Do I Have To Be ‘Fair’ To Be ‘Lovely’?

Do I have to be fair to be lovely?
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Better start exfoliating my skin then…

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Face A Fear Everyday :: July Update

I don’t believe in coincidences. Do you?

The Asian Destination:: FAFE July

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What is The Asian Destination actually all about?

Have a blessed day & #HappyMay💛

Ana | The Asian Destination

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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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Feel Good Film of The Year?!

I don’t really have a favourite Chetan Bhagat book (I love them all – please don’t make me choose!!) – but the story behind 2 States sure does come close!

2 States

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Dear Asian Parents………Sincerely India’s Daughters

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Dear (Asian) Parents,

We understand your concern. We too are disgusted, outraged and appalled at not only the apathy but the handling of women’s safety in India.

We’ve watched the documentary on women’s safety in India and we have our own personal experiences to go by. We know why you don’t want us travelling alone but we also know that it’s more detrimental to a society to live in fear.

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The Art of Fashion

The Asian Destination has joined forces with Feed You Fashion to calm your Fashion Week withdrawal symptoms. This fashion webzine aims to “inspire, update and parley”. Stylish and sophisticated, Feed You Fashion is definitely a site worth following.

In this guest post Lucy, founder of Feed You Fashion, reveals the Indian cultural influence behind two beautiful S/S’14 collections.

THE ART OF FASHION

Let’s assume for a second that all designers lived under one roof – a big brother house situation, if you will! Sure, based on new conversation their designs would begin as deductions from curious encounters but with time, and a lack of interaction with the outside world, such enthusiasm and spirit would falter. This is purely because fashion breathes through creativity. Innovation is accumulated through experiences and the ways in which these experiences are interpreted are based on our culture.

Fashion Week is a prime example of such diversity, an assortment of backgrounds and cultures, which is what allows designers to create such contrasting fashions.If you look close enough, these origins seep through the seams.

It’s September. It’s time to welcome a flood of fashion, as we take on this month dedicated to our sartorial needs.

HAUTE SEAT

New York Fashion Week has previously introduced us to two Indian designers – Naeema Khan and Bibhu Mohapatra. Khan launched his label in 2003 and Mohapatra, having resigned as Design Director of J. Mendel in 2008, went on to launch his own brand under his name. The latter’s designs showing fewer connections to his Indian roots, which may be due to his years spent at the French fashion house.

The S/S ’14 woman of Naeem Khan is all about elegant femininity.

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Hemlines happily follow few rules, ranging from floor skimming to thigh skimming and setting a liberating example for shape. The common denominator being a cinched waistline to gracefully celebrate the female form. The Khan woman is a romantic, yet proves she does not fear the borders of her comfort zone as reserved silhouettes are made daring by descending necklines, thigh high slits, chiffon and open backs.

Perhaps most notable of the collection is the patterning; if garments are not lavished from seam to seam in elaborate prints, then such designs creep across dresses from various angles. The print heavily reminiscent of traditional Indian henna – the intricate patterning typically used during Hindu weddings and festivals.

The story is in the print.

Naeem Khan S/S ’14

Image Source: Vogue

For Bibhu Mohapatra, the S/S ’14 woman is much more angular with an air of modernist chic surrounding her.

Bibhu Mohapatra S/S'14

3D flowers act as the cherry on this sartorial cake, either creating shoulder armour, fanning across waistlines or concealing cardigans. Where buds and sequins did not appear, mini peplums and micro pleats were on hand to make up for the missing texture. Not to mention, the thick dress straps, which left little shoulder or décolletage visible in order to cement their presence. The Mohapatra woman is sophisticated and concise, teaming her pencil thin skirts to her leather jackets.

The delicate hues and feminine patterning of the collection hint at romanticism, however every angle reeks of opposition.

Bibhu Mohapatra S/S ’14

Image Source: Vogue

Want to know read more from Lucy?

Click here or why not follow Feed You Fashion on

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Are you monkeying around?

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It’s important to sometimes stop and take a moment to just watch the world go by. Other times however, we spend too long daydreaming, monkeying around, planning what we should be doing but not actually doing it!

So today: Are you monkeying around? Stop. Take in the moment and then take action!

Destination: Inspiration (105) 15th April 2013

Happy Bengali New Year!

 

“Notun Asha, Notun Rang, 

Notun Sure, Notun Gaan, 

Notun Usha, Notun Alo,

Notun ‘bochor’, Katuk Bhalo!

Shubo Noboborsho!”

Today is ‘Poila Boishak’ or the start of the Bengali New Year. 

So today:
Have new hope (notun asha) & see new light (notun alo).
Always know you can change your path at any point, change your tune for a new one (notun sure) and alter your song (notun gaan).
Every day can be seen as a new chance, ‘a new year’ (notun bocchor).
May it be enjoyed well (katuk bhalo)!
 
