Khajuraho – offbeat and mesmerising

When one has travelled as much as I have, it becomes quite commonplace to plan for new travel destinations and one may get a sense of, “been there, done that”. Khajuraho was quite different though as it was something both Lipi and I wanted to do for a long time. Now that we are done with the trip, I can only say that it met our expectations in full measure. For those interested in going there this post will be helpful.

Coming to the actual travel, we started on 20th February morning from our home in Hyderabad. The short ride to the airport is always exhilarating in the morning on the ORR expressway. Hyderabad airport is now crowded at most times but, as regular travellers, we have now learnt to take these in our stride. Once we were through the Security check, we headed towards our oasis in the airport – the Plaza Premium lounge. this provides relative serenity in the hustle and bustle of the airport as well as great food options at most times of the day. Fortified by the breakfast, we boarded the flight and did what we normally do – Lipi catching up with her sleep and me with my reading. We made a short stopover at Noida at my mother-in-law’s place and had a great lunch there. She also insisted on packing some dinner for us which came in rather handy later on.

Our train journey by the UP Sampark Kranti Express was uneventful but we were privy to some rather interesting conversation on Khajuraho, courtesy some local people who were travelling with us. When I woke up it was rather dark and the feeling I had of closing in on our destination was quite thrilling. The train reached Khajuraho station fairly early in the morning and just as we came outside we were accosted by a person named Jainam who wanted us to get into his car to reach our hotel. Though I did not have much faith in the sheet of paper that he proffered, 200 Rs seemed a reasonable fare and we set off. The journey by car was short and we saw the two airports, national and international, on our way. The road leading to our hotel Isabel Palace was a dusty one and I started wondering as to whether we had made a good choice of the hotel. However, the interiors were quite good and we were given a room immediately even though it wasn’t 8 in the morning yet.

The hotel had a fixed menu breakfast on the terrace. You could view the Vindhya hills at a distance and paddy fields up close. The 360 degree view along with the tasty Indian breakfast of stuffed parathas and pooris started our day on the right note. We had worked out a deal with our guide cum driver Jainam and soon set out to see the star attraction of the trip, namely the temples of the Western group first. It was only a short drive from the hotel, in Khajuraho most distances are short. The immediate road stretch in front of the temple complex has been cordoned off for vehicular traffic and this is a good step. Tickets were cheap but the official Guides really expensive. We still got one as it is always good to hear from them and it proved to be a good decision. Apart from giving up the details of temples and the sculptures he also doubled up as our official photographer for the day and snapped quite a few pictures of Lipi and me. This was nice as we normally end every travel nowadays with very few pics of us together.

The Western temple complex has most of the temples standing today and is really the UNESCO world heritage site. The temples are all in pretty good shape and have been restored well where needed, the landscaped gardens look beautiful and due to the lack of massive crowds you can set your own pace. We started with the Lakshmana Temple which is dedicated to Vishnu and has a few smaller temples in front of it. The Varaha Temple, dedicated to the third incarnation of Vishnu as a wild Boar is small but has a huge statue of a Boar which is rather impressive. The carvings along the Lakshmana temple contain a lot of erotic sculpture for which Khajuraho is widely known. While these are rather explicitly depicted, the overall numbers would probably be less than 10 %. Also, the sculptures are really about everyday life and it seems that sex was dealt with and spoken of quite openly during the times the temples were built.

About 200 metres from the Lakshmana temple is the most famous temple of Khajuraho and easily the most majestic one in structure and stature. My memories of it stretched long back to my school days when I read about it in my Cultural history classes and was quite impressed by it. In real life it was even more impressive than what my imagination had allowed for. The Jagdambika temple next to it is on the same raised platform and the duo clearly dominate the Western complex. Just going around the temples and staring up at the rising Shikaras will inspire you with awe. Add to it the richly carved panels with the intricate sculptures and you realise the extent of the artistic and human endeavour that went into creating these masterpieces. Muslim invasion had desecrated the shines but even those callous souls probably could not bring themselves to destroy such beauty.

