Thursday, January 30, 2020

Touring Vietnam - The world’s leading heritage destination

Holla readers. Those who have been following my stories know my love for heritage. I don’t leave any opportunity of indulging in history, especially if it is a world heritage site. From the past six months, I had been planning our vacation to Vietnam but not even once the heritage sites had crossed my mind. I had limited ourselves to Golden Bridge (the bridge on those mammoth hands) and Chu chi tunnels (the tunnels in Ho Chi Minh city used during Vietnam war) and Vung Tau. However, when Vietnam recently got recognition as the world’s leading heritage destination, I was compelled to check out all.

Since we land in Ho Chi Minh city, our first stop over would be the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. Initially named as L'eglise de Sa├»gon, the cathedral was established by French colonists between 1863 and 1880. What makes this church unique is its French architecture. Its construction material was imported from France. For instance the red bricks of the exteriors walls retain their bright and vibrant red hue till date. I don’t think I can miss this beauty on my Vietnam tour.
Notre Dam Cathedral

The next day I have a flight to Da Nang that connects to HoiAn, a UNESCO heritage site. The well- preserved ancient town literally translates to a "peaceful meeting place". The covered Japanese bridge, the small wooden houses, the museums showcasing Hoi An’s history and the calm waters against the glittering backdrop are few things to watch out for. This Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th  century, with buildings that display a blend of local and foreign influences are undoubtedly the must sees of Vietnam.

The heritage city of Hoi An

Indians never skip destinations that are connected to India, which is why I am quite eager to visit My Son sanctuary. No, its not a wildlife sanctuary. 20 kms from Hoi An, My Son is a site of partially ruined Shiva Temples. Imagine experiencing your own culture on a foreign land!  The remarkable architectural ensemble developed over a period of ten centuries, presents a vivid picture of spiritual and political life of the history of South-East Asia. Such places have always attracted me and the mere sight of imagining myself over there is something I can’t express in words.

My Son Sanctuary

Vietnam tour is never complete without a visit to Halong Bay. A gathering more than 1,600 limestone islets in the Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay is an iconic seascape of verticals cliffs and jungle spread across the sea. The scenic beauty has served as a backdrop for several movies. Cruising on the turquoise waters would be magical experience. I have goosebumps while writing this.

In between Halong Bay and Hoi An, there lies the serene town of Hue. Among the popular destinations, the Imperial Cathdral stands out the most. This was the place which the emperors used as their residence and business center. A part of this Citadel was referred as the Forbidden Purple City which much like China's Forbidden City was reserved for the key people in Vietnam. The 7-tiered tower Mu Pagoda is another landmark worth visiting. What’s more exciting is the vibrant landscapes I would cross from Ho Chi Minh to Hue.  That’s the flavor of real Vietnam. I think I will take an open bus to commute. Solo travel never felt so exciting!
Imperial Citadel
I have planned my last few days stay in Ho Chi Minh. The Mekong Delta tour is definitely on my list. I mean who wouldn’t want to experience mangroves on the river expecting the sight of wild animals? And ya, don’t miss the crocodile breeding farm in the delta region which houses tens of thousands of these reptiles. You can feed them and watch them jump in the air to catch their bait. It’s a scary but adventurous experience.
Mekong Delta tour

You must be thinking why does my itinerary has south-north-south visit? Well, that’s because my friend Dianna would be back to Ho Chi Minh and we would catch-up thereafter. Anything for friends you see.
My trip begins on 7th February and I can’t contain my excitement. Once back, I would compare my pictures from the ones above and of course write more. Just keep few things in mind before booking your trip. Vietnam usually experiences a warm climate with dry season running from February to August. Pack your clothes accordingly. If you are making your visa booking, do it through BLS international. It’s a trusted name in the visa industry. Lastly, when I booked flight tickets six months ago, Air Asia had the cheapest rates. Now Indigo operations have started and is offering tickets at more economical rates. Keep an eye on the web-updates to save money.
More when I am back. See you soon guys!

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Mesmerizing Festivals of Spain

I hail from the state of Rajasthan and hence have grown up amid bright colors. Is there any other place in India more vibrant and colorful than this princely state? I guess not. However, one destination abroad that breaks the norms and matches this “riot of colors” is undoubtedly Spain. The bespoke beauty of this country has always fascinated me; so much that I ended up visiting seven times. Trust me, each time was a different and new experience. The ministry of India tourism brought me on the panel of Indian-Spanish cultural exchange program and my endless journeys to Spain began in 2011.

Being an important part of any culture, I observed Spanish festivals closely. My favorite? Woah, it’s difficult to pick one.

