The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hilarious Kayaking




Krabi


 
Thailand is a destination that attracts all Indians irrespective of their age, background or different interests that it caters in a manner few can match in terms of affordability, proximity and very friendly people. A few years back my family and I flew into Krabi in Thailand, a destination which not many Indians generally prefer in comparison to Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket.
In the evening I went out for a stroll in the sleepy town of Krabi with my daughter and came across a travel agency that was offering a trip to Ao Thalene, a marshy area with unique ecological system. The trip included half a day of Kayaking in the waterways that go around the bay. Since we had never indulged in this before, we purchased the tickets for the next day and broke the news to my wife who was very skeptical but agreed to go.
Next morning we were picked up from our hotel to the destination in a big tempo traveler where a few foreigners already occupied the seats. After about 45 minutes of drive we arrived at the destination going through the jungles. After arriving, we were given a lesson for half hour to maneuver the paddles of the kayak and soon the trip started, with all three of us in a single kayak, with life jackets on. The kayak refused to budge initially but soon we were following many other accomplished kayak riders. As we were nearing the first halt a huge German assisted us in coming alongside.
Star Fish
 
The sight was unbelievable with hundreds of star fish and crabs crawling along the coast. It was literally as if stars had descended to earth. We then moved further sometimes pushing  the other kayaks out of the way by our paddles to avoid collision in some narrow channels,  other times getting stuck in the shallow waters and then desperately trying to push  back the kayak in midstream. Some of the fellow kayak enthusiasts threw bananas towards a horde of monkeys leading to a stampede and fight amongst them and for the first time I saw a monkey losing all his fingers due to a bite!
We stopped for lunch of lovely of Thai green curry, rice, pineapple and watermelons, which we literally gorged due pangs of hunger! When we finished our lunch I suddenly lost my balance while getting into the kayak and fell with a thud on the seat, jettisoning my wife out of her seat with the impact. Our kidlike laughter was uncontrollable for next ten minutes seeing the plight of my wife who was drenched from head to toe.
We came across some very interesting mud creatures, jelly fish, squids, lizards and some rare birds too on this sojourn. The trip came to an end about two hours late thanks to our collective incompetence to steer the kayak, leaving us exhausted but having a full share of fun. Whenever we remember that trip, it becomes difficult to control the laughter even now! No holiday is complete without children adding to the fun!

PS: 1.This is my entry for the Club Mahindra/ Indiblogger sponsored ‘Happy Hour’ Teddy Travelogue campaign about fun with kids on holiday
2. Pictures in the blog were taken by self in Krabi

Monday, December 15, 2014

Check Your Nerve On My Curve



 
It was a very cold winter morning and having landed in the hotel previous evening I did not get an opportunity to see the place. I had walked barely a few steps when I decided to cross the road not realizing that the traffic moved in opposite direction on this desolate road in Long Island in New York! A screech of tyres  shook me out of stupor, as I saw the car braked just 5 m away from me! The driver waved his hand asking me to cross and I sheepishly looked at him and thanked! It was a lesson  for the rest of the stay to be vigilant as I am not a cat that is blessed with nine lives!

In India every year, more than 135,000 traffic collision-related deaths occur and this is a staggering number. In New Delhi,  the frequency of traffic collisions is 40 times higher than the rate in London! Out of the estimated 1.4 million serious road accidents or collisions occurring annually in India, hardly 0.4 million are recorded! These figures are nothing to boast about but a sad reflection of the poor road safety records and smacks of the prevailing jungle law on most of the roads in the country. There are several reasons attributed to the dismal records and a few of these are as follows:

1.       Poor road conditions, not adequate lighting of roads

2.       Drunken  driving

3.       Poor fitness condition of vehicles, over used tyres, and almost zero maintenance of most of the vehicles.

4.        Color blindness among drivers

5.       Bad driving and road safety sense, over speeding, ignoring zebra crossing and overtaking from wrong direction

6.       Very little penalties for traffic related offences and long litigation period, giving a feel of justice denied to the victims.

