Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Jostled, hurried, exuberant joyride – 24 hours in Mumbai

There are some cities, which infuse certain energy, oscillating between high and low, but always imbibe a peculiar sense of exuberance that hardly one can overlook. It was August 15, Independence Day of India, I and my friend luckily got a local train in Mumbai that was relatively roomy. That was the first day in Mumbai, I already sensed a striking similarity between Kolkata (my hometown) and Mumbai.

Well, I am here to write about a day in Mumbai, extracting the best of the city, though I know 24 hours isn't enough to explore this intoxicating city. I am citing here my favorite places, restaurants, memorable nightlife that you can also enjoy. If you are not in a budget, you can hire a car and zoom between exhilarating experiences.

Breathe in on Hill Road

g graffiti at Chapel Street mumbai ranwar
Graffiti at Ranwar
Sharukh Khan's fans never forget to visit Bandstand at the very first day, but personally I feel it is better to soak in fresh aroma of baked bread at A One Bakery on Hill Road rather than ogling blankly at Khan's bungalow. Stroll around the narrow lanes of Ranwar behind the bakery and see some amazing graffiti at Chapel Street.

Early morning is the best time to experience this city sleeping madness. There are more than 200 years old buildings hanging well all around as you slowly passing through Hill Road. For a relaxing tea, you can try 'Yoga House'. Also, you can just reach Salt Water Cafe near Lilavati Hospital Junction where you can break your fast with bacon, omelet, pancakes and more.

Delve into Asia's biggest slum

Leather market in Dharavi
Well, Dharavi is not a place that you can include in your travel itinerary but trust me, if you miss this huge slum, you will miss a chunk of Mumbai's true pulse. Dharavi is famous for its workshops and tanneries, so you can explore some of the best workshops in the world. Drop at the Sion Bandra Link road, and explore variety of leather items including bags, jackets, belts and others.

If you feel your appetite tells you give some attention, you can try quintessential vada pao at Dadar.

Related articles on Mumbai

Asia's biggest brothel in Mumbai

Move from Washermen's Colony (Dhobi ghaat) to Haji Ali

mumbai washermen colony
Mumbai Dhoobi Ghaat
Mahalakshmi Rail station is nearby, so just drop at Washermen's Colony. This is probably the biggest washermen's colony in India, which is shrouded with white sheets, harsh smell of detergent and incessantly swattering on the washing stones. Those clothes are then dried, packed and chartered off to different hotels, hostels, other places.

South Mumbai
Next is the famous Haji Ali, a white marbled shrine located on an islet off the coast of Worli. Personally I felt there was nothing to see except lots of people queuing at the shrine. However, you can sit and watch the high tide.

Next go to Chor Bazaar (Thief's market) and Mutton Bazzar. You might find some extraordinary item in a throw away price, but remember to bargain unapologetically. Stolen goods are thought to circulate early on Friday mornings from 4.30am, but the usual market opens from 10.30am and 7.30pm every day.

Lunch at Britannia, coffee at Kala Ghoda

If anything fascinated me most in Mumbai, it was Cafe Britannia (Sprott Road), a century old Parsi restaurant adorned in a natural rustic décor. Food is exceptionally good, though there is less option for vegetarian. Don't forget to gulp a refreshing fizzy pallonjis raspberry drink.

Mumbai Municipal Corporation building
Mumbai Municipal Corporation building
If you walk a little, you will reach Fort area, which is an area full of colonial-style buildings, now converted into office complex. There is a big book shop Kitab Khana where you can browse through books. Walk further along the Flora Fountain to reach Kala Ghoda (Black Horse) to savor home-brewed organic coffee.

Beer and chicken cheese burger in Café Mondegar

Cafe Mondegar
So, you have spent enough in hopping Mumbai, now you want to rest a bit and have some beer. Colaba in my opinion is the best place to chill. I feel Leopold Café is bit overrated because of Shantaram novel and bullet marks from a 2008 terrorist attack. If you really want some cool music with good beer, Café Mondegar (Mondy’s) is the best bet. If you are 3-4 people, just take a beer tower and chilli cheese toast or chicken cheese burger. The walls are adorned by cartoons by famous cartoonist Mario Miranda. It is very near to Gateway of India, so you can just sit beside sea and soak in beer plus Mumbai intoxication.

Marine Drive and Bade Miya

Plenty of people every day sit on the Marine Drive and shrug their Mumbai fatigue. The entire stretch looks like necklace. The breezy boardwalk is for everyone. You see people do jogging or fast walking, gossiping friends, tea vendors and masseurs.