The rest of the temples were nice too, the Chitragupta temple and the Vishvanath temple being noteworthy. The Dance festival has the Chitragupta temple as it’s fantastic background and we witnessed that in the evening. After the Western group we went to the Southern temples and the Eastern Jain ones. While these were quite impressive too and the Chaturvuja temple was unique in the statue of Vishnu with 4 heads. The Jain temple complex was really serene and nice though architecturally not so striking maybe. The temples done we proceeded to have lunch at Agarwal’s which was a great vegetarian restaurant and had a variety of Thali’s and other fares to choose from. The simple thali we chose turned out to be quite sumptuous and rounded off the morning experience.

After some rest at the hotel we were back to the temple complex in the evening. We first went to the only temple in Khajuraho where worship is prevalent and saw the 9 feet Shiva lingam made of sandstone, glistening due to all the polish it has got over the years. The evening Arathi was just starting as we came down the steps and the music with the chanting along with all the devotees clapping to it was a heady mix. Next stop was the Khajuraho Dance festival which was really more of a Fair. There were stalls put up from different states with all kinds of textiles and handicrafts, there were food stalls ans an Art Mart featuring work of many artistes. The Dance stage was impressive and had the Chitragupta temple as it’s beautiful backdrop. We saw three performances of Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Manipuri dances and each one held our attention completely. The entire experience was a surreal one and exceeded all expectations that I had of it. If you are a lover of art and culture, you must visit Khajuraho dance festival at least once.

Dinner was at well known Rajah Cafe run by a Swiss. We had some chicken Brochette which was quite good along with another chicken dish with Rotis. After a restful night we were off the next day on nature trail. First stop was Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary which has some wild life and apparently a lot of crocodiles. Even though we did not see any crocodiles there, the views of the Ken river and the different small lakes that it forms within the sanctuary were hugely worth it. Lipi did not want to climb the watch tower but I decided to test my fitness by doing so and was rewarded by some great views. The Raneh falls did not have any waterfall as the monsoons last year had been almost absent. However, this allowed us to see the Canyon properly and the sheer scale, variety, colour and arrangement of the rocks were truly remarkable. Quite possibly the only place in India where you would get to see this. After lunch we were at the Panna Tiger reserve in a Gypsy and with a very knowledgeable Guide. Panna is uniquely beautiful due to the Ken river that runs through it. This also has several alligators and crocodiles along with a host of water birds. We saw Herons, Kingfishers, Storks, Cormorants and Peacocks just to name a few. Deer of different types were in abundance starting with Nilgai, Sambar, Barking deer, spotted dear, Barasinghas etc. It was a great sight to see a couple of young deer in full flight with both feet off the air. Though we heard some people seeing the tigress and two cubs and waited patiently on a long vigil by the Ken river, the tiger eluded us. The whole park experience was rather nice though and catching the sunset as we were exiting the park was really the icing on the cake. The long drive back and the exhausting day necessitated an early dinner and we were off to sleep quickly.

The final day was reserved for Museums but unfortunately two of these were closed for the day. We did get to see the Tribal museum which had some really nice stuff in terms of paintings and handicrafts along with implements of day to day use of the tribal’s. Lipi went off to buy some souvenirs from the market while I took another look at the Western group of Temples in order to look at some sculptures closely. Another sumptuous vegetarian lunch followed and we were back to Khajuraho station soon. The station facade is in the shape of a temple and is apt for the place.

The train journey back was good as we met an old couple who have been coming to Khajuraho for several years and it was nice of them to share some of their dinner with us. Next day we stopped by Lipi’s place once more and made it to Hyderabad in the evening. It has been a great trip that had everything – culture, heritage, nature, wild life all rolled into one.

We are looking forward to the next trip in a few days time – complete change of setting as we will go to Goa now.


A travel plan for Khajuraho

I am passionate about many things in life, but if I had to choose one it would definitely be travel. Over the years we have travelled to a lot of different destinations, both inside and out of India. I always look forward to a new year thinking of the new places we may get to visit or the old ones where we may rediscover new experiences. In 2018, one of the places I had on my radar was Khajuraho and I am happy that we are going there this week.

