Majuli – The Island of Dancing Monks

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The half a dozen shopkeepers were honking to sell their wares. You can reach, Gharmur, the largest habitation in Majuli by bus, shared taxis or own cars. One of the Sumo drivers, constantly tailing us offered us a ride to “ME: PO OKUM” (which means happy home); our abode for the night, for Rs. 500. Considering the distance of around 15 Kms, we found it acceptable. Passing aside the small creeks, lakes and water bodies, we reach the market center of Majuli, which has a number of shops selling all kinds of goods. It is surprising that despite being connected to Jorhat only by three ferries plying in a day, the modernism has reached there, with the setting up of medical centers and educational institutions. Housing too, has segued from traditional bamboo and mud construction to ones made of concrete. There are ATMs, shops selling electronics, Airtel and Tata Sky outlets and what not. We picked up some eatables for the young ones and some cokes, sodas and bakery products for our use.

Me: Po Okum is an eco camp located at Chitadar Chuck village in Majuli. Haren Narah, the owner of the camp received us with a big smile and guided us to three cottages reserved for our stay. The camp has 10 cottages including a large one. All these cottages made of bamboo; thatch and wood have been raised on stilts around 4 -6 ft. above the ground, probably to mitigate the fear of floods during the monsoon. The camp looks like a group of traditional huts around a small mustard field. The cottages have attached basic western toilets with some basic supplies.

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The grandeur of the North-East – Kaziranga National Park

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The manager of the resort, Avik a young man in late twenties met us at around 6 p.m. and told that he has firmed up the arrangements for Maruti Gypsy, which would take us for a safari from the East Point of the park. The resort has a policy of not serving any eatables in the cottages. Hence the family assembled in the “Minivet Pelican” dining hall, which is open from all the sides and is located in front of the cottages and amidst the tea plantations. A couple of drinks followed by a dish of butter chicken and yellow daal, gave us adequate impetus to have a good sleep.
The Gypsy reported at 7.00 in the morning and after a quick breakfast we headed for the park. I being the oldest was given the seat next to the driver, while others accommodated themselves in the open rear portion. The driver introduced himself as Arun Deb. He did his high school education at Jorhat and after doing some odd jobs, bought a second hand Maruti Gypsy and came to Kaziranga. During the six years driving in the park, he probably knew all the better viewing points.
We reached the Park Administrative Centre in Kohora, which has three tourist routes under its jurisdiction – Kohora, Bagoti and Agaratoli. The park area is divided into four ranges. The four ranges are the Burapahar, Baguri, Central, and Eastern. They are headquartered at Ghorakati, Baguri, Kohora, and Agoratoli, respectively. The Park is open from November 1 to May 15. Only light vehicles are allowed on the park roads. You can book the Gypsy or take your own vehicle too, which needs to be accompanied by a representative of the forest department. At the gate one has to register and obtain an entry permit.

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In the mystic alleys of Delhi – the Dargah of Amir Khusrau

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I learnt about Amir Khusrau when I was very young.

During my childhood, we used to live in Old Delhi and our house was almost sandwiched between an ancient mosque and a “mazaar” (Mausoleum). At the Mazaar, every Thursday, a few of the good musicians assembled and played devotional music, which I came to know later on was called “Sufiyana Kalaam” and it was performed as homage to the father of “Qawwalis”, Hazrat Amir Khusrau and his Master, Hazrat Nizammudin Aulia.

Since I was fond of music, I found this kind of music very fascinating and depending on the homework prescribed by my school teachers, I used to attend the Thursday “Qawwali” session sometime. Seeing my enthusiasm, one Muslim gentleman, fondly called “Haji ji”, who lived in our neighborhood, told me a few interesting facts about Amir Khusrau.

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Shillong, Meghalaya – the abode in the clouds

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We were told by the locals that surprisingly in Cherrapunji it rains mostly at night. Thus, the day-to-day activity is not really disrupted by the rain. 
However, the irony is that despite perennial rainfall, Cherrapunji faces an acute shortage of drinking water, and the inhabitants often have to trek for miles to obtain potable water.

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Vailankanni – Lourdes of the East

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The journey to the coastal town of Karaikal, via Nagapattinam was pretty scenic, with the sea giving us the company. The authentic South Indian breakfast served by the small but neat restaurant of Hotel Krishna was perhaps one of the best meals I ever had.

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