I often struggle to formulate the words to describe transformative experiences. But now, looking at the film I developed from my month in India, waves of nostalgia and inspiration flutter to me. This post is the India I felt, saw, and loved for 30 days.
I have been fascinated by India since I was four years old, when my preschool teacher brought Sri Lankan rice and curry to class. The sensation of spicy food and description of spice plantations soaked deeply into my curious brain. Throughout my childhood I researched India, and fell even deeper in love, imagining my own body amidst the color and chaos. It was not until I arrived in college (this year), that I would have sufficient time for my first trip to India.
Though I studied Indian culture before arriving, no amount of reading or advice could have prepare me for what I would experience. Continue reading
In our seventh year based in Kerala, India we have experienced progress each year in the quality of connectivity, but another state to the north may become India’s superstar of connectivity, faster than we can imagine:
By Hui Wu
THE TRENCH RUNNING along the road linking Kodicherla and Penjarla in southern India is just 5 feet deep and about half as wide. Yet it carries the promise of a better life for the people of those villages, and all of Telangana.
Within the ditch lie two pipes, a large black one carrying fresh water and smaller blue one containing a fiber optic broadband cable. The government of Telangana, a state born of the 2014 secession from Andhra Pradesh after its residents accused the government of systematic neglect, is doing something unprecedented in India: bringing broadband internet to every rural home in the region, some 23 million people in all.
Of the 4 billion people around the globe without access to the internet, one-quarter of them live in India. Continue reading
One of the excellent benefits of living in south India is meeting people who know alot about south India. Sounds circular, but occasionally the people are specialists on topics we have come to care deeply about. We met a group of Sanskrit scholars yesterday quite by chance, one of whom is a leading authority on the texts that are the earliest documentation of what we now call yoga.
When we mentioned our interest in yoga from the lay perspective, because we offer yoga experiences in various properties we manage in Asia and Latin America, it led to a simple question: where can we learn the most, most accessibly, about the real origins of yoga? The answer was this book and this author (incidentally a friend and colleague of the one to whom we were asking the question. So over at Oxford University Press this is what we found.
With a bit more searching we found this excellent BBC Radio 4 segment from just a few months ago that features the same scholar, Mark Singleton, and is worth a listen if you are interested in the origins of modern yoga. Continue reading
Amitav Ghosh, who we think of primarily as a writer of fiction, is also an important non-fiction thinker/author, and most recently published “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.” This op-ed in the New York Times puts future trade discussions into perspective in the most remarkable setting we can think of at the moment– the spice trade of centuries past. From our perch on the Malabar coast of India this is a welcome bit of history with which to welcome the new year and the challenges ahead:
GOA, India — For many years the word “globalization” was used as shorthand for a promised utopia of free trade powered by the world’s great centers of technological and financial innovation. But the celebratory note has worn thin. The word is now increasingly invoked to explain a widespread recoiling from a cosmopolitan earth. People in many countries are looking nostalgically backward, toward less connected, supposedly more secure times.
But did such an era ever exist? Was there ever an unglobalized world? Continue reading
The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary covers about 1,400 square kilometers in the southwestern region of Gujurat, India’s westernmost state that borders Pakistan and the Arabian Sea. Unlike many of the national parks profiled so far, Gir Forest National Park is not open to hiking on trails, mostly to protect travelers and the wildlife that the Park was founded to preserve, particularly the Asiatic lion, an endangered species found only in this protected area.
The main attraction of the Park is this large cat population, which numbers in the hundreds. But leopards, deer, the four-horned antelope, and many interesting bird species can be found here, along with the vulnerable marsh crocodile and the endangered pangolin. Since walking within the Park on foot is not allowed, jeep safaris are the only way to get around and spot wildlife with the help of a guide. With such a high number of threatened species – whether avian, mammalian, or reptilian – Gir Forest seems a place worth visiting before it is too late to spot some of these majestic and beautiful creatures in the wild. Despite only 83 checklists on eBird, the number of species recorded in the Park is 231, with many of the species only just being reported for the hotspot this year!
