Monday, December 31, 2018

The Smart Revolution



Pic source: Pixabay

As the weighing machine displayed 89 kilograms, Subhash looked at me with a puppy face and in the world's most innocent voice said "I don't get time to hit the gym daily. Will rejoin tomorrow on-wards, I promise". With a straight face Neetu, his wife, rolled her eyes and said nothing, clearly showing how upset she was. I smiled as Neetu shrugged giving a helpless look. Subhash, my brother in law is in a job that requires him to travel extensively across the country. The irony is that he heads the sales department of a fitness brand and is health conscious too but has been unable to keep fit. He admits that his tight schedule leaves him with less time to workout and he doesn't get to know his calorie count or health stats. 
I ordered 
Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro Smartband  from Flipkart smart wearable  to resolve the issue for him. The smart wear transformed his lifestyle and helped him keep a check on his health. Now he can monitor the calories lost, heart rate and the number of steps he walked. The most unique feature of this band is he can read his mails & texts in it without getting off  his treadmill or stopping while working out. The best part is he cannot lie to Neetu or skip working out anymore, since she has the device connected to her mobile. This smart-wear has been the best addition not only to Subash's life but to Neetu's as well. Thanks to Flipkart and some credit goes to me too. 
Image credit: androidpit

Todays' hectic times often leaves us time crunched and lazy to say the least. While juggling work and home, you are either too tired to spend time on fitness or lack the motivation to work out. For Subhah, Neetu and I were the motivation. But what about Girish, his son living in a different city? These smart devices came to his rescue too. His smart watch reminds him to study, workout and sleep on time. It even plays soothing music when Girish practices Yoga. Smart devices for the smart generation. Isn't it? Thanks to Flipkart for supporting the smart revolution movement by making these available on their website. 

Pic source- Cnet

Like a silent supporter, Google  Home Mini  from Flipkart's Smart Home section works wonders for busy people like Neetu by reminding her to pay insurance premiums, getting car maintenance done, transferring money to her parents or getting news updates since she has no time to read newspaper. 

   
        


      Image credit: perthome, pixabay



Neetu's parents who are in their early 70's stay alone in a distant city. Plus they wouldn't hire a house help. (You know how elderly behave). Neetu's worst fears turned true when her dad was diagnosed with partial amnesia. What followed were accidental cases of geyser left on, door left open and so on, doubling the chances of major accidents or theft. Smart technology from Flipkart came to their rescue, which was of-course suggested by me. The Oakter Smart Plug For High Powered Appliances from the Flipkart smart home store is designed to control home appliances via mobile app, anywhere in the world. Neetu gets notification on her phone when appliances like geyser or air-conditioner are on or off, saving electricity or from accidents. The best part is that the Oaker app can control home appliances with an Android or iOS device, or even with voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Neetu also got Smart Alarm installed at her parents place since they live alone. This wireless GSM alarm from Flipkart secures homes with RFID as well as voice control. Now I am thinking I will get this installed at my place too. 



Pic credit: Pixabay

With the advent of technology and our dependence on digital equipment, it absolutely makes sense to accept them because they make our life simple and stress free. If a small digital reminder can averse a security threat, then there is nothing better than this. On the night of 28th December, a grocery store in my residential colony burnt down to ashes because of electricity short circuit. If only he had a smoke detector or may be an alarm system. I feel sorry for the gentleman who now regrets not adapting himself to the  smart technologies. Flipkart is making these easily accessible, so why not make the most of it? 
Credit: homedesignersuite

My personal favorite is Philips hue LED smart light from Flipkart's  Smart Lights shop. This light has the power to create unlimited possibilities. With an option to choose from 16 million color patterns, it can change the ambiance of the room according to mood or occasion, all at our command! Imagine you can change the wall color to yellow on Diwali, reduce the brightness in mornings and make the house look blue during a party. This smart light gives a new look each time without you having to paint the walls. How incredible is that!



When everything can be controlled at the touch of your smartphone screen or a tap of remote, imagine its potential. Lights that turn on in human presence, machine that dispenses coffee as soon as you wake up, alarms that raise alarm on detecting danger, assistants that dont lot you forget anything and so on, are examples of smart robot-like technologies that can sort you.     

