How Colours impact Humanity : Kushi Athreya (3rd – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)

11 Jul

 

How Colours Impact Humanity?

Kushi Athreya – 8th Grade , Sri Kumaran 

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Take a minute and imagine the world around you without colour , how boring and unexciting life would be!… Colours play a vital role in our daily lives and it is scientifically proven that our activities and responses are influenced by colours. Kenneth Fehrman, co-author of the book, Color The Secret Influence, states that most people are unaware of the profound effect of color has on their Behavior.

Let us unravel the secrets of colours. Did you know that our eyes can perceive seventy lakh colours? Colour is a powerful and important communication tool, and it is tied to religion, political, and social life. Most of us have a favorite colour or prefer some colour over others. This is because the colour affects our moods so we surround ourselves in the colours that have positive impact on us. A research by the University of British Columbia has proven that the colour blue enhances the creativity whereas the colour red helps us focus and has a positive effect on our memory. Just like smell, taste, touch and sound influence our emotional reaction, colour is also another such stimulation that creates emotional Reactions. Tetrachromats are people who have more receptors in their eyes, their brains are wired the same way as a person with normal vision but they can see many more colours. Like if one of them saw a leaf then they will observe other pigments other than green.

Wassily Kandinksky was one of the first pioneers of colour theory. He was a renowned Russian painter and theorist, who is often considered to be the founder of abstract art, believes that colours communicate many qualities. According to him, black signifies grief, dark and unknown, white signifies harmony and silence, while green signifies peace, stillness and nature. In different parts of the world, colours are associated to different meanings. For example yellow represents courage in Japan, mourning in Egypt and hope in the West. In politics, red is often linked to socialism and communism, and white has links to surrender and pacifism while black is linked to anarchism .The effects of colour differ between people. Factors such as gender and age can influence how an individual perceives colour. Colour expert Faber Birren carried out many studies and he found that children like long wave hues (red, yellow, orange) while after maturity the prefer short wave hues (blue, green,purple).

In particular the colour red has been found to influence sports performance. During the 2004 Summer Olympics the competitors in boxing, taekwondo, freestyle wrestling, and Greco-Roman wrestling were randomly given blue or red uniforms. A later study found that those wearing red won 55% of all the bouts which was a statistically significant increase over the expected 50%. The colour blue is said to have calming effects. In 2000, when the company Glasgow installed blue street lights in certain neighbourhood in order to reduce the crime rate.

Our sense of taste is often fooled by our sense of sight. This is because humans have certain expectations of how food should look. When the colour of food is off or is different than what we expect, our brain tells us that it tastes different too. Supported by scientific studies, we use visual cues from colour to identify and judge the quality and taste of what we eat.To give the impression of a certain taste, flavour, or quality, food colouring or dyes are added to processed, packaged, and even fresh foods. For example adding a red colorant to the skin of an apple, may influence consumers into believing the apple is sweeter in taste. In a study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers
found that people confused flavours when a drink did not have the appropriate colour. A cherry- flavoured drink manipulated to be orange in colour was thought to taste like an orange drink, and a cherry drink manipulated to be green in colour was thought to taste like lime.

Colour therapy is the use of colour in a variety of ways to promote health and healing. The different colours we see in the world around us are the result of the eye perceiving light vibrating at different frequencies. Sunlight, or full-spectrum light, holds all the wavelengths of colour in the visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and magenta) as well as infrared and ultraviolet light, which cannot be seen. Used to treat both physical and emotional problems, colour therapy may involve exposure to coloured lights, massages using colour-saturated oils, contemplating and visualizing colours, even wearing coloured clothing and eating coloured foods.

Not surprisingly, colour has been played a role in healing for centuries. At the temple of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt, patients were treated in rooms specifically designed to break up the sun’s rays into the colours of the spectrum. People also made regular pilgrimages to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, to take advantage of the healing colours of the exotic plants and flowers found there. In India, practitioners of Ayurveda, taught that specific colours corresponded with each of the seven chakras, the energy centres that represent organs, emotions, and aspects of the spirit. (Today Ayurveda medicine continues to use colour to treat a wide range of mental and physical imbalances.)

The beauty of the world is magnified through colours. Colours play a huge and subtle role in human life. They instigate our emotions, actions and our belief, playing an emphatic role in our life and instill imagination, creativity thus, changing the way we look at the world.