January is the time for Tamborrada, a tradition which started with mocking Napoleon's troops that had invaded San Sebastian in 1813. Hundreds of organizations and people participate in the exciting street festivals playing drums. The celebration also represents the union of citizens in pursuit of happiness.
Image source: Everfest

During my visit to Tenerife in February, the Spanish carnival season was a cherry on cake. This celebration easily rivals the carnivals of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where the streets transform into a sea of colourful processions. The extravagant costumes are not to be missed. The island was full of fun, colour, glitter and glamour, that filled my soul with so much joy. Spaniards really know how to enjoy life.
Carnival season of Spain 

While every festival in Spain is full of energy and fun, Las Fallas de Valencia in March is larger than life. Visually one of the most spectacular Fiestas, the city inhabitants make giant paper mache figures representing notable people as well traditional figures. With work officially suspended, the figures are displayed in the city during the entire week of celebration before being burned down at one of the most amazing bonfires marking the end of the festival. I was mesmerized by the giant effigies and fire show.
Image source: Tripsavvy

My hands were full with celebratory mood and cultural knowledge and I started preparing to leave for India in April. But guess what? Festivals are never over in Spain. I was invited by my tour operator’s family to attend the Feria De Abril Fair in Seville. The fair lasts for two weeks, usually from the last week of April to mid-May.  What started as a cattle fair in 1847 is now a period of serious dancing, drinking, eating and socializing, with late night. From around midday until early evening - especially on Sunday, the first official day - Sevilla society parades around the fairground in carriages or on horseback. The sheer extent of the April Fair's spectacle felt extraordinary.

Image credit: claudiawiens

I left for India the following month while planning to return in the June next year. I was welcomed with lots of wine being poured on my head. No kidding. This is Haro Wine Festival whose origin can be traced back to the 13th century that started a dispute between two neighboring villages. The festival now sees people of all age groups throwing buckets loads of wine at friends and strangers with music playing in the backdrop. To my surprise, the once quaint town of Haro changed completely after sunset. Who would not enjoy throwing wine at people and watch some to drink from the same bucket? The excitement refused to die down and got etched in my memory forever.

Source: Bergerpaints

July was relatively low for me in Spain because I was too scared of being run down by bulls. Thousands gather and run after the raging bulls at the San Fermin festival in Spain’s Pamplona. This fiesta gives the country of Spain a time to celebrate in honor of San Fermin, the tortured saint. Though I did not participate in the bull race, I did venture out in the evening to experience the parades and music shows.

Come August, the town gets painted in red and crimson. Thanks to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara for enlightening us. Though criticized for wasting tons of tomato crop, La Tomatina continues to attract people from all parts of the world. It is a super fun celebration with so much tempo and energy. What amazed me the most was how people throw tomatoes at each other like crazy yet behave so civilized.

 Image credit:

My short stay sponsored by the ministry of tourism ended in August and I bid good bye to Spain that had filled my life with vibrant colors. I miss the festivities and excitement there. This is perhaps the only country besides India to have so many festivals and rituals. In case you are doing a research on cultures, without battling an eye, I’d suggest Spain. If you are looking for an agent for your visa application,  I'd advice BLS International without a doubt. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Conveniently Inconvenient: The visa processing bottleneck

Visa facilitation centers in India were enforced by the Government to ease the travel process and shrink the complications. The tourism industry thrived on these visa application agencies and our dependency on them multiplied. However, it came as a shocker for me that none of the core objectives have been met by most of the visa management companies, leaving customers upset, angry and hopeless. These instances only create bad memories and corrupt impression of the country’s most trusted establishments. Here is what I came across.

When it comes to travelling abroad, visa processing centers can give you real nightmares. From mismanaged crowd to impolite staff behavior, applying for visa is turning out to be the most unpleasant experience. I guess, a thorough research and good word of mouth may give you a real picture of the scenario. Well, I am still searching for alternatives and a way to not blindly rely on tall claims.

Have you ever experienced this before? Do you prefer the services of a visa processing company or arrange everything on your own? Do share in the comments section below.  

Monday, December 17, 2018

The beauty within

Beauty is interpreted in many forms. The idea of beauty planted in heads of young girls often comes from TV or films and age old mentality of the society. For many women, fair skin is beautiful. For others beauty means size zero and looking young. It would not be wrong to say beauty is skin deep. Whats surprising is that these thoughts are deep rooted in the 'literate' section of the society. I refrain from using 'educated' in place of 'literate' because often the two are confused. We are taught to read and write in schools, graduate and earn our degrees. That simply does not make us educated because we fail to imbibe the values and life lessons in the educational institutes. Or else why would we indulge in the evil beliefs of the society? My best friend's mother too has the same mindset. Many a time she expressed worry of her daughter's dark complexion and that she would have a difficult time finding a groom. She was also concerned about her education status because a highly educated girl faces a tough time finding an equally educated groom. I would not be surprised to hear the same story from many other women, especially rural places. 

