I Get High on Intelligent Conversations

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There is something really inspiring about intellectual conversations. They take you to a different level altogether. You feel liberated and evolved after having them.

To have friends around, whom you can look up to is one of the most amazing things that can happen to a person. Today i had a conversation with a really good friend who described it metaphorically. He termed it as an ‘exothermic reaction’ – A reaction which releases energy . In our case the energy is positivity.

People like me often feel disconnected from others. It’s one of the quirks of being different. Now this doesn’t happen because we look down upon people. It happens because the mental acumen and the attitude towards life that people like me have is a lot more different from others. But when you have people (even if they’re few) in your life who can patiently make you listen to them (since they make so much sense) you just feel good .They are the kind of people who can provide you the exact solutions for specific situations with rationality and logic. It is said that, ” if you’re the most intelligent person in the room , you’re in the wrong room.” It holds true.

No matter how intellectual and evolved you are, no matter how successful who you are , no matter how inspiring you are – there should ALWAYS be people in your life you can look up to. People who inspire and guide you. Sometimes you just want to be understood without saying a lot. Sometimes you just want people to mentor you. Sometimes you just want to feel the magic that usually you create, coming  from a different source. It feels enfranchising. It feels emancipating.

Today was one such day :-)

P.S: I dedicate this post to a dear friend whose words elate me.

Photo Credits:

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Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

What happens when the co-lead vocalist of one of your favourite rock bands sings to the lyrics of the world ‘s greatest playwright ? Awesomeness is created :-)

I’m talking about Pink Floyd + William Shakespeare here. Heard David Gilmour (of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd)  giving melody to Sonnet 18 ( by William Shakespeare) in one of the videos a few days back. I had to share it here. What a brilliant combination. Loved it.

The sonnet 18 is one the most famous in the sequence of Shakespearean sonnets. In fact it is one of the most popular lyrical poems in English language. As for Floyd , where do i start ? They perfected what others had started, and they created their own place in music by doing what they felt was right. They make great songs .

Beautiful Destinations on a Budget

Being a free spirit, traveling to new places is one of my favourite things. When ever i get the opportunity to travel , i’m up for it. For me travel isn’t just about pleasure and frolic but also about exploration and learning. I’ve traversed extensively throughout my country (India) and have had some marvelous experiences that will stay with me for life. Today, i’d like to introduce you to some magnificent but lesser known places from my own home state – Himachal Pradesh. These destinations include – Kasol , Manali, Rohtang La, Spiti, and Kinnaur  Not only are all these places spell binding but also nominal to visit. In fact they are some of the most traveler friendly locations in terms of budget. One can either visit these places one at a time or visit all of them in the same trip, since they all lie on the same route.

Before i start sharing my thoughts on the places mentioned , i’d like to give all my readers a brief introduction to my beloved state – Himachal Pradesh. A small but gorgeous state, Himachal lies in the northern region of India. It literally lies in the lap of the magnificent Himalayas and has some of the country’s most amazing destinations with the perfect landscape and serenity. It is called by some people as ‘Dev Bhoomi‘ in Hindi, which means the ‘Land of God.’ It is called so not just because it is beautiful but also because the people here are exceptionally kind and compassionate. Also, it is one of the safest places to visit for a traveler. That is why a lot of people take frequent solo trips in this part of the country.

Now let me get started on some of my favourite destinations from this part of the world. I can vouch for the fact that if you come here once, you’d want to visit again.

The first place i’d like to mention here is –

KASOL

PARVATI VALLEY IN KASOL photo credits: Suravi Shome

A small village in the beauteous state of Himachal Pradesh. It is located in the Parvati Valley along the Parvati River. Most people are not very familiar with it. Especially the ones who travel in a very conventional way. But being a traveler myself , i recommend this small but awe-inspiring place. It is the ideal place for a pack packer. I have always felt that the more untouched a place, the more gorgeous it is. Kasol is one of those places. Best part is it balances perfectly the modernity with the tradition, in terms of its culture. You visit Kasol once and you get addicted. Kasol is an adventurous place for trekkers who want to feel the experience of the majestic Himalayas. It has a large amount of camping sites. It is the base for trekking towards Yanker Pass, Pin and Parbati Pass commence. The weather is pleasant for most of the year. Winters can be harsh sometimes.

In the recent years , the place has seen a huge inflow of foreigners from abroad. This is a place that is hard to get over. Due to the increasing visitors, the small village has come up with excellent cafes and restaurants. Also the place is sometimes referred to as ‘mini Israel’ owing to a large number of travelers from Israel. The Himalayan Village Resort has come up between Kasol and another place called Jari. The resort provides facilities for mountain biking, rope climbing, river crossing, rock climbing and trekking. So a lot of visitors love staying here. The resort is so popular because it rests within the thick Pine forests , amidst wildlife and people of different etnicities but provides within its interiors spa and sauna facilities. It also has a Jacuzzi, aroma bath therapy, kero therapy, acupressure, and massaging for after the hectic day doing adventure sports.

Inseparable Parts of Kasol

Tosh

TOSH; photo credits: Dhaval Sharma

TOSH; photo credits: Dhaval Sharma

 It is an extremely serene village where one can sit for hours and hours staring at the picturesque view or just mediate without any disturbance from the outside world.The village is filled with scenic trails. One can only reach Tosh by foot from Kasol by crossing the suspended bridge that is over the free flowing Parvati river. One should take a moment there and listen to the gushing waters of the Parvati river. A large number of people sit near the river on huge rocks and just spend some time with themselves. Cafe’s and guest houses are readily available so accommodation is not an issue here. Some natives are courteous enough to allow visitors to stay in their houses as well. Hashish or Hash , a drug is cultivated in the region so a lot of foreigners visit Tosh for this reason as well. Some visitors also throw regular psychedelic parties for enjoyment and making merry. These parties can go in for days.The major crowd puller for these parties are world class DJ’s who come all the way to this beautiful valley just to perform for the music festival. There is an entry fee for these parties which is not too affordable any more.

