The duo answers how to make friends with locals, get past the language barrier, find the best places to eat and more
Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma’s Twitter profile (@rockyandmayur) is a frenzy of travel vlogs they have been doing for HistoryTV18’s travel series #RoadTrippinWithRnM. In the first four seasons — all shot during the pandemic — they covered Rajasthan, Delhi, West Bengal, and Gujarat. In the first five days of the fifth, they cover five districts (Madurai, Dindigul, Tiruchi, Salem, and Coimbatore) in Tamil Nadu.
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Clad in veshtis, they visit historical buildings, famous and little-known eateries, pulling each other’s legs. The activity is almost non-stop. But Mayur’s favourite memory from those five days is a moment of pause at the Rockfort Temple in Tiruchi. “Once you climb up the 400-plus steps, there’s a huge rock. Just sitting on that rock, quietly, experiencing the fragrant breeze blowing on your face, and watching the birds flying… You understand what being at peace is,” he describes.
People often travel with to-do lists. There are places to visit, photos to click, and activities to do. But according to Rocky, “The purpose of travel is not to get something done; it’s to experience as much as you can. And, in a country like India, there is so much to experience.”
Travel has been the duo’s bread and butter for the last 15 years. They have been doing travel vlogs before travel vlogs were a thing. “We were there before YouTube,” jokes Rocky.
Before the duo proceeded to Karnataka for their second leg of the travel for this season, we got them to answer questions on how to travel.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How to choose a place?
Rocky: With international travel restricted due to COVID-19, it’s a great chance to get to know your country. When we go to a city, we visit the little-known places along with the popular ones. In Coimbatore, for example, Annapoorna restaurant is an obvious choice. But we also went to Lovely Mushroom Stall and Thamirabarani & Co Dry Fruits — spots that are just locally known. We also look for local historical buildings. Wildlife is another thing we love to explore.
How to make friends with locals?
Rocky: In our case, we just eat a lot of food. So, usually, someone will come up to us and say, “My God, I can’t believe we’re able to finish eight dosas and two thalis.” But if you’re respectful, positive, happy, inquisitive, and polite, then, most people would love to chat with you. That’s how we found out about paruthipaal (cottonseed milk) in Madurai. A big, smiley, gentleman of about 70-75 told us about it. So, we make an effort — we smile a lot, we talk to a lot of people even if we don’t know the language.
How to get past the language barrier?
Mayur: When you smile and be respectful, people automatically open up to you. And, you find ways to make them smile. Rocky and I were wearing veshtis. And, his would come loose and him trying to hold it made people giggle. But people appreciate that we are making the effort to respect their culture.
Should one try to fit in?
Mayur: ‘Fit in’ is a word we use where we feel we were outsiders. But this is India. Often people in Tamil Nadu would ask us, “What’s your native?”; we say, “India.” Even with the veshti, it’s not about trying to fit in; it’s the perfect garment for the conditions in Tamil Nadu.
Rocky: Fitting in has a connotation of trying to be something we’re not. But that’s not what we do. We are just trying to connect with people whose lives, culture and outlook of life are different from ours.
How to select the best accommodation?
Rocky: Hotels have uniformity and they are purely transactional — you get what you pay for. But when you stay at somebody’s home in a Bed and Breakfast accommodation, you properly get to know them. For example, in Karaikudi, we stayed at a traditional home. We went to get souvenirs from a local store and chatted with people at a nearby lake.
How to find the best local cuisine?
Mayur: It’s great to have some local expertise. When we were going to Coimbatore, we reached out to one of our friends there, Guhan Swaminathan, who’s a food blogger. He suggested Lovely Mushroom Stall to us. So, building a network helps.
Rocky: When we were researching for this trip, kaalaan (a saucy, fried mushroom snack) came up and we were surprised how mushrooms are so popular in this part of the country. We wanted to know more about it. That’s how we went there. So, just that bit of curiosity to find something that you haven’t experienced before is what leads us in our journeys.
Cars or motorcycles or public transport?
Rocky: If there’s heat and the rain, it’s hard to get off and walk to a place. So, public transport is difficult in those cases. And, with COVID now, you have to be more careful. If you are travelling with your family, then car offers a safe bubble, where you can spend time together and have fun. But if you are strong and fit, motorcycling is the finest way to travel across the country because you are more connected with the environment. But make sure you have the right riding equipment.
#RoadTrippinWithRnM Season 5 is available across HistoryTV18 and Rocky and Mayur’s social media pages.