Author: drdolittlemore

How far is North East? A journey through the offbeat India! (Part 2)

How far is North East? A journey through the offbeat India! (Part 2)

DAY 4: Well running tight on schedule, we had to leave Tawang that day itself (though we badly wanted to spend more time there). On our way back we had a historical place to visit. A shrine built in respect of our braveheart, Rifleman Jaswant Singh Rawat of Indian Army who displayed exemplary courage and sacrificed his life for the nation in the 1962 Indochinese war. According to the Indian Army reports, he volunteered to silence the Medium Machine Gun that was placed by the Chinese troops at a crucial high point creating huge casualties on Indian side. However after his successful venture he was killed in cross firing.

IMG_20170107_105730965.jpgJASWANTGARH WAR MEMORIAL

This place is now a reminder of his sacrifice to all the civilians and a lesson of bravery for all those men in uniform who travel via this place towards the volatile Indo Chinese border.

We also visited the place that lit up the Tawang Valley –The  Jung Falls aka The Nuranang Falls created by the Nuranang river. This is a perfect offbeat venture for any traveler. The hydroelectric power station here meets the electricity needs of the valley. Visit this spot to get a glimpse of nature’s fury encased in white.

IMG_20170107_094654455_HDR_20170217230113922.jpgNURANANG FALLS
IMG_20170107_091806287.jpgNURANANG RIVER

The poor condition of the road with the recent heavy snowfall failed our plan to cross Sela Pass quickly. It almost took us 4-5 hours to cross a distance of mere 6 km. Though later our driver tried to compensate, all we could manage was to reach Bomdila by the nightfall. But we were lucky to get a good night stay at the guest house of Bomdila monastery. And to our surprise an extremely well cooked yet the simplest food greeted us!

food.jpgHEALTHY, BOTH FROM WITHIN AND OUTSIDE

DAY 5: Being in the monastery premises ensured that we were up early. We all went for a stroll through the habitats nearby. Here is the glimpse of some of the beautiful things that caught our eyes…

IMG_20170108_074339684_HDR.jpgLOVE FOR NATURE: No matter how small the residence be, locals here never fail to decorate their surroundings with beautiful garden plants in the most economical ways!
IMG_20170108_081222389BUKHARA: An indigenous stove that keeps you warm while your food stays warm as well.
IMG_20170108_091509749_HDR.jpgJAAPI: The Assamese hat knitted with Bamboo
IMG_20170108_091845053.jpgBAMBOO CUPS being one of the most primitive form of vessels used
IMG_20170108_091948112_HDR.jpgTheir obsession with bamboo is seen everywhere… so much so that in the North East, Bamboo is known as the ‘ASSAMESE GOLD’!

After our very lively morning we started for Kaziranga, Assam. On our way all we could see were the densely planted mountain ranges of Arunachal.

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Destination 2: ASSAM- The Indian State of International Tea!

As we entered Assam, a clear distinction between the landscapes could be seen. Mountains turned to plains, forest to grasslands and small streams to the giant Brahmaputra.

IMG_20170108_152455283.jpgRICH PLAINS OF ASSAM

Our destination for the day was the Wild Grass Resort, located in the central part of Kaziranga National Park. A colonial era lodge with spacious and peaceful surroundings, this is the place to be especially if you aren’t looking for the polished modern amenities. Also being within the 5 km radius from the center of the park, it makes both the jeep and elephant safaris easily accessible.

DAY 6: We had to rush to the elephant safari at morning 6. You can either book it via agents or from the hotel reception, prices remains the same.

So it was a quite dark and foggy winter morning when the first lot of elephants went inside the park. The earlier you be, the more are your odds of seeing a rhino. And yes! I was lucky enough to spot one too close.

rhino.jpgTHE KING OF KAZIRANGA

And that wasn’t all… As we were about done with the ride a beautiful sunrise lit up our eyes!

sun.jpgMORNING!

