Runcationing in Rishikesh

A year since I ran my first Himalayan run, I sit down to write about my experience. I had been on a hunt for an exotic run in India when I heard about Running and Living’s Rishikesh Cross Country run. I signed up for the 15k trail run and geared up for the mountains. Most of you know how much I enjoy running (read: Running in Lithuania – My First Half Marathon Abroad). But when you throw in a vacation to the mix, you get a girl giddy with glee! 🙂

My private sundeck with a view of the chocolate-hills

My private sundeck with a view of the chocolate-hills

Austerity Before Indulgence

My first night in Rishikesh was an Airbnb find. It was a meditation centre run by monks from Spain. The place was slightly expensive, considering how basic the room and facilities were. But if you decide to stay here, don’t forget to use my Airbnb travel credit – for a 1679 INR (~25 USD) discount.

My Airbnb homestay - with the Spanish monks

My Airbnb homestay – with the Spanish monks

Getting to Know the Ganga

Before the sun could set, I hopped and skipped over to one of the stepped embankments of the River Ganga. This river of national pride is rapidly becoming an open drain that carries garbage along its course. This garbage is of a special kind – full of paraffin, flowers, sweets (used as prayer offering) and toxic oils. It worries me to think of all the innocent fishes which are dying a slow death in what might otherwise have been a holy place for them to swim in.

Ganga aarti in full swing

Ganga aarti in full swing

Flavours from the Street

After the disturbing sight of the rituals at the Ganga, I strolled over to the inner sanctums of Rishishesh, to explore its street food. If you have been cheating on your workout, this is a dangerous place for you to be. There is gorgeous looking food peeping out of every roadside establishment – kachoris, samosas, pooris, and all of their cousins. I gave in to my temptations and sat down inside a shop where the man behind the cooking pot knew that his stuffings of sin were stronger than my weak spirit.

Deep fried street food - carboloading for the run! ;-)

Deep fried street food – carboloading for the run! 😉

Spanish Food in Rishikesh

After feasting on North Indian street food, it was time for me to eat some more! 😀 I had the Spanish dinner (read: Lleida – A Reminiscence) which a new monk freshly prepared for me. I had a bowl of salad, baked bread, tortilla de patatas and pisto (a ratatouille of sorts). This meal was indeed the best part of my stay at this homestay.

An appetizing Spanish meal cooked by a Spanish monk

An appetizing Spanish meal cooked by a Spanish monk

Rafting through the Rapids

I spent my next morning doing what every adventure junkie does in Rishikesh – RAFTING!!! 🙂 White water rafting was not new to me (read: White Water Rafting in Kolad). But rafting in the Ganga is an experience of a lifetime! We negotiated some really nasty rapids, some as difficult as level-4. At the end of the last rapid, our guide let us jump into the river and swim in water that was easily 90 feet deep.

Selfie from my raft!

Selfie from my raft!

Nature never stops showing me how small I am in the grander scheme of things. My existence and dreams and opinions simply don’t matter when I look up at the sky and see how big the real world really is. I smiled as I saw the Himalayas from inside the river – so majestic and inviting (and the reason why in a few months I did my first Himalayan trek).

A view worth rafting for!

A view worth rafting for!

A Luxury Retreat

My next two days were spent in the most opulent resort in all of Rishikesh – Raga on the Ganges. I will do a separate blog post on my stay there as I was thoroughly impressed by their hospitality. My lodging and boarding was fully sponsored by them. It is quite luxurious to have the waters of the River Ganga flow through your shower! 😉

My luxurious hideaway at Raga On The Ganges

My luxurious hideaway at Raga On The Ganges

The Day of the Run

My big day was finally there, and I realized I was going to run 15 kilometers with only a handful of other runners (15 to be precise). I have never felt like an elite marathoner, but that day, I felt special because I was one of  select few people who decided to get out of their comfy blankets on a cold wintry morning and show up in the middle of the mountains to run over stones and pebbles.

The running trail

The running trail

This was one of my scariest runs so far. I had wild langoors and mountain dogs for company. I remember stopping on my tracks a zillion times as I ran into monkeys who looked liked they wanted to snatch my cellphone. There was also the danger of getting run over by a truck on the national highway.

We had macaques to cheer us on the way

We had macaques to cheer us on the way

I met some stray cows too after I crossed a bridge after the 9k mark. But all of this was nothing compared to having a herd of wild mountain goats block my path on a narrow trail. I was praying I’d meet their shepherd somewhere, but I was plain unlucky. I wanted the Earth to open up and swallow me because there was the vast expanse of mountain behind me, a group of crazy goats in front of me, the vertical wall of rock to my right, and the endless river (which I’d get to only if I rolled to my death down the steep escarpment) below.

The bridge to victory was finally visible!

The bridge to victory was finally visible!

I was saved by another runner who tore a branch, herded the goats away, grabbed my hand and led me across the trail. I cannot thank that man enough! He was my angel that morning. I had some much needed potatoes and eggs with electrolyte after my adventure, and even managed a grainy picture at the finish line with Rahul Verghese – the organizer of this scenic run. He happens to be a veteran runner himself.

