Friday, August 29, 2014

Life in blue, live in red

“You have a child, where's your husband? Why do you stay in this area?”
“Leave it. Once a woman becomes impure, she will remain impure.” 

kamathipura chawl prostitution red light area

Mumbai is a financial capital of India, I feel something more when I first landed in this city. Mumbai creates a distinguished distinction because of its culture and hectic life people lead all day. The long train journeys, hectic working hours – everyone seems running. Nevertheless, I feel a tremendous life running in the veins of the city. When the night drops on the city, not all but many people find recluse in bars, pubs, beaches and red light areas. In South Mumbai alone, there are approximately 1 lakh based sex workers. Most of these girls and women are not voluntarily sex workers, and sold by relatives or trusted family friends.

During my visit to Mumbai, I made a point to visit the second largest red light area of Asia once. I wanted to find a reason why human passion turned into a filthy business. How in India where prostitution is illegal, and where every red light area has a police station then also things are in mainstream business, without a bit problem. Surely, there must be a chain of influential people including politicians who are involved in the racket, otherwise how can be possible that involuntary sex workers work in the area.

kamatipura prostitution

Life in the red light areas is indeed difficult. Most of the women and girls are involuntary sex workers and come from either villages of different parts of India and Nepal or very lower income group. They come with a hope and push into prostitution. Poverty, drug, alcohol, gambling and sometimes violence are regular features of red light areas. These women are not a part of “our” society, frowned upon and deliberately ignored because they sell their skin. 

Moreover, brothels in India are dangerous places. You enter the area, dark, shaddy, lots of cigarette butts, used condoms spread here and there, and then there is a continuous fear of police raid. If you are a journalist from a reputed house, you can easily escape but if you are not, then it might end up in a wrong foot. I was walking on the lanes without cluttering my mind with all those risks. It is illegal everyone knows but there are always easier routes to escape from the clutches of police.

Kamatipura, Asia second and India’s oldest red light area suffered a lot during its time period. The patrons of the place, sailors who set the place during British time for their pleasure, brought young girls from different parts of India. Then came Indians followed by HIV and STD. Then political power plays, police and local rogues, the only thing that remains unchanged is the suffering of women.

Kamatipura hangs on with all suffering; diseases, human trafficking, scoundrel pimps and corrupt net of power games of politics. The small rooms are named as ‘Pinjara’(cage), it will be lit in the evening and women sit outside to find clients. The clients are from different walk of life; the rich ones have their own contacts, prefer young and even children, the poor are satisfied with a single shot ejaculation, so they can try anything that fit into their budget.

“So many people come and go why to bother? Like you have a life, we also have a life and we are used to it. After all, you are also not happy with your life. Isn't it?” 

I met some prostitute and lucky enough to had some conversation with one of them. She was from Nepal, working hard to earn some money so that her boy who lived in Nepal went to good school.  It was heartening to hear the tale, but there was not a single commotion on her face. She consolidated herself with the fate and desires of the city, which found its outlet in Kamatipura.

Most of the old prostitutes have now moved back to their villages, or shifted to suburbs. The builders have taken much of the place and created buildings. The precious South Mumbai area is too tempting for builders to throw prostitutes out of that area and finally they have succeeded. There are some NGOs such as ‘Prerana’ working hard with women in the red light district since two decades to empower them and spreading awareness about AIDS, education and healthy living.

After visiting first time a red light area, I feel people are same at everywhere. Circumstances change, things change and sufferings and enjoyment are different for different people. The more I travel, the more I understand people are good in heart, everywhere.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ladakhi lifestyle – ebullient, joyous and something to smile at

ladakh craft and art

The Ladakhi crafts tradition had a narrow base as it was confined to the needs of a self-sufficient agrarian economy, dependent on its own pool of artisans. Essential goods such as grain and raw wool are traditionally exchanged for salt and tea, while luxury items came through the Led trading center. Much of Ladakh’s culture even today reflects the need to keep the ‘kafila’ – life-line going. With the intervention of the cash economy, this village based tradition was not strong enough to extend its skills. Today, mass-produced goods dominate the local markets.

