Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pangna Mahamaya - Homecoming of the Goddess!

The mountains of Himachal Pradesh have many traditions and most of them involve dancing, singing, and drinking. If you ever happen to witness the homecoming festival of a local deity, which means entry of the deity into the temple after it has come back from its visit to another deity, you will be enthralled by the joyous atmosphere.

The following video is the homecoming ceremony of the Pangna Mahamaya Goddess in the hills of Pangna, a small village located some 150 kilometer from the state capital of Shimla.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Not Just Charity, Safety too Begins at Home | #NSDF

I will start with two incidences, which show how funny and painfully ignorant our traffic sense is.
Why are you wearing a seat belt? That's not mandatory in the hills. You know, if a vehicle rolls down a gorge, how would a person unbelt himself and come out? 
This is a common misconception in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, a small mountainous state where I come from.  It is believed that a vehicle rolling down a gorge, which happens frequently because of poor roads, will even give a chance to a person to move or jump out of the vehicle.

Therefore, wearing seat belt is stupid. 
Are bhai, Punjab Police has told this to people living in cities. Those who live in a city  need not wear a helmet because it becomes difficult to ride through narrow lanes with a helmet on. Peeche dekhne me problem hoti hai
 Heard of rear view mirrors, anybody? 

Then there is the classic case of high-beamers. It doesn't matter to them if their vehicle is parked, or cruising through a well lit city highway. They love it to flash. In Chandigarh, after the city police started strictly imposing the rules and fining the high beamers, the number of high flashers came down like anything.

It's not that people are ignorant. They do know. It's just that they do not care!

Those who belong the era of late 1990s must remember the TV commercial with coconuts about importance of wearing helmets while riding a two-wheeler. The ad went something like "Marzi hai aapki, aakhir sar hai aapka" (Its your choice because after all the head too belongs to you).

Haven't you seen young kids zooming past you at absurd speeds while their helmets hangs from their elbows. Because it is believed that wearing a helmet on your head will reduce your chances of pataoing a girl. After all, womenfolk in India identify their soul-mates this way only.

It can't be scientifically argued that by what percentage, the chances of finding your soul-mate are increased by not wearing  a helmet.

But the chances of getting your head squeezed like a coconut surely increase by not wearing a helmet.  

These three incidents show that we do have bad, rather pathetic traffic sense but that is not beyond amends. Chandigarh is the best example of imposing traffic rules and making people fall in line.

To make India a better traffic sensitive place, we need the following three rules, to begin with;

a) Administration does their part, fining people is far better than giving posthumous compensation
b) People need to remember that helmet-coconut story, a head gone once can  never be retrieved.
c) Parents need to work harder with their kids. A lost life, that too of your kid, is probably the most painful experience of human life.
d) Safe driving as well as parking practices are the need of the hour. With out cities shrinking by the day, haphazard parking not only create traffic problems but it also leads to fatal accidents.

Traffic condition in India will improve only through Public participation because its the public that has to begin making sense. Safety Begins With Me by Nissan is One such initiative that must be talked about.

Nissan Safety Driving Forum brings on-board experts from public and expert space to talk about and share the ideas and benefits of Safe Driving Practices.  The campaign has already moved into its third year and every year a couple of new cities are covered under this program. 

An ideal way of raising awareness through public participation. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kali Ghaghari - Multiple Renditions

Remember we talked about a video by Laman Band. An old classical Himachali song rejuvenated by these guys.

I was looking for other variants of this song since Laman's video got out. Surprisingly, there are quite a few songs that have been reshaped and remoulded by different Himachali artists. And each one of those songs is different than the other one.

Have a look at them yourself.

India Rising - The Power of Voice to Clean India

India is rising

Historical evidence suggests that India needed a leader to free itself from the claws of its detractors. But not any-more! The times have changed and for good they have changed.

With the advent of technology, we don't need a leader to muster our courage. Technology has made authorities accountable for their actions. All it takes a 'responsible' citizen with FacebookYouTubeTwitter or a blog to raise his/her voice.

Earlier, people used to talk in a hush-hush manner. These days people talk shout because technology enables them to do shout openly and seek their rights. And rightly so. Its not 1760 and we are not the snake charmers anymore.

We have been hearing a lot about 'Mission Clean India' these days.

Imagine our country free from dirt, filth, 'paan ki peek', and 'roadside -pee~ers'. Sounds impossible?
In the early 19th Century, a foreigner visiting America described it as 'filthy, bordering on the beastly'. 
The entire nation stood up against the demon of filthiness and all it took a determined lot of citizens to make USA what it is today. Today USA is one of the foremost nations that has made public cleanliness as its motto. 
If America can do this, India too can. And why restrict ourselves to just eradicating filth and garbage from our streets? If India can throw the mighty Britishers out, we sure can throw away corruption and unaccountability from our country.

