Our Treehouse (the name we’ve given our green-canopied workspace) is a haven doused in natural light and surrounded by cacophonous babblers. As you walk in you’ll see our marketing team at the farthest end, the one team that works extensively with almost every other in the studio. They’re always on the move, and so it’s no surprise that travel (whether for work or pleasure) is what makes this team tick. As they spend their days on the road, their vehicles are their best travel companions, and reflect their personalities in more ways than we’d imagined.Nirmal Kaur | Former head of brand
Travel enthusiast, hardcore biker, sucker for tattoos
Nirmal reels you in with her personality. Over the past two and a half years, she’s toiled for Nicobar like she would for her own venture, and as she readied herself for a sabbatical, we talked to her about travel and what it means to her.
“I choose work that makes me travel”, she said. Her daily commute across town includes her khaki Royal Enfield and a saddle bag that holds her world. She’s traversed plenty of routes across the country (and the world), discovering cultures, personalities, and new worlds along the way. The one aspect of travel that has really won her heart is the road, “It’s where I’m really at home, and it’s where one can witness stories that are often done injustice by mere words.” Not one to shy away from physical activity, aside from biking, Nirmal dabbles in a variety of sports, ranging from her all-time favourite martial arts (kickboxing and jiu jitsu) through to swimming. Her real tryst with the outdoors began during her childhood, as a spot boy for her father (the photographer Thakur Daleep Singh), crouching for hours in a tangle of weeds and brambles, as he steadied his camera for the perfect shot somewhere in India’s national parks. Tell us a little about yourself and your routine:
My routine for the past two years has been all work. But looking forward, things will change. I enjoy the social fabric of society, which is why I enjoy travel so much. In each society there is a chaos, but there is also a harmony. Travel enriches your knowledge about the interdependence of societies, and that’s what I like about life in general.
You travel a lot, on work and play. Tell us more.
I choose work that makes me travel. I would never pick a job that would require me to sit in an office and not be active physically. And by travel, I mean in any form — it could be a meet a client, or to travel to the bazaar. Travel isn’t only meant to be on a holiday. I can’t be in a job that requires me to sit on a table every morning.
A little about your hobbies:
Ever since I’ve joined Nicobar there has been no side project, but generally I would do wildlife and travel photography. I would go kickboxing and do jiu jitsu, and while they’ve been on the back burner, I love those two specific forms of martial arts, and plan to get back to them really soon. A major side project I have planned is for my father. Someone recently published his book for him. I saw it, and it’s really sad because it’s not very well done. When I saw it, I remember thinking to myself that as a daughter whose core expertise is to develop concepts, I can’t believe I haven’t done it for my father. I’m planning to put together an exhibition for him (and a coffee table book) which is about his journey as a photographer from a very political and religious family, and how he managed to keep his passion for photography alive. I need to come up with a concept which juxtaposes the angst of being from a socio-political family. Many times photography may have also been an escape route for him rather than doing it just for the passion, and so through this coffee table book, I want to be able to tell that story, as well as how his socio-political situation has been reflected in the choice of his subjects.Your best story from the road:
In July 2017, a good Indian goes from Delhi’s summer to the European summer for a holiday, not realising that while it was raining and 35 degrees here, it was 41 degrees there — the hottest summer since 1950. I was in my full riding gear (shoes, pants, jacket, helmet) riding from Venice to Rome, along the Tuscany Florence belt. It was death. I rode in this gear for the first day. My sardar brain couldn’t figure out it was the heat doing me in. The second day after I wrapped my head around the climatic conditions, I decided there’s no way I can walk around in my riding gear while exploring the city. So I parked in Sienna, dropped my pants (and all my riding gear) on the road, to change into a pair of shorts, a ganji, and flip flops. I made a spectacle of myself but no one seemed to mind!
Your favourite mode of travel?
I love the road. I enjoy the train too but the difference between the road and train is that you can’t just stop on the train when you feel like it. On the road you can determine the pace for your journey. You can stay in certain spots to soak in more of that moment, whereas in a train it’s always a collective journey, which has its own beauty of course.While on the road, I pick the bike because of the sense of liberation attached to it. On a motorcycle, the machine and you are one, and there is no boundary between you and the outside world. It’s unlike any other feeling.
Any route recommendations for all the wanderers out there?
The ride from Fort Kochi to Alleppey is beautiful — narrow road, villages on both sides, as you ride along the South coast. Venice to Rome is absolutely beautiful as well. The countryside is stunning, and the roads are so safe.From London to the Northernmost islands of Lewis and Harris in Scotland is also stunning. All along the way everything you’ll either find lakes or mountains. You’ll find maps with scenic routes outlined from one city to the other. From the East coast to the West coast, it’ll take you a mere 2.5 hours. You’ll hardly see any human beings and barely some cows and sheep.
Share a few nuggets of travel advice:
Respecting other people’s culture and spaces is the first rule of travel. You can’t go to another country / city and impose your way of life on other people. Be informed about the place you’re visiting but you don’t need to plan to the T. Being well-informed allows you to have that freedom to plan spontaneously, while you’ve already taken care of the real bad shit that could happen. But with every travel, there needs to be an element of spontaneity, as some things are better experienced unplanned. I believe the world is largely a safe place. Always travel light. There’s nothing you can’t buy anywhere. If you’ve forgotten something you need, just buy it. Talk to random people. Don’t stick within your group (if you’re travelling in one). Talk to other people, have a drink with them. And most importantly, smile — it breaks every barrier of language or unfamiliarity. Carry a smile wherever you travel. In Nirmal's saddle bag:
A vintage Minolta
An (empty) hip flask
A multi tool
Two steel flasks for water (to always stay hydrated)
A note pad and paper clips in the form of tiny men
Swimming gear for an after-hours dip
A large pochette
The only dressy piece of jewellery she owns — a bracelet
Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree by Tariq Ali