Empowerment with Srinivasan Services Trust

We all know the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.  But how many of us do this in our lives? Recently I was invited by SST , Srinivasan Services Trust, to visit Padavedu in Tamilnadu to observe their efforts which align perfectly with this proverb. SST was founded in 1996 and has a sound foundation encompassing sustainable initiatives touching key focus areas – infrastructure, women empowerment, social and cultural development, education, health and environment, resulting in equitable
distribution of wealth creation, reduced income gaps and human capacity building.

Padavedu is a beautiful scenic place that consists of 17 villages surrounded by Jawadu hills, forests, river, other water bodies and paddy, coconut & banana fields. So off I went, happy for the short break from Delhi’s winter and smog. The latter is what excites Delhites easily these days. The chance to breathe somewhere ELSE. Such are times. It was the kind of trip where one wonders if a village life is the kind of life we all should be living.  What exactly are we doing in urban fast paced concrete plethora we call cities?

Padavedu

We flew down to Chennai from where we drove down to Vellore, the city nearest to Padavedu cluster of villages. Our trip was very well planned and we had buffer for delays, ample time to rest overnight and the chance to begin our village visit on a fresh day. Once there, we visited various areas where SST is making its mark. SST works with the national, state governments and various communities across 5015 villages in 5 states of India, affecting the lives of 3.2 million people. Padavedu is one of the locations.

first stop – Pottery in kesavapuram

We visited a family that sustains its livelihood completely through pottery . The business is good throughout the year and especially good around festivals like Diwali. As we reach the house, we spot a lady kneading the clay as if dough for a bread except of course it’s a whole lot. Then she sprinkled some dry dust on it, which almost reminded me of oregano being sprinkled on a loaf just before baking. Well, at the end of the day, both the things do fill our stomach one way or the other :). The potter wheel was being manned by Sekhar who expertly and seemingly effortlessly gave it a good whirl and generated 4-5 earthern vessels in that single spin itself. Sekhar and his family create a large variety of things like diyas (various shapes, sizes), cooking utensils, pots, pans, show pieces and even gas stoves! One can light a fire under the earthern stove and cook meals . It has 2 “burners” too! If you have ever watched a potter work, you know how mesmerising it is (not talking about the movie Ghost here) to watch. Of course the reality of the effort dawns on oneself when one comes in contact with the clay oneself. We were given a chance to try our hands at pottery. Needless to say the virgin potters made some strange artwork only they could appreciate. They were bottomless, shapeless and purposeless. But something one creates always looks lovely to that person, be it a child or well, useless pottery. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – aanganvadi for pre-school kids at kesavapuram

Next up we visited a pre-school near by. It was bright, colourful and cheery. Caricatures of Mickey and Donald on the exterior walls and a few swings, greeted us in to the mini Disneyland. The kids seemed excited and probably amused by the new faces. They all recited a few poems for us. The primary focus being fun studies rather than stuff drilled into their brains. SST provides infrastructure for the schools and the reading material too. This is then handed over to the govt to run. The schools have a kitchen along with the classroom where meals are prepared on the spot and provided to the children. They arrive in the morning, play, learn, have their meal and then they all nap for a while just before their parents come to fetch them back. If only all schools followed this routine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

next stop – handicrafts with rope made with banana bark in chinna puttur!

Now comes the most exciting part of my trip – seeing the transformation of the humble banana leaf/bark into eco-friendly handicraft! We visited chinna puttur which was dotted with temples of headless goddesses! Legend has it that the Sage Jamadagni , due to some marital discord, ordered his son Parasurama to behead his own mother. The son followed the instructions, mother was decapitated as sacrifice and father, now pleased granted his son a boon. Needless to say, the son asked for his mother back and Sage Jamadagni reattached her head back. Now these idols signify the same. Annually the head is put on the goddess for a few days, prayed to and then packed back for next year! What was the point of doing it all one thinks, but How fascinating is all this! I digressed. But I couldn’t resist it.