And the magic of social media enabled with the weapons like Right To Information have made inroads into the 'sarkari departments' that otherwise lived under the impression of not being servants but the owners of this nation.

Moreover, the youth of this nation is no more a passive participant in the activities of National Interest. There are Social Activists, NGO's, and independent 'anonymous' groups cleaning our streets, protesting against corruption in colleges, and empowering kids against the evil of Eve Teasing.

Our streets are unclean? The Youth of this Nation has picked the broom
Our women are being harassed and molested? The youth of this nation has picked fight against the lawmakers and politicians.
Our officers are corrupt? The Youth of this nation is naming and shaming them in the public.
Dependency on the government has come down substantially and people are building their own future. People have learned to speak for themselves and technology has a great deal to do with this.

In short,  #AbMontuBolega! And who is Montu?
It's you! It's me. It's your friend, your relative, your distant cousin, and everybody in his friend circle.  

#AbMontuBolega is a campaign started by Strepsils to raise awareness among the Indians to stand up for what is right and just. The campaign brings stories from across the nation of common Indians standing up against the injustice and wrong.

You may follow the campaign on-line by following Strepsils India on Facebook 

Keep track of the campaign at twitter by following Strepsils India.

And I would like to say again what I have said already.

India is rising!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Laman, The Band - Reviving Old Himachali Folk Songs

Laman is a song-form that developed in the highlands of Himachal Pradesh ago. A group of three youngsters have given a new shape and outlook to this song-form by re-composing the old classical folk songs of Himachal Pradesh.

According to the Facebook Fan Page of the Band: The name laman is taken from the folk song form laaman which originated in himachal pradesh.This melodious song was  developed in the beautiful kullu valley but latter became an important part and blended with the diverse culture of whole himachal pradesh. This song form is highly romantic in nature and symbolizes the emotion of love. This is the reason that band has been named laman which is synonymous of love. Laman believes that folk melodies have immense power to keep people rooted to their basic inherent nature which is love and compassion.
The Band has come up with a new music video 'Kaali Ghaghari' that has become quite popular within three days of its release. Prior to that, 'Bhole Baba' was their melodious number that has already garnered more than 36000 views on YouTube.

However, the new song Kaali Gghaghari is a soul stirring number that has resurrected this old classical Himachali Song. Thie song features Renu Bhatia and she has done wonders with her eyes. 

Have a look yourself!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Arijit Singh Unplugged - Infinite Loop

Although Mohit Chauhan, the Pahadi boy is my favorite and I hate to admit that Arijit Singh has replaced him to an extent in the Hindi Film Industry.

I think Arijit Singh has a better voice than Chauhan Sahab' and that's why I have been listening to his songs on a loop for quite some time.

A treat for just not your ears but to your soul as well.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Traveling to the Mud Volcanoes of Pakistan with SkyScanner

Where would you like to travel to if you get an all expense paid trip someday?

I have been asked this question quite a many times and every time my answer was Pakistan. I got a chance to visit Pakistan in 2012 and since then I always wanted to go back to that country. My last trip was self sponsored but this time, thanks to SkyScanner, I have got an opportunity to travel to the far-off lands of Pakistan without hurting my pocket.

Why Pakistan?

I’d say why not Paksitan? Because Pakistan is not what we see in the movies or TV channels. Because Pakistan is another colorful country like ours. Because Pakistan must be visited at least once by all the Indians. That way we will understand our neighbor in a much better way. My perception about Pakistan changed entirely after my first visit. And also Pakistan has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And not to mention the grandest of all, five of the fourteen Eight Thousanders belong to Pakistan.

So without wasting any time on thinking about location, my SkyScanner journey would mean traveling to Karachi, Pakistan. And then off to the remote tribal lands of Balochistan where one gets to witness the divine confluence of Hindu & Muslim faiths. Followers of both the religions revere the Hinglaj Temple of Balochistan and that’s where I am going with SkyScanner.

The Other Side of India: Wagha Border, 2012

Although I wanted to travel more and spend less but because mode of entry/exit to Pakistan have to be same, and these are harsh summer times, so I have decided not to go by bus or train but take the aerial route. Flying to Pakistan via Sharjah and deliberately choosing a long wait flight so that I get to see the best of Sharjah. An evening walk in Sharjah, sounds fun, doesn’t it.