Technology is here for good and to add an ease to our life. There is a reason smartphones came to us and eventually the smartness extended to every aspect of our daily lives. I guess each one of us should be open to these and live smart.

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… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 






Pic credit: pixabay







Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Touring Sikkim's largest monastery: Rumtek




Visiting temples or monasteries rarely make it to my priority list unless they are exceptional. Never had I thought about seeing any monastery on my trip to Sikkim. However, after reading about the unique History and having heard a lot from the locals, husband and I made quick plan to visit Rumtek; the largest and most popular monastery of Sikkim.


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22 km from the capital, Rumtek stands  at an altitude of 4900 feet against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Range. Made in mid 1700, Rumtek is home to hundreds of monks with a long history of clashes over stewardship of the monastery and its contents. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery is under strict surveillance 24x7.
The heavily guarded entrance 

P.S- Weapons or sharp objects are restricted to entry. Use of camera/mobile phones are allowed in the outer premises, not inside the assembly hall.

The pillar of good luck

A pillar stands across the main temple in the center of the courtyard where tourists engage themselves by throwing coin on the top of the pillar. The coin if perches the pole is said to bring good luck.




Rich and vibrantly colored murals in the traditional, Tibetan painting style grace the entrance of the main temple. Here, on each side of the door, stand life-size images of the four guardians of the universe: Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra, and Vaishravana, protecting the four directions, respectively. (photography is allowed only till point)







The assembly hall leaves you breathless. The spacious and intricately decorated Main Shrine Hall is supported by robust red pillars. Long, round silk banners and ancient thangkas hang from these columns. One side of the main hall houses a complete set of religious scriptures dating thousand years ago. The ornate details and paintings on the walls are truly mesmerizing. (Photography is not allowed here). 


The main assembly hall is surrounded by the monks' quarters and through them leads a path towards the Golden Stupa and the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhism Studies. The Golden Stupa contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. You can meditate or pray here and feel the positive aura surrounding you. (Photography is prohibited here)


The Nalanda Institute is a center dedicated for Buddhism studies.


Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies



You can buy souvenirs at the little shop near the Nalanda Institute's complex or capture nature's bliss around. I was impressed to see how the authorities conserve nature and make the most of the resources available. City dwellers need some serious learning from them.


Road conditions: 
The road condition is extremely bad in patches. Since the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, the slow drive will elongate the journey. Recommended to visit Rumtek during the day or else the bumpy roads are not visible in the dark due to absence of street lights. Apart from few settlements and shops, the entire road is isolated.

Timings- 10 am to 5 pm everyday

Total time to spend: 1 to 2 hours

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018.
This also made it to Indiblogger's Featured Post and Indiblogger's Top post.


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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sight-seeing: Gangtok

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Gangtok, the gateway to the heavenly North East India and the capital of Sikkim, offers a plethora of  wonders for tourist. From tranquil monasteries and exotic mountains to exciting adventure parks, Gangtok has it all. On an average, sightseeing in and around Gangtok would take two days. The taxi union has fixed the rates of sightseeing, saving you the hassles of negotiation.


Taxi Rate List as of October 2018

The cabbies swear by the rate list and do not deviate. However, what they don’t mention is the fact that all the places in the itinerary cannot be covered in one day. They might give you a list of 7-10 places but it is next to impossible to cover them all in a day because of following reasons:

1. Most of the time the narrow roads of Gangtok are packed with traffic. On unusual days, the waiting time is long as two hours.

2. Places like Rumtek or Hanuman Tok are quite far and the roads are extremely rough causing cars to slow down. Ask your driver to take you to Rumtek first which is 22 km from Gangtok. By the time you’d return, it would be dark and several sight points would shut by then.

3. If your itinerary includes the rope-way ride, you would lose three hours straight. Even if you get a place in the never ending queue, make sure you make it to the ticket counter before 12:30 pm as they break for lunch. Since the cable car ferries only 20 people at once and returns from the ride in 15 minutes, the waiting time is painfully long. It’s wise to skip rope-way from the itinerary and do it separately.

4. Chorten Gumpa and Tibetology Center are next to each other. The Tibetology Center is recommended only if Tibetan Culture excites you or the idea of a museum/school sounds interesting, lest you should spend a considerable amount of time here and miss out on the major sight-seeing points.

