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Travel tips to empower first-time travellers

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Travelling

New Delhi, Sep 17: Arm yourself with some handy tips to overcome barriers when you travel to unknown destinations — whether in India or overseas, say experts.

Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of travel website ixigo, suggests a few things you need to keep in mind when travelling in India if you are a foreigner:

* If you know English, then there are chances that you might survive easily. Though you can easily find English-speaking people everywhere in the country, the regional difference in the accent makes it really difficult to understand the language. Despite the language barrier, you can survive in this country by following some simple tips

– Break your sentences into simple comprehensible parts. Make sure you carry a pen and a notepad to draw pictures or write words. Pen down all the important names and addresses before your leave your hotel. Look for locals who speak in English and record your route.

* This country is widely known for its delicious cuisine with all kinds of curries, breads, chutneys and sweets. Indian food is spicier for its foreign visitors. Also, tourists fall victim to the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’ due to the poor sanitation facilities when they travel in India.

Here is how to avoid an upset stomach —

– Eat cooked food and avoid salads or juices from any local vendors.

– Consider becoming a vegetarian while in India.

– Avoid eating too much spicy food, especially chillies.

– Wash your hands often.

– Carry probiotics that suit your body.

* Indian news channels are usually filled with news related to how one community has hurt the religious sentiments of another community. Being Indians, we might be familiar with such a thing but witnessing this might turn out to be really scary for a foreigner.

They are in constant mental dilemma on what to wear, when to cover their head, what to touch and so on.

To avoid offending anyone, you must keep these things in mind —

– Respect local dress codes.
– Take your shoes off before you enter a place of worship.
– Don’t eat or pass things from your left hand as it is considered uncouth.
– Don’t discuss religion with the locals.
– Taking a photograph of the deity in a temple is not permitted at most places.

* While wandering in India, you will come across a number of hawkers, local guides and auto-drivers who will be eager to assist you. But remember that most of them are just looking for a chance to extort some money.

– Travelling in a group is best.
– Drinking and smoking in public is offensive.
– Don’t hire taxis or auto-rickshaws from unlicensed operators.
– Never book tickets from unauthorised travel agents.
– Don’t take any offerings like ‘prasad’ from saints or godmen.

Abhishek Ranjan, Vice President, digital wallet company Paytm, has tips for people travelling overseas —

* In this digital-savvy world, we have everything we ought to know, on the internet. Yes, from tips to overcoming different barriers, visiting picture galleries, and accessing travel blogs, reviews, etc., everything is out there. So get researching and a plan will fall into place.

* Download a language and translation app like Duolingo. This would help you understand the basics and give you the much-needed confidence.

* Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours; talk to anyone who travels often and get some advice. You would not just get an idea about where to go and what to see, but they would also prepare you for scenarios that you may have to face.

* Get money exchange done before-hand and set yourself a budget. Know how much you are supposed to spend per day and stick to your plan to avoid running out of money. Also, ensure that you have international transactions activated on your debit/credit card, if travelling overseas.

IANS

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Rejections shattered, strengthened and streamlined my writing: Sahitya Akademi winner Anees Salim

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New Delhi, Dec 18 : Still recovering from the surprise of being named as the winner of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award (English) for his novel “The Blind Lady’s Descendants” — a long suicide note of a 26-year-old — author Anees Salim has said that the initial rejections he faced from mainstream publishers were shattering; but they also went a long way in strengthening and streamlining his writing.

The Kerala-born author, whose latest novel “The Small-Town Sea” garnered critical acclaim after its release in 2017, said he wished he was born a couple of decades later and started writing when it became considerably easier for an aspiring writer to be in touch with the publishing world. He contended that his literary journey has been a tough one.

“For instance, when I started writing, there was no such thing as a literary agent. There was no Internet and there were no avenues of opportunities for a writer to try his luck out, except for a few magazines. You had to wait for months on end to get even a rejection letter, with limited facilities to reach out to publishers and remind them of your submission,” Salim recalled in an interview with IANS.

He maintained that the scene has changed drastically now and pointed to the “sheer number of books getting published”.

“In fact, every time I visit a bookstore I am surprised and disappointed at once. Surprised by the number of books on the racks, and disappointed by the visibility enjoyed by pulp fiction. When I started writing, I used to frequent bookstores and spend long hours reading the opening passages of as many books as possible. I believed every bookstore had room for inspiration. And I used to consider people employed in bookstores as the luckiest ones, for they could feel, smell and read books all day,” he said.

But somewhere down the line, bookstores started to choke him.

“Too many books, too many frills. I wish the bookstores could give you a little more space,” opined Salim, whose “Vanity Bagh” had won The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction in 2013.

On December 5, India’s national academy of letters announced its annual Sahitya Akademi Awards in 24 languages, which were recommended by distinguished jury members representing each languages and were then approved by the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi under the Chairmanship of Akademi President Chandrashekhar Kambar. Salim’s name in the list was hailed as a recognition long overdue by literati on social media.

“Rejections did shatter me. But they also strengthened me and streamlined my writing process. The more I was rejected, the harder I worked. I decided to keep writing irrespective of what publishers thought of my work. And by the time I got my first book deal (‘The Vicks Mango Tree’, 2012) I had finished a handful of manuscripts, out of which I showed three to my agent, the rest I found too simplistic to be shown around,” the Kochi-based author said.

Despite his tedious journey to getting published, Salim maintained that India has some wonderful publishing houses who stay focused on quality.

“Publishers indeed have to cater to every kind of reader and every genre of writing has to prosper. But one thing I am totally against is the idea of self-publishing. I am afraid vanity publishing is the biggest enemy of reading and writing. Getting published should have nothing to do with your bank balance,” he contended, in view of the rising number of self-publishing houses that have mushroomed across the country in recent years.

