None of us can forget, 2020. It was unique in so many ways. Never ever has humanity seen a ‘Pause’ like this, collectively. Even with a sudden house arrest kind of situation, most of us quickly adjusted. Thanks to global connectivity, we never really felt isolated. We discovered our hidden talents and we rediscovered the hidden treasures in our own wardrobes. In a way, a lot of what we always wished for, suddenly fell in our laps. It just took us some time to realize that it was always there, we just never looked at it.
As a traveler, I gathered a lot of sympathy for not being able to travel. People felt sorry for me, some of them even thought it would be a trauma for me. I, on the other hand, discovered that I am perfectly fine with not traveling. There are many other ways to travel in the journey of life. In fact, there were lots of things waiting for that single block of time and mental attention, that the pandemic simply put on the table. I could tick off a lot of those things on my bucket list.
So here is all that I did in 2020:
Travels in 2020
The only big travel I did was our Odisha trip in January. We spent 10 days exploring the popular tourist circuit of Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneshwar. However, we did travel to Mangalajodi for birding and Bhitarkanika National Park for Saltwater Crocodiles. The highlight of this trip was discovering Jajpur. I had visited Jajpur for Biraja Devi Shaktipeeth, but I discovered a lovely town on the banks of the Vaitarani river, full of ancient temples and their stories. I missed shopping in Bhubaneshwar so probably need to go back for that.
In March I traveled to Ayodhya to speak at the ‘Lok Me Ram’ event at Awadh University. It was a privilege to meet personalities like Malini Awasthi Ji, Narendra Kohli Ji, Mridula Sinha ji, and more importantly hundreds of students. I spoke on the Ram Rajya standing in Ayodhya – this has to be a divine blessing. I got to see Ram Lalla for the third time, hopefully, next time it would be in the new temple.
In March again, my last travel before the pandemic was to my hometown and my university for a conference on tourism. I spoke about the Innovation required in the tourism sector. Little did I know that the tourism industry is about to get such a big blow. It was a nostalgic visit to my own university and the high point was having tea at our favorite tea joint with a batchmate who now teaches at the university. On the side, I discovered the ancient Bhima Devi Temple and finally visited the Chandi Devi temple.
Lately, I have just started stepping out to discover my own neighborhood, by walking around. Believe me, there is so much history, heritage, and hidden gems around us, we just miss looking at them.
I am itching to step out and travel. Though I continue to avoid traveling as long as the virus does not die its own death or retreat substantially. I am sure things will be back to normal very soon. I would soon meet the road – my best friend.
2020 – The Year of Books
Reading books is a natural choice when you have all the time within the four walls of your home. However, for me, it was time to write. So, I worked on some of the books that I have on the long list of books that I want to write. Three of these are published and available for you to read. Another one should be out next year and if I keep the momentum, maybe more.
As IndiTales, this is the first set of books we published this year. We compiled stories of some exceptionally unusual temples that we discovered during our travels across India for this book. The book was published in both English and Hindi. These are available on Amazon worldwide. Based on the response, we might come up with a paperback edition in the future.
This book was an experiment and we hope we will continue to publish at least one book each year henceforth.
This book was my big project of the year. The manuscript was more or less ready when the pandemic-induced lockdown started. However, we worked on its various versions and production process during the pandemic. It was finally available to the readers on Vijayadashmi day i.e. Oct 25th, 2020.
This book documents my personal journey of discovering India as I walked around it. It is a thread that binds all that I have been documenting all these years on IndiTales. It connects the pearls that I have been collecting all this while. The feedback so far has been encouraging and I am hearing readers say that they found new lenses or drishti to look at India.
I am currently enjoying participating in literature festivals and talk shows talking about ‘Lotus In The Stone’
Do read the book. I am keen to hear your feedback.
Last year on Navaratri I started reading Devi Bhagwad Puran. I wanted to finish it by Navaratri of 2020, but thanks to the lockdown, I could finish it much earlier.
So, I decided to read Ayodhya Mahatmaya from Skand Puran in the original. I am currently translating this into English and hopefully, it should be published soon for you to read.
This Navaratri I started reading Brahmand Puran, which is a huge two-volume text. I hope to complete it by the next Navaratri when I hope to pick up the next Sanskrit text to read.
Foray into Podcasting
I have been wanting to experiment with Podcasting for a couple of years now. I strongly feel that audio is going to be a big medium of content in the future. So, it was lockdown that saw my foray into podcasting.
Detours with Anuradha Goyal – is what my English Podcast is called. We have published 20 episodes so far, covering topics from temples to the Arctic circle to Diamonds to adventure tourism. We hope to continue to bring great conversations to you through podcasts.
Idhar Udhar – This is my Hindi Podcast, though I have managed to publish just about two episodes on it. I am still trying to figure out what the Hindi audience is looking for in a podcast. Do share your thoughts on it.
I also recorded a series on pilgrimage places of India for a professional podcast that should be soon released on a leading platform. Stay tuned for updates.
Lockdown Tales of 2020
Here is a radio interview that I gave on ‘What I did during the lockdown?’
The year gone by was a different year. Each one of us will remember it differently. Hope you used this time to re-look at the priorities in your life.