But a woman shook my belief and it was astonishing to see that come from someone who is not literate and was born to a poor family. She is my domestic-help Sharda who comes to work everyday with the same energy and wears a broad smile on her face like an accessory. She works in ten households of my residential colony to support her husband financially and give a good life to her children. 
Sharda's story of battling the odds moved many to tears. Born in a tiny village in Nepal, Sharda along with her four other sisters were married at young age and they traveled to Delhi with their husbands respectively. Her rickshaw puller husband got into the habit of drinking and his medical illness halved his earnings. Her son got into bad company and quit school. It was then when she fought back and decided to work as a house help, much against the wishes of her husband. Her earnings stabilized the financial conditions and she planned to do something which usually women from her society don't- She got her handicapped daughter Meena enrolled in a school. Criticized by many, including her husband, Sharda was determined to get Meena educated despite her disability and change her life. Meena was born with a crippled leg and missing fingers in right hand.  
My respect for Sharda grew by many folds when I came to know how she braved the odds for her disabled daughter who would otherwise be treated as liability in our society. Husband and I offered to help her financially and would often try passing on little things to make her life a little comfortable. A dignified Sharda would always refuse our help saying she cannot accept favours, because she is earning and accepting help would only defeat her motive of providing a respectful life to her girl. 

The only time she asked for help was when her elder daughter Meena graduated and was  looking for a job. I called Meena to my place for a short meeting. Watching her converse in flawless English was unexpected and quite impressive. Her confidence amazed me. When she told me that she tutors school kids and supports her family so that Sharda could retire, my eyes welled up. The next day I gave a box of cosmetics and skin care products to Sharda for Meena. As always she refused saying "These things will dishearten her didi. If she knows there are cosmetics to mask her flaws, I would be a liar in her eyes".  

Her statement left me stunned.  What a woman of substance she is!  
My husband and I recommended Meena for jobs that matched her skills. The day she landed with a job, Sharda came to thank us with a box of sweets. It was the happiest and biggest feat of my life. I felt so happy for her who brought up Meena like a normal child and did not let her disability hinder her success.She did not abandon her at birth and always told her how beautiful she was. Meena is a mentally strong girl who never pitied herself and never considered the problems her limitations.  

Sharda did not stop working and Meena is earning well, making everyone proud of her. Like mother, like daughter. For me, Sharda and Meena are two exceptional women with true beauty within themselves.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.
Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.
Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… 

Pic credit: pixabay

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Start healthy with morning detox

In the wake of rising pollution and health hazards, we all are trying to protect ourselves from the drastic effects.  My focus has always been on healthy living and changing lifestyle. Post festivals and with the onset of winters, when our immunity is worst affected, here are easy ways to detox and build immunity against diseases. Read through my 7-day infused water consumption that I do each morning-   

Day 1- Zesty Mint and Lemon Water

Make three-four thin slices of a lemon and soak in a jug of water with 9-10 mint leaves. Let it sit overnight. Strain and drink the infused water in the morning. Make sure you de-seed the lemon slices lest the water should turn bitter.

Known as the ultimate summer refresher, mint and lemon together are a great detox. Rich in antioxidants, lemon helps to cleanse and alkalize body and mint stimulates digestion. Use the lemon slices in your dishes later. Chew mint leaves to kill bad breath or improve digestion. The same mint leaves can be used for second infusion the following night. Too much of this water might lead to frequent urination, headache and fatigue. Also, overuse of mint is harmful to gastro-oesophagal patients.

Day 2- Calming Tulsi Infusion

Pic credit:Fit Quint

Pluck a handful of tulsi or holy basil. Wash them thoroughly and soak in water. Strain and consume early morning on empty stomach. You can use the leaves later in brewing tea or simply chew them.

Tusli is extremely beneficial in relieving cough and cold, inflammation, bronchitis, anxiety, upset stomach and insomnia, besides many other benefits.  Do check for allergies or medical conditions like diabetes, pregnancy or thyroid before intake of tulsi leaves.

Day 3- Make it work with Methi

Soak a tablespoon of methi or fenugreek seeds in a glass of water. Strain and consume on empty stomach every morning. Use the soaked seeds in your salad, poha, upma or vegetable tadka (tempering). You can also consume a spoonful with some honey. The greenish-yellow infused water tastes slightly bitter.

Methi promotes good kidney function, weight loss, shiny hair, digestion, aids in controlling insulin and regulates menstrual problems However excess of everything is bad. Do not over-consume. Doing so may have side effects.

Day 4- A Punch with Ginger

Wash, peel and slice a few pieces of ginger and put in a water jug. Put the jug in the fridge letting it sit overnight. Strain the water, heat it till lukewarm (not hot), squeeze half a lemon in it and consume empty stomach in the morning. You can use the ginger pieces in tea or tempering dishes. The colour of the infused water would look a little dirty/light brown and the taste has a tinge of spice. Rest, it would feel like consuming plain water.