Husband and I had planned the day with 6 view points while we skipped Tibetology Institute, Flower Show and Rope-way Ride (which we had done in advance). Here is a virtual tour of Gangtok of what we covered one odd day.



1. Chorten Gumpa

Do Drul Chorten

Do-drul Chorten is a stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa lie a complete set of Dorjee Phurba (dagger spike), Kangyur relics (holy books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 prayer wheels which when rotated in the direction mentioned while reciting the prayer brings good luck. We also met a cat peacefully sleeping behind the prayer bell. The main prayer hall is also open for visitors with prior permission. The stupa site is next to the Tibetology Centre.





Chorten Gumpa has a free entry and you can spend 30 to 45 minutes here. (We were stuck in traffic for one hour before reaching Banjhakri Waterfall)





2. Banjhakhri Waterfall




This is a recreation centre and tourist attraction near Gangtok spread over 2 acres of land. The park is based on a theme of shamanic traditions of the people of Sikkim. (Traditional shamanic healer who worships spirits living in caves around the falls). The park has a waterfall, an artificial lake with a dragon in the centre; gazebos; statues of jhākri and ancestors, sculptures of forest dwellers, Burma Bridge and adventure activities. The paved paths and footbridges wind through the beautiful garden decorated with ornamental trees and flowers.




Entry Fee: Rs. 50, Camera fee: Rs. 10. You will find lot of eating joints in and around the place. (We stayed here for about one and a half hours and reached Rumtek by 2pm)


3. Rumtek Monastery


22 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 4900 feet, Rumtek is the largest and one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery has a controversial history dating back to 1994. The multi-layered buildings with tiers of white, yellow and oxblood has the throne of Karmapa in a grand assembly hall, where ornate wooden casements hold 1,000 Buddha statuettes and several ancient manuscripts. Home to several monks and the Nalanda University for Buddhism studies, Rumtek also houses the golden stupa with relics of 16th Karmapa. The place is tranquil and full of positive vibes, where you can spend some time meditating.



The ornamental entrance to the main assembly hall


This place is huge and takes about 1.5- 2 hours to explore. The roads to reach Rumtek are in bad condition and takes lot of time to reach. Entry is free. Carry your ID proof with you which is checked at the monastery main gate by ITBP. Weapons, sharp objects, pepper spray or objectionable items are not allowed beyond the second gate. Rather leave them in your taxi. Photography inside the monastery is prohibited. (We left at 5 pm and it had started turning dark)



4. Hanuman Tok




Hanuman Tok is known as the place where Lord Hanuman rested for a while during his search of Sanjeevani Booti. The roads pass through the curvy path of the forest area. Maintained by the Indian Army, the temple on the hill top treats you with a magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. A visit to this place is a spiritual sojourn.

As you ascend the stairs, a distant prayer or bell greets your ears, filling you with positive vibes.



Entry is free. The roads have no streetlight and are frequented by wild animals. Avoid visiting after dark. (We reached the temple around 6pm and headed to Ganesh Tok)




5. Ganesh Tok


A small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh offers a bird’s eye view of the town below. Built in 1952-53 by Shri Appa B. Pant, the former Political Officer of Sikkim, the site has been beautified to provide superb view of the town and distant rolling hills and snowy peaks. This is a humble temple place with no extravagant carvings or designs yet feels beautiful, especially during evening. The temple is not wheelchair friendly and requires a flight of stairs to mount.





6. Tashi View Point  
Tashi View point- Courtesy TourmyIndia

It was pitch dark by the time we reached Tashi View Point. It is an elevated place to view the city dotted by colourful greens and bright hues. Had we reached on time, we could have enjoyed sunset view. But we made the best out of the opportunity and captured the twinkling city view at night. Personally, I think Tashi View Point isn’t that great. I am sure there are several other elevated places to watch the city.

Apart from the above, Gangtok sight seeing also includes Lingdam Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Saat Kanya Jharna and Saramsa Garden, which we had to skip owing to shortage of time. In case your itinerary has Rumtek Monastery, it is recommended to go there in daylight. The roads would be riskier and worse in evening and you may not want to run into any trouble on the streets without lights.



