My Inspiration to write the book
During my multirole stints in our own startup days of IndiaHotelReview (IHR) from 2007 till early 2012 co-founded by my husband Ankit Rastogi in Noida, I got the first opportunity to know North East India. IHR used to be a popular organic name in the travel startup world for its lesser known destinations, smaller properties focus, pilgrim, weekend holiday packages and in depth travel content spanning huge India. It was largely our joint aim in IHR to do extensive research on and off field, open new destination and properties on Internet, make them discoverable, bringing online demand and convert through assisted sales where North East India fitted magically as a geographical travel fascination. What initially came as wok became the love for the amazing region in tourism world. This was boosted by its little awareness at that time and till date in rest of India on travel map and left a lasting impression on me as a travel professional.
While IHR came to an end but North East curiosity continued to only grow inside me. In 2012 when my senior in Goibibo inquired regarding my preferable region for the job of Market Manager, I immediately opted Northeast and East India. It as dream come true and I was super excited knowing one of the mandatory job assignment for the role was to travel extensively to your region to meet properties, make connections and develop the business. While IHR had given all the knowledge and sown the seeds it was goibibo’s emerging hotel business opportunity where my aspirations were about to come to fruition. It was in late 2012 when elated I touched down the city of Joy ”Kolkata” first time. 5 years past that time, I still feel that as if it was yesterday having memories of each and every moment of that trip Salt Lake and Park Street of Kolkata. Trip was official but impact were personal. Kolkata’s affair with time gap, travel at a pace where joy is in slowness, its rich cultural heritage, its love of literature, sweetness of people & food, all in all Beautiful Bengal’s contribution to our motherland all had made my want of knowing East robust and turned my impressions to confident reality that I will be exploring this part more and more. During my subsequent trips to Kolkata and West Bengal, I met with many Assamese, Gorkhas, Oriya, Bengali, Sikkimese and tribals from North East knowing more about other neighbouring states to Bengal. Later over few weeks in 2013 I traveled to destinations like Puri, Bhubaneshwar, Darjeeling and Gangtok and other nearby destinations which were on regular tourists map and had seen traveller footprints from across India much before the digital travel revolution. These places and travel ecosystem had an established set up for ages but they had hardly seen any woman coming over from New Delhi for either for business or leisure travel. Repetitive interactions with the tourism stakeholders in that belt started to give me a sense of pride and courage that I can go deeper and I must continue to strive harder to unravel the secrets of the Eastern India.
Later I ventured to lot of other destinations like North Sikkim, parts of North Bengal, Coastal Bengal and North Orissa , Hill Stations of Meghalaya and wild life parks of Assam either on business or leisure. Reaching these places was tough and tiring , I had family and small daughter in Delhi to take care but they supported me well and my ambitions of travelling solo and spending longer days in East passionately had just started taking shape. My continuous exploration of the area hopping across plenty of destinations, Meeting hundreds of accommodation properties and their owners, checking out attractions, flying in and out of small airports, hitting the road with taxis kept on providing the adrenalin rush for going farther and farther. The knowledge and experience I was constantly gaining was providing a sense of safety and security overcoming long stayed fears of this region which was one time only famous for ultra’s, violence and riots. Instead its purity, greenery , sustained ecology, untouched rich culture and respect which they were showering on me as solo woman traveller somewhere bent me to jot all these down in a travel book. These awesome trips were constantly elevating my restlessness to levels where I was to enter hinterland of North East without any permission and ask. Each visit to region was providing me a sense of liberation beyond explanation eliminating fears of being remote bringing respect to the land different from what our fellow citizens can conceive and imagine from a travellers prism.
As I started coming down frequently to write, learn and absorb, my acquaintances were growing and each next time as I was finding one more positive reason to put this land on the tourist map of India and globe. It was a pity that after 60 years of independence, transit connectivity has been extremely tough for the people here and lot of them are still treated as outsiders in our country despite having one of richest matriarchal society, belonging to a land which has India’s largest green cover with natural abundance, India’s mightiest river, deep and rooted endemic tribal culture, heritage and so much to offer from pure tourism potential stance. After 10 years of knowing the Eastern part of India and visiting it for more than 100 times over last 5 years I have every reason to state that it requires more focus, attention and virility to expand into mainstream domestic and international tourism of India. Its massive potential has still an information lag despite deluge of social and digital media. A simple Internet search on plenty of granularities of East and North East attractions doesn’t reveal the basic, I realised this again and again over last few years when I started finding information for my trips. Either the info is stale or its inaccurate or missing. It may be growing but at snails pace and so has been awareness level in tourism fraternity barring few peak places, festivals and events the region has still not caught on.
People of North East and East are simple and joyful and this book is an attempt to bring that joy to the world from a woman’s perspective. Tourism and travel is a great means of education, leveller and in this fast moving virtual age a true stress buster. What if we can divert few more attention to the land of rising Sun in India, learn from its age old practices of sustainability and coexistence with nature. It will not only bring people connect but also ensure a fair bit of development & progress to the territory. This book is an attempt to pay homage to the insurmountable love and affection which I received from the people of East and an invite to all fellow people to be in the laps of Brahmaputra, Bamboo’s and Banga border. I am delighted that in this decade North East has gone beyond tourism becoming the cradle of woman sports churning out talent like honourable Mary Kom, Deepa Karmakar, Sarita Devi etc adding to the awareness of territory.
Hoping to see lot of you picking a copy of “Early Sunrise and Early Sunset” which will be published soon.