If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni ChuganiChai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia and Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett. 

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

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Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Malika Garrett's Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Malika Garrett’s Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Successful Non-resident Indian Bengali artist, Malika Garrett, emigrated to the USA to study art in college. Since then she has combined her business experience with her creative passion and helped raise thousands of dollars for charity. OWN Ambassador, Malika, talks to The Asian Destination about collaborating with Deepak Chopra and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. We also discover how Deepak, Mastin Kipp & Oprah Winfrey have helped change her life.

Available at malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal in India and went to study in America before becoming the successful artist that you are today. Tell us, when did your love for art start and did you always want to pursue it as a career?

M: My love for art started as far back as I can remember. We are a family of artists, I was always around art and was taught to appreciate it from a very early age. I always loved drawing. I was forever sketching on any paper I could find. My most treasured gifts were pencils, erasers, crayons and markers! I won the class Art prize every year in my school in Kolkata. My grandparents were my first patrons and fans. They encouraged me and even bought my art! I learned service and volunteering through my art; I sold it to my grandparents at age 4 and raised money for Mother Teresa! Since then I have always volunteered and given back.

Raika Mother & Child available at www.malikagarrett.com

Raika Mother & Child available at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: Did you ever think you would be an artist?

M: No, I did not ever think I would be an artist. I was leaning towards being a business woman in the corporate world, travelling or saying, ‘Order! Order!’ and being a judge! It’s funny how I ended up being a business woman and an artist. I pursued Art in college but fell into Sales while I was working in advertising at the New York Times.

TAD: What do you miss about India/Kolkata and how important is it to you to maintain a level of Indian culture/tradition in your life?

M:I miss Kolkata and India immensely- I am always going to be Indian and Bengali first. I will never forget where I came from. I owe much of my success and the making of who I am to my childhood in Kolkata. Kolkata has shaped me and made me who I am today. It is very important for me to maintain a high level of ‘Indian-ness’ as I am married to an American and have 2 children whom I want to be a part of their mother’s culture. I am always afraid they will never know their mother’s home or know what it means to be Indian. My husband and I have since birth tried to teach my children about both cultures and encourage them to explore and ask a lot of questions.

malikagarrett.com

Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Being a non-resident Indian, sometimes integrating a mixture of traditions and cultures can be a challenge, how do you deal with it?

M: I never really found it to be a challenge, in fact quite the opposite for me, since I was exposed to the world of travel from a very early age. My multiracial children however, epitomize the synthesis of two parent philosophies in a flowing, yin-yang self. They have always known Mum to be Indian and Dad to be American. Their combination of heritage makes them world citizens. In my mind, it makes them wiser too and a lot more tolerant, curious and appreciative of diversity.

TAD: Are there any typically Bengali things you miss now that you are settled in America?

M: Yes the FOOD! Daal (lentils) Bhat, (rice) LUCHI (oily, fried flat bread) and Aludom (an Indian take on mashed potato)! I also miss the Bengali traditions: Durga Puja & Bhai Phota.

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

Artwork: malikagarrett.com

TAD: Would we be right in assuming the inspiration behind most of your art is your time spent living and visiting India?

M:YES! Very much so! My work is mostly about the people of India – their stories , their images of strength, simplicity and courage. My work is about many from India who struggle, yet despite their challenges, are happy people. That is what I try to portray through my work: that despite their challenges their lives maintain a sense of simplicity and beauty in the midst of harsh circumstances. They don’t let their situation get in the way- they make the most of it and go on with life. They have inspired me to survive, despite the many odds I have faced as well.

'Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a "Borla" or "Rakhri", the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful' - Available at malikagarrett.com

‘Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a “Borla” or “Rakhri”, the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful’ – Available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: Art can be quite subjective, how do you handle criticism and negative comments?

M: I smile and take in everything they say. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. In many cases they have shown me things in my art work I haven’t seen myself. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity for me – good or bad.

There are no failures. Just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~Tom Krause

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

Artwork available at malikagarrett.com

TAD: You are one of several OWN ambassadors. For those that are unaware, please could share what it means to be an OWN ambassador?

M: The role of an OWN Ambassador is to support OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), and have a vision “To Live Your Best life. As an OWN Ambassador you can participate either via Facebook, or Twitter. We participate via Twitter Parties, Tweet Ups, Book Club/Tweet Club. You get to interact with like-minded fellow ambassadors. It’s a positive support system that lifts you up. We are a community of like- minded people having informative conversations everyday and spreading joy and love.

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

Source: Facebook.com/TheOwnAmbassadors

TAD: How did you become involved with Oprah and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)?