In Chilling, the center for metal workers, families make tea-urns, mostly of copper or brass, Gold ornaments that were the specialty for four Nepalese are rare today, but silver work has survived. The best of this craft can be seen in the gompa treasures or in the homes of rich Ladakhis who have inherited jewellery and ceremonial dishes from their mother. For most, seeing a Ladakhi woman in festival finery is often the only way of glimpsing some rare silver ornaments today. 

hemis festival in Ladakh
ladakh Hemis Festival
Decorative gur-gur tea churns, and the chogtse, a typical Ladakhi table, low and ornamented, can be found at the crafts center at Leh. But these are no longer as fine as those of old, when the craftsman was an artisan and not a souvenir producer. Ladakh did not need to develop a craft culture by virtue of its location on the Silk Route. 

Read more about Leh and Ladakh

Winter is the time to work the loom or to weave a carpet. As the weaver’s spindle turns, and the hands fly over the emerging pattern of the Tibetan dragon in search of eternal peace, the sunlight becomes warmer and the sky less magnificent blue; the bones seem to rest easier and the sinews with the desire to break free of the constraint of winter’s labor. Summer, short but sweet, beckons with its own demands.

Life of nomads and sources of enjoyment

ladakh nomadic tribes

The nomads are denied the joy of seeing miles of barley waving under sunlit skies. Nor do they share in the pride of husbanding a fine crop. Their existence revolves around the urgency of finding pastures, their cash flow depends on the pashmina, but their flock includes yaks and the huniya sheep. The yak is the mainstay of the nomad’s life, providing milk, butter and meat, and material for the tent-lie canopies woven from its hair. The sheep is a source of coarse wool. Only when an animal becomes a burden on the shepherd’s scarce resources, is it slaughtered. Culling from the flock occurs only at the start of winter, a schedule that is evidence of unerring Ladakhi logic: conserving scarce fodder and the that same time using winter’s natural refrigeration.

Read more about Ladakh life

Most people find chang more appetizing than gur-gur, the buttered tea which tastes like weak broth, or sheer-chai, the salted tea with its lurid pink colour and acquired taste. Everyone takes a few turns at the tea-urns that churn out the buttered tea, drunk copiously in the dry climate. The wood stove that burns day and night in the kitchen reflects both time past and present.

For the young Ladakhis, sleeping under the stars which shine like lanterns in the midnight blue sky, summer passes like a dream, all too soon. It is a kind season for an ebullient and joyous people who always find something to smile at. Particularly when sun is bright and the scurin-ba festivities get under way, chang vessels are brought out from the cellar and briskly consumed by the all-male crowd. There is an abundance of smoke, noise and good-humored clowning. As the drums begin, there is dancing. The feet move in a slow and shuffling motion, but the arms wave in all directions, the hands holding a white khat-tak, a loosely woven scarf, in lieu of a garland of flowers. In the afternoon, everyone returns home to change into ceremonial dress and the men to collect bows and arrows for the archery contest.

Ladakhi gastronomic delight

The menu is an eloquent reminder of the gastronomic and cultural streams that make up Ladakh. The diet is poor in variety and quality because it’s dependent on the seasons and the scarce availability of ingredients. But it is well suited to the climate for each dish contains ingredients vital to compensate for the dryness and cold. Tsampa (parched barley flour mixed into a gruel) is eaten with buttered tea or chang to combat the rigor of the climate.

Well-to-do Ladakhis vary their diet with thug-kpas (soup of meat, vegetables and small flat noodles), or pa-ba (mixed flour of roasted ‘naked’ barkey and kerzey gram) added to soup, chang or tea. Another popular dish is sky – fried wheat-flour dumplings mixed with meat, potatoes and turnips. Most dishes are steamed, although today the richer households add tarka (seasoned butter or oil) to a dish. Most visitors relish mok-mok, steam-cooked meat dumplings or gya-tuk, Chinese style egg noodles.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

A collection of 5 must have travel apps while you traveling in India

India, by its very nature, complex and diversified and its cultural richness and a salmagundi of religion, culture, languages, geography and climates create a mesmerizing effect on travelers, sometimes though sorely enjoyable, still a new experience always. Many people travel to this nation in search of new experiences, relieving certain complexities of their own lives, but it is essential to know the little intricacies of this country.