Laden with anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, ginger balances blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and hydrates body. Ginger also cures cough and sore throat. However, since ginger causes burning sensation in mouth, gas and heartburn, do not over consume ginger.

Day 5- Win it with Ajwain Infusion 

Just soak two spoons of carom seeds in a cup of water. Stir and strain to have it on empty stomach. Alternatively, you can also boil, strain and cool the water pre-consumption. The taste would be a little pungent and the colour orangish-yellow.

Ajwain or carom seeds are a storehouse of benefits from digestion to relieving toothache. They also relieve acidity, cold and cough, treat pain due to kidney disorders and promote weight loss. Over-consumption may cause heartburn, dizziness, stomach ulcer and nausea. Hence do not over consume ajwain.

Day 6- The Under-Rated Fennel Seeds Water

Soak fennel seeds (saunf) in water overnight. Heat the water with seeds for a minute or two. (Do not boil). Strain and consume it on empty stomach. You can also have this twice a day. The light yellow infused water cools your stomach and tastes refreshing.

Fennel seeds are known for improving digestion, irregular periods, boosts immunity, improves digestion and flushes out toxins from the body. The time especially post festivals is when your digestion goes for a toss. Fennel seeds water combats acidity, bloating, stomach cramps and improves kidney function. Avoid excess of it as it may lead to allergic reactions and may not suit those prone to blood clotting.

Day 7- Detox tea from Organic India

I have been a regular consumer of Organic India Green Tea. During festival shopping, I came across their store at one of the malls in NCR and thought of trying something new. Tulsi Ginger Turmeric Tea instantly got my attention. Ginger and turmeric are good to cure throat infection, cold, improve immunity and allergies. Similarly, Tulsi Cleanse Tea is a great detox, immunity booster and supports liver & kidney function. Warm Tulsi Ginger Turmeric and Tulsi Cleanse tea are my go-to detox infusions these days.
Dip the tea bags in warm water for about a minute or two and sip while it is warm.

These stress relieving, caffeine-free tea can be consumed at any time of the day. P.S- These are not green tea.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Biotique Bio Wheat Germ Youthful Nourishing Night Cream

Hello beautiful people. I am back with another product review, of another night cream from Biotique. So far its products have never disappointed me. Having tried the Biotique Neem Purifying Face Wash and Spot Correcting Anti Acne Pack, I randomly picked up the Bio Wheat Germ Youthful Nourishing Night Cream since I was hunting for one.

What does the brand claims 
This rich-feeling, firming cream is blended with pure Wheat Germ, Sunflower and Almond oils, vitamins A, B, C, D, E and extracts of Carrot and Galangal to moisturize and strengthen skin for a more vital, resilient, younger appearance.

Wheat Germ is one of the most sensitive oils in the botanical world, a natural antioxidant with vitamins A, D, more vitamin E than any other natural oil, plus lecithin. Its pampering properties also protect skin from dryness and environmental stress.

The magic of ingredients:

Having read a lot about the benefits of wheat germ, almond, and sunflower oil, I was inclined to try this nourishing cream. With its anti aging properties, wheatgerm also brightens complexion and reduces wrinkles. Almond oil helps to retain moisture and promotes flawless skin. Antioxidant rich sunflower oil effectively moisturizes, prevents skin damage and pre-mature aging.

My experience with the cream:
The cream with off white color has a smooth texture. The fragrance is soothing and does not irritate (Thank God!) It moisturizes and nourishes leaving skin soft and hydrated. You would actually feel your skin bouncing with good health after the first application. The cream comes in a plastic container with a green lid and label that claims Ayurvedic Recipe with 100% botanical extracts.  The 50 g cream is priced at Rs 230 (May be even lesser online).

Over a period of time, your skin would start feeling good and hydrated. This does not claim to remove scars or oily texture but nourishes skin well. Though it may not work on dark spots or fine lines, a daily massage can keep tour skin healthy. I mix a little cream on my palm with two drops of Avon Miracle Glow Facial Oil and massage at night. My skin feels soft and supple in the morning!

Read here about the best day cream experience of mine from Lotus.

What I liked
- Has a mild fragrance
-Skin feels nourished and healthy after first use
-Very little is required to apply on skin
-Gets absorbed onto skin when massaged gently
-The  plastic jar packaging is light weight, compact and easy to carry even in your travel kit.
-Reasonably priced
-Would work as magic in winters for dry/chapped skin as well as cracked heels.

What I did not like
-I did not like the plastic jar. Somehow I feel plastic does not keep the product fresh and it reacts with chemicals in some or the other way. Additionally, plastic is also not good for the environment either.
-The cream is not lightweight. Skin feels weighed down.
-This cream would not suit people with oily, combination or acne prone skin. This is meant for dry to normal skin only.
-Not recommended for humid weather

My overall rating - 3 on 5
A repeat purchase? I don't think so.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

MeToo - Isnt the onus on us?

