Category Archives: People

People From Kumbha Mela 2015

Kumbha mela is  believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth.  It happened in Nashik this year. Millions of people came attend this fair. Here you can see a very small cross section of those people.

People have come from far to cleanse their sins
People have come from far to cleanse their sins
People came alone and in groups
People came alone and in groups
They stayed there for days
They stayed there for days
People organised and arranged everything for the pilgrims
People organised and arranged everything for the pilgrims

Continue reading People From Kumbha Mela 2015

Unseen UAE : Seamen of Sharjah

UAE is synonymous to its wealth. Often the glamorous lifestyle of Dubai is the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when thinking about UAE. Here in this series you are given a chance to see the other side of UAE.

There is one seaport somewhere near the corniche street in Sharjah. It is a beautiful walk way along the side of the sea, like any other cornice can  see here. Unlike other ports, people do have a direct access to the port and even to the vessels in the jetty.

The Seaport from a distance
The Seaport from a distance

There were an array of wooden boats. But those sea-men considered it to be ship and they take those boats on international journey. Well they are not like the rich boys who takes their yachts and go to some fancy destinations.

The Wooden Ships
The Wooden Boats

These people takes cargo from one place and goes to another place. It might take them for months some times to go from one country to another in that small wooden ship.

I was just walking aroud the port with my camera. This camera is something that grabs attention. It sometimes results into some interesting conversations too. This time it was a bit different.

I saw a few people near one of those boats.  I tried to take the pictures of the boat from a distance. Then these people got curious and they also wanted some pictures. I gladly agreed and took some pictures for them.

The People on the boat
The People on the boat

You can’t mistake the Indian look. And guess what. I was right. They were from Gujarat, India.

After breaking the ice, they invited me to their home and workplace. To the ship.

The narrow Wood : Way to the Boat
The narrow Wood : Way to the Boat

Through the narrow wooden bridge, I entered their home for 10 months in a year.

They had left their home town a few months ago. They were just going from one place to another carrying various cargos.  For almost 10 months in a year, they would be doing this. And the rest 2 months, they would go home and spend their time with their near and dear ones. Wanderers of another kind for sure.

There were more people inside the boat.

The navigator
The navigator

They were all from the same place and working together in this sea going life for many years. Most of them started when they were really young.

When most of the country dreamed of becoming an engineer, a doctor or a CA, their only dream was to go to sea and earn a living. You can understand it by checking the number of people from Gujarat in the Shipping Industry.

When asked, they said, they didn’t even feel like going back home.  They were pretty comfortable living the sea life. They liked a life, like a Christopher McCandless quote, “new horizon and new suns every day”.

They invited me to join them inside  their home. And I was  inside the dark rooms of ship amidst those strangers I just met.

They treated me like a guest. They offered me tea. And showed me around the ship and shared their story.

Port or Starboard, The decision is taken from here : At Helm
Port or Starboard, The decision is taken from here : At Helm

The cargo work was going on while I was inside the ship/boat.

A view from the Bridge
A view from the Bridge
Cargo work in progress
Cargo work in progress

Finally I wanted to see the engine room of that wooden ship. Engine room will be below the water level as the propeller should immerse in  the water. Through very narrow wooden steps I went down to the engine room.

In the engine room
In the engine room

Before I was leaving, they asked me to come back on the next Friday to have a biriyani with them.  As I had other plans on that Friday- UAE weekend, I had to turn down their generous offer.

After noting down their email id and whatsapp number to send them the pictures, I left from the home of those seafarers. On my way back, I was wondering about the hospitality of random strangers. This world indeed is a wonderful place to live in.

The People I Met On The Road : P Gowri Shankar

The passion for Travelling has given me some great opportunities to meet really wonderful people. Recently I met Gowri Shankar.

There is a name that is always associated with Gowri Shankar.  It is not name of a human, name of a place or anything.

Ok, for those who are not into snakes, reptiles and so on,  let me tell you straight away. Gowri Shankar is associated with snakes. Not just any snake, but the King of them all. KING COBRA. He rescues King Cobra, He learns about King Cobra, He observes and protects King Cobra. He is a walking encyclopaedia as far as  King Cobras as well as other snakes and reptiles are concerned.

One normal day in Gowri's life
One normal day in Gowri’s life

[ Pic Credit : Sharmila, Kings Platter ]

My recent visit to Agumbe rainforest gave me this wonderful opportunity to meet this wonderful person. Agumbe is the second wettest place in India. Due to the heavy rainfalls; frogs, snakes, reptiles including King Cobras find the rainforests of Agumbe as an amazing place for their stay. Thus Agumbe rainforest is home for many King Cobras.  The search for spotting a snake in that dense rainforest led me to Gowri and his research and education centre inside that forest.

