Tuesday Travels | A Look Inside One of India’s Largest Slum

When I tell you that Dharavi is one of India’s largest slums, what comes to mind? Okay, hold that thought.

Now watch this video..& tell me.

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Two sides to #IncredibleIndia

 ‘It’s not like any other country I’ve been to’

‘One day you absolutely love it & the next, everything overwhelms you and you end up hating it.’

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#IncredibleIndia

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Happy Bengali New Year! শুভ নববর্ষ (Shubhô Nôbôbôrshô!)

শুভ নববর্ষ – Happy Bengali New Year!

Happy Bengali New Year

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Sometimes you just need to get away from it all…

Sometimes you might need to just get away from it all, right?

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Happy Raksha Bandhan

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A very happy Rakhsha Bandhan or Rakhi Purnima (in Bengali)!

Today is the day sisters tie the sacred thread or rakhion their brother’s wrist to symbolise her love for him whilst in return he pledges to protect his sister.

These days Raksha Bandhan is a day where brothers and sisters feed each other sweets (yes, yet anotherexcuse to eat!) and basically celebrate the kinship between siblings.

Rakhi Purnima, does now however exclude only children, like myself. As most of you know, I’m the subcontinent, cousins/close friends are usually recognised as brothers and sisters too. In fact, as well as tying rakhis on my male cousins, I would also end up tying them on my other cherished male relatives: my grandfathers and my uncles.

So today: Whether you are Indian or not, an only child or one of many:
Be grateful for your siblings. Not just those that you are related to, for we are all one. We, as people, are the same: we breathe the same air, we share the same biology and fundamentally, we all have a desire to love and be loved.
Extend a Rakhi, the bond of protection to allyour brothers and sisters today. You may realise you have more siblings than you once thought!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all!
With love,
The Asian Destination xo

Who wants a fairytale anyway?!

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Take the road less travelled and see where it takes you.

The time is now, what lessons have you learnt that you want to put into practice?

When we’re young, we often think life will pan out like one big fairytale. This can only be for the better: life is what you make of it: who wants a boring fairytale anyway? Aren’t you worth more than that?

Don’t you wish you knew your limits, don’t you wish you’d unlocked your full potential? Then start living, start seeing every setback, every challenge and every obstacle for what it really is: an opportunity.

Want an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to show your full strength? Life throws you hardships and waits for you to man up and fight back.

So today: Make your own happy ending…because fairytale’s are getting old anyway.

Destination: India

Visiting family & relatives, trekking expeditions & backpacking…
– Read about 5 different takes on India as The Asian Destination asks 5 different individuals, Sim, Katy, Zara, Lauren and Ashley about their unique Indian adventures.

Places Visited & Duration of Stay:
Sim (S): Punjab and Haryana for 2 weeks over 3 different years.
Katy (K): Travelled around for 1 month visiting: Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Goa.
Lauren (L): Delhi & then I went trekking in the Himalayas for a month.
Zara (Z): Travelled to Leh in the north of India, flew into Delhi. I stayed and travelled around for 1 month.
Ashley (A): Travelled around for 2 months visiting: Delhi, Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and Goa.

Favourite Destination:
S: The land on our farm.
K: Lotus temple in Delhi, cycling around Benaras University in Varanasi, also boat trips in Varanasi during a puja and on Lake Pichola in Udaipur.
L: EVERYWHERE. Except maybe Delhi – I wasn’t a fan.
Z: Taj Mahal and also the Lotus Temple, shaped like a real lotus in Delhi, was amazing.
A: Favourite monument: Taj Mahal; Favourite Place: Varanasi.

Describe India in 3 words:
K: Noisy, Vibrant, Dreamlike/Hypnotic/Mesmerizing – (the feeling when I would walk around temples/old building/gardens and just feel a bit light-headed).
Z: Colourful, Varied and Spiritual.
A: Overwhelming, Alive and HOT!

I wasn’t expecting to find…
S: McDonalds!
K: Quite so many cows!
L: Such a stark difference between rich and poor. It’s not something you get in England really. Also the difference between the cities and the countryside; the variety of landscapes makes you feel like you’re in more than just one country.
A: People outside fanning cows in 50 degrees!