 

Malana

MALANA; photo credits: Shruti Sethi

MALANA; photo credits: Shruti Sethi

It is an ancient village in the lap of the majestic Himalayas. The peculiar and unique location of the village geographically has helped preserve the village’s biodiversity. The most distinctive feature of Malana is that it has its own social structure and set of rules. It is one of the first democracies of the world and is believed to be the oldest republic in the world. The inhabitants are distant from the modern civilization and don’t like their local customs and traditions changed. They intend to keep it that way. A native of Malana village can provide food to a visitor but never receives food from an outsider. That is their custom. The natives speak the Kanashi language which is nothing like the other local languages. it is kind of a secret language for the natives. Another interesting feature about Malana is that it is the hub for Cannibis plantation. The product from the Cannibis plant in Malana is called Malana’s creme (a special kind of marijuana) which is a stoner’s delight across the worldConsuming weed is illegal in the region and there has been in the recent past regular police patrolling.The livelihood of the native people depend on Cannabis Cultivation. For them it’s just a plant and not a potential source of a world famous drug. The easiest way to reach Malana is from Jari, which is around a 20 Km picturesque trek to Malana.

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When visiting Malana , stick to your prescribed path.Do not touch the walls and belongings of the native people, else you will have to pay a fine. Also do not consume the ‘Malana Creme’ (extracted from the Cannabis plantation which is cultivated vastly in the region) because smoking marijuana is illegal if found guilty, you can be subjected to prison for 10 years. If you feel like getting ‘high’, get high watching the majestic mountains.

INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS

BEST TIME TO VISIT: March to June

BEST WAY TO REACH: Travelling by road is the best option here. Luxury buses are available from New Delhi , Chandigarh and Shimla. Flights are available too till Bhuntar airport but they are not very frequent.

INTERNAL TRANSPORT: None required. Explore the region via trekking.

BEST EATING PLACES: Evergreen Cafe and Stone Garden Cafe.

ACCOMMODATION: Budget Hotels, Resorts, Guest Houses.

THE GARLIC NAAN & HUMMUS AT EVERGREEN CAFE IS DELICIOUS; photo credits: Suravi Shome

THE GARLIC NAAN & HUMMUS AT EVERGREEN CAFE IS DELICIOUS; photo credits: Suravi Shome

 At a drive of around 2 hours from Kasol lies the beautiful valley of Manali.

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MANALI

 MANALI; photo credits : Akriti Mattu

MANALI; photo credits : Akriti Mattu

A small hill station nestled in the mountains  northern end of the Kullu Valley, and fed by the Beas river lies Manali. It is located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh at an approximate distance of 250 kms from the state capital of Shimla. Manali is replete with scenic beauty. The snow clad peaks surrounding this small town and the sparkling waters of the Beas river add to the grandeur of this place. You literally feel bewitched here. Manali is also the base camp for many high altitude treks. It is also a hub for various adventure sports including paragliding, river rafting, zorbing, and skiing winters). You can either hire a cab, a bike or even a cycle (if you’re a professional) to explore the place and its adjoining areas. You can also take short hikes from one place to another (i can tell you from personal experience, they’re lot of fun).

While you decide to step out and explore places to visit near Manali, you’ll be surprised with these even more beautiful and less crowded spots located in the lesser-traversed areas of the Himalayas. If you’ve had your fill of the Manali’s central Mall Road and want to venture out from the hill town, then here are some short trips that you can plan while you’re in the area.

Must Visit Places in Manali

Solang Valley
SOLANG IS ONE OF THOSE PLACES WHERE YOU WANT TO EXPLORE MORE AND MORE; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

SOLANG IS ONE OF THOSE PLACES WHERE YOU WANT TO EXPLORE MORE AND MORE; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

Solang Valley is a 50 minute drive from Manali and the landscape all along the way is just splendid. Once you reach there , you just wanna immerse yourself with the beauty around and venture into the mountains. Good thing is there is a ropeway which gives you a thrilling ride from the base of the valley mid way up to the mountain. You can hang out there till 6 and after that get back. After 6 the ropeway closes. Solang offers paragliding and zorbing. I insist you try both. For paragliding you can either go for a 15 minute ride or 45 minutes. You are provided with a trainer so don’t worry. Let go of fear and just experience the thrill of flying high in the sky. Once on the base, try zorbing. It is an inflatable pvc ball which contains another smaller ball that is suspended into position by thousand nylon strands of varying colours that is suitable only for grass covered slopes. Zorbing stops when snow covers the grass slope in winters.

PARAGLIDING AT SOLANG VALLEY;photo credits: Akriti Mattu

PARAGLIDING AT SOLANG VALLEY;photo credits: Akriti Mattu

The mountains with their snow clad peaks are a marvel to see. A lot of waterfalls in and around the area are also visible from the valley. You can explore the valley on foot. It really is fun. You just want to discover more and more of this place , when you start your trek. If you’re lucky you can even catch a glimpse of some wildlife.

EXPLORING SOLANG VALLEY ON FOOT; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

EXPLORING SOLANG VALLEY ON FOOT; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

EXPLORING SOLANG VALLEY ON FOOT; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

EXPLORING SOLANG VALLEY ON FOOT; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

Jogini Falls

Jogini falls are one of the least visited places around Manali . I insist you must visit them. Most tourists go back to Manali directly from Solang Valley , making a brief halt at Vashist. But my friends and i trekked right from Solang valley to Jhogni Falls via Vashist up till Manali. It was so much fun. The trek is covered with lush green meadows, pine forests, rivulets, waterfalls and some amazing wild life. One you reach Jhogini falls, you can take  a brief halt and just feel the place. We had taken off our shoes when we reached the place and immersed ourselves in the water. Feels divine.

ICE COLD WATER FROM JHOGINI FALLS; photo credits:Akriti Mattu

ICE COLD WATER FROM JHOGINI FALLS; photo credits:Akriti Mattu

A few stalls are available from the way onward here to Vashist. You can get a cup of tea and some decent snacks. The place has the perfect feel to it. The trek up till Jogini Falls is really interesting. At the beginning itself you can observe the native people living life in a traditional and simple way. They’re warm people and will not hesitate to offer you a cup of tea in case you talk to them. You can also see these people doing some fascinating indigenous things.