In this technological era, there are lots of apps available that give you plethora of options, suggestions and advice while traveling, but the question is what are the apps that best suitable for you. So, here are top five apps that help you while traveling in India.

1. Google Maps

google map app logo
A quintessential apps for travel and navigation solution. The service gives you free mapping and navigation solution to users globally and it is quite useful in Indian geography as well. Some exciting features of Google Maps are:
  • Allows you to search for places, even remote places are also available in this app
  • Navigation
  • 3D maps
  • Indoor Maps
  • Calculate routes plus travel time, directions and public transportation
Google Maps is especially an excellent app in India because it allows you to access mapping information without the need of Internet. You can save data, and access later on when it is needed.

2. Redbus
Buses are not so comfortable but there are Volvo and other deluxe buses through you can travel long distances. Contrary to popular belief, buses are quite safe. I travel most of the time through buses and except one incident of engine failure, I never faced any problem. Moreover, you can book bus any time rather than railway pathetic system. is a popular bus booking website where you can find the longest list of destination. You can use the application to find out the bus and destination and easy way to book. The app also gives you travel time, bus seats, sometimes original bus photos, and other small factors. The app not only covers popular destinations but also encompasses small cities and towns.

3. Ngpay

There are many standalone apps for train and air plane bookings in Google Play Store, but the Ngpay has its unique attraction because of its smooth tackling of multiple booking and ticketing. What you can do with Ngpay:
  • You can book railway ticket, air ticket and even movie ticket with ease.
  • Ngpay allows online shopping from selected stores all over India
  • You can recharge your phone of all known service provider
  • You can save your information to speed up the transaction process or you can also have an option to feed it every time.
4. Triplt

The blueprint of any travel is its itinerary, without a proper itinerary the travel becomes a haphazard affair. You may plan many things but it will turn out to be a sloppy mistake if you don't prepare an itinerary. Triplt is a good app to unburden this problem of yours, creating your itinerary according to the data you feed. It acts like your personal travel organizer, taking data from Triplt server and sync it with apps like Calendar and Maps.

You need to add travel details and mail it to and the app will create the best possible itinerary with all details including weather details. You don't need to feed comprehensive details, and also you can share your travel plans with people you know.

5. TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is one of the most popular website for reviews and suggestion forums. The app is also helpful where you can find everything you need to find about your getaway spot. The reviews are mostly genuine and the moderators in the company do their best effort to bring genuine and trusted reviews.

With more than 50 million reviews and suggestions by travelers, you will find plenty of suggestions about where to eat, sleep, etc. wherever you travel. TripAdvisor a free app and helps user to find hotels, restaurants and attractions in any part of India.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Wild Flowers On The Way To Tapovan

Just as thoughts about my home crowd into my mind as I draw nearer to my resting place, so also the closer I get to Himalayas, the greater grows the joy derived from the ever increasing variety of experiences of this mystic mountain. Life is not same when these mighty peaks kiss the secretive part of my mind. I don’t know about others, but for me it’s an incredible transformative process that instantly purifies all the unclean thoughts.

I had planned my trip this time with my French friend Yann to go to Tapovan this summer. It was not so easy decision because I really didn’t want to travel with a company, though I like his company but when two vessels are kept together, it will be bound to create some noise. I rather like to meet people on the way, just like train journey when you talk it out fully but for a night or so, and then you will probably never meet that person again in your life.

I was waiting for him at Haridwar station and eventually after a long time we met and boarded a bus to Uttarkashi at 7am after relishing our morning tea. We had already decided to stay overnight in Uttarkashi, so there was no hurry, but from Haridwar 7am bus was the last one so we couldn’t afford to lose that one. The journey was pathetically terrible. There may be something wrong with the bus shock absorbers, it gave the whole journey was quite similar like riding in a bullock cart.

