Laddu aka Abhinav Singh ,uses his wit, his simplicity and his mad humour so that the rest of us can vicariously see the places and venture where wouldn’t otherwise. Unlike others, he did not quit his job for travel but was Fired from work for his love of travel but that didn’t deter him. He has already traveled 70 unusual destinations in 18states of India! And that’s why he inspires me!
He braves dust, sweat and grime on roads to bring back amazing stories from all corners, famous or unknown. This is not it! He writes some amazing travel themed songs and poems! Some absurd, some with a deep meaning!
These are the qualities which make him stand out in the crowd!There’s no stopping him! So I will let Laddu take you on a tour of India and DO NOT miss the last bit, on why the name- Laddu?!
Q Tell us about your journey Laddu?
In 2007, while going through a rough phase in life, I was angry with everything around me. I needed ways to distract myself and keep occupied. Outof the blue, my brother gifted me a Canon bridge camera. It was winters 2008 when I made an impulsive trip to Rishikesh/Haridwar and returned back with good images. It was my first set of pictures and one of them ended up winning first prize in a contest organised by a local newspaper.
As a 25 year old, I felt a high to see my picture exhibited in Lucknow ’s art gallery. Then I discovered Flickr and Facebook. Since then, there is no looking back. My love for photography has led me to develop interest in travel and travel writing as well. I have finally found the calling of my life. So my brother and immense support from my liberal parents has made me what I am today! Travel has calmed me and made me more accepting of everything around me.
India is my destination at the moment and has so much worth in her that it may take me a lifetime wooing her!
Q What got you into solo travelling?
I started my journeys with solo travels at a time when it was unheard of. I was ridiculed and made fun of when I started about solo travel. From being weird and eccentric, solo travel is now trendy and cool. However I enjoy solo travel for its practicality and low stress nature. To me, it’s rather a selfish mode of travel. The chances of serendipity increases when travelling solo. Solo travels are more focussed, interactive, and immersive form of travel. You may end up staying overnight in the staff room of a wildlife sanctuary as I once did!
Q Where have you just come back from?
I started this year with an unforgettable solo trip to rural areas of Rajasthan and 2 days back I returned from my #UPBiharLootne trip. I was spellbound with what I saw in the under-rated Bihar. I am beyond words to witness an international university (Nalanda) in the middle of nowhere. At a time when most civilisations were at a nascent stage, Nalanda university was bursting with intellectual exchanges.
Travel to me is not just posing next to pretty mountains or holidaying in pristine beaches, its much deeper.
Q What has been your highlight travel /destination so far
My Roopkund trek in the Himalayas. On my last day we walked nonstop for 18 hours without any food and with little water on mountains covered with snow.
Bhutan, for its unique culture, food, costumes, architecture and climate. Just one of its kind in the world!
Q Name a place that most lived up to the hype?
Rajasthan in India. I thought it’s a cliché. But there is a reason why it attracts so many travellers from around the world. The places offers amazing hospitality, food, stories, music, crafts and a very rare love and conservationist attitude towards its flora and fauna.
Q Describe your favourite view?
No words to explain how I feel, when I sit on the window seat and gaze out in the vast expanse . It makes me contemplative and its here I love taking stock of my life. It’s here when I meet myself. It’s here when I try to figure out who I actually am. It’s here that I think of the hard times I have faced and shed a clandestine tear or two , ensuring no one sees it. It’s here and not a religious place that I feel spiritual. Sitting by the window, I get to see the hidden beauty of my country. Having been raised in urban spaces, I have lost out on experiencing the charm and simplicity of Indian countryside and this is my way of discovering the rustic India. The wide open skies, the lush green fields, the hills, the rivers, the seas, all of them speak to me when I gaze at them romantically.
People assume that I am some miser who makes these cheap (real cheap!) train rides to save money. I fail to explain to them that saving money is secondary here. What’s important is that one gets to see the proverbial ‘Real India’.
Q What’s your guilty pleasure?
Anything local. I eat like crazy everytime I travel. I once ate 70 idlis (Steamed rice cakes served with lentil curry called sambhar and coconut chutney) in 6 days when I was in South India. In Rajasthan, I binged on Kachoris and supplemented it with Pudin Hara tablets for the fear of upsetting my otherwise strong stomach.
Q Tell us about a great little place you know and no one else does?
Not many go to Shravanbelagola in Karnataka if it’s not the time for annual ritual, ‘Maha-abhishek’. Tucked away in a nondescript dusty village of Karnataka, I discovered a gem of a statue of Bahubali. It sure deserves more global attention than it gets!
At 58 feet, the statue of Lord Gomateshvara is touted as world’s largest monolithic stone statue. India surely never fails to throw surprises, even to its own countrymen! My #SoulWindow transported me to an ancient era.
The Frog temple in Oel town in Lakhimpur district is bizarre and quirky. Just few hours away from Lucknow, the base of this 19th century temple is a huge frog, only one of its kind.
Q Confess to one thing you’ve taken from a hotel room?
(Big Grin!), I never thought somebody will ever ask my dirty secret. I steal all the soaps, I can find in the room before I check out. It’s a petty thing but on my travels I am mostly running from pillar to post to see this and eat that and I find it very difficult to find time to buy a soap.
Q Who is the most interesting person you’ve met on your travels?
So many of them. The brother of the restaurant owner in Bhutan, I met after hogging on Ema Dhatshi. He said he was scandalised to see a sea of humanity on his travels in Mumbai. (Bhutan is very sparsly populated).
Seva Ram, the construction labourer who was sitting next to me in rural Rajasthan and asked me naively, “Does it take passport to come to Rajasthan from Mumbai?”
So each one of them has given me a story and is important!