WE FOUND A  WOMAN MAKING SAUSAGES THE TRADITIONAL WAY ON THE WAY TO JOGINI FALLS.WHAT BRILLIANT CRAFT; photo credits:Akriti Mattu

WE FOUND A WOMAN MAKING SAUSAGES THE TRADITIONAL WAY ON THE WAY TO JOGINI FALLS.WHAT BRILLIANT CRAFT; photo credits:Akriti Mattu

Once you reach Vashisht, experience the hot water springs there. I won’t suggest a bath there, especially for women since there is no privacy but sure you can feel the water from the spring. It is said to have therapeutic  properties. The distance from Vashist to Manali is a mere 2.5 kms. You will reach faster on foot than in a cab owing to the daily traffic jams in the region.

JHOGINI FALLS; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

JHOGINI FALLS; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

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Going too near the waters of the Beas river is not recommended. There are a lot of dams in and around the region and the waters from these dams gets released every day so there is a good chance you  can drown in the rising waters. So if in case you feel like clicking pictures, click them from a distance. A lot of unfortunate incidents have happened in the past. Try not to do that to yourself. Remain safe.

 

INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS

 BEST WAY TO REACH – Volvo AC buses from New Delhi , Chandigarh and Shimla.

Flight till Bhuntar Airport from New Delhi are also available.

INTERNAL TRANSPORT – Local transport , Rented bikes and cabs.

BEST EATING PLACES – A German Bakery by the name of ‘Manali Day.’

ACCOMODATION – Home stays and Guest Houses.

MANALI DAY SERVES AWESOME FISH AND CHIPS; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

MANALI DAY SERVES AWESOME FISH AND CHIPS; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

Once you’re done with Manali , you should plan a trip to Rohtang La.

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ROHTANG LA

BEAS RIVER;  photo credits: Himanshu Nagpal

BEAS RIVER ON THE WAY TO ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Himanshu Nagpal

The Rohtang La , also known popularly as Rohtang Pass is a natural divide between the humid Kullu Valley which has a predominant Hindu culture and the arid, high altitude Lahaul and Spiti Valleys which are predominantly Buddhist. The Pass offers beautiful sights of glaciers, peaks, Lahaul Valley and the Chandra River. The twin peaks of Geypan are also visible from Rohtang. The initial part of the drive is along River Beas on one side and alpine forests on the other. The pass is on the watershed between the water basins of the Chenab River and the Beas River. In fact the Beas has its origin at Rohtang. The main place at Rohtang Pass is the ‘Snow Point.’

THE VIEW FROM ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Jim Kasom

THE VIEW FROM ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Jim Kasom

Snow Point is not any particular location, rather, it is just a stretch of snow on the way to Rohtang La identified by local vendors to set up their stalls. In peak winters, Snow point is at a location very close to Manali. As the summer progresses, location of snow point moves higher and higher till it reaches Rani Nullah and then further towards the Rohtang Pass.

BIKERS ON THE WAY TO ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Vir Nakai

BIKERS ON THE WAY TO ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Vir Nakai

Enthusiasm of tourists converts snow point into some sort of a snow theme park. Tourists can indulge in various snow activities like Amateur skiing, yak rides, snow scotters and snow mobiles and of course throwing snow balls at one another. Even in summers this region is chilly so make sure to carry proper woolens with you. A lot of tourists a one day trip to Rohtang from Manali and then get back on the same day. I insist you book a hotel in advance and stay for atleast a day. From there you can head back to Manali or move along to Spiti , whatever suits your schedule. Rohtang lies at a distance of around 50 kms from Manali and it takes around 3 hours to reach there , owing to the terrain.

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Only a limited amount of vehicles are allowed to go to Rohtang Pass in one day. So make sure to get the permit before you leave. The permit can be obtained from the  office located at the Mall, Manali. Also dress in really warm clothes , even if you’re visiting in summer months. This part of the world remains chilly all through the year. If you don’t feel like carrying woolen clothes, you can rent them on the way to Rohtang Pass from Manali.

INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS

 BEST WAY TO REACH – Cabs and buses with permit can take you to Rohtang from Manali.

INTERNAL TRANSPORT – Not required

BEST EATING PLACES – Local stalls. You can eat on the way to Rohtang at a place called Marhi.

ACCOMODATION –  Guest Houses located on the way to Rohtang, Tents.

A STALL  AT ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Jim Kasom

A STALL AT ROHTANG LA; photo credits: Jim Kasom

At a distance of around 80 Kms from Rohtang lies Spiti. Rohtang is the gateway to Spiti.

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SPITI 

VIEW OF THE RIDGES FROM BATAL; photo credits: Kannan

VIEW OF THE RIDGES FROM BATAL; photo credits: Kannan

Enter the valley of Spiti, and the terrain changes to a different  kind of stark grandeur. No more lush green alpine vegetation. Now you tend to stare at contours of a far more complex nature. Endless layers of powdery maroon and glowing ochre slopes loomed in the distance, with the beautiful River Chandra drawing patterns in the lap of an ever-widening basin. On this route there are no tea-stalls and eateries at every turn. Instead, you will find pea and potato fields. Stop by and sample some. These are the sweetest, most succulent peas you’d have ever tasted. There is very little vehicular traffic too, but do expect to slow down as a big flock of sheep takes over the entire width of the road and slowly ambles by. Don’t even bother to hoot because this is where you go at their pace – unhurried, unfazed, happy to find a patch of grass in the largely barren terrain. You watch them quietly and the moment becomes your oasis.