And for a detailed visit of the park they have the facility of Jeep safari. Riding on the rough roads surrounded on both sides by the elephant grass, here you have a sure shot probability of spotting Rhinos. In those 2 – 2.5 hours you may come cross many migratory as well as local birds and elephants grazing across those vast fields. Here are few glimpses of the same….

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After all the riding it was time for some local food. And what would be better than it be served with live local music and Bihu. Well the place was Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park, definitely a must if botany is your love.

foodddAUTHENTIC ASSAMESE LUNCH

And visit to Assam is never complete unless you buy the famous Assamese tea. Tea plantations are present across the state including within the Park premises, and so as per your convenience you could buy from various outlets to get a taste of the best tea across the world.

That evening we spent in Guwahati. We went for Alfresco Grand Cruise in waters of the mighty Brahmaputra. While the local artists perform inside, you could have your dinner watching the city lights of Guwahati. Prefer upper deck for the best experience.

 

To be continued….

 

Written in collaboration with my travelmate Dr. Shivang Shukla. Do follow his facebook page and Instagram by name ‘Traveleverycorner’ for many more mesmerizing snaps.

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How far is North East? A journey through the offbeat India! (Part 1)

How far is North East? A journey through the offbeat India! (Part 1)

Traditionally India’s reflections has been limited to busy streets of Connaught place in New Delhi, illustrate of love-Taj Mahal of Agra, slums of the Dharavi in Mumbai and the beach parties at Goa. But there’s a much preserved India, somewhere far from the hectic immortal dreams; somewhere far from the much corrupted mainland culture and somewhere far from the much screened Bollywood’s India.

An India that is just Wow! Be it the beautiful faces with the strongest natural physiques, be It the vibrant & charming clothes in the world of jeans and tees, be it the unique yet simple flavours of bhaat and fish, be it the bamboo houses with paddy straw floors or be it the multiple yet exclusive dialects in each of its corner; everything is just a Wow! In a world where external influences are just a click away, it is a primitive’s abode!

Having an itchy feet to travel has always kept me on a run. Being a domiciliary of the North, currently settled in the West and having traveled south just last year essentially meant I was voyaging east. Then my friend asked how far is North East? How far from the mainland India?

Well geographically a little bit. Guwahati, gateway to the Northeast lies about 1900 km from New Delhi. The region is incompletely separated from the mainland by Bhutan from above & Bangladesh from below. The harsh and hostile terrain makes it even more inaccessible. This is countered with a reasonably good connectivity both by the air and road at the least for major cities.

But again how far is North East? How far from the ‘advanced’ prosperity of mainland India? To explore this we decided to visit the three major states of the region- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya. Come explore with me the idea of spellbound India!

Destination 1: Arunachal Pradesh –the land of dawn lit mountains!

DAY 1 : We landed in Guwahati on a fine sunny morning of Indian winter. From there hiring a private vehicle we set out towards north. Our first destination was Bomdila, a town in the western Arunachal. While travelling from Assam to Arunachal you will find a clear distinction here between the plains of the first and the mounatins of the later. It almost took up the entire day reaching there so much so that by the time we reached Bomdila, all we could manage to get was a jug of hot water for our ‘ready -to-eat‘ meals.

img_20170105_055136042Morning view of the town Bomdila.

DAY 2 :Waking up the next morning, the first thing we saw was the fine view from our hotel balcony. Being an extremely chilly morning of January, the entire town was fast asleep without any eagerness to start their day. Contrary to them, we had to rush to reach to Tawang before the sun sets.

But before we took the road we decided to visit a local Buddhist Monastery. And luckily for us the prayers had just begin.

IMG_20170108_080452722_HDR.jpgThe Magnficent Bomdila Monastery
IMG_20170105_072628115.jpgMonks reciting their morning prayers. Though the language was out of our reach, the faith and the goodwill could well be discerned.

And then our journey for Tawang began! First we reached Dirang, a small town midway located at a relatively lower altitude on the banks of river Kameng. Tourists either prefer Bomdila or Dirang for their overnight halt enroute Tawang and back. The road is relatively good except at some places until we started our ascent for Sela.