Back to handicraft – we spot several ladies sitting next to a temple (now that’s a very very common sight there) making handicraft with ropes. The rope for said handicraft can be single or double threaded. We were shown how the thread is woven from banana fibre. First the leaves/bark are dried and then when it is pulled apart, it comes out in long strands. These strands are then spooled on to a bicycle rim, upcycled (no pun intended) to form an innovative apparatus, that helps spin this fibre into rope! This rope is dried in the sun and it truly has a good tensile strength. This rope is then further used to make handicrafts like lamp shades, jewellery boxes, baskets, showpieces etc. The women who do this, do it part time. In alignment with the proverb mentioned above, SST’s role here is not limited to only teaching the women how to fish, they also teach them how to find more fish, how to descale it, sell it for profit, and maintain records. In other words SST not just teaches these women the skill , they also provide them bulk orders, help them sell these items, they teach them basic accountancy, book keeping and even maintaining of the minutes of various meetings! The village functions as a well oiled machine with records kept for everything. They take loans to start the project, soon repay them back and then start saving up the money they generate from the handicraft business. The women who learn all this, teach others around them and pay it forward. It’s a wonderful initiative in more ways than one.

 

 

 

 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Next stop – traditional lunch

Much excited with the days activities, we now needed food for more than just our thoughts and we now headed to the SST office in Padavedu. We were given a traditional home made south indian meal comprising of many many items.

 

next stop – vermicompost that recycles garbage & produces organic fertiliser in chinna puttur

We proceeded to the vermicompost facility where women were segregating garbage into recyclable and non recyclable. We should all be ideally doing this at source, that is our own house.

Vermicompost is the product of the composting process using various species of worms. Vermicast is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms. It is basically shit that looks like chocolate sprinkles.  Vermicast is known to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer. The vermicast thus formed is sold to farmers in the vicinity.

We came face to face with the earth worms that eat this garbage and generate the shit sprinkles. It wasn’t pretty. But the end result is good for all of us and it would truly help us avoid manmade disasters like the Gazipur landfill etc which are permanently on fire and literally “breath-taking”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final stop – temple care

And as we came to a close, we visited a few 12th century Ram temples , excavated by and looked after by SST. Every temple is similar to the ones around it and yet unique in some way. In fact Padavedu is a land of temples. At every 10 metres you will find one! Due to some natural disaster most of these temples were buried. TVS/SST have unearthed and takes care of many of these. The construction activites in Padavedu are hence supervised because there’s a very high chance that excavation will yield yet another ancient temple!

I was quite impressed with how SST transforms these villages and partners with local and central government agencies and other institutions/ companies to find solutions to the problems faced by the communities it works with. We were constantly told that SST works as change agents, not donors. Backed by this philosophy, SST has been working towards Sustainable Development Goals since last 20 years and their initiatives are in line with the ongoing government macro initiatives- ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’,  ‘Start-up India ’ and ‘Swachh Bharat
Abhiyan’.

My take aways from this trip –

Hope after seeing at least SOME organisations that believe in paying it forward.

Fascinating eco-friendly activities.

The legends and myths and mysteries of Padavedu. I really want to explore this more.

The calm & serene forests & fields really make me feel like spending a longer period of time there. Oh and the 4G signal works well in these villages. If internet is sorted, everything seems doable.

Padavedu has so much to explore, yet hardly anyone has even heard of it. I surely want to visit it again.

 

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored by SST but the views expressed here are personal.

 



A drive to the Hornbill festival with Datsun Redi-GO

Recently I was invited by Datsun India to experience the Hornbill Festival at Nagaland in the Redi-GO 1.0L. Needless to say I was on board immediately, literally. I haven’t explored North East India as much as I would like to and this was a step in that direction. And I was getting to explore the hilly roads from Dimapur to Kohima on road since I personally enjoy driving as well.

So tickets were booked, bags were packed, woolens were worn and off I went one early morning from Delhi to Dimapur. There are a very few flights that service this sector and so we had a layover at Calcutta airport. Once we arrived at Dimapur airport it was a sight for sore eyes! The moment I disembarked from the tiny Air India plane, I could smell flowers in the air and not jet fuel fumes! It was a very pleasant (also literally) surprise. Dimapur airport is a tiny one where passengers get off the plane and walk to the arrivals. On our arrival we were greeted by the local team from Nissan India who were ready with our rides for the remaining journey – 2 brand new Datsun Redi-GO 1.0L cars. And by brand new I mean absolutely factory fresh. The number plates were arranged right then and we were good to go.


