travel


My business class experience with Spicejet’s #spicebiz

Recently Spicejet – one of India’s leading airlines rolled out its all-new business class offering – SpiceBiz – and invited me to try it out. Needless to say It took me absolutely no time to get on board. Literally 😉

The airline is offering a dedicated business class cabin with 43-inch seat pitch and 7-inch recline, complimentary lounge access, higher baggage allowance, gourmet meals/beverages, priority services and much more. There’s also a dedicated cabin crew for business class passengers. This was going to be my first experience of business class, even if on a domestic airline. So I was very eager to try it out. I had a choice of a few sectors that this seating is currently available on from Delhi, so I chose a Delhi to Calcutta and back trip (Boeing 737). Last I had been to Cal was in the 90’s. And I had been aching to visit ever since.

Depending on the aircraft configuration, SpiceJet offers 8, 12 and 28 business-class seats on its B737-700/800/900 aircrafts respectively. The front row and the over-wing exit rows of the economy cabin are offered as the premium economy seats – SpiceMax.

Now I’ll share my experience of various Spicebiz offerings.

dedicated Checkin experience with spicebiz:

On 27th May, I reached the T1 terminal, Delhi to board my Spicejet flight to Kolkata. I already had a window seat – in fact the first passenger seat. So all I had to do was drop my baggage & collect boarding passes. Spicejet has dedicated check-in counters for all SpiceBiz customers at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Srinagar, Jammu, Goa, Port Blair, Guwahati, Varanasi, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Kochi and Patna. At all other stations, passengers have access to a shared check-in counter with SpiceMax passengers. So I had a dedicated counter for me which was empty. The staff was smartly dressed, friendly and swift in their job. There’s a dedicated loader also for Spicebiz customers who helps load the luggage. Normally one has to load the luggage oneself on to the conveyor belt. I was handed over my boarding pass as well as lounge coupon by the Lady in Red. And I was assigned a special attendant from Spicejet, to escort me through to the boarding point. Please note, the attendant is NOT part of the Spicebiz offering but it was an additional VIP service I was provided with, to ensure my comfort. Basically I was a VIP customer And I highly appreciated it.  🙂 I proceeded from here to the lounge partner of Spicejet airlines – which was Plaza Premium lounge at the Delhi T1 airport.

Exclusive counter for Spicebiz customers

Well dressed staff with exclusive loader for spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lounge access with spicebiz:

SpiceBiz passengers currently have access to airport lounges at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Varanasi, Jaipur, Guwahati, and Kochi airports. This service will soon be available at other airports.

Since their partner at T1 terminal, Delhi was Plaza premium lounge, I was escorted by the attendant to this lounge. I had around an hour during which I had a light breakfast. The meals are complimentary for all the guests who have access to the lounge. The buffet was pretty standard. The usual quick bite option of fruits, bread/butter/jam was  there. The meals are basically 5 dishes which are a mix of Indian and Continental cuisines. Beverages were tea & coffee (no juices/lassi etc).

Special assistance given to VIP customers i.e. Moi 🙂

Buffet at plaza premium lounge at T1

Seating area at plaza premium lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back for my Kolkata to Delhi flight, at the Netaji Subhash Chandra airport, I relaxed at the Travel Club lounge. I found their catering much better than the Delhi one. And they had specific terminals where one could use one’s laptop. For travellers it is a very helpful addition. Once again, I had been escorted by a person from Spicejet providing assistance, something that’s available only for VIP’s and that Spicejet was kind enough to extend to me :). He even escorted me right up till my seat in the aircraft.

Travel club lounge at Kolkata

Special terminals in the lounge where one can use their devices comfortably

VIP assistance right up till my seat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced baggage allowance with spicebiz:

Passengers travelling in business class are entitled to additional baggage allowance. All domestic passengers have a check-in allowance of 30 kg (up from the regular 15 kg). Hand baggage allowance for passengers travelling on domestic routes has also been extended to 10 kg (excluding laptops), from the current 7 kg. I was travelling light so I wasn’t carrying a lot with me. But it was nice to know that I could shop a LOT from Calcutta and still be within my luggage limit ;). In fact I bought a hand bag from there and also carried back some of my extra shopping as hand baggage on my return flight.

Priority services with spicebiz:

All SpiceBiz customers get the priority services offered by the airline, such as priority check-in, priority boarding and priority baggage. This basically means that YOUR luggage gets checked in first. Spicebiz customers get to board the plane or the coach leading to the plane – first. And once you arrive at the destination, the priority baggage ensures that the entire crowd from the plane would be standing next to the conveyor belt at arrivals, and the first and only piece of luggage that comes up is yours 🙂 . It was fascinating.