M: I met the group on Twitter because of our mutual love of OWN and my conversations with their producers about my personal story. If you would like to become an OWN Ambassador, follow @ownambassadors on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook, insert #OWNAmbassador in your profile under the Bio section, and on Twitter, use #OWNAmbassadors as the hashtag. It’s that easy! As Oprah mentioned to us and the world, we are the ‘Carriers Of Light’.

Image Source: Malika Garrett

Image Source: Malika Garrett

TAD: You have worked and come into contact with a variety of prominent people including Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Mastin Kipp. These individuals, amongst many others, are known to all be committed to ‘living their best life’. What have you learnt from working with them that you could share with us?

M: Each one has taught me so many lessons that resonate with me but one that screams out is what Oprah has said over and over again- ‘Life happens not to me, but for me’!– She has really changed my life.

Also Dr. Chopra’s teaching that ‘Holding on to resentment is like holding your breath’– has made me look at forgiveness in a whole new light.

I try to remember every day:

‘We all can receive atonement through service’

‘We are all spiritual beings having a human experience’

‘Vulnerability is the Birthplace of Creativity and Change’– Brene Brown

Mastin Kipp & Malika Image Source: Malika Garrett

Mastin Kipp & Malika (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

I have also learnt not to hold myself hostage for my past and that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

As Maya Angelou said to Oprah

“ When you know better you do better!’

I am SO grateful for all of these wonderful folks you mention and others who have helped me enhance my spirit and not drain my power. Each day they have given me a new breath of life!

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser. Image Source: Malika Garrett

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

TAD: You have recently been involved in a Akshaya Patra (AP) fundraiser – congratulations on its success! Could you tell us a bit about the charity and the event?

M:They are an amazing organization and I am proud and honoured to be a part of them.

Please check out their website and get involved- everyone can make a difference- it only takes $15 to feed one child for one year a hot meal served in school everyday! Founded in 2000, the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mission is that “no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” and its next goal is to feed five million children daily by 2020. Currently they are feeding 1 million children every day. The foundation is a strategic intervention in education aimed at breaking the vicious and perpetual cycle of poverty.

Image Source: foodforeducation.org

Akshaya Patra Foundation (Image Source: foodforeducation.org)

TAD: How did you come to be involved in it?

M: My journey with AP started a few months back, in December, while I was in conversation with Dr. Chopra. He happened to mention that he was coming to Atlanta. He invited me to get involved with Akshaya Patra and I was thrilled. I had nothing to give but my creativity. I offered to do a collaborative painting with him for their fundraiser in Atlanta. The event was last week and was a massive success. The event raised over $400 K and my painting brought in $50K. Because of our collective efforts 26,000 children will be fed a hot meal in India. How cool is that?

Mandanganj Women and Child at www.malikagarrett.com

Mandanganj Women and Child at http://www.malikagarrett.com

TAD: This is not the first fundraiser your art has featured in, you also joined forces with Robin Raina in ‘India on Canvas’ where artwork was also auctioned for charity in order to help under-privileged children in India.

As mentioned, the volunteer and service bug bit me at a very early age in Kolkata. I was always wanting to help to give whatever I had to whoever I saw needed something. In addition to raising money for Mother Teresa’s missionaries for charity, I taught classes to the children of the household help. Robin Raina and I partnered together for ‘India on Canvas’ and then with Shashi Tharoor in 2008 for the same charity.

TAD: So, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing more of your art being exhibited soon or featuring in another worthwhile fundraising event soon?

M: No immediate plans- but that can change tomorrow! I am always excited about new collaborations and ventures.There are some smaller ones in the works but none I can name yet.

TAD: How does one get their hands on a Malika Garrett piece? Are they available for shipping?

M: My art work is on my website at www.malikagarrett.com you can also ‘like’ me on facebook.com/MalikaGhoshGarrett and follow me on twitter @MalikaGhosh

Malika’s blog: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wordpress.com/

and check out: www.malikaghoshgarrett.wix.com/malikagphotography

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani and Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

The Asian Destination Links

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‘Like’ us on Facebook: facebook.com/theasiandestination

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Destination: Vietnam

Destination: Vietnam  Read all about Luke (L), Oliver (O) and Alex’s (A) Vietnamese adventures, as they share their stories with The Asian Destination. From seeing Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body in Hanoi, tasting snake and scorpion, to helping a taxi driver in Hanoi cure his hiccups – they have done it all in Vietnam.

 Areas of the country I visited:

O: -South Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); Nha Trang (beach resort)
-Central Vietnam: Hoi An; Hue and surrounding areas in Thua Thien-Hue Province; Quang Binh Province (including Dong Hoi and Phong Nha Caves); Quang Tri Province (Dong Ha)
-North Vietnam: Hanoi; Ha Long Bay

L: Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Ha Noi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Hai Van Pass

A: Most parts of Vietnam, from South to North

Photo: Luke Keller

Hue – Photo: Luke Keller

I stayed/travelled around for:

O: 6 weeks (and then for a week almost a year later).