 

We drove till our hotel , Hotel Lake Shilloi, located in the city centre, freshened up and had a late lunch. All of Dimapur was decked up for Christmas and also closed for the same (Quite early for Xmas!) so we couldn’t do much that day. But we needn’t have bothered because we were sitting in the heart of all action. Our hotel was located right next to the city tower and soon a massive Christmas celebrations began. We sat at the terrace of the hotel which was beautifully decorated, to view the celebration from above while the sun went down in to a crowd cheering various Santas.

 

Twilight with a “star lit sky” 😎😏 Christmas is big at dimapur in Nagaland! #_soi #travel #travelphotography #indian #incredibleindia

A post shared by Priyanka Sachar 📸🍃🌱🍝💅💒🏞️🇮🇳 (@twilightfairy) on


It was a great evening, hearing local church choirs sing Christmas carols, watching Santas dance and wowing at the chinese lanterns floating away into the sky! There was a night market that had set up right on that road and it seemed like all of Dimapur was right there for the night. Of course we didn’t wish to sample the local cuisine which was more like Intestine chutney and dog meat. However the Christmas decorations and general fervor was great. The celebrations continued late into the night while we had an early morning the next day to drive to Kohima.

The next morning we dumped our luggage in the boot of our redi-GO 1.0L for the drive to Kohima. I was quite impressed by the boot space for a hatchback. The car offers a smooth driving experience, feels light and has the ground clearance of 185mm which is the best in its class. There were 4 of us driving 2 cars, so we took turns driving and exploring the car and its various features. It has good pickup and sturdy brakes. We mostly drove in low gears because it was a hilly drive. And the car didnt stall anywhere. It has a reverse gear that works the same way as in SUV’s (lift the gear and switch it into reverse). That took some getting used to. I noticed that the power window buttons were on the gear box instead of on the doors. That appeared strange and trying to open windows while someone was driving, sort of disturbs the driver.

Datsun Redi-GO

Driving with the clouds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few images of the car looking splendid with the hills . It looks quite trendy and suits the pocket just right for those who are buying their first cars because it’s easier on the pocket compared to others.

 

Had a great drive to the #hornbillfestival in the @DatsunIndia Redi-GO. Good vehicle for hilly roads #datsunlove Nice flares from the phone. #_soi #travel #travelphotography

A post shared by Priyanka Sachar 📸🍃🌱🍝💅💒🏞️🇮🇳 (@twilightfairy) on

 

 

 

Sun rays streaming through the trees while Driving the @DatsunIndia Redi-GO for #hornbillfestival . #datsunlove #_soi #travel #travelphotography #mobile #Nagaland

A post shared by Priyanka Sachar 📸🍃🌱🍝💅💒🏞️🇮🇳 (@twilightfairy) on

 

We reached our hotel in Kohima, Hotel Cimorb around noon , freshened up and left for the hornbill festival immediately. The festival was quite exciting with a lot to do and so much to see and explore. To begin with, the place was full of cherry blossom trees that were still flowering! However they were also full of leaves so the flowers get hidden compared to when the tree has only blossoms. A beautiful sight nevertheless.

 

Church at Hornbill festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a quick lunch and set out to explore the festival which is divided into various sections at the Heritage village of Kisama. Kisama is derived from two villages namely, Kigwema (KI) and Phesama(SA) and MA which means Village. The Heritage Complex consists of a cluster of 16 houses – one for each of the 16 officially recognized Naga tribes. All of them are different and unique in their customs & traditions. It also houses food courts, bamboo hall, a church, a World War II museum, kids play area, and areas for various concerts, competitions and beauty pageants. So There are lot of activities to indulge in, ranging from watching various tribes perform their traditional rituals, to watching martial arts, music concerts, checking out local produce and horticulture and much more.

One of the tribals at Hornbill festival

Traditional folk dance at Hornbill festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I shopped for some succulents because they are very expensive comparatively in Delhi.

