You can make a difference. Yes, You!

Dalai Lama said ” If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.

Every traveler can make a difference no matter how big or small they are. Travelers impact the world in a big way. Their spending patterns, likes, dislikes etc influence communities in different parts of the world.
You do not need you to shell out a lot of money or have reserves of courage to make an impact. Here are a few tips to make an impact. These tips are easy and simple to follow.
1. Do not litter. This is such a simple obvious thought yet one we always forget.

2. Cut out the middle man. When you go to buy souvenirs try to find a co-op or a women’s group. In addition to being able to see the  artisans at work you can also make  sure that you are helping a family and paying the artisans the money they deserve.

3. Before you order fish at a restaurant ask around for the seasons of the different fish. It is illegal to catch certain species of fish during a particular season.The reason is that they breed during that season. So if you find an off-season fish on your menu do not order it. If you do then it starts a vicious cycle – the restaurants buys more of that fish causing the fishermen to go out and fish and soon the species nears extinction.

4.When you pass by local people stop and talk to them before you take their picture. You may not know it but some of them will know a little English but lack people to practice it with. Your short 5 minutes can do a lifetime of difference with the confidence they gain.

5. When booking hotels ( this is a tough one) try to book one run by a family. Unlike big hotels who order large supplies from vendors family run business reach out to their community.Plus you get an authentic taste of life in that community.

These are just 5 simple tips ( there are more, but baby steps ok!). They are not difficult to follow. Like how little drops of water make the mighty oceans these simple actions of yours will go a long way to create a ripple effect and eventually make a difference.

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The complete seafood experience

Lei Yue Mun the fishing village in Hong Kong  was filled with tanks and basins of live fish. Signs all around proclaimed fresh seafood and excellent cooking. But not a single store was open, everything was shuttered.

“But it is only 11 in the morning” said a fisherman who was sitting by the pier. “Everybody sleeping or cleaning.”
He pointed to a nearby shack where they were selling noodles and rice. But I was adamant I wanted the complete and authentic seafood experience especially after an eventful bus ride.

I explained in as simple English as I could where I was from, what I do and that I had come all the way for fresh sea food. He sighed and felt obliged to help me. It may also be because he understood it as that I had come all the way from India to eat the seafood.
He took me through a maze of aisles to a shop at the corner of the bazaar where a pot bellied man was sleeping on a table. With two taps he woke the man and spoke to him in hushed tones.
” He my friend will help you”.
The friend handed me a net and pointed to a large cement basin a 100 yard away with a curt
“Catch fish.”

In the basin there were a lot of small fishes, prawns and some eel like fish. I got down to business.
Whoever said that catching prawns from a basin is easy is just wrong. It took me forever and I still did not catch anything.
My endeavors had created a little spectacle and a crowd had gathered to watch my fishing escapades.

The friend finally lost his patience. He brought a small plastic bucket with a little water,caught a few prawns from the basin and threw them into the bucket and repeated his previous instruction – “Catch fish.”

I am pleased to say that I made progress and three prawns were trapped in my net. The gathered crowd clapped their hands at my success.

I proudly took the prawns to the friend and said “Fry”.
“Ok, Ok” he said . He dropped the prawns in a saucepan of boiling water.

While the prawns were being cleaned( I assumed) in boiling water, the friend set a table for me and offered me a cup of tea. I took out a book to read while I waited for the prawns to be cleaned and fried.

I had barely read a page when the friend placed a plate of three boiled prawns and a bowl of sticky rice in front of me.
I looked the prawns with their eyes bulging and said ” No. no boil.Prawn fry”.

“Ok, Ok” said the friend again not moving from where he stood.

I tried again. “Oil fry..?”
Came the reply again “Ok. Ok.”

I swallowed one of the prawns with much difficulty. When I felt nauseous at the thought of having to swallow another one I decided that I had had the complete and authentic seafood experience.
I paid the bill and I left the bazaar fifty dollars lighter for all my troubles!

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Dispossessed

“The matter-of-fact manner in which she says it unsettles me more than the gravity of her statement. I can’t imagine a government dispossessing me of my land, and then paying me a fee to clean it. I find the very thought absurd.”

This above is an extract from my latest article published on Matador Network. This piece based on a conversation I had with an Aborigine lady. It is sad to note that a lot of native people have lost their lands and culture thanks to the attempts at civilizations by aliens in their land.

 

Do read the whole story here.

 

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Khajuraho :- A lesson on how sex was once never a taboo

Khajuraho , a small town out of the way from all major cities in India has an airport. It’ s claim to fame ?  – The depictions of the kamasutra poses along its temples’ facade.  Enough said. Now lets take a step back and start at the beginning.