Salim said that every recognition changes the pace of his writing and every award makes him extremely cautious and somewhat slow. He recalled that he won his first award in 2014 and since then he must have discarded more than a dozen novels after the initial chapters, fearing that they will be frowned upon by his publishers who seem to have immense faith in him.

“I have already started writing my new book. It is too early say what it will develop into. But I have a historical backdrop in mind and I hope to finish it by the end of next year.”

The Sahitya Akademi award, in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs 1 lakh, will be presented to Salim at a special function in January next year at Kamani Auditorium here.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Permanent peace eludes J&K, as it has for last 30 years – 2018 In Retrospect

There were 587 incidents of violence during 2018 compared to 329 last year. Official figures say 240 militants were killed during the year against 200 last year.

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Yasin Malik
Srinagar Yasin Malik detained during protest march

It’s been a fairly turbulent year in the state, both security-wise and politically. It saw more violence compared to last year, even though the security forces killed many militants, including some top commanders of militant outfits.

There were 587 incidents of violence during 2018 compared to 329 last year. Official figures say 240 militants were killed during the year against 200 last year.

Casualties among civilians and the security forces have also been comparatively higher. Thirty-seven civilians and 86 security men were killed in 2018 against 36 civilians and 74 security personnel killed last year.

Permanent peace eluded the state in 2018 as it has during more than 30-years of strife.

According to senior intelligence officers, there are still around 240 militants, including foreigners, who are active in the state.

“The number keeps on varying depending upon infiltration of new militants from across the line of control (LoC) and recruitment of local youth into militant ranks”, said a senior intelligence officer.

Summing up the security scenario, Lieutenant General A.K. Bhatt, who commands the Srinagar-headquartered 15 corps of the Indian Army and is the senior-most army officer in the Valley, said: “The security forces have a limited role in controlling the ground situation in the state. The final solution has to be political.”

On the political front, there was a dramatic turn in June when the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suddenly announced in New Delhi that it was withdrawing from the ruling coalition in the state, headed by the Peoples Democratic Party.

The announcement was not unexpected as the two ideologically opposed parties were ruling the state for four years through an uneasy arrangement that appeared brittle from day one since the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed announced it in 2015.

With the withdrawal of BJP support, the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition fell and Governor N.N.Vohra dismissed the government, even though the state assembly was kept in suspended animation for any future alliance to stake claim to power.

Vohra was subsequently replaced by Satya Pal Malik who became the first politician to be made the state governor. As compared to his predecessor, Malik chose to speak to media as often as he could to put forth his view point, sometimes to the embarrassment of both New Delhi and Malik himself.

The fist thing the new governor did was to announce local urban bodies and panchayat elections in the state. Both these democratic processes were concluded peacefully throughout the state and their conduct is considered a feather in the administration’s cap as the elected government had been shying away from conducting the elections.

With the imposition of governor’s rule, the PDP started suffering desertions as some of its dissident legislators launched an open rebellion against the party leadership. In the forefront of the dissidents was senior Shia leader and former state minister Imran Ansari who finally joined the Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajad Lone, himself a former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government.

Sajad’s PC started emerging as the possible Third Front that could, in future, pose a challenge to both the PDP and the regional National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah.

Ever since the elected government fell, rumours started doing the rounds in the state that dissidents in the PDP, the NC and even the Congress party were waiting in wings to join the Third Front. The visit of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to the state and his meetings with Sajad Lone and dissidents kept fuelling these rumours even when Madhav said there was no immediate move to form a government in the state.

The fear of their flock being poached pushed the arch rivals, the NC and the PDP, come close to each other. In a surprise move, Altaf Bukhari, senior PDP leader and former minister emerged as the contender for the Chief Minister’s post with outside support by the NC. With the NC’s 15 and the PDP’s 29 seats, the two parties hold a simple majority in the 87-member state assembly.

The NC and the PDP said they had decided to sink their differences to protect the special status of the state as article 35-A and other constitutional provisions were being challenged to dilute this.

There were also reports that the Congress was in the loop to shoot down horse-trading in the state. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, sent a fax to the Raj Bhawan seeking an appointment with the Governor to stake claim to power. The fax was never received as the Governor said later the fax operator at the Raj Bhawan was off duty due to a holiday.

Amid claims and counter-claims, Governor Malik, in a dramatic move, dissolved the state assembly on November 21, justifying this by saying that he wanted to “prevent horse-trading”.

The possibility of any dialogue between the centre and the separatist leadership remained a distant possibility during the year. In all likelihood, this will have to wait till a new government takes office at the centre after the 2019 general elections in the country.

Elections to the state assembly are also likely to be held simultaneously with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections around April-May next year.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Kissing contest banned in Siddo-Kanhu fair in Jharkhand

The competition in the fair, organised in Littipara block in Pakur district, had created controversy last year after photos and videos of 18 tribal couples locking their lips in public went viral.

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Kissing contest in Jharkhand

Ranchi, Dec 15 : The Pakur district administration in Jharkhand has banned the kissing contest this year in the Siddo-Kanhu fair.

“The Siddo-Kanhu fair beginning Saturday will have no kissing competition this year as it has been banned and there will be no such contest taking place in any public place,” Jitendra Kumar Deo, Sub Divisional Officer (SDO)of Pakur district, told reporters.

The competition in the fair, organised in Littipara block in Pakur district, had created controversy last year after photos and videos of 18 tribal couples locking their lips in public went viral.

Supporting the competition, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) legislator from Littipara Assembly seat, Simon Marandi, who was the chief guest at the fair last year, said, “It’s an expression of love.”

The BJP had criticised the kissing competition saying it is not part of the tribal culture.

— IANS

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