India has a lot to offer photographers. Whether you’re visiting lush Lonavala or astounding Amritsar, there are sure to be sights that capture your shutterbug fancy. When Shreyans Dungarwal got the chance to travel around the country, accepting the offer was but the natural thing to do. Read on to find out about his adventure, which spanned several cities and dozens of mesmerising locations.
In March of this year, I was approached by a YouTube channel owner with a plan to hitchhike and shoot a month-long trip from one corner of India to another. At that point, it was little more than an idea, but within a month, we’d narrowed in on locations and decided what we wanted to shoot.
Mumbai and Pangong Lake were chosen as the start and end points, respectively, as they took us from the dense speed of urban civilisation to the serenity of nature. The concept was not an in-depth review of each region, but rather to bring viewers to the realisation that exploring India is fun, easy and cheap. Moreover, we wanted viewers to understand it from a first-person and amateur traveller’s perspective, with all the hurdles and fun it has to offer. It was just the two of us, and I must say that she was rather brave and took everything head-on. We went through everything together, and were equally adventurous in all our ideas and planning. Having the other’s company kept each of us going, even during tough moments.
In Mumbai, we stopped at the Gateway of India. The masses move in unanimity, going about their business like there’s no one else but them, as tourists click pictures of these passers-by. We also went to Leopold Café, as famous for its delicacies as it is for withstanding the 26/11 attack. The bar continues to shine in the South Bombay lanes of Colaba. From Mumbai, the ride towards Lonavala was a lot of fun, with one stop at the dam. Our next stop was Baroda in Gujarat, and while we were a bit apprehensive about this one, I’m glad we went there. Laxmi Vilas Palace, where royalty still resides, has been designed and maintained very well; it’s a great source of history for tourists.
In Jaipur, our guide was an auto driver who was happy to take us around the city. We had to take pictures and shoot scenes very quickly, due to time constraints. Agra began by offering us the history of the Red Fort, as well as a few quick shots. Excitement and expectation were high as we headed to the wonder that is the Taj Mahal, and we were duly awestruck by its architectural creativity. Its history was narrated to us by a guide, who even threw in some interesting facts about the beautiful structure. He said that Shah Jahan only cut off the hands of one of his workers, not 20 or all of them as some stories tell. The worker was given enough money and luxury so that his family and the next seven generations could live at leisure.
In Delhi, we went to the usual sightseeing spots – India Gate, Chandni Chowk, and Red Fort. In Amritsar, we saw the Golden Temple, where we had some delicious lassi. We did the haunting Jallianwala Bagh experience and saw the fascinating Wagah border. Jammu gave us a glimpse of a fascinating temple with millions of gods and goddesses, as well as Patni Top and Shanbagh. In Leh, we saw Pangong Lake, Shanti Stupa, Pahadi Wale Baba ka Gurudwara, and Magnetic Hill. Kashmir being our final stop, we went to Srinagar and saw Mahadev Mandir and dozens of gardens. Dal Lake offered some spectacular views.
The idea behind this trip was to know where to go, but not how or what to do once there. It was this element of surprise that landed us at hotels, gurudwaras, strangers’ houses, hostels, and an array of other accommodation. We travelled like nomads, knowing our destination but not the duration of our trips. We met people from all walks of life, some of whom welcomed us warmly as guests, and others who bragged about providing us with a roof. India has such a vast population, hailing from such different backgrounds, and with different morals and ethics. But unlike the people, the food was the same everywhere; it was delicious, no matter where we ate. We sampled everything we could afford, something popular in each area.
For me, the most special part of the trip was undoubtedly at Wagah. I witnessed the Independence Day celebrations there, and I’ve truly never felt more in unison with my country, culture and people. More than 3,000 Indians as well as tourists from all over the world were part of the celebrations. The air was full of energy, and the parade was breathtaking. The tribute paid to our country by students, officers and the public was touching. ..... as told to Saloni