While it is known for a fact that the temples were built originally by the Chandela dynasty and later  by the Bundelas, the exact reason for the carving are not known for sure.   Some say the carvings are to appease the god of lightning. I like to believe the version narrated by our guide.

In the 10th century AD the northern portion of the country was ravaged by invaders from the far east. The constant fighting meant that there was a need for the steady supply of soldiers to the front. Young men were recruited, trained and marched off to the front line.  This meant that young maidens waited for  years for their lovers to come home, their biological clocks ticking; some even waiting in vain.  To add to this, the era also saw a strong promotion of Buddhism. Young men traded the sword for  the vow of celibacy and shed all cares of the world to lead a life of ahimsa and enlightenment.

 

The temples of Khajuraho was the answer to the dwindling population of the Chandela kingdoms. Through out the temples ( which once number 85  in total)  a common theme resonates – sex of many forms and women of many shapes.  The carvings were to educate and enthuse young men and women on the importance and pleasures of sexual acts.

Even the most progressive and free spirited society of today will blush at the almost life like depictions of an act now considered taboo to speak out about. With the  all eroticism around it is easy to forget about the level of skill.  The artists paid attention to every detail. In the following pictures notice how every muscle and vein of the body stands out.

 

 

Not a single detail left out

Not a single detail left out

 

The older temples have two panels of educative ( read erotic) panels, depicting various poses for normal and  also group sex ( progressive). In the later temples the number of panels increased to three and also the women were depicted sexier with slimmer bodies and longer legs.

 

 

Three panels of erotic carvings

Three panels of erotic carvings

 

A closer view of the sculptures in the panel.

 

 

A group sex sculpture

A group sex sculpture

 

Not all the panels are of erotic in nature. The lower panels of the temple depict every day scenes, movement of the army since the Chandelas were also fighting/defending their territory.

 

A teacher taking class

A teacher taking class

 

 

 

It also had some disturbing teachings.  Men on the war front were encouraged to do it with horses! (Yikes! ).

 

Now that I am not so sure!

Now that I am not so sure!

 

This is one of my favorite. It depicts a woman having a bath, her wet sari gathered around her waist. Notice that she has moved her chain to the back. All this is done on a single stone.

 

The lady with her sari gathered around her waist! What skill!

The lady with her sari gathered around her waist! What skill!

 

 

Disregarding all the eroticism the work at Khajuraho speaks of a time long past which would bring even the most avant garde society of ours to an awkward pause!

 

Categories: Asia, Heritage, India | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kuthira Malika

Little is known of the palace of the kings of the kingdom of Travancore , the Kuthira Malika. It remains shadowed by the fame and fortune of its own creation, the Padmanabhaswany Temple.

 

Kuthira Mailka gets it name from the 120 wooden horses carved buttress. For every room opened to the public another 10 remained locked, slowly succumbing to the abandonment.

 

The wooden horses that hold the roof

The wooden horses that hold the roof

The exterior architecture is the traditional Kerala style with intricate carvings. However the interiors have been influenced by different elements. There is a discussion room which took 80 artisans from Tanjore close to a year to finish. The end results is a ceiling adorned with woodwork beyond compare.

On display are gifts the Kings received from counterparts from different parts of the world. An ivory throne made from the tusks of 25 elephants, ivory cradles and shields from rhinocerous skin boasts of a time of plenty.

 

Traditional Kerala architecture

Traditional Kerala architecture

 

Carvings

Carvings

 

Parots

Parots

 

Sigh

Sigh

 

The symbol of the Travancore kings

The symbol of the Travancore kings

The Padmanabhaswamy temple was built next to the palace for the royal family to worship. The patron is Lord Vishnu. The sanctum sanctorum has an idol of Lord Vishnu reclining on a snake. The present city gets its name from this manifestation of Vishnu. Thiru – meaning Holy, Anantha – one who sleeps on the snake , Puram- Place. It translates to the place where he recline on the snake or Thiruvanthapuram. Along came the British and we have today’s shorter version of that – Trivandrum.

A couple of years back vast amounts of gold were discovered in  the temple vaults.  It is thought to be the offering the Travancore Kings made to the temple patron. The exact amount of gold has not been determined. Nevertheless if the rumors are to be believed there is emough gold in there to pay off the world’s debt.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple

Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple

 

Young devotees at the temple

Young devotees at the temple

 

Faces from paintings peeping out of the windows

Faces from paintings peeping out of the windows

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