The In flight experience

The flight was extremely comfortable. The business class leg room was a lot! It didn’t feel claustrophobic and my knees didn’t knock on any front seat. I didn’t get edema in my ankles (that I typically get during airline travel). The seat was pretty comfortable without having to recline it. And once reclined, it was almost like lying down! I had 3 whole windows with me that was a big bonus since I love taking aerial pictures. It was a nice feeling not having to hunch into a convex shape while getting into my seat because there was so much space. Here are a few images that describe the experience. I took them once the Aircraft got empty.

Upright and reclined seat, as well as the leg space

A cushion is provided to all passengers. Blanket – on request.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight from the ample window space.

Window space with reclined seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gourmet meals aboard spicebiz: 

Once on board, business class customers were offered a refreshing cool towel. It was much needed given the heat! Then we were presented with beverages like Coconut water, watermelon juice, tea & coffee. I had a chilled coconut water (and Lemonade on my flight back) and what better on a hot summer morning! I was impressed with SpiceJet’s three-course culinary journey, aimed at balancing health and indulgence. The selections were very contemporary and suiting modern palates. People can also order their meal beforehand and in case of prior booking, I Was told by the flight attendant, the variety in the menu is a lot more. Soon enough, one of the smartly dressed flight attendants spread linen on my tray table and then based on my choice, proceeded to serve me my meal on fine bone china, with sleek cutlery that had the Spicejet insignia on it.

The Spicebiz menu. Love the star anise

Spicebiz breakfast menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muesli with yogurt, fresh fruits & croissant

Rawa masala dosa & Quinoa Upma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were breakfast meals and no I didn’t have two of them 🙂 . The lunch/dinner meals are more elaborate and also include an extra course of various kinds of breads! Lunch/dinner meals also include a sumptuous dessert .

Selection of breads before lunch

Veg Manchurian with Veg noodles with braised Pakchoi, Dahi bhalla chaat & Chocolate dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite cutlery with Spicejet Insignia

Dinner menu of Spicebiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the meal,  we were handed hot towels to wipe our hands with. We were offered beverages throughout the duration of the flight as well. I must say Taj SATS did a fine catering job here.

I had a great experience traveling in luxury with plush seats, gourmet meals and lounge access. Go ahead and try it! SpiceJet will soon be offering SpiceBiz on select international routes too. Wonder if they will invite me for that too 😉



Headless Goddesses of Tamilnadu

About a year back, I visited Padavedu in Tamilnadu and absolutely loved it. The fact that it was technically a forest really enticed me. It was full of paddy crops and coconut & banana trees among other things. Life seemed to be relatively stress free and people, content. My 4g Internet connection worked fine. What else does one need? I could actually see myself living in such a place with no pollution and organic food by default!

Paddy fields in Padavedu

Padavedu is nestled near mountains

The name Padavedu came into being Since Princess Renuka (who later became goddess Renuka) camped there with her army and the sacred place was named “Padai Veedu” (army encampment). This beautiful pastoral village was once the capital of Sambuvarayar Dynasty. Tamilnadu is full of myriad colourful temples. It was very interesting to see how there was one at literally every 10 metres! At one such prominent temple, I noticed that the statue of a goddess was outside the temple and that it was headless!

Headless goddess statue outside the temple

I asked people around me why that was so, and I was told that according to legend, Princess Renuka married Sage Jamadagni and had 5 sons (one of whom was Parshuram – Ram who wields the axe). She was a devoted wife who held such devotion that she used to carry a pot made purely out of unbaked clay every day to a river, to fill with water. The pot held its shape solely due to her devotion. One fine day, she saw beautiful Gandharvas at the river, frolicking around and having fun. Her attention diverted for a split second, and the pot held together by devotion, broke. When Sage Jamadagni learnt of this, he ordered his sons to decapitate their mother’s head. 4 of them refused under some pretext or the other and were consequently turned to stone by the sage. But when Parshuram (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) arrived at the scene, he complied with his father’s wishes and indulged in matricide.

Since he had followed the instructions, he was awarded 2 boons by the sage. Needless to say after this matricide, all he asked his father was to reattach the head of his mother & to restore his brothers. The sage complied and now there are several temples all over south India that depict this legend with a headless goddess. There is a head kept separately that is annually prayed to, attached to the goddess and then again packed back. What a fascinating legend!

There are in fact several different oral versions of this legend. One has it that when Renuka’s head was restored, she multiplied into zillions of goddesses who went to separate regions in South India and all of these are now temples which are 1000’s of years old. Another version says that Renuka had fled to a low caste village, where Parshuram decapitated her and a low caste woman who was trying to help his mother. But when Sage Jamadagni reattached the heads, he mixed the bodies. So the woman with Renuka’s body and a different head became Goddess Renuka and the low caste woman with Renuka’s head became Mother goddess Yelamma. In fact Renuka Lake in the Renuka Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh, is named after the same goddess!

