My most memorable selfie

Much as I don’t like this word “selfie” and prefer the original and very elegant word used by photographers – “self portrait”, no one can deny that it has become second nature to millennials and many others alike. At the same time, sometimes when one is alone and there’s no one to capture a particular moment, the “self portrait” tool on phones, or the “selfie” comes most handy!

Since this post is about my most memorable selfie, there’s one that captures one of the most thrilling moments of my life. As we all know, India and Pakistan share a border at many locations. Wagah border at Amritsar is one such location and there is much fanfare at the beating retreat everyday over there. There is a high level of security as well, understandably. I’m a partition grandchild. Both sets of my grandparents migrated from Punjab’s portion in Pakistan, much like almost all Delhites’. In May 1947 my paternal grandfather had got a brand new Haveli constructed that they had to leave in a tearing hurry in August 1947. My maternal grandparents had a similar fate. As a result, even though we share a bitter sweet relationship with our neighbouring country, I have always wanted to visit Pakistan and retrace the steps of my grandparents. I don’t know if THAT is possible at all, but I always wanted to be as close to it as possible and took the second best thing – visiting the borders of our country.

 

So a few months back I visited Wagah border at Amritsar. Of course once there, one realises borders are merely a man made construct for our own consumption. Humans are more tied down with this social construct and relatively animals and birds cross them freely! I could see stray dogs and birds cross from India to Pakistan and vice versa, throughout the time I was there. But of course us humans have no such luck!

Then came a point, when through special permission I could get to a specific portion of the wagah border where there’s absolutely nothing except for a short fence. Both Indian and Pakistani rangers stand side by side protecting it and patrolling this area. Beyond this all one can see is greenery and wheat farms. It’s the complete opposite of the heavy gates just a few metres away. 

Much to my excitement a Pakistani ranger was standing right there within touching distance! Of course I didn’t try to touch him, but I could just not believe that if I stretched my arm, it would be in Pakistani air space!

 

 

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life! And Without much ado I quickly captured a selfie with the Pakistani ranger in the frame! However I had used my trusted old ipad3 for this selfie and Sadly as you can see I would have liked to capture my full face as well as more of the border, the beautiful wheat farms, the green lawns & lovely lillies on the Pakistan side. And well, some birds flying across both countries would have been “sone par suhaga”. I think if I had had a good selfie camera phone like Mobiistar with its dual selfie camera that captures a 120° wide-angle shot, I may have had some shot at my desired image! However I was and will always be very excited that at least I got to capture one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Of course, if possible I would love to revisit this location with a better selfie experience phone and capture many more shots at this location with a lot more in view.

 

Which is your most memorable selfie? Do share in comments.

 

This post was written as part of an activity on Indiblogger.in

 

 



The 55″ HOM Ultra HD Smart TV

Around 2.5 years back, I FINALLY upgraded from a yesteryear CRT TV to a high tech state of the art Ultra HD 4K Smart TV with android. That was quite a jump right? Needless to say my content viewing *completely* changed after that and well that was the idea as well. But such TV’s don’t come for anything less than 35K-40K. So what does one do if one wants to upgrade, get a better viewing experience, be able to speak to one’s TV, queue the latest music/movies/series on demand and not spend a bombshell doing that?

Enter :

The 55″ HOM Smart TV

HOM, introduces the 55” Smart LED 4K TV which promises to change your TV watching experience! This is the 1st TV in India to enter the market at the lowest price, making this a must have for every home. HOM provides an immersive experience for their viewers with a wide range of content available at the click of a button – Movies, music, sports, games, online content — whatever you’re watching, whatever the source.