SPITI VALLEY; photo credits: Urmimala Singh

SPITI VALLEY; photo credits: Urmimala Singh

This land often known as Little Tibet, was historically a part of the kingdom of Nariss Korssum (Western Tibet), and is home to few of the oldest Buddhist monasteries and temples in the world.  Tucked away in the interiors of the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh, this high altitude cold desert region has only recently been opened to the outside world. Situated at an altitude well over 3000 mts above mean sea level, this valley is exposed to temperature variations of -28 degree centigrade to +28 degree centigrade and remains cut off for most of the year by the high mountains that encircle it. Due to its relative isolation, various unique and rare aspects of the Buddhist culture (Tibetan Buddhism) are well preserved in this valley. Spiti is also a storehouse of various rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, such as the Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, to name a few.  Home stays offer one a unique and exclusive insight into this mystical land, its people, their rich cultural heritage, and its diverse flora & fauna. 

There are some locations that can’t be missed in Spiti – 

Chandratal Lake

CHANDRATAL LAKE; photo credits: Anoop Dilta

CHANDRATAL LAKE; photo credits: Anoop Dilta

The foremost location which is an absolute delight for a traveler is the Chandratal Lake. Also known as ‘Moon Lake,’ Chandratal is a surreal lake located in Spiti. It is so magnificent that one can just sit there for hours and hours gazing at its beauty. The turquoise colour of the lake soothes the eye of the beholder. Chandratal is serenity presonified. In fact the entire region of Spiti is serene. One can spend the night at this splendid location in tents that are available at a nominal price. One cannot take a cab or a bike here. You will be dropped by your vehicles at a place called Batkal and you have to trek from there till Chandratal. It is a 14 km stretch. In case you’re traveling by bus , make sure to note the timings since only two buses run daily. One towards Manali and one towards Kaza – the sub- divisional headquarters of Spiti.

Chandratal rests in a rock basin that has been closed by the mountains surrounding it. The lake is situated on a plateau called Samudra Tapu, overlooking the Chandra River which originates from a glacier near Bara-lacha-la. It reflects the Chandra Bhaga range in its calm blue waters and is fed by the surrounding glaciers. I followed the circular path that goes all around the lake, marveling at how with every changing curve, the water also changed from turquoise to emerald and then to a deeper green. Once the sun was high, every shade, very stroke of colour from the mountains was reflected just as lucidly in the lake.

Tabo Monastery 

After spending a night at Chandratal , one can head towards Kaza and from there reach Tabo Monastery. You can halt at Kaza, spend a night and then visit the monastery. Kaza mainly serves as a tourist base for Spiti valley and one can visit places like the Tabo Monastry, Ki Moneastery,  Kibber village. Kaza and its nearby village has good accommodation and other facilities like Petrol/Diesel pumps. It also has a market for daily necessities.

TABO MONASTERY; photo credits: Vishnu Kumar

TABO MONASTERY; photo credits: Vishnu Kumar

 The Tabo Monastery was constructed as early as 996 A.D . That makes it the oldest Buddhist enclave in India. The monastic complex of Tabo (Ta-pho) is the first large religious site found in the barren and desolate moonscape of Spiti, between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar Range. Inside its temples one can find extraordinary examples of early Indo-Tibetan art. They have rare and priceless collection of thankas, statues, frescos, religious manuscripts and murals on the walls.

Kibber Village

KYE MONASTERY; photo credits: Vishnu Kumar

KEY MONASTERY; photo credits: Vishnu Kumar

Kibber, in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, has the distinction of being the highest motorable village in the world. The village is known for its scenic mountains, barren splendour and monasteries. Key Monastery, the largest in Spiti Valley is situated close to Kibber. The architecture of the houses and fortified look of the village are worth seeing. Houses are made of stones and adobe bricks. It is the biggest monastery of the Spiti Valley and a religious training centre of the Lamas. It looks like a house built on the top of another and they are haphazardly spread over the hill cliff. This monastery was damaged many times in the past due to the war, fire and earthquake. The successive trails of destruction and patch-up jobs have resulted in a haphazard growth of box-like structures, and so the monastery looks like a fort, with temples built on top of one another.

FOSSILS NEAR KIBBER VILLAGE; photo credits: Mridula Dwedi

FOSSILS NEAR KIBBER VILLAGE; photo credits: Mridula Dwedi

Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is also located close to the village. It is home to the Ibex, blue sheep, red fox, Tibetan woolly hare, Himalayan Wolf, lynx, pika, Tibetan wild ass and snow leopard. It is the only sanctuary in India that is situated in a cold desert area. The high altitude and pollution free atmosphere is a boon for sky gazers. Watching the night sky from Kibber is an amazing experience. The stars and the constellations seem very close and can be seen clearly even with the naked eye. Another claim to fame is the presence of large amount of fossils in and around Kibber. The village is among the most fossilferous region of the world and has earned Spiti the sobriquet of ‘Fossils Park’.

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Only BSNL Sim cards obtained in Himachal Pradesh work in Spiti, and that too only in Kaza (Spiti’s administrative capital) and some of the lower villages. There is a single cyber cafe in Kaza, that draws on the army satellite to offer an internet connection whose speed reminds you of the dial-up days! You’ll find an ATM or two in Kaza, but their functioning is often erratic, so it’s advisable to carry enough cash from Manali / Shimla. 

INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS

BEST WAY TO REACH – Cabs and local HRTC buses from Manali via Rohtang to Kaza

INTERNAL TRANSPORT – Cabs, Bikes

BEST EATING PLACES – Sol Cafe and Makang restaurant (Kaza)

ACCOMODATION –  Home stays and Guest Houses.

At Chandratal Lake, tents with food are available.

A SPITIAN THALI; photo credits: Divya Rai

A SPITIAN THALI; photo credits: Divya Rai

After you have enjoyed the serenity and the beauty of the Spiti region, you can head towards Kinnaur – the last destination on my list.

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 KINNAUR

APPLES GROWING IN AN ORCHARD; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

APPLES GROWING IN AN ORCHARD; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

Kinnaur is one of the most beautiful districts of Himachal Pradesh. It consists of three magnificient mountain ranges  – Himalayas, Zanskar and Dhauladhar.  The slopes of the mountains here are covered with thick wood, apple orchards, fields and picturesque landscapes. Apples, chilgoza (Pine Nut) and other dry fruits are grown here which are transported to other states of the country as well. The place has a true Himalayan flavour with peace and serenity all around. Not many tourists visit the place owing to the inaccessibility during certain months of the year. However those who visit Kinnaur fall in love with every aspect of it.