7.       No fear of law and  repeat offenses

8.       Culpability of enforcement agencies that indulge in letting go offenders with bribes including issuing even fake licenses

9.       Distraction to drivers by display of inappropriate hoardings

10.    Texting, talking on mobile while driving

11.   Not wearing safety helmets and seat belts

12.   Tailgating, not paying heed to the traffic signals in vehicles, not using fog lights, incessant honking

13.   Inferior design of vehicles  as unable to withstand collision and shock on impact

14.   Lack of education  and  awareness, regarding rules of the road

15.   Too many vehicles in the city with too little road space
 

I was once traveling in Christchurch in New Zealand and the road was almost without any traffic! The signal was RED and one lone car was waiting, despite no traffic on either end of the road! This is discipline, and road sense! The car drove off, only when the signal changed to GREEN!  This is a stark contrast to numerous vehicles that jump the light on every crossing and motorbikes speeding  as if they are on the run after committing a heist!

We can still salvage the situation and learn from others.  There are many suggestions but a few that can be followed by most are enumerated as follows:

1.       Follow the traffic lights and observe the rules of the road! Airlines and ships follow the rules and the number of collisions are almost negligible compared to road accidents

2.       Do not drink and drive or talk on mobile when on the wheel

3.       Not pay bribes to authorities to seek license, or paying fine in case of offences

4.       Teach the children by first doing the right things ourselves. They will follow the good practices!

5.       To be patient on the road and not to lose temper and share vehicles if possible to reduce congestion

These will go a long way in making the roads safe and ensuring free flow of traffic notwithstanding the ever increasing number of vehicles on the road. Nissan Safety Driving Forum is one of the front runners in promoting the road safety on the Indian roads and is leading a campaign to promote the road safety in India, with a catchy slogan of ‘A Safer India. One city at a time’. (For more details The Nissan Safety Driving Forum)

PS :1.This post is my entry for the Nissan Safety Driving Forum/ Indiblogger  sponsored contest.
      2. Images kind courtesy http://www.roadsafetymayo.ie

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dar Ki Aage Jeet


I was sweating profusely even though I had just come out of the shallow end of the pool. I stood transfixed as I gazed at the 10 m deep end of the water!

‘Jump’ the instructor thundered.

I followed the instruction and jumped but was soon struggling to keep my head above water and desperately kicking my feet and trying to reach the end of the pool. I thought for a while that today is perhaps the last day of my life but next moment I somehow  reached the end ,but in the excitement and fear banged my hand on the projection meant to hold the end of the pool.

With one hand I held the pool end and saw the deep gash on left elbow from where the blood flowed and I could see the white of the bone. The instructor pulled me out and I was rushed to the Naval Hospital. I continued to bleed. When I returned back I had a couple of stitches on my elbow and a thick bandage for next two weeks!

While still in college in the pre final year a team of officers from the Indian Navy came for recruitment on the campus. I was enamored by the shining white and the smartness of the team. My last brush with whites was while still in school I had opted for Naval Wing of the NCC. What followed was something, I had only dreamt and one fine day, I had cleared all the pre selection process and after a year’s wait landed at the Naval Academy, in Kochi. The physical rigors were something totally unexpected and right from morn till night it was nerve racking and physically exhausting schedules.  What I feared most was entering the swimming pool as I had never gone near the water except on boat rides in lakes!

During the first week at the academy we went to the swimming pool and had fun at the shallow end for the entire time while those who knew swimming mocked at us non swimmers and enjoyed themselves! We tried to learn to float as the instructors tried to help us talking gently sometimes and shouting at other times for the lack of application.

The D day came the next week when all non -swimmers were asked to step out of the shallow end and by turn jump from the deep end. The instructor watched keenly as the series of debacles followed.

