobs. The second factor of money is a tricky one. We’ll need enough to adopt a lifestyle that lets us do whatever we like. The best way to control how money works for you is to exert your control on it early. Be proactive in following a few steps, and you’ll realize how the benefits are far-reaching.

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your #LifeGoals

I don't fear heights anymore now that I know the beauty that can be beheld from the top. (The farmlands in Purushwadi, Maharashtra)

I don’t fear heights anymore now that I know the beauty that can be beheld from the top. (The farmlands in Purushwadi, Maharashtra)

Doubts appear big when you have forgotten how much bigger and infinitely precious your goals are. If you have your eye set on your dreams, it won’t matter that you have no experience of the goals that you ultimately wish to pursue. When I was growing up, I didn’t know a thing about travelling alone. I learnt on the go and gained confidence when I started doing solo trips around India and the world and discovered that the doubts were only in my head. When I did my first solo hike in the Austrian Alps, I was scared of being attacked by a wild animal or losing my way. But I returned to the base that evening unscathed. And I’ve observed a similar trend with most of my former doubts which I have lost by pursuing my dreams.

Take Help And Ask Around

Manhattan (New York) urges all to lose their inhibitions and mingle.

Manhattan (New York) urges all to lose their inhibitions and mingle.

I was all by myself in New York City last year, intimidated by the giant buildings, supersized food-portions and the swarms of people from (perhaps) every country on the world map. But I eased into the NYC culture when I started talking to the people around me. They were much friendlier than I thought they’d be. To the common man who probably fears making bad investment decisions, it would be a good idea to take advice from the experts. All of the time that I’ve spent travelling has not made me poorer financially, only richer experientially.

Put Those Thoughts Of Uncertainty Aside

The world is full of beautiful colours which you can see only when your mind is not preoccupied (Kala Ghoda Arts Fest in Mumbai).

The world is full of beautiful colours which you can see only when your mind is not preoccupied (Kala Ghoda Arts Fest in Mumbai).

Many of my friends are nervous of undertaking adventure sports because they fear losing a limb or something even worse. If you are so afraid of death, it makes even more sense to realize your dreams as soon as you can. If you are just worried about not being able to provide for yourself and your family in your golden years, plan for those times now! Only last month, Bajaj Allianz launched a unique ULIP that provides return of life cover charges for life maximizers. The product – Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure is designed to reward the policyholder for outliving the maturity period by returning the cost of life-cover when the policy matures. And if you choose to receive the maturity benefit in instalments over 5 years (and not lump-sum), you get a return enhancer of 0.5% of every due instalment. And of course, your money still remains invested in the fund(s) of your choice! When you have taken care of your old age, will you still be afraid of death?

Don’t Wait For Your Best Friend To Do It First

You never know how long the person standing next to you will be there for you (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

You never know how long the person standing next to you will be there for you (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

I often notice that people are unreasonably hesitant to be the first to do anything, even if it is as innocuous as watching a new movie which hasn’t been critiqued yet or eating at a newly opened restaurant which hasn’t been reviewed. Do you even know how wonderful it feels to be the first to do something? When it comes to investments though, you must be careful. Put your earnings only into a product which is managed by an institution you trust and that which has good fund managers. Bajaj Allianz Life Goal Assure lets you choose among 4 portfolio strategies and gives you the flexibility to switch unlimited times between funds (you can choose from 8 available funds). Besides, benefits are maximized for long-term investors and there’s the element of convenience, thanks to the facilities that can be availed of online through their website. Being a life-insurance ULIP, the product also gives you tax benefits under section 80C and 10D.

Experience The World With Childlike Wonder

We have so much to learn from carefree kids.

We have so much to learn from carefree kids.

The older we get the more morbid our thoughts become. Why don’t we look at children who are always excited about little things, enjoying the company of their friends and strangers, and happy with very less? They know that life is valuable and holds a lot of promise for them. If you trust your days to bring you cheer, will you still be sullen?