In the wake of the #metoo movement and the shocking incidents of digging out past sexual harassment cases, I felt the urge to share something. All ladies have had their "me too" incidents. The reason why girls don't speak about it is that they were never encouraged to, since childhood. Voicing their opinion or naming the culprit was never a part of the Indian culture. It might bring shame to the girl's family. Correct me if I am wrong?

A man who might have made sexual advancement towards you and did what he was not supposed to, got away with the crime because he knew about the loopholes of the "cultured" society we live in. Young girls are the easiest target for sexual predators. Reasons- One, the fear of not speaking up or the tender age when sexual abuse is beyond her understanding; and two, families/schools hush up the cases fearing defamation and three- law is a perhaps a joke. (Read )

The offender is not be blamed, but the crippled mindset of our very own society.

Our country has Khajuraho temple with statues of Kamasutra on display, but shies away from imparting sex education, at home or school alike. People use free internet to feed on porn, but wont use the same internet for sex education. (Workplaces are no different when a girl under pressure chooses to remain silent on such disturbing incidents. They choose to avoid such people, gatherings or switch jobs. And the cost of speaking up or resisting a sexual attack? Defamation of family, her job or even life.


I thank my stars for protecting me from such creeps atleast in my corporate journey. The owner of a company (my first job) was always full of encouragement for ladies. He was totally against sexual harassment and trained us to be vocal about it. I still remember his words asking the female sales staff to be bold enough to walk away or slap a client if he asks for sexual favors in return for business. For him a woman's safety and self respect were more important than client business. Bosses like these are hard to find, especially in field of sales.

Here is another incident that made an impact on me. I remember, it was one warm afternoon, before lunch. I was in a conversation with my reporting manager (female) with my back towards the door and he (a senior colleague ex Army personnel)  had just entered office after a meeting. While passing by, he tickled me on my waist. It was barely for few seconds but I turned numb. The sudden movement of his fingers pinching my waist was least expected. Perhaps it was a jovial, fun gesture I thought, because he was smiling and he went to his workstation like usual. It wan't sexual harassment but clearly unwelcome and shocking. In a state of shock, I sunk onto my chair, feeling disgusted and angry. Since this happened in front of my reporting manager, she immediately reported to boss (the owner). Boss summoned the gentleman and blasted at him to everyone's surprise. Later he individually counselled me and encouraged me to stand up for my own dignity. "If something feels wrong, fight back, because there wont be a good human being everywhere to protect me", he said. My respect grew for him by many folds that day and since then I have been bold enough to fight sexual harassment. I refused to be touched inappropriately and ended up kicking or hitting guys on several occasions. I refused to be ogled at and ended up looking straight into the eyes of the ogler and asking him to back off. I refused to be sexually exploited and ended up fighting men in crowded buses, public places or parties.

Narrating one of these incidents to my mom once, she got scared of me behaving “boldly” and advised me not to react or speak on such instances. It was not mom speaking, but a person brainwashed by the society who feared for her daughter’s safety. After all our culture does not allow women to speak up or report while guys get all the liberty. That is exactly why a sex criminal walks off fearlessly whereas the victim lives in constant fear with her self-respect, career and life at stake. 

The struggle continues for many till date. Why wait for another "MeToo" to start? Ladies, you need to be the change yourself. Unlearn what was taught to you, because its high time. Speak up, fight back, report but do not let men use you. 

P.S- This post was selected for IndiBlogger's Featured Posts (Special Independence Week Edition), and was displayed on the homepage of IndiBlogger.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Lotus Herbals Nutranite Skin Renewal Nutritive Night Cream

Lotus Herbals has a great product portfolio and is quite convincing when it comes to the product benefits. As I was super impressed with Lotus Herbals Day Cream's performance, I was looking for an anti aging, nourishing night cream and ended up buying Nutranite Skin Renewal Nutritive Night Cream.

What the brand says:

This is a luxurious nutrient-rich night cream that helps renew the skin while you sleep. It repairs the damages caused by dehydration and exposures during the day to give a supple and renewed skin. It boots skin's resiliency, strengthens natural defenses while restoring firmness and smoothing imperfections.

The 50 g pack comes in a sturdy glass jar.

Why should you go for a night cream?

We often wonder if night creams are useful at all. Little we realize that your skin that has gone through so much wear & tear during the day (UV rays, pollution, stress) and needs a repair formula at night. Night creams hydrate, moisturize and replenish renewed skins replacing the dead and worn out cells. 

