Listening to the Sound of Silence: Moral Re-Armament Programme at Panchgani

The following passage presents my recollections from one of the best moments I have ever had in my life. I was at this 4 day session called ‘Moral Rearmament programme’ conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ at Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra. Read this if you believe in the power of listening to your inner self.

 

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We all lead a hectic life.

From daily classes to never-ending deadlines, it is extremely easy to get lost in this fast paced world. Every day, we struggle with challenges that lie both outside and inside ourselves. But with time, we lose our inherent capability to fight these challenges while trying to keep up with the world around us.

The moral re-armament programme conducted by ‘Initiatives of Change’ (IofC) was a welcome change from the rat-race that we are all a part of. It is conducted at a beautiful location called Asia Plateau –Panchgani. To describe the experience in one sentence- it provided us with an opportunity to connect with our inner self and experience the power of silence.

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Asia Plateau, Panchgani

Our first day started with waking up early and catching the 6 am bus from our college campus that would take us to Panchgani. After an exciting morning ride, we all reached the Asia Plateau campus within three hours from departure. The first glimpse of cloud covered campus made us rejoice with happiness. We have seen plenty of cloud cover days here at Lavale, but this was different, it was as if the weather had a personality of its own!  We were all waiting for the sessions to start.

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More shots from the Asia Plateau Campus

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Exploring the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya: Part 1- Cherrapunjee

Ah Meghalaya!

The land whose exotic rain-forests hide one of the most beautiful secret of India- the ancient Living Root Bridges.

These Living Root Bridges, as the name suggests, are bridge like structures made from the roots of Fiscus Elastica. Interacting with locals, we found out that each living root bridge take at least about 10-15 years to become sturdy enough to hold human weight, and most of the living root bridges in the Khasi-Jaintia  hills of Meghalaya are over 100 years old.

In this article, we’ll showcase a series of such bridges encountered by the author during his trek to a village called Nongriat near Cherrapunjee.

The trek starts about 3-4 kilometres from Nongriat, a village famous for its rare Double-Decker living root bridge.

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Enroute the Nongriat Trek- Such views are abundant. 

Infact, you can witness you first ever living root bridge about 30 minutes into the trek (2-3 kms before Nongriat). This one will be marked as ‘Single Decker living root bridge’ on the sign boards. (I am unable to recollect the name of the village where this bridge is present. Comment on this blog in case you happen to know the name. TIA!)
Ticket Cost for Single Decker Root Bridge: 10 INR.

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Need to climb this bamboo structure to access the root bridge Continue reading

SlowRover Snapshots #22

Bamboo Skywalk (Meghalaya)

Title: The Bamboo Skywalk
Location: Nohwet Village, Meghalaya, North East India

You’ll rarely find its mention in any Meghalaya itinerary found online or in travel guides. Neither will the locals persuade you to give this hidden gem a visit.

But find it, you must!

This Bamboo Skywalk is located  in beautiful Meghalayan village called Nohwet, at a distance of about 80 kilometres from Meghalaya’s capital city-Shillong. Sadly, this village is often skipped by tourists who prefer the proximate (and more famous) village of Mawlynnong (Too mainstream, I tell you!).

Each year, two brothers build a bamboo skywalk/view point, more than five stories above the ground, with their bare hands.  For a nominal fee of 20 INR you can, from atop this skywalk, witness the true consequences of the world’s most profound monsoon (this is the wettest region in the world!)- a 180 degree view of numerous waterfalls, more than you can bother to count,  and the mirror-like the flooded plains of Bangladesh.

Want to see more of Meghalaya? Click here and here to access more images from this beautiful state.

SR Travel Tip: If you ever get a change to visit the godly Indian state of Meghalaya, keep a day exclusively for Nongriat Village– home to the double decker living root bridge of Meghalaya! Click on the hyperlinks to access more amazing content from us.


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Experiencing India: Sounds and Sights from an Indian Train Journey

It’s surprising how train journeys closely mimic the cycle of life. We meet people, make friends, only to let them go and find new ones- thereby knitting an endless chain of emotions- only to be felt but never to be broken. But again, what is life, but a collection of such journeys.

The following passage is an ‘as-it-happened’ description of a journey with the Indian Railways (the 12.30 Passenger train from Madurai to Rameshwaram, both of which lie in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Try not to find for a story in here, rather, seek to experience the billion personalities that make India Incredible. Here it goes.

Chug, Chug, Chug! The 12:30 passenger train from Madurai has just started to sing its rhythmic song, a melody it will sing for the next few hours till it reaches a mystical island called Rameshwaram. It is an overcast day of November 2015, the rain clouds looming over the horizon as I attempt to traverse, and hopefully document, the lush green landscape of Tamil Nadu, India.