Are you avoiding chasing your dreams because you fear something will go wrong?

Write your comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more insights from my experiences around the world. Do share this article with your friends who fear unnecessarily!

How To Make Friends When You Travel

I have been asked several times how I manage to endure my solo trips without anyone to talk to or hang out with. Also, a lot of readers curious to try travelling all by themselves ask me if there’s any way they can avoid feeling lonely. My simple answer to all such questions is I am never alone in any new place. I usually find a stranger to talk to, a group of hostellers to share a room with, or a warm family to share a meal with. There have been times when I’ve been all alone (in the worldly sense) on solo treks on abandoned hills. But there was still the shuffle of leaves, the chirp of an odd bird, and always, the presence of God.

Learn To Trust New People (Just As You Trust Your Instinct)

How long can one sail alone or only with those one has already known? (I watch tourists take a shikara ride in Kolkata's Prinsep Ghat)

How long can one sail alone or only with those one has already known? (I watch tourists take a shikara ride in Kolkata’s Prinsep Ghat)

I could tell you a hundred ways to meet new people, but you wouldn’t make a single friend if you are always wary of strangers or afraid to reveal anything about yourself. Friendships are forged when you make yourself available to conversations. Don’t always cuddle with a book or appear busy with your phone if you want to look approachable. And once a good Samaritan comes along and greets you, don’t instantly write him off as a characterless person out to cheat you. Trust a little, ask questions that help you get to know the person better, and also talk about your own self. Friendship is a two-way street. You can’t just take, take and take. You must learn to give.

Look For Things To Do With A New Group

Running together is a great way of making new friends!

Running together is a great way of making new friends!

I know so many people who would love to have a lot of friends but are too shy to initiate the conversations. For all of those shy or even introverted people, I’d suggest joining a group that does what you like to do. You will be in your comfort zone when it’s an activity you know, and yet have enough room to interact with people you are unfamiliar with. I personally find running an excellent way to connect with new people. Over the umpteen marathons I’ve run, I’ve made some amazing friends from different cities and continents. It doesn’t matter what you like to do – cycling, painting, cooking, hiking, shopping, or just about anything else. You can find people with similar interests and get those conversations started! The Cuddll app lets you create or join “cuddlls” which are informal social gatherings. You can also chat with other people joining the cuddll and plan for the meetup. Start by browsing through cuddlls based on the date, location or your interest.

Get Away From Your Phone. Get Back Into Real Life!

It's surprisingly easy to chat with a stranger when you need someone to take your picture. (In the great White Rann of Kutch)

It’s surprisingly easy to chat with a stranger when you need someone to take your picture. (In the great White Rann of Kutch)

A strange thing about our generation is how much we love to cling to our phones. We don’t mind chatting for hours as long as we don’t actually have to meet that person. And once we do, we don’t know what to talk about. The app market is full of silly dating apps that do very little to create trustworthy bonds and a lot to encourage casual flings, most of which only remain digital. Cuddll cuts through that clutter and keeps things clean. This is an app to make new friends and meet people in a safe way in groups. And you don’t just keep things virtual but actually go out there, meet and do what you signed up for! Another tip to make friends – ditch your phone once you’re with humans. Phones are very distracting with all of the pinging and ringing that interrupt conversations. You’ll realize you can have meaningful conversations when you truly listen to the people in your group with full concentration.

Cultivate Your Interests

Cooking together or even learning to cook is a beautiful way to connect with another person. (My new-found friend from the Koli tribe in the Maharashtrian village of Purushwadi)

Cooking together or even learning to cook is a beautiful way to connect with another person. (My new-found friend from the Koli tribe in the Maharashtrian village of Purushwadi)

