Before the sun sets

I was always loved the articles by Julie at Wish I were here. She always reveals the place to her readers using the power of all the senses.By the end of her latest article I had  the scent of the forest in the nostrils and could feel the nip in the air.  Usually at the end of one of Julie’s posts I am left marveling at her remarkable style of writing. But this post left me wondering. There is a sentence that goes like this “You shouldn’t hike alone out there, they warned me. …… There will be others on the trail. I’ll be fine.”

Julie did encounter a few shady characters during her solo hike but thankfully  all’s well that ends well.   Julie’s walk reminded me of a walk my sister and I took in Grasmere one February.  We set off from Windermere in the morning with no particular plan in mind. We crossed the lake by ferry , walked up to hilltop to Beatrice Potter’s house. The walk was pretty. We passed sheep grazing the meadows, streams flowing rhythmically, a few bouts of the English rain and some generous dose of sunshine now and then.

All was swell till we reached Ambleside for a rather late lunch. In our new found enthusiasm for walking we decided to walk to Grasmere , Wordsworth’s birthplace via the Rydal caves.  We bought a map for 10GBP and set out at 3.30 pm.  The scenery was stunning as it always is.

But here’s a few mistakes  we made.

1. It was winter meaning the sun sets at around five-ish.  The walk we choose to do was  two-hour walk ( At the end of walk we realised that the 2 hour time frame was for much fitter people. we took a while longer).

2. We bought the cheapest map, not necessarily the most practical one. Our map had a set of directions thus ” After passing a set of 7 stones stacked one above the other”. By the time we reached the above landmark there were only 2 stones and we passed by completely missing the turning.

3. We had no torches. Half way through the walk the sun set and it became dark and we had no way of reading our 10 GBP map!

4. We wore all black. There was a time when we left the trail and headed towards the road following the sounds on traffic. But once on the road ( there were no footpaths) we risked almost being run over by buses since we had no discerning luminescent marks to warn the speeding cars that were negotiating sharp turns.

5. We did not have water at all.  Never again !

6. No one had a clue where we were.


Getting dark


Grasmere lake after sunset

There was one thing that worked for us. We knew that we had to walk west. So we followed the setting sun and walked in to  the deserted town centre of Grasmere wet, cold and scared but   in time for the last bus back to Windermere.

Sometimes even the most seasoned travelers take their safety for granted. After a few  safe trips one get lax.

Always let someone know where you are going. Start with your family. If you have a fixed itinerary ,share the details  of your flights/trains/buses and hotels with them. If you do not have a fixed plan make it a habit of checking in with friends and family back home at regular intervals. In this age of the internet it is difficult  not to find  connectivity within  50 mile radius. If you are going on day hike let the receptionist at your hotel/hostel know your plans. If you are going alone just ask  him/her to check on you at the end of the day or the next morning.  I cannot stress on the fact that a place is only as safe as you make it.

Stay safe and happy travels.

The influence of books

[Recently Facebook was full of people listing their 10 best books. Unfortunately they only listed the books and did not offer comments on why the book made it to their top 10. Here are two of mine. Of the two To Kill a Mockingbird will always, always and forever by #1. It is one book my father insisted that I read and I am glad I took his advice. There are other books that have had an impact on my life but the two mentioned here have impacted my writing.]


I read Harper Lee’s ‘To kill a mockingbird’ when I was ten years old. I have reread it a number of times over the years. Each time I am always amazed at how Lee has used simple words to tell such a beautiful and insightful story. I love how she has taken a regular family living in a regular house in a regular street and used them to weave a story about racism, growing up and about discerning right from wrong.
Another aspect of Lee’s writing that has influenced my writing is how she uses Boo Radley the neighbor through out the story. To me Lee writes like she is stitching. She uses Boo Radley as a thread. His introduction sets the foundation of Scout’s and Jim’s childhood similar to how a thread is knotted before you begin to stitch. Although the story focuses on a trial, Miss Maude and other incidents Boo is never forgotten. He weaves in and out of the story like a thread that disappears below only to emerge again to complete another stitch. At the end of the story when Scout simply says “Hi Boo” the image is complete.
Lee used simple language one that even a ten year old can understand. Through her writing she makes the reader visualize the people and the events. She uses descriptions to give depth to her story, like the single yellow light bulb in the jail house to describe the dark of night and also to describe the loneliness that surrounds Atticus as he defends Tom Robinson.
Over the course of my writing I found this book to hold examples of writing techniques that are discussed in various courses.Lee uses ‘layers’ and ‘transitions’ to move back and forth in the story smoothly and effortlessly.
One the reasons why To Kill a Mockingbird will always be my favorite is that when Lee wrote it she made sure it was a story that never tired of telling.

Another book that has influenced me is Amitav Gosh’s Hungry Tide a story set in the Island community of Sunderbans in Eastern India. In this book he has taken facts about a massacre that was swept under the carpet by the ruling party and drawn a fictional tale around it. But this book is more than a work of fiction. It is an investigative piece. Gosh views the history of the island community under a microscope. He covers the British Occupation of India, to the water ways in Eastern India and even the famed Irrawaddy dolphins that he region is famous for. His research is so exhaustive so much so that one can actually use the book as a reference. I found his work so compelling that a couple of weeks after I read the book I was in Sunderbans.
Gosh’s writing is all about the small details. He describes every aspect of life in the islands to the last detail. He takes care to explain the tides of the islands, explaining how the ‘tide changes very six hours causing islands to be reborn every time the tide recedes’. He describes everything just as they are and while I was there, there were times when I wondered if I was seeing the place through my eyes or through the words of Gosh.