Gowri started handling snakes when he was in 9th standard which means when he was only 13. Since then he is dealing with snakes. His passion and purpose in life was very clear to him early in his life. Later in his life he became  an animal inspector (at KARUNA, formerly BSPCA, Bangalore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) , education officer (at the Center for Herpetology, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Mamalapuram Chennai), a Conservation Officer at the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS).

He has also worked with  National Geographic, BBC, Nat Geo Wild and Discovery for quite a few Documentaries on King Cobras.  ‘The King and I’,  ‘Secrets of the King Cobra ‘, ‘Asia’s Deadliest Snake’ , ‘One Million Snake Bites’ and ‘Wildest India’. These are some of the documentaries in which Gowri has either worked or featured.

He is currently doing his PhD on King Cobras. He is also running his own education and research centre in Agumbe rainforest. This centre is organising camps and other activities in Agumbe for creating awareness towards conservation through workshops and camps. In their own words, the vision of this centre is “To become a self sustaining premier conservation centre that empowers right action through environmental education and state of the art scientific training in environmental field studies.”

Even though he is a very busy person, he found a couple of hours from his busy schedule when asked if it was possible to meet him for a coffee.

Meeting at the coffee shop with Gowri Shankar
Meeting  with Gowri Shankar at the coffee shop

He is a very down to earth person. He talked about snakes, King Cobras, the rainforest and much more. He shared with us, his adventurous snake stories, rescue call experiences, little known secrets about the snakes, how they train themselves to spot snakes and so on. It was a very interesting evening.

I learned a lot of new things that day. I learned that snakes are in fact very peaceful creatures. They either stay away from things that are not their food or flee from it, if given a chance. But if someone is deliberately trying to handle the snake, it is called ‘inviting danger’. Especially if it is highly venomous snakes like King Cobra.

While photographing this viper, the advice given to me was that, twice the length of the snake is  safe distance. If you are going towards further, you know what to expect; a great shot, either by you or by the snake! 😉

Viper : Up close and personal
Viper : Up close and personal

Another interesting thing I learned that day talking to Gowri was about certain frogs. I never knew certain frogs can actually eat small snakes! Google it and believe yourself, if you are like me.

He also talked about Kalinga foundation, the research and education centre he runs and the opportunity it provides for amateurs as well as professionals who are interested in Herping. [ Herping is the act of searching for amphibians or reptiles] He offered his help as a guide during such a herping session. I am hoping to go back to Agumbe to spot more snakes, frogs and whatnots! 😉

 With the help of such an expert I am sure I can spot something really interesting.


For more information on Kalinga Foundation

To read personal blog of Gauri Shankar

For planning a trip to Agumbe rainforest


 

The People I Met On The Road : Ambarish Sivasubramanian

I believe the best part of travelling is meeting interesting people on the way. They inspire us, they share their stories with us, they make you travel more and they do influence you in many ways. Being a traveller, the proud moment is when someone tells you that your travel stories have inspired them and changed their life. It is even sweeter when this feeling is mutual.

I met Ambarish while I was in Chennai, when I went to attend the Chennai Couch Surfing meet. I saw a quite guy, among those who reached early for the meet. We talked and I came to know that he had an accident a few weeks ago and was advised to take complete bed rest. While riding, he fell from his motorcycle and badly injured his right leg. The story of his coming back to life is nothing short of a miracle. He was found and helped by an old lady, whom he consider as his God. The whole story is in blog.

When I met him, he was advised to take bed rest, not to sit straight for a long time and never to ride his bike till he gets completely recovered. He came there to tell me all these by riding his scooter!! Why Scooter? Because it was more comfortable for him to keep his legs than that in a motorbike. And no need to shift gears.

When we talked more, we came to know that we had so much in common. Our life’s story was sort of similar. He asked me about my story. I was travelling at that time. So I told him about my travels, my stay at Sadhana forest and Auroville. He was really interested in visiting those places. And at the end of the CS meet, he offered to give me a lift. I came by bus and walking. So that offer was very kind. We were going in a similar route.

Well look who was offering me a lift?! Someone advised by a doctor not to ride bikes! It was raining a bit and I asked him if he wanted me to ride the bike. But he said he was good. He dropped me at my place and said goodbyes and left. That was the end of that chapter.

Recently I met him again, not in person but in this virtual world. And he told me that he really did go to the places I told him and spend much more time than I spent there. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience and he said it was a life changing experience. Well he again did all these trips with his not fully recovered leg. I was happy to inspire someone with my stories. But then it was his turn to inspire me.

Ambarish on the move
Ambarish on the move

[ Photo courtesy : Ambarish’s Blog entry for the contest ]

He was selected as the top 10 finalist in the 4th edition of ‘search for true wanderer’ contest run by Wrangler. He is currently doing his dream trip on his mean machine, and that too with that same not-so-recovered leg! His story of determination and endurance appealed to the readers and they voted him to make him one of the 10 finalists.

