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Why a visit to the world’s largest river island is a must

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Bamboo house of Mishing tribe

By Natalia Ningthoujam

Kamalabari (Majuli), Feb 5: Assam’s Majuli faces flood fury — and the threat of erosion — whenever the mighty Brahmaputra river swells. So take a break from your high-tech lifestyle and hop on that double decker boat to live the simple life in the world’s largest river island before it loses the title.

Cruises on luxury vessels can take you to your destination, but to understand the locals’ lives, it is best to travel like them on a rickety motor boat, which can also carry cars, bikes and anything that can’t swim, from Neemati ghat to Kamalabari ghat.

First timers might fear for their lives but for the frequent travellers, it’s like any other public transport. Some are so carefree that they even play cards.

After the half-hour ferry ride, you will reach the shrinking island, which is located over 300 km from Guwahati, Assam’s main city, and is home to approximately two lakh people consisting of Brahmins, Kalitas, Mishings, Deori and more.

Visitors can stay in various resorts, which might remind you of your hostel days due to availability of only basic amenities, or limited homestays.

While driving to your accommodation, you will see paddy and mustard fields, and bamboo plantations along the roads.

Out of the various house forms, the bamboo stilt houses — with an open fireplace in the middle — of the Mishing tribe, are quite unique, and you will see women working on looms made with bamboos and a cycle’s wheel.

Unlike the people of Sualkuchi, a silk-weaving village in Assam, Mishings here make “mekhela chador” and other traditional outfits only for their own use. And men use their physical strength to make beds out of bamboos or other furnitures, when they are not farming.

Majuli, a hub of the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, has many satras (religious and cultural institutions).

“Earlier, there were over 60 satras in Majuli but due to erosion, there are currently just 32 satras here. Auniati Satra is the biggest one in Assam. The land measures up to 500 bigha,” Anant Kalita, the satra’s museum guide, told this visiting IANS correspondent.

“We don’t call ourselves monks or pandits. The ones who stay in satras are called Vaishnavs. We worship lord Krishna. We dance, pray and do dramas, which were created by (saint-scholar) Sankardev,” he added.

The satra is open to all — Brahmins, Kalitas and people from other communities of Assam.

“Even Muslims can come. Ladies can come but can’t stay in the satra. After marriage, people need to stay out of the satra.

“There are 350 people in the satra. Vaishnavs and bhakhts stay in satras, the ones who are outside are called disciples,” said Kalita, who has been here for the past 18 years.

The Samaguri Satra, on the other hand, has kept alive the tradition of mask-making.

Its studio houses numerous masks, like those of Narasimha, Ram and Laxman that are used during festivals and Bhaona, which is a traditional form of entertainment through which religious messages are shared.

Explaining the process of mask-making, popular mask artiste Hem Chandra Goswami’s brother Tilak Goswami said: “The masks are made of mud, cotton cloth, cow dung and vegetable colours. One mask takes about 15 to 20 days to make.”

“Our entire family knows how to make masks. We have been making masks for the last six generations,” added the 65-year-old.

After learning the craft here, some even go to Dibrugarh or Guwahati.

It’s not just the people at satras who are warm and welcoming. Once the local children spot new faces, especially with DSLR cameras, they will happily follow you and strike a pose.

You might have to use a lot of hand gestures while communicating with the locals as they aren’t fluent in English or Hindi, but they will leave you overwhelmed — irrespective of their financial condition, they will not let you leave empty handed.

A cup of tea or a plate full of home-made sweets (rice flour pitha) is the least they can offer, and a request: “Please visit again.”

IANS

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Lifestyle

Where is Overtourism Leading Our Holiday Destinations to?

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travel packages

When the rigours of daily life and the grind get too strenuous, nothing relaxes your mind, body and spirit like the perfect vacation, right? You can choose to soak up the sun and the sea on a beach, be one with nature in the hills and perhaps just indulge your senses at a historical destination.

Except when you arrive at your dream destination, it turns out to be a nightmare. It’s crowded beyond expectations, and the destination only compounds everything you hate about city life. It’s far from paradise. It has turned into an over-commercialized and overpopulated version of the place you loved. This is a disaster, a holiday-goers worst nightmare come true.

By Jay Kantawala, Founder of WIYO Travel said, “The tourism industry has grown at an exponential rate. So much so, that a lot more people are travelling now than they once used to. The emerging middle class has the means and the ability to visit more places now than ever before. And this has given rise to a very real fear dubbed ‘overtourism’.

The term ‘overtourism’ was coined last year and denotes the phase when far too many tourists travel to a destination. While primarily used in a negative context, there are two sides to the concept of overtourism. Let’s look at both the pros and cons of this phenomenon.

With more tourism, there are more opportunities for employment. It allows the people of any locality to earn a better living. Moreover, with more visitors, the economy of the destination benefits leading to better infrastructure and a better standard of living for residents. Ultimately, well-travelled tourists are found to be better adjusted and knowledgeable about the culture of various places. This eventually leads to a peaceful and harmonious world.