First it was Sunder, a guy from Chennai who was almost trembling and the moment he jumped he went down like a stone! As he did not surface , the instructor jumped and followed him and extricated him out of the pool, as he continued to cough having drunk a lot of water. Next, it was Rangaraj, who looked equally hapless and was struggling to keep his head up after the jump. He too was pulled out by the instructor. My turn came next and knew a similar fate awaited me! What followed, became an experience to remember for the rest of my life!

After two weeks the fear had been conquered and I slowly picked up the swimming and had the proudest moment when I qualified the 10 m dive and 100m free style test after six months. This was a lesson I never forgot as I undertook more challenges like a dive in the sea, zip line across the hill, rappelling on rocks ,bridges, and even parasailing.
 
 
PS : This post is my entry for the 'Rise above Fear' contest sponsored by Mountain Dew and Indiblogger(https://www.facebook.com/mountaindewindia.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dream Holidays


Who does not love to travel! I have been smitten by travel ever since I was a child. I have been fortunate to have traversed to distant lands and across the seas but with every journey undertaken, I realize how little I have seen and how much more of the beauty still remains unexplored. It is very wisely said that anyone who has not traveled has just read one page of the life where as  one who has traveled has read the entire book!

The five most interesting places on my wish list of travel are as follows:

1.       Halong Bay, Vietnam

A UNESCO world heritage site it is a visual delight. The 2000 odd islets mostly cast in limestone are scattered around the deep blue seas which are a breathtaking sight. There are plenty of small hotels where one can stay in the small town that is 150 km away from Hanoi. A cruise around the isles is something I wish to experience.
Courtesy:www.huonghaisealifecruise.com
 

2.       Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia lies in the Antaliya region of Turkey which has a cluster of fairy chimney rock formations which appear like a fairyland especially when viewed from hot air balloon at the day break. The rock cut temples inside the caves are  something that leaves one spellbound!


Courtesy www.turkeyhoneymoonpackages.com
 

3.       Machu Pichu-Peru

The trail of Incas situated in the cradle of mountains is about 50 km away from Cusco. The three primary structures created in the Incas style comprise the Sacred City. The place has breathtaking views besides a long trek through the jagged mountains. This too is a UNESCO heritage site

Courtesy: www.wanderingtrader.com
 

4.       Alaska- USA

Alaska and the fjords and white fleeting icebergs floating in the cold sea have been a dream that I wait to be fulfilled one day. It would be extreme joy to undertake a cruise in the freezing sea and admire the barren raw beauty of the nature, as it unfolds on a sea voyage around the bay. Watching the polar bears in their habitat is something I await to see one day.The pristine whiteness of the snow and deep blue sea with a clear blue sky is something to die for!

Courtesy: www.uptowneyesnwa.com
 

5.       Copacabana Beach, Brazil

 Copacabana beach with the glazing white sands and skimpily clad Brazilian beauties is an experience that is also on the wish list. The beat of samba and swaying coconuts make the setting complete. I am sure Christ- The Redeemer would one day fulfil the wish to lie on this beach and count the sea waves as they beat the lovely coastline.



Courtesy:  www.rentanapartmentinrio.com
 

 

The list would be endless but the ones that are top on the list is what I shared with my readers. I hope the AirBnB would help in fulfilling one of my dreams soon by helping me book my travel, accomodation and local sight seeing!
PS1. This is my post of AirBnB/ Indiblogger contest
    2. Courtesy :  Images source indicated against each picture

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Strive for a Clean India


Late Khushwant Singh the eminent writer, once on return from a trip abroad wrote in his column’ With malice towards one and all’ that the moment his taxi moved out of the Mumbai International Airport, he was greeted with the familiar sight of scores of people defacing in open. He remarked’ at last I am home’!

No matter where we live in India, it is not unusual to find garbage littered in streets and piled up at every corner. In smaller villages and towns the overflowing drains and refuse attract, pigs and stray animals which make the place even unhealthier. The problem gets compounded as people deface in the open which leaves the place filled with stench.

