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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

Travel

Nepal-The Roof of the World

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Nepal-wefornews-min

Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia and mainly located in the Himalayas and has a diverse geography including fertile plains, highest point on earth – Mount Everest and that’s why backpackers gave a nickname to Nepal as, “The Roof of the World”. Nepal is a trekker’s paradise and offers a combination of charming hill villages to jungle wildlife to beautiful temples.

Nepal attracts various types of traveller’s from backpacker to Luxury travel. The country is still recovering from the Twin Earthquakes which shattered the Himalayan Kingdom in the year 2015. After a sharp decline in visitors post-earthquake, the numbers are slowly recovering and now it is a great time to go to the mighty mountains.

Kathmandu – Capital city of Nepal also serves as the gateway to the country. Kathmandu is an interesting city to visit, however, tourists will face the crazy traffic of Nepal and poor road conditions. Monuments located at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu were severely damaged or completely ruined during the earthquakes of 2015.

Chitwan National Park is one of the World Heritage listed reserves that protects over 932 sq. km of forests, marshlands and grasslands. The park is considered to be one of the best parks for viewing wildlife in Asia. One-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys and over 500 species of birds are regularly spotted. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard, wild elephant or sloth bear and if your luck prevails, you may also spot the majestic royal Bengal tiger.

Pokhara offers spectacular scenery, adventure activities and is the getaway for treks to the Annapurna range. The Lakeside of Pokhara is a chilled out version of Kathmandu’s busy Thamel area. From the Lakeside as well from a lot of hotels one can enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the snow-capped mountains. Pokhara boasts a booming adventure sports industry and is one of the best paragliding venues on the globes.

Annapurna region has been considered one of the best treks in Nepal and known for the world’s classic walks. The walk follows the marsyangdi valley to the north of the main Himalayan range and crosses a 5416 m pass to descend into the upper Kali Gandaki valley. The walk offers spectacular views of the numerous 7000 meters plus Annapurna peaks and boasts some of the great trekking lodges of Nepal.

Breakfast at Everest base camp – This is a new private concept for affluent traveller’s where one can do a short excursion from Kathmandu and enjoy the breakfast near the Mt. Everest base camp with the fascinating Everest in the backdrop.

Travel Tips for Traveller’s to Nepal:

– Avoid drinking tap water, use bottled water

– Where possible avoid intercity road journeys and use local flights. The roads in Nepal are narrow and have traffic; a 200 km journey may take 7-8 hrs.

– Local flights are substantially dependent on weather conditions and there may be delays, so plan accordingly

– If you are doing any trek, do ensure that you have necessary permits to trek in the region

– Indian National enjoy special rates at hotels and for trekking permit at most trekking routes, NRI’s or Foreign nationals will have to pay the regular foreigner rate for the permits

– Be sure to ensure the Nepalese currency prior to leaving, one cannot exchange Nepali currency outside of Nepal

– Indian Nationals can use denominations of Rs 100 or lower very easily. Higher denominations are legally not accepted.

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Business

ICPA seeks ‘one rank one pay’ for AI pilots

According to ICPA, from October 2017, the Air India management had started paying a section of wide-body pilots an ad-hoc amount at par with the new proposal which is yet to be approved by the ministry.

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Air India

New Delhi, Oct 17 ; The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) on Tuesday sought ‘one rank one pay’ for all the pilots of the national passenger carrier Air India.

In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, ICPA urged the ministry to address the pilots’ pay parity issue which is the legacy of Air India-Indian Airlines merger that took place more than a decade ago.

According to ICPA, from October 2017, the Air India management had started paying a section of wide-body pilots an ad-hoc amount at par with the new proposal which is yet to be approved by the ministry.

The letter alleges that half of the flying allowance paid to wide-body pilots is still being paid in fixed US dollar exchange rate of Rs 45.50, while the present US dollar exchange rate has reached an all time high of Rs 74.

As per the letter, while majority of Air India pilots are paid international layover subsistence allowance on actual international night stops ($200), a section of wide body pilots continue to receive a fixed monthly international layover allowance irrespective of number of international night stops undertaken.

“We fail to understand as to why the top management has turned a blind eye to this issue which is bleeding the national carrier of high value foreign exchange,” the October 16 letter said.

“In spite of being in the know of the US dollars being paid to these pilots at an exchange rate of INR 45.50, the Director (Operations) has taken no initiative to correct the wrong for reasons best known to him,” it said.

IANS

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Cities

Pink Line’s Trilokpuri-Shiv Vihar section to open

Anand Vihar (Blue Line), Karkardooma (Blue Line) and Welcome (Red Line) will be the three interchange stations on the stretch.

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Delhi Metro's Pink Line

New Delhi, Oct 15 : Delhi Metro’s Pink Line section connecting Shiv Vihar and Trilokpuri in east Delhi is likely to open soon.

“The Commissioner for Metro Rail Safety will inspect the 17.86 km-long Shiv Vihar-Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake Metro section” on Saturday, the Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC) said on Monday.

The section has 15 stations, all elevated: Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake, East Vinod Nagar (Mayur Vihar-II), West Vinod Nagar (Mandawali), I.P. Extension, Anand Vihar ISBT, Karkardooma, Karkardooma Court, Krishna Nagar, East Azad Nagar, Welcome, Jaffrabad, Maujpur (Babarpur), Gokulpuri, Johri Enclave and Shiv Vihar.

Anand Vihar (Blue Line), Karkardooma (Blue Line) and Welcome (Red Line) will be the three interchange stations on the stretch.

Once fully operational, the 59-km line (Majlis Park-Shiv Vihar) will be the longest on the network. After the opening of this particular section, Delhi Metro network will become 314 km-long.

IANS

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