Californian Cousins! 

Photo of Californian Cousins!  1/4 by Kaveri Mayra
Wanderlusting Twins!

A rather rare and pleasant sunny day of March 15th, Meghalaya

After spending first day of our Meghalaya trip in doing rather touristy things under gloomy weather conditions we were quite psyched up to move to Cherrapunji. Although it was little nippy early morning in Shillong, occasional glances from Sun over the clouds were promising of a bright and sunny day ahead. A perfect weather had just made our plans of exploring this little piece of land, also known as Scotland of India, even more exciting. At Shillong’s shared taxi stand we were waiting to hop on to a shared sumo to Cherrapunji. The only worry was there were at least 20 other people hoping to get in to the next sumo. Amongst them there was also an Indian looking couple “Pseudo-backpacker alert!”, my heart screamed. Which perfectly complemented the look on Varun’s face. Her hat and his shirt had my eyes glued to them! We had already missed one shared taxi which was now standing there with 13 people in it plus a young driver who was probably not even legally old enough to drive. All of us there had just one aim - to get in to the next taxi that comes or else the taxi after that was 4 hours later. The whole scenario was enough indication for my competitive self to take control over me.

Shuttle arrives, door opens and the one on my side gets stuck. Against my wishes this girl miraculously saves the whole of back seat and to my surprise, waves us to get in quickly. That was totally unexpected! But they were on their way to win my heart.

Meet Sharon and Samson, born in India, brought up in Kuwait, well-travelled, now based in California and this is how our journey of numerous travels began.

The trek through 3000 steps to Nongriat was fun and meanwhile we discovered they are siblings and not couple. Siblings on a backpacking trip to India from California for 6 months planning to explore as much about their motherland as possible. Interesting! We spent four days together spending time in the waters under double roots bridge, going for hikes to secluded waterfalls and when tired came down to the clear blue pools and climbed those boulders wandering to random directions.

Photo of Californian Cousins!  2/4 by Kaveri Mayra
Sharon at one of the secluded waterfalls

Four days later we were leaving but they stayed back for another day. We bid good-bye and started our trek back. Few minutes into the trek I sensed Varun wasn’t happy that we were going back and we clearly didn’t get enough time in water with the Tharakans. Impulsive or not but I just turned and started walking back towards Nongriat.


It was the warmest smile on Sharon’s face when she spotted us coming back. It was the best day with them cause some-how we knew how it felt knowing our time together was up. This was us refusing to give in and steal our day back with them. After that amazing day of more swimming hiking folklores and night under starts, together we headed back for Shillong. Tharakans bid us goodbye and boarded their train to the next adventure.

Photo of Californian Cousins!  3/4 by Kaveri Mayra
From the 'Kid-on-my-shoulder' series :)

Peak hot burning summer of May 2015,New Delhi

Hey guys, we are thinking about leaving to Delhi tomorrow. If we can catch a train. Can we crash with you guys?” Samson texted.

24 hours later we were talking travels over drinks at our place. Post Meghalaya they had covered Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand before coming to Delhi. The famous road melting Delhi heat left us with little options and we decided to spent the days inside our air-conditioned world. We cooked, played cards, got high, watched random Bollywood movies and then cooked some more! At late nights when the weather got a little bearable we went out exploring Delhi. Binged through some less explored food joints and walked around in the quiet colonies of Delhi 6.

Photo of Californian Cousins!  4/4 by Kaveri Mayra
The only selfie we have got!

We talked and talked and talked and our stories never ended. Samson’s Hindi added the extra factor of drama and humour and we laughed till our stomachs would hurt. He would do impressions of actors with old hindi film dialogues and that is a whole new unbeatable level of B Grade masala! His stories of past girlfriends and two timings and time spent working for US Army were total entertainment, entertainment and entertainment!

A much-needed campfire next to the river at Kasol in June 2015

Around a month after they decided to hit the road, we planned to go to Kheerganga via Kasol. The Tharakans had been travelling around Himachal at that time and we were unsure where they will be. Turned out they were already in Kasol and were planning the trek as well. They decided to wait a couple of days extra and we did the trek together.

Our Motto for this trip was to say no to walls and spend as much time under stars as possible. The tight hug at the bus stop only showed how much we had missed each other (little did I know that our hugs were to get a whole new meaning in a couple of days!). A sumptuous brunch later they took us to the hidden spot they had discovered for us to spend the night. The spot was amazing! Very secluded even though it was in the middle of Kasol. Right next to the river we set our tent between pine trees. We got some rest, walked around a little, gorged on the delicacies of German bakery, got high, stuffed ourselves with Israeli cuisine, made some fire and chatted the night away. Some people in the hotels compound on the other side of the river were playing Honey Singh, loud and were dancing to it. For once, I did not mind that. Instead we all started dancing trying to match up with our friends on the other side, it was crazy, fun. The night was quiet and dark and cold. All I could hear was loud gushing water which looked ghostly.