We had reached Uttarkashi around 3-4pm and decided to stay overnight. From Uttarkashi to Gangotri it would take around 3 and half hour, so after settling in the hotel we went for the permission for Gaumukh trek. You can either take permission from Uttarkashi or Gangotri, but I advise to take it from Uttarkashi because there are less people in queue. For Indians 2 days cost is Rs. 150, for foreign nationals it’s Rs. 650. It’s better to take permission till Tapovan because there might be forest officials who can ask you for the permission for Tapovan at Gaumukh.

Suggestions: If you are in Uttarkashi, observe the Ganga aarti in the evening. It’s a small affair but very genuine.

Journey Passes Through Rocky Mountains

We had started very early in the morning from Gangotri. There are only two resting places en route; first one is Chirbasa where you can rest and sip a cup of tea. However, the price is quite high, so it’s better to pack your breakfast and just order a tea. I saw two Canadian guys did the same. The second one is Bhojbhasa where most of the trekkers take rest overnight.

Accommodation in Bhojbhasa

In Bhojbhasa there are three accommodations: the most popular one is Lalbaba’s ashram, which has 70 beds dormitory accommodation cost Rs. 300 per person. The cost includes lunch (simple rice and daal), dinner (rice,  chappati, one vegetable), and breakfast (porridge). In the morning and evening you will get ginger tea and you can drink endless cups.

Another accommodation is the GMVN rest house but if you really want to cough off good money you can only opt for this. The rooms are clean, separate bathroom etc. but a mineral water bottle cost Rs. 70!

There is another small ashram of Nirmal Baba who also provides accommodation plus evening bhajans and meditation. He demands no money for that, but some or the other reason people prefer Lalbaba’s Ashram.
Bhojbhasa is a nice stopover point from where you can see the whole range of Bhagirathi 1 and Bhagirathi 2, and some part of Shivling peak. After 16km of walking in the mountains we reached Bhojbhasa around 3 pm. Yann walked fast and reached early but I with a Swedish guy Johnas stopped at many places and relished the beauty of Himalayas.

Suggestions: At night Bhojbhasa is quite cold, so even though you travel in summers it is advisable to carry some good jacket and thermal. If you have problem of sharing blankets, you must carry your sleeping bag.

Trek to Gaumukh and Tapovan

I really walked fast next morning and within one hour covered 2 hours distance and reached Gaumukh. There is nothing special about Gaumukh, Gau (cow) + Mukh (mouth), but the opening is not like cow’s mouth. We didn’t stop there for long and further started to walk towards our destination Tapovan.

The road towards Tapovan was pretty much steep and rocky. So, we had to cross one boulder to another, sometimes jump from one rock to another. At one time I was totally exhausted and took some rest. (picture above).

We reached Tapovan within three and half hour, which was according to our guide, was a good walk. I will separately keep some writings for Tapovan and publish later on. Our trek ended here.

My trekking partners
Suggestions: If you are for the first time in Tapovan, you need to take a guide. The rocky path is convoluted and you could be easily lost in the path. We were four people: me and Yann and one Chekhovian couple. The guide takes around Rs. 1200 for taking 4-5 people.

Trekking Tips

Mighty Trishul peak

•    Wear cotton clothes but carry woolen.
•    If you want to stay in Tapovan for a day or more, you must carry your tent. Depending on the season, you can also stay in Mauni Baba’s ashram there.
•    Carry light while traveling.
•    You don’t have to carry water with you, along the way you can drink as much water from the streams.
•    Take a guide for the first timer.
•    Avoid rainy season because it’s a rocky path and rain makes it slippery.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Working Abroad Vistas While You Travel Abroad

If you really want to get away and see the world but know that you don’t have the finances, one option could be to earn as you go. Working while you’re at a destination, from bar work to teaching English, also brings you other benefits asides from a wage. It’s a fantastic way of making friends while you’re overseas plus you often gain a completely different cultural perspective – rather than just being another tourist you become part of a community.

What sort of job?