First let’s imagine a 55inch TV to begin with. It’s going to cover a decent portion of any wall and is capable of transporting one to a “movie environment”. Now for the salient features:, it has the following:
  • 4K HD Display
  • Android 4.4
  • 1 GB RAM
  • HD Display
  • Built in Wi-Fi
  • RJ45 (Ethernet)
  • 3 HDMI Port
  • 1 VGA Port
  • 2 USB Port
  • 1 Video Input
  • Smart Remote
  • Weather Update
The features are quite exciting. With an Android Smart TV with Miracast Technology, the sky is the limit to watching content. One can easily mirror one’s android phone on to the TV WITHOUT any cables! After this whatever you can watch on the phone becomes watchable on TV as well! Be it your images, videos or well just whatsapp! And if one combines a voice assistant to this setup , then all you need to do is speak what your heart desires and your TV will play it seamlessly! The TV’s have Inbuilt apps which keep tv watchers entertained (games), active, informed (live updates every 30 mins) and fit (fat burn program).

However that’s just the cake. The icing on top is the fact that this TV is now available in India for under INR 30k! The HOM TV’s would very soon be available at mobile phone stores apart from just regular TV stores. May be that’s why their slogan very aptly says “HOM: Har Family ka member, Mobile se sasta TV”. So if you are planning to upgrade your TV, then instead of waiting for diwali sales, you can quickly headover to http://www.homindia.in/ .

Here are some images that highlight the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TV’s come with a 365 days replacement guarantee (with T&C).

Note : This post was written for an initiative on Indiblogger.


Restaurant Review – After Stories

I recently visited After stories as part of a large group and tried a bite from a number of dishes. It is very close to the IFFCO chowk Metro Station in Gurgaon and is known for its freshly brewed Beer. Here’s a quick review.

Ambience:

It is naturally well lit and has a nice ambience. The interiors looked good and music played at a comfortable volume (where you can hear yourself talk).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & drinks:

They have multiple cuisines which includes North Indian, Continental, Chinese, Mexican and fusion of these. The Prices are a bit on the higher side but one must try it out. The Service staff was pleasant and knowledgeable about the food.

In drinks I tasted the Apple cider & Kala Khatta (signature drink). Both were quite nice.

For appetisers, I tried :

Peri peri cottage cheese fingers : Paneer was soft, exterior was crisp but needed more of the Peri peri as I couldnt taste it at all .

Tandoori Mushroom with double cheese : Quite nice.

Crispy aloo sabutdana : To be honest it wasn’t too crispy. Potato wedges are usually crispier.

Falafel with pita and humus : Nice and crispy falafels served with pita bread and 3 types of humus – one of them was made with black chana too.

Veg Spring Rolls : Average

Cottage cheese in Schezwan sauce : Crispy on the outside, nice taste. But personally I feel there are just too many paneer dishes.

Chicken jujeh Kebab : was nice and tangy.

Baked filo puff – The pastry was quite nice and flaky but the filling (in the Veg one) mainly tasted of carrots and cheese. Could add some other flavours.

Mexican Style mutton seekh with salsa and sour cream – different flavours from usual punjabi style but nice.

For main course I stayed away from Indian food though others seemed to enjoy it a lot. I tried the pastas which had the right italian flavours and were not their Indian versions.

I also had Mumbai style chicken manchurian served with fried egg and sichuan rice. The manchurian was a bit tough and dry else the dish looked good and tasted good.

For dessert I tasted the Churros with Mandarin sauce and clotted cream as well as the variant with strawberry and chocolate sauce. I found the latter combination better. The churros were a bit dry because they were quite thick. But tasted nice. The chocolate and walnut brownie with ice cream was quite nice and gooey.

Here are some images to describe what one can’t in words!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food was nice, not too spicy. Main course portions are ok only for one person per dish. They also have interesting events like Cinderella nights on Wednesday, Thirsty nightingale on Thursday (free beer for all & also a karaoke night) , Story teller Sunday and more. It occupies the basement, ground floor and first floor and also has outdoor seating. There is a long flight of stairs that leads up to the 1st floor. There’s no elevator. The parking is free. Overall this place is well worth a visit.

 

After Stories Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  


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.