We set back and spent the night at Hotel Cimorb, which is owned by the CM. Kohima was rather chilly at night. The next day we set out very early in order to drive back to Dimapur and catch our flight. The drive back was also smooth considering that the roads between Kohima and Dimapur are really really bad and in a dismal state with a lot of repair work going on. We had our breakfast on the way at the only Vegetarian place I had seen so far, because all I had seen were rice hotels that served rice with chicken , mutton, fish even for breakfast :). Soon we reached Dimapur, handed over the cars to the dealership and headed back for Delhi. If you ask me this was just a taste, and I need to visit Nagaland again soon, to have a full meal.

 



10 reasons to stay at Treehouse Anuraga Palace when visiting Ranthambore

Some time back I had the opportunity to visit Treehouse Anuraga Palace at Ranthambore and my stay there was quite fulfilling. Here are the reasons why you should plan a stay there on your visit to Ranthambore. 

Close to Ranthambore tiger reserve & fort

The main attraction – the Ranthambore tiger reserve hosts not only magnificent Tigers but many other exotic animals including Leopards, Jackals, Foxes, Black Bucks, Deer, Nilgai, Sloth Bears, Desert Cats, Mongoose, and a large number of birds including peacocks, darter, treepie, quails, and many many others. The Treehouse Anuraga Palace hotel is very conveniently located from the reserve. The Ranthambore fort is another must visit attraction which is in the same reserve. It hosts a well known temple – The Trinetra Ganesha Temple which is famous for having Lord Ganesha and all of his family together at one place. 

 

While climbing stairs of the #ranthambore Fort, comes the entire family of Shiv, Parvati, Ganesha & others. Very rarely seen together. #rajasthan #_soi #travel #travelphotography #temple

A post shared by Priyanka Sachar 📸🍃🌱🍝💅💒🏞️🇮🇳 (@twilightfairy) on

 

Right next to the artistic sawai madhopur railway station

The Treenhouse Anuraga Palace is very very close to the very artistic Sawai Madhopur railway station. The distance is barely 5 minutes by car. Hence reaching their by train or by road is most convenient.

Beautiful architecture & elegant decor

The architecture of the Treehouse Anuraga Palace is very nice & majestic. Not only does it have the typical Jharokhas, chhatris, jaalis & the haveli look of Rajasthani architecture, the rooms are also decorated in a palatial way. It has a central courtyard with a fountain and garden seating is available for tea/coffee. It has been built according to vastu and one corner of the campus has a high tower for auspiciousness. One look at the hotel, and you know it’s not your typical modern building and you are in for a different experience. Moreover the decor is fabulous and has been catered to personally by the family that owns it. The entire hotel has light curtains which flow with the breeze and give the place a very nice relaxed ambience.

Architecture complying to vastu

Architecture complying to Vastu

Beautiful Architecture of Treehouse Anuraga Palace

Beautiful Architecture of Treehouse Anuraga Palace

Flowy curtains in all corridors

Flowy curtains in all corridors

Elegant Decor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic veggies & organic milk from shabri farm

The Treehouse Anuraga has a restaurant named Basant. Open from Morning till late night, it serves a variety of dishes from across the globe. The breakfast buffet is lavish and so are the other meals. The best part however is that all veggies and milk products used in their daily meals are organic! Not only that, all these come from their own farms! I had the opportunity to visit their farm a little distance away from the hotel. It is a haven that one can only dream of owning. Veggies and fruits growing without pesticide, compost being made at the farm and cows/buffalos having a variety of healthy stuff that makes their milk more flavourful – are some of the sights one sees. No pesticides or antibiotics used anywhere – which is how our daily intake should be but isn’t. Even the chutneys and pickles present at the buffet are organic and have been prepared at the farm. When was the last time you ate so healthy?