There are lots of job opportunities overseas, but not all of them are particularly well paid or skilled. The first thing that you need to decide is whether you want a job to provide a bit of extra spending money in your pocket, or whether this is going to fund your whole trip. You’ll also need to think about whether you want your work to be career and CV-enhancing, and how long an in what conditions you’re prepared to work, as this will seriously affect your job chances.

Types of odd jobs while traveling


childcare while traveling odd jobs

There are lots of nanny or au pair opportunities overseas, so if you love your kids but don’t want to teach, this could be a great option for you. You could take on a private placement for a specific family. The bonus of this that you’re likely to be able to live-in and so get free board and a room, but this of course also means that you’re more likely to be on the job most of the time.

Another option is to join a large tour operator, which always needs a crèche rep on board. However, you search for the job, you’ll need to be organized and arrange your placement in advance, as it’s unlikely that simply showing up a country and trying to find childcare work will bring much success.

Fruit picking

fruit picking job gap year

This is the ideal sort of job if you just want to earn some extra cash while you’re away rather than feeling tied to one place through contract work. Although the pay is low, it’s a popular option as its outdoors, often in the sunshine and great if you’re with a friend or want to meet fellow travelers. Australia has lots of fruit-picking jobs, with most on offer in the summer months. You will be filling buckets full of fruit and are paid at the end of the day per bucket; it’s unusual to be paid by the hour. The downside of the job is that it’s physically demanding and the farms are often in remote areas. It’s important to check that there is a hostel in the area where pickers can stay, or whether the farm provides accommodation, although this isn’t the norm.


A kibbutz, found in Israel, is a form of communal living traditionally based on agriculture but can also include things like factories too. All property is community owned, any income is shared within the kibbutz and everyone dines together. You could find yourself doing anything from cleaning the loos and milking cows, to working on an orange grove and preparing fish. There are currently 256 kibbutzim in Israel made up of around 106,000 people, so there’s lot of potential to find work and meet people from all over the world. Apart from a flight to Israel, the only other thing you’ll need to shell out for is a small administration and insurance fee to the Kibbutz Volunteers Office in Tel Aviv, where you need to register before going to your kibbutz.

Summer camps

summer camp travel

The U.S and Canada are the top places for summer camp work and are extremely popular with young Brits. The lack of a language barrier is an immediate plus, working with kids is a fun option and accommodation and food is provided.

Summer Camp USA is one of the most well-known schemes, and offers 19-35 year olds the chance to spend eight or nine weeks between May and August teaching kids activities. You don’t need specific qualifications, but you’re likely to be given a placement to suit your skills and supervise children from 6 to 16.

Teaching English

english teaching while traveling

One of the popular job choices while traveling abroad is teaching English. Not only is it a relatively well-paid form of work, it’s also a fantastic way to get involved in a community and provides a good social network from the moment you land.

In order to get a proper placement, you to invest in a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) course and get a certificate.

The plus side of English is that you get a fixed contract,, anything from three months to two years; often have accommodation supplied by your employer; earn a steady income which can fund your trip and onward sightseeing adventures’ total immersion in another culture; and you get to meet like-minded teachers on your course and probably in your place of employment. It also looks good on your resume.


Some travelers work illegally, picking up the odd job here and there to pay their way, but if you’re looking at earning more than the odd bar shift, you need to get your paperwork in order. Before you take the plunge a key thing to find out is: what is the economy like of the country you want to work in? The laws of the country are often designated to protect the country’s economy and workforce.

Try to get a written offer of work. If you’ve secured an offer of work from an employer who feels you are essential to them, they are likely to be more persuasive of the authorities than a speculative applicant. Work out how long you are going to want to stay in a country – shorter visas and work permits are easier to obtain than longer ones.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Crocodile stalking in Goa and beach delights in South India


Goa reminds me with seducing beaches, medieval churches (World Heritage Sites), forts, thrilling water sports, raving beach parties and a laid back attitude, but most of travelers miss the wilderness of this part of world. Well, if you don’t know that Cumbharjua Canal is one of the most thick mangrove canals in India where you can spot large, ferocious looking crocodiles then you are still very much ignorant about Goa.