You can end the day with Marine Drive, but if you still have energy and appetite, go to Bade Miya in Colaba and savor the taste of some extraordinary kebabs and mutton.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Varanasi Kinaram Ashram culls from conceptual Aghoris lifestyle

baba kinaram ashram varanasi aghori
If your basic understanding about Aghor sect is spooky; some black robbed insidious sadhus who eat flesh and meditate upon a dead body, then you must visit once to Aghori Ashram in Varanasi, popularly known as Baba Kinaram Ashram. The first thing I notice while entering Baba Kinaram Ashram was two big skulls erected on the entrance. Like ordinary people, I had a predetermined mind set about Aghori, expecting them to stay aloof in the temple. I had seen one Aghori (flesh eating) on Harishchandra Ghat once, who had some ulterior tie-up with domes (people who are officially assigned to burn bodies on ghats), used to gather remains after a body burnt down. Baba Kinaram Ashram was different – the serenity perplexed me, like many other Hindu temples, the place was calm, surprisingly neat and clean. It was not much different from conventional Hindu temples, but with an odd starkness.

The founder of the Ashram was Baba Kinaram who initiated by his guru Adi Guru Dattatreya at Kamandal Kund at the top of Girnar mountain in Gujarat. Adi Guru Dattatrey Ji Maharaj ordered his disciple to move to the ordinary world to serve the sufferers of the society. While returning back, he visited Hingalaj, a Shaktipeeth, now situated in Pakistan. Legend says, he got a vision of Shakti Goddess who suggested him to go Harishchandra Ghat in Kashi. This way he first came to Kashi thereafter he stayed here till his Samadhi.

It is a concept, somehow true because of large number of Aghoris follow the same that they don't care about anything. They usually don't get hungry and never touch flour and salt. They may be some reasons behind this but most of the Aghoris are notorious for their skanky food habit such as human flesh, urine, stool and everything. 

Read more about Varanasi

In a true sense, Aghor is not any centralized sect, religion or any extremity. It is a stage, or a state of mind where everything is Shiva, means pure. Many people associate Aghoris with Kaapalik, Saankalya, and others. Of course, the path of Aghoris is quite extreme because of their shocking rituals and methods. They meditate at cremation ground, as people mistakenly think that cremation ground where they get dead bodies. The fact is, the cremation place where the body journeys to its very end, is diffused with a certain form of energy. The place where people come up with sorrow and dejection, a partial realization of life's greatest truth. The funeral ground is overwhelmed with an energy of dejection and peace. That's the true reason why Aghors meditate on the cremation ground.

The common Hindu philosophies quite contradictory with Aghoris in general. The truth lies in in between two extreme paths of Aghor. The common conception is Aghoris drink liquor, smoke marijuana, eat flesh and use a human skull as a drinking bowl. They wander around funeral pyre and don't have any sex inhibition. There are many sadhus you may find leading the exact lifestyle. Nevertheless, the Aghori's true culture too often stigmatized with this dark conception.

tantrik workship in tarapith
Tantrik Workship in Tarapith (West Bengal)
Is there any truth about Aghori sect? Well, I have seen lots of sadhus, some seemed very normal, usual types, a few radiant positive energy and displayed great knowledge. I met aghoris too. I understand with my limited knowledge that Aghor path is not complicated. On the contrary, it is a simple and easy path but the irony is, simplicity is hard to attain. There is no fixed rule for this sect because truly speaking it is just a state of mind where resign yourself to Shiva. This is a tough stage altogether because it is extremely difficult to resign yourself truly to an abstract conception. A true Aughar doesn't behave like a stage artists with skulls and human bones all around him, wearing typical dress, living day and night in cremation ground, eating flesh all the time. One who has realized this stage automatically becomes simple and polite, full of affection and merciful because he sees Shiva in everything.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sun falls on azure Rishikund: a trek to remember

This is the first time I was travelling to Joshimath from Rishikesh. After the great flood of Uttarakhand in 2013, things have been definitely changed. The cluttering houses and shops were seemingly less on road, while roads were more treacherous than before; perhaps it was the horror of deluge that still lingered in with people. Nevertheless, the infatuation towards mountains, nay, Himalayas made it happen that I was again venturing to a rough path.

I met two travelers in Rishikesh who were interested in Bagini Falls trek, so we had decided to go together, as it would be okay for me because the trek seemed treacherous and I needed some people to obtain permit for the trek. 

The whole Bagini region falls under the Nandadevi Bioshphere Reserve, and therefore this tedious formality of permit. The bus reached Joshimath at the evening, so we took a shelter in a cheap hotel and spent our night there. Next day we took permit from the forest department and bought some food for enroute. I had my tent with me, and the couple who I accompanied also had their tent, so it would be no question of renting tent.