Shabri farms

Amla trees at Shabri farms

Amla trees at Shabri farms

Onions and garlic drying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigeons at the farm

Dairy area at Shabri farm

Dairy area at Shabri farm

All veggies including organic ones are grown at Shabri farms

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitality & family feeling

Rajasthani hospitality is famous. Considering that hotels are a part of the hospitality industry, one would assume that the service would be great. But more often than not one finds that to be lacking. Not at Treehouse Anuraga though! Every single member (and I do mean every single member) of the staff, no matter how senior or how junior, smiles and greets all the guests. It doesn’t stop just there. They will ask you how comfortable you are and try to increase that comfort even more. At the restaurant also, The chef and cooks are friendly and will offer to make your favourite dishes if you feel that you don’t want anything from the buffet. The homely tradition of insisting that your guests take some more servings of the food even when they are full, is actually followed here! Waiters and the staff at the restaurant insist on pouring something more into your plate or getting that one extra chapati or customizing your meal. It feels like one is eating with family and not with strangers at a hotel.

Spa services

 

Spa area

Spa services are also available at Treehouse Anuraga. It is not the full range of services like Spa, steam and Sauna but the spa massages are good. There’s a variety of massages available. They have 2 lady masseurs and 2 gents. I tried the “Lomi Lomi” massage which is derived from the ancient polynesians and is performed using the forearm, knuckles and palms. This helps in toxin release and improving muscle strength. Most massages are available for 60 or 90 minutes. One has to make an appointment in advance. I found the massage very relaxing. This was followed by a hot bath that seals all the moisture in.

 

 

 

Special dining at rooftop

The hospitality I mentioned earlier, goes one step further. If one wishes, one can dine at the rooftop under a specially painted canopy for a sit down meal. You can tell your meal preference in advance and then you will be served various courses at the rooftop privately, instead of having a buffet meal at the restaurant. Since the stuff is not cooked at the rooftop, they have an arrangement of a microwave to reheat anything in case it gets cold. I am sure later the facilities available at the rooftop will expand much more. And of course the view from the rooftop is to die for.

Magnificent view from the rooftop

Painted ceiling at the rooftop

The rooftop area all set for dinner

The table all set for sit down dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entertainment & Experiences

Treehouse Anuraga can arrange for the jungle safari if you haven’t booked a ticket for yourself already. The general public way is to book ticket online (no control over timing allotted) or to buy ticket from the ticket counter at the Ranthambore tiger reserve (one can still choose between morning/evening timings & type of vehicle). One can choose between a gypsy (6 seater) and a canter (12 seater). But all hotels in the vicinity also provide booking through their own agents and charge a fees over the ticket cost for the same. “Gypsy vs canter” is a thing for another post. Apart from the Jungle safari that the Treehouse Anuraga can arrange for you, they have a daily magic show in the evening and camel rides (paid separately) are available as well. They also have outdoor and indoor play areas for kids. An inviting swimming pool is also at the premises and can be used any time. In terms of experiences, they offer a whole plethora. The rooftop special dining also comes under that. A visit to the Shabri farm where all the organic veggies come from is another one. A sun downer at the Ranthambore fort is another – where one dines at the fort and a meal is served there while watching the sunset. Apart from this there are a host of other activities like evening tea, naturalist talks, wildlife films, available for the evening.

Tranquility

The Treehouse Anuraga is a quiet & serene place. There’s a temple at the premises and there are yoga sessions and Arti in the morning. Apart from this whatever suits you – a swim, meditation, prayers or spa treatment – everything to relax and achieve tranquility is available. 

Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning rooms

This is the cherry on top of a luscious cake that is Treehouse Anuraga. The rooms, Especially the suites are absolutely mindblowing. The suites have been given the name based on the Indian Flowers of Jasmine, Rose, Marigold and Lotus and every element adds up to create a story around the theme. My family and I stayed in 2 thematic suites – Rose suite and Jasmine suite. These large spacious suites have a separate living area and bedroom area. Everything in the suites is decorated according to the theme. I must mention that all the decor is personally handled by the daughter of the owners of Treehouse Anuraga. Not only this , some of the paintings and artwork inside the rooms is also handcrafted by them. They are a family of multi-talented people!

The Jasmine suite

Matching bathrooms

Jasmine Suite

Jasmine Suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flouncy curtains in all rooms

Matching bathrooms

Rose suite with its painted ceiling

Rose suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After going through all these reasons, what are you still waiting for? Visit TreeHouse Anuraga Palace to experience it for yourself 🙂 The best time to visit Ranthambore is October to June. The sanctuary is closed the rest of the months of the year.



