Home / Mint-lounge / Passing through Kangra

Why take a women-only holiday? And that too with strangers.

For me, the ‘women only’ tag wasn’t a consideration. I needed a holiday on my own, without family, and this sounded like a welcome break. The best part was that everything was pre-planned and relaxed, and travelling with a group of unknown women of varying professions and stages in life, was nice and easy. Everyone got a lot of space, and got to have fun their own way.

What’s it like to take a vacation without the family?

For me, it was a first, and it did a lot of good. It helped clear my thoughts, and I was able to have some fun without hang-ups. Also, I guess it’s important to be on your own once in a while, so that you can understand what you want and need—a self-discovery process. Perhaps one way to do that is to take a vacation like this.

What alternative lifestyle did you get an insight into?

We met the very interesting artist Didi Contractor, who’s now aged 70-plus. She’s famous for designing and creating unique mud houses in Sidhbari, in the Kangra Valley. The homes are heated with solar-energy in winter and remain cool in summer. She has used coloured glass bottles in the walls to let light in. Didi built the first house for herself Now a dozen more two-storied mud homes have been made to the owners’ preferences. Didi has gone from being design consultant for The Lake Palace, Udaipur, and Prithviraj Kapoor’s residence, to making smokeless mud stoves, to her current project, eco-friendly mud-and-bamboo solar cookers.

With only five days, was it a rushed holiday?

Not at all. We stayed at the Norbulingka Institute 40 minutes from Dharamsala, where the ambience is brilliant and laid-back. We did have some sightseeing planned such as a visit to the Dalai Lama’s monastery, but it was optional. Then, if you didn’t want to shop for silverware or walk around, you could sit in a cosy café, sip delicious local apple cider, listen to chanting and the ringing of bells, and relax. On the return journey, some folks wanted to visit Kangra Fort, but I wasn’t all that keen. So, I climbed for a while, then planted myself under a shady tree and napped, while the others went ahead. That was bliss.

Any other interesting moments?

I’m no martial-arts movie fan, and I didn’t realize it at first, but the famous Chinese martial arts action hero, Jet Li, was also staying at the Norbulingka, on a personal visit. Interestingly, a bunch of all-women martial arts bodyguards accompanied him everywhere. We met him briefly, and did the predictable thing: pose for a photograph together.

As told to Seema Chowdhry Sharma. Share your last holiday with us at

Shivani Kapur, 31, consulting educationist, joined Meenakshi Puri’s ‘Women Go Places’—holidays for women only—on a five-day vacation to Dharamsala-McLeodganj. The trip took a group of professional women for a break, and also introduced them to an eco-friendly world in the Kangra Valley.

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