Planning for travel is one of the activities I truly enjoy and, over the years, I have got pretty good at it. This time, the idea of a Khajuraho visit came to me in January. My mother-in-law, who is normally with us in December and January to avoid the Delhi winters, was leaving on 11th February and our daughter Rinki was coming back home after completing her BM program at XLRI on 27th. So we really had to go in the intervening period. What really sealed the deal for me was seeing the news of the Khajuraho Dance festival being held this year between 20th and 22nd February. I am a great fan of all types of Indian cultural performances and one of my great joys was to watch the dancers perform in the Mamallapuram Dance festival when we were in Chennai. The Khajuraho dance festival seemed like the perfect occasion to visit there.

Life today has got much easier due to the amount of information present on the internet, especially if you know how to search for it well. I normally start by reading up on the place first to get a general sense of the location, transport options, sightseeing options etc. Next, I search for any travel blogs written about the place and also the itineraries by different tour operators. This gives me a rather good idea about how many days we will need at the place, travel options to reach there, food and stay options. Once I am clear on these I plan my itinerary and check on the dates, travel options and bookings.

Here is how I planned for Khajuraho:-

  • Based on my readings I decided that 3 days will be enough to visit the Khajuraho temple complexes, view performances at the dance festival as well as go for a half day safari to Panna national park.
  • From Hyderabad the logical way to travel will be through Bhopal or Jabalpur. However, both involved long train journeys and expensive flight tickets with not very convenient timing. It did not make sense to travel 2 days for a 3 day trip.
  • As there was a good night train between Delhi and Khajuraho, I decided to do the unusual and go through Delhi, despite it not making geographical sense.
  • I booked the tickets for the train both ways first and then looked at the flight options. As I was having some flexibility of dates, courtesy some stay options in Delhi for night stays if needed, I was able to get tickets at great prices.
  • Next step was to book accommodation for 2 nights in Khajuraho. I looked at Trivago site to get a good deal from
  • Final step was to book the evening safari at Panna national park through the online facility in the MP government site. This is a great option as you can do things directly yourself without getting entangled with touts etc. 

Now finally for the costs:-

  • Train costs were 1920 Rs for onward journey in AC 3 Tier and 2720 Rs for the return journey in AC 2 Tier.
  • Flight costs were 9800 Rs for both legs of the journey 🙂
  • Hotel cost for 2 nights was about 4200 Rs.
  • Safari permits were 520 Rs, Jeep and Guide costs will come to another 700 Rs or so.
  • Food, taxis and incidental expenses will be in the range of another 7000 Rs or so.

So at an overall cost of 27000 Rs or thereabouts we are leaving for a reasonably comfortable trip to a long awaited destination. Must say that I am feeling quite kicked about it.

Taking stock of my FI state

Many of you who follow the blog will have an idea about my journey in life so far, but let me summarize for new readers. I was born and brought up in Durgapur ( West Bengal ), studied in St Xavier’s school, Jadavpur university and IIM Calcutta, worked till 2014 end in corporate world with 14 years plus at CXO level. Since then I am working in my own Management Consulting practice. I have 2 children who are doing Post graduation ( Rinki is in XLRI and is an Engineer from BITS Hyderabad) and Graduation ( Ronju is doing a dual course in BITS Goa). I have been financially independent since 2014 and thought it would be a good idea to share the stock taking which I did recently.

The interesting fact is that the last four calendar years 2014 through 2017 have been progressively the most expensive years of my life. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom which will tell you to be conservative on spending when you are no longer doing a regular job etc. When I took the plunge in 2014 end, my thinking was as below:-

  • My total expenses in 2014 was equivalent to 200 units in some scale.
  • If I left out children’s college education, the travel to Australia which we went for in October 2014 and my apartment rent in Hyderabad then the expenses would be equivalent to 100 units.
  • Now, my rent was getting covered by the rent of my Chennai apartment, I had a separate fund for my children’s graduation expenses and we would obviously not go for an Australian vacation every year.
  • Based on this it seemed reasonable that my expenses annually would be in the range of 100 units.
  • As my financial assets would generate more passive income than 100 units, I concluded I had achieved the holy grail of financial independence.

