Thursday, 23 June 2011


The Himalayan town of Leh sits at an elevation of 3,500 metres above sea level. The extreme conditions and the rarefied air can pose a health risk, so all over Leh there are warnings and advisories. We saw one such warning sign at the 257 Army Transit Camp, where we stayed when we went trekking in Ladakh last year.

“Do not try to be Gama in the place of lama,” by unspoken agreement, instantly became our motto for the trek.

Of course, we had no clue what Gama means. We wondered if it was a Ladakhi word for blasé, or a person who drinks very little water, or a foolhardy person, or just a plain idiot. Internet searches produced tantalising leads but no real answers. And throughout the trek, we repeated the phrase at every opportunity and it cracked us up every time. (The mystery was solved months later, when someone read Kaushik’s blog post and emailed him with the answer.)

A serendipitous slogan like that can make a trip even more fun. It is almost impossible to pin down what makes a good trip-slogan, but there are some general principles. The trip-slogan has to be brief. It must of course be about the journey or the destination. You have to encounter or come up with it during, or while planning the trip. Rhyme and humour work well, as does a certain quality of mystical inscrutability. Note, however, that the trip-slogan is not to be confused with the trip-quote. The trip-quote can be equally memorable, but it is more common; instances include Tewary’s azad panchhi quote, and Saha’s famous musings (in Puruliya) on Man’s Purpose on Earth. The trip-slogan is rarer, so not every trip will have one, but that is part of the appeal.

A friend and I are planning a trip to Hokkaido in August. We haven’t yet booked tickets, and it is not even certain whether the plan will eventually work out, but I emailed a Japanese colleague to ask about Hokkaido, and he wrote:

You should remember the famous key word "Hokkaido ha Dekkaido" which means Hokkaido has very big size.
If Hokkaido ha Dekkaido is not a trip-slogan, I don’t know what is.


new age scheherazade said...

Hahahahaha I hope Rik doesn't see this, Hokkaido is his nickname for me, and a slogan like "Hokkaido ha Dekkaido" is all he needs.
(Also, I hope you're convinced now that I stalk this blog ALL the time)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, you even have words which make your trip better:


Sroyon said...

@Anasua: Haha it's almost as if you *want* him to see it!

Wiseowl said...

And now he WILL see it!

Hello Ana. Hello Sryon. :)

Sroyon said...

Hello Sohini(?) :)

Abhiroop said...

To borrow an old cliche: it sounds more like a travel slogan than a travel slogan itself :)

Spin said...

Hahaha Gama Palowan is the first thing I thought of when I read that. I haven't been on a trip in a year now. :(

Priyanka said...