The Park closes from mid-June to September for the monsoon season, and the most comfortable temperatures for visiting are during December-March. For the purposes of wildlife sightings, however, April and May are great despite the extreme heat, since this hot and dry period makes many of the animals more predictable in their search for water. While in the region, consider visiting the Somnath Temple to the southwest or Mount Girnar to the northwest.
“It all began with a shawl…” seems like the stuff of fairy tales, but the combined attraction to a handmade textile and the desire to help the woman weaving it proved a pathway to Jacqueline de Chollet’s life work. Over 20 years ago while traveling in a dusty village of India she saw a woman weaving the shawl in her home.
“She had three or four children including a baby she was nursing in her arms,” de Chollet recalls. “And she looked way older than her age.”
Hoping to provide a little help, de Chollet offered to buy the shawl. “And as soon as I gave her the money a man walked in and took the money away from her.”
De Chollet was outraged. “I felt, this woman — nobody cares about her. She’s off the map. She has no rights.”
Although de Chollet came from far different circumstances as this woman, growing up in the 1950s she felt that society dictated her position as a wife and mother. She wanted to make a difference in the world, and felt that addressing the issue of the rights of women and girls in India was an important first step. Continue reading
We’ve covered a couple examples of alternative energy in India, but in general there’s a long way to go towards providing electricity to even most of the population, which generally suffers power outages. Now, the country has a surplus for the first time, but at what cost? Indian energy is still mostly in coal, and six of the country’s cities are in the top ten worst-polluted in the world. Tali Trigg writes for his blog Plugged In on Scientific American:
Like Germany, India has struggled to achieve power selling parity between its southern and northern regions, but is finally starting to see prices close-to-equal across the country. While India’s achievement is remarkable from one point-of-view, the fact remains that 300 million Indians still do not benefit as they have no access to electricity and most of the added capacity is from highly-polluting coal power causing grievous air quality.
In celebration of World Lion Day (August 10th), here’s a motivational and uplifting conservation story of Asiatic Lions in west India’s Gir National Park:
The Asiatic lion once roamed vast swaths of the Middle East and Asia, but indiscriminate hunting and killing to protect livestock led to their mass slaughter. By the late 1800s, as few as 10 of the animals remained on Earth.
Their last refuge became western India’s Gir National Park, a protected area where these endangered animals are now on an upward trend. According to a 2015 census, a little more than 500 lions—the world’s total wild population—live in Gir, up from 411 in 2010. In comparison, about 20,000 African lions remain in the wild. (See a map of the lion’s decline worldwide.)
Living in India provides daily examples of life’s major contradictions: silence and chaos, simplicity and grandeur, lack and excess… Traditional Indian weddings illustrate the examples of abundance – even the most modest of weddings will represent some version of the the proverbial “groaning board” – be it traditional banana-leaf thali of south India or an elaborate multi-course dinner in towering tents. Whenever food is prepared for a crowd there’s potential for waste, even in the so-called “developed world”.
The beauty of this inspiring story is how it taps into Mumbai’s dabbawalla system, taking advantage of the extraordinary logistics of a food distribution system that has functioned well for decades. (If you’ve never seen Ritesh Batra’s beautiful film The Lunchbox, run and find it now…)
India has 194.6 million undernourished people — that’s more than half the world total.It’s what people mean when they talk about “food insecurity:” the economic and social condition of limited or unpredictable access to adequate food.
But in a study published in the August 2015 issue of the journal Lancet, researchers found that India also has 46 million obese citizens.
The dabbawallas — Mumbai’s lunch delivery collective — have stepped in with an initiative they’re calling the Roti Bank. Their aim is to connect the have-nots with the have-too-muchs.
