Thursday, 31 December 2015

Wedding Preparations & Honeymoon Destination

Well, it's been a lonnngggg - lonnnggggg time since I've last scribbled anything anywhere. I was just too busy (read messed up) with MY WEDDING PREPARATIONS (and stuff) so couldn't find a decent time to think of something.... 

Leaving the 'shaadi' thing behind.. Finally, today I got some spare time (after a month of getting married) to write something. As I was thinking what to write in my blog especially when a lot of time has lapsed for all those incidents to rekindle, the answer I received within was MY TRAVEL TALES TO ANDAMAN.. 

So during our courtship, my then fiance now husband left the decision solely on me for finalizing a honeymoon destination. I was quite in a fix for two places to travel within India and those were Kerela and Andamans. After much research, I finally settled for Andamans and informed the same to my then fiance (now husband :P). Since he is not as finicky for travelling as I am, he readily agreed.

We booked our tour from Travel Triangle and asked for quotes from several local tour agencies and finally settled with Andaman Mangroves.  The initial discussion and conversation with Abdul was quite good and we really liked their follow-up procedures. They (Abdul and Madhavan) were constantly in touch with me (as I had customized the itinerary). 

During our discussions on customization, they gave us complete information as to how, when and where we will find things of our interest. Initially, I wasn't quite contended with the choice of hotel they suggested during our stay in Port Blair. I researched a few and got back to them to tell about my preferences and in the next instance, they were there with my choice of room. 

Whenever I travel to a place, I see that I should feel the surroundings I am staying in. Way back in December 2010 when I camped in Jim Corbett with my friends, I assured that we had that 'jungle' feel in our bamboo shacks. It was an eco-friendly resort and the same kind of thing I requested the Andaman Mangroves team. (As Andaman is famous for Bamboo and shells and of course coconut water :P)

They soon realized my preference and offered me Bamboo Resorts in Megapode Nest. The view which they described on phone was surreal and people who know me can understand I was curious to visit that place then and there itself. The Bay of Bengal shore from your window and tranquil all around! What else a honeymoon couple would want :P :P I was mesmerized!

Gawd the waves hurling on stones and sunrise and sunset I was dying to see them and was anxiously waiting for the moment to arrive. Next, came the choice of attractions to visit on a 6-day tour. There too I was the decision-maker and I thought to ask my then fiance (now husband) if he would be interested in seeing THE ABORIGINALS. During my research on the topic of tribal languages, I had read a lot about the famous five tribes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and one amongst them were Jarawas. I really empathize with their situation as I have read a lot about them during my preparation for CIVILS as well. 

So, this was the opportunity, I could see them live in front of me and that too in this life; only if my then fiance (now husband) would approve (coz not everyone would say YES to this plan as it also involved early rising). Thankfully, since he really takes very good care of me and my interests, he readily approved of the same. So, instead of visiting Museums, I thought to create a lifetime memory for myself and meet the most ancient and existing tribe.That time, my only wish was to see them.....

That's how our HONEYMOON TRIP was finalized... 

There's much more to come... Stay tuned.... :) :) 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

