Around 15 years ago, for my first-ever solo holiday, I was to spend a fair amount of time on trains—two, in fact. I was nervous, of course. I could feel my heart thump a little faster than usual. This was North India, where single women sojourns weren’t widely popular, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But somewhere between getting off at Kalka and taking my spot on the toy train up to Shimla, the anxiety started to give way to anticipation. And as the carriage shuffled up the hills, calm began to set in. I began to enjoy the cool mountain air, quaint station stops and vegetable cutlets made from a recipe at least a century old. I almost forgot I had to get off at some point. Perhaps that was inevitable. After all, the journey is often the most compelling aspect of any story.
Little wonder that the traveller forgets little.
Take the actor who found his way to Bollywood by happenstance. In our cover story, Sidharth Malhotra tells Kunal Purandare and Angad Singh Thakur about the meandering road leading to his five-year-old career. There were no blinds in our windows, he says of his tiny flat in Mumbai. Any earned money was a joy to be shared with his flatmates. An outsider who now finds himself firmly ensconced in the inner circles of the film world, Malhotra still manages to keep it real: Take his closeness to his family, for instance. “I have come to an age where I enjoy their company a lot. It keeps you level-headed.”
Then, there’s Rohit Sharma, the cricketer who has “polarised” the pundits with dramatic shifts in form and fortune. “Every time he has been on the cusp of stamping his greatness on the game with his prolific display in the shorter formats, Sharma has faltered on the last mile, inevitably with Test matches,” writes Kathakali Chanda. The 29-year-old batsman carries the weight of expectation manfully, having struggled early in his career. “The years of slump after my debut were very disappointing. It happened because I was an immature cricketer,” he admits. He turned to friends and fitness to regain confidence—and his place in the Indian team.
Apart from people, we traversed a fair bit for food in this issue. From the multi-purpose pork and fermented fish of Northeast India to the slippery noodles and duck’s eggs of Ho Chi Minh City to the buttery goodness of the Parsi cafes in Pune, we bring you flavours that are as varied as they are authentic.
If you are willing to go further for an original experience, read Vaishali Dinakaran’s account of life in Swedish Lappland and her entrancing tryst with white noise. Or, find your rail expedition of choice in our curation.