As I enter the café, I chance upon at Mridula’s beaming face waiting to tell me stories that would probably last a lifetime between us. After a good two hour conversation, I realise that there is more to her of experience that go beyond pictures, sensible captions and travel guides. She loves writing about different humans, their stories and she connects with them which makes it all the more different for her. Always hungry for stories, for her travelling is more than just watching breathtaking locales and sceneries; she has a connection with the people she meets in her journey that makes her experience all the more interesting.
Mridula has her social media on point – the pictures and captions are inimitable just like her. She tells her stories very differently – it’s more abstract, more personal yet stronger than anybody else’s.
“Having a way of organisation on social media gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Presentation always makes a world of difference especially when it comes to travel blogging. “For months I was unable to bring in the organisation and today it is satisfactory. When I go back to my page, I should feel soothing. Instagram’s algorithm is built in such a way that adding no frames to pictures drives more transparency but I’ve always tried to balance that because I love adding frames to my pictures. So now, I bring in that balance. Few series suit well with frames and I just go ahead and do that because that is my aesthetics.”
“Everybody is creating content on social media these days.”
She feels that being yourself is critical because given the times, everyone wants to stand out on social media now. “I am constantly judging and comparing myself. I ask myself, ‘Am I really good enough?’ On few days, I tell myself that I am known for my kind of content but it’s always a constant conflict,” she says.
“My pictures tell a story.”
There are thousands of travel bloggers on social media these days but Mridula’s way of expressing is distinctive. “I always have a story to tell with every picture of mine. I do not restrict my stories with one picture. I have a series of pictures for every place and each picture will have different captions. One will talk about a story or a personal experience while one will give a brief of a complete travel guide. They are either useful or they are super interesting to read. My posts come with a lot of information while some come with stories. You need to be open to new cultures. I tend to talk to the locals a lot and that helps me the most. I want the people who are reading my posts feel that we are travelling together.”
“Travelling to 29 states in India happened in the span of one and a half years.”
“I remember reading this book ‘Around India in 80 Trains’ and the book had a humungous impact on me. When I completed reading the book, I literally shed a tear because it felt like as though it was my journey that came to an end. I was inspired but I did not immediately want to do something as a result. Once when I visited Delhi, my friend and I planned for a trip to Banaras and the experience to me was something else altogether. From then on, Delhi became my main point to travel to every location I wished to travel.”
At the end of her college she did a trip to Dharamshala as well. The travel bug had then finally got her. “We (my friends and I) were heading to Uttar Pradesh for a wedding and we decided to make it a 12-day trip. We decided to travel to Pune, Jaipur, Shimla, Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh along with UP. Only when I completed the trip did I realise that I covered seven states in 12 days and that’s when I decided to cover the rest of India.”
Mridula worked while she travelled to fund her own trip. She would work for days accumulating her leave days and utilise them all together. Eventually, she began freelancing while she travelled. “I was in Mumbai and luckily for me, a lot of states were close to Bombay. I began with Madhya Pradesh then went on to Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and several other states. But, overall, it was only 22 states and I had 7 left because I fell sick.”
After three months, Mridula began her North East travel including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland. “The transportation connectivity is so bad in the North East that you simply cannot plan anything ahead of time. We boarded random cars with drunk men and stayed in random places. I mean, anything could have happened to us. We almost missed our flight, we were stuck in various places including a Naxalite region but that is all a part and parcel of travel.”
“My final trip was to Rishikesh and I was travelling there with my best friend. I missed the train, I got into a wrong train but for me, I always found my way and that meant something to me. When I reached Rishikesh, I hugged my friend and shed happy tears – I had completed all the 29 states in India.”
She was still working from her phone while travelling in remote locations sometimes even from internet centres if she gets the access to.
“I can tell you a whole new story altogether about the men of India.”
Travelling to 29 states, Mridula has sure had her fair share of experiences with how she was treated by men in the country. “I remember in Bihar when men, basically Railway security, were just rounding up around me for no reason and I was freaking out. I had missed my train and there was a woman’s waiting room but I decided that I rather stay out than go back there. But, this is just one of the many experiences I faced.”
“Choose your travel buddy wisely.”
Your travel buddy and you need to be effortless. “I have travelled with friends and I have travelled with strangers but that does not matter. The fact that your travel buddy is effortless and gels well is imperative. Lots of random people have joined my journey and a lot of strangers have joined my journey, but my travel buddies have luckily been very supportive,” she shares.
“Travelling taught me life.”
Today, Mridula can travel literally anywhere and everywhere. She is also aware of solutions to any transportation issues like train cancellation or what to do when a train is delayed. “Everything I know in life today was taught to me by travelling. Today you put me in any situation and I will be able to come up with a solution.”