 

How Colours impact Humanity : Anvitaa Anandkumar (2nd – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)

11 Jul

 

How colours impact humanity

Anvitaa Anandkumar, 10th Grade NPS Koramangla

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The world of colours takes its hold right at birth. The moment the nurses swaddle a tiny child in either soft blue or pink blankets, indicating whether it’s a boy or a girl. Whether the baby has red hair or brown, blue eyes or black. What colour clothes would suit the child? What colour should the room be?

Our lives revolve around colours. They are omnipresent in every decision we make. The colour palate consists of a myriad of colours and a million hues and they all affect us in different ways.

Would you consider wearing a chirpy shade of blue to a funeral or sombre grey to a wedding? I somehow doubt it. From our childhood we have been instilled with a set of rules, what colours to wear when and for what occasions. We have been ingrained with a sense of what colours mean. But these meanings are variable.

Lets start with bright Red – it stands for so many things. Red for an Indian woman could mean marriage, auspiciousness and the colour of the goddess Kali. In china, the colour red stands for fire, and means good fortune and joy. Red can also exemplify love, passion, desire, heat, romance, strength, leadership, courage, vigor, willpower, rage, anger, danger, malice, wrath, stress, action, vibrance, radiance, and determination. It represents physical energy.

Red when mixed with white forms pink. Pink is largely associated with women, describing soft, feminine nature while blue is used to assert masculinity. This is especially true in the case of newborn babies when their gender decides whether they have a blue blanket or a pink one. I find this curious because, in the past, especially during the Nazi era, red and especially pink represented the passion of men while calm blue was used to depict the woman’s supposedly calmer demeanor. I do wonder why this changed.

Green, the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy, is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment. Positive words those generally indicate moving forward. In Christianity, Green is associated with baptism and the feast of the Eucharist. Green is the sacred color of Islam and is a sign of respect and veneration. Green is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, and ambition. It is also got a negative connotation and personifies greed and jealousy, a stark contrast to its other meanings. See what I mean when I said that the meanings varied?

Colours also hold great importance in fields like branding and marketing. They are thought to evoke different responses from the masses. Brand Managers and admen make use of this fact and pretty much manipulate you without you even knowing about it. Fast food is the latest trend, and most fast food joints have logos, buildings and signboards in either red or yellow. These colours (along with the awesome pictures of food of course) generate hunger in people. A similar trick was used when the logo of Coca Cola was created. It is theorized, that when people look at the red logo, it makes them feel thirsty and the wave in the logo is the thirst quencher. Cokes rival Pepsi on the other hand, went the other route and used blue, saying it represented the cooling effect their drink has for people. Both the meanings are different but both companies are very successful.

Perhaps the most colourful part in our world is nature itself. The flora and fauna together form a riot of colours, clashing yet complementing each other to form something truly spectacular. Spring is green with fresh leaves and nascent blossoms. Kyoto is famous for its Cherry Blossoms, the trees bursting with blooms during the spring. The summer is dry, hot and bright, the raging white sun beating steadily down on the dry, harsh and desolate plains of the Atacama. Then comes autumn, dressed in a gown of all the shades of orange, yellow and red, a surprising burst of colours. Vancouver perfectly captures the beauty of this season down to every last detail, the shape of the leaves and the apple orchards, ripe for the picking. At last, comes the winter, dull and gray in its foreboding cold in some places, white a blinding blanket of white like cake frosting in others.

The mountains, the oceans, the deserts, the forests – they are all adorned by colours that reflect their personalities.

I have always found it curious when people completely disregard black and white, not considering them colours. If they are not colours, what are they? Black and white seems so simple, but they create a world of depth. Black and white generally symbolizes two sides of a coin, the opposing forces. In most cultures, black is used to describe death, the devil, darkness and other negative forces while white is a symbol of purity, innocence and everything that is good. In Chinese culture however, this is slightly different. Black represents water and is considered the colour of heaven and the king of all colours in China. It is also the single colour that was worshipped the longest time in ancient China. White, here, represents multiple things. In the theory of ‘Five Elements’, white corresponds to gold, which shows that the Chinese people thought it to symbolize brightness. Along with this, it also stands for purity and fullness. See, generally the opposite. But together, they create a while new world of beauty and harmony, the unity of Ying and Yang.

Black and white however has perhaps been the most destructive colours in history. People were differentiated on the basis of their skin colour. The people with black skin were made slaves to the whites, denying them of their basic rights and making life a living hell. The white minority broke their spirit and treated them like animals for centuries. Almost all European countries and the USA had separate and derogatory rules for the blacks, making them inferior in every way possible. It was common to see insulting sign boards like “Blacks and dogs not allowed”. It was only in the sixties and the seventies where things started changing in most places.