Apart from these temples there are just so many fascinating temples in Tamilnadu which are over 1000’s of years old. All I could do on my Chennai to Delhi flight was wonder about the secrets & fascinating legends that these ancient temples held!

 



An insider’s view into Body Shop’s community trade recycled plastic initiative

I have always liked Body Shop products and have been buying them ever since I started earning. Be it their shower gels that can transport me elsewhere or the shea butters that ensconce moisture where it should be without giving the feeling of being sheathed in oil. So it was a NO BRAINER when The Bodyshop India invited me over to get a dekko at their first community trade recycled plastic initiative in Bengaluru.

We all know Our planet is drowning in plastic. The devastating effect of plastic waste on our oceans is well known. Here are just a few of the startling facts around it.

  • 91% of the plastic on our planet is not recycled
  • Plastic takes 1000+ years to decompose. Now obviously no one has actually checked if that even happens!
  • All the plastic created on our planet, STILL exists.
  • 1 truckload of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute
  • By 2050 we’ll have more plastic than fish
  • In India 15000 tonnes of plastic is dumped every day
  • 40% of the plastic dumped in India remains uncollected – clogging our waterways, contaminating our soils.

Now that I may have got your attention with the gory details, there is a human element to the plastic crisis as well, which is rarely discussed. Over 3 billion people live without formal waste management – that’s almost half the planet’s population. This has given rise to an informal waste picking economy. Some of the world’s most marginalised people pick untreated waste to try to make a living.  These waste pickers, often live below the poverty line and work in appalling conditions. Yet they form a critical line of defence in stopping plastic from entering our rivers and oceans.

That’s why The Body Shop has launched its first Community Trade recycled plastic, in partnership with Plastics For ChangeHasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations. Community Trade is The Body Shop’s bespoke and independently-verified fair trade programme. This initiative was launched on World Fair Trade Day, and it is a commitment to tackle the plastic crisis differently. The Body Shop wants to fight more than plastic pollution – it wants to drive social change and help empower people at the same time.

Plastics For Change is a for-profit business that partners with local NGOs to bring price stability and access to global markets to waste pickers. It has a mission to change the social and environmental impact of plastic. The Body Shop will buy recycled plastic collected by the waste pickers in Bengaluru and introduce it into its packaging following a thorough cleaning process. This community trade of The Body Shop will support 2,500 waste pickers, providing the organisation with a fair price for the waste material, and a reliable income and improved livelihood opportunities for waste pickers.

Hasiru Dala or “green force” is a membership-based non-profit organization consisting of over 8,000 waste pickers and other informal waste workers. It strives to integrate marginalised informal waste pickers into the solid waste management framework by utilizing their expertise.

Hasiru Dala Innovations is a social enterprise committed to creating livelihoods and entrepreneurship amongst waste pickers, providing total waste management, urban gardening services and products for sustainable living.

So off I went in the last week of March (before the launch, oh yeah, very exclusive 😉 ) to witness this initiative first hand at Bangalore. We got comfortable at the Taj Westend, which is a fabulous property and it felt like one was staying within a forest with modern amenities. More on THAT separately. A bunch of us from the media/social media space landed there and were greeted with a sumptuous Asian meal at Blue Ginger to begin with. Then we met the Bodyshop team (UK & India), Andrew Almack, CEO, Plastics For Change, Nalini Shekar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala, Shekar Prabhakar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala Innovations and many others. We attended presentations by the Bodyshop team, Plastics for change and Hasiru Dala . I must say everyone came back very impressed with the work that’s being done. Plastics for change has streamlined the waste picking process a lot and has even made an app that helps waste pickers find the right person in the next step of the cycle – scrapdealers! Those who cant use smartphones, can use the IVR version of this process to do the same & find a scrapdealer who would give them a fair price. It was nice to see the ever smiling young CEO do all this with his smile intact. The Bodyshop – a brand that’s well known and respected, already has many firsts to its credit. “Trade not aid’ (1987), Cruelty free – no animal testing (1997), Global shea alliance (2011), and now the first community trade recycled plastic initiative, which I am sure will inspire many other brands to do the same!

On a personal level I have been segregating my waste since many years now. In fact all my organic waste goes back into my garden & the other waste goes to MCG waste pickers. At this point, I must acknowledge that the waste management practices being followed by the govt in Bangalore, Karnataka are way way better than the ones being followed in Gurgaon, Haryana or even Delhi the capital! Out here, hardly anyone’s concerned with segregation – neither the govt, nor most people. And even if some people segregate waste, MCG/NDMC/SDMC workers tend to actually mix it back together. We all requested Ms Nalini to impart her much needed knowledge to relevant people in our cities.

The next day we visited Shaktiman’s van & segregation unit, which is a facility on private land, properly funded, equipped with machinery & conveyor belt that help in segregation and workers that live/work on site. The waste they get is mostly already segregated by residents, making their job a bit less complicated.