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Tamil Nadu country side with the looming rain clouds

I yearn for the rain, as I am aware of the power of the raindrops to elate even the most dolorous environs.

As I try to get comfortable in my cozy window side seat, I am greeted by a distinct sound. ‘Wooooooo…’– a loud cheer, emanating from the far corner of my train bogie, surprises all the five occupants of the compartment I am in. The train had just passed over a small river causing a group of seven children, sitting at a corner of the bogie along with their parents, to let out a loud “Woooooo..” sound in a seemingly pre-planned unison. From that moment onward, the children failed to hide their excitement towards any river, tunnel, or even an old bridge that our passenger train crossed.
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SlowRover Snapshots #21

Tibetan Monks of Nepal

Title: The  Monks
Location: Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

You need to traverse a total of 365 stairs to reach the Monkey Temple of Kathmandu- ‘The Swayambhunath’. The climb is  steep, often disclosing an impossible to climb gradient of ascent. But once you reach the top, it is a sight to behold. The entire city of Kathmandu is in front of you, showcasing its sea-like expanse against the background of the mighty Himalayas.

Despite being a Hindu temple, the temple complex is usually maintained and frequented by Buddhist monks who perform their traditional rituals daily. The ceremonies are not only elaborately orchestrated, but also colorful.

-Vibhav


SR Travel Tip: Another must visit place in Nepal is the town of Pokhara. Located beside the beautiful Phewa lake, Pokhara boasts of magnificent landscapes and exotic eateries.


Want to see/know more about Nepal? Click here
PS- Click on the hyperlinks to discover exciting secret content! Let us know which one you liked best! Happy browsing! 
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SlowRover Snapshots #20

Ross IslandTitle: Old and New
Location: Ross Island, Andaman, India

Beauty, it is said, lies in the eyes of the beholder. All things are beautiful, however, it is us who should be able to see the magic within.

Ross Island is a perfect example of this apparent subjectivity. An island, which was once the seat of the mighty British Empire, now lies in ruin. But they say the ruins have an ability to speak to your soul; to fondle the emptiness within.

And Ross Island does just that. The island, deserted decades ago, is now full of dilapidated structures reminiscent of the glorious past.

However, if you look close enough, you’ll manage to find beauty in this negative place.

-Vibhav Bisht

Want to see/know more about Ross Island? Click here!


SR Travel Tip: Andaman is a treasure trove of travel escapades. We highly recommend an sunset dip in the most beautiful beaches of all – The Radha Nagar Beach of Havelock Island.


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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #19

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Title: Colours of the Dal Lake
Location: Srinagar, Kashmir, India

Cozily perched in the lap of one of the most beautiful valleys of nature, the Dal Lake possesses the wizardry to enchant even the most reluctant tourists.

The ‘Shikaras‘, or the small boats, that ply across this calm body of water are considered the highlight of this region. A sight of a distant, yet visibly colourful, shikara with its reflection etching the mirror-like surface of the Dal lake, and the hues of setting sun being reflected in the background. It seems that the term ‘Heavenly‘ was coined exclusively for such experiences.

 

-Vibhav

SR Travel Tip: If you get a chance to visit the Kashmir region of India, make sure you try the renowned ‘Wazwan‘ multi-course meal of Kashmir. Being a foodie myself, I can vouch for ‘Wazwan’ being one of the best food experience in India.

 

Want to know more about Kashmir, India?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.

Also, if you liked this post, you’d love this page as well. Click to check it out!


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2015 Travel Logbook – ft. Fantastic Indian Foods And Where To Find Them

Given our love for food, this post was long coming. It is a proof of how nice things happen to you when you travel.  2015 was a year of joyful travels for the Slowrover team. Individually, we travelled to distant parts of this beautiful country, getting unbelievably lucky when it came to food, This post celebrates our love for Indian Food, and we share with you, the best treats we had in 2015 (and where to find them). Here it goes

Disclaimer : You will feel very hungry. And you will need to travel.

Omelette Indulgence at Lovely Omelette Centre, Mussorie
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Cheese Omelette at Lovely’s

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Foodgasm in the making

Lovely Omelette Centre is considered to be one of the best omelette experiences in India. Extensively covered by all the leading travel/food journals of India (Lonely Planet, Outlook Traveller, Trip Advisor, Highway on my Plate), this Omelette paradise is adored by all. It offers a limited variety of omelettes (Oil/Butter/Cheese being the prominent ones).

Location: At the Picture Palace end of the Mussorie Mall (Uttarakhand), near the Church.