Q What are the 5 essentials in your bagpack?
- Water bottle
- Note book
- Chargers and cellphone
Q Your Favourite holiday souvenir?
I believe, ‘Never take back a thing, but only memories. Leave nothing behind , but only foorprints’
But I made an exception few days back. As my #UPBiharLootne trip halted at the Bodhgaya, I observed people rushing to pick up the leaves which fell from the Bodhi tree, Gautama Buddha once meditated under. Apparently the most famous tree of the world! Earlier I was not interested in picking up one , but then an idea struck me (Perhaps my enlightenment moment) I picked many to use them as my Bookmark for my Lonely Planet Guide . The coolest bookmark, I ever had. It’s not just a Peepal tree leaf. It’s ancient history.
Q How do you make expensive destinations easier on the wallet?
I started to travel on budget not to save money but to travel like locals and live/eat like them. Soon, I realised that it also helps me save a lot of money and make more trips happen too. I don’t really crave creature comforts and luxury much, that helps me to easily board a stuffed rickety bus, a tractor, a chakdi (hybrid of bullet and hand cart , prevalent in Gujarat) , a general class compartment in a train. Not to forget, hanging precariously at the rear of a jeep while it snakes on bumpy road.
I have also been able to find functional rooms with attached toilets for as less as INR 300 (£3) a day. And with some sweet laddo’ism, I mostly manage to convince the hotel owner into a 24 hours checkout! You could also spend the night in trains or buses; that saves hotel money and time.
Another great way to save money is ask your friend to show the city or Couch Surf! You can save on food and accommodation.
I always like to leave a token of thanks to the folk who host me. The main benefits here though is not all economics. It’s the best way to get insider information, see/do/eat what a regular tourist does not. I once stayed in one of those traditional houses one sees when driving on Mumbai to Goa highway. I always wanted to enter one and it helped that one of those house was my friend’s ancestral home. We also picked cashews from his farm.
Q Which places would you recommend visiting – based on your travels – and why?
I have had varied experiences. Most are close to me but here are my top five favourites:
- The little and greater Rann of Kutch and Nal sarovar bird sanctuary for unique geographies, lesser known cultures, amazing food, less crowds and rare wildlife
- The gruelling Roopkund trek in the Himalayas was one of my most rewarding experiences
- Just few hours away from Goa, Tarkali is the secret little beach town. I had amazing scuba diving experience at a shoe string budget
- Lucknow receives less tourist traffic than it deserves. From labyrinthine Bhool Bhulaiya to lip smacking kebabs, Awadhi cuisine and chikankari clothes, lucknow has lots to offer
- Which is Laddu’s most favourite place on earth?
Difficult to name one again! I love rural north India in winters, Bhutan and of course trekking in the Himalayas.
2.Three people to who Laddu wants to write open letters to?
- The legendary Emperor Asoka, only one of his kind in history who gave up violence and war and promoted peace after conquering the empire he wanted to. The world needs him badly in these tough times.
- To irresponsible travellers who turn pristine places into living hell and act like hooligans with wildlife.
- To the critics of India. It’s a much safer and beautiful place than you can imagine.
3. If Laddu is the Prime Minister for a month , he would …
Promote #IncredibleIndia relentlessly and commission independent artists to create visually appealing tourism campaign paraphernalia (guides, brochures, pictures, videos, travelogues, merchandises, crafts, products etc)
4. Laddu’s favourite condiment?
Green chilly with my food.
5.Who is Laddu’s celebrity resemblance?
In real life, Christopher Mc Candles of ‘Into the Wild’. No comments on the ‘why’
We are blessed with a beautiful planet. Everything is a miracle here. A lifetime is too short to experience all the amazing things this planet offers. I think being a traveller is the best job of the world. Travelling make you so rich, so much that you could shame Bill gates or closer home, the Ambanis. As they say, travel is the only intangible commodity where you get richer every time you pay!
And lack of money, time and age should never be a factor, there is always a way around. I earn the lowest amongst all my peers and still I have travelled much more than most! But yes, start at a young age so you are fitter for a longer time and see more.
Q Who is Laddu?
Mostly people who have just heard his name Laddu (ball-shaped sweets popular in the Indian Subcontinent) and not seen him in flesh and bone (and excess sweat!) are taken aback, because they expect an XXL sized mutant human. But what they get is a reed thin person bordering on malnutrition.
So how did I get the name Laddu? One tragic/fine day at the practical session in institute of hotel management (my college) , Laddu (The last time I was not a Laddu) was stationed at the bar when the principal came unannounced and ordered a mocktail. I mixed up some random liquids and presented it as a mocktail. Though it tasted good, question was why I did not use a measuring cup ? Once the head of school left disappointed , my favourite teacher approached and with disdain created a historic moment when he said “You are a Laddu. A Laddu! You don’t know how to bluff people. ”
Laddu told this to a dear friend and he broadcasted the story to all the Sams, Peters and their dogs. Laddu is still confused if he’s proud or ashamed of this name and if a disability to bluff people is a virtue or a sin.
I often say in semi delirious and highly delusional state “You gave me the name Laddu. One day I will turn it into a multimillion dollar worth brand.”
Laddu aka Abhinav
I had great fun in doing and even so in editing this interview with Laddu. He has also promised me a series , a part two with a video of one his travel !So, all you armchair travellers, gear up and go explore or let Laddu take you on a tour… via
- Facebbok – Abhinav Singh ‘s Soul Window – Travel stories and pictures
- Twitter handle : @abhinav2111 OR
- Instagram handle : AbhinavSinghSoulWindow OR
- Subscribe his You Tube channel for cool travel videos : https://www.youtube.com/user/abhinavss21