NIgeria's Step Forward

The above picture says it all! But to some, the message falls on deaf ears! If we see the Nigerian timeline of the past year, the African nation was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
First, the country has always been in the news for the prevailing gender-inequality based atrocities committed on women in the deep-rooted patriarchal social framework. Secondly, the mass kidnapping of about 300 Chibok school girls by radical Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. What followed was a series of heart-wrenching cruelties on the common Nigerian. But, after all this, the good news was the landmark decision by the Senate that passed the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill which seeks to eliminate all sorts of gender-based violence including the female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation, the inhuman practice of removal of some or all of external female genitalia using a blade or razor, is carried out in 27 other African countries apart from the Middle East and Asia. Although Nigeria took the first step, banning alone will not weed out this culturally rooted horrendous practice. It is the changing attitudes and a systematic cultural shift that can ensure the safety of girls and women. To see the history of the FGM ban, United Nations banned this evil practice globally in the year 2012, but as we can see that the practice is still ongoing in majority of the African nations.
Reasons for Following the Inhuman Practice Even in the 21st Century
  1. Sociological: The practice is largely followed so that girls can get into womanhood early and can identify themselves with the cultural heritage and maintain social fabric and integration.
  2. Religious Aspect: There is a popular belief in certain tribes that it is demanded by certain religions and that is why they practice it.
  3. Psychosexual: When it comes to a girl’s body, the most crucial aspect for her is to protect her virginity and maintain chastity before marriage. So, to enhance the male sexual pleasure and satisfy his ego and attenuate the sexual desire in a female, the circumcision is done.
  4. Hygiene & Aesthetics: There are many societies in the world where external female genitals are considered as unsightly and unclean. To make the woman pure, they perform this inhuman task and rob her off from her genitals that is perceived to promote hygiene and retain the aesthetic appeal.
  5. Other Reasons: Some other related reasons could be to enhance woman’s fertility, find better marriage prospects, promote child survival and help in delivery.
Adverse Health Impact of Genital Mutilation
Since this harsh practice is committed on a woman, it affects her physical and emotional well-being. She has to undergo a lot of pain and gets afflicted by infections. According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria has the highest number of FGM cases and as per UNICEF, the country accounts for about a quarter of circumcised females. Thus, it does irreplaceable harm to a woman’s health on top of the trauma, which could even lead to death. Therefore, the impacts can be categorized into:
  • Short-term and Late Complications – This depends largely on the Type of FGM performed and the experience of the practitioner and the instruments that are used. Below find a list of the common short-term complications –
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Pain
  • Healing problems
  • Urine retention
  • Wound infections
  • Anaemia
  • Urinary infection
  • Septicaemia
  • Tetanus
The long-term complications of FGM are –
  • Pain while urinating
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Infertility
  • Scar formation around the region
  • Pregnancy & Childbirth – The adverse impact of FGM on a pregnant woman are:
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Stillbirth
  • Neonatal mortality
  • Sexual Function & Psychological Impact – Women who have undergone this are found to have:
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • No or reduced sexual feelings
  • Extremely painful sexual intercourse

But the most pertinent question arises – Who has given the society the right to circumcise a part so private without the consent of the woman? This right directly contravenes with the Fundamental Violation of Human Rights. No one has an answer to this because it is being blindly followed and none has raised their concern over the matter apart from a few NGOs and women activist groups. What about the society at large? Will it be able to accept this change especially now when the law is passed? These are some grave issues that need serious attention of the mankind irrespective of the gender.
The commitments made at the Girl Summit 2014 focus on tougher laws and enhanced funding for creating prevention programmes that combat such horrendous practices.
Stella Mukasa, Director of Gender, Violence and Rights at the International Center for Research on Women says, “It is crucial that we scale up efforts to change traditional cultural views that underpin violence against women. Doing so involves laws and policies as well as community level engagement and programs that work to empower girls directly”.
PS: My Article was originally published in a famous site that talks of international issues related to human rights, protection, social inclusion, development and peace.  

Saturday, 2 May 2015

What ROMANCE Means To ME?

Recently, one of my friends asked me, "What Romance (or being Romantic) to me means?" 
Oh! By the way, we were having a discussion on LOVE THESE DAYS and LOVE IN YESTERYEARS', short-term relationships and other similar topic. 

So, after thinking for a while, I said, "Romance (or being Romantic) has no single definition as per MY DICTIONARY.. But, as per the Oxford Dictionary, Romance is "a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love"... Well, to some extent this could be true but to me its altogether a different thing - a DEFINITE & STRONG FEELING....

On hearing this, she gave me a confused expression and I immediately said, Wait! Let me tell you what ROMANCE to me means..... So, here it goes - 

  • Once, my friend told me that I am sooo ROMANTIC that I can fall for someone even in my dreams.. At first, I thought it to be untrue.. But, somehow, I now realize that maybe she was right in saying this... And to quote my friend, I am not ROMANTIC but A HOPELESS ROMANTIC... ♥ ♥ I find Love in everything around me.. and I find solace in that... From a year old puppy to an old couple still leading their lives through thick and thin... I LOVE THE IDEA OF BEING IN LOVE - That's Romance!

  • The 3 -INGs that constitutes CarING, SharING and UnderstandING... Romance and Love is lifeless if these 3 things aren't there in a relationship... Thus, it is the pillar behind sustaining any relationship.. Without these, the spark in a relationship ends and what you do is just fight or lead just normal lives just for the heck of it.... SO, when you start Caring, Sharing & Understanding - That's Romance!

  • When the person cross miles only to SEE YOU..... (SMILE)...... That's Romance!

  • When you become happy in his/her success and happiness...... That's Romance!

  • When YOU CANNOT sleep all night long and think of him/her all day long... That's Romance!

  • When you do household chores together..... That's Romance!

