Paridhi – A Technological Bonanza

abc
Image Courtesy: MSIT

Meghnad Saha Insititute of Technology is back with the Sixth Edition of it’s Annual Techno- Management fest which is organized by the technical wing of the college, MEGATRONIX. Paridhi is a college fest which brings forth an opportunity for students to challenge and test themselves against a vast range of  events.This year the fest  is back with 41 events and the teams not only compete with colleges of Kolkata but also the best and toughest teams across the whole country. Megatronix,the Technical Club of Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology invites each and every student to this college fest Paridhi on 18 th ,19 th and 20 th of March,2017.

This year come over to push your limits and win exciting and beautiful prizes as Harder the Battle,The Sweeter is the Victory. Some of the interesting events are Game of Death,Chanakyeeti,Pool-O-Soccer,SOS,Royal Rumble and many more which are a craze amongst the students of Kolkata and even outside the State.The manual Robotics events include Horror House and Game of Death.1 st years have a coding event called Code-off- Beta,Pandora’s Box,Bug Hunt,Droid-Up and Web-Head.They have a Business Plan event for the budding entrepreneurs as well.The events start from 10 am in the morning with a break at 2pm in between for an hour and then again continues till 6pm in the evening.

Image Courtesy: MSIT

The fest is powered by T2. The event has education partners like Oracle Academy,Erudite,Time, ICFAI Business School,Endeavor. Pizza Hut is the food partner while the publicity partners are Siti Events,Cashtag and London -Paris Multiplex. Coca-Cola are the beverage partners; 91.9 Friends FM, the Radio Partners and Wedding Rings, the Photography Partners. NACS and Shop-inway are the co-sponsors and Net Wizard Technologies are the Coding partners. The online partners include KNOWAFEST.COM,DARE2COMPLETE.COM,BTECHJOSH.COM,KOLKATA BLOGGERS,festpav.com.

The link of the college website is www.msitparidhi.com .

So this 18th ,19th and 20th of March come and witness a high tide of technological extravaganza at our own state and get ready to have a gala time.We hope to see all of you there.

 

Author Bio:

This blog is written by Progya Baul ,a first year student of Loreto College Kolkata pursuing her degree in Economics.She has a passion for acting and reviewing and writing about food has been her latest fancy too. She is currently pursuing her internship with the Kolkata Bloggers and has written the post on behalf of Kolkata Bloggers who are the online and publicity partners of the event.

Progya Baul: Photo Courtesy: Sabyasachi

GUEST POST: Five Places to Visit in Italy

I’ve written extensively on my blog about how much I love Italy! I often joke that I should have been born Italian – I love good food (pasta in particular!), I love everything beautiful and I love dolce vita lifestyle. Going to Italy is always such a delight and today I am going to share my top 5 favourite destinations in Italy.

Rome

 

Source: www.thestylishvoyager.com.
Source: www.thestylishvoyager.com

OK, this one is a must as “all roads lead to Rome.” Every tourist’s exploration of Italy should start with its capital that has rich historical, artistic and cultural past. Every street lives and breathes history and there is a lot to see. At the very least, I would recommend checking out the Colosseum; Trevi Fountain (my hubby says it’s the most beautiful thing he has ever seen); Vatican with its museums and Sistine Chapel (totally worth the wait in long queue to see The Creation of Adam); Pantheon; Roman Forum and Villa Borghese. All of these are located in the centre of the city and can be easily covered in a couple of days.

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

What I really love about Rome, however, is its small side streets and ability to get lost and finding yourself in a random neighbourhood with its own piazza, churches of unparalleled beauty and some of the best Italian food. One of these areas is Trastevere (translates “across the Tiber”), a beautiful old neighbourhood across the river and away from the loud tourist crowds. It has its own vibe and to me represents real Rome, letting you take a peek into the life of regular Romans and how they live and socialize. It’s very green, cosy and bohemian with great (cheaper than touristy!) restaurants and cafes to visit.

Florence

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

…Or Firenze as Italians call it. Besides being a beautiful city, to me Florence is the cradle of Italian classical art, Renaissance in particular, and holds some of the greatest artistic assets. This is where some of the most talented and well-known Italian artists studied and perfected their skills. So don’t be surprised to walk into a church or palace to find out that some renown Italian painter decorated its walls and ceilings.

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

Once you check out the Duomo, Florence’s main attraction and most stunning cathedral (its rooftop provides great views of the city but be prepared for a steep hike over 463 steps), I suggest you head to Uffizi Gallery and the Academia. In Uffizi you will find the artwork by Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello among many and see famous paintings such as The Birth of Venus, which is absolutely stunning when you see it in person! The Academia is home to and is most famous for Michelangelo’s David. He is indeed very handsome! There is another David in front of the Palazzo della Signoria, but don’t be fooled – it’s just a replica and real David can only be found in the Academia. Here you will also find paintings and sculptures by great artists, such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pontormo, del Sarto, Allori and Orcagna. And if you hadn’t had enough, I advise visiting few grand palaces, like Palazzo Veccio and Palazzo Pitti, while churches such as Basilica di Santa Croce and Basilica di Santa Maria Novella will leave you breathless.