IMG_20170105_112818547.jpgAs we approach Sela, roads get more adventurous. The narrow cuts and the blind turns, the deep valleys and the snowing of the tar is bound to raise your adrenaline.
IMG_20170105_114917859.jpgThe sharp blind turn en route Sela!
IMG_20170105_132641566.jpgThe snow clad coniferous vegetations.

On our way a misty snowfall greeted us. We took a halt to enjoy the weather, while our driver wrapped the rope across the surface of tyre. Snow chains are commonly employed for increasing the traction between the tyre and the snowy/muddy roads.

IMG_20170105_143349612.jpgAND SELA PASS FINALLY!!

Sela Pass situated at an altitude of 13,700 feet connects the Tawang with the rest of India. A beautiful door in lines with the Buddhist culture welcomes you to the land of Monpas. Chilling winds, snow clad peaks and mesmerised tourists are all you find here.

And also you would you find a family run small cottage, serving you the much needed hot and spicy Maggi and hot beverages. In addition you also get to warm yourself sitting around the Bukharas and making new friends and listening to their stories –every little thing nothing short of a bliss!

img_20170105_142349263Travelers sitting around the Bukharas, eating hot spicy noodles while enjoying the warmth of burning woods.

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Food cum travel goal: check!

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But while talking to the locals we were informed that there has been heavy snowfall in the past couple of days on the other side of Sela and the conditions were harsh. So as we moved ahead on the road our fears came to real. There was approximately a foot deep snow on the roads and vehicles were getting difficult to move. At few places vehicles got stuck, but all the tourist showed exemplary courage in helping each other, as if a family working together.

img_20170105_154103850Passing through the Nurong Neng valley.
IMG_20170105_161259460_BURST001.jpgA frozen waterfall.

As the sun had already set atleast apparently our rush against time became fierce, but the rope across the tyres limited our speed. But finally around at evening 6 we could see the lights of Tawang. Roads became better, visibility improved and untying of rope made us reach Tawang around by 8.

What next? Well, good food and cozy bed!

DAY 3: As the morning broke up, I started early. Accompanied by one of my friend, we took a stroll through the streets. A gentle yet chilling breeze kept soothing our souls when the morning sunshine inspired us to the core. There was this amazing calm that this place had, where all you listen was the inner you! It was indeed one of the best mornings i ever woke to! We climbed to this huge Buddhist Statue, which in itself is an identity of Tawang.

IMG_20170106_085903015.jpg 26 feet high majestic Buddhist statue.
IMG_20170106_090347788.jpgAnd the gods within the God!

The statue has a prayer hall within it where people of the town offer their daily prayers. Also it exhibits beautiful architecture and wonderful colours of their ancestral Monpa dynasty. Also as this place is on a raised earth, there is this scenic picturesque of the entire city you may see from here. You also get to see the divine sunshiny tops of the main Buddhist Monastery from here.

IMG_20170106_103833249_HDR.jpgThe main Budhhist Gompa as viewd from the place of the statue.
IMG_20170106_092743802.jpgThe beautiful city of Tawang blessed by the virtues of Buddhism

Later in the day we went to Lady Monastery which is situated at quite a distance from the main Tawang city. To travel by road you’ll need around 2-3 hours but we went by rope way. A 15 minutes ride and we were there! This monastery is maintained and governed by the female monks who have their quarters by its side!

IMG_20170106_112914804_HDR.jpgThe female Buddhist Monastery
IMG_20170106_111811209.jpgThe female Buddihst Monastery (Inner view)

And then we finally we were at the famous Tawang Gompa. Home to number of monks, this is the largest monastery of India. Tawang Monastery in Tibetan is known as Galden Namgey Lhatse which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. The Monastery gives a view of the Tawang river valley and surrounding it lies the alpine forest with the snow clad peaks in their backgrounds. Here are some of the glimpses