 

The Joy of Looking At Fresh Banana Chips Being Prepared 

Travelling through Kerala meant being exposed to both banana chips and coconut water in plenty. And they don’t love their banana chips for nothing. Check out a fresh batch being prepared in Thekkady :

Location : Malabar Chips, Thekkady. There is lots on offer here – sweet, salty, tangy banana chips and several kinds of other specialities like tapioca chips.

 

‘Tikki-Chaat’ of Vrindavan
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Tikki Chaat, anyone?

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #18

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Title: Her First Smile
Location: A village near Munsiyari, India

Her name is Keenu. She, alongwith some other naughty kids of her village, had come to visit us, while we were camping a few hundred meters away from their remote Uttrakhandi Village near Munsiyari.

While the other kids were busy running around our tents, little Keenu had her eyes fixated on my cell phone. It suddenly dawned upon me that it was probably the first time that she had come across this miracle consumer product. Not only was she delighted by the bubble like icons on my phone screen, she giggled each time the phone made sounds.

Perhaps her major delight was reserved for the last. For when I finally started my phone camera on ‘selfie mode’, she gave an expression that was part happiness and part disbelief. After all, this was the first time she was watching her own face on a phone screen! I’m glad I pressed the click button right then.

Not all selfies are bad, ay?

 

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Munsiyari in Uttarakhand, India, do not forget to visit the ‘Master Ji’s’ Museum. An overnight trek to the Khaliya Top is also highly recommended.

 

Vibhav

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Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


 

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My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 1) – An Early Appointment With The Sun and Suicide Points

“And that is the suicide point”, our driver said and allowed the jeep to splutter to a halt so that we could scramble out. A tall rock, smooth and majestic, which reminded me of the hacked torso of an unfortunate lone messenger who dared to carry a peace treaty to the enemy barracks, was the addressee of the name. There’s this thing about India, every hill station has a ‘suicide point’ and an ‘echo point’. We stood at one of those, somewhere in Munnar, a town in Kerala, on our way to Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, which are the world’s highest tea plantations producing flavorful Orthodox Tea.

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate

Board guiding visitors to various points of interest in the Kolukkumali Tea Estate

I found myself uttering the meaningless question to our driver – “Do many people come here to die?” I think I sounded stupid, but he exclaimed “No! No! No one has ever committed suicide here”. So it was baptized ‘suicide point’ for no apparent reason just like all its other namesakes in India.

While we clicked pictures, the minimal amount of knowledge that I have in Physics told me my voice would echo better here than it had at the Echo Point where we stood to watch a new day dawn some minutes ago. In spite of the severe insistence of our driver that our voice will reverberate and probably wake up all the village folk in the valley down below, even our loudest shouts feebly regurgitated for a second or so before dying out in the endless chatter of birds. The only thing which had echoed at the Echo Point was the image of the Sun, rising from behind the mountains, like a shy child rising from the crib. It must be painful for the Sun, waking up before the rest, assured of your return to the same bed. Was constancy a curse?

And the Sun had finally risen like a shy child rising from the crib, scattering its glorious warmth

And the Sun had finally risen, scattering its glorious warmth

But we had beaten the child today. We had risen before the Sun, set out in what seemed like the hour of death on a wobbly road, in the throes of the cold wind which wanted to embrace us like a jilted lover while the whole town snored in deep sleep down below, to witness one of the most beautiful early morning spectacles we have ever witnessed.

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

The Sun took its time, rising lazily from behind the clouds. And as it made an appearance, clouds were scattered like a mob before the cops

And after paying a visit to the punctual host we were brought here, to the suicide point. Maybe they called it suicide point just to preach caution to the travelers? A misplaced step around there would lead to a steep fall. I think I’d rather die somewhere like that. I mean if it has to be my last experience, I’d want it to be beautiful. And settings like these are definitely numbered

A view worth dying for! - Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

A view worth dying for! – Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

There’s more coming from me about Kolukkumalai and Kerala soon. Stay tuned! 🙂

Update – Read here for Part 2 – My Sojourn in Kolukkumalai (Part 2) – The Tea Factory, The Workers And Some Conversations

-Swetambara

Want to know more about Kollukumalai or Kerala?
Feel free to post questions/suggestions for the author in the comments below.


The author served as a staff writer at Scoopwhoop! and is a freelancer
Send her virtual chocolates on her Twitter and Facebook.

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SLOWROVER SNAPSHOTS #17

Coffee Seller

Title: The Kaapi Innovator
Location: Manamadurai Junction, Tamil Nadu, India

 

The compartment was abuzz with a distinct sound. Our train had  stopped at Manamadurai Junction, a small station that falls on the route from Madurai to Rameshwaram.