P.S: This trip of mine was in Oct 2018.



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 effected, 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 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 for gastro-esophageal 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 table spoon 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 loos, 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 few pieces of ginger and put in a water jug. Put the jug in 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 morning. You can use the ginger pieces in tea or tempering dishes.The color 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 pf 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 little pungent and the color orangish-yellow.

Ajwain or carom seeds are storehouse of benefits from digestion to relieving tooth ache. 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 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. Tusli 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 its warm.

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

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

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Adrenaline Rush - Zero Point, Sikkim




Sikkim is an incredibly beautiful state and every place in this state exudes an enigmatic grandeur. One among them is Zero Point. Husband and I were fascinated to visit this place as we were intrigued to know how it feels at the last outpost of civilization in knee deep snow.  My late father-in-law had served in NEFA valley. Hence husband wanted to see a similar place where his dad was posted. Zero Point undoubtedly topped the list. A big salute to Indian Army which operates in harsh conditions, guarding the Indo-China border 24*7.




A day before your visit to Zero Point or Yumesamdong, your driver/travel agent would have submitted your documents in advance, which are checked on the day of visit. Zero Point is usually not included in North Sikkim itinerary and travel agents charge Rs 3000 extra for this trip, clubbing Yumthang Valley with it. Your homestay would provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter/jam) since you would have to leave early morning.

The distance from Lachung to Zero Point is 51 km and roughly 30 km from Yumthang Valley.
(We first went to Zero Point and stopped at Yumthang Valley on returning from Zero.)



Hilly topography, harsh weather and proximity to China perhaps made it impossible to build roads. You would experience sharp turns and jerks throughout the road journey. Nonetheless the beautiful untouched nature around makes up for painful ride. The breath-taking sight leaves you mesmerized. After all its the journey that matters.




As you ascend higher, vegetation starts diminishing and rocky terrain becomes more prominent. The roads tend to get very slippery and extremely dangerous during snowfall. Ask your driver to drive slowly and very carefully on this route even when not snowing. Rash driving is not an option here. Give way to Army trucks whenever you see. Army personnel wave at passing vehicles as a gesture of wishing happy journey and making you feel good. Waving back to them is a nice gesture.

On the way, don’t forget to stop at ‘Jalebi Point’ for yummy snacks which are made by Indian Army personnel. Their motto is to bring a smile to faces and not let anyone go hungry.
P.S- Food items at Zero Point are expensive and the hygiene is not really trustworthy.  Advisable to refuel yourself at this stop. Hot samosas and jalebis felt absolutely amazing as we famished. (Remember our breakfast was just bread butter?)  

The super bouncy ride comes to an end at the Zero Point Parking. At 15000 feet above sea level, the place is covered in snow most of the year. When it hasn’t snowed, it would be biting cold.


We were at loss of words with the exhilarating beauty of the place. The Sun hid behind the greyish clouds and the chilled winds kissed our skin. Wood-fire at a nearby tea stall made us feel colder and we pulled our jackets tighter. The white blanket of snow seemed to beckon us as our body tried to adjust in the sub-zero temperature. Thankfully we did not feel uneasy because oxygen level isn’t low here unlike Gurudongmar Lake. While we felt ecstatic being surrounded by snow wondering what was China doing behind those gigantic mountains, our heart went out to Indian Army that braves these challenges everyday just to keep us safe. A heart-felt thanks and grand salute to them.


Enjoy hot snacks at the little shacks here, play with snow, enjoy nature at its "whitest most" and take home good memories. A usual protocol is to leave within an hour lest the parking should be full or  weather conditions worsen. Avoid Zero Point during rainy season.

Overall the place has nothing except for being an important landmark before China. However the exotic beauty of this place keeps you charmed.

Travelling to such places often changes your perspective about life and lot of things. The distance between life and death could be a thing as small as a wrong step on the hills or slipping on the rocks. We could somehow re-live the conditions what dad had endured during his service in NEFA. Our trip to Zero Point was also in his commemoration.  

P.S- This trip of mine was in Oct 2018. In case you have queries on planning your trip to North Sikkim or Zero point, feel free to reach out at shilp3005@gmail.com or leave your query in comments below. 

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