When in Kinnaur , do visit the following places –

THE MAGINIFICENT KINNER KAILASH; photo credits: Aurojit

THE MAGINIFICENT KINNER KAILASH;
photo credits: Aurojit

Kalpa
 It is a  small town in the Sutlej river valley in the kinnaur district. This location had the most awesome views of Kinnar Kailash. One feels as if he is in the midst of the mountains. You can also see the shivling rock on the kailash mountains.  Kalpa has a large number of apple orchards – the main source of income. In Kalpa, Circuit House offers the best stay, if you can manage it. Equally attractive is the PWD Guest House, next to Circuit House. They are booked through DCP, Peo office. A lot of trekking routes begin from Kalpa. But if in case you’re not a fan of trekking, just sit and gaze at the beauty all around you. The Kinner Kailash peak is breath taking. It changes colours at different times of the day. Even at night , it snow makes it glitter.

Sangla Valley 

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SANGLA VALLEY IN FULL BLOOM, picture credits: Aurojit

Sangla is a town in the Baspa Valley, also referred to as the Sangla valley, in the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh. It is covered with dense forest trees with views of the Himalayan range. Earlier one could not enter the Sangla Valley without special permit due to it being close to the Indo Tibet Border. But now the citizens of India are allowed. Visistors from abroad require a permit. Sangla is the major town in the valley with a petrol pump, a bank, ATMs, post Office, restaurants, bar, mid range hotels , guest houses and shops. So before proceeding to further locations, you can purchase the stuff you’ll be needing. The valley is surrounded by forested slopes and offers spectacular views of the snow clad peaks in the lap of the greater Himalayas.

Rakcham

RAKSHAM; photo credits: Mridula Dwedi

RAKSHAM;
photo credits: Mridula Dwedi

Situated halfway between Sangla and Chitkul, is a bowl shaped valley on the banks of Baspa river ies Rakcham. Many people don’t plan to stay here or visit here since it isn’t a well known location. However on the way from Sangla Valley to Chitkul, Rakcham literally makes you stay. Once here, you’ll notice a lot of tourists changing their minds and wanting to spend a day or two here as well.  Starting from the main road, a 10-15 min walk in any direction will see you climbing the swooping ranges. The place reminds you of Enid Blyton books. It feels like you’re in a fairy tale. Imagine all the beautiful frames you might have seen during childhood, in movies/posters/cards or even dreams, stored in recess of memory. Rakcham appeared to be a blend of all those pictures created to the perfection.

Chitkul

CHITKUL; photo credits: Aurojit

CHITKUL;
photo credits: Aurojit

It is the last inhabited village near the India-China border. Chitkul is a  ‘out of the world experience.’ The population is hardly around 600 people.If you  leave the village and take a hike up to around 6-7 kms  , you reach the India-China Border. In fact you can see the snow clad peaks at a distance which lie on the Chinese territory. Like a doorway opening into this vast, windy landscape of serene beauty, a curve around a small hill and you see this majestic and beautiful valley. Like something out of a movie.There’s a guest house located right when you enter chitkul and another a few minutes ahead, close to the big tree with the things hanging from it.

INDO-TIBET BORDER AT CHITKUL; photo credits:Krishna Samana

INDO-TIBET BORDER AT CHITKUL; photo credits:Krishna Samana

The food available is usually very basic with non-vegetarian food made only on customers special demands and a little extra cash but good.  Chawal, Dal, Rajma, Subzi and Roti are pretty much all you get to eat and yes eggs for breakfast and bread butter.If you’re planning to go there, stay at least 5 days. The different landscapes present there will keep you intriguied in exploring all that there is to seen. Meadows, Mountains, Grasslands, Big rocks, River, Jungle and Apple orchids! This place has everything!

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The roads in this region are one of the most challenging roads of Indian subcontinent and at times breath-taking. It is utmost important to plan your itinerary meticulously, outline your destinations, overnight stops, pit stops before cruising into treacherous terrain.  Else, you may miss some of the incredible attractions of these valleys and return back with frowning curiosity. So plan accordingly.

 INFORMATION FOR TOURISTS

BEST WAY TO REACH – Cabs and buses from Kaza

INTERNAL TRANSPORT – Cabs, Bikes.

BEST EATING PLACES – Litte Chef’s restaurant.

ACCOMODATION –  PWD Guest House , Circuit House (Kalpa), Camps (Raksham), Camps, Home stays (Chitkul)

'SIDU' - A LOCAL KINNAURI DISH, SERVED WITH OTHER LOCAL DELICACIES; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

‘SIDU’ – A LOCAL KINNAURI DISH, SERVED WITH OTHER LOCAL DELICACIES; photo credits: Akriti Mattu

Once you have seen and explored  Kinnaur till your heart’s delight , you may head back to home. The nearest city is Shimla. So take a bus or hire a cab/bike to get there. From Shimla you can either go back by road, by rail, or even by flight.

CLICK ON THE MAP FOR CLARITY

CLICK ON THE MAP FOR CLARITY

I hope my post proves useful for all the travelers who wish to visit this part of the world. Don’t wait any longer. Take a break from your busy schedule , pack a bag and get going.  Hans Christian Anderson once said, “to travel is to live.”  Holds true.

Happy traveling :-)

HIMACHAL PRADESH

HIMACHAL PRADESH ; photo credits :mapsofindia.com

Disconnect

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Standing out in a world that constantly tries to fit you in, is the hardest thing to do. The more free spirited you are ,the more pressurizing it gets to conform to the set standards of society. The more evolved you are, the more difficult it gets to connect to people. Being yourself and living your life according to your own terms and conditions is the biggest victory one can achieve in a life time. Very very few people are able to pursue being themselves. They conform easily and do not have the strength to stand up for themselves. The rest of the people include individuals like me who fight hidden battles every day just to be themselves. The fight is difficult. Really difficult but worth it.