In Goa, crocodiles normally make their homes in the Cumbharjua Canal, which connects the Mandovi and the Zuari, two of the state’s biggest rivers.

Right to Ride

At early morning I came under the Zuari Bridge to step into the boat bobbing in the waters. I was not alone, three more travelers, a couple from Germany and our guide John Rodrigues were accompanied me. We were mainly gathered to spot ferocious reptiles, but beauty of scenic Chorao and Dirar Islands floored us with their splendid charm.

Cumbharjua-Banastarim canal
Cumbharjua-Banastarim canal
After 45 minutes, we had reached our destination, the canal locked by mangroves where we spotted our first hunt, a 1.5 m long crocodile lazing on one of the rocks protruding from the water. It seemed dead, quite oblivion of the passing boat.

Our guide told us the crocodiles found in Goa were actually freshwater crocodiles adapted themselves to survive in the saline water. John was an experienced guide, conducting excursions for more a decade. According to him, he never witnessed any violent behavior from this reptile.

Crocodiles here are scavengers, who prey on sick fish, dead crabs, dogs and cats. The big ones prey on buffaloes and deer. According to Goa’s wildlife officials, there are around 60-70 crocodiles int eh Cumbharjua Canal. While there are no reports of crocodile killed humans, still they warn tourists not go close to this reptile. In the village Durhatwadi, a festival Maange Thapnee is celebrated in the January to pay homage to the reptiles, considered to be the guardian spirit of the community.

5 things you don’t want to miss in South India beaches

1.    Yoga at Varkala Beach, Kovalam

Yoga at Varkala beach, Kovalam Kerala
Yoga at Varkala beach, Kovalam Kerala
If you want solitude, this beach in Kerala is least crowded and perfect for solitary living, at least for a few days. You can also enroll in Yoga classes or just stay here for a week to relish solitary life for a while.  If you are interested, you can take a short course on Kalaripayatttu, a martila art training near the beaches. The training is done in an arena, which is dug into the earth and lit by oil lamps.

2.    Fishing with locals of Mangalore

Fishing experience with locals
Fishing experience with locals
Being a fisherman for a short time is fun. In the beaches of Mangalore you can try your hand in fishing with friendly locals. You can explore a bit of fishing experience in the ocean also.

3.    Watch River meets the sea at Pondicherry

Paradise Beach, Chunnambar
Paradise Beach, Chunnambar
Chunabar beach is less known to tourists, this place is not just good for peace but also to witness the river meets the sea. You can take 20 minute beautiful ride to reach a boat terminal where small boats take tourists and locals on a secluded beach where you can see the intermingle of river and see.

Read More about Goa

Offbeat beaches of Goa
Goa Carnival

4.    Beach wedding in Kerala

Goa has always been the favorite destination for a beach wedding but many couples are now heading to Kerala to celebrate their unions. The simplicity of the pristine beaches ensures that the only witness required is the ocean and the only blessings needed are from the starts shinning above. Perfect place to start the honeymoon immediately after the ceremony.

5.    Wednesday market at Anjuna

Wednesday market at Anjuna beach, Goa
Wednesday market at Anjuna beach, Goa
The famous Anjuna market, known more popularly as the flea market, is held every Wednesday in a grove of coconut palms between the rocky beach of Anjuna and the fallow rice paddies in Goa. Strategically situated on the sandy stretch overlooking the Arabian Sea, the vast and bustling market, practically takes up the entire stretch of the beach.

The market is said to have originated on Valentine’s Day 25 years ago by an American hippie, Eddie Mazmaniam, for raising small scale funds. Thereafter, many foreigners decided to sell their electronic items or barter their stuff for the next leg of their trip.

Currently both Indians and foreigners sell their merchandise here. Everything from Indian crafts, silver Jewelry, wooden chess sets, wide brimmed straw hats and bags, trinkets of shells and beads to the hottest London Clubwear, is sold in this resourceful market. Tattoo artists and piercers studios are the most sought after places.

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