  • When you desperately wait for his/her message (Though now, the fashion is Whatsapp where you connect with the person instantly, but I would really prefer mails, if not letters - My parents used to exchange LETTERS and I find that sooooo damn ROMANTIC.. I just can't even tell you....)..... That's Romance!

  • When you have so many thoughts to share, but completely gets out of focus on seeing the one YOU LOVE.... That's Romance!

  • When you blush while hearing a LOVE SONG or while thinking about the one YOU LOVE... That's Romance!

  • When You see Perfections in his IMPERFECTIONS........ That's Romance!

  • When you hold hands and have a tranquil beach walk and listen to the sound of SILENCE........ That's Romance!

For now, stay contended with these 11 points, later on THIS HOPELESS ROMANTIC will spell out more... 


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

P.S. Images Are From Different Sources

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Hill Sojourn Part IV Day 03

Our alarms and phone started buzzing and a new day, new dawn welcomed us…… The night was truly cherishable after all we chatted for hours altogether apart from the usual official stuff.. Today’s itinerary was to visit the Army Temple and the Bhagsunag Waterfalls and straight away leave for Dharamshala… So, accordingly, we asked the manager to escort us to Bhagsu as the local guy knew a shorter route…. We check-out of our rooms and left the hotel at around 0900 hours..

Since, it rained heavily last night, the roads were slippery.In the dewy, pleasant petrichor of the post-rain morning, we made our way through the lush green forest (which was devoid of Komorebi as the weather was still ‘bad’ for some but not for ME) and breathed the natural fresh pollution-free air. In a few minutes’ time, we were at the temple and after doing the pradakshina around the path, we clicked photos (as usual)… There was a pool few steps ahead of the temple and we (read ‘I’) just couldn’t resist from clicking….

Then, we had our breakfast in the local Bhagsu Market and I was telling the group that I want to try THUKPA from the day we reached there… First we ordered the usual North Indian stuff – THE PARANTHAS.. Though they were good, but I like trying the exclusive thing which I will not find here at my place… So, Arpit asked me whether I was willing to have one? I responded in YES, but since I was full, I won’t be able to finish it and someone has to give me company in finishing that THUKPA (as I don’t like wasting even an ounce of food). So, we ordered and it was such YUM that none could resist eating it..

The restaurant was lake-side facing and we could see the towering mountains from the window… As we were having our breakfast, series of clouds passed through and instantly I recalled the day when I landed in Manali 8 years back… As our bus entered Manali, clouds were so low, we could even feel them with our hands.. Same was the case here but the glass window became a hindrance and I was devoid of feeling it… LL

The Captivating Scene From our Restaurant
So, after breakfast, we thought to meet the other group (Prasoon, Ankita, Ashmeen and Dahiya) to ask them if they are willing to come but since they were having their breakfast we decided to head straight to see the Bhagsu waterfall which was just 2 kms away from the place we ate. As we walked, I sensed that something was missing, Bhagsu was not the Bhagsu which I had seen 5 years back… The cute huts where we had our selfies then, were nowhere to be seen… Finally, we reached there and the place was fully COMMERCIALISED…

Sonia, Me, Arpit - CRAZY US... AGAIN!!
People were selling Maggis, and even there were shops.. Imagine shops at waterfall…. What we are doing to MOTHER EARTH and then they say it is causing havoc.. Of course, it will! It will find a mechanism to lessen the population burden… Perhaps, it is too easy to romanticize the natural world because it is one of the most enduring characteristics… Fortunately, there were just three huts left and we posed there emphatically..

Bhagsu Waterfall
Finally, we returned at the main Mcleodganj Chauraha and Dhirendraji and Arpit went back to pick up the luggage… While our gang of four girls (ME, Sonia, Mona, Rajput) were strolling in the market… The scene which we next saw is undescribable and is best in our memories…. :P :P

Finally, when the boys came, we moved forward to reach Dharamshala (…again in a local bus)… As the bus snaked through the Army Cantonment Area, I was being nostalgic as IT WAS TIME to bid adieu to Mcleodganj…. So, in about half an hour, we reached the Dharamshala bus stand and we were welcome with a nebulous atmosphere… We couldn’t see an inch and it was like heavenly….

If I could ever search for ‘Heaven’, it was then… THERE…… The fog, the cloudiness, the cool pleasant breeze… Mensch, it was truly experience of a LIFETIME…. So, me, Mona and Arpit were game for walking towards the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium (which is one of its kind in the midst of mountains)… While others were earlier reluctant, but later on they agreed and we started walking… And I just can’t tell you how I was feeling THEN…. THERE at that moment….