Al Noor Mosque,. Sharjah | Image: Dubai Chronicle
Now comes the fun part, treating myself with the luxurious stay at Karachi Marriott. If I saw the best of rural Pakistan in my last trip, I would see the best of luxurious Pakistan in the SkyScanner Trip for sure. A relaxing day while I stroll around the National Museum of Pakistan and Mazar –e-Quiad. Visiting old friends would also be on the agenda. And of-course, Karachi beaches.

If Indo-Pak rivalry is known across the world, so is the Indo-Pakistan hospitality. Every time I said I came from India, people refused to charge me anything. From auto guys to adventure clubs, they refused to take any money from me.

A walk across Pakistan bazaars is a heartwarming experience always. Stories of cricket, movies, songs, and pre-independence era always make you emotional.

Visiting Hinglaj – The Land of Mud Volcanoes
Mud Volcano, Hinglaj | Image: Bashir Osman Photgraphy
Now comes the adventure part, traveling to the remote lands of Baluchistan. Some 300 kilometers from the mainland of Karachi lies one of the most important pilgrimage sites of both Hindus and Muslims. While Indians call it ‘Hinglaj Mata’, the Pakistani’s call it ‘Nani Ka Haj’.

Close by lies one of the largest active mud volcanoes of the world, the Chandrakup Volcano. The sand dunes rising against the backdrop of Makran Mountain Ranges takes you back to the Spiti Himalayas. The land is barren and the mud volcano looks like a rising guardian protecting the pilgrims from the evils of the deserts. And if time and money permits, there are 18 more mud volcanoes in the region.

Then head back to Karachi, spend another blissful day at the Marriott. 

My Travel Itinerary 

Day1: Karachi - Sharjah - Karachi - Stay

Day2: Karachi - Hinglaj Drive - Stay At Inn

Day3: Trip to Mud Volcano

Day4: Hinglaj to Karachi

Day5: Return to India 

My Expenses

Initial Budget – 100,000

Air Fare (Return) – INR 40,630
Hotel Stay Marriott – Two Days – INR 20,000
Sharjah Travel Spree – INR 10,000
Food and Shopping – INR 10,000
Hinglaj Yatra Registration – INR 5,000
Taxi Fare – Karachi to Karachi – (approximate INR 20 per km for 327km) – INR 7540

Total = INR 93170/-

Meanwhile, I am still left with 8,000 in my kitty.

Karachi Sweets? Anybody! J

This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The CarConnect Experience and Drive to Spiti

I came across Car Connect when I was surfing for feature comparison between Maruti and Chevrolet, as both of them had launched new hatchbacks (case in point Sail and Celerio). I browsed through the website and realized that the site was effortlessly smooth and also it did have a feature where users can not only share their car reviews but also drive experiences.

I also shared my Spiti Drive experience that we did in 2010. The road trip reminded of the marvelous views and amazing memories of the trip. Let me share an experience from that road trip here.

The journey started in July and we were told by a traveller friend that removed all our doubts regarding a Maruti 800 making across the Rohtang Pass (13000 feet) into the Lahaul Valley.

He said to us, “The machine doesn't matter. What matters is the courage of the person behind the wheel." At 21, you don't think much about the practical aspects and such one liners often pump up the adrenaline, and precisely that's what happened in our case too.
We ended up with a stranded Maruti 800 in the middle of the snow desert. But that we will talk about sometime later.
So we were talking about the features of Car Connect. The website sends you customized comparison sheets directly to your mailbox and that's what makes it a unique website. Also for the passionate ones, there is a special tab that talks about car news and new gadgets, which in my opinion is a good feature to keep the readers interested.

The user can submit as many drive stories or car reviews as he wants. There is no cap. Sharing your experiences and reading about the adventures of like minded people is a blissful experience. And then there is always the option of finding your name on the home page of the CarConnect.

Isn't that cool?

Currently, Car Connect allows only Facebook Login, which I think they must be working on. Because assuming all the users have an FB account, although not having a Facebook account in the current times is equivalent to blasphemy, but still it wouldn't hurt to have a normal login, along with other social logins like Twitter and Google Login.

I hope the Car Connect team has already taken notice of the same. Another interesting feature is keeping the User Community active by giving them badges and sharing top posts on the home page.

Who wouldn't want his/her name shared on a prestigious website like Car Connect?

The leaderboard feature along with find friends is another unique feature that helps the user to find people with similar interests.

Car Connect is all set to be the Carbook of the Internet World! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Arnab's Qtiyapa - Bollywood Style

The Viral fever has time and again produced satirical gems that take on the current socio-political situation of our country. This Arnab's Qtiyapa video is an absolute gem. What happens in Arnab's Circus every night at TimesNow is described in Bollywood Style.

A must watch!

You may follow The Viral fever on You Tube