But then again, ‘overtourism’ also has its detriments. Residents in Barcelona and Venice have actually organized protests and made graffiti urging tourists return from whence they arrived. This is because overtourism can have an adverse effect in terms of jammed roads, littering, destruction of the ecology of the tourist destination and much more.

So how does one strike a balance between the pros and cons of this phenomenon? The change needs to stem from the tourist himself, who needs to make a very positive difference. While passing through a destination, he/she needs to be responsible so as to not cause an adverse effect on the destination, on the environment and on the residents of the place.

‘Overtourism’ was added to the dictionary when it became a problem for those affected by its menace. Perhaps in the times that follow, ‘responsible tourism’ or ‘sustainable tourism’ will be added to the dictionary as well.

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Western Railway uses modern technique to scan old Mumbai bridges

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Western Railway

Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) After Railway Minister Piyush Goyal cracked the whip, the Western Railway (WR) launched a safety audit of all 445 bridges on the Mumbai suburban section, deploying modern techniques to scan some of the oldest structures, an official said here on Saturday.

The first to be inspected and audited was the 98-year old Mahalaxmi road overbridge (ROB) and later the Bandra ROB, with the new time-saving technique through the “tower wagon car”.

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“The tower wagon has been designed to save inspection time to two hours against the normal four hours by conventional methods and even perform urgent repairs,” said WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Image result for WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Western Railways chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar

Conventionally, a long ladder was transported from Lower Parel station to the required station, shifted manually to the bridge site and only one person at a time could climb it, while clutching a load of equipment. The ladder needed to be shifted continuously for examining each girders, pillars or spans.

However, the new tower wagon allows the entire inspection team to climb to the targeted site armed with tools and machinery, and even carry out spot emergency repairs, making it a quick, safe and quality process, said Bhakar.

On the WR’s Churchgate-Virar sector, there are 29 ROBs, 110 Foot overbridges (FOBs) and four pipeline bridges, and the rest are on the Central Railway (CR), across Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts, catering to over eight million daily suburban commuters.

Top WR officials including General Manager A. K. Gupta, Divisional Railway Manager Sanjay Mishra, Principal Chief Engineer R. K. Meena and Chief Safety Officer Manoj Sharma were present when the inspections were carried out in the early hours on Saturday.

Image result for WR General Manager A. K. Gupta,

Western Railway top boss Western Railway GM A.K Gupta

Spelling relief, the Mahalaxmi ROB was found to be “structurally sound and in safe condition” at all its 15 girders and five spans after it was inspected in minute details by two tower wagons.

The 56-year old Bandra ROB with 13 girders and three spans was also found structurally safe and sound, the WR said.

Bouyed by the results, the WR will now carry out the safety audits of all the remaining bridges with tower wagons over the next three-four months, as resolved at a high-level meeting on July 5.

Following stringent observations by the Bombay High Court, a public uproar after the July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB which killed one woman, the beleagured WR, CR, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation along with IIT-Bombay experts launched the full-scale bridges’ audits.

Image result for July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB which killed one woman

July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB

It was decided to order repairs or reconstruct the stressed bridges on priority without procedural delays, with precedence given to the oldest structures, while ensuring complete coordination among various agencies.

The three organisations will also conduct regular monthly meetings of top officials, clear issues about designs, drawings, approvals, land issues, etc, to speed up the required works.

They would also explore the feasibility of creating a special corpus fund for the purpose of an appropriate amount, to ensure financial resources are readily available, especially for undertaking works of urgent nature or in emergencies.

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Lifestyle

30 per cent Indians planning couple trip during monsoon: Study

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Couple trip monsoon

New Delhi, July 10: With the onset of the monsoon, more and more couples are taking advantage of the pleasant weather and heading for short breaks with 30 per cent planning it with their better halves, says a study conducted by travel marketplace ixigo.  

The data reveals that 39 per cent Indians, travelling during the monsoon, are planning to travel as couples, followed by 24 per cent with family and 18 per cent solo, reads a statement.

Couples are planning short-stays that extend to about three or four days. Also, hotel searches for Goa show the maximum spike of 16 per cent from previous months, while Shillong and Guwahati follow with 11 per cent and 9 per cent spikes respectively.

goa-couple-on-beach

While about 25 per cent couples from Chennai and 18 per cent from Bangalore are booking a short vacation to Puducherry, about 14 per cent couples are travelling from Mumbai to Goa via train.

Commenting on the findings, Aloke Bajpai, ixigo CEO & Co-founder said, “With the arrival of monsoon across the country, millennial couples are now planning their bae-cations. Travel becomes far more affordable during the monsoon as it is a lean season in comparison to summer and winter.

“Major Indian airlines have announced their monsoon sales, offering big discounts on flights, reducing fares by almost 20 per cent. Goa remains to be the most popular destination showing an 8 per cent increase in in flight and 16 per cent increase in hotel searches. It is great to note, how owing to improved infrastructure and better flight connectivity, north-eastern destinations like Shillong and Guwahati are also becoming crowd favourites.”

IANS 

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