Throngs of coffee sellers bombarded our peaceful journey with an incessant sound of business.

“Kaapi, Kaapi, Kaapi” they cried in unison, trying to sell the world’s favourite drink in a local accent (Kaapi is a phonetically corrupt term for ‘coffee’). One of the sellers parked his minimalist coffee store by my window. He had managed to customize a rod of iron to be used as a makeshift coffee stand (See Picture).

Need is indeed, the mother of all inventions.

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit Tamil Nadu, we recommend you to visit Dhanushkodi, a ruined city that was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964. The eerie walls of the ruins, accompanied by the incessant sound of ocean waves lashing against the nearby shore – Can’t be missed .    

Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #16

Kolkata, Fisherman,

Old Man and his Fish

Title: Old Man and his Fish
Location: Gangasagar, West Bengal

Each day millions of Indians use boats to traverse mighty water bodies of the Great Indian Plains. On one such boat ride, I noticed this peculiar man. He had his hands inside two containers while vigourously shaking the what was inside. After witnessing this strange, incessant act for more than 15 minutes, I went ahead and inquired about the reasons for his actions.

He replied “I am transporting freshly caught fish in these vessels. If I don’t  keep stirring the water inside, the fish will suffocate and die withing minutes. I must do whatever it takes to keep them alive and fresh!”

“And what will you do with the fish when you get down from this boat?” I inquired further.

“Kill them.” came the reply.

I gave him a gentle smiled and walked to the other side of the boat.

Little ironies that fill our lives.

 

SR Travel Tip: If you ever visit West Bengal, We strongly advise you to visit the Sunderbans. It is the world’s largest delta and a home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #15

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Behroopiya at Vrindavan

Title: Behroopiya
Location: Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

He claims to be Kishan from a small UP village- I doubt if either of that is true. For he is a Behroopiya; ‘an Impersonator’. A man with no identity, yet identifying himself with everyone around him. He chooses to live a part of their lives- people he meets on the streets, people he watches in the movies, everyday. Some days, he’s a vagabond sadhu, seeking alms from the passerbys while giving them fake blessings. Today, he chose to be an army man wearing a Behroopiya name tag. Wonder how many lives he’ll save today on the streets of Vrindavan.

SR Travel Tip: The birth place of Hindu God Krishna, Vrindavan is not only one of the holiest cities in India but also a veritable pastiche of different cultures which is best reflcted in food. SlowRover recommends a stay and a meal at MVT Restaurant and Guest House while you’re here. 

-Vibhav

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SlowRover Snapshots #14

The narrow passage through the green cover looks like an entrance to Anaconda's lair

The narrow passage through the green cover, with knobbly branches stretching out their arms, definitely looks like an entrance to Anaconda’s lair

Title: Anaconda’s lair in Kerala
Location: Poovar, Kerala

I hope you won’t judge me for admitting that I haven’t seen any of the movies of the Anaconda franchise. Sure I have seen a scene or two while surfing channels but my attention has always been stolen by Colin Firth playing Darcy or Ellen’s wisecracks. So, I was surprised when during a backwaters tour in Kerala, my guide told me that the third part in the series was partially shot there. But I wasn’t amazed. In fact the dense, ghoulish green cover made it an apt setting. The presence of solitary, abandoned vessels further strengthened my beliefs.

An abandoned boat - a sign of imminent danger?

An abandoned boat – a sign of imminent danger?

I do know now that Anaconda was shot in Romania (thanks to Google and lots of scandalised friends). But I think the location would be just too apt. Take the hint Hollywood!

SR Travel Tip: Try to visit Kerala between the months of May-August. The humid climate keeps most tourists away (not all, of course). I stayed at the Over the Hill Resort and would definitely recommend it for its services and tasteful architecture.

-Swetambara

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SlowRover Snapshots #13

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Title: Bridge Over Troubled Water
Location: Prague, Czech Republic

I was celebrating Halloween in Prague. As I walked on the Charles Bridge, I stopped at one of the most popular of the 30-odd baroque sculptures adorning the bridge – John of Nepomuk. He was the vicar who was unceremoniously tossed into the Vltva river sometime in the 14th century. Instructions for the King, describes how a jealous King Venceslaus had tried to find out the name of his Queen’s alleged lover from the vicar who refused to betray the seal of confession and invited the King’s wrath.

He became a martyr and was the Queen’s bridge over troubled water.

SR Travel Tip: Take a long walk on the Charles Bridge and it will be difficult to not be overpowered by the delicious scent of fresh trdelník in the air. Krusta is one good place to try the traditional Czech pastry.

-Swetambara

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