Saif Omar and Faiza Khan – Travel Podcasts

The Musafir Stories (TMS) is hosted by Bangalore-based couple Saif Omar and Faiza Khan. Saif has worked in the software services and financial services industry most of his professional life, and was based in the USA. He quit about three years ago, moving back to India and joining the family business. Saif’s wife Faiza is the co-host on TMS and currently works as a Team Lead with a software MNC in Bangalore. Faiza is also an avid baker and inspired crafter of hand-made organic soaps.

Talk to us about your personal journeys, how did the podcast happen?
When we moved back to India, I was looking to consume local podcasts but the options were limited. That’s when we wondered about giving podcasting a shot – even though neither of us has any background in media/journalism, or even full-time travel for that matter.

As kids, most of us have grown up on the culture of listening to stories from grandparents and elders. We can fondly recall sharing first-hand experiences about travel and life in general, with classmates and friends. The culture of story-telling and listening is deep-wired in us.

Looking at TMS at an idea stage, we thought that there might be an audience for casual and informal conversations about travel experiences, especially when pro-travelers can add tips, tricks and hacks to their conversations. That’s how The Musafir Stories was born – it began as a passion project and continues to be so.

What do you think makes The Musafir Stories different?
Our podcast is fair game for anyone who has some interest in travel or otherwise. Since it’s not niche genre as such, listeners don’t necessarily need a lot of background or context to tune into these conversations, thus making it perfect content to consume passively. Anyone, from a youngster who is looking to explore India, to a working professional who is looking at winding down and being away from work, is a potential listener.

To make things different, we try to cover various facets of travel, right from popular destinations, city guides, weekend itineraries, experiences that cover mountains, wildlife and beaches, to activities like trekking, adventure and road trips. We also have other features of interest on our platform for our Indian audiences – like volunteering, slow travel and offbeat travel.

We started this as a passion project primarily to make more people aware about India and what it has to offer through conversations with some very interesting people – conversations that are both informative and easy on the ear. If this does inspire someone to get off the couch and look at new horizons, then we’ve done some good. (Maybe even over-achieved!)

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Saif Omar and Faiza Khan – The Musafir Stories

Sukumaran Menon – Art Perspective Photography

B Based in Bangalore, Sukumaran is a seasoned travel enthusiast and a hobby-photographer. He started off using a point & shoot camera and moved up the value chain to professional gear. As his work involves travel – both within and outside the country, he manages to find the time to give his passion for photography newer and more exciting frames of reference.

Sukumaran refers to the black & white medium as a distinctly unique form of expression, and often takes this visual route in his explorations of period architecture, and the great outdoors. He is particularly fascinated with “trees” as a subject, and how he can capture nature’s works of art from a whole new viewpoint.

What does travel mean to you? Vacations? Seeing new places? Discovering the world? Could mean all of this, but let’s have your version of it?
Travel is about the path you will take that will ultimately define your journey – whether it’s going somewhere that is only two-hours away, or a destination halfway across the world. Travel is also about trying something new – especially if you can manage to escape from the predictable routines of everyday life. Traveling therefore gives you something different to experience, and can be like a breath of fresh air.

To me, travel also means spending the day in a new city and exploring all of its history, its museums and parks. It brings in the magic of spontaneous adventure and participation in activities that you normally would not have the time for.

Does work enable travel? Do you add on a travel segment when you travel within the country, or on visits abroad?
As an engineering consultant my work entails a fair bit of travel – both within the country and outside. On work, my travel schedule is invariably packed to the gills – not allowing time for any kind of detour. The only other option would be a planned photography excursion to a place I always wanted to visit – one example here is my week long trip to Kenya, to capture the annual migration of animals in the Maasai Mara.

Having said that, work related travel sometimes presented opportunities to explore cities and places of interest that I had only heard of before – this was indeed a big blessing. I am thankful that I have got to see some amazing places both in India and overseas. Being able to take pictures “in transit” is the proverbial icing on the cake!