 

Curious waste picker

Curious waste picker along with other employees of Hasiru Dala & Body Shop

The first aggregation centre with proper funding, employees, certifications

Segregation of dry waste

One of the workers at the Shaktiman Van unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this we visited an aggregation centre which is a facility run by Hasiru Dala, on a rented piece of land. Specific plastic comes here after customer’s orders for final quality control and baling. This centre had a lot of machinery and all of us were also handed over masks as well as gloves to try our hand at segregation. It was quite an experience. After the right quality of bottles are sifted from the entire plastic that comes here, another machine removes the paper wrappers. After this step, a few of the wrappers that aren’t removed in previous process are removed by hand. All the plastic is compacted ultimately.

Lee Mann, Sustainable Sourcing Manager Community Trade, The Body Shop

Tried our hands at segregating plastic

Various kinds of plastic

Removal of remnants of wrappers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compacted plastic

Compacted plastic

Compacted plastic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this we had a quick south Indian lunch and visited Krishna’s segregation facility which was an example of a facility provided by the govt (that too on temporary basis). No one lives at this site and it’s an example of how different this facility was, from the first one with funding. Needless to say, the difference was stark. This one had no machines, no conveyor belt, hardly any labour. Sifting through the garbage was a back breaking job, literally and the labour is very sporadic which is not really practical.

Govt facility for segregation of dry waste

Privately funded facility for comparison

Back breaking job

Krishna – Manager of facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Witnessing the plastic waste recovery process, we freshened up and headed to meet inspiring waste pickers to understand their challenges & hear their stories. We were greeted by a bunch of animated happy women who regaled us with their stories in Kannada, duly translated by Ms Nalini. It was very inspiring to meet these women who had smiled their way through thick and thin of life and made something of themselves with the help from Hasiru Dala.

Listening to the inspiring stories of the waste pickers

A group shot of the entire gang with the workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Body shop has taken a great initiative into this realm with an issue that’s very close to my heart and one that I fully endorse – that of reducing plastic pollution. This makes me like the brand even more. I would say it was a great trip that highlighted the global concern of plastic waste and enlightened us a lot. We all came back wanting to implement these tried and tested methods in our vicinity. Can’t wait for this practice to be implemented by other socially conscious brands as well.



Pet friendly trips

“Happiness is a warm puppy” ~ Charles M Schulz

Every animal lover knows what this means. The unconditional love from our furry friends gives us humans a lot of happiness and for most pet owners their pets are like their children. Is it any surprise then that when families travel, they would want to do so in the company of their beloved pets? Pet boarding is not always an option pet parents can go in for. It’s not very easy finding one that suits their dog and the pet parent would constantly worry about their pet. And even leaving them with a friend or someone else in the family is also heartbreaking. Our pet (like most others) used to stop eating whenever that would happen.

European countries have always been way ahead of us in terms of pet friendly services. When I lived in Finland, It was very strange for me to see that pets were allowed everywhere, on all modes of transport. So one could see them in trams, trains, boats & buses. Watching a pet climb down an escalator is not a rare sight there at all! And pets are also allowed into hotels, cafes, restaurants etc and are an equal part of public space. So why then do we not have more pet friendly options in India? Hopefully things will change soon.

Currently the ease of taking pets on trains/planes in India is almost negligible. It is a tough process and there is not much help around the actual implementation of it, even if one wants to follow all rules and take one’s pet aboard. Right now Indian railways allows pets on board but ONLY in first class or first class AC compartments, so you can’t travel with your pet in any of the other AC classes or even second class. And you need to buy all 4 tickets or 2 tickets for all 4 berths in that area or you need to have people in those berths (basically family) ok with your pet. Because one complaint from anyone in the entire coach and your pet can be shifted to the luggage compartment!

As for airlines, not all airlines operating in India take pets. Only some do, and only on certain sectors on certain days and they have only a certain number of pets that can fly on that particular day. So one has to do a lot of advance planning. Sometimes even airline staff is clueless about the process and documentation involved. Moreover most pets (beyond a certain size which is very small) travel as cargo and it’s pretty traumatic for them. So the safest and most convenient bet would be a roadtrip where the pets are constantly under your own supervision and things like other passengers and air pressure or temperature of cabin are not things you need to worry about. 

 

Now coming to where pets can stay with you during your vacation, we are just *beginning* to get into the realm of pet friendly hotels. When I search for hotels near me that are also pet friendly, most of them are accommodation sharing rentals, like airbnb and oyo rooms, which are ok with lending rooms to pet parents with extra charges. Some big hotel establishments are also getting there, but we definitely need more of them. We also need facilities like walking/playing areas etc for pets at the hotel. Keeping all this in mind, Pet friendly trips anyone?



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.