Venice

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

One of the Italy’s top attractions, Venice is crowded most of the year which somewhat takes away its infamous sense of romance. Be prepared to join millions of tourists admiring beauty of its numerous small and big canals and medieval architecture. Once you get to Venice you will quickly discover that Piazza San Marco with its Basilica and side square opening to the lagoon are probably one of the most beautiful places you have seen. Other top attractions include Gallerie dell’a Accademia with its vast collection of Venetian paintings, Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) that was the center of political and legal system, Grand Canal and its decorative Rialto Bridge, Murano island world famous for its glassblowing, and other numerous churches, museums and palaces worth visiting.

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

This historic city is filled with a sense of mystery – as you navigate its hidden passages, narrow alleyways and bridges, you can feel many secrets and stories they hold. Yet it’s very busy and vibrant – wherever you go, you see Venetian ball masques and elaborate costumes, Murano glass creations, little side markets and stalls with locals doing their daily shopping, and singing gondoliers skilfully manoeuvring their gondolas through narrow canals. I personally was on the mission to find the house of Casanova, world’s famous lover. When I asked one of the old waiters at the restaurant I was lunching at, he smiled and answered with a smirk: “Every house in this city is Casanova’s,” which is probably not far from the truth! But you can still find the house where he was born on Calle Malipiero, just off Campo San Samuele.

Cinque Terre

 

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

By now most of the avid travellers have probably seen the photos of Cinque Terre’s picturesque villages nested on dramatic seaside cliffs. Set along the coast of Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre is a vibrant collection of five medieval finishing villages: Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. Each village has its own character and charm: Monterosso is a larger village with its own beach and seafront promenade (check out Statue of Neptune aka the Giant, Old Castle and the Church of Saint John the Baptist), while Corniglia is located at the top of the cape and is a great place to stop for drinks and try some local wines. Vernazza has a small but beautiful harbor, which is a great place for a meal especially around the sunset, but also make sure to check out its Doria Castle and the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Reggio.

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

Next is Manarola, one of the smallest villages but its houses are very colorful, while its vineyards and orchards are rich and fruitful. Finally, fifth village – Riomaggiore is one of the most popular among the tourists and has its own castle, an old church of San Giovanni Battista and even a natural park. All five villages are connected by a monorail since cars are not allowed in the area, so allow extra time for travel, while exploring each village without rush and enjoying stunning landscape. Also, don’t be surprised to hear English everywhere as monorail carriages tend to be full of trekkers, especially Americans. Cinque Terre offers excellent trekking routes, while food and wine (“Sciacchetrà” wine is produced here) are excellent. Here I tried my ‘black’ squid ink pasta for the first time. It didn’t look or sound appetizing but was in fact very tasty!

Alberobello

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Source: http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

Having visited it a couple years ago, I am in love with the Puglia region in southern Italy. I was lucky to meet up with a fellow traveller who had a car and we were able to explore a bit of the region (Alberobello, Ostuni and Lecce) together.

Alberobello is one of the most unusual places I have been to thanks for its whimsical architectural style. This small old town with only 10,000 population is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a home of the trulli culture. Wherever you look you will see white fairytale like traditional houses, trulli, with conical roofs made out of stones. What’s really special about these roofs is that they are made without mortar or any kind of the bonding material and are kept in place by a key, a round tip at the top of the cone. There is a reason behind this ingenious invention. According to the legend, trulli houses were built this way on purpose – to avoid paying taxes on the new settlements. The minute king’s tax inspectors arrived, they could be easily dismantled and then just as easily put back together once unwelcomed visitors left. The houses are quite small inside for modern lifestyle but some locals still live in them while others turned these into shops and restaurants. It’s a great place to visit and take your time to walk on small pathways between these traditional houses and have a meal in one of the local restaurants to try some local delicacies.

Lana
Lana from http://www.thestylishvoyager.com

Author Bio: I am Lana aka The Stylish Voyager. I am a fashionista, voyager, geek, wife, foodie, PhD graduate, cat lover, and part-time wonder woman, and I document my discoveries on The Stylish Voyager as I explore the world each day. For more about me and my adventures, please visit my blog: www.thestylishvoyager.com.

GUEST POST : The South American BackPacking Diaries

Caitlin with her husband, Sam
Caitlin with her husband, Sam

Last February, my husband and I look a leap of faith. We quit our jobs to travel.