If you happen to be one of those people who are elevated and hold a certain degree of intellect, you will find increasingly hard to connect with the world around you. You will easily get what others think but the others won’t get what you think. What you go through will be something that only you will be able to confront and solve. You get accustomed that way. There will be moments when you want to reach out because you’re only human but you will not be able to do that. The reason being that you have always managed every crisis on your own. Not just yours but every one else’s as well.

People view individuals like me as strong and rightfully so but even the most strongest person needs to reach out sometime. The feeling where you’re understood without explaining. The feeling where you just need answers and no questions. The feeling where you’re not the one who acts as the sponge for people’s issues but someone else is. However it just doesn’t happen. Didn’t happen 20 years ago. Won’t happen 20 years henceforth. So, you learn to conceal your feelings from the world because you know expressing them will be no good. It isn’t that the world does not want to understand you. Its just that the world does not know how to understand you. Hence your guard is always up. You never put it down, both literally and metaphorically.

Every change, every new phase is handled by you independently. You learn to figure out things yourself. Your inner most feelings are only yours. You learn to put a brave smiling face in front of the world because you know that there is no market for one’s issues. None at all. You don’t cry in front of people because you know that the world is not used to seeing you that way. You won’t be even given time to sob. The world likes you happy and chirpy even in the most challenging circumstances. Becomes extremely difficult sometimes, especially if you are a wise, intellectual and liberal individual. Becomes the toughest if you’re an intellectual woman.You do have that slight expectation of ‘being reached out to’ sometimes, without asking for it.  So you wait and remain optimistic that maybe someday somebody will get you. Especially the people you connect to.

Till then you keep going strong , moving ahead, learning at being stronger each day. You realize that magic is something that only you create. That is why you stand out. Always have, always will.

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Photo Credits:

(http://www.thequotepedia.com/images/09/today-you-are-you-that-is-truer-than-true-there-is-no-one-alive-who-is-youre-than-you.jpg

,http://pegitboard.com/show-image/?img=/pics/t/74608.jpg)

My Radio Station, Your Radio Station, Our Radio Station

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It’s the year 2015 and technology is progressing at an unbelievable pace. Each year new gadgets, gizmos and ways of accessing the latest technology are becoming available to us. The internet has created a revolution where each individual is both a participant as well as a benefactor. One such tech innovation that has happened in the recent years is the advent of what is known as the ‘Internet Radio.’

My team and I have been working on our own broadcasting station and would love to introduce it to all of you. We would love your active participation because our listeners are our biggest motivators as well as critics. Each response counts in making our venture better. Also, you can avail the opportunity to work with us to gain some experience in the field of Internet Radio. But before I give you all the details let me introduce you to the concept of the internet radio, in case you’re not already familiar.

Internet Radio is an audio service transmitted via the internet. It is also known as web radio, net radio, streaming radio, e-radio, online radio, and webcasting. Internet radio services are usually accessible from anywhere in the world with a suitable internet connection available. Internet radio has no geographic limitations, so a broadcaster in India can be heard in New York on the Internet. The potential for Internet radio is as vast as cyberspace itself.  It is typically listened to on a standard home PC/laptop, through an embedded player program located on the respective station’s website. The concept of the internet radio was pioneered by a man named Carl Malamud. A Rolling Stones concert was the “first major cyberspace multicast concert.” Mick Jagger opened the concert by saying, “I want to say a special welcome to everyone that’s, uh, climbed into the Internet tonight and, uh, has got into the M bone. And I hope it doesn’t all collapse.”

Traditional radio broadcasters have used the Internet to simulcast their programming. But, Internet radio is undergoing a revolution that will expand its reach from your desktop computer to access broadcasts anywhere, anytime­, and expand its programming from traditional broadcasters to individuals, organizations and government. In comparison to traditional radio, Internet radio is not limited to audio. An Internet radio broadcast can be accompanied by photos or graphics, text and links, as well as interactivity, such as message boards and chat rooms. This advancement allows a listener to do more than listen. Internet radio can appeal to “micro-communities” of listeners focused on special music or interests.

I would now like to introduce you to our broadcasting station – RADIO ELEMENT

Radio Element is a global broadcasting platform focused on the intersection of journalism and engagement to affect positive change in people’s lives. We create a more informed, empathetic and connected world by sharing powerful stories, encouraging exploration, connecting people and cultures, and creating opportunities to help people take informed action on stories that inspire them.   We are making an effort to serve audiences as a distinctive content source for information, insights and cultural experiences essential to living in our diverse, interconnected world. Radio Element is a multifunctional, multinational company strongly established in the industry of audio broadcasting and entertainment services.  We are based in Los Angeles, California and operate under a structured organization consisting of various departments and a specialized and dedicated workforce. Radio Element will cover a wide range of programs: educational, sport news, entertainment, stars news, local & international events, interviews and live coverage.

We will broadcast on hourly basis local and international news to make our listeners part of the overall social, economical and political daily life. We also conduct interviews in Arabic language with equally from all political parties discussing latest governmental, political, economical and sociopolitical issues. Finally, we have entertaining programs in Arabic, English, International Languages and Armenian languages that at the same time keep our listeners updates with the latest news in various fields Our competitive advantage is the brand loyalty that our listeners have towards us that exceeds just being a radio station to becoming a true leader and a vital dominant tool on their decision making process.

Our Mission

To provide a trusted source of information, entertainment and quality programming to a global community of listeners, united in their appreciation of English, European, Indian, Middle Eastern and Armenian music.

 Our Objectives

 We at Radio Element strive to be the voice for our local communities and citizens throughout the world – and with the help of the internet, that’s now possible.

Act as a mediator between local talents and a broader audience, as well as act as a bridge between different cultures.

Be multilingual radio with many channels to reflect our versatile culture.

Discuss and present a variety of different topics in a new manner

Integrate culture in people’s life and make it available at fingertips.

Offer new means of media to portray cultural life in the World.

Place global culture on the world map.

