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There is such a thing as Free Lunch

September 22, 2009

..and drinks and dinner and breakfast and a nice resort to hog all that and air tickets to transport you to that paradise.

I am talking about the all expenses paid trip that I won ,courtesy Club Mahindra Trip of a Lifetime travel writing contest.     (My winning entry is on that link,if you care to click)

My childhood has been peppered with winning consolation prizes of ball point pens,sieves (yes I won a tea seive in a lucky dip contest),handkerchiefs-basically if there is any prize worth less than INR 1,chances are ,I have bagged it.So if you count in the copious amount of alcohol I imbibed, the kebabs I wolfed down this must be one of the most expensive prize I have won.

Three of us winners (including,my sister-good coincidence no?) and the judges were flown down to the Club Mahindra Resort in Mashobra,near Shimla.And from there we were pretty much left on our own. Thank god for that.!!  🙂

Frankly I was a bit wary of the whole trip.The cynic that I am (infact I was labelled a cynic in the the group -as if that’s a bad thing, hrrumph) I was undecided about going till the last moment.


a)The timing was just not right for me, and going for this trip meant I had to postpone other things.

b)Meeting new people, in what I thought would be a stifled formal environment,is a nightmare for me.Yes, I talk a lot in real life, I am gregarious and outspoken to the point of being rude.BUT, I need a familiar face around me.Else I go into the “Leave me alone” zone.

c)Club Mahindra. I have had this aversion for hotel chains, and nothing puts me off more than amenities like “conference rooms”, “kids play area”,”activities room”,”fun for the entire family”. I would rather stay in a simple homestay with no hot water or T.V, but spare me the monotony of a hotel chain. Somehow I have always associated Club Mahindra with bored family get togethers.The busy executive taking his family on the mandatory trip to a hill station.Can I get more opinionated?

Point a was taken care of easily.

Point b – oh well, quite an interesting bunch I met.

Radha , one of the 3 winners, an amateur photographer, who got a good mentor in Arun Bhat of the Painted Stork fame.Try as I did, I couln’t get the taciturn Arun to teach me photography but he redeemed all that by uttering the famous last lines, after downing 3 tall LITs. ” I think it all ended pretty well,considering how bored I was in the first day”. After we shared a few smokes, I was ready to give him a bear hug.

Lakshmi Sarath, a travel writer gave us quite an interesting talk on a few ancient dynasties of South India tracing their ruins in nondescript towns all over the South.I love history and I love travelling, and I lapped it all up.

And then there was Cdr.Satyabrata Dam. When this naval officer is not protecting the Indian coastline in his submarine, he is climbing mountains.He is the only Indian to have done the -‘The Three Poles’ – Mt Everest,  South Pole  and North Pole and has also scaled the ‘Seven Summits’ (climbing the highest peaks in all the seven continents). Need I say more about this guy who has climbed the Everest twice, first one when he was 22. At 22, my achievements in life included ..umm..hmm…(we shall fill up this space soon).Appropriately enough, he was the one who called me “the cynic”. Wonder why?

Kiruba Shankar of the Tweeter fame was there. If he could not convince me about Tweeter, I guess no one can.I don’t know what exactly he does, but it involves ‘social’,’media’,’interaction’,’consultancy’,’wikipedia’,’tweeter’,’conference’,’open sourcing something somewhere..’.

Kiruba is currently practicing to reach the Everest at the shortest time.Considering he takes around 20-30 minutes to reach a house perched on top of a hill at the end of a valley, we are giving him 2 hours to reach Everest from the Base Camp.

And getting us all together was Arun Nair, the face of Club Mahindra.Poker Faced.Understated Wit.Gave me a crash course on photography.Alas I lost that sheet which explained all about “Depth of field”,”exposure”,”aperture” .Thus ended my short stint in photography.

And of course there was the main Gypsyfeeter, Kanchuki.

Finally Point c…Hmm..It will take a lot more convincing to make me part with a small fortune to get membership to an uninspiring hotel room

DISCLAIMER: Have been getting a few comments, on the blog and over mails.To clarify, not even for a second, did Club Mahindra try to push any of its packages. You think I would be polite and NOT write about it if they dare pull such cheap tricks? 🙂 We did have a presentation, and (rarely do I gush about these things) it was mind-blowing. We got to hear people who otherwise charge people for it.No kidding, one of the members has been nominated as TED fellow for 2009.Any idea how much a TED fellow can charge just to open his mouth. This particular TED fellow not only talked but also sang!! :-)And with seasoned photographers giving you tips..what more could I have asked for

When you have professional photographers with you on the trip, the burden of taking good pictures lessens considerably. Here are a few I have taken

Whispering Pines Mahsobra (Room with a view- Whispering Pines, Mahsobra)

Sun Rise Mahsobra (If you are forced to get up at 5 in the morning, you might as well click a few pictures to record the moment)

Viceregal Lodge (Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, 2009)


(Viceregal Lodge, pre 1947)way to chail (Breakfast,on grassy meadow,by a babbling brook? Not quite. A bird distracts us though)


(Now I know what it means when travel books talk of hills being resplendent with wild flowers)

DSCF0129 (To wax eloquent, it was a fucking riot of colours)


(Shamelessly we took a tour of her house,which had killer views of the valley below)

DSCF0428 (Camp Fire, where many stories were exchanged- real and supernatural.The real were more macabre and unrealistic).