As his trip is a secret one, even I am reading his live blog to know where he is heading next and how he is doing.  You can read his live blog here if you wish to.  Musings of a Wandering Soul  

And probably you can help him achieve his yet another dream of winning the grand prize, Triumph Bonneville by voting for his blog, if you like his inspiring story. Vote and share, if you think he really deserves to win.

These kind of meaningful meeting on the road, makes the journey even more interesting. Keep travelling. Travel safe.

Traveller In Focus : Santhosh George Kulangara

As someone who is inclined towards travelling and more travelling, I  feel that most of our dreams are predictable. Some even became cliché.

I want to travel around the world, I want to take absolutely stunning pictures, I want to inspire people to travel more and finally get that dream job in National Geographic. Sounds cliché as most of the people’s dreams follow a similar path.

But here I am going to tell you about a man who has created something new, something original and that too single-handedly. Meet Mr. Santhosh George Kulangara who has, by now travelled to around 90 countries. And also  the first Indian Space Tourist!!

Santhosh George : Space Tourist having fun at Zero gravity
Santhosh George : Space Tourist having fun at Zero gravity [ Source : http://www.santhoshgeorge.com]
 Traveler or traveller may refer to: one who travels, especially to distant lands. This traveller is not just another one who travel to certain distant land. He is the solo traveller who travels with his camera and brings those visuals for people like me and you to watch and enjoy.

He has started his solo travelling, to outside India in 1997 and the first trip was to Nepal. Because for an Indian, travelling to Nepal wasn’t that expensive. He explored Nepal and captured the beauty in his video camera. He did everything without an assistant or a technician.  Ever since then he travelled all around the world along with his camera creating visual travelogues. He soon started creating high quality visually appealing travelogues all by himself. He was the camera man, the editor and the director; all in one.

A not-so local channel started telecasting his travelogues on television. It was half-an-hour travelogue programme telecasted once in a week. Over the time it gained popularity and became a successful program and claims to have a million viewers. That was just the beginnings. The program “Sancharam”, which means ‘Travel’ gradually transformed in to a 24×7 Exploration channel.

“SAFARI” is India’s first exploration channel.  Safari channel offers  world and Indian travels, history, geography, culture, art and adventure.

At present this channel is in Malayalam, an Indian regional language, the mother tongue of  Kerala. Also Mr. Santosh George Kulangara is from Kerala, which happens to be my home state as well. I am a little bit proud of this fact, even though he / I could have been born anywhere in the world. But more importantly this geographic similarity gives me the inspiration that I can also travel all around the world like him. Through his TV channel, he is aiming for the same, to inspire common man to travel more by giving them a first hand experience of the wonderful world around us.

He inspires me, also because of the way he finds financial support for his world travels. These are his own words from his website.

“It was full four years after my first travel, that TV telecast of my travel show started. Finance for every visit of mine was generated by my toiling day and night. My journey continues in that tradition.”

These facts are enough to make me believe that I too can do it. Money, visa restriction, language barrier or any other barrier is not at all an obstacle if you truly want to do something.

He has been globe-trotting  for over 17 years, been to all 7 continents (that includes many a people’s dream : ‘Antarctica’. ) and visited around 90 countries. But looks like he isn’t satisfied with all these things. We can understand the urge of a traveller to ‘explore the unexplored’. This time he is aiming to explore a place where only a very few lucky and skilled ones were/are able to visit. The SPACE!!

You must be knowing Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group who has created Virgin records, virgin Atlantic, the  Virgin Galactic to name a few. And Virgin Galactic develops commercial spacecraft and provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. In short they operates space tourism!

Mr. Santhosh George has purchased a ‘ticket’ to space and reserved the seat as passenger number 38! As part of the journey he has already undergone various training programs and experienced zero gravity. More importantly he has obtained the permission to film the entire process of preparations and flight sequences. Hopefully we will get to see the space tourism trips on our tv sets soon.

My television addiction  had reduced over the time, but these days it has returned a bit. Now whenever I am in front of the TV, I watch this channel. SAFARI. It has got some very interesting programs apart from Travel related stuffs. Also there are very good programs on Indian and world  history. I wish they had these programs when I was in school and struggling with history lessons! They also have a live streaming over the internet. If you want to check out the super cool Malayalam Travel and exploration channel, I will leave the links at the end.

J. R. R. Tolkien said in The Lord of the Rings  that Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Santhosh George testifies it. He definitely inspires me to look beyond my excuses and truly follow the passion. He again reminds me that..

“Not All Who Wander Are Lost”


Sources :

Santhosh George .com to read more about him from his site

Santhosh George Kulangara : if you want to read from Wikipedia

SANCHARM : (or Travel) It all started with this video series.


SAFARI CHANNEL : India’s first exploration channel with

live internet streaming