Technology, Travel

Solar Home Lights in Uttarakhand villages

This week I am staying in a town called Ramnagar near Kashipur in Uttarakhand, which is about 290 Kilometers from New Delhi. It’s a typical  town like any other in this part of the country, with number of small villages & settlements around it. The claim to fame for this town (Ramnagar), which is the reason for my visit too is it’s in the buffer zone outside Jim Corbett National Park. Every town or city in India has a place called Ramnagar, named after Lord Rama of Ramayana Epic, I presumed this town too got its name “Ramnagar” for the same reason. I was surprised to learn from our guide that the town owes it’s name to a British Commissioner H. Ramsay for this area in the 1856–1884 period.

Some 30 kilometers from Ramnagar is Choti Haldwani (a.k.a. Corbett Village) where we went for an Eco-Tour organized by local cooperative. Here I noticed almost every household sporting a solar light, complete with solar panels, LED light, Battery backup in a blackbox half-way in the light pole. I found these solar system not only in Choti Haldwani but in many of the surrounding villages of Ramnagar, even the settlements that are in the Corbett national park and reserve forest areas.  Each of these black box has a long ID like UREDA/SSL/03/2013 stamped on that, a clear give away sign that these are part of a government program. Government departments in India have this boundless creativity and insistence on numbering everything, for example state highways department don’t leave any tree on roadsides unnumbered.

Solar home lighting systems in Uttarakhand state - subsidized price of Rs 3000

Solar home lighting systems in Uttarakhand state – subsidized price of Rs 3000

After some searching in the Internet about this program of giving Solar lights, I learned it’s one of the many programs of Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (the first part “UREDA” in the ID) under the state government. UREDA gives these solar house hold lights with battery back-up for a subsidized price of Rs.3000 (attractive I should say),  each such setup serves as a street light/outdoor light, plus provide 1 or 2 outlets to power small TV, charge Mobile phones, an indoor light & fan. Kudos to state & central governments for making this happen.

The Corbett village (Choti Haldwani) has many marginal farmers, each of who own a small house with a tiny garden beside it, where they grow 1 or 2 crops for their own consumption and selling in the local market. In the small farms we saw they were growing Grapes, Mango, Green Chilies, Lychee (famous here), Corn, Cabbage, Onion, Garlic & spices.

Grains field with 'lady' dressed scarecrow

Grains field with ‘lady’ dressed scarecrow

Green-Chillies-Chodi-Haldwani

Green chilies plant in Corbett village

There were also few small chicken farms in the village, where we were told that the birds are humanely raised and organically fed, unlike the large bird farm complexes.

Humanly raised Chicken Farm in Choti Haldwani

Humanly raised Chicken Farm in Choti Haldwani

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Travel

Visiting Kolkata – Part 3

This is the 3rd part of posts on my visit to Kolkata covering our second  day there. Previous day we had gone around to Kalighat, Mother Teresa home, Belur Mutt, Esplanade & Netaji Bhavan. The plan for the day was to visit Victoria Memorial Hall,  Indian Museum, Botanical Gardens and experience more of Kolkata.

Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)

Edwards VII Statue in Victoria Hall (South)

coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gates

Coat of arms of the British monarch in Victoria Hall (South) gate

Victoria Memorial Hall which was completed in 1921, was built in memory of Queen Victoria and funded entirely on voluntary (?)  donations from people & princely states of India. It’s a majestic looking building made of same (origin) family of white marbles as that of Taj Mahal, told our guide. When we visited the hall, the front entrance was full of scaffolding with restoration work by public works department going on. As a result we went in through  the back entrance which was the only way for visitors to go in. In my limited knowledge of  architecture I couldn’t find any difference between the front and back facade!. Inside the building there is a museum of collections from British era of several weapons and paintings of historic significance. In the centre hall right below the huge dome, the walls are adorned with paintings depicting various events in the life of Queen Victoria including her coronation celebration – you can’t help but be amazed  to see a world that was 100 years ago. Continue reading

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Travel

Visiting Kolkata – Part 2

After a good breakfast at Taj Bengal we were on our way to see Kolkata. And boy, I was excited!.