At the end of 2015, I was surprised to see that my overall expenses were in the range of 225 units. A closer examination revealed the following :-

  • Education expenses were higher as I had to pay two semester fees for my son instead of the one in 2014.
  • Expenses otherwise on my children were high, courtesy their being typical college students now. Also, Rinki took up a course for her MBA entrance preparations.
  • However, my other expenses were still below 100 units and this was managed easily through my passive income stream.
  • It thus seemed that my assumptions held true for 2015.

2016 was a completely different story though. My overall expenses shot up to 400 units and change. Analysis of this figure showed up the following:-

  • Educational expenses were very high in the year as Rinki got into XLRI and, after a long deliberation, I decided to fund her first year expenses. We could have taken a loan for the entire expenses but this seemed a better idea for us.
  • Other expenses of children continued to grow. I am fine with their having a good time in college as long as they have the right priorities.
  • Our travel increased a lot in the year – we took more vacations and also traveled a fair bit for Rinki’s admission process.
  • With the declining interest rates the cash flows of my parents got impacted adversely. I chipped in with a greater amount than normal this year.
  • We upgraded our timeshare and there was a one time cost of 1.7 lacs for this.
  • Furniture replacement with a new sofa set, Dining table and balcony chairs were an expense this year.
  • Purchasing a new Android tv, new internet connection, new phone for my wife and a recording set top box also happened during the year.
  • In summary, it was a year with great experiences and they often come at a fairly high cost !!

So what was the conclusion I arrived at from all of this? Well, 2016 was definitely not a typical year and I did not think it will ever repeat in our lives. With Rinki getting the rest of her course done through bank loan, asset purchases not really there except for a Fridge and lesser travel the 2017 expenses will be much lower.

The reality was quite different though. We did not spend 400 units in 2017 but it was still close to 250 units. A closer look revealed the following:-

  • As is their practice, BITS again increased the fees by 12 % and my children’s college expenses continued to rise. I have been rather indulgent on this as I believe one should have a fun college life.
  • As I was earning a pretty decent Active income, I thought it would be good to part pay the Term 4 fees of Rinki. She chipped in with some of her internship earning and this has resulted in the loan amount being only 6.5 lacs.
  • Even though we had not planned for it, Lipi and I went for a vacation to Italy in May for a week. It was a great trip and I was quite happy to pay for it.
  • We also upgraded our Timeshare once again to a one bedroom unit and this too was an unplanned expenditure.
  • Travel within India too was more than we had anticipated. We went to Kumarokom in February, Vizag and Aruku valley in June, Goa in August, Durgapur in September for Pujas and finally Konkan beaches in November. While all these were expensive they created great memories and was totally worth the effort and money.
  • Other than the above, most of our expenses were the regular ones. We did exceed on the Entertainment and dining out part but not alarmingly.

At the same time, the experience of 4 years now set me thinking as to whether I should look at financial independence and retirement cash flows differently. After a lot of reading and deliberation I came up with a better model. You can read about it in this post. 

I am also working out my likely cash flows in 2018, based on the above model. Should be writing a post on it this week.

Retirement planning – dynamics of time and activities

Of late, I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic of retirement planning. I must say that, while there has been a certain level of interest about retirement issues in India now, much of the good inputs come from the US, where this has been a topic of great interest over several decades. One of the areas most of the financial community there agree on is the need to structure your decades of retirement by activity levels. In this post I will try to suggest a framework, we can adopt to our context in India.

One of the important differences between US and India that we need to keep in mind is the age of retirement and life expectancy. Many people in the US work till the age of 65 and consider they will live till 90. In the Indian context, it will make sense to look at these figures at 55 and 85 respectively. Yes, I know many people retire at 60, but with the focus on shorter career spans along with many wanting to look at doing other things, 55 will be a good age to aim for. Moreover, with the passage of time, more people are going to have non-traditional careers where the working in regular jobs will have shorter life span. The other aspect is life expectancy – I feel with the current state of medical advances, it will be logical to take 85 as the figure. Again, it is possible to live beyond that and you must factor that into your plan. In the end however, a 30 year retirement period which you need to plan for and fund will probably do the trick.