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Sukumaran Menon – on Art perspective photography

Surya Ramachandran – Naturalist

What’s an electrical engineer doing, deep inside a tiger reserve? Well, Surya Ramachandran is training young aspirants to be successful guides and tour leaders. Surya says that he was interested in wildlife right from childhood – his first trip to the zoo with his art teacher sparked off a whole new interest in him. He has been visiting various national parks ever since, both as amateur and professional. Surya currently works at the Singinawa Jungle Lodge in Kanha. He was earlier with the Forsythe Lodge near the Satpura National Park – one of the finest tiger reserves in the country.

Surya’s interests include birding, butterfly watching, herping and frogging. These are terms used by naturalists to describe their research areas of interest. Smaller mammals and other hard-to-spot species form the basis of his treks into areas that are still nature’s preserve. His interest in photography and video help him capture and document all his work, which he shares freely on social media.

We now chat with Surya about developing new interests, trips to forest reserves and protecting wild life in our forest lands.

Q: As a naturalist, are you concerned about the intrusion of tourists into natural habitats?
To answer your question, when a large number of people enter a national park on a daily basis, there is always a case of intrusion into a very private world. I too take groups of people inside the park – twice-a-day, through most of the year. But I always manage to keep forest etiquette in mind, and the need to be non-intrusive during these visits.

The role of a naturalist is all important – and has a lot to do with exploring, understanding and interpreting the magic of the wilderness. We also need to explain our findings using simple, easy-to-understand terminology. In addition to guiding tourists in and around the park, a naturalist also helps people build meaningful relationships within these spaces – the objective here is relate to your surroundings in a constructive manner.

At another level, any amount of good or neutral presence in national parks is useful, and necessary – because we also need the kind of awareness that goes with it – to protect our parks from poaching, and infuse support measures such as manpower and funds.

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website >
Surya Ramachandran – on the role of a Naturalist

Pratap J – Landscape and Travel Photographer

Pratap J is a landscape and travel photographer from Bangalore, India. He loves shooting in the great outdoors of India – a country so vast that he thinks one lifetime is not sufficient to cover the length and breadth of the country. An engineer by education and profession, Pratap J works hard to balance his hobby and day job. His weekends are almost always dedicated to photography and travel. When he is not living off a backpack, he is mentoring other photography enthusiasts in a classroom or in the field.

Pratap loves to write about the places he visits in detail. He has been blogging at since 2006. His articles are a documentation of his experiences and also offer readers information about popular travel destinations. Combined with his stunning photography, the website is source of high quality content for travel enthusiasts.

Q: How did you take to photography? How did you get into the frame?
My love for photography is an extension of my love for nature and the outdoors. From when I can remember, everything about forests, mountains, streams, animals and birds fascinated me. I grew up in a big metropolitan city, so I couldn’t spend enough time venturing out into the wild.

When I could afford a digital camera, I realized that it gave me a good reason to connect with nature. After I exhausted options to photograph in and around my hometown, I began to travel. I soon discovered that travel combined with photography was a great combo! Those were the days when blogging was just picking up. I jumped onto the bandwagon and started my website, in 2006. I intended it to be a photo-blog and a documentation of my travels. In no time I had three deep interests – travel, photography and blogging. I still continue all three to this day.

Q: Is this your primary line of work? Or something you do as a special interest?
Photography and travel are purely out of passion. My middle class parents toiled hard all their life to see me through good education, so I prefer not to let that go futile. In spite of the internet hype around quitting your job to follow your passion, I believe in being practical.

That said, I treat photography as something sacred. It is easy to get bogged down by the mundane. Finding inspiration when you have bills to pay, deadlines to meet, and when you are stuck for long hours in traffic jams is a challenge. I have learnt that things don’t happen in life unless you make them happen. While money is a great motivation to do things in life, passion is the fuel for life.

This interview was done for the All India Resort Development Association
You can read the rest of the interview on the AIRDA website>
Pratap J – on Landscape & Travel Photography