And now, a year later, I’m here to report that we’re okay- great, in fact! Quitting your job can be a scary thing, especially when you don’t have a real plan or a ton of money. We didn’t have a plan, and while we had saved for a few years, we also didn’t have tons of money. But we knew we wanted to do it, and we were at a turning point in our careers where we knew we wanted a change. So rather than transition like most people do from one job straight into the next, we decided to quit together, take a break by backpacking through Central and South America, and then start a new job once we felt refreshed and motivated again. It was VERY doable, and I STRONGLY recommend it to anyone who is considering it.

Below is a summary of our trip and where our adventures led us. As I said, we didn’t really have a plan. We made (most of) it up as we went. We knew we wanted to go to Guatemala to practice our Spanish, to Buenos Aires to see the big city culture, and to Machu Picchu to see one of the Wonders of the World. But outside of those things, we were winging it. Once we started traveling, we met lots of awesome people who guided us to incredible cities and sites, tons of delicious restaurants and street food vendors, and to getaway locales we didn’t even know existed. It was a magical trip.

During our travels, I wrote a personal blog that chronicled our trip and our experiences mostly to keep friends informed of our whereabouts (and to ensure our parents that we were safe). When we returned, I realized that I liked and wanted to continue blogging, so I brainstormed about the type of travel website that could be useful for other people- and especially for travelers like me. And eventually, I decided on the concept that is now Trust the Locals (http://www.trustthelocals.com). Trust the Locals aggregates travel advice from locals around the world to provide quick, concise tips on what to see and where to go in the cities you’re planning to visit. Because most of the time, locals know the secrets and the cool new spots that aren’t in the tours or haven’t made it to the guide-book yet! I hope you’ll check it out before your next trip, and if you don’t see the place you’re about to visit, send me an email and we’ll find a local to interview!

Isla Verde Hotel in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Isla Verde Hotel in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

GUATEMALA- ANTIGUA, QUETZALTENANGO AND LAKE ATITLAN
Guatemala is an incredible country. Arriving there set me into “travel mode”; it was so strikingly different from the world I know in the US. We started our trip with a weekend in Antigua, and then drove to Quetzaltenango (nicknamed ‘Xela’) for a week of Spanish lessons. The people we stayed with in Xela were incredibly warm and welcoming, and they taught us so much about Guatemalan culture and history.  After a week in Xela, we spent a long weekend lounging at Lake Atitlan (an AMAZINGLY beautiful lake surrounded by volcanos) before heading back to Guatemala City and then flying to Montevideo.

 Important Lessons from Guatemala:

Take Spanish lessons here! There are many programs throughout Guatemala, and they are cheap! We picked Celas Maya in Xela based on a recommendation, but there are also programs in Antigua and Panajachel that offer classes and private tutoring. The Spanish in Guatemala is slow, clear and “traditional”, making it a great country to learn the language.

Take probiotics! Or eat lots of yogurt before you go. The bacteria in foods there is different, and sometimes the veggies aren’t cleaned as thoroughly as they are at, say, Whole Foods. You’re still likely to have an upset stomach from time to time, no matter how careful you are. Nothing pepto can’t handle:)

Favorite Accommodations: Hotel Isla Verde; Santa Cruz La Laguna- at Lake Atitlan

Favorite Restaurants: Slow Food Cafe at Hotel Isla Verde- Breakfast, lunch & drinks a la carte, or 3 course dinner. Santa Cruz La Laguna, Lake Atitlan,Sabe Rico– Beautiful outdoor dining in Antigua, Guatemala

Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay

URUGUAY- MONTEVIDEO
We only had a few days in Montevideo- enough to spend time at the beach, wander the streets and the parks, go to a few restaurants, and then take the ferry to Buenos Aires. It was a STARK contrast from Guatemala. Uruguay, in comparison, is a very wealthy, developed country, and Montevideo is the biggest city in Uruguay.

Favorite Restaurant: La Cocina De Pedro, Barrio Sur, Montevideo

Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires
Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires

ARGENTINA- BUENOS AIRES, BARILOCHE & MENDOZA
Argentina was the country I most wanted to visit, and once we arrived, it was hard for me to leave. Buenos Aires is a massive city, and wandering through it, I sometimes forgot where I was. A bit like Europe, but with brighter colors, more sun, and of course, the tango. Before leaving for our trip, my husband and I did some credit card point research, and we were able to book a few luxury hotel stays in places we knew we’d be visiting.

The first stay was in Buenos Aires, using a combination of Hyatt points and cash. Arriving Buenos, we were able to head straight to the five-star Park Hyatt in Recoleta, known as the Palacio Duhau. The hotel was a welcomed luxury after staying at a cramped hostel in Montevideo, and provided every amenity we could have imagined, including a marble bath tub, plush robes, an espresso machine, turn-down service, and complimentary shoe shines, plus, three restaurants, an on-site florist, whiskey bar, and a beautiful terrace with tango performances each night.