IMG_20170106_115702951_HDR.jpgThe entrance gate of the Gompa. Such doors are a usual sight across the region.
IMG_20170106_115629430_HDR.jpgThe monks learning theirs lessons for life. 
IMG_20170106_121102686_HDR.jpgBuddhist prayer flags. These are of 5 colours representing the five elements of Budhhism. It is widely believed that winds passing across them carry the prayers written on them and goodwill across humanity and beyond.
img_20170106_121520618_hdrApproach road to the Gompa.
IMG_20170106_123541384_HDR.jpgBuddhist prayer flag pole.
IMG_20170106_123833072.jpgArt of the Monpa dynasty painted on the walls having beautiful doors.
IMG_20170106_123717891_BURST003.jpgThe steps towards Moksha (Salvation) be like!
IMG_20170106_123902283_HDR.jpgAn artistic three dimensional chandelier.
IMG_20170106_125426566.jpgThe main prayer hall.

As the sun approached to set we traveled back in time. To 1962 when the Dragon declared war against the Elephant. There was a disputed border between the two Asian giants and as India adopted its Forward policy & granted asylum to the Tibetan leader DALAI LAMA and his government in exile, the Chinese reciprocated. As it was completely unforeseen from the Indian context, the Indian defence was breached. Heavy bloodshed occured on either sides and eventually Indian forces surrendered. China invaded Tawang momentarily but later receded back bringing back Tawang into Indian administration. To commemorate the martyrdom of the Indian heroes a Sino Indian War memorial has been build in Tawang. Names of all those 2420 heroes have been engraved on the rock that would inspire genrations to come.

IMG_20170106_141051026.jpg Sino Indian War Memorial
IMG_20170106_141125175.jpgThe Ultimate Sacrifice
IMG_20170106_141956593_HDR.jpgThe badges and the flags of all the wings of Indian Defence, representing our strength and preparedness to fight the enemy today at any moment of time.

Later we visited a Buddhist stupa nearby and came across cute little monks to be…

IMG_20170106_144459958.jpgBuddhist Stupa
IMG_20170106_145831231_HDR.jpgCute little monks to be!
IMG_20170106_145357260.jpgEver imagined what monks read? Well this!

Well the end of the day was the best! With a local beverage we had red rice and churpa (a local milk based delicacy), Thukpa (Tibetan Noodle soup) and the staple food of the mountains, MOMOS!! If you are planning to travel never miss the Momos and the Thukpa!

IMG_20170106_164839093.jpgRed Rice and Thukpa

What next? Well a cozy bed!!

To be continued……

 

The Remote Hardships!

Tourists often complain about the frequent power cuts that the valley faces. Electricity is a luxury at this place with major hotels compensating the deficit with generators. Unaccustomed travellers from country and beyond find it difficult to do without room heaters & water geysers especially when mercury very often dips below the zero mark. At such times they are quick to blame the local administration for the nuisance. But then there’s another side….

Meet M.D Jamal, an engineer at Tawang electricity board whom I met by chance while strolling through the streets. When I similarly complained to him about the situation he gave me a reality check. Tawang being almost cut off from the mainland state due to high peaks in between, transmission lines are very difficult to construct and maintain. The only proper source are the hydroelectric power projects in the vicinity. The demand of the city is around 16000 MW against an abysmal supply of 7000-8000 MW, which too is dependent on flow of water. So he’s assigned with a hard task of dividing the availability with demands of each area at proper time of day and duration. With the ever rising requirements and restricting resources (decreasing water in streams especially after monsoon) it’s getting difficult for him to satisfy the needs of the valley.

But then there’s optimism! He said that locals are getting used to solar ways and the government is also trying to promote it. He is hopeful that next time when i visit again he won’t get a complain.

And I kept wondering whether it should ever be me or him complaining at all!

-Tawang Valleyimg_20170106_100221506

Uncensored Nationalism!

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If you ever visit the Lady Monastery in Tawang you may come across a kid expressing gentle hospitality which per se is a trademark of almost all the locals here. He escorted us to the monastery and explained us various traditions practiced there. He displayed a maturity that could beat most of ours!