Perhaps the most important part about colour is the way they impact the audiences. They are very effect means of telling stories. Famous artists like Van Gogh have created masterpieces that tell epic tales using the ever present colour palate, creating beautiful paintings that people not only see, but also read to delve deep into the world of colours and search for the layers of hidden meaning. They use colours to show emotions, depict how they are feeling what other people feel or have felt. Even poets use colours to bring their poetry to life. Famous lines like “a host of golden daffodils” use colours to actually bring the scene to life and enable readers to visualize and actually connect with the poem.

Perhaps the most fascinating characteristic of colours is how they affect us. This is called colour psychology. It is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. Did you know, that in Glasgow, in the year 2000, they installed blue street lighting in certain neighborhoods and subsequently reported the anecdotal finding of reduces crime rates? And that a railroad company in Japan introduced blue lighting in its stations in 2009 that effectively reduced suicide attempts?

Colors also help us when we are depressed and sad. Research suggests that bright and cheerful colours draw us out of our depression and bring back the joy in our lives. Colours provide us comfort, and radiate beauty, which the human mind cannot ignore.

The world is full of strange colours, which makes it an exceptionally interesting place to live in. Without them perhaps we wouldn’t have had racism and slavery in the first place but we also wouldn’t have had epic works of art, not recognised the beauty of nature and simply missed out on the amazement of seeing an interestingly coloured flower or the myriad of hues in a gorgeous sunset. The world just wouldn’t be the same and I am thankful that it isn’t.

Autobiography of a Pencil – Surabhi Jain (1st – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)

11 Jul

Autobiography of a Pencil

Surabhi Jain, 11th Grade NPS Koramangla

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The End

It is finally my time. I have lived a long life, longer than most of my kind at least. Now, I am but a fraction of what I used to be. My once lengthy body has been shortened to a stub and my head has been sharpened for the last time. The blue colour of my exterior has faded along with the name of my maker and my pretty red eraser has all but disappeared. This is the last story I will write before I am put down forever. This is the story of my life.

It all began when my then flat head was skimmed with the sharp blade of a sharpener. As I was turned around repeatedly, a trickle of consciousness manifested. I started to hear the shavings fall to the table, to see the black inside of the sharpener, to smell the metal of the blade. I could sense everything around me. With that came my conscience. I, as an individual, was born. And when my head was removed from the confines of the black plastic, I was introduced to the world. A world which, I would later come to learn, is both brutal and kind.

My induction into the world went in an unexpected manner. As the dark interior of the sharpener left my vision, I was met with the view of a colourful room and cluttered room. Building blocks littered the carpeted floor and along with sheets of paper and crayons. Awed by such a foreign sight, I didn’t notice I was moving until I was right in front of a human child’s face. His chubby face was lit up with a brilliant smile as he observed me lying on what I now know was his father’s hand. He clapped his hands with sheer delight and reached for me with his pudgy fingers. He lifted me up and looked up at his father with a pleading expression on his face, “Can I take it to school tomorrow Dad?” And then I was dumped in the dark space where I would make my first friends.

The stationery pouch was a scary place at first. There was no light and a fear of the unknown ran through me. I shivered as I wondered what was going to happen. Abruptly, a voice cut through the silence, “Hey everybody, we got a newbie!” And then I was in the middle of a flurry of activity. A crowd of voices started up and I was being tugged this way and that. It was a very disorienting experience, I must say. From the cacophony, I managed to discern a few names: Bob the eraser, Marty the sharpener and Penny the pen. As the ruckus grew in volume, a scream rent the air, “Silence!” All was quiet. A bulky shape came up next to me and it said, “I’m Patty the ruler. You are?” I stutteringly explained that I was new and that I didn’t have a name. After which Patty proceeded to rudely tell me to get one. So I said, “Scratch”, thus naming myself. Initially, Patty scared the living daylights out of me. She was snappy and sarcastic; traits that were intimidating to a novice like me. As time went on, I realised that she was just overprotective of her pouch mates and that I, as a stranger, was suspicious to her. Nevertheless, life was good.