Ok having established the above, let us now turn to a framework of the 3 decades. I will follow the terminology from an US blogger. He calls the first decade to be the Go-Go decade, where you are going to be quite active. This is the time to catch up on all the family visits, travel the world, organise your monetary and other affairs, spend time with your adult children and to indulge in the hobbies and interests for which you may not have had much time during your working life. The second decade is termed as the Slow-Go decade, where you still do much of the earlier stuff, health permitting, but there is a palpable slowing down in both the numbers and frequency of activities. The final decade is termed as the No-Go decade where you will mostly be indoors with limited activities.

If we adopt this framework to the Indian context, how will things look? I can think of the following for the first decade, in terms of the situation and the activities:-

  • You will still be actively engaged in some professional activities but not a regular job any more.
  • Your income will mainly come from passive category with some active income.
  • It is likely that your children are into their careers now or at least finishing up their post graduate education. 
  • They will also possibly get married in this decade of your life.
  • With time and hopefully money in your hands, you can look at travelling much more than you have done earlier.
  • You may want to replace some assets such as cars or white goods.
  • You can also indulge in your hobbies and interests in a more significant manner. If these are outdoor in nature, this is obviously the best decade to do so.
  • You will settle down in your home town or your place of retirement during this decade. Catching up with friends and family there will be a good part of leisure.

In the second decade, the professional activities will probably cease. Your outdoor aspects such as travel or any active sports will also taper off gradually. While you will still be healthy ( hopefully ), you will not be too inclined to venture out of home. This will probably be a time to view movies in home theatre as opposed to the cinemas and to order food in as opposed to driving out to a restaurant.

In the third decade when you are 75 plus, it is very unlikely that you will engage in a lot of activities that require a lot of physical exertion. Yes, it will still be important to do regular exercises, but your travels and other outings reduce drastically. Visits to the doctor are, unfortunately, going to increase in frequency. We can look at this decade as the winding down phase, where you should take care of your affairs, rest as much as you need to and hope that the passing away, when it happens, is a relatively smooth affair.

What happens if you live longer than you have estimated? We need to understand that this is possible, given that many people are living well into their 90’s nowadays. While you will either be almost inactive, if not in some long term care facility, there is clearly a need to plan for this financially. The last thing you need at this stage of life is to worry about money or being dependent on your children when you are at your most vulnerable. Any financial plan should include a final 5 years for you and your spouse.

Once you have chalked up your road map, we can start to put a financial dimension to it. This should be done in a bottom up manner, by understanding your lifestyle and then working out the relevant cash flows needed in the 3 decades. This is conceptually a little difficult and I will explain with a personal example in the next post.

Revisiting my life plan

The end of the year is normally a good time to assess how your life is going on and how is it likely to look in the future. In the last few days, I have given some thought to it and have decided that there may be a few changes to what I had considered 3 years back, when I had started in my Financially independent ( FI ) state. Let me share it in this post.

As you would have read in several posts, I am in an FI state, thereby not really needing any active income to take care of my expenditure. However, I have a Management Consultancy practice and earn active income out of it. Much of it currently goes into investments. While I can continue with my consultancy practice for the next few years, I am thinking of a few other areas where I can spend my time professionally. The first of these is a business venture, which I have thought of seriously over the last year. It is a fairly interesting concept and does not need too much funding. However, it needs a group of founding investors as anchor and I am thinking of some active work in this area from now on. It will probably take another 1-2 years to take off but the effort of getting the team together and kicking it off has to start. The second area is to invest actively in the stock market in a serious manner. Now, while my stock and MF portfolio is of fair value, I do not actively buy and sell in the market. With more time in my hands this is something I plan to look at. The third area will be to monetise the blog or write on topics which are of interest to me.

Depending on how the above things go, I am probably looking at being actively involved  in work, as we know it, for the next 5-7 years or so. Beyond that, my own estimate is that I will live for another 25 years, where I do not have any vocation, only my hobbies and interests to keep me busy. Not that I have ignored my hobbies or interests otherwise, in fact I have generally been happy about the work life balance I have been able to achieve.

