Everyone has a view on where PM Narendra Modi is going wrong and what his next step should be. With eyes trained on indiscretions, we ignore achievements and recognition.
It is not just a quiet beach destination. From the ‘smallest’ to the ‘biggest’, ‘oldest’ to the ‘rarest’, Seychelles adds a lot of superlatives to your travel journal.
Seychelles is a county comprising 115 coralline islands that are considered one of the oldest on earth. ——— There is also a big, fat, brown Aldabra tortoise, the world’s largest land tortoise. Their home : Aldabra Island, the world’s largest “raised coral atoll” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The biggest and fattest among them all is Esmeralda (it weighs 304kg).
It might seem like an “oxymoron”, but all these large, big things live and grow in a small country. A really small country. At the last count, Seychelles has 90,000 inhabitants of which 90% live in Mahe —– the largest island.
However, nothing beats the “tininess of Victoria”, the capital. Walk into the world’s smallest capital and before you know where to start sightseeing —— it ends. You could walk it in 10mins and been-there-seen-it-all in another 15. An old Church stands like a relic of the colonial age. A Hindu Temple shimmers in vibrant colours by the arcade. A cinema resembles a refurbished pigeon-hole. The monotony broken by Victoria market, where the air is redolent with the whiff of fresh soursop, cassava, mangoes, vegetables, cinnamon, vanilla and a green leaf that carries the aroma of four spices in one.
The crown jewel is the Big Ben. The Little Big Ben, actually. A tiny silver replica of London’s Vauxhall Clock Tower that was erected in the central roundabout to mark Seychelles’ new status as the Crown Colony.
PARADISE is the permanent suffix of this island. The superlatives —– smallest, largest, biggest, rarest and oldest certainly live here.
While the country is gearing to celebrate WORLD YOGA DAY, an innovation on the SURYA NAMASKAR ———- christened SAMARTH NAMASKAR by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is sitting at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) awaiting a National Launch.
Confirming that SAMARTH NAMASKAR has found acceptance with the Modi government, Union Ministry for AYUSH Shripad Naik, added, “The file is pending with us and a date for the launch of this “innovative routine” will be set on Sunday after the celebrations of International Yoga Day wind up.” Director of the finance department of PMO also told Mirror, “PM will soon be launching SAMARTH NAMASKAR through AYUSH.”
“SAMARTH NAMASKAR seems to have incorporated certain movements of the body that were missing in the traditional SURYA NAMASKAR like the Trikonasana, Marjariasana and the Virbhadrasana kriya. Since, it has been developed by medical experts, it must have been done keeping in mind the musculoskeletal system. And if there is an easy flow from one posture to another —— that is the most crucial aspect —– it should work fine,” certified Asheet Ambekar, yoga teacher who has trained under Iyengar.
The Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the world’s largest “natural bridge”, formed by a meandering watercourse.
The previous course of the creek is still visible above the bridge. Water flows back on itself at bends and wide spots, creating “swirling eddies” along the banks. As the creek flowed around Rainbow Bridge “fin”, these abrasive eddies formed on both upstream and downstream sides, and cut “circular alcoves” in the rock wall. The sediment in the creek eventually scoured the softer layers of sandstone away, leaving the harder layers behind.
The next year, on May 11, 1910, US President William Howard Taft used Presidential Proclamation to designate Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Rainbow Bridge became more accessible with the popularity of a river running in Glen Canyon after World War –2, although the trip still required several days floating the Colorado River plus a 7-mile hike up-canyon. By the early 1950s, people could travel upstream by jet boat from Lee’s ferry.
The day will come when God will give the rewards, and He makes no mistakes, although some people may wonder how you came to merit such a reward, as they had never heard of you before.
If the 20th century was the century of the Skyscraper, then the 21st century is shaping up as the century of the PLYSCRAPER —– a tower block made entirely from wood.
Despite the historical reputation of wood for great city fires —— London in 1666, the Great Chicago fire of 1871 and San Francisco in 1960 ——- WOOD is making a comeback as “construction material” and how. Vancouver-based architects MGA recently completed a 97ft wooden building. Next year, in Vienna, construction will begin on a 275ft PLYSCRAPER, and Stockholm may build a 34-storey wooden apartment by 2023. Others in the pipeline are from Canada to Australia to Europe. Vancouver-based architect Michael Green, says the momentum is gaining as new engineered-woods allow for greater strength and heights in buildings. Moreover, faster construction times and a softer environmental impact, could the building material of the past be the future of construction ? But, he said, news of taller wooden structures is sprouting up all the time. “There seems to be a new announcement every 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve got one in Vancouver for 18 storeys, and in Vienna there’s one for more than 20 storeys. We’ve done research in high earthquake zones, that show 30 storeys is FEASIBLE. We certainly think we can go up to 40 and higher.”