The weeks following my ‘birth’ were happy. The residents of the pouch and I became family. We’d go to school with the child-whose name was Daniel- and do our work. The rest of the time we’d play and chat for hours. I began to love Daniel as well. He took care of me, making sure I was always sharp and ready for anything. He treated me with care and never threw me or broke my tip. I was content. One day, it all changed. I was shown how uncaring people can be and what a lie I was living. It was a school day like any other. We went to school and I did my work. I was lying on the table while Daniel used Penny when suddenly, I was airborne. I flew and smacked into the wall, rolling into the corner. Trying to shake off the dizziness, I realised that Daniel hadn’t even noticed. I lay there waiting for someone to pick me up and return me but no one did. I watched as the day passed and still I lay in the darkness. When the children left, I hoped that Daniel would see that I was missing and would search for me the next day. Alas, that was in vain. The next day dawned and the children filed in. When they started opening their pouches, I watched Daniel, waiting for him to rescue me. Instead, I saw him pull out another pencil with the same care that he used to show me. I saw Bob and Marty chatting with the replacement the same way they used to speak with me. The betrayal of all those I loved cut straight through my heart.

After that incident, I was transferred to the ‘Lost and Found’ box and when no one claimed me, to a big carton labelled ‘Castern’. I was put with hundreds of other pencils, most of whom had suffered the same treachery that I had. We stayed in that box for a long time with no idea of what was going to happen to us. Fear was the dominant emotion of most and we nearly drove ourselves insane pondering our fate. Finally, the day came when the lid was opened, putting all of us out of our misery. Sunlight found its way to us, warming us and reminding us of hope. Then we were picked up in twos and handed to children waiting in line. The look of joy on their faces as they received the pencils far surpassed the one I saw on Daniel’s face so long ago. Here were people who truly appreciated their belongings. As my owner, Cedric, carried me and the other pencil, Matt, into his home, I was struck by the stark difference between his abode and that of Daniel. While Daniel’s had spoken of wealth and class, Cedric’s was humble. There was no television and the furniture was plain and simple. There was no mess here though. Cedric’s room was neat and tidy. I knew that I would be genuinely loved here.

Matt and I became good friends over the years. We only had each other for company but it was enough. Cedric took good care of us, writing conservatively so that he didn’t waste our lead. He prolonged our use as much as he possibly could and now the time has come where he can extend no further. I write this story on a spare piece of paper on Cedric’s desk so that he may know how much he means to me. He restored my faith in this world and made my days happy. For that, I am forever grateful.

Sure Cure to Fatty Liver & Acid Reflux – Reiki , Physical training , Yoga + DIET

17 May

Fatty Liver, Acid Reflux  and Low Vitamin D are some of the most common ailments that Indians suffer from, given our lifestyle and diet. But in most cases, its never considered serious enough to be treated.

Its been a struggle for over 10 years. Around 2005 I used to always feel tired, sluggish and sleepy. I was gaining weight. Frequent early morning flights, eating out regularly, late night dinners, oily food, the occasional drink, no time for exercise and a lot of stress at work  – all this formed the perfect recipe for Fatty Liver & Acid Reflux.

Soon, the ailment became more aggressive and the symptoms more severe – I used to feel feverish and have a sore throat. Thinking it to be a light viral attack I self medicated myself with Crocin / Tylenol and in some cases even antibiotics – but the fever persisted before dying out after a week or two. I hate going to a doctor and never visited one for a few years – thinking these were basic day to day ailments. On the advice of a friend I finally visited a GP who immediately asked me to get a Liver Scan done – and diagnosed it as Level 3 Fatty Liver. What this means was that at age 39 I had the Liver of a 58 year old. Now, I panicked.

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Fatty Liver is caused by the poor lifestyle choices mentioned above coupled with bad genes ( The Punjabis are lucky ) and as such, has no cure. The liver stores some fat, but greater than 10 percent is considered abnormal. Too much fat might cause inflammation and liver malfunction.

Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease is extremely common. This is caused by stomach acid backing up to the throat causing coughing and sore throat. If left untreated, it can even result in throat cancer.

Though there is no direct linkage between Fatty Liver & Acid Reflux – I was clearly facing both these problems. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, fatty liver has no fixed cure. It can, however, be reversed   with regular exercise, a controlled diet and total prohibition from Alcohol. You need to sweat, lose weight and eat very light meals ( more on this later).