One important factor to consider is where will we be living. As of now, we are in Hyderabad and there are really two options that I am considering. The first, is to continue being here for the next 2-3 years. The other option is to look at a shift to Kolkata in the next calendar year. The flip side to that may be the opportunities available for my consultancy, should I decide to continue it. Long term plan will be to shift to Kolkata anyway. Even though we have an apartment in Chennai, we do not plan to go there as the climate does not really suit us. Of course, another consideration in Kolkata will be whether we should own a place or rent it. More of this in another post, but if long term rent options are available, I will prefer it to buying a place.

All Indian families have their children as a key consideration and we are no different in this regard. Fortunately for us, both our children are well on their way to getting settled in life. My daughter Rinki is an Engineer from BITS Hyderabad and is presently pursuing her MBA from XLRI. She will complete her course in March 2018 and is likely to get a job of her liking in some company. My son Ronju is doing a dual degree course in Msc Maths and BE Computer Science from BITS Goa. He will complete his course work in May 2018, though there will be mandatory internships of 1 year. Of course, he may decide to do a PG course later on but that is a future issue. In the meantime, it is unlikely that our children will stay in the same city as us. As far as their marriages go, we will live it to them for deciding the time and partner. We will fund the wedding expenses and I am keeping a separate track of it.

What will be the key activities that we will engage in? Well, travel within and outside India is a passion that both Lipi and I share and in the next 10 years we will do that a lot. Our other interests in movies, cultural events, dining, sports etc are also likely to keep us busy in the first decade. Over the next decade, it is very likely that our going out will reduce considerably and we will have more indoor activities such as reading, tv and hopefully some family time with our children. Health is something we are reasonably all right with so far and hopefully we will not have any major mishaps along the way.

So far so good – what will be the cash inflows required to get these funded? Do I have the requisite financial assets to take care of this life plan? I will attempt to answer these questions in the next post.


Cash outflow in retirement is a function of lifestyle

Over the years I have planned my financial independence, where I would have no need for an active income. This entailed creating the 3 portfolios of Debt, MF and stocks. If you are interested you can search my blog to read about my financial planning, there are quite a few posts on it. The important thing to understand here is that for me and anyone else, the amount of money needed in retirement will be a function of the lifestyle you want to lead. 

For example, you can say that you just want to have a simple lifestyle in your home town without too many activities such as entertainment, dining out or travel. In this case, your expenses are likely to be reasonably controlled and maybe a figure of 6 lacs in current prices will suffice annually. On the other hand you may be a person who wants to have a vacation abroad every year, visit your children once in 6 months, have a car and driver to take you places etc. In such a scenario even 15 lacs per year may not be adequate.

So how do you go about estimating the kind of cash flows you would need in order to be able to have the lifestyle you want? One of the major assumptions I will make here is that your retirement period is 3 decades. Since most of the people retiring today are unlikely to do so before they reach 50 and almost many will look at 60 years or close by, this is a reasonable assumption. The mistake most people make is that they feel the expenses will be constant over the period of these 3 decades. In fact many people I know spend less initially as they are worried about inflation and their money running out.

If you look at this in a logical manner, you will probably do far more activities in the first of the three decades. Let us say you have retired at 55 years – now till you are 65, you will probably be in good health and therefore be in a great position to indulge in your hobbies and passions. The second decade will definitely see a reduction in the physical activities, for example your frequency of travel will reduce significantly. The third and final decade will probably see very little activity outside home.

Now, if we have to provide a framework for all the cost elements that are required to be funded in retirement, it will probably look like this :-