Active ingredients: 

The benefits that Lotus claims: 
  • Consists of natural oxidants that make the cream highly antiseptic and astringent
  • Repairs skin cells by removing dirt and impurities
  • Helps in strengthening the skin's natural defense
  • Consists of nutrients that restores skin's firmness and resilience
  • Adds a gorgeous golden glow

Good things I experienced:  

  • The texture is quite silky
  • The density of the cream feels rich and smooth
  • A very little is required to apply on face and neck 
  • Moisturizes very well

Cons that I found  - I felt cheated. OOPS! 
  • The sales rep sold this Lotus Herbals night cream to me calling it anti aging cream, which is not one. (I read the same in reviews later). This is just a nutritive night cream that vitalizes, hydrates and adds glow to your skin. It does not tighten skin nor works on fine fines.
  • Secondly, this is too heavy as a night cream. The cream leaves my skin oily and sticky. It might suit those with dry skin type, but definitely not the combination or oily skin type. I am scared of using it as it may cause acne or breakouts. The cream is lying unused in my closet. (Sigh!)
  • Though the fragrance is mild, it is not pleasing. To me it smells of too much chemicals.
  • The jar is not travel friendly.
Price- MRP: Rs 455. You can get it a discounted price online. 

My rating- 2.5 on 5. Lotus Herbals can do a better job I am sure. This disappointed me.  

(If you are looking for nourishing creams, why spend so much on Lotus Herbals? If you are looking for anti aging benefits with night repair formula , there are way better products in the market in the same price.)

P.S- This post made it to the top on Indiblogger home page. 

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tourism destroyed the place- Dalhousie diaries

My first trip to Dalhousie in April 2014 had left me enthralled and excited about Himachal Pradesh. The natural unspoiled beauty and pleasant weather made me fall in love with the place and planted a thought in my head about exploring it more. And there after much convincing and complaining from husband who had never been to Dalhousie, I agreed to visit the place again in 2018.

While the valley was snow covered back then in 2014, it was dry and warm in 2018. Effects of global warming surely! The locals told us about scanty snow fall this year, that too in late December. We had packed woolens but could wear none, owing to high temperature and absence of snow. More resorts, hotels and guest houses have mushroomed, and the hills have lost more green cover. Coming years Dalhousie might bear a deserted brown look.


Upon entering Khajjiar, it seemed we entered a gas chamber. The narrow roads smelled of diesel and petrol. Well, since there are no buses plying on the roads, tourists depend on taxi/personal vehicles hence causing more pollution. We cannot blame anybody else but our own. The good part was the pasture land looked the same. The tall pine trees and green patch of land were of much respite. Husband was disappointed to see no sheep grazing around. He had high expectations from Khajjiar as from what he had seen in my pictures from 2104. Better luck next time hubby.

How to reach Khajjiar- Khajjiar is 22 km from Dalhousie bus terminal. Hire a cab or rent a bike. The main attraction is the pasture land with a little pond in the centre, few eating joints at one corner, an ancient temple and activities like paragliding/ horse riding. The Govt. Guest House is not easily available for booking. Recommended to make your stay arrangements in Dalhousie or in a resort midway of Dalhousie-Khajjiar route.


This was my visit to Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, as I was totally fascinated by the beauty of the place from the Bollywood flick Lootera. The quiet vicinity of the protected forest is known for the thick green expanse and tranquility. The thought of capturing Himalayan birds and fauna through lenses was the motivation for hubby’s visit. As the taxi wheeled in through the narrow roads of the sun kissed yellow and luscious green hilly slopes, there popped out the glazing green beer bottles, plastic wrappers and soft drink bottles. We seethed in anger but kept quiet.

The main premises of the sanctuary houses the forest guest house where Lootera was filmed. It is breathtaking and is a perfect writer’s retreat. The main guest house is surrounded by private guest houses and eating joints. More the population, more the pollution. Needless to mention, the number of tress were chopped to build those hotels and restaurants. The place was supposed to calm us but we could not turn a blind eye to the disasters there.

How to reach Kalatop-
Kalatop is 8.5 km from Dalhousie and 7.1 km from Dainkund. You can visit both the places (Sancuary and Dainkund) in one day. If you plan to stay in Kalatop, make your booking in advance. Since the Forest Rest House is rarely available, you can settle with other resorts in the same vicinity. Oh by the way, we tried looking for the tree we saw in movie Lootera. The locals surprised us with the fact that the tree on screen was artificial, especially made to order for the movie.


Dainkund was equally disappointing. Plastic waste is a huge turn off for us and we lose our focus on enjoying the trip. We start collecting the waste, going off the track and cursing those who litter.  When will public be civilized or get mature enough? Plus our authorities has no efficient way of safe garbage disposal.  Anyway, next came the weather. While in 2014 I had witnessed heavy snowfall, 2018 was warm, dry and no snow.

                                               Snow covered Dainkund in 2014

Same time of the year in 2018
To add to the misery was my knee injury which restrained me from hiking up the peak. Hubby enjoyed the hike alone, taking pictures wherever he could and soaking in the sun. As God answered his prayers, he spotted some snow in a secluded spot. Ofcourse he was happy and the hike seemed worth to him. Small joys to concrete jungle dwellers you see :) (I hail from Uttarakhand and not Delhi, so don’t get me wrong). While returning to the base, we resumed collecting plastic waste on the way. Once a conscious citizen, always a conscious citizen I guess.