We asked for our way from the localiites and we were walking in the Government zone just like the Aurangzeb Road of Delhi…. After walking few miles, Lord Indra became happy and started showering… And it was simply WOW-WALA-Experience…. So, Sonia, Rajput and Dhirendraji decided to take a bus to Dharamshala.. while me, Mona and Arpit decided to walk.. because it was just drizzling then so we were actually feeling the place that was Dharamshala….

We passed a large medical institution cum hospital, an ancient colonial-era structure, house of IFS, and many such prominent buildings passed by… As soon as the rain started heavily downpouring, we decided to halt near a bank and then, finally took a bus to reach the destination… The other group was waiting for us and then as Lord Indra calmed down, we began moving finally to reach the Cricket Stadium.. The entry was FREE and open to all… I wouldn’t say that it was the best sight because the dark grey clouds came in the passage of hills.. but undoubtedly, it was a good experience…

Dharamshala Cricket Stadium
Afterwards, it was time to have our lunch and we decided to sit in a comforting place without eating too much.. So, we had hot chocolate, momos and lots of other stuff… and finally we boarded our bus to reach the Dharamshala bus stand..

The other group would meet us there and so we pre-arranged seats for them… They arrived and we were dead tired… A pinch of nostalgia started running through my veins as on the one hand I was hiraeth of the fact of leaving the wondrous place.. on the other, I wanted to go home and meet my niece that was waiting for me at my place…

So, we boarded the bus that dropped us at Pathankot around 1930 hours…

The Return Journey Will Be TO BE CONTINUED…….. 

To read what we did the other three days, visit page -

Monday, 27 April 2015

Hill Sojourn Part III Day 02

Well, majority of you must've lost interest in reading this... But, I was recounting that day today while returning from office and so I thought to pen down my thoughts...

On day 03 of our trip, Vivek, enthusiastic of all...  woke us all up and as soon as we opened up our balcony doors, the morning sun embraced us with its wide sunrays - stretching out arms only to give us a wide hug.. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen till now... After a chit chat for about half an hour, we got up and it took us like about an hour or so to get ready for one of the most challenging treks to Triund. We all were super excited and after taking a few photographs, we began our journey.

This trek undoubtedly was difficult! After having an experience of about 6 treks, I couldn't complete this one.. (Well, I'll tell you the story below). So, after climbing up a few miles, we finally arrived at our first stop - THE TEMPLE...

The Temple @Gullu, Himachal Pradesh

Since none of us had breakfast, the next thing to do was EAT.. Prasoon knew a place and so we had our sumptuous breakfast at the Thapaji. The place was tranquil.. and yes, I forgot to mention that we found the first glimpse of snow fall at the Temple. Though, we couldn't see it falling (which I seriously wish to see it once in my lifetime).. But, Rajput created that effect by rubbing it through her hands over my head. :P :P

The Sumptuous Maggi @ Thapaji, Gullu

IM Team Knows What Fun is All About - WOW!

After having delicious Maggi, sumptuous Omelette, we were full and began our journey towards our destination - TRIUND. En-route we took short pauses, clicked selfies, Arpit shot a video, held each other's hand whosoever was in need of one, we stopped for each other - That's how the bond between all of us strengthened even more. So, after reaching a point, I decided to give up... Maybe, because I had too much of food at the Thapaji's store. Before reaching to the top, the last food outlet, passed by.... the shop owner said, it might snow in an hour as the weather was bad..

The Last Shop Before we Parted Ways - the Group!

Arpit, Ashmeen, Dahiya, Sonia, Me - Somewhere Towards Triund

On hearing this news, the group was then divided into two - the one who was willing to take that risk and see the Dhauladhar range atop and the one that didn't pressed for taking that risk (fortunately or unfortunately I was amongst the latter group as immediately my father's face came to my mind and I decided to step back from going uphill).

On our return, only Me, Sonia and Arpit were there the other group went to the top whereas, Rajput and her family were already down in the Mcleodganj market. On our return, I asked both of them to stop twice as I wanted to feel the nature I was in. That tranquil and silence.... I can still hear it with my eyes shut. That was just fabulous! As the kacha road snaked through, I picked up two exquisite dry flowers from the road.. (I know both of them Sonia and Arpit thought that I am crazy but that's the way I am...) So, we paused for a few photo shots and selfies.... The cool breeze that kissed my face and the faint sounds of birds chirping was just music to my ears..... Seriously, words will fall short if I start describing that phase. So, let me just pause and get back to the trailing down series of three of us.....