After checking out of the Palacio Duhau, we decided to book an Airbnb in the MicroCenter so that we could stay a bit longer and check out more of the city, including San Telmo, La Boca, several museums, an electronic tango called Fernandez Fierro, and of course, a steak dinner at Fervor.

And, even after three more nights in the city, we decided we hadn’t had enough, so booked one last stay at another Air Bnb back in the Retiro neighborhood, close to the Recoleta Cemetery.

Although we didn’t have the hiking equipment in our packs to visit Ushuaia or to hike the W, we did want to get down to Patagonia, so decided on Bariloche. The concierge at the Park Hyatt thought we were crazy, but because of the cheaper tickets, we opted to take a 22 hour bus ride instead of a flight. I’ve seen many photos of Patagonia, and I’d heard about Bariloche, but hadn’t done much research before arriving. Thankfully, it was fairly easy to navigate the small town once we arrived; the tourist office in the town center helped us pick a couple of hikes, including Refugio Frey and Parque Municipal Llao Llao. We also took a chair lift called Cerro Otto to a restaurant that gave us an aerial view of Bariloche.

Although I’ve traveled all over the world, Bariloche continues to be one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The landscape has the best of everything. Turquoise blue lakes, purple mountains, lush green hills and clear blue skies. Plus, crazy views of the Andes mountain range, hikes to hidden lakes, and forests with rare, giant trees. It sounds cliche, but these views on our hikes took my breath away.

Another 20 hour bus ride northwest took us to Mendoza, where we decided to spend one day relaxing at our hotel- the Park Hyatt- and then the next two days visiting wineries. Tasting wine in Mendoza was very different from any other wine region I’d visited, and spending two days with private tour guides at Mendoza Wine Camp taught us a lot about these differences. Because wine makers in Argentina don’t follow the strict guidelines that the French do, there’s lots of creativity and unusual blends that you don’t hear about in other parts of the world. And, while the Malbec is the star of the region (and were all delicious), we left with a new favorite- Torrontes, a crisp, bright white wine.

Lessons from Argentina: Eat the steak! This advice is on every Buenos Aires travel blog for a reason. Fervor was the restaurant we chose, but if you can’t afford a restaurant and have a kitchen to cook in, the meat is also cheap at the grocery- we estimated that our 10oz cut of ribeye from the grocery was $4. Expect very different eating schedules- breakfast in Argentina is small or non-existent, lunch is at home, followed by a nap. Tea is around 4 or 5pm, followed by dinner at9pm if you’re staying in, or at 10-11pm if you’re going out. If you’re going out, dinner can also be at midnight, followed by drinks and bar hopping starting around 1pm. If you’re in BA, “going out” can continue until sunrise.

Bariloche has incredible chocolate (Rapa Nui was our favorite shop), and Mendoza produces more than just Malbec. Who knew!

Favorite Accommodations: Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt, Recoleta, Buenos Aires
& Mendoza Park Hyatt

Favorite Restaurants: Fervor– Steak and Seafood- HIGHLY Recommended! in Recoleta, Buenos Aires; Cafe Tortoni– Oldes Cafe in Buenos Aires, Balvenera, Buenos Aires; Antares Brewery, San Carlos de Bariloche; 1884 Restaurant Francis Mallman– Winery/Fine Dining/Patio, Godoy Cruz, Mendoza; Nadia O.F./ BRÖD City Center, Mendoza

Favorite Wineries: Giminez Riili– Uco Valley, Mendoza; O. Fournier– Uco Valley, Mendoza

Wine tasting in Santiago, Chile
Wine tasting in Santiago, Chile

CHILE- VALPARIASO & SANTIAGO
The third 20+ hour bus ride we took was from Mendoza to Valparaiso, a port town in the northeastern part of Chile, known for street art and colorful hills created by the painted houses built along the coastline. Valparaiso was a city of contrast- the port was dirty, fishy, and dangerous, while the wealthiest, most beautiful houses and restaurants were nestled high on the hills. In my mind, it was the San Francisco of South America, but without the bridge to wine country or the expensive real estate.

Our favorite spots in Valparaiso were Cerro Alegre and Cerro BellaVista. We also visited Pablo Neruda’s home high above the city, and learned a bit about the famous Chilean philosopher and poet.

Leaving Valparaiso, our bus ride to Santiago felt incredibly short- only 5 hours! In Santiago, our plan was to site see, get some exercise and sleep in, and regroup before heading to Peru. Highlights in Santiago were Cerro Santa Lucia, Centre Gabriela Mistral, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and Parque Forestal. We also went on a wine tour at Concha y Toro, but it was too touristy for my taste.