L: 2 months (ish).

A: 6 weeks (twice).

Ho Chi Minh City - Photo: Luke Keller

Ho Chi Minh City – Photo: Luke Keller

Favourite monument/place that I went:

O: Ha Long Bay, but Hue Province had some incredible scenery too. War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh were also very stark and harrowing.

L: Bike trip from Hue over Hai Van Pass to Hoi An.

A: The ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Describe Vietnam in 3 words:

O: Traffic, mountains, busy.

L: Bustling, different, vibrant.

A: Bustling, diverse, and serene.

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I wasn’t expecting to find…

O: Such a variety of food (e.g. dog, cat, snake, scorpion, monkey brain).

L: Oreos.

A: So many friendly people.

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

My favourite part of the culture was:

O: The people in central Vietnam (very friendly and helpful); also the rich history of fending off foreign invaders (Chinese, French, Americans, Cambodians).

L: The chaos of the roads!

A: The belief aspect of the culture was very intriguing to me. There is a subtle tone of Buddhism that is noticeable in the daily lifestyle such as ceremonies to honour their ancestors, shrines by every house, and bimonthly moon celebrations on the streets.

Hoi An - Photo: Luke Keller

Hoi An – Photo: Luke Keller

I would describe the people as:

O: Both wily and kind.

L: Proud.

A: Sincere, affable, and welcoming.

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

I was surprised by: 

O:
-How disgusting scorpion tasted/how nice snake was.
-The spectacular landscapes (some of the most impressive out of anywhere I went in South East Asia).
-Also how much litter and rubbish there was just dumped in some beautiful parts of countryside – a complete lack of environmental concern!
-How sprawled the cities are, just kind of merging with other towns through vast extensions of shacks and basic accommodation along the roadside; it isn’t clear where one city/town ends and another begins.
-How much poorer people who live on the outskirts are.
-How manic the driving is and how difficult it is to cross the road.

L: The amount of pro-American apparel.

A: How diverse the country can be. The people, the geography, climate, culture and even the language was diverse from the North to the South – even from city to city!

Ha Long Bay - Photo: Luke Keller

Ha Long Bay – Photo: Luke Keller

Something I miss about Vietnam now:

O: The weather, cycling around, the food!

L: The coffee.

A: The amazing iced coffee and coffee bars.

Pho Bo - Photo: Luke Keller

Pho Bo – Photo: Luke Keller

Any words of the native language I picked up:

O: O choi oi (Oh my heavens); o dat qua (too expensive); chi oi! (sister (girl older than you), come here); dep qua (very pretty); com cay qua (not too spicy); ‘mot, hay, ba, yo!’ (one, two, three drink); nam qua (too hot).

L: Too many to name and couldn’t spell them if I tried!!

A: Oi choi oi! (Oh my heavens).

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

Strange or memorable experience: 
O:
-Man on motorbike who followed me home when I was cycling asking if he could…’service me’
-Eating dog, scorpion, snake, monkey wine, eel.
-Seeing Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed dead body in Hanoi.
-Incredibly beautiful view on beach at Nha Trang (like tropical paradise stereotype)
-Very long and arduous night buses
-Trying to help a taxi driver in Hanoi cure his hiccups (“breathe in your carbon dioxide” I said; he didn’t take my advice)

L: One of the most memorable experiences for me was going with the children to the beach.

A: Drinking snake vodka shots, and monkey wine!

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

One thing the guide books don’t tell you:

O: Dogs and cats are horrible so try and avoid them; they’re not usually treated like pets in Vietnam.

L: Avoid Ha Noi.

A: Always give money and receive money with both hands.

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

Other advice I would give to those planning a trip to Vietnam…
L: If you go to Ha Long Bay, don’t go on a weekend.

A:

-Take things slow and expect travels to take longer than expected.

-If you plan to go for 2 weeks, double it to 4 weeks, if you plan on going to 4 countries consider exploring 2 thoroughly instead. It’s better to spend more time in one place than to rush through and not get a feel for the country/ culture.

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Photo: Oliver Reynolds

Would you go back?

O: Yes, definitely.

L: One way flight booked February 12th !

A: Already have! But maybe again someday.

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

Luke, Oliver and Alex not only travelled around Vietnam, they were also involved in volunteering for the charity, Hue Help, in the summers of 2011 and 2012. Hue Help focuses on improving the health, resources and future prospects of disadvantaged children in central Vietnam.

Photo: Luke Keller

Photo: Luke Keller

For more Information on Hue Help: www.huehelp.org

Follow The Asian Destination on Twitter: @theasiand &‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/theasiandestination

If you liked this post, you may also like to read: Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh.

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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