I once had a friend who had no hobbies. (Yes, you read that right!) He would only go to work, come back home, and watch TV with the dinner his cook had prepared. He hated talking to people and found great comfort in being passive. I used to think he was naturally reticent and liked being that way. But he later told me he envied people who could do a lot of things, and he deliberately avoided interacting with anyone because they’d find out he was good at nothing. If you also suffer from similar thoughts, you could try addressing each shortcoming once by one. Don’t have a hobby? Learn something. Don’t know what you will like? Join different classes for a while and stay with the one you like. (That friend of mine later started learning to play the guitar and now also knows how to set up his own tent. He camps with strangers and prefers homestays over hotels for the warmth of the hosts.) The second part of the problem is inferiority complex. You don’t have to be the best at everything. And that’s precisely why you need to meet people who can do things better! You’ll enjoy being around amazing people when you stop worrying about what they think of you and instead focus on how you can learn from them.

Start From Where You Are

University campuses are still one of the best places to make friends for life. (The UPenn campus in Philly)

University campuses are still one of the best places to make friends for life. (The UPenn campus in Philly)

Lastly, you don’t have to be in a foreign land to begin making new friends. Start from your very own neighbourhood or your school campus. You may have spent several months and years walking past acquaintances and yet never had the afterthought to talk to them. Perhaps you could start your first “cuddll” in your backyard over a small boardgame or potluck dinner? Or if  you are a student, gather your classmates over a cricket match or plan a short trip to the mountains! Nature has a wonderful way of strengthening relationships and building trust.

Do you have any tips for making new friends?

Write your answers as comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more ideas on travelling and finding nice people on the way. Do share this piece with those who are afraid to get out of their friend circle and talk to new people!

What The Koli Tribe Of Purushwadi Has Taught Me

Purushwadi, a village that wakes up to the crowing of a rooster and sleeps soon after the sun has set, was my home last month. I had changed 4 modes of transport from Mumbai to get to this fully sustainable remote hamlet nestled in the Sahyadris. The people of this land are one of the most prosperous tribes in rural Maharashtra – Mahadev Koli. I did not know in the beginning how much I would learn from the simpletons of Purshwadi, but they overwhelmed me with their admirable lifestyle!

Age Is Only A Number (And Old Women Are Pro Farmers)

Advanced in age, this woman still begins her mornings tending to her field.

Advanced in age, this woman still begins her mornings tending to her field.

Every family in this village owns a small patch of land and almost everyone is a farmer. Children as young as 9 help their parents in the fields when their school is shut for summer. It is more common to see women working away on the farms as compared to men. They head to the fields at about 11 in the morning, after they have finished their housework, and return only after sunset. Their active lifestyle is perhaps the reason why they are so fit even in their golden years. It is not uncommon to find grandmothers toiling in the scorching sun.

Animals Are Not Playthings

Cattle are like extended family to the villagers of Purushwadi.

Cattle are like extended family to the villagers of Purushwadi.

I was moved by the compassion that the Koli tribe shows towards animals. Their cows and goats have plenty of open greens to feed on. Their sheds are cleaned and they are given a bath soon after sunrise. Happy cows also mean tastier milk! It must also be mentioned that each home owns cows, goats and hens for its daily supply of milk and eggs. The self-sufficiency of these people cannot be overstated.

Women Can Carry More Than Their Own Bodyweight

Hands of steel carry firewood to run the kitchen.

Hands of steel carry firewood to run the kitchen.

Purushwadi has not seen any of our fancy kitchen gadgets. There are no gas stoves or piped gas connections here. Firewood is used for fuel. It is not unusual to find women along the streets carrying bundles of firewood on their hike up their hilltop homes. What is particularly noteworthy is their superior physical strength that enables them to carry as much as 50 kilos (perhaps more than what they weigh) on their head.

Contentment Is More Precious Than Creature Comforts

The typical kitchen in Purushwadi homes.

The typical kitchen in Purushwadi homes.

I was astonished at how hard each woman works to run her home in this village. Not only do they wake up before anyone else in the household, but also sleep after everyone else has slept at night. Right from cleaning the house and the cowshed to cooking and serving meals to all to packing off their kids to school to tending to their fields to serving their families again to washing the dishes, and more… these women work like superheroes, saving the day for all. And they do all of this with such calm and poise! They ask for nothing in return, knowing somewhere within that their truest joy is in contentment.