Lessons from Chile: You cover a lot of Valparaíso in three days. Visit Cerro Alegre, Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Bellavista. Wander the graffiti-filled streets. Ride an ascensor. Go to Viña del Mar to soak up the sun on their beautiful beaches. Then head to one of the many other contrasting landscapes that this skinny country has to offer.
Pay attention to your surroundings in Valparaiso- petty theft is common. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry- l left all of my flashy earrings, necklaces and even my wedding rings at home!

Favorite Restaurants: Tiramisú– Pizzeria/ Dinner/ Local Spot in Santiago; Café Bijoux- Lunch/Live Music/ Dinner on Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Coastline of Lima , Peru
Coastline of Lima , Peru

PERU- AGUAS CALIENTES (MACHU PICCHU), CUSCO & LIMA
We planned to go to Peru because of Machu Picchu, but many people told us to spend time in Cusco as well, so we flew into Cusco, took the Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes, hiked Machu Picchu, and then went back to Cusco to explore that city afterwards. Our return flight to the states was from Lima, so we also spent a few days there before the end of our trip. It was a bittersweet final few days, as we realized it was a city we wished we had more time to explore. Just like with Patagonia, we didn’t have the gear or the time to do a full trek in Machu Picchu, so we instead hiked up to the ruins and then hiked up Huayna Picchu to experience a bit of how the trek would have felt. In all that day, we hiked 265 flights and walked 11 miles! And we saw one of the Wonders of the World!!!!!!

Lessons from Peru: Go to Machu Picchu. Soon. It’s only getting more touristy. The proof of the beauty is in the pictures you see all the time, but it’s much better with your own eyes. Also, Don’t skip Lima! Pisco Sours, the beach, Miraflores, and a burgeoning foodie scene make this city worth a stop for few days before or after your Incan trail trek.

The elevation in Cusco can get you- the city’s elevation is over 11,000 feet! Many places offer tea with cocoa leaves to make you feel better. Drink with caution though- it made my husband sick. And last side note- bring toilet paper with you wherever you go… as it’s not always readily available in public restrooms or even in private bathrooms! This tip is true for almost all of the places we visited on our trip.

Favorite Accommodations: Casa Suyay, Miraflores, Lima

Favorite Restaurant: El Mercado– HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! in Lima

Caitlin
Caitlin

Author Bio: Im Caitlin. I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri but now live in Denver, Colorado with my husband. Last year, I had an amazing experience backpacking through South America that inspired me to start a travel blog, called Trust the Locals (http://www.trustthelocals.com). Today, I work at a startup in Denver from 9-5, and then blog in my free time. When I’m not working, traveling or blogging, you can find me exploring Denver in search of an appetizer better than Osteria Marco’s burrata or a treat sweeter than Little Man’s Salted Oreo ice cream.

SUNRISE : A PLEASURE MOST GLORIOUS

DARJEELING
With the rising sun in the East on a glorious morn, a general commoner like you and me is most likely to go ahead and seek an adventure. Darjeeling – a place full of mouth shutting and awe staring beauty, encloses within itself the mysterious Tiger Hills. Traditions speak of the place to be haunted with good spirits; however, one believes to visit the place at dawn simply to catch a glimpse of the beauty of nothing but the cracking of day in the east. 

An adventurer like me did go ahead in search of viewing the breathtaking glamour of the east. In accordance to my memories, it was approximately half three when I reached the peak of the hill. Being a kid aged 14 everything around me was fun, this somehow included the darkness that surrounded me, the cold, the cup of hot chocolate handed out to me by my mother, and of course the torch in my hand. 

I waited for around 15 minutes staring at the sky. Awaiting daybreak was no fun at all. The wait simply brought in disappointment which in turn was paired with anger and irritation. However, being a kid left me with no option but to wait with my family. Somehow the wait turned out to be fruitful. My watch reflected 4 AM and the sky revealed its inner beauty. Just like magic,orange streaks appeared from nowhere taking over first the left portion of the sky and slowly and gradually went ahead and spread itself across the sky. This wasn’t HEAVEN, this was PARADISE. Ecstasy, joy, delight, rapture, calm, bliss, and serene are simply words often used by us to describe beauty; however, this wasn’t beauty, it was way more than words can speak. 
VIEW OF THE KANCHENJUNGA FROM TIGER HILLS
I lost track of time in the mesmerising scene before me that I had no idea when the clock struck  6:00 a.m. I was shocked and taken aback by surprise. The sky was gold – thick, solid and orange gold are the only words that could describe the charming beauty of the hour. Rising slowly from behind the hill was a ball of fire, the ball was not one that could be touched but was indeed one that could be bowed down to. The huge mass rose like a child who takes time to stand in order to take his first steps. As the sun rose slowly, the necks of the visitors on the peak too rose along with it, all amazed, all shocked. By 7:00 a.m.the overhead  sun blessed the universe in the same way in which a mother blesses her newborn baby. 