At the finish line with Rahul Verghese - the organiser

At the finish line with Rahul Verghese – the organiser

The bounty of nature provides a nice space for us humans to sit and ponder over why the world was created and who we really are. I ended my trip by gazing into infinity and thanking God for revealing the beauty of His creations to me in the lap of my favourite mountains.

I indulge in some self reflection by the Ganga

I indulge in some self reflection by the Ganga

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Let me know if you too are into runcationing. Have you been to Rishikesh? Has your experience been any different? I’m all ears! 🙂

The “India” Outside of India

When my teammate in London asked me, “Isn’t Diwali the festival in which you make those coloured patterns?” (she was referring to rangolis), she got me thinking how Indian culture and customs are generating a lot of curiosity the world over. It’s interesting to see how as we embrace foreign cultures, clothes and cuisines, the world is embracing the idea of “India”. Today, I present to you 10 Indian things that have taken the world by storm:-

10. Chicken Tikka Masala Biryani


When in India (and abroad, apparently) eat biryani!

Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) remained a synonym for Indian cuisine last decade, with Hollywood celebrities flying in personal chefs who specialized in (perhaps a less spicy?) CTM. But biryani seems to be the new favourite this time around. I know this for sure! The other day, I was on a video call with my manager from UK and we were making small talk on food and what we eat for lunch. And that’s when he told me how he just loves biryani! He proudly declared how they get many varieties of this Awadhi/Hyderabadi rice dish right outside their office, and how it’s loved by all.

9. Saree

I too am guilty of joining the sari-brigade ;-)

I too am guilty of joining the saree-brigade 😉

“The nine yards” have been making women appear slimmer and prettier since time immemorial! Saree is regarded as the national costume of India by most tourists. When my friend from Catalonia vacationed in Jodhpur a few years back, she too got herself draped in a traditional bandhani saree. I’m guessing, this sartorial wonder figures on every woman’s list of “top 10 things to do in India”.

8. “Namaste”

How to greet the Indian way

How to greet the Indian way

From greetings to small-talk to full-fledged conversations, citizens of the world want to say it all in Hindi which is fast becoming the second-language of choice! I remember from my days of interning in Lleida how my HR manager would use Google Translate to say “suprabhat” (good morning) and “dhanyavad” (thank you) to me. Even we Indians don’t speak 100% Hindi on a daily basis!

7. Hindu Gods

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit: here

The controversial Saraswati-swimsuit (Photo Credit:WSJ)

The ill-fated Australian fashion designer who showcased her latest line of swimwear with Hindu Gods painted on them faced flak for blasphemy. But that doesn’t mean every country is scared of the Indian deities! Ganesh is quite popular in the West, thanks to the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities. Last time I asked a Thai friend if he knew anything about Ganesh, he replied, “Oh, yeah! The elephant, right?”

6. The Big Fat Indian Wedding

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

All that glitters at Indian weddings is gold

Everyone from Liz Hurley to Katy Perry have had their dream wedding – Indian style! After all, no other culture celebrates the union of two humans with such pomp and gaiety. At the last Bengali-Punjabi wedding I attended, I noticed how elaborate the decoration was – every inch of the walls was adorned with flowers. The bride and the groom looked ravishing in their silk wedding trousseau and gold ornaments. I had never seen a Bengali topor alongside Punjabi choora before.

5. Bhangra


Bhangra (Photo Credit:

It’s what everyone’s dancing these days. This high energy Punjabi dance form burns calories along with the dance floor. If you’ve missed your morning circuit-training you can make up for it with a round of “balle balle“! 😉 You can do the bhangra even if you have two left feet! My Belgian friend will tell you I’m not lying.

4. Desi Music

Now that we are on the topic of dance, let’s not forget the music that accompanies it. Punjabi rap originated in America, thanks to the NRI population, and travelled all the way to India, influencing most countries en route! I remember hearing Hindi songs at a Spanish supermarket, where they never once played English!

3. Bollywood – Movies and the Stars

A still from "Devdas" (Photo Credit:

A still from “Devdas” (Photo Credit:

You must’ve guessed number 3 on the list! When song and dance are discussed, you can’t forget Bollywood. Most of my overseas friends wonder why all Indian movies are musicals. Nevertheless, they lap up the local translations of Hindi movies and recognize most actors I wouldn’t!

2. Yoga 

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit:

Dog trying a headstand? (Photo credit:

The age old practice of yoga is so popular abroad that they’ve created their own forms now. There are so many to choose from – “power yoga”, “hot yoga” (done in humid conditions) and even “doga” (yoga with dogs)! Every other celebrity and non-celebrity out there is going to some or the other yoga class to find inner peace and outer flexibility. I remember a Spanish friend telling me she did pranayam everyday!

1. Modi

Modi @ Madison

Modi @ Madison (Photo Credit: ndtv)

Finally, how can I discount the Indian that everyone is cheering for! The recently elected Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi! His determination and strong leadership saw him transition from being a tea-seller to the most important person in the country. His magnetism attracted  hundreds of listeners at Madison Square Garden and he charmed them all just the way he won over most Indians.

All of my examples show that as India gets increasingly globalized, the world is getting increasingly Indianized! Here’s another proof – from the sky:-

Perhaps the world is going more Indian than I think?