How to reach Dainkund- Merely 12 km from Dalhouse is the Dainkund peak which has an Airforce base station and is on vigilance all the time. The 2km uphill trek is easy. Advised to wear flats or sports shoes. Heels would not work here. You are required to park your vehicles at the dedicated spot and walk up to the entrance of the trek gate which is less than 500 meters. In case you have senior citizens with you or those with joint pain/injury do not go up there.

The market places, Subhash Chowk and Gandhi Chowk, are polluted like any metro city. It feels disgusting to see what humans have done to the planet. The smoke choke and plastic dump are examples of sheer ignorance/recklessness that will lead to disaster. Thankfully vehicles are not allowed inside the narrow lanes of the markets, else it would be difficult to breathe.

This post also made it to the home page in Indiblogger among the top blog posts list.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Thursday, April 12, 2018

An ode to the navigator

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

He used to chat with me for hours narrating stories of his tenure at Intelligence Bureau; shortened IB. Most of his stories were of his struggle in extreme conditions, especially around borders. Indo China Border, Jammu border, Arunanchal border and many more. For me those were hard days, whereas for him it was adventure! IB was not well equipped with modern machinery or techniques in those days. I am talking about an era of late 60’s. In spite of lack of technology or modern systems, our forces had manpower who were willing to lay their lives for the country. Their willpower, dedication, determination and honesty were the stumbling blocks for the agency. On the snowcapped mountains at the borders, when harsh weather and adverse conditions lashed them with all might, he often faced the challenge of navigating his way through knee deep snow between the bunkers and the watch stations. Just a walkie-talkie in hand was not always useful. Mountains and forests, even during summers were tough to navigate through.

With scarce natural resources and few manual equipment, they could rely on their instinct or gut feel for navigation.

“I stole a leopard’s food once,” he said and smiled, awaiting my surprised reaction.

“What! Really? But why? The leopard kills to survive. Why did you steal it? And how did you do that?” I exclaimed, while turning down the volume of the television to listen to him. I sat crossed leg on the sofa and leaned on the cushion. The story would be long I knew.

“Well you see, it was not intentional. I was patrolling the area, when my subordinate came running to me. He alleged spotting a snow leopard with a kill. It took us around 45 minutes to reach the spot from where the leopard had disappeared. Apparently the mountain goat was too heavy for the animal to pull, so he left his kill there. I shot in the air, tied the goat to our shoulders and moved at a higher distance instead to descending.”

I stared at him in sheer disbelief. “Why did you move higher?”

“Because the leopard would have pounced on us the moment we descended with the goat. The leopard watched us hiding somewhere. It’s safe to go on a higher distance and scare the leopard away. Inching higher, my subordinate realized we had lost our way. We kept moving and returned safely from the other side of the base camp.” He took a deep breath.

“How did you find your way then?”

“I had a fair idea of the altitude and had counted the number of trees on the way. Scaling the same height from the other side of the hill, I observed the declining number of shrubs, marking an end of the forest area. Since forests were cleared around the base camps, a complete round of the hill would bring us back to the same point. That’s how I navigated my way beta,” he said feeling nostalgic.

“Wow! You stole a leopard’s food, lost your way and returned safely to the camp. You are incredible dad!” I exclaimed.

He smiled with a calm expression.

“On another occasion we caught two terrorists who crossed Bangladesh en-route Pakistan. I was posted in NEFA, Arunanchal Pradesh. They claimed to be farmers and alleged crossing the border unknowingly. But I knew they were liars!” he said with his childlike enthusiasm.

He continued, “I asked them the routes they had crossed. They named a few. Then I asked them their village of origin. They said Bankura. My next questions cleared all doubts. I asked them the name of the road in Master Moshaai block and they ran a blank at me”.

“Who is Master Moshaai?” I asked him sipping my tea.

“Anybody from or around the village Bankura would know Master Moshaai, the school teacher who taught everybody for free. Master Moshaai’s statue was erected in the middle of the village and roads renamed after him. The adjoining village was Babu Graam with a river connecting Bankura. The two knew nothing, meant they did not belong to the place and were lying. They were handed over to IB head office, contemplating an attack.”

“We don’t need navigation in car if we have you,” I pulled his leg.