The journey from Joshimath to Jumma

Jumma village near malari joshimath trek to bagani
A typical village en route (Jumma)
We had first thought to reach Bagini without any guide, but after much contemplation and my previous trek experience to Tapovan, I suggested hiring a guide because it was too easy to get lost on boulder pathway.  Joshimath to Jumma was around 40km situated on the Joshimath Malari highway.

The proximity to Tibet was evident on the locality and culture of people. Although we reached Jumma around 3pm, still we had decided to spend our day in the village before our trek. We pitched our tent a little outside of the village for overnight stay. From my experience I got to know that before trek, it was important to fuel yourself with good food and quality sleep.

More trekking experiences in Uttarakhand

Day 1: Morning 6:00 AM

langtoli meadow
Langtoli meadow
We started early because we wanted to compensate our hours spent in Jumma. The first village was Ruing, just 2km nearly flat trek from Jumma. The Dhauli Ganga accompanied us so we didn’t have any problem of water. Earlier also during my Gaumukh and Tapovan trek, I used to drink water directly from the river, as I didn’t want to increase my luggage (already it was a little more than 9kg).

We spent some time roaming around the village to see some obscure cottage handicraft items. We already bought some extra medicines and glucose from Joshimath because it was a customary to donate something to village older people here. Even if you don’t want to, they will ask you!

After having our breakfast, we started our journey to Dronagiri, a sharp but moderate climb amidst alpine forest. The best way to trek on sharp descent is to climb slowly without stopping. The trickiest part of our trek began when we stumbled across a huge pile of sunken, piled us landslide.

Landslide zone was 2km ahead of Dronagiri village. We reached there just before the dusk. There were 40-50 houses, mostly abandoned. No toilet, no water, no food – a godforsaken village. Actually we came here during the onset of winter when (handful) villagers went down to Ruing to spend 3-4 months. I was happy with this stark scenario with Kanari Khal at the back and Nandikund Pass lied in front of the village. A full view of Hathi Parvat to the South drank our fatigue to a great extent.

There was no place to pitch tents in the village, so we climbed a little higher and camped there. We brought some raw food with us so cut some branches and with bricks we made our stove, and cooked our food with some easy attempt. The night was chilling, the cold wind penetrated inside the tent and through my sleeping bag.

Day 2: 6 AM
dronagiri village
Dronagiri Village
Our first target was Langatoli, a 3km moderate trek to 3800m. From Langaltoli to Advanced Bagini Base camp or Garur camp site, this would be a 7 km trek. The total time would be taken to reach Bagini around 5-6 hours. The biggest hindrance is huge plethora of moraine and glacier, fed by the massifs of Changbag, Kalanka, Hardeo and Monal group of mountains. The azure water of Rishikund bestowed a heavenly charm to the whole place. Undoubtedly, the addiction of Himalayas is not just the snow clad mountains but the whole ecology where these mighty peaks imbibe in a celestial charm.

Hathi Peak
The roughness of the real trek was started to feel for all of us. The gradual gain of height would make anyone short of oxygen. To reach lower Bagini base camp took us 4 hours (it was pretty much good speed). Many trekkers generally go back from this place because of altitude sickness and boulder rich steep height.

After 15 minutes silent rest, we again started with Trishuli, Hardeol and Purbi Dunagiri peaks just in front of us. A gradual descend led us to the left bank of Bagini stream. After crossing the bridge, the left side went to Kanari Khal, leading towards a small village named Garpak. The right trail was big bouldered path that twisted as it ascended.

The climb was steep and exhausting. The river was fast but safe. We carried some water from the moraine.  It was impossible to camp in the moraine, so we climbed a little further to Changbang base camp. We trekked a little more to reach a place where Gujjar made stone structures. The chill wind and slight raining forced us to camp for the rest of the day.

Day 3: 8 AM

We started without having our breakfast because we wanted to return to Langatoli that day. Changabang Zero Point and Rishi Kund were almost 2km from where we pitched our tents. The climb was steep but after 2 hours of climb, we ultimately reached a place, which couldn’t be defined by words. The imposing Himalayan peaks Changabang (6864m), Rishi Pahad (6992m), Kalanka (6931m), Bagini Peak (5000 something), Garuda Peak, Dronagiri ((7066m), Gauri Parvat (6708m) and Hathi Parvat (6727m) could be caught by hands.

