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Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Unfinished Trip.

 #travelsmartwithskyscanner being organised by SkyScanner  is one hell of an Indiblogger event. I have spent the last 2 days going through albums of my travel vacations with friends and family. And trust me, I feel like I have revisited all these places during this short span of time. I could feel the chill I felt when I walked off the Gondola at  Gulmarg, the utter not-a-care in the world attitude of biking on Goa beaches with the waves gently crashing against the tyres, the  hurriedness of my Rishikesh trip, the fatigue of Vaishno Devi trek and the absolute bliss of a crackling bonfire at Patnitop.All this from just revisiting photographic memories. And then I stumbled across my Trip to the North East.

 More specifically, Sikkim.

A little Background before I dive into this blog post. I was admitted into a college in Sikkim, packed my bags and left for the North-East to be a resident - not a traveler. With my first glimpse of the rainforest on the meandering roads from New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok, I was hooked. Such beauty, yet untouched by man. The mighty Brahmaputra prancing along the road. I was mesmerised. I thought to myself, “I am going to be here for the next 4 years. Plenty of time for exploring this place” Gosh I have never been more wrong. Got admitted to DCE  a few days later and came back by to Delhi by the next flight available. Exploration plans all chucked right out the window. Ever since then, there has been a running joke in my family that one day I will go back to get the stuff I had forgotten while leaving in a hurry. Me and my dad (who had accompanied me on this trip by the way) have made many plans to visit the North East ever since. 2014 seems like the year we might get the travelling actually done. Who knows, we may walk over to Beijing as well. No harm dreaming, right folks?

But the catch is it’s too far away. Sikkim, I meant.  And that makes the journey too long by train and too expensive by air for those of us languishing in middle class  . But hope is at hand. This time I am going to #travelsmartwithskyscanner. With a little planning and a lot of help from the very smart SkyScanner app on my phone, I can manage the trip well within my budgetary and time constraints.How? Well, I have been browsing the “Skyscanner” website for the months and dates for cheapest air fare. I am going to make a reservation months in advance (way to show commitment) which makes it a lot more budget friendly. It saves me money and makes planning for the trip a lot more relaxed affair.Though I might have to skip my walking over into China aspect of the trip (Chuckles).
But jokes aside , the plan is to "Plan Ahead". 

Now comes the second most costly aspect of a vacation. Hotel Stay. I have realised that hotels (which account for 20-30% of Vacation expenditure) can be cut down with one easy step. Pre-meditate and Negotiate. So here I am looking for Hotel listings on this site and making calls to hotels now for booking deals months away. 

Now that I know the tentative months I can get a bargain deal in, I am going to decide the exact timing of my trip. How? Blind guessing? No ways. Why go all this way if you had to blind guess eventually.I will look for two things. Weather and special events.  I have been googling  incessantly (yes, a lot of free time at my hand) and realised that monsoon months and winters are kind of a no-go time to the north-east. That would mean no trip September onwards. So here’s a tip to travel smart “Research your vacation spot”. You wouldn't want to be caught in a torrid downpour on your visit until you are visiting cherapunjee(which used to be wettest region of earth). 

Second thing will be to inquire about events organised by the state tourism departments,this can be done easily on the internet by emails or checking out advertisements on travel forums. I have been in  situations where I arrive one day too late for a spectacular cultural event for tourists or am scheduled to leave one day too early. This one day could have made the difference between a good trip and an unforgettable trip. Another thing I noticed about travelling in the north-east is that the more you can research about your probable destinations, the easier it will be for you to deal with unforeseeable phenomenon like road disturbances due to landslides etc.

I am looking out for friends in the North - East too. People I know who can plan their home trips back with me. Apart from the convenience of company and somebody who is a native, it also allows for a better understanding of their culture and society.This way I wont just look at the mountains but also understand the songs that echo in them.

So by following these tiny steps I am going to travel smart. I am gonna plan. Sit down and #travelsmartwithskyscanner. Because the beauty of living in the moment comes from the security of knowing that the worst has been accounted for. It’s not me who’s saying this. Somebody said it long ago.AlI care for is my quest to revel in the beauty of the north-east,sneak into Sikkim again & Complete that unfinished trip. 


Monday, March 3, 2014

For us, from them.

Latrines. Toilet.Basic sanitation. Or As we like to call it, in the civilized way “Washroom”. A basic amenity of life awarded to all in this modern world. Or so I had thought.  For it does not take a lot to make one. A small enclosure, some basic plumbing and voila, a basic latrine is ready. No longer will the women of your household have to defecate in the open at the price of public shame and insecurity. No longer will they be and other members of the house be exposed to diseases due to the unsanitary conditions.NO longer will anybody have to make long arduous treks into the wild.  Seems just the right thing to do? Right?

Yes it does. But what do you do when the money you earn is barely sufficient to feed you .What do you do when the choice is between necessities like food-clothing and a basic amenity like sanitation. In these conditions sanitation becomes a luxury. And it is this story that I have brought to you. Story of Manimegalai, Amirdham, Amudha, Chellam, and Alamelu. 5 women who have taken it upon themselves to bring water supply and sanitation closer to their home.

A brief introduction from the milaap webpage “Manimegalai, Amirdham, Amudha, Chellam, and Alamelu live in the rural area of Musiri in the Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu. They are agricultural laborers who work hard to supplement the incomes their husbands bring in, and to provide a decent future for their children. The area they live in has a water supply located about 1000 meters from their homes, and the closest public latrine is 500 meters away. As a result, clean and fresh water is scarce, and they have to depend on the surrounding shrubbery or the darkness at night for privacy to relieve themselves in unhygienic conditions. Consequently, they are subject to illnesses multiple times a year, and the monthly medical bills eat into their meager savings. They seek a loan of Rs.30,000, payable over 18 months, to build a toilet for Manimegalai’s family, and to install water connections for the rest of the group’s homes. This loan will allow their families access to the dignity and basic necessity of sanitation and water in their homes.”

I have taken up this project not only because I believe basic sanitation is a basic amenity everybody should be provided. But also because, I believe we could complete this project that isRaise enough fund for these women to have a toilet that would give them respect, security, and  health. A lot of things from simple toilet.
How can it happen? The reach of my blog is 1000 odd people. Over 200 of them women. If we can donate 500 each, We will complete this loan. We will help make a tangible difference in the lives of these women. I am making it personal, I am making it about what YOU can do. You, right there, reading this blog. It would be just a missed dinner outing to you, but would mean the world to these women. For women everywhere, from us for them.

To donate go on to this page : http://milaap.org/fund/manimegalai-and-group/1997?&referrer_id=9350
Donate.Share. Like MIlaap. Do the best you can and then a little more.

From us, for them.