  • Accommodation : Most people having their own house or apartment will need to have maintenance costs. Even if you are having a property somewhere and can fund your accommodation expenses through it’s rent, you are in good shape. In case you need to rent that will prove progressively more expensive with each year and therefore need a fair amount of assets.
  • Running costs : These include daily living costs such as food, help expenses, utilities, maintenance, entertainment, clothing etc
  • Insurance : Term insurance should be junked in retirement and you need to have Medical and home insurance for as much as you can possibly afford.
  • Asset replacement : You will need to replace some furniture, quite possibly several white goods and also your car, once or more in these 3 decades. It is best to be prepared for it, very often we do not take it into account.
  • Children related : I hope the higher education of the children and maybe marriages are over by the time you retire. Even if they are not, you need to keep a separate fund for it. Do not mix it with your retirement goals or plans. Also, while it is perfectly all right to give gifts to children, in your retirement you r children should not be needing monetary support from you in any manner.
  • Travel : If you are a travel crazed person, like I am, you better estimate these expenses in a proper manner. Travel abroad is obviously expensive but even travel within India is getting there, especially if you account for the fact that at an advanced age you will need to travel in some comfort.
  • Hobbies : Whether it is Golf, attending live music shows or visiting literary or theatre festivals, hobbies can be expensive. However, at this stage of your life you do need to indulge in them and therefore you have to plan accordingly.
  • Health related : Even with health insurance, there is no guarantee that all mishaps will be covered adequately. As the decades go by, whatever you reduce in travel and hobbies should be kept for this purpose.

We can keep adding other categories but the above are good enough to arrive at a reasonable basis for our retirement expense calculations. How do you do it?

  • Take your running costs based on your current expenses at the time you retire. Let us say this is X.
  • Take other costs as a factor of X. For example if you are a frequent traveller then you may want to keep 0.5 X as your costs here for the first decade. Remember it is also a function of what X is. For example if you live frugally then X may be 4 lacs and you may need to keep 3 lacs for travel, especially if you are looking to travel outside India.
  • Some costs are not annual in nature. For example asset replacement may well cost you 5X BUT it will be only once in 10 years or so.

I hope you have understood the concept by now. Doing this for 3 decades will tell us what is the total cash flows that we need at current costs. You can then check as to whether you have adequate inflows either from your assets or other sources.

The proof of the pudding is always in the eating though, and I will explain this framework with my personal situation in the next post.

A passage to Konkan coast

We are just back from our Konkan travel and, all things considered, it was probably one of the best vacations we had in recent times. It had been a long cherished desire of mine to view beaches of the Arabian sea from all States and, over the years, I had covered Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Diu and Gujarat. As for Maharashtra, my forays were limited to the Mumbai beaches and I was very keen to visit beaches on the Konkan coast.

People who are interested in the travel planning can read about it here. Travel logistics are covered in this post. In the present post, I will cover the actual trip which started on 20th November early morning and ended on 25th November evening.

Our flight to Goa was at an unearthly hour of 5:40 AM, so we woke up at 2:30 AM and were in the car by 3 AM. In the morning hours drive on the ORR is a pleasure and we reached quite fast. Hyderabad airport was rather crowded even at that hour and it took us a fair time to get through security check. As is our practice nowadays, we headed to the airport lounge. It was way too early for breakfast but there were enough food items along with some decent coffee. Thankfully the flight was on time and we reached Goa in an uneventful manner, catching up on some lost sleep of the night before. Goa is like a second home to us, courtesy our Timeshare and our son Ronju studying there. This time we went to the Colva beach after picking up Ronju from BITS. Sitting at the beach shack, savouring some breakfast while watching the sea and catching up with Ronju was a great way to kick start the vacation.

Our train was from Madgaon at 12 noon but the winter timetable had changed it to 2:30 PM. Though it was a trifle bugging, as experienced travellers we take things in our stride and had a fairly interesting lunch in the station outlet Benjoes. The train ride was a short one, we reached Kudal at around 4:30 PM. Our first experience of the views from the train were quite favourable, especially the backwaters and the lush greenery of the western ghats. From Kudal the only viable option for Tarkarli travel is an auto rickshaw and having engaged one, we reached the MTDC resort around evening.

Tarkarli is a nice place, though a little desolate and the MTDC resort has great location. The Konkani cottage which we had booked, overlooked the sea and you could just take a 50 meter walk to reach it. Service at the resort is quite good and prompt, though the room could have done with better upkeep. The restaurant has been let out to a private party and we got friendly with the Chef there. Food was generally good to taste and the fish/prawns were great though a trifle on the dearer side. These places are all about experiences though and we had our fill of it in the 3 days we were there. Sitting in the Gazebo and having dinner while listening to the sea, wading through the sea waves along a long and isolated beach, lying on a hammock with the sea breeze rustling the tree leaves – you can take your pick, I liked all of these.

Tarkarli has two main activities and we did those in the two days we were there. First is seeing some nearby beaches and the Sindhudurg fort which you need to reach via a ferry. While the beaches were nice the fort was spectacular. I was glad of my fitness levels as it takes a fair bit to climb the fort walls, in order to get views of the sea. However, such efforts were greatly rewarded by the absolutely glorious views of the Sea which you get to see. Shivaji had great foresight with building this fort and it was one of the main reasons why the Marathas were able to hold on to their own against the naval threat from the colonial powers. There is also a beautiful Rock garden worth visiting, mainly due to the sea views again, though the landscaping here is brilliantly done too.

When in Tarkarli, one must do the boating in Karli river and see the notable points namely Dolphin point, sangam where the river meets the sea and Tsunami island. The ride through the river and the sea in a fairly rickety boat was quite an adventure and the sights of the villages and the various moods of the sea made the exercise worthwhile. We engaged in some water sports activities available in the Tsunami island. The speed boat and water scooter were predictable but the Bumper boat ride, where you sit on an inflated rubber sofa and are dragged at great speeds by a speed boat was definitely adrenaline pumping and hair raising. In the evening I also tried para motoring where a jeep pulls you hanging from a parachute. Quite an experience !!

Ganapatipule is about 200 Kms from Tarkarli and we hired a car to take us there. Even though this was a bit on the expensive side, the coastal route was replete with temples, beaches, backwater stretches and lush greenery. The combination is rather unique and I doubt whether we will have something similar elsewhere in India. We had our lunch in Ratnagiri – once again the ubiquitous fish thali, which we were getting rather used to. The drive from Ratnagiri to Ganapatipule is a very nice one with great sea views again from a height.

Ganapatipule beach is really the best beach I have seen. It is a white sand beach, stretching across a long way and as it can be only accessed easily from the MTDC resort, it also gives you a splendid sense of isolation. Lipi and I took long walks on the beach, watched two glorious sunsets and marvelled at the myriad hues of the sea. Our room was on the first floor and the balcony provided magnificent sea views. If you are too lazy for activities, just sitting on a chair and watching the sea waves will be an excellent idea. The in-house restaurant, Tarang, is run very well and has great food selections. 

Right next to the beach is the famous Ganesh temple, visited by countless devotees all over the year. If you are a religious person you will be deeply moved by the reverence showed by the worshippers there. Even otherwise, the location of the temple as well as the idol of the deity’s Mount makes it a very unique shrine. Do not miss out on the laddu which is given as prasadam here. In addition to the temple, an open air museum named Prachin Konkan, depicting how people lived in a typical Konkan village in early times is worth a visit. We also went to a new wax house, having some wax figures created by an American sculptor. It is a novel attempt though you can be excused if you think that the similarity to real life is not a great one. 

It is possible to visit the Jaigad fort and a couple of other beaches but with limited time at our disposal, we wanted to maximise our experience of the beach. Soon it was time to bid adieu to the place and, once again, the journey to the Ratnagiri station offered us great views of the Konkan coast. The vastness as well as the beauty of the Arabian sea has no better viewing point than this journey. We boarded the Jan Shatabdi train in the Vistadome coach – it is one having large windows and glass all around for maximum viewing surface. Despite the high cost of tickets, it is absolutely worth it and allows you to view the western ghats as no other mode of transport will do. Through this travel one can appreciate how tough it must have been to build Konkan Railway and how significant it has been for the lives of the people in this region.

All too soon, the train journey ended and we were back in Madgaon. A taxi ride to the Goa airport, an Air Asia flight to Hyderabad and finally another taxi ride saw us back home on Saturday evening. It was a matter of only 6 days but the experience was for a lifetime. Konkan coast can be addictive and I am sure we will be back in the near future, there is so much to see yet.

In the meantime, I will plan for other travels – it is the elixir of good living that keeps me motivated to carry on the other parts well.