All you lovely people are invited to be a whole some part of our new venture. We would appreciate your support on our social media pages. Do subscribe and hit the ‘like’ button on Facebook and the ‘follow’ button on Twitter –

https://www.facebook.com/TheElementRadio

https://twitter.com/radio_element

You can also contact us at:

akriti.mattu@theradioelement.com

OR

mihran.kalaydjian@theradioelement.com

We will wait to hear from you.

Till then, stay connected, stays updated and most importantly stays tuned :)

 

The beauty behind the word ‘Namaste’

namaste

I had a discussion with an American woman recently. She asked me if it was ok for Christians to use the word, ‘Namaste‘ , since the word has it’s origin in Hinduism. For starters, i told her that , “have we become so intolerant now that we don’t even have space for a single word from another religion? Whatever happened to Humanity – the greatest religion of all ?”  I started explaining to her the significance of the word and she was mesmerized. Not only she but about 9-10 more people , (all of whom were Christians) said that it was a beautiful concept . In fact many of them use it often. Especially the ones taking Yoga class. It is a norm to use it there. I was happy i could put the message across and i thought of sharing it here too.

On the surface of it , ‘Namaste‘ is a word that is used to greet each other.  This is accompanied by folding of both hands and slight bowing down of one’s head .But this is not it. The word has a greater significance. The word has it’s origin in the Sanskrit language where ‘Namaste‘ is a combination of 2 words – namah + te which means “I bow to you”. In other words, “i offer my respects to you.” The joining and folding together of hands of the palms symbolizes oneness. When said with mindfulness and  understanding, it serves to negate our sense of separateness or ego from others. There’s something about the universal recognition and the spiritual energy that accompanies the essence of Namaste that makes it a truly remarkable greeting. Just speaking the word Namaste – especially along with the Mudra  (symbolic or ritual gesture) posture – raises the vibrations of your intention to greet someone by honoring of their inner goodness.The deeper spiritual purpose of the Namaste greeting is to remind ourselves and others of the absolute oneness and divinity of all life and to keep this thought and knowledge established each day in our consciousness. When the word Namaste is spoken and the hands are held in prayer over the heart, the person will bow forward as a sign of respect and humility.  When we recognize the Divine Light in each other we are humbled by the greatest of that which creates us and that which we truly are.

When we know its purpose and spiritual significance, the greeting paves the way for a deeper, divine communion with others, complete with love, honour, and respect.

(With inputs from the Katha Upanishad)

namaskar_3

Photo Credits:

(https://angeliquemol.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/namaste.gif

https://www.trsiyengar.com/images/namaskar_3.gif)

‘Earth Day’ Special

earth-day-april-22

“Humanity; the most intelligent species on the planet, capable of anything, but is governed by it’s aggression and youth. A species fast in developing, but slow in maturing.

Once a species that cared about it’s home, it’s provider, let it’s ego dominate it’s decisions. A period of ignorance and neglect has had profound effects across the world. Effects which can be reversed, if nature is given the time to repair the damage.

Remember: We only have one home.”

David Bayliss

Photo Credits :

(http://www.imagesbuddy.com/images/07/2013/03/earth-day-april-22.jpg)

Cut the Crap and Stop Shaming Women during – ‘ That Time of the Month ‘ !!!

MENS

I am a woman. I am proud of my essential being. I am proud of the fact that i can create, bear and bring a new life to this world. Even the society around me is proud of me for being able to generate life. However there’s one thing which is ironical here – The world celebrates a woman for fertility , for life but shames her for the very phenomena that is responsible for her fertility in the first place. Yes, the world shames her for ‘menstruation.’ It’s the year 2015. The world is rapidly progressing and that too scientifically. Yet even in the year 2015 , a lot of women across countries, cultures, and religions are stigmatized when ‘that time of the month arrives.’ Sad part is that most people (women included) don’t even have a rational explanation for this regressive approach towards menstruating women. They do it because they have been following their ancestors or maybe because they are too unaware to question and find the answers. When i talk about people here, i do not mean some kind of tribal folks or people from rural backgrounds. Not at all. The urban folks are very much included. Folks that are literate( I’m not deliberately using the word education here because literacy and education are two very different things).

A woman is made to feel like some kind of an inferior ‘creature’ when she is on her period. In fact a lot of times women don’t even speak about it. They hush it up as if it’s some kind of a sinful act.  I’ve come across some bizarre practices followed by people .Not just bizarre but obnoxious and some times just foolish. Let me give you some examples : In a lot of households , a menstruating woman is NOT allowed to enter the kitchen, NOT allowed to eat pickles, NOT even allowed to bake cakes, NOT allowed to go to a temple for worship ( in case of Hinduism), NOT allowed to sleep on the same bed as her husband, definitely NOT allowed intimacy, is given a separate section of the house to reside , in some extreme cases. Not just Hinduism , every religion in the world puts restrictions on menstruating women (except Sikhism). In Islam, menstruating women are not allowed to touch the Quran, enter the mosque, offer the ritual prayer or be intimate with her husband for seven full days. The woman is also exempted from rituals such as daily prayers and fasting. The Jewish ‘Code of Law’ – The Halakha prohibits any physical contact between a man and a woman during menstruation.Likewise, in Christianity too (especially Catholic Christians) a menstruating woman is considered ‘unclean’ and ‘impure.’ So she’s not allowed to touch the Bible, attend Church Services or even touch raw food. Surprisingly, even a religion like Buddhism does not allow women to circumambulate around the Stupas during menstruation.