How to spend 48 hours in Amritsar

Amritsar, historically also known as Rāmdāspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is a city in north-western India in the Indian state of Punjab. It is situated near Pakistan and the Wagah border. Being the home of the picturesque Golden Temple, It is a popular religious and spiritual destination. It is also very well known for its local food and subsequently various food trails that tourists can cover to get a glimpse into Amritsari food. Amritsar has been witness to some of the most historical events around Partition and houses the Jallianwala bagh too. It is also the birth place of eminent personalities like guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of Sikhs and of course contemporary celebrities like Kapil Sharma, Chef Vikas Khanna to name a few. 🙂
 
A lot of people indulge in shopping in Amritsar for local handwoven Phulkari (embroidery technique from Punjab) dupattas and suits or Punjabi Vadi, Paapad & Achar. Hence Amritsar in short – combines all the attractions of a tourist destination. Spiritualism, Diplomacy between two countries, History, Food, Shopping – what more can one ask for.

So when Vistara Airlines offered to fly me down to Amritsar for an all expense paid trip , I was quite excited. I was to spend 48 hours in Amritsar and cover all possible things that can be done in Amritsar in 2 days. Amritsar is well equipped with world class hotels. Vistara Airlines had made arrangements for our stay at Taj Swarna – a brand new property, not too far from the airport. After a welcome ceremony & quick hi-tea, we rested for a bit in our nice well equipped rooms. In the evening we had a diya lighting ritual. After dinner where the entire group interacted with each other, we awaited the Amritsar itinerary to follow in the next 2 days.

Here are a few things you can do in Amritsar in 48 hours.

Visit the Golden Temple

The main attraction of Amritsar, the magnificent, soothing and calming Golden Temple, is always full of tourists at all times. You can visit it any time but the best times to visit are early morning and late night. Both offer different glimpses of the temple – one of the day and one of the night. The road leading to Golden temple has now become pedestrian only and that area looks pretty much like that in a world class city! Cobble stone paths, fancy lamposts, with flower baskets! Uniform colours, patterns and name plates on all shops .. and VERY clean. Before visiting the Golden temple, keep in mind the fact that your head has to be covered at all times. So one needs to carry a scarf/stole or handkerchief with one. It is also mandatory to take off shoes AND socks both, dip your feet in a pool of water and then walk in to the Golden temple. 

Golden Temple

Golden temple

Once in, you can get into the queue to visit the sanctum sanctorum. If you reach early enough, you may even get a spot to SIT inside for as long as you wish. People can be usually seen meditating there or just reveling in the very tangible calming effect of the place . I did the darshan through the VIP line, thanks to arrangements made by Vistara Airlines.  On exiting one can have Kada Prasad. If you carry an extra box with you, you can get some extra helpings. It is worth the effort.

Over a 100,000 visitors are fed every day at the Golden temple. You can be one of them, or you can help in one of the tasks involved with serving food to such visitors.

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Visit the Jalianwala Bagh

Right outside the Golden temple are various places of interest. One of them is the Jalianwala Bagh which witnessed one of the most horrific massacres that human kind has seen. It is now a memorial with a garden. One can see bullet holes in walls there as well as the well in to which many people jumped to escape firing. A solemn place but one worth visiting.
 
Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

 
 

Walk along Heritage Street

This is the same road that leads to both Jalianwla Bagh as well as the Golden temple. It also has some other smaller temples as well. The place houses various shops for Phulkari, footwear, eatables as well sumptuous street food.
 