“We deal with food every day, so we’re ideally placed to fix this,” says Dashrath Kedare, a co-founder of the Roti Bank and a leader of one of the dabbawalla unions. Continue reading
Some moderately good news from the home front here in India gets us back in the mood to shout out in the interest of conservation-focused tourism:
Number of Tigers in the Wild Is Rising, Wildlife Groups Say
There are now an estimated 3,890 wild tigers, mostly in Asia, up from a worldwide tiger population of 3,200 estimated in 2010, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum announced on Monday. Wild tigers are considered endangered and had seen shrinking numbers because of hunting, poaching and loss of habitat, such as deforestation, particularly in Sumatra, for palm oil, and paper and pulp industries, the groups said. The official count had declined every year since 1900, when tigers numbered an estimated 100,000. Continue reading
Do you believe in a literary cosmos? I do. In the seemingly innocuous collision of two pieces of writing SO removed from each other that they are all that similar. Two articles – one found last evening for work, one chanced upon during the routine Instagram surf on the way to work. One standing out in the mayhem of a news feed; the incredible story of an Israeli man and his wife moving to India in 2003 and buying 70 acres of barren land. To build, sustain a forest. Reafforestation, to be clear. The other titled The Builder’s High. Yes, I’m ‘building’ this up.
Walk. That’s my one-word gospel for all who will listen in on the best way to discover. Meander. Be curious, the good kind. Because stories wait around corners, discoveries often plonk themselves on one-way streets. And some are found in messy backrooms of squeaky clean shops lined with mannequins and smiles. Like this woven tale of the people, history, and fabric that go into the making of the Indian drape. There’s more than just five yards to the sari, trust me.
A trip to India is incomplete without visiting the hallowed Taj Mahal and the many palaces up north. And the world-famous backwaters of Kerala and the hill stations across Southern India. What should figure on travel itineraries without a doubt: Leh-Ladakh. A favorite getaway among domestic travelers, this mountainous region – with its bounty of snow-kissed peaks and crystal blue waters – is every color dream come true. Here’s visual proof. And if you do make it there, look up the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company.
How many women does it take to start an all-women travel company, set up a women’s welfare network for women in distress, write tirelessly on social and environmental issues, win a bronze at the National Ice Hockey Championship, and keep training an ever-growing number of women to be professional trekking guides in the harsh terrain of Ladakh? Just one, if that woman happens to be Thinlas Chorol.
5 months and 11 days – that was the last time I felt a surge of patriotism, took a good look at what my country was and is. And what it will be. As the clock hands inched towards midnight and yet another Indian anniversary of independence, I wrote these lines. That day drew to a close. Sadly, the all-consuming, overwhelming love I felt for this land, too. Don’t get me wrong: I love my country. Every single day. All its idiosyncracies with all my heart and soul. But it takes the designated Independence Day or the more recent Republic Day (January 26) for this love to reign over my work-weary being. To remind of this freedom I am bestowed with. Yesterday, it did. And this love left paw prints all over my heart and I sorely missed a friend of mine in the uniform. Made me love my country more. Be thankful, too.
Here’s the plot: In 1988, a couple visited an estate sale of a deceased friend and stumbled upon a shoebox of old photographs tucked under a couch. It contained more than a hundred envelopes filled with negatives and contact sheets for photographs depicting India in 1945. The identity of the photographer: unknown.
But only until they set out to discover the man behind the lens. The answer (and the photographs) hang at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts till January 31.
There’s a small but wonderful tribe of people who keep the dignity of life on the planet. Call them eco warriors, guardians of tomorrow, nature’s advocates. No tag can do justice to their lives spent preserving, restoring, and protecting life. Goa, the tourist mecca of India, has sundowners, music, beaches and a welcoming culture going for it. It is also the base of Claude and Norma Alvares’ environmental movement of over 40 years.
Thanks to the BBC’s website for this note of encouragement:
An extraordinary tree frog thought to have died out more than a century ago has been rediscovered in India
The discovery was made by renowned Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju and a team of scientists, in the jungles of north-eastern India.
It is hoped the frogs might now be found across a wide area, from China to Thailand.
Studies of the frog have also led scientists to reclassify it as an entirely new genus. Continue reading
The buzzword is organic. From grocery store shelves to textile designers to travel. At the center of this phenomenon is respect to the land, cognizance of the immense potential of living organisms, acknowledgement of a way of life that has restorative powers. Today, India hears that message loud and clear in the North-eastern hill state of Sikkim.