Cleanliness not only improves the quality of surroundings and makes them more pleasant, but helps in attaining efficiencies also. The private airlines ’ Indigo’ is known for its ‘on time flights’ and insists all passengers to pass on the trash to the onboard flight attendants , before they disembark to ensure no time is lost in the cleaning the aircraft when it lands at next destination.

While most of us who live in decent dwellings, do our utmost to keep the house and the garden clean but when it comes to maintaining the same level of cleanliness at public roads and parks we often forget this! It is not uncommon to see people throwing the used cans or wrappers straight out of the window of a car or carelessly tossing it on the roadside! The offenders here are mostly well read and literate people! The manners we learnt at home and school to keep the environment clean are easily forgotten! Can a handful of sweepers keep the big city clean if we do not throw the garbage in the assigned bins! This results in choking the drains during the monsoon months, and overflowing roads resulting in traffic jams!

Our hills are littered with plastics, empty plastic bottles, used metal cans that not only mar the beauty but also are hazardous for trekking enthusiasts! One look at the banks of Ganges near Rishikesh reveals the amount of muck that is dumped in the river and as the river flows down the plains, it looks more like a drain than a river! The situation is no different for other rivers.This is a stark contrast to cities in Europe where one can see fishing enthusiasts looking for trout or salmon right in the city center by the riverbed!

 Unchecked discharge of toxic gases and suspended impurities by industries and vehicles are degrading the environment.

The Ten Commandments that help promote Cleanliness and preserve sanitation

1.       Always throw all the refuse in the waste cans and not litter the streets

2.       Wash the hands every time before and after taking food

3.       Plant sapling at home and  not cut trees

4.       Not to spit/ urinate in open areas. Offenders should be fined

5.       Schools and colleges should promote’ Shram dan’ once a month to clean the adjoining areas by involving locals

6.       Stray animals be sterilized or rounded up and isolated

7.       Building more toilets across the country

8.       Promoting more environment friendly mode of transport including cycle tracks to reduce pollution.

9.       To avoid burning the trash or refuse and prevent air pollution

10.   Rivers be treated with respect and not used to dump the garbage, dead bodies and animals.
Time is running out.  Every individual should help in this endeavor and it is our duty to leave the mother earth intact for the future generations to see its beauty forever!

PS:  This post is my contribution to Dettol/NDTV and Indiblogger ‘Swachh India’ campaign             http://swachhindia.ndtv.com/

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Come Fly With Me


 









 I love hearing stories of adventure and my didi who is older to me by two years also loves the same.  She likes the stories of fairies! During my summer vacation I had gone with my mother to my Nana’s place in Goa where he serves as a pilot at the air station. His house overlooked the Arabian sea at the Dabolim airport. Cold breeze and swaying palm trees, fishing boats in the shimmering water and miles of white sand beach are sights I had never seen before. One morning, I heard a drone of aircraft and as I looked up, my eyes shone at the sight of a huge aircraft that flew past at a very low height. The grey color radiated in the morning sun.  I had never ever seen such a big aero plane. Later in the evening I told Nana about what I had seen in a very excited tone. He smiled and said, ‘That was TU 142 aircraft, one of the biggest one. I too fly the same’, he continued.

‘Oh, is it? ‘My eyes widened in disbelief. ‘Are there any planes bigger than that’? I asked with curiosity.

‘Sure, there are, would you like to know about that’ he looked at me, already knowing my answer.

‘Please tell’ I and my sister shouted in a chorus.

So after finishing the dinner, we hopped in his bed and as he settled down, we both started pestering him for the promised story.

‘I will tell you about aircrafts from the old times to now’ he started sensing our anticipation.

The story started from the times of ‘ Pushpak viman’ that was used by Ravana to ferry Sita in the epic Ramayana, to the story of Wright brothers who were the first to fly the airplane, and had reached till airship Zeppelin that were flown during the second world war.

