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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014

Kalki: The unconventional traveller

Aamit Khanna   February 18, 2012
First Published: 22:29 IST(18/2/2012) | Last Updated: 10:30 IST(6/9/2012)
If there is one thing that describes Kalki it is 'endearing'. What contributes to her being endearing is her honesty, freshness, child-woman expressions and a very natural and spontaneous way of being 'different'. Yes, she makes no effort to be unconventional. She quite simply is. Kalki made an impressive debut in the cult film 'Dev D' with Abhay Deol and then went on to act in a series of films, including in experimental formats. She was last seen in 'Zindagi na milegi doobara'. She spent her childhood in Pondicherry. Born to French parents, who decided to make Auroville their home, she owes her eclectic persona to the many influences that she has been exposed to. At heart a very simple and free spirited girl, most people who know her, say that it is difficult not to like her and want to know more of her. We attempt to unravel some of her travel choices and are anything but disappointed. 

You are known to be highly individualistic and even edgy in your style of dressing, choice of movies and lifestyle decisions. Does that apply to your travel preferences too? Tell us what travel means to you and how you generally make your travel plans.

Travel to me means discovering new people, new food, new culture, new music and new films. I make my travel plans based on recommendations and feedback from close friends or through someone I know well, living in a country I haven't been to. This way I get a better chance to see the real stuff, check out local hideouts, must-visits and must-do's and go beyond the guidebook or the Internet. Travel for me is a very personal experience and is all discovery than about luxury.

As a child what are your memories of travel and any lasting memories / impressions?

I remember going to Himachal Pradesh when I was six years old and seeing snow for the first time. I was very disappointed because I thought that the snow was cotton and when I touched it, it was cold and wet! I also remember going to France for the first time to visit my grandparents when I was nine and eating blueberry pie that stained my lips and fingers. It was quite a delicious experience and had a fairy tale quality to it. Such images stuck in the mind. 
 
Places that have left a deep impact on you, that touched your core and why.

I have spent some wonderful time as a teenager in Panchmarhi, in Madhya Pradesh. Its a quiet hill station near the Satpura Sanctuary and going there I could understand what it meant to enjoy and relish the simpler things in life. It made me value nature and also, I could see how we humans were relentlessly destroying it for future generations. Another place which never ceases to fascinate me is London where I went to the University for higher studies. It is a tough and lonely city to live in but it teaches you to be independent, to figure things out for yourself and to find new and practical ways of dealing with life.
  
Well known places that you visited but felt disappointed with.

Thailand was a big disappointment. This was a trip me and my mother went on when I was 14 years of age and we were both shocked by the highly touristic vibe that engulfs you and is so much in your face, where there is little that is natural and spontaneous and more that is touristy and artificial. 
  
While on vacation, what do you like to do?

I like to discover the small dingy addas where the locals eat. I also love to explore in the wild, wander off and find an abandoned lagoon or a mountain top with no one around. Also, I avoid carrying a watch or phone and refrain from checking mail and staying in touch with folks back home. I make that effort, mostly successfully, to actually switch off and disconnect.  

Your recent holiday.

Anurag and I went to Turkey for our honeymoon. We spent a few days in Istanbul and ended up discovering a gorgeous terrain in Cirale and Olympus, on the Mediterranean coast.

Places you wish to visit.

Undoubtedly, South America, Peru and Bolivia. I would also like to throw in Japan, New Zealand and North Africa.
 
In India, what are the destinations that to be further developed. How do you rate the Indian tourism have potential industry and what can we do to get better

Places that should be better kept and more accessible to tourists and history lovers would have to be Hampi, Rameshwaram,  forest reserves such as the Satpura Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, Madhumalai in Tamil Nadu,  every hill station across India, all of Kashmir and Assam. The list is long and I can't think of all the places but its hard not to notice and feel about how inspite of having  a very rich culture,  we do not nurture it well enough. People come here despite the difficulties of visas, transport bookings and lack of information and get disappointed by our complete apathy. Often travellers lament that the Indian Tourism Board and the state governments lack in hospitality. Thankfully, many say that the locals more than make up with their enthusiasm, hospitality and fascination towards the foreigners.

Budget vacations - have you ever done them and any advice on what to take into account, how to save money and get a good experience too

Yes, I have travelled budget many times. Well first of all travel within India can be really cheap and there are some beautiful places to visit up north. I would say the best thing to do is rely on a local contact in a country. The more you travel, the more people you meet from different places and the more contacts you have all over the world, or get on forums online and speak to people who've been to those places and get first hand feedback would add to the novelty and freshness of your travel experience. And if you are travelling alone, couch surfing is a great way to save money. Ii don't trust books like the Lonely Planet, because they have always proved disappointing in the past, at least to me.

For the eccentric, non conformist traveller, which are the best places to go to worldwide and why?

Well that really depends on what one is looking for. Those who love the wilderness would be happy in Canada, Alaska and New Zealand. For cosmopolitan diversity, you cannot beat New York. For history and culture, there is Turkey, Lebanon, South America, India and Laos. Actually there are so many places to visit and savour. 
 
Since you were born in pondicherry tell us about that place and what do you recommend.

Pondy is a fairly quiet town and can't be compared with Goa (which people often do). There is so much to do. It has some good French cuisine like Satsanga; the Sunday market on Nehru street  is superb for bargain factory export clothes; you can go to Second River where you catch a ten-minute boat ride to a fairly quiet beach; and finally in Auroville, you can eat and buy some great organic food, besides soaking in the ashram experience. It has a repeat value and more often than not, you want to extend your stay here. It has that kind of lingering effect on you.

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