Walk along heritage street

Walk along heritage street

 
 

Shopping at Amritsar

You can visit markets like Hall Gate and Katra Jaimal Singh for punjabi juttis and stunning phulkari dupattas.
Phulkari

Phulkari

 

Eating out at Amritsar

Amritsar is one of India’s top most food destinations! One must visit the iconic Bharawan da Dhaba, opposite Town Hall, Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner (Basant Nagar, 21 A, Near Madaan Hospital, Majitha Road). Also try Pal da Dhaba (Hathi Gate) near Golden temple or Kesar da Dhaba. The heritage street outside Golden temple also houses a number of eateries to give you a taste of the local cuisine right after the temple visit. You can also visit Surjit Food Plaza which is popular with celebrities from all over the world. Kachoris, Samosas, Matthi, Firni, Kheer, Jalebi, Amritsari fish tikka, Amritsari kulcha, chur chur naan, sarson da saag, makki di roti, various kinds of lassi to top everything up, and a whole lot more can be indulged in.
Jalebis

Jalebis

witness the Beating Retreat at the Attari–Wagah border

 Leave for the Wagah border well in time to reach there by 3:30pm to get good seats. There is a long walk after a point where vehicles are not allowed any further. You can not carry any bags to the border. Anything you carry has to be in your hands. After security check, you can grab seats at a vantage point to get a good glimpse of the fanfare and the ceremony. I had access to VIP seats thanks to my hosts – Taj Swarna & Vistara Airlines. The parade is held with much fanfare on both sides of the border. Patriotic songs are played interspersed by slogans like “Bharat mata kee jai“, “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram on our side of course. BSF soldiers from India & their counterparts on the other side, put on a display that tries to show them outdoing each other at every step. However beyond the ceremony, the same people are amiable and exchange sweets on important festivals. Thanks to my hosts, I got access to a part of the border where I could stand within a few inches of the border! A Pakistani ranger and an Indian counterpart stand within 3 feet of each other guarding their respective sections. Beyond this spot, only green fields can be seen, reminding one that borders are ONLY man made. I was jealous of the birds flying across both countries and even stray dogs crossing borders casually throughout the time I was there! It was quite amusing to see how humans have imposed these restrictions on themselves.
 
Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat

Beating the retreat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places to Stay in Amritsar

There are a lot of world class hotels that provide comfortable accommodation in Amritsar, not too far off from all the attractions. I stayed at Taj Swarna since they were my hosts for this trip. My stay was very comfortable and the staff very amiable.

The lovely Taj Swarna

The lovely Taj Swarna

 Now that you know what all can be done in Amritsar in 48 hours, what are you waiting for? Book a flight & your stay at a hotel and get going!

 

 

 


Launch of Saffola Aura with Kunal Kapur & Pooja Makhija

Recently I had been invited to the launch of  Saffola Aura- The new Super Oil with Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil, launched with Kunal Kapur & Pooja Makhija. The event took place in Bombay and bloggers from all over India had been invited for the same.

So I found myself at the Smoke House Delhi, BKC one summer afternoon for the new “mysterious launch” of a product that had not been disclosed to us. The new Super Oil was launched with celebrity chef Kunal Kapur and celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija.

Launch of Aura Oil by Chef Kunal & Nutritionist Pooja

Launch of Aura Oil by Chef Kunal & Nutritionist Pooja

A never seen before creation, Aura oil is a unique blend of two super foods – Olive Oil and Flaxseed oil. Hence, this Oil gives you the benefits of both Omega-3 and powerful anti-oxidants that help renew your body cells every day.

The two variants of Aura Oil

The two variants of Aura Oil

Chef Kunal and nutritionist Pooja chatted with us bloggers about how Saffola Aura is the perfect wellness choice for today’s lifestyle. There is a variant with high smoking point, that can be used in Indian cooking, as well as an Extra virgin variant for pouring over salads, pastas etc. 

With the stressful times we live in, this kind of a product with its omega 3 and antioxidant properties is indeed beneficial to add to one’s diet. After the launch, there was a cook-off challenge amongst the bloggers. We were all randomly divided into teams and were given a list of ingredients out of which at least 4 were mandatory. We had to make one dish using the new Super Oil, within 45 minutes.  I started with making an Italian version of Shakshuka and then since there was so much time, I made a quick salad too. My team helped in chopping all the ingredients and helped in plating.

 

Caramelised Pineapple, Tomato, Avocado & Ricotta Salad for the cookoff

Caramelised Pineapple, Tomato, Avocado & Ricotta Salad for the cookoff

Finally, the evening ended with final team getting a masterclass with Chef Kunal Kapur at a later date. And all of us made our way to the airport. It was a nice evening and I hope to try out the oils in my regular cooking soon!