What is your name?
“My name is Home Nurp”

Do you go to school? (Considering the remoteness of that monastery even from the main Tawang valley, accessible via a 15 mins ropeway or long carved roads I doubted)
“Yes! I do but in the school of LAMA’s”

Bade hoke kya banna chahoge? (What would you like to be growing up?)
He at first hesitated a bit but when I insisted replied enthusiastically “FAUJI!” (Soldier)

And the army men standing besides guarding the monastery and listening quietly to our conversation exclaimed “JE BAAT!” (that’s like my boy!)

No matter how remote you be or what system of education you receive, the idea to serve the nation always stays prime.
His words are also a slap at the claims of China over the region under the garb of ethnic similarities and myth of local support.
NATION FIRST! Always!

Becoming the Next West: Defining India’s rising liberalism!

Jana (people) Gana (group) Mana (mind) Adinayak (ruler) (literally ‘The ruler of the minds of the people‘ ) was written by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to celebrate the pride of being Indian. It was later adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the Indian National Anthem. The idea was to instill a sense of dutiful patriotism amongst the masses which by the way wasn’t necessary as such at that time. But what about today?  Who’s ruling the minds now?

Recently the Supreme Court of India’s bench of justices Dipak Mishra and Amitava Roy gave a surprising (to many) verdict making it mandatory for the movie theaters to play the anthem before the show. And suddenly the so called left liberalist media went furious about it.

Trevor Noah, host of the famous US talk show ‘The Daily Show’ mocked the ruling saying “I just wanna see how long this goes. First they will make you hear before every movie, than at a grocery store.” This coming from a state that hosted probably the worst democratic elections on moral grounds that lead China to state it as ‘an unprecedented joke’.

But that doesn’t bother me much. Rather that shouldn’t. The west for long have looked eastwards to fill in the moral and spiritual vacuum of their society. But what bothers me is the state of affairs in my own land. From when did ‘respect’ for the national anthem become an ‘insecure nationalism’? From when did rising for it for mere 52 seconds become a ‘forceful act’?

These pseudo liberals stated that they didn’t need to prove their nationalism to anybody. But who is this ‘anybody’? It’s their state itself. It’s their own democratically made Constitution that’s demanding. Are these liberals willing to teach their next gen not to respect to national anthem when played at school? Just because it’s a symbolic gesture of your patriotism which according to their logic is completely your own choice to display.

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This act is symbolic. And symbolism is necessary for any democracy to thrive. Pic courtesy BBC news/UK.

Our entire defence forces everyday pays respect to the anthem. Are they too pseudo nationalist by ‘displaying the act’? Or do they need to do this just to fit in their uniforms? Is this act of respect meant only for the defence forces & school kids? Should this patriotism be limited only to the national holidays? Because the civil society is too busy to take out a few seconds of their leisureful busy schedule.

I understand that nationalism should not just be limited to this ‘act’. But this ‘act’ is a part of the en large nationalism. This ‘act’ is symbolic. And symbolism is necessary for any democracy to thrive. The dandi march was itself symbolism. Lokmanya Tilak’s encouragement to celebrate Ganesh chaturthi across community lines was a symbolic act to bridge in the gap between various communities and find a context in which to build new grassroots unity between them. The huge protests across the nation during the Nirbhaya gang rape case was in itself symbolism at its best. And all of these did and will keep having long term influences.

The fact of the matter is that we are increasingly being fascinated by the sluggish democracies of the west. Their clumsiness is developing its roots in us. Looking at the current trends our westwords approach is anything but correct especially, on the moral grounds. 2016 in a big way showed us the flaws of their system. May it be the Brexit or the US elections or the power struggle in Mideast with its influences from the west, one thing is for sure, their system has failed. And its nothing short of an alarm for us.

We must not forget ours is a hard earned democracy. And we must keep it enriched and transmit it to our next generation in a proper manner without diluting it with a lazy liberalism. A way which makes it a rejoicing act from within than a forceful act from outside. We must not fall into the trap of corporate media houses that propagate a glorified west but instead keep our own integrity supreme. Because when the roots are changed, fruits can never be the same.

Its time we ‘stay east’ and ‘learn from the west’. Otherwise it wont be long before we become ‘The Next West’.