The trip was short, limited to a single place only, but it was one that could always be remembered and stored in the pages of our memories forever and ever. 

VANESSA FAUSTINA HODA
Author Bio: This post has been written by Vanessa Faustina Hoda. The author is an English Language Graduate from Loreto College under the University of Calcutta. she originally hails from Darjeeling but lives in Kolkata. this post reflects her emotions and feelings while visiting Tiger Hill in Darjeeling.

MY TREK TO RAJMACHI :THE STORY OF SELF -INTROSPECTION

Mountains have never appealed to me. I was more of a beach person. What is there in a mountain anyway, I asked those who would choose the hills in a mandatory ‘hills-or-sea’ rapid fire question -too big and monotonous. Also, given the fact that I am a total control freak, I felt somewhat intimidated by those huge chunks of rocks that rose above the ground, untamed, as if to pierce through the sky above.

And when we were told that we were being taken for a one day trek to Rajmachi, a village in the Sahyadris or the Western Ghats of India, I was almost sure I would not go. But you know how friends are, they just would not leave me until I said Yes.

VIEW FROM RAJMACHI FORT

So there I was, packing my bag and setting out for Rajmachi from Lonavla, with a trek of 15 kms ahead of us. It was the month of July and the South- West monsoon winds had just started to push the moisture laden clouds towards the Western Ghats. Rainfall was expected, yet we did our best to not let it dampen our spirits and began walking towards the Rajmachi Fort which awaited us at the top of the mountains.

The first few kilometers were easy, winding through foothill villages and thin forest patches. It was only after the first one or two hours that I realized where I was and what I was doing. I looked around and I was awestruck. We were at a height of about 1500 feet. The fact that there was no sign of civilization was strangely fascinating. A variety of evergreen trees, ranging from teaks to balsams donned the mountain slopes, as if someone had carefully placed a green blanket all over it. The extensive meadows on top of the mountains rolled smoothly, forming structural benches, also known as mountain terraces. Everything was green. But this green was different- clear and untouched; young and living, rich and pure. I had never seen such a shade of green. It attracted me. I was drawn towards it, to touch the leaves and the grass and everything that surrounded me. It was ethereal. I had never been more alive than I was then. And it was a new feeling. The mountains which I had disliked all this while for being so tall and formidable were making me so happy today.

RAJMACHI

The rains came and went, it did not bother us. The veil of clouds covered the mountain tops and then floated away the very next moment, telling us that nothing is permanent, not even sadness. 

We walked up further, and crossed a few rills, flowing swiftly down the basalt of the Western Ghats, from larger streams of seasonal origin. The lotic water was as clear as crystal. All of us filled it in within our palms and gulped down the sweet water. I now knew why they said water from the streams on mountains taste the best!

At one point of time, I began to walk a little ahead of the group. It began to rain, but instead of opening my umbrella, I looked up and let the rain soak me. It was as if the rain fell on me to cleanse me and make me pure like the surroundings. The curving roads, filled with pebbles, did not seem difficult now. I treaded on, taking in the breathtakingly beautiful sights all around me, which I had no idea about until that day.  

So, far away from the city, amidst nature, my life found a new meaning. I understood that not everything needs to be in my control, not everything that looks difficult, is truly difficult. One must rise beyond one’s apprehension and embrace life. We are here only for a short while; why not make it worth our while?

SAYANTI SENGUPTA

Author Bio: This post has been written by Sayanti Sengupta. She is a Geography Hons. graduate from Loreto College, Kolkata and is currently pursuing Masters in Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai. Apart from her passion for travel, she is also an amazing dancer and has many awards and credits to her recognition.

Meghalaya Memories #Part 2

Many a times a trip does not turn out to be what one had initially planned. Thus the second post on the Meghalaya journey by my aunt turned out to be more thrilling. With a Bandh on the list it seemed quite an adventurous position to be in , in terms of making a decision as to stay or leave. Read on to know what they exactly did throughout the second phase of their trip in this lovely land. Here it must be mentioned that due to lack of photographs all of them were taken from various sources from the internet and yes I do not run into Copyright violations.

Man proposes God disposes. That’s what my father used to say. Early next morning as we went to have our breakfast, there were rumors that there might be a bandh the very same day. Nevertheless we decided to carry on with our sightseeing plans even if it was for just half a day.

GIRLS WEARING MEKHLA

So we went to the marketplace first & it turned out to be quite disappointing. It was drizzling and we could not find anything. The women were wearing Mekhla, the traditional skirt, sometimes with a light velvet stole and T-shirt instead of traditional Dupatta and blouse. They were also wearing a wrap around dress. A few elderly ladies were wearing it traditionally and in hand woven fabric. The younger girls wore it like a long frock or evening dress in synthetic or chiffon material. We did try to speak to some of the local girls, though most of them were reluctant and shy to speak to us.