Madras visit. 1734

The picture right above is that of a board in front of the main entrance of a reputed temple in Chennai. The priest of the temple has not even spelled the word ‘sanctity’ correctly and yet wants women out of the temple during ,”that time of the month.” Anyway, the retrograde rituals restricting a menstruating woman from eating, worshiping, moving to certain places and being intimate with her partner are practically the same across religions. I can quote the exact lines from the scriptures of the religions, I’ve mentioned above but it’ll take a lot of important space here. So being a Hindu by birth, i’d just like to explain the MYTH because of which people still want to remain irrational:

“Viswaroopa the son of Thwashta was recruited as the ‘guru’(priest) fore the gods in place of Bruhaspathi, when Bruhaspathi was hidden himself because of the insult made by the Indra. Viswaroopa was killed by Indra in a cheating war, then the Indra was attacked by the Brahma-hathya Dosha’. So now indra was suffering from the ‘brahma-hathya Dosha’. After some time he asks Bruhaspathi for solution, then Bruhaspathi said ‘if there is any body to share that, then you’ll be relieved and you should give some boons to the person’ The following shared the Brahma-hathya Dosha of indra in the following manner.
1. Earth (prithvy)
2. Trees (vriksha)
3. Sea (samudra)
4. Ladies (sthree)
Earth shared the sin and releases the sin in the form of “fuller’s earth (choudu mritthika)” and got the boon that the earth will be filled or become closed even after the excavations. Trees shared the sin and releases the sin in the form of ‘gum’ and got the boon that they can grow even they cut. Sea shared the sin and released the sin in the form of ‘foam/froth’ and got the boon the at the sea cannot cross the sea shore (generally, not in some cases). Ladies shared the sin and releases the sin in the form of ‘menstruation’ every month and got the boon that they can give birth to children from menstruation.” 

.. And this is the reason why people want to remain irrational ?? Like really ? Personally i find it extremely offensive to impose stigmatization on a woman during her period just because some people still want to follow a myth that is like a million years old. Menstruation is a NORMAL BIOLOGICAL phenomena due to which a woman’s Endometrium (The inner lining of the uterus) sheds every month along with the tearing of connective blood vessels through the female genitalia , which we call a period. Hence, getting a period is an innate part of being a woman. So why all the fuss , all the restrictions and the superstitions? It is because of menstruation that women can conceive a new life when they want to. It is because of menstruation that the human race will not go extinct. Yet , some people whom i call, ‘unevolved’ try to prove their prowess by restricting and imposing women. Annoying. More annoying than these unevolved morons are the women themselves who willingly want to be a part of this irrationality and have no hesitation in passing their dogmatic beliefs to the next generation.

The female body should not be ostracized for fertility. The procreative capacity of women is not to be seen as impure. It’s obnoxious to even think otherwise. When a young girl gets her first period, don’t make her feel inferior. Instead congratulate her for her beautifully transforming into a woman. Take care of her and more than anything else, make her aware of her body ( and i’m including both the parents here). I am stunned at the moral and religious hypocrisy of people. A man who might have just raped somebody, a man who might have consumed alcohol, a man who might have committed adultery, a pervert, a wife beater, a murderer, etc etc. everybody is allowed inside places of worship at all times EXCEPT a woman who is undergoing a BIOLOGICAL process every month that makes her  CAPABLE OF GENERATING LIFE when she wants to. So who should be shamed ? A menstruating woman or the people who want to stigmatize her ? Think about it and try not being a part of the latter. Be more aware and create that awareness around you . Start from your own homes and stand up for the women in your lives if they are subjected to this mistreatment. But most of all, women themselves need to celebrate themselves. All the women who shout out aloud for  being empowered, for starters STOP BEING EMBARRASSED for your body, which by the way is the only thing capable in this world of generating life. Womanhood is to be celebrated. !!

P.S : I feel so happy today that i was never subjected to any of the above mentioned rituals ever. i owe my parents a big THANK YOU since i live in a society that stigmatizes a woman for just being a woman.

Stop-Sacrificing-A-Girl’s-self-esteem-at-the-altar-of-menstrual-Myths-e1410506036511

Photo Credits:

(http://www.fuccha.in/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/MENS.jpg

,http://www1.sulekha.com/mstore/airforcebala/albums/default/Madras%20visit.%201734.jpg

,http://menstrupedia.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Stop-Sacrificing-A-Girl%E2%80%99s-self-esteem-at-the-altar-of-menstrual-Myths.jpg)

Your Opinion is Not My reality

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What is the most difficult thing to do in this world – Being Yourself.

People are quick to judge. It comes easy. What doesn’t come easy is the power of observation. How hard is it to just observe people and not judge ? For a lot of people – Impossible. A  judgmental mind is a weak mind. It’s a threatened mind. It’s a cynical mind. Cynicism is ok sometimes because one should not plainly accept what is being given to them in life. One  has to and should question it. But to question just for the heck of it , or let’s say out of habit is so not cool .People always want to see what they want to see and not see what really exists. This attitude , this bent of mind ain’t right.

Don’t try to seek answers that you want to hear. Be open minded.Be evolved and learn to accept the truth as it is without judging people because if you can’t , you’re a mess for life. Each one of us including me has judged sometime in life. The only difference is that some of us ‘grow’ and get evolved to not judge again.Others just can’t let go of the cynicism. When strangers try to make an opinion about us based on their own short comings it doesn’t really matter. But when our close people do it, it hurts because they know us so well. So why should they judge us ? Should they not understand what we feel or think ? Or at least make an effort to understand our point of view ? Even if their stance is different from ours , what is the point of judging? Just accept the differences without being cynical about it.

William Shakespeare mentions in his play, The Merchant of Venice that ,”it is easy to give a sermon to to a crowd but it is extremely difficult to be a part of the same crowd and follow that sermon yourself.”  This is the problem the world faces. People want to preach and preach all the time without ever doing it themselves. It takes a lot of nerve to ‘not’ hold back people in life. It takes guts to trust people with their decisions. Sadly, very very few people do that.  From the very beginning, Society teaches us to ‘”Always be yourself.” Ironically when that actually happens it doesn’t approve of our ways. The moment when we are confronted with a situation like this where we stand conflicted,  is the time when we should decide  whether we will bow down to the fear that society wants to inflict on us or whether we will live each day our own way. The choice is always ours.

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Photo Credits :

(https://iexpressblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/tumblr_lss0lr5xg31qacqkuo1_500.jpg)

(,http://d.gr-assets.com/quotes/1398104674p8/417293.jpg)