We were accompanied by an ace Tourist guide Mr.Suvendu, who was certified by Government of India Tourism department. Being a native of Bengal, Mr.Suvendu knew Kolkata’s nook and corner to great detail.

Our first stop of the day was the Mother House, which is the head office of Missionaries of Charity and the final resting place of Mother Teresa. The unassuming grey building was inside a by-lane of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road. As you approach the building you see a sign in the entrance that says Mother Teresa, M.C. – IN. Turning right after you enter the door you see a life size statue of the noble soul who dedicated her entire life for the cause of the poor and sick. We handed over a bag of clothes that a friend of ours in Chennai had asked us to deliver along with our small donation to the organization and looked around.

Missionaries of Charity - Mother Teresa

Missionaries of Charity – Mother Teresa

Mother M.Teresa

Mother M.Teresa

In the room where Mother Teresa has been buried, we spotted few East Asians and  Americans who were offering their prayers. Having studied all my schooling in a catholic inspired school I followed suit with kneeling down and what I knew of crossing yourself and offering prayer. The legacy of Mother and the serenity of the place was unmistakable.

Next to the this  room in Ground Floor was a  small museum which had few memorabilia, photos and stories from the life of Mother Teresa. Opposite to this was a staircase leading to a simple looking room which was used by Mother all the years she lived here, it was kept in the exact state she left it in 1997. No Photographs were allowed in these places.

Mother M.Teresa (1910-1997)

M.Teresa (1910-1997)

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Travel

Visiting Kolkata – Part 1

I felt Independence Day (15th August)  was a good time to look back into Indian history and learn more about the past of my country. Though East India Company and then British colonization of India started in Chennai, it was Calcutta (now Kolkata) where the British Empire established itself. Calcutta was the capital of British Raj and they ruled the Indian subcontinent from there for more than 130 years. For me it was one of the metros that I haven’t had a chance to visit.

For the long weekend last week Friday to Sunday (15, 16, 17 August 2014) I decided to visit Kolkata with wife & son. I had booked the flight tickets and hotel booking 2 weeks back. It was not like I narrowed down in Kolkata right away, I couldn’t find rooms in any of the popular tourist destinations – coastal resorts in South India/Goa/Andaman or Agra (I haven’t seen Taj Mahal too so far) were all booked.

We flew from Chennai to Kolkata by SpiceJet on 14th August that left Chennai at 8:25PM and reached Kolkata at 10:45PM, we couldn’t leave earlier as my son had his school on Thursday. The flight departed late and we landed in Kolkata’s Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Airport at 11:45PM. Having left from Chennai’s “new” Airport which is known for its poor maintenance,  the first thing that struck me in Kolkata was how how well maintained the big airport was. This was not the Calcutta I expected to see, which was known for its communist rule for many decades and its anti-capitalist sentiments.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Conveyor Belts

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata- Arrival curb-side

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Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)
Kids, Travel

Bird nest we got in Shimla

Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)

Trek near Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (Shimla)

Last week while Holidaying at Oberoi Wildflower Hall,Kurfi (near Shimla) myself and son went for a nature trek into the nearby reserve forest. The resort is next to Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary which has woods of pine and cedar. As per our guide, the tall trees in the sanctuary were planted by the Britishers (who were ruling Indian subcontinent during Indian summers from Shimla) to serve as rain catchment areas. The short trek took us through Shimla Ridgeline at one point. It is interesting to note that the rain water falling on the ridgeline and flowing on west side it can (theoretically) drain into Arabian Sea and water which flows on east side can drain into Bay of Bengal.

Pine cones near Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary

Pine cones near Shimla Reserve Forest Sanctuary

My son collected lot of pine cones that had fallen on ground here. He was thrilled. Topping it, when we checked out the resort manager gifted my son a bird nest that they had found inside their property few days back. It fell on me to carefully pack, bring it home and get a plastic see through box for storing it.

Bird-Nest-Shimla

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