We gave up shopping soon after and went to see the Elephant falls .The falls is named such because of the structure – it is a three layered structure which has resemblance with  an elephant trunk. The falls itself is magnificent and the powerful sound of water falling on the rocks, awe inspiring. Some of my friends wore the Khasi dress and posed for pictures.

VIEW FROM SHILLONG PEAK

Then we started for our last destination, the Shillongpeak which offers an aerial view of the city. One can see the entire Shillong city from there. For the last time, we inhaled the breathtaking beauty of the State, the mysterious mountains, the pastel shades painted by the greatest artist of all times.

BUTTERFLY MUSEUM

HYDARI PARK
We did not have time for the Butterfly museum and Hydari Park. Perhaps we should have skipped the attempt at shopping in the morning but it was afternoon and we decided there was no point sticking around in uncertain condition of Bandh. 
 

MONGPU

We went back to hotel and made arrangements to climb down to Guwahati. The Shillong to Kolkata flights are not operational every day and the helicopter services were not available. We had to cross Mongpu where the Bandh was supposed to start by 6 pm. So, we had no other option but to make the return trip on the rental car at a supremely escalated rate. Locals informed that the Bandh might continue for more than a day. Staying back could have disrupted our future schedules.

We saw the Barapani nearer this time. The night fell before we could get down. The road curved dangerously but our driver was quite an expert. In about three hours, we reached Guwahati. We only had one stop for refreshments. In the evening dim, an unusual series of brightly lit liquor shops lined the roadside as we drew nearer to Guwahati. 

The hotel we now checked into was okay but not a great one. It was located in a very congested area of Guwahati. The rooms reeked of naphthalene but the group was tired and hungry. We had to compromise.

SILKALAYA

KAMAKSHYA TEMPLE
Next day, we had breakfast at the hotel and started for the airport. On the way, we stopped at Silkalaya and did some shopping for our near and dear ones, back home. We did not have time for Kamakshya temple but we drove by Brahmaputra glistening in the morning sun. Guwahati seemed like just another city with heavy population. Roads are lined with leading Indian brands and congested with heavy traffic.

The flight took off and it was the end of our journey. We discussed when and where we would go next – a common topic on all vacations. Sweet home, hot weather and routine life beckoned us.

 Himalayas still appear out of thin air, as I close my eyes…

…and then my heart with pleasure fills  …and dances with the Seven Sisters…

Meghalaya Memories # Part 1

Sometimes there are many things that we wish for but cannot achieve in life. For instance though I love travelling I too am restricted due to many reasons.But that doesn’t stop me from listening to other people’s tales about their voyages- good or bad. Thus, this time when I missed the opportunity to travel to Meghalaya with my aunt (due to exams) I was eagerly waiting for their tales and experiences. This is to be noted that the entire post is a guest post alongwith the photographs by my aunt Mrs. Urmila Majumdar who recently visited Meghalaya with her husband and her friends.


On a cloudy summer Kolkata morning, we set for the hills of Meghalaya, for a two days- three nights short trip, yearning for a cooler climate. Kolkata was burning like Troy and the hills promised a much needed relief. Kolkata to Guwahati is a short, less than 2 hours flight. Once we landed in the Guwahati airport, we had to speak to a cab counter for hiring a car, for our 6 member team. We were being charged much higher than expected but we could not see any other option. However once we came out of the airport, we found lines of similar cars in different sizes. It would be advisable for future travelers, to hire from outside, since there can be a scope for bargaining.

Soon the landscape of the city gave way to the red, rough face of rocks and lush green foliage. In half an hour we took a meandering mountain road, climbing towards the city of Shillong. As we climbed higher, the different ranges of Himalaya played hide and seek at every bend. The twists and turns came so frequently that it was better to capture them in memory than through lenses. Our team members soon gave up and I kept on clicking through the iPad, since it was easier to handle. The bends tended to be sharper, as we climbed higher and higher, we had to hang onto the car handles and sometimes to each other, to maintain balance.

ROADSIDE WATERFALL

The majestic beauty of Himalayas soon silenced us all, except the driver. He was going full force, enlightening us on the social situation of the Khasis, punctuating each sentence with a hearty, loud bout of laughter. It seems that the matriarchal Khasi women are very powerful than their counterparts. The driver went on to say that the men mostly work as shuttle drivers to and fro from hotels and airports and in the evenings they go out with bullets. “Bullets!” I was all ears now. Is he talking about guns? Not yet it seems. Bullets are bikes. It seems bikers go out in the evening to have a good time. Then our driver spoke a little about his personal life, that he is working to get his sister married and may be then he can go to the “jungles”.