Michael Green said that new developments in engineered-woods —— small wood components that are glued together to make large panels for a building —— are a “game-changer” for construction. Mass timber panels, in particular, cross-laminated-timber (CLT) are becoming established as a quicker, greener and, eventually, cheaper alternative to concrete and steel. One great bonus of the material is the “speed of construction” —— panels can be made to measure, in the factory, with openings, windows and doors. While the main advantage of working in wood are manifold —— it is flexible, robust and easily worked, Green says that wood may be the only material to address the growing problems of urbanization. Wood has not been looked as “urban material”, so we looked at how it could be the contributor to urban environments. There are a whole host of advantages. Steel and Concrete have huge “carbon footprints”. Concrete accounts for about 6-8% of man’s greenhouse gas emissions, whereas Wood “sequesters” carbon dioxide and gives us a vehicle to create “carbon-neutral buildings.
In terms of “carbon footprints”, a 20-storey PLYSCRAPER put against its counterpart in Concrete and Steel, is equivalent to taking 900 cars off the road for a year. But the established nature of concrete and steel means that CLT will not replace urban building materials overnight. Concerns over fire and inherent problems with its acoustic qualities (apartments need additional acoustic measures to keep noise from travelling) have meant that the construction establishment has been slow to come to the party. In Vienna, for example, the Austrian Fire Services are working with architects to test their plans. —– “The main factor is that everyone wants to build higher and higher buildings An 84-metre-high building, in Europe, is not usual and there are a lot of necessities that have to be realized,” fire service spokesman Christian Wegner told The Guardian newspaper, “a few of us were upset because it was crazy to present an idea like this that has not been discussed with everyone yet. They have to carry special tests on the correct combination of concrete and wood. We also want to develop a more “fail-safe” sprinkler system. I expect they will pass the tests, but if they develop the buildings, as they say they will, it will be a serious project.”
Super firm SOM —– the architects behind the One World Trade Centre and the Burj Khalifa —- are considering using wood for high-rise constructions. Wooden Skyscrapers, or should we say PLYSCRAPERS are “smoking hot.” —COULD YOU, WOOD YOU ????????
Locally known as MYSTERY LAKE, it is a high altitude “glacial lake” in Uttarakhand State of India, and lies in the lap of TRISHUL massif and is famous due to hundreds of “human skeletons” found at the edge of the lake. The place, located at an altitude of 16,499ft, is uninhabited. The lake is surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains, making it a good trekking destination.
The human skeletons were rediscovered in 1942 by a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger —— H. K. Madhwal, although there are reports about these bones from late 19th century. The remains are visible in the clear water during a one-month period when the ice melts. Along with the skeletons, objects like wooden artefacts, iron spearheads, leather slippers, rings were also found. Later studies found the time of mass death around the9th century.
ROOPKUND is a picturesque and beautiful tourist destination, and one of the important places for trekking in GARHWAL District, located near the base of two Himalayan peaks : TRISHUL (7,120m) and NANDA GHUNTI (6,310m). A religious festival is held at the alpine meadow of BEDNI UGYAL every autumn, with nearby villages participating. A larger celebration, the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, takes place once every 12 years at ROOPKUND, during which Goddess Nanda is worshipped. Roopkund Lake is covered with ice for most of the time during the yea. However, the journey to Roopkund is an enjoyable experience. All along the way, one is surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides.
From Bhagwabhasa, trekkers either go to Roopknd and come back, or they go SHILA SAMUNDAR (Sea of Stones) via JUNARGALLI Col Pass, which is just above the lake, and then proceed with the trek up to HOMKUND.
There are several clichés about desires, action and results. In the Bhagwad Gita (7:11), Krishna tells Arjuna, “I (the Lord) am in the form of desire which is unopposed to Dharma, universal ethical values.” The Gita in keeping with the philosophical tradition of India, looks upon desire as a privilege given to us, and not something that one has to eliminate. We are endowed with the capacity of desire, to know and to do. In fact, the final human end as envisaged in the Gita and Vedas is MOKSHA (freedom). The person who desires Moksha is called MUMUKSU. The one who desires to know the reality of ATMAN (Self), is called JIGNASU.
If so, why is desire presented as a problem in some spiritual teachings ? The problem lies in the fact that often desires have a great force. They impel a person to go against universal values, such as not lying, cheating or hurting others, which come under Dharma. That means, even though we cannot label desire as an unwelcoming thing, the challenge is in managing these desires ——- this is where ones discretion comes into play. One has to learn to use the privilege of desire wisely. Growth lies in ensuring that we don’t act on those desires which go against Dharma.
Often, spiritual teachings talk about “unconditional compassion and love”. As we become more objective and mature, we naturally become a contributor to society. We define our role in this world more broadly and reach out to others. Krishna says that those who are self-centred are creating paap (sin). This is because in this inter-connected world, we depend upon many people for our life. If we just take and don’t give back enough, we are like thieves.
Along a beautifully isolated six-mile-stretch of the most seductive corner of the Italian Riviera, lie the CINQUE TERRE small, traffic-free villages gently and steadily carving a good life out of a difficult terrain. Each fills a ravine with a lazy hive of human activity ——– calloused locals and sunburned travellers enjoying the area’s unique mix of Italian culture and nature.