My father-in-law last narrated his stories in December 2015. An ode to the navigator who took his last breath on 15th Jan 2016.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cut the paani, save the Earth

How many of us recognize the legend Rajendra Singh? Also known as the 'Water Man of India', Rajendra Singh has helped revive water table in the dry region of Rajasthan and contributed towards water conservation through several methods of rain water harvesting. Decorated with Magsaysay Award, he was instrumental in bringing water back to over 1,000 villages and revived five rivers in Rajasthan, Arvari, Ruparel, Sarsa, Bhagani and Jahajwali.  If Rajendra Singh could do it, why cant we? His foresightedness has helped villagers survive drought. When are we going to do something about the receding water table and shortage of drinking water?

An initiative by Livpure #CuttingPaani has created a buzz everywhere which aims to create awareness on cutting down water wastage for the larger good. The video conveys it nicely.

Not only in restaurants or homes, one can practice this at their workplace as well. Take a look at the video showing the same. 

Current situation of water: Grim

-Water table is fast depleting and drinking water is NOT infinite.

-2015 saw Cape Town the worst effected with drought. Possibility of Day Zero was declared in January 2018 when the municipality would be forced to shut down the water supply and residents would rely on water collection points for drinking water with a cap of 25 litres for each household.   

-Mexico, Jakarta, Sao Paulo are struggling with scarce supply of water. 

Future situation of water: Grimmer

-Human's increasing demands for freshwater and protecting the eco system will be perhaps the biggest challenges to meet in coming few years.

-Melbourne, Australia may run out of water by the end of the decade.

-Water stress is increasing in India, China and Sub Saharan Africa. Bangalore is next on the list to be hit by severe water crisis. 

Best ways to save water and the grim situation:

1- Cut down wastage of water

-Use wet cloth or sponge to clean your car. Using water through hosepipe to wash cars wastes approximately 20-30 liters of precious water. Hubby bought a portable car washer that uses less than 1 liter of water. The water scarcity news badly effected him and he stopped using the car washer machine. He switched to microfiber cloth to clean wipe his car. pledging to zero water wastage. He feels proud about it and I appreciate his little effort towards saving water for the planet.

-Always carry a water bottle. This will avoid wastage of water in glass and will prevent you from buying plastic water bottles while travelling. 

-Turn the taps off when not in use. Every 5 minutes of running tap water drains out 4-5 liters of water. 

-Mop, don't wash. Husband was visibly disturbed after the water crisis of Cape Town did the rounds in news channels. He pulled up his socks and decided to contribute with the smallest things he could. For instance, he instructed the maid to mop the backyard and porch instead of throwing water and wiping. After all every drop counts.  

-Practice half flush- Using half the water for flush will help save 2-3 liters of water in one go. Small efforts only go a long way.

-Do not leave tap open while washing utensils. Infact washing utensils under running tap accounts for a huge wastage. If utensils are stacked together and rinsed with water from a tub,an individual will contribute saving 9-10 liters of water everyday. 

2. Reuse water 

-Birds die thirsty in the scorching summer. Reuse the left over disposable water in earthen water bowls for birds. You can use it for your pet's water bowl too. Even better, I collect water in a bottle to spray on leaves of trees in my garden/colony.  

-Use the unused drinking water from glass for plants/trees. They need it the most during summers.
Pic courtesy:

-The above picture has been very popular on social media. This arrangement will direct used water to the flush tank. A two-in-one benefit straightaway!

- The water used for mopping the floor can be put to use by sweeping the terrace or staircase.  

3. Rainwater Harvesting 
Photo credit: Wikipedia
This is an age old practice that can stock millions of gallons of water. Careful and smart ways of water conservation can save us from drought like situation. Communities/ residential associations should come together to adopt rainwater harvesting.  

4. Protect trees

Depleting water table and other climatic changes run in a vicious cycle. Increasing population has led to deforestation and that further adds to global warming and shortage of water. How about doing your bit by planting trees around you? You can start with an occasion like birthday or anniversary and plant saplings. In next twenty years, you would be proud of your contribution with some fresh air to the environment and home to birds/rodents. Save the old trees. No body should encourage wood chopping or felling of trees. Remember, more trees means less CO2 emission and more oxygen.

5. Solar Power 

Solar power is used to produce electricity and reduces the pressure on hydro electricity. More the use of solar power, lesser the use of water and lesser the electricity bills. Even if a single solar panel can produce electricity for tubelights or fans of household, imagine the reduction in use of water for electricity production. Streetlights these days use solar power. Cochin has world's first fully solar powered airport. The project costed 620 million rupees. Kolkata's international airport, is planning to build a solar plant covering around 70 acres land that would reduce its electricity bill by one third. While cost is a detrimental factor, it can be countered with mass use of solar panels on larger scale.

Every drop of water counts and saving each drop will save the planet. What are we leaving behind for the coming generations to see? Drought, floods, melting glaciers, no forests, dying fauna? Saving water will help living beings survive. Its a necessity and lets not waste it.
Mere words will not help. Our actions will help save water.  I took the first step by pledging to save water. Have you signed the petition by Livpure yet? Sign the pledge now  if you haven't. Sign it here