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Monday, November 22, 2010

Jan Ahaar, a let-down.

Ernakulam Jn (South) railway station has a new neat-looking Jan Ahaar restaurant of IRCTC. When I checked half an hour back, it had nothing listed in menu, except idly-vada. Not surprisingly, there were no customers. Misleading menu is a big put-off. Nearby restaurants had much more & were crowded. Bad show by IRCTC here, though I am quite impressed by IRCTC's online reservation system. I am a big admirer of IRCTC, so this Jan Ahaar was a big let-down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TIME article -- Why more infrastructure isn't enough for India

An interesting article from the lastest issue of Time.... especially in the context of Obama saying that India is "not just rising, but it has risen". 

"It's a source of constant conflict and great contradictions, explaining why gleaming highways rise up effortlessly while decent sewer lines do not. There's a risk that infrastructure asset bubbles will form -- overfunded, underused toll roads, for instance -- while basic services languish. How this tension is resolved will determine what kind of economic superpower India will become."


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

North-East tour -- Day 5, Nov 3

KOHIMA WAR CEMETERY

The highlight of today was a visit to the Kohima War Cemetery. This is in memory of the soldiers of the Allied Forces who lost their lives fighting the Japanese Army during the World War II.

There are stone inscriptions of over 2,000 soldiers, who successfully stopped the advance of the Japanese troops at the Garrison Hills after a bloody battle in 1944. Relatives and friends — from abroad too — come to pay homage here.

We found flowers, and black and white photos placed at one tombstone: a very moving site. We go into a contemplative mood in the sombre air of the memorial wonderfully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

EVERYTHING IS DELICIOUS

Dog is said to be man’s best friend, and I have noticed that an anti-dog remark can excite people so much they can become emotional, angry and probably even violent! So don’t read further, if you are a passionate dog-lover!

Nagas are meat lovers: and the flesh of two animals they enjoy are that of pig and dog. Pork is popular elsewhere in India, but not dog meat. I am told it’s very tasty.

We went to a market in Kohima, popularly called the ‘kheeda market’ where we saw frogs and worms of various types kept for sale. There was also a rabbit, and flesh of dog and deer.

On the other side of the market were the more familiar tomatoes and potatoes. There was also the Naga mirchis, said to be the hottest in the world, having beaten a Mexican one reacently, I am told. I did get to have a bite at that yesterday: the tiniest of the bit set mouth aflame, as it were.

END OF TOUR

In the evening, we reached Dimapur. This railway station is the only one in Nagaland: a good, small one. The train to Guwahati was half an hour late. Tomorrow morning we reach Guwahati around 5.30; then we head back for Bangalore.

A delightful holiday is coming to an end. Got to see a lot more than we ever expected to. This entire region holds so much for a tourist. We rush off to foreign destinations for holiday; but the north-east reminds us that there’s a lot to see, explore and enjoy within our own India.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

North-East tour -- Day 5, Nov 2

We keep hearing about Nagaland, but mostly all negative news. But today, after getting to know about the history of the state, about the tribals, their culture and traditions, I realised how ignorant we are.

We got an opportunity to see the typical manner in which Nagas welcome guests. Naga men dressed in their typical costume with head gears and spears demonstrated their war-cry. A group of six young girls dressed in what resembled a school uniform, performed a a captivating musical dance. Music is so much a part of every Naga.

We went to the heritage village where we saw models of houses of different Naga tribes. Then we went to the home of a Naga family, where the gracious hosts offered us rice beer, that’s nothing but fermented rice water: too light to get you intoxicated. There we saw the huge container in which they store rice. Rice is their staple diet and they love meat. ”They eat anything that moves. And dog meat is a delicacy,” we were told. For a typical Naga, there’s nothing like a vegetarian diet!

The state has tumultous history; sort of an unsettling contrast when we see the beautiful landscape all around the place. Currently the entire region is in a transition stage. The local people are being integrated into the mainstream in a manner that is acceptable to them; with the result there is peace all around. It’s hoped that the new generation will carry on bringing about the change and usher happier times for this entire region.

Zakhama, some 25 km from Kohima, was a too cold, colder than Shillong. Must be 15 degrees or thereabouts. We were told that yesterday was sunny and bright. But today, the whole place is covered with mist. Visibility is as low as 50 to 100 metres. We were told that during winter, if you keep the door open, you’ll have thick mist right inside the house!

Tomorrow, lots more to see and know about the local traditions and customs here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

North-East Tour - Day 4, Nov 1

They say a journey becomes more interesting when the destination is a mystery or mysterious. We were told that Mawlynnong, in East Khasi district, 100 km south of Shillong, is a must-see. It's the cleanest village in Asia. But we kept wondering what's so special about this village to get this tag. It sounded quite mysterious to us, and heightened our excitement to be at that place.

We started off from Shillong at 7 am, and passed through a number of villages. Virtually the entire journey is beside hillocks with green-carpeted steep precipice on the other side. It's a breathtaking view of green landscape some of which in captivating formations. It's amazing the way Nature presents itself.

It's hills all over, either we are going up, or going down, moving from one hillock to the other. There are just no plains on the way. As we go, we realise that green hills have been chipped to create roads. From afar the road looks like a step.

At a number of places we could see waterfalls, big and small. At some places there were just the trails of water on dry rocks.

The cleanest village is... indeed clean, very clean. People are obsessed with cleanliness. Don't be surprised if you see people always cleaning the premises.

Adjascent to this prestigeous village, there is a bridge across a stream. It's an unusual bridge: it's made of live roots of a rubber tree! Then nearby there is a balancing stone -- a natural marval: a huge rock balanced on a much smaller rock.

Since we had to catch the 10.30 pm train to Dimapur, we were in a hurry to return to Shillong. We reached back around 3 pm.

Big or small, any city is congested. Shillong's city Centre is choc-a-bloc. Narrow roads, lots of people and cars all over the place.

We reach the Meghalaya Transport Corporation bus stand around 3.30 pm. Chances of getting a bus looked really dim. Since taxi operators were still on strike, we had to hunt around for a private car to take us to Guwahati.

Finally, reached Guwahati railway station at 9.15 pm. Now, in the train heading to Dimapur, Nagaland, where we will spend the next two days.