CINQUE TERRE which means FIVE LANDS, comprise of 5 small coastal villages of RIOMAGGIORE, MANAROLA, CORNIGLIA, VERNAZZA & MONTEROSSO, located in the Italian region of Liguria. They are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
All the villages slope down to sea-level, except for CORNIGLIA, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. All of them possess an old-world-charm (from north to south : Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore). The northernmost one ——- Monterosso is completely different. It is beach resort type, with not much to see beyond the boardwalk, apart from modern apartment blocks and hotels ———— nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other four villages, lined with colourful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.
RIOMAGGIORE is the southernmost of the Cinque Terre. During the , you can hear the bell towers chiming and at night the frogs are in frenetic chatter as small boats go night-fishing for anchovies and other fish using lights to attract the fish. There is also an ancient stone CASTELLO about which little has been written. An information sign, outside, explains that first mention of the CASTELLO appeared in a document from the mid 500s, which already described it as “ancient.” Its quadrangular walls with two circular towers were built to protect the citizens, in case of an attack from the sea. In 800, the CASTELLO became a cemetery and parts were destroyed to adapt it to its new function. Now, there is an assortment of cafes, bars, restaurants and, of course, GELATERIE. There are also shops selling the typical yummy Italian fair: fresh fruit (strawberries, cherries and nespole), an assortment of SALUMI (salami and mortadella), cheeses and olives. These are good places to stock up for the hikes into the hills, although all of them are not very far away.
CORNIGLIA : At the station, the path gains height to reach the town. The road passes lemon trees, vines, lilies and vegetation of all kinds and, in May, the air is full of the perfume of flowers. Corniglia feels smaller and quieter, but it is just as “quaint” as the other four. As Corniglia is atop a large hill, it is only reachable from the train station by either climbing 365 steps up the hill (one step for each day of the year), or there is a bus, run by the Cinque Terre National Park, that takes people up to Corniglia and back down again.
MONTEROSSO is built to accommodate many tourists in large modern apartments and hotels. Walking is very popular. In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass from information offices near the train stations at any of the 5 villages. It costs 5 euros for an adult or 10 euros to get unlimited travel on trains between the villages. The pass also allows you to use buses within Cinque Terre.
The main attraction of Cinque Terre is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. It has been estimated to have taken about 200yrs to build the entire “stone-wall-network”.
Cinque Terre is famous for the dry white wine ——– simply called CINQUE TERRE and the SCIACCHETRA ( a prized dessert wine, made from prime grapes dried to the point of holding only a few drops of sweet juice). A colourful addition to the Cinque Terre products is LIMONCINO (a dessert wine made from steeping lemon peels in pure alcohol and then adding sugar and water to make a fragrant and fresh liquor. The lemons, another famous product of Cinque Terre, are prominently on display in many LIMONETI (lemon groves) and at the annual Lemon Festival held each year in Monterosso during the season of Pentacost. The “grape-routes” are still as they once were with fig trees planted in strategic positions to give shade during breaks from work, agaves planted to mark boundaries, to line the footpaths along steep, stony steps and to indicate the rail terminals of the recently installed memorials which are the only vertical structures emerging from this seemingly completely horizontal landscape. The large wicker baskets of grapes (CORBE) are arranged along the POSE (little walls as wide as tables, built solely for this purpose). The Cinque Terre grape tracks reach down to the sea. In the past, small fishing boats, called GOZZI, stood immediately below the terraced vineyards. Baskets, laden with grapes, were then lowered from above into these small boats which then sailed around to the otherwise inaccessible villages. Nowadays, this method is nothing but a distant memory, but, by visiting Cinque Terre you are still able to sample some of the prized wines of the world that have been created by centuries of backbreaking experience.
HOMEMADE ATTA NOODLES : The same kneaded flour that is used to make chappatis on a daily basis can be put into a sieve and pressed into the shape of noodles. You can also add soya chunks and spinach paste to flavour these noodles and add to its nutritive value. Boil them with a few drops of olive oil to get a non-sticky texture. They are extremely simple to make, and are a healthy option. Home masalas like dry coconut, onion paste, tomato puree or leftover vegetables can spice these ATTA NOODLES up.
HOW TO MAKE AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE TASTEMAKER : Mix some turmeric, chilly powder, coriander powder, amchur (dried mango powder), ginger-garlic paste and onion paste. Add these to your healthy noodles to make it tastier.
SPAGHETTI : Made of milled wheat and water, this long, thin, cylindrical pasta is any day a healthy alternative. A simple preparation with boiled veggies and scrambled egg is a perfect quick dish after a long day at work. You can always add some homemade masalas to enrich the taste.
NOOL PUTTU / IDIYAPPAM : Popular in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it’s a desi homemade version of rice noodles. Known as Iddiyappam or Nool Puttu, these string-like noodles are prepared by kneading a mixture of rice flour with hot water, ghee and salt. They are then pressed out of a sieve (or an iddiyappam press) and steamed. They are usually served with a dash of grated coconut and eaten with a spicy coconut-based curry (potato, gourd, egg, fish or chicken).