My favourite part of the culture was:
S: It was relaxed, no clocks in the village.
K: The temples, the food, the colours (of the clothes, especially the lovely scarves!) Also the flowers everywhere.
L: The craziness, you don’t get it anywhere else.
Z: In Leh the people were so spiritual. We visited monks up in the mountains and I cannot believe how peaceful they were and so removed from the chaos of the world – amazing people. Also found the Buddhist religion very interesting to explore and it really opened my eyes to something completely new.
A: I loved the fact that the culture is still very traditional and unique.

I would describe the people as…
S: Interesting drivers!
K: Friendly (or maybe ‘insistent’ in Agra!)
L: Really warm, and willing to help out.
Z: Friendly, curious and generous.
A: Warm, curious and very talkative!

I was surprised by…
S: How you could be in an area of extreme wealth and 30 seconds away, extreme poverty.
K: How kind the people were – we stayed with some distant family friends (I had never met) and they were so generous and welcoming to us. When we later went to Mumbai we were put in touch with some of their family there who then hosted us. This second family weren’t that wealthy, so their kindness to complete strangers was particularly touching.
L: Everything! How hot, dusty, smelly, manic it was. I was warned – I just didn’t believe it!
Z: The fact they eat spicy food for breakfast!

Something I miss about India now:
S: Playing cricket in the village.
K: Frequently being compared to an angel/Bollywood star/’Britney Spears’. The way people often seemed to speak in quotes/catch-phrases and there seemed to be lots of inspirational sayings around.
L: The smell, wierdly. My tent. The people I went with. My trip guides – we made great friends.
Z: The peacefulness of the Himalayas made it feel like a different world.
A: I miss the energy and how noisy and chaotic everything is. And how you never knew what was going to happen each day.

Any words of hindi/other Indian language I picked up:

K: I have now forgotten it all except for my Indian name, Tara Raj !(‘Tara’ meaning Star, ‘Raj’ meaning, Royalty)
L: Challo (Meaning, ‘let’s go!’) was heavily overused during my trip
Z: Namaste (Formal greeting/Hello)

Strange or memorable experience:
S: The trains, on time to the dot, why can’t we have that here?
K: Being told by our first tuk tuk drivers that, “To drive in India you need 3 things: your horn, your brake and your luck”. Encouraging!
L: The road signs along the way – ‘Don’t be a gama in the land of lama’? Whaaaat?! ‘After drinking whisky driving is risky’ – Very helpful stuff…!
Z: Getting abducted in a tuk tuk in Dehli. The driver thought it would be nice to take us to his family’s shop in a back street and tried to make us buy stuff!
A: So many but one that springs to mind is an evening spent driving a tuk-tuk!
(‘tuk tuk’ – also called ‘Autos’ short for Autorickshaws in India)

A misconception people may have of the country:
Z: That all areas are the same. The difference between Leh, up in the mountains and Delhi was unbelievable.

One thing the guide books don’t tell you:
K: The staring.
L: The smell, there’s nothing like it. And they don’t tell you about the Indian fondness for horns.
Z: You will never EVER be able to imagine what Delhi is like. I found it very difficult to stay there. It was absolute chaos and the poverty is unimaginable.

Other advice I would give to those planning a trip to India:
S: Go by train, you see a lot more.
K:
1. Telling your bank that you are going far away and may use your card still does not guarantee it’ll actually work, so best to take some sterling (more than £10 as it turns out I did).
2. Never go for a room without A/C!
3. Always settle tuk tuk prices in advance even if they misleadingly say you can pay “whatever you like”..this will ultimately not be the case.
4. Take water purification tablets with you.
L:
1. You’re going to get ill. Plan for that.
2. Gaffa tape is essential – you can fix anything with it, including tents.
3. Cake – however good it looks, it may not be!
A:
1. Don’t go in May unless you like being extremely hot!
2. Spend as much time as possible out on the streets talking with the locals and 3. Don’t be put off by long train journeys.. it’s the ultimate Indian experience!

Z:
Take a step back and take advantage of what the country has to offer you. I learnt so much over just a month. You really do take things for granted in the UK. It also teaches you that you don’t have to have money to be happy.

Would you go back?
S: Maybe, to Goa.
K: Definitely, perhaps to different places as the more places we visited and people we met the longer our ‘to visit’ list grew!
L: Yes, definitely.
Z: Yes but I want to explore different areas.
A: In a heartbeat!

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Destination: Bangladesh

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Happy Kali Puja & Diwali 2012

Celebrate being ‘Unique’

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