So,that’s what kept me occupied last week.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2009 1:54 pm

    Very nice account of the trip Kongkona.. And quite humorous too 🙂

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 2:06 pm

      Damn, I was hoping you would say something about my pictures.Composition/light/exposure 😛

  2. Sumeet permalink
    September 22, 2009 2:08 pm

    Must have been a nice trip…
    keep traveling….

  3. Zarine permalink
    September 22, 2009 2:43 pm

    Nice read… Enjoyed it tremendously.. and i so envy ur job!

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 8:43 pm

      coming from a restaurateur, I must be doing a good job of glamorizing my current profile 🙂

  4. September 22, 2009 3:08 pm

    Well done! Club Mahindra gave us some voucher for a couple’s stay in one of their resorts sometime back, but we never cared to go. Nice pics, and what a company!

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 8:44 pm

      yeah,enough to give you an inferiority complex.

  5. September 22, 2009 3:08 pm

    well written-I like it-fun and laidback writing

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 23, 2009 10:44 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  6. September 22, 2009 3:29 pm

    the 2 wild flower pictures are nice…

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 8:45 pm

      I never take pics of flowers- was just following the lead of the seasoned photographers

  7. sid permalink
    September 22, 2009 4:32 pm

    wow..looks like an awesome place..ur photography skills seem to be improving with every trip..wish they allowed friends to come as well…missed the kakori kebabs:-(…was alcohol free too?? need to re-look into the mahindra offer now;-)

    upload more pics soon

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 8:45 pm

      to answer your most important question-yes alcohol was free.But for propriety’s sake was not guzzling it like usual.

  8. September 22, 2009 5:27 pm

    Your blog looks wonderful with nice pictures. It was nice going through your blog. keep it up the good work. Cheers 🙂

  9. sid permalink
    September 22, 2009 6:26 pm

    oh and i just noticed the header…amazing this mashobra as well?

  10. September 22, 2009 7:26 pm

    lovely header, pics and post…i visited a very commercial shimla some years ago…must look up Mahsobra.
    envy you!!

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 22, 2009 8:46 pm

      shimla has gone to the dogs,years back..Hope the other Hill stations learn from its mistakes.

  11. September 22, 2009 8:53 pm

    “If he could not convince me about Tweeter, I guess no one can.”

    Try this – your mom doesn’t go into hysterics thinking you’re dead (when you don’t call) since she can see you saw “The Time Traveler’s Wife” on Thursday!

    • Anupa permalink
      September 23, 2009 2:20 am

      @Bhagwad – not everyone’s mom is that paranoid. And not everyone is as averse to conventional means of ‘keeping-in-touch’ as you!

      @Kongkona – Ignore him please! 😀
      I am all with you in your opinion of tweets.

      • lostonthestreet permalink*
        September 23, 2009 10:44 am

        hehe- yeah my parents never call me..I am the one who keeps calling my mom every second day .dunno if that is a good thing or bad. 😦

  12. Anupa permalink
    September 23, 2009 2:14 am

    oooooh!! envy envy! 🙂
    Nice reading about the trip. And love the 5 a.m. shot!

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 23, 2009 10:45 am

      thank you.its actually amazing to see the sun come up …i just wished it did at a more decent time,like 9 am?

      • Anupa permalink
        September 25, 2009 3:21 am

        Totally! That would be so much more convenient.. and then there would be so many more of us to appreciate the beauty of it! 😀

  13. September 23, 2009 2:11 pm

    wow…you lucky woman….good things happen to good people 😉 LOL

    did you have to sit through the club mahindra holiday package presentation and did they try to sell you a lifetime package? happened to me…!

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 23, 2009 2:39 pm

      no no no no…don’t get me wrong..not for once did they try to sell was just like a bunch of like minded people meeting and doing our stuff..except that club mahindra paid for it all…god i must write a disclaimer.!!

  14. Galadriel permalink
    September 24, 2009 2:45 am

    Nice work – on the prize-winning article as well as the pictures. Someone’s quite literally going places. 🙂

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 24, 2009 2:59 pm

      🙂 thank you..

  15. September 24, 2009 9:04 pm

    hey congrats to you and your sister 🙂

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      September 25, 2009 9:39 am

      Thank you!!

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