‘Nana, but you had told us that you will tell about the biggest airplane’ I interrupted.

‘I was just coming to that, he continued’. You know the biggest aircraft will now fly in India , from New Delhi to Frankfurt by Lufthansa from November , this year! This aircraft has been built by Airbus Industries of France and can carry up to 853 passengers and crew in a full economy class and 525 passengers in a three class configuration (First, Business and Economy class).In short a perfect aircraft for a big population in India to travel!It has two decks with alleys in front and rear for passengers to board and disembark. The upper deck is at such a height that the noise of the engines is almost inaudible. Also, this aircraft despite its huge size is 50% quieter compared to Boeing 747, its nearest rival. It requires a runway almost 2km long to take off and 3 km to land! There are big windows that give fantastic view as you fly in comfort of big seats.

'The plane is 73m long 24 m wide and can fly 15000 km, say from India to Australia and back at one go! It has electrical cabling extending 500km and the cabin  air is recycled every three minutes to maintain freshness' he added.

My eyes opened in disbelief. ‘Nana, is this all true, or a fairy tale’ I tapped him, as I started feeling even more excited.

‘This aircraft can carry almost 560 tonnes at takeoff and has 15-20% more efficiency of operation , which makes it suitable for a country like ours , at the same time maintain low cost and help in keeping the environment green' he explained.

‘ Nana, I would like to go on this plane, will you take me’ I asked as , I had started falling sleepy.

‘ Sure, next time, I will take you all on a trip to Germany, where you can have your favorite pasta and matar panner on the Lufthansa flight, besides gifts from the sweet and hospitable airhostesses’ he added.

I had already started dreaming about my flight to Germany, with Nana , in the mighty A-380, as mom came and picked me up in her arms and took me to my bed.
 
video
 
PS: This post a flight of fantacy of a four year old Akshat who would love to fly on A-380 with his sister Arushi. This post is my submission for Lufthansa, Indiblogger contest(http://a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home)#LufthansaA380

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bring Back the Touch


The rain drops were fresh on the grass and the cold air was blowing gently as the leaves rustled. The continuous downpour through the night had kept me awake. The military barrack where the Command Hospital is located in Pune is almost forty kilometers from where I was residing. The salubrious surroundings, sight of rising hills and silhouetted Singhgarh Fort with undulating green valleys, made each day a special one! Most of the day was spent in studying as pursuing a full time post graduate engineering course was a daunting task after a long break!
My wife was in a family way and so the little time I got, was spent in taking care of her, visiting the doctor and assisting in the household chores! It was a Sunday morning, and one of my wife’s cousins who were undergoing the military training at the NDA had come to visit us. Soon, an emergency like situation arose that required shifting my wife to the hospital, and as luck would have it the doctor at nearby hospital was on leave. Having no option, we had to rush to the Command Hospital. After reaching there, she was wheeled into the labor room and the interminable wait started! Some more pregnant ladies came in and within hours most of them delivered and nurse kept breaking the news of new arrivals! Every time a nurse appeared, I would jump out of the seat only to be disappointed and told that I would have to wait! The time wore on till evening and the doctors told me to go back but the mental turmoil did not allow me to leave the place. Late at night I was informed that a senior doctor has been called in leaving me more anxious than ever. It kept pouring through the night and the sleep was elusive! Around 8.30AM in the morning, I went out for a cup of tea and the moment I returned, the nurse informed me that we had been blessed with a girl! My joy knew no bounds and after another two hours of wait, saw my wife being wheeled out with my tiny daughter who had her eyes open! Holding hands of my wife and seeing the spark return in her tired eyes was like reliving the moment when we had met the first time! This time it was even more rewarding as she had given me the best gift of my life whom I touched for the first time with a swelling pride!

PS: This post has been written for the Indiblogger and Parachute Advanced Body Lotion (http://www.pblskin.com/),  #BringBackTheTouch. Contest.