For 7 – 8 years I tried this, Rantac before meals, Gym whenever possible, a combination of Yoga and meditation , and a bottle of Liv 52 always by my side – a tight control worked , but on the days you erred a bit – an early morning flight , Flight food, The occasional indulgence with Aloo Paratha or Luchi Aloo Dum and a glass of Vodka after a stressful day at work was all that was needed to awaken the dormant Acid Reflux – and then it was 10 days of trauma, sometimes so acute that I used to throw up at night just to get relief. The best way to treat a attack is to eat very light , lots of Ginger , Buttermilk , Sugar Cane juice , fresh fruits , food with very less salt – think you have a light attack of Jaundice and treat yourself accordingly.

This is when a good friend of mine advised me to do a few yoga poses. My visit to Shreyas and the Yoga Teacher there added a few more asanas. Basically any twisting pose is great for the Liver , hold the pose for 5 – 6 breaths so that the effect reaches beyond the muscle to the glands. (Consult with a good Yoga Teacher ,  any Yoga posture that pumps or  squeezes the stomach like Kapalbhati is avoided)

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This helped and that’s when I got introduced to Reiki.

Reiki is a spiritual healing art with its roots in Japanese origin. The word Reiki comes from the Japanese word (Rei) which means “Universal Life” and (Ki) which means “Energy”. Reiki is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious practice. It is neither a massage nor is it based on belief or suggestion. It is a subtle and effective form of energywork using spiritually guided life force energy. Reiki is the life energy that flows through all living things. Reiki practitioners understand that everyone has the ability to connect with their own healing energy and use it to strengthen energy in themselves and help others. It is believed that a person’s “ki” or “energy”, should be strong and free flowing. When this is true, a person’s body and mind is in a positive state of health. When the energy becomes weak or blocked it could lead to symptoms of physical or emotional imbalance.

Reiki is akin to “Prana” and a Reiki healer acts as a conductor of universal energy helping you to generate energy balance.

Reiki-hands

I was lucky to have the experience of Radhika a divine Reiki healer – when she was conducting the healing sessions in a serene setting with lighted candles and soothing music, I could feel the energy pulse through each and every inch in my body. Three direct and a few remote session created miracles – and I could see my fatty liver and Acid Reflux problem almost becoming non existent.

Add to this I enrolled with Sonali a world champion Physical Trainer and the 1 hr of vigorous physical activity she drills me to do every second morning added to solving the problem. The sheer variety of activities she makes you go through each day is fascinating.

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Dr Jha a naturopath ( http://www.totalphysiocare.com) helped with his own useful advise – after checking for energy balance he was quickly able to identify my Fatty Liver problem without me even telling him. A few beads taped in some nerve endings on the hand immediately brings relief –  he also suggested a few simple things to do daily – I have been following this regularly

  • A glass of diluted cold milk in the morning when you wake up ( I add a spoon of ice cream to make the taste better)
  • Rice soaked in water previous night to be eaten with Curd and green cooked papaya
  • Pineapple slices soaked in honey in the evening before dinner
  • One Tender Coconut every day (Its alkaline – so solves for the acidity very affectively)

All these wonderful people with their helpful advise and professional expertise almost cured my Fatty Liver & Acid Reflux problem, I can see the change at the cellular level. Now the occasional drink or oily food does not affect me – life goes on. I guess the fat in the Liver is melting away.

A few more tips if you have Fatty Liver & Acid Reflux 

  • Don’t drink water while eating food – or 30 min before or after
  • A diet that has a lot of fresh leafy green vegetables , walnuts , avocados, Apple , Lemons & Lime + Green tea – are all great for Fatty Liver reversal
  • Leaves of Drumstick cooked with Adai or mashed up boiled is strongly recommended
  • After every meal sit in Vajrasan for a few minutes
  • Finish your dinner by 7 PM
  • Get at least 7 hrs of restful sleep
  • If you can’t make it to the Gym or for PT – walk briskly for an hr every day ( Don’t walk after dinner)
  • Try Kunjal Kriya ( Water cleansing of the stomach) – I haven’t but a friend swears by it – again needs the guidance of a good Yoga Teacher
  • In the initial stage you may need a special inclined mat in your bed – as the Acid Reflux may cause severe coughing at night.

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And finally don’t go to a doctor – medicines are drugs , they don’t solve the problem at the root. They just get you addicted to the medicines without which you cannot sustain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore & Bali in 8 days

26 Apr

SE Asia is a travellers paradise – nature has showered its goodness on the region, its reasonably economical and everything works with clockwork precision.

Singapore is normally the 1st international destination for most Indians. Then they graduate to Bangkok, KL, Phuket, Krabi, Langkawi, …… we did all of this and it was now time for Glorious Bali.