Sonia, Me, Arpit - Crazy US

Then, after reaching our hotel, we called up Rajput who was chilling with her family in the market and so we too decided to join her and began our journey towards Mcleodganj which was 2 kms from Dharamkot Inn, our hotel.

After meeting them, we thought to visit the Sunset point. As I've already been there and remember our trek from that point towards our hotel in Bhagsu way back in 2010. But, the weather wasn't clear so there was NO SUN and dark grey clouds were hovering on top of our heads.. So, we asked a few localiites as to what would be the best option to do with the limited time that we had in our hands. They suggested to take a stroll in the market and visit the Dalai Lama Temple and accordingly, we did likewise.

Is this a Dream Come True? Can something be so Surreal?

As we roamed freely on the streets of Mcleodganj, we saw a gol gappa vendor and gol gappas in the hills is like one of its' kind like experience. I urged them both (Sonia and Arpit) to stop and have one... So, we had that amazing spicy gol gappas and continued walking towards our destination. Midway, I found a guy selling these amazing neckpieces and I couldn't resist myself from buying a piece or two and so I bought 4 neck pieces and loved adorning it.

Then, finally we stepped into the temple and we traversed the Pradakshinapath and came out to meet Rajput. Moving forward, we had our lunch+dinner at some Punjabi restaurant (offering FREE Wi-Fi facility :P :P)... We immediately entered in and as always I was the first one to ask for the Wi-Fi password (as I have disabled the data card facility)..... After chilling there for about an hour or so, we came back to our hotel and after relaxing... we decided to have bonfire.... So, it was chilling cold that day and it rained heavily.... so, we just relaxed, sat, listened to some of the most amazing songs from Arpit's playlist till the battery of his phone was all lost...

Burning in Bonfire

About 2000hours, the second group returned leaving just Pallavi and Vivek behind as they decided to camp on the hillside. So, their experiences were worth recounting... They all were soo excited on their return and Prasoon said that the group missed my "WOW" factor.... So, I missed that too... But, never mind, I will complete that trek too soon with all the basics cleared in my head and will even spend a night out there in the midst of the mountains where I can experience THE REAL VIEW OF THE SNOW FALL.

When they came back in front of fire, they narrated their trekking experiences and finally, rain drops started pouring in and in nick of time it turned into a heavy shower. After that, we thought to chill in Arpit's room and have a chit chat till the time the rain shower die down...... But it refused to stop and as we gathered our courage to leave the room..... suddenly, someone knocked on our door and on asking, no one replied from the other side... This was the scariest part...... And then rest is all history - It was the best night spent of all the three nights... We (Me, Sonia, Monika, Arpit) chatted for about till 0300 hours and played PERCEPTION (My favourite game).... And the night went by just with unlimited chatter, chilling, clicking and of course leg pulling.... :) :)

That's how comes the end of Day 02 and will let you know about the final day in the hills Day 03 laterssss........

To read what we did the other two days, click on the following link-

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Clash of Civilizations Through Nuclear Arms Race

Pakistan has taken a leap forward in the recent week by brokering/chequering a deal with China to have 8 more diesel powered submarines. This has aggravated the arms race between India, China and the Pakistan. Although, the world was glad when P5+1 sealed the deal with Iran to put its nuclear program at halt but the world powers failed to stress on South Asia. What China has done (and it always does) in partnering with his ‘all-weather friend’ is not seen in any good light in the Indian Defence circle. China is trying to widen its footprint in the Indian neighbourhood with its proactive (read aggressive) diplomacy through military, political and economic cooperation. If I may remind you, way back it had taken away Myanmar oil pipeline contract from India apart from constructing naval ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the name of boosting economic and trade ties.

India is wary of China’s military intentions and the recent developments in Pakistan have made India all the more nervous. If we talk about the current Indian Navy fleet, it has 8 nuclear capable submarines when compared with Pakistan’s 5. Though by 2018, India will have 5 more nuclear powered submarine in its kitty but the most troublesome situation for India is –

This Yuan-class Type-041 conventional diesel powered submarines has the capability to remain underwater as long as four weeks. So, in a war-like situation, it can keep away from ‘enemy’s’ eyes and can win over easily. If the submarine gets mounted with Babar cruise ballistic missile, it will attain second strike capability – which again is a threat to India.

Other threats posed when Pakistan possess such deadly weapons are –
  • ·         Pakistan is a ‘safe’ haven for terrorists and non-state actors. The state of affairs in the country is already very tumultuous and concerning. In such a situation, if the arsenal falls into terrorist’s hands, they can bring havoc to India and the regions where Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are reigning.

  • ·         The Afghan neighbourhood is as porous as the Pakistan itself. With the West discriminating between the ‘good Taliban’ and the ‘bad Taliban’, one is still unsure of the adverse consequences of the expanding arsenal.

Today, Pakistan is engaging itself into a mad race of acquiring nuclear weapons. Insider reports suggest, today it is equipped with 120 nuclear weapons which will be three times in a decade’s time. To make this come true, China is funding heavily and supporting Pakistan (as it has always done). Way back in history, it was China who ‘secretly’ gave atomic weapon designs and uranium to Pakistan. With Chinese help, they were able to design their first atom bomb which was test-fired on the Chinese land. It has even asked its 'friend' North Korea to supply long range ballistic missiles to fill in the Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Given the close defence collaboration between the two countries, the recent deal was agreed on a long-term loan with low interest rate. [Pakistan give a damn about maintaining law and order in the country – It is just bred with a sick mentality of SACRIFICE in the name of JIHAD (shahadat – I know I am going off track... but it’s true!)]. Therefore, the ulterior motive of China is to encircle India with naval bases and that is why India is concerned upon expanding its fleet because it has two major threats near the borders – Pakistan and China. Though the West argue on treaties like NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) but they stand mute against such provocative steps initiated by China. Hence, it is to  be seen what and how nuclear race will shape up South Asia in the coming decade. 

Is the new world order heading towards a ‘clash of civilizations’ pitting West, India, Iran versus China, Russia, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries? Will the world see another era of World War installing a new hegemon?

Saturday, 28 March 2015

4 Lesser Known Destinations, I Wish To Travel In My Lifetime – Part I

Words fall short when it comes to defining my passion for travelling. Maybe it’s in my genes – My Father loves travelling and venturing into unexplored destinations it’s his love too; even my Maa loved travelling. In fact, she did see quite many places in her lifetime (barring North-East). So, the same love is in both of us (me and my sisi). I have so many places in my mind when I think of travelling – If permitted, I can be a good solo traveler and I seriously don’t need any company to explore unventured destinations. But, the problem is that I am an over-pampered ‘kid’ and travelling alone doesn’t go well with my personality (as per the elders in my family). People love travelling to known places like the Pyramids in Giza, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Taj Mahal in India etc., but my taste is a bit different. So far as I am concerned, my list to explore destinations is endless, but to start with, I would surely love to see the following 4 destinations –  

1.       Cappadocia, Turkey – Being in the Anatolian Plains is like a dream come true in itself. Cappadocia, is a place that seems to be plucked out straight from a whimsical fairytale. The cave-like tenements are a sheer delight to the visual eye. This fairy-tale like world will leave you breathless as you scroll down the narrow by-lanes. The hot-air balloon ride will be just worth your money. The fantastic topography with fresco-adorned Churches is a mesmerizing sight. You just cannot stop wooing the lunaristic panorama created in the place. (I may seem like saying as if I have already visited. But, when I first read about it, I was in a different world – and that’s what Turkey has in its kitty). If I would ever get a chance to visit the place, it would by just like my all-time dream coming true…. Waiting for that day to come SOON!! J J

Cave-Like Tenements
A Sneek-Peak in the Past 

2.       Choquequirao, Peru – I am never a loner! In fact, this sounds true to everyone – it’s just that how you take things in. I find solace when I am in the company of nature (and I have said that ample time). This lost city of Incas, the nomadic South American tribe is a famous sister estate - Machu Picchu. The ancient houses, temples, walls and canals all lay covered under the dense forest. The best way to explore this destination is to go on an adventurous trek and unravel the mysteries and matchless beauty of the hills. Visiting Choquequirao will certainly be a treat for me as I love to travel off the beaten path.

Into The Heart of Choquequirao

3.       Dura Europas, Syria – A not-so-famous border city for people who doesn’t wish to travel Middle East. They must be aware of Palmyra or Damascus, but I am sure of seeing a mesmerizing view here in the place called Dura Europas. With the ongoing civil war in Syria, this border city for Parthians, Hellenistics and Romans is in shambles. But, once it used to be a famous tourist spot for housing the oldest preserved Jewish Synagogue. There was a time when the remarkable preservation activities led it to be known as the ‘Pompeii of the Syrian Desert’.

The Ruins of Dura Europas
Dura Europas Oversee River Euphrates

4.       Dakhla Oasis, Egypt – To the lovers of ancient civilizations, this destination is the place to be. The human habitation can be traced back to almost 150,000 years. It is site that once consisted vast lake, rock paintings showing zebras, elephants and ostriches going hither thither on the shores. I wish to experience the life in an oasis once and this place can make that wish come true. The lush palm orchards and groves against the ancient mud-brick forts still stand high and telltale the story of a tranquil past.

Does This Remind You Of Harappa & Mohenjodaro?
The Rock Paintings That Has Survived the Attacks and Crude Force of Nature

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Nasheed's Arrest & Impact on South Asia + China

Beginning from where I left earlier with the Maldivian Crisis - The Second Part goes as - 

Traditionally, India had been dominating over the Indian Ocean with a considerable influence over small island nations in the region particularly Mauritius and Maldives. (Mauritius has about 70% Indian Expatriates)

As soon as Nasheed was toppled in 2012, the bilateral relations between the two countries took a nosedive. The cancellation of the GMR contract and Nasheed taking refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male were two main incidents that somewhat vitiated the goodwill of India.

Back in 2013, when Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission, Indian negotiators were successful in brokering a deal with the current Maldivian government which prevented Nasheed’s arrest and allowed him to participate in 2018 elections. But, now with his arrest, the government has already asked Indian authorities ‘to respect the Panchsheel doctrine and not to interfere in their internal matters’. In such a situation, the best India could do was to express concern over the arrest and manhandling of Nasheed. It asked the stakeholders to resolve differences within the constitutional framework.  

As mentioned earlier, Maldives play a vital cog in the Indian Ocean. It's strategic significance to both India and China has led to a silent truce between the two. 

The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are seen as Asia's economic arteries that love to trade with Middle East and Europe. The hunger for oil by both these countries is fed only by traversing through the Indian Ocean's Exclusive Economic Zone. 

To counter the China-effectIndia forged a trilateral maritime agreement with Sri Lanka and Maldives. The underlying objectives of this cooperation is to assert its presence in the eyes of Pakistan and China. (China holds control on two ports in Pakistan (Gwadar) and Sri Lanka (Humbantota). But, Modi-led government's diplomacy is par excellence. They have managed to extend their maritime security agreement to Seychelles and Mauritius which is famously known as IO-5. 

In case, there is a Sino-Indian war in the future, India could block Chinese ships in the ocean without much of a difficulty. But this is possible only if these nations remain friendly towards us and doesn’t turn hostile due to the economic pressure posed by this ‘hard’ power. It’s been there in news for some time now that China has maximized its Navy Defense budget in vast proportions with about 35% increment.

West especially US is favouring India because it sees India as a counter to China in the long run and will be a balancing power in Asia. (Remember US’ Asian Pivot). Seeing this as threat, China has developed a strategy – String of Pearls wherein it’ll develop military and economic ties with the littoral countries of Indian Ocean. Though it is not being vocal about it but the development of naval ports surrounding the Indian coast is a testimony to this fact. Also, asking Maldives to be a part of its Maritime Silk Route Project is much bigger cause of concern to India.

Threat to India from both China and Pakistan

·    India needs strong allies in the neighbourhood so that it doesn’t succumb to ‘any external pressures’ and doesn’t become a victim of ‘Chinese’ Ocean in the long run.

·    Pakistan, on the other hand could use Maldives as a launch pad for terrorists targeting India. Post 26/11, Indian Navy and Coast Guard have strengthened their security in and around the coastal regions of Mumbai and Gulf of Cambay. So, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other similar outfits might set up a base in Maldives and transport men and material from there to Kerela and to other parts of India.

Probable Steps India Could Take

·    Overly indulging in the internal affairs of any nation may lead to Indian desposition in the long run and such countries might take support of ‘foreign’ (read enemy) powers to rescue them in any untoward situation in the future. But, this certainly doesn’t mean not to help at all. Because not doing anything will also alienate Nasheed’s MDP party which has pro-Indian leanings.

·      India should not also not impose democracy and democratic institutions on its neighbouring countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives) because the result of imposition are well-known to all. What happened in the Middle East under the aegis of Jasmine Revolution should not be repeated elsewhere in the world; else it’ll create ripples across. Democracy is a natural process and countries should come in line with their unique cultural and historical realities. 

·   To keep an eye on the growing influence of China and radical Islam (supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) is where lies the real threat and to avert such a situation, it needs to step up its intelligence gathering efforts. As the leading British daily – Guardian quoted, Maldives could end up becoming a paradise for Jihadis from where Jihad could be exported to other countries like India to which they can travel easily.

The world knows that Yameen is not pro-India as we would like it to be but the red lines need to be clearly defined and properly conveyed to the government which could affect India’s strategic interests. Thus, India shouldn’t hesitate to take any kind of action to circumvent it. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Maldivian Political Crisis

Background –

Maldives, an island nation located in the heart of Indian Ocean consists of about 1200 coral islands (and divided into inhabited and uninhabited islands). Due to its geographical location, it forms a vital cog in the Indian Ocean’s geopolitics.

Demography & Economy –

It is an Islamic republic (mostly Sunni Muslims) and its economic mainstay is Tourism. But post the Asian Tsunami in December 2004 and global recession in 2008, the tourism activity suffered a severe setback. Also, for protecting the Islamic traditions from getting ‘polluted’, tourism activity is mainly conducted on uninhabited islands. Tourists are not allowed to mingle with the ‘local’ population in inhabited regions. Therefore, majority of the Maldivians are impoverished. Their strongest developed sector is fisheries apart from tourism.

Political Scenario during Pre-Independence Era –

Just like any Indian princely state during British era, Maldives was run by local Muslim Kings who were given military protection and ‘non-interference’ in local administration rights by the British government. These amenities were given in lieu of tributes (cash).

In 1965: Maldives became a republic.
In 1968: After plebiscite, Ibrahim Nasir became country’s first President and from here the roots of an ‘authoritarian’ reign started.
In 1978: Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was ‘elected’ and with him three decades of autocratic rule followed. He used military and police to crush down opposition parties and gave Government jobs to his loyal supporters.
In 1988: A group of Maldivian businessmen along with Tamil separatists tried to seize power but Indian government intervened and sent about 1600 Indian parachutists to restore order. This operation was coined as ‘Operation Cactus’ and Maumoon Gayoom continued to remain in power until 2008.
In 2008: Maldives held its first multiparty elections and Mohamed Nasheed became the first democratically-elected President.

Brief Bio of Mohamed Nasheed - 

To add titles to his profile, he was Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience, UN’s Champion of the Earth and Newsweek’s World’s 10 Best Leaders. He was apparently seen as a moderate Islamist and a leader with modern outlook in this small coral atoll nation.

2012 Coup Against Nasheed - 

After becoming President, he ordered judicial inquiries against the wrongdoings, scandals, corruption done by Ex-President Gayoom. In January 2012, he ordered the arrest of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in pretext of blocking cases against the ex-President. This resulted in an upsurge amongst lawyers and all court officers. They joined in a movement against Nasheed as he announced the arrest of this Judge. Since Police are fewer in number in the nation, Army intervened and took control of the gruesome situation.

The uproar caused by the opposition forced Nasheed to step down in February 2012 and this was termed as Coup by Maldivian Democratic Party – Nasheed’s Party. However, the coup was denied by the then instituted government.

Coming Back to Present – 2015 - 

Maldives Presidential Elections are just three years away (2018), and the present government under Maumoon Gayoom’s half-brother Abdullah Yameen faces alienation from key former colleagues and coalition partners. In pursuance of his political ambitions, he virtually eliminated all political opposition.

Yameen first ordered the arrest of his Defence Minister accusing him of plotting a coup. This was followed by sacking of chief justice and another judge. The political situation in Maldives was threatened when one of his coalition partners – the Jumhoory Party decided to quit the government and announced aligning with Mr. Nasheed’s MDP. He also called President Yameen’s resignation which culminated into a series of street protests beginning February 27.

In a short span of time, Maldives has seen much upheaval. Following this announcement, Nasheed was charged under Anti-Terrorism Act that classifies, “an act of terrorism to include kidnapping, holding as hostage or apprehending someone against their will or attempts to kidnap, hold hostage or apprehend someone without their will, for the extrajudicial enforced disappearance of the sitting Chief Judge of Criminal Court”. 

The arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed way back in January 2012 has now termed as basis of his terrorist act and he is sentenced to go to jail for 13 (long) years. Therefore, this ‘politically motivated’ jail term will prevent him running for President in the 2018 elections. 

When Nasheed Tried to Speak to the Media
Image Source: The Hindu
Is this how a political prisoner of a literate society should be treated? Well, in politics everything is fair..... I condemn arrest of Nasheed!

        I will share my thoughts on Impact on India of Nasheed’s arrest in my next blog.