We were hungry, so we stopped at a Dhaba. My energetic friends climbed the steep stairs of the road side restaurant and vanished inside to collect some food, while my husband and I waited at the car. The driver turned on some local music channel. The tunes were catchy and a few words of the local language resembled our mother tongue. Our friends came back with aloo paratha, chana and the food tasted divine, since it was late afternoon and we were ravenous. The serpentine path continued up and up and the weather cooled down. We devoured the food, continuing on the roller coaster ride, trying not to spill any gravy on each other.

We arrived at a picturesque location, Bara Pani. Here, let me divulge that this is my second visit in this area; the first one was when I was five. I heard from my mother that on the earlier trip, we had picnic on the banks of Bara Pani, so I had requested the driver to take us near it, en route to Shillong. The driver said we cannot go near, since it would be a total detour but he will get us a glimpse. I had read on the internet that it falls on the way, but did not wish to argue with him. We were already a little tired with his chatter and crazily continuous laughter. 

BARA PANI

The view of Bara Pani was breathtaking. Little wafts of candy floss clouds floated over the vast expanse of water below, surrounded by greenery and layers of mountain ranges. It was magical. Our awe was shattered by the sound of some returning vehicles on the other side of the road. Looking at five ladies at the spot, volume of the latest Hindi racy numbers went high. I dragged the team to the car and the journey continued. 

Soon we entered the city of Shillong. It was not like how I remembered Shillong from my childhood – the beautiful wooden houses and the gardens of paradise; fragrance of wild roses blooming in fetching disarray. Now, the houses were mostly dilapidated but quite a number of them had a well tended garden in the front. Roses, Dalia, Lilly, Gladioli and some unknown flowers bloomed in myriad hues. The shops in between the houses were ill kept. However, the Himalayas guarded and veiled all with its splendid, countless shades of green cloak. It was monsoon and the hills had come alive. Amidst such beauties we lost track of time and before we knew it, we had arrived at our hotel.

The next day was quite pleasant. Satisfied with a hearty breakfast, all climbed onto the Toyota Innova for our day’s journey. We were on our way to Cherrapunji. The place holds the highest rainfall record in the world .It was not raining heavily but every now and then there was a very brief, light shower. It was so light that even an umbrella was redundant. 

We left the city and once again took the winding road with deep gorges on one side and steep mountain ranges on the other. The sky was a candy-floss carnival, gigantic clouds embracing medium and smaller baby clouds. Thin georgette veils of clouds drifted on our way. The name of the state, Meghalaya, is justified. As the car moved through the zigzag road, the sun played hide and seek and the tall mountain trees painted a poetic silhouette against the white clouds and the grayish blue sky. 

                   “I wandered lonely as a cloud
                                That floats on high o’er vales and hills”

We stopped on the way, to take some pictures. It seemed to be standard tourist take- a-photo point. Though tea baskets were kept for trash collection, it seemed people preferred the roadsides more for the purpose.
ECHO POINT

Next, we started for the Echo Park. It’s a partly natural and partly created park. Thankfully the natural beauty-the spring flowing through the park and falling at great depth below in hurricane force, was undisturbed. Beyond the boundary of railings, lay Bangladesh offering a picturesque view. In my mind I greeted my father’s land where I have never been.

NOH KA LIKAI FALLS

Next stop was the Noh Ka Likai falls. I will refrain from telling the entire story behind the name, but it involved a suicide. Most of the falls in Shillong seemed suicide points and has associated stories. The falls itself have great heights but are a slim beauty. Mists surrounded this one, like a white translucent chiffon sari.

SEVEN SISTERS FALLS 

We were hungry with all the walking around in the park and wanted to have lunch. Our next destination was the nice round shaped, Polo Orchid restaurant just beside the Seven Sisters falls. We sat in the restaurant chatting and praying the clouds would move to reveal the lively sisters and soon they appeared. For the entire duration of time we sat there and had the delicious food, the sisters were appearing and disappearing like a fine magician’s assistants. They seemed more than seven, merrily dancing and sliding down the rough edges of the mountain, without a care for the onlookers, happy in their own company. I could have lived there forever, in a small log house perched on a mountain top, looking at the playful family.

COAL MINE

Time was passing and we did not wish to be caught in the mountain roads, so with an unwilling heart, we started our journey to the next destination – the limestone caves. On the way, we were shown the entrance of a coal mine. Inside it was dark, with slippery stones and bats hanging.


 We decided to take a look at the Ward’s Lake. It was just a man made place, with millions of tourists taking boat rides, chatting, posing for pictures. Interestingly, most of the attendants in the park were women. They were wearing traditional dresses & velvet stoles & collected money for the cameras.

It was getting late and soon we left the park and entered the hotel.
Mountains, unlike seas, are silent after sunset and each day holds something new. . . . . . . . . .