Unfortunately there is no direct flight from Bangalore to Bali, so we planned a trip Via Singapore (3 nights at Singapore & 5 nights at Bali). We have been to Singapore many times – but the city always beckons – Singapore can  be described in a few words – small, efficient , safe & a perfect place for a family holiday.

You can spend a relaxed week at Singapore that includes a few days at Sentosa –  in the 3 days that we had we wanted to focus on the the new attractions – sights we had not been to before – Universal studio, Gardens by the Bay & the fascinating Art & Science museum – and with children a trip to the Singapore Zoo & Jurong Bird Park is a must. (Other attractions include Night Safari, Duck Boat, Little India & Chinatown, The Science Centre, The Red Dot Museum, A walk by the marina bay and the Merlon & the underwater park in Sentosa are worth a visit.

Gardens by the bay was the highlight of the visit – two giant air conditioned  indoor canopies that house a world of greenery. We were lucky to see the Tulips in full bloom and it was a riot of colours.

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The recently opened Arts & Science museum is also fascinating –  a 1500-square-metre digital universe, where 15 spectacular art installations are brought to life and evolve in real-time through visitor presence and participation.

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Universal Stuido is a key attraction for the kids – it has the following 7 theme parks – New York, Sci – Fi City, Ancient Egypt, Madagascar, Far Far Away, Water World and the Lost World.

I felt that the clock had not moved since 1999 when I first visited at LA. Its the same set of rides and shows – hardly any evolution. You can spend a day if you want to visit every ride – but we were there by 930 and left by 3. (The fast track tickets helped us beat the Q). The scariest ride here is the Battlestar Galactica – it can really shake you up

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We also managed to walk down Clark Quay and have dinner with some friends – the Quay is the party zone area – we left by 10 PM but this is where you can party till early morning

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We stayed at the Grand Hyatt at Scotts Road / Orchard intersection – very centrally located. Distances in Singapore are 10 – 15 min by car to almost all attractions – the Bird park is located farthest ( 30 min drive) – but is soon expected to move next to the Zoo

Other Basis Information 

  • Silk Air has a convenient morn 950 AM flight from Bangalore that lands Singapore at 430 PM
  • 1 Sing $ ~ INR 50
  • Cab Fares vary from $ 10 – $20 ( Airport to Hotel ~ $20)
  • Indian Food – not a problem – head to Little India
  • Tickets for the attractions cost from $25 – $50 / person , book online in advance you save money and avoid the Q

2nd Leg of our  tour : Enchanting Bali

On day 3 we took the 630 PM evening flight from Singapore to Bali – its a 2 hrs 30 min flight , and landed at 9.50 PM. You don’t need Visa at Bali and your passport is your entry – you can zip past immigration in 10 min and reach your hotel in 25 – 30 min. The airport is at Denpasar, located in the south of the island.

Bali is Not a City . Its a province of Indonesia which is located between the islands of Java and Lombok island, Bali island is also commonly referred to as The Island Of Thousands Temples, The Island of Gods, and Bali Dwipa, Bali also has several small islands including the island of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan Island, Nusa Ceningan island, Serangan Island and Menjangan Island. Its a bit like Goa and distances between tourist attractions can be as far as 2 – 3 hrs.

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Background on Bali & Indonesia

Indonesia is an Archipelago with over 2000 islands of which less than 50 are populated. It was a Hindu & Buddhist country in the 600 – 1200 period before the conversion to a Muslim state started happening. It was colonised by the Dutch for ~ 250 years and was under Japanese control for a few years during the 2nd world war. Indonesia is the worlds largest Muslim country. They share the same language and script with the Malaysians.

Bali has strong Hindu roots – Mythology says that the great Sage Agastya is supposed to have travelled to Bali & Java to spread Hinduism 10 – 15,000 years back. 90% of Bali is still Hindu and the area is dotted with thousands of temples. Shiva , Vishnu & Uma are the main deities – and  a lot of what they do is linked to the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but the festivals they celebrate are different from those in India. Would be wonderful to do a research on how Hinduism spread & flourished in  Cambodia , Vietnam , & Malaysia thousands of years back.

(More info on bali here : http://www.baliglory.com/2012/10/bali-history-about-island-god.html)

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Resorts at Nusa Dua which is at the Southern part of Bali. Within Nusa Dua there is a gated enclave designed like a park that houses most of the large resorts – Westin , Hilton , Hyatt etc.

The Grand Hyatt is a sprawling 650 room beach front property with rooