Kirti Kulhari, known for her diverse roles in Hindi film and television, is also an avid traveller. Or rather a wanderer as she likes to refer to herself. Beyond the pale of the rigmarole of her career, the talented actress also finds recourse in experiencing the best of life on the circuitous roads of various destinations. She takes us on a journey to her favourite travel memories, especially of her hometown, Kulhariyon Ka Bas.
Tell us a little about your hometown. Any distinct memories?
My native place is my grandparents' village, which is very close to Pilani, a small town in Rajasthan. The village is called Kulhariyon Ka Bas. I am very attached to my village. Since I remember every summer vacation, our two months would be spent in my village-- a part of it in my nani's house and the rest at my dadi's. I have really seen that life closely-- from catching hold of goats with shepherds roaming around, taking milk out and making tea for my dadi to going out with other women to fill pots of water from the main well as there would be no electricity.
I remember in my nani's house, evenings would be lit with these chimneys and we kids would roam around. Also, my nani's village had salt water, which I could never get used to. So, there used to be what they call 'Kund', in which they would collect rainwater for the rest of the year. That rainwater was so sweet and the only water I could drink. So, the water used to be a big problem for me because I was this Bombay kid and I remember the journey to my village would take 40 hours and once we would run out of water, I would be like, 'I want Bombay ka paani.' So that was a task for my parents. The heat was unbearable so I remember the fields we would go to, it would be scorching hot and I would dip a dupatta in water and wear it on my head to cool my body. I have tons of memories
You have were in Bhopal some time ago. Anything about the city that stood out for you?
I had been to Bhopal for a few days a long time ago and I couldn't see much of it but this time I spent 10 days there. I was there in July 2021 so the weather wasn't great. I have been told Bhopal is beautiful in winters. But I think what really stood out for me was the greenery and the cleanliness of Bhopal. Of course there are patches that aren't that clean but most of it is. It's quite spacious. As you step into this city, it gives you a sense of space and that you are breathing good air. There were water bodies, and for me water bodies and greenery make up for a lot of things that don't work.
Also, the food I was quite surprised at some of the places that were offering very good food. There's a certain quietness to the city, which I personally like. Coming from Bombay, quiet is what we really look for and I think I found it in Bhopal.
How would you describe yourself as a traveller?
I love the idea of being a wanderer, not being at one place or living in my own bubble. I really travel to get out of the bubble and look at the world with a fresh pair of eyes, a new perspective, learn and see how life is elsewhere in the world, how we are similar and not similar, different countries and cultures, what are the people like and what is the food like. Food is a big thing for me. Wherever I go, I have to get some very good food. I am not your touristy traveller at all.
In fact, if you tell me this is a tourist place, I will be the last person to visit it. I am not a planned traveller. I don't have an itinerary. I just go with the flow. I wake up in the morning and decide what I feel like doing. For me, just walking around and breathing in the vibe and air of that particular place is something I enjoy, finding cafes and wine places or places to eat and shopping stuff. It's as simple as that for me.
I surely like to travel to different parts of the world. If I have been to a place, I try to avoid going there the second time because there's so much to see in the world. Travelling disconnects me from my life in Mumbai, which is very important, even as an actor. There's so much we give out that we have to fill ourselves back. I think travelling does that for me. It slows things down for me. Also, I travel mostly out of India because no one really knows you there and thats a big relief for me because you want that space. You don't want everyone to see you for the public figure you are because at the end of the day you are just another person and I think being outside of the country allows you that beautifully.
One of the (many) perks of being an actor is the opportunity to travel What have been your favourite memories on the job?
That's absolutely correct! And I hate shooting in Bombay because I always want to get out, I want to go to a new place and shoot. Like, I have been to Turkey before but Four More Shorts Please Season Two took me back to Turkey, which I loved. I remember taking out a week with Maanvi (Gagroo) and visiting a place called Bodrum in Turkey and some places in Istanbul. That was beautiful. I remember shooting for Uri in Serbia and really enjoying being there. I was in Ladakh for almost a month for Bard of Blood and I absolutely loved my time there.
One of the best experiences was A Girl on the Train in London. I had never been to London before and it was big on my bucket list and when I got this, I was so excited I spent a month in London and my make-up girl Anu and I were on a roll. We were travelling around, taking trains and eating at some beautiful cafes. I remember watching some plays there, including musicals. Just being there, walking around and becoming a part of the city felt so refreshing and it was exactly what I like doing. Watching those plays and being a part of art in the city was a big deal for me and I remember that experience vividly.
Do you explore the cuisine of the place you're visiting?
Food is a big part of my travel and the local cuisine becomes very important for me. I am very fond of Turkish and Mediterranean food. I keep thinking of going back to Turkey because I enjoy the food there. I think in general when I travel Europe, the kind of food they serve and the fresh ingredients they use. It could be the simplest of the places, the smallest of the cafes but the food somehow is always so stunning. I keep thinking of Europe, London and New York just to be able to enjoy food again.
Tell us about the things that you have ticked off on your travel bucket list. Anything that remains to be experienced?
There's lots to go I have done quite a bit in the last five-six years but there's so much that remains unexplored. There's Greece, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and Africa on my list. I have done a bit of South America but there's so much more. I want to go to Israel as well. This is my bucket list for the future.
What destination in India would you recommend to someone visiting the country for the first time?
Parts of Rajasthan for sure. I think it's beautiful. There's Mandawa, Udaipur and Jaisalmer. I would recommend Shantiniketan in West Bengal, Mangalore, which is quite unexplored. It has beautiful beaches, I would recommend Pondicherry and Benaras for what it stands for. It has got its cons but it's certainly an experience for someone visiting India from outside. Parts of Punjab like Amritsar and Patiala are quite stunning. Then there is Kashmir and Ladakh.
There's so much in the north-east and I want to explore it. Our country is stunning There's much to see. Unfortunately, in my experience, we aren't very tourist-friendly because we don't have the best food, good places to stay an we have limited infrastructure to offer to someone coming from outside and we need to work on that because we have a lot of beauty in our country that needs to be explored and developed to attract tourists.
Did the pandemic change anything in your travel plans or the way you travel?
Yeah I have become an 'in the moment' person. I just pack my bags and go like, "I am going to travel in the next two days." So I pick a spot. Also, because of the pandemic, I travelled a bit in India because international travel wasn't allowed. That's why I said earlier that I wish we develop this side of the country and the tourism sector.
Your travel checklist.
My credit cards and passport. I keep a warm jacket with me for sure. I have a small backpack, rather than a handbag. I keep walking shoes, which are comfortable to walk up to 10-12 kilometres a day, that's very important. I also keep a pair of sunglasses and an umbrella. I am not comfortable with the harsh sun so I prefer an umbrella.
The song in your travel playlist that you're hooked to.
There are these songs from some independent artists that I have been tripping on for a year now. There's of course Prateek Kuhad, Yellow Diary, When Chai Met Toast.