Necessary Suggestions

Design your itinerary considering time, budget and weather conditions.
You will find guide at forest department where you get your permit.
Make a strict schedule of returning, so that you can ask your car to pick you from Jumma.
Carry your own stove, food, medicines, high altitude sleeping bag etc.
Be in a right frame of mind. Short steps, deep breaths and without stopping anywhere.
Don’t cross the river or swift streams barefoot.
Carry a windproof jacket and poncho. 
Don’t start wood fire anywhere. Do not pollute the water. Respect ecology.
Hydrate yourself frequently. Also carry dry fruits and chocolates for quick energy.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Spiritual Holiday In India

In a way, all travel changes your life a little, simply by exposing you to new ideas, places and cultures. However, traveling to India and its spiritual holiday set out to change a major part of you, a transformation and deep understanding of multifarious cultural connotation that includes spiritual and religious retreat. If you’ve got a desire to change more than just your socks while you’re traveling to Indian subcontinent, here a few ideas to help you on your way.

Spiritual Travel in India

If the words spiritual retreats summon up images of crystals and hippies, think again. More and more everyday Westerners are coming to India for spiritual aspiration (meditation, yoga etc.) because of its ancient and eternal spiritual treasures amidst poverty, cultural diversity and conservatism. It’s not often that you get to spend time with just yourself away from mobile phones, computers and a mountain of paper work, and you might just find that a visit to a retreat is the start of a great personal and life-changing journey. At the very least, you’re going to come out feeling a lot more calm and relaxed than when you went in!

Ashrams in India

Ashrams, the majority of which are in India, have long been popular places for Westerners of all ages to head when they’re in need of spiritual enlightenment, to heal, trying to find out the meaning of life or simply curious to live in a completely different culture.

There are hundreds of different types of Ashrams in India, but overall their aim is to teach residents the art of living, by being spiritually aware and contributing to the social good. Some Ashrams have a live-in guru, while others continue to teach the work of a guru that’s passed away.

Most Ashrams are reliant on volunteer work and donations, and charge very little money for food and accommodation, which is usually in a same-sex shared room. Don’t go expecting to be living in a hotel; it’s not. Accommodation is pretty basic in most places, with shared bathrooms and dining. However, this shouldn’t be viewed simply as a cheap way to travel around India’ most people that go are intent on finding out more about Indian philosophy and the art of living, and you’ll quickly tire of classes and volunteer work if your heart’s not in it. You’ll be expected to cover up in loose clothing, although each Ashram has its own dress code.

Travel Tip – Perhaps the most famous Ashram among Westerners is Amritapuri in Kerala, where live-in guru Amma is known for hugging during a darshan (meeting her devotees), sometimes up to a thousand in a day!

Buddhist Retreat in India

Buddhism, a set of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as Buddha, is popular throughout Asia and the world, with an estimated 250 million plus devotees. There are Buddhist retreats around India, and the best part is you don’t have to be a Buddhist to spend time at them. The reason a trip to a retreat can be life changing is that as well as learning about the philosophy, you’re encouraged to find be, but it’s a really fantastic, and healing, travel experience particularly if you’re stressed, burnt out or just need a new way of looking at the world.

This isn't a spa-like experience. Much like an Ashram, you’ll often be expected to pull your weight while you’re there, taking part in everyday chores and sharing a room. If you’re staying in a Buddhist monastery, it’s also likely that you’ll have to take part in the rituals, which can be before dawn; this is hardcore stuff, and not for those that just fancy a bit of a relaxing breaks.

Health and well-being

As well as good mental health, it’s also important to be in good physical health, and people are increasingly using travel to merge the two, sorting out everything from being overweight to relaxation and lowering blood pressure. It’s one of the fastest growing areas in travel today, and for good reason; who doesn't want to come back from holiday glowing with health and with a new regime for living?


Okay, checking into a spa doesn't sound life changing. However, I am not talking about having a facial and manicure a couple of times, I am talking serious, life-enhancing getaways that aim to change the way you look after yourself as well as the way you look.

Ayurveda spas, which are extremely common in India and Asia, can be found around the world. Ayurveda, is a 5000 year old practice, means science of life, and is holistic practice, which means that the whole body is considered when treating a specific ailment or problem. For example, if you are having trouble sleeping, an Ayurvedic ,doctor won’t give you a sleeping pill, they will look at what you eat, your daily routine and exercise.

Some spas, or well-being retreats, offer life coaching, which is ideal if  you are at a stage in life where you are feeling confused under too much pressure, are in a transition period or just want to gain a deeper understanding of what you want from life. Life coaching trips tent to consist of daily activities, plus individual sessions with a life coach to discuss most aspects of your life, including health, diet, setting goals and managing pressure. The idea is that when you leave, you will be able to cope better with what life has to throw at you.


You don’t have to be bendy as a piece of rubber to take part in a yoga holiday, in fact you don’t even need to have been practicing for years to join in. what you do need is commitment and ideally use it to carry on with what you have learnt back home. Yoga, which in the West we know as a series of often physically demanding positions, is actually a way of life, including body, mind and inner spirit, which has been practiced in the East for thousands of years.

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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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