Family Is A Gift, Not An Inconvenience

My guide, Balu's mother pounds rice to loosen the husk from the kernels as her granddaughter looks on.

My guide, Balu’s mother pounds rice to loosen the husk from the kernels as her granddaughter looks on.

During my short stay in Purushwadi, the women tried to teach me a lot of things – hulling rice, grinding it into fine flour, kneading a dough, making flat and round bhakris (roti made of rice flour). I proved to be a poor student, but they were patient and encouraging teachers. While all of this was happening, I observed how close-knit all the families are; also, how well the Koli tribe functions as a community. My guide, Balu, told me that his friend would work in his field for the day that he spent as my guide. And Balu would do the same for his friend when it is his turn to escort a visitor. They don’t compete against one another but work for each one’s benefit. The entire village is like a giant family. In stark contrast, most of us city-dwellers view family as an inconvenience that hinders our personal space and freedom. And despite all that we have, we are neither satisfied nor happy.

Authentic Organic Food Is In Little Villages

The ingredients for our meal are laid out.

The ingredients for our meal are laid out.

I would have all of my meals in a village home, and I’d have to walk past several fields of wheat, groundnuts, rice, amaranth and more. Gorak, a young village lad, explained to me how they decide to sow seeds based on what they would like to eat. They don’t do anything in excess. Everything is grown for the family, and only some wheat is stored for emergencies (which can be traded to other villages for money). He also told me that their land is blessed with fertile soil and they also now have proper irrigation, thanks to the dam which brings them the river-water. They don’t use any pesticide or insecticide, and this is where one can have the entire farm-to-plate experience of fully organic food.

Women Are Good Leaders

A female goatherd takes her goats back home in the evening.

A female goatherd takes her goats back home in the evening.

The Kolis astounded me with their progressive mindsets which were quite unlike those I’ve come across in other Indian villages. They don’t prefer either gender over the other. Their aim is to have equal gender distribution. Women here don’t shy away from talking to men, nor do they cover their faces or heads (as is commonplace in most traditional households). The Koli women smartly take on roles that I have generally seen men perform – herding goats, lifting heavy objects, constructing huts, and more. Here, the leadership potential of women is fully harnessed. And that’s something even modern offices have failed to do.

Entertainment Is Not Drowning In A Sea Of Apps

I enjoy the Sahyadri mountains from Matha - Purushwadi's highest point.

I enjoy the Sahyadri mountains from Matha – Purushwadi’s highest point.

It was a blessing not to have any cellphone coverage in this village. I did not have a chance to waste my time on social media. Gorak took me to the highest point of Purushwadi when we hiked up for a nice sunset view. That’s when he told me how he loves to spend his free time. He hikes with his best friend. Gorak is only 25, and does not have the time-and-money-zapping addictions (of gaming or clubbing) of the city-boys of his age. The village indeed is beautiful, not only in how it appears but also in how it has shaped its people.

Education Is Only As Valuable As You Perceive

After a friendly chat with the students of Purushwadi's only school.

After a friendly chat with the students of Purushwadi’s only school.

One morning, I went to the only school of this village. On my way, I saw a little boy running towards the school, a notebook in hand. He was late, and did not want to miss his classes. A village kid can only study up to class-7 in this school and will have to travel to another village to study till class-10. If students wish to study further, they’ll have to go to the nearest town. A chat with one of the school teachers revealed how precious education is to all of them. Teachers travel all the way to the nearest town to access internet required to download educational videos for the students. The respect that these students have for their teachers is of another level altogether.

Did you expect that a rural Indian tribe could teach so much?

Write your answers as comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter for more stories on rural India. Do share this article with your friends who have no clue of what an Indian village feels like!

You too can experience Purushwadi intimately through Grassroutes Journeys.