Weekend with hippies beside a glacier at Kheerganga

It was a long tiring 14 kilometres trek to Kheerganga that took all day. We took several breaks, for tea, for pee, for refilling bottles and for a few drags on the way. The pit stop at Rudranag was longer as it involved a more elaborate ritual of taking bags off, shoes off, socks off, folding pants, gathering courage and finally dipping toes in the freezing water from the Rudranag Falls. The pit stop also included a certain episode of me challenging Samson to walk in the pool of water in front of the falls and Samson agreeing to stand under the fall if I walked across the pool. Being my usual competitive self I walked across the pool of chilling and piercing cold water but the episode ended on the sad note of Samson chickening out from the pact after having lost. Rest of the trek was very green, beautiful, most times steep but uneventful. All the places we walked by or stopped we heard of Rainbow Gathering. We met several people on their way to attend the Rainbow gathering. We kept collecting information about it but would not have been enough till we attend the gathering ourselves.

The end of the trek was an utter disappointment. Kheerganga wasn’t how Varun described it anymore. Kheerganga is now full of tourists and make do hotels and restaurants. The siblings made the obvious choice of continuing the trek to attend Rainbow Gathering (more about it in another blog) which was another two kilometres. My legs had given up but this was not the place I worked so hard to get to. Varun and I joined in, Rainbow gathering had to be better than this we thought.

Reaching the rainbow gathering was a big relaxation as it met our expectations in every way. It was away from the touristy part of Kheerganga, was full of camps of rainbow community and we met all kinds of people and drank water from the glacier. Best part, there were around 100 odd travellers there but no tourists. We spent two days there just relaxing and going for shorts hikes, gazing stars, mountains, sheeps and chasing cows out of tents. {Out of Context Tip # 1-If you haven’t gotten high in a closed tent with four people inside it, you are missing something very exciting.}

Take the hint!

Photo of Himachal Pradesh, India by Kaveri Mayra

We had some very interesting conversations. Conversations of love and loss and the undying faith of a second chance. Conversations of trust and understanding. Conversations very personal and honest.

They talked about preaching of god very often. Their faith on god is very much a part of their life. I would accept this here, I did turn a deaf ear subconsciously whenever ‘god’ fell to it. I paid attention otherwise. I loved their travel stories. Stories of volunteering in 11 countries. I got goose bumps hearing their story of escaping an Iraq invaded Kuwait. But I did not care about the religious conversations. Probably because I am an atheist so I am conditioned that way. But this was not just about the existence of God it was much larger. This was the first time we heard of their struggles and how their faith on god kept them going. This wasn’t about forcefully trying to mentally converting someone to anything under theological radar. They never forced their religious views on us. Probably this was the only time I paid attention to someone speaking about God and since then I am curious to know more. I am still an atheist, but I am happy to know someone who is god loving rather than god fearing. It feels good to see that kind of undying faith exists. That day, our talk gave me a whole new insight on pain and suffering; and above all kindness.

Couple of days later, we started our trek back. The siblings were to part from here and start their next adventure. A journey around Kashmir on a motorbike. Some weeks later we would meet again when they will spend some more time with us in Delhi. Varun will help Sharon to recover and Samson will join us after spending a few more days on the road.

Samson clicked this picture of Sharon and Shannon (aren't they both cute!)

Photo of Californian Cousins! by Kaveri Mayra

Plans of Spring 2016!

We decided to meet them in Hampi early August. Then thought maybe we would fly down to Kerala where they were attending a family wedding. We kept making plans and none of them worked. I last saw them in Delhi, that’s when we said our goodbye’s.

There were no tears but there was a lot of love. There was a satisfaction in our parting hugs, memories of some amazing time that we spent together and the bond that developed in the process. The desperate attempts of making ‘the next plan’ only showed how much we craved more time together.

Goodbyes are essential, not always easy. The unrealistic plans are cover to buy more time. But goodbyes are important, especially if they mean so much to you.

It’s been more than 6 months since they left India. although we were not able to meet them on their last day in India but I did felt the emptiness and the weight of failed plans to meet them again. They are in California now, we are in touch. We still make plans. We still plan to meet some day, take a road trip in US may be. I know we are going to meet again someday. My goodbye is pending! My proper last hug is awaiting! I have things I need to say in person and tell them how important they are to us. I must tell them that I judged them the minute I saw them and I don’t like that about me. I have to let them know that its fine that we are continents away but I don’t have too many people who have inspired me and I need them to stay in my life in whichever way possible. I have to meet them one more time, because I deserve a proper goodbye.

Meeting someone at a bus stop could have ended with the trip, but instead it turned into a beautiful, strong and meaningful relationship. I could have tagged them as my amazing friends who are one of a kind, but that will be undermining how much I value our relationship. So, till I figure out the perfect salutation to address them, I am going to call them my ‘Californian Cousins’!

Californian Cousins

Photo of Californian Cousins! by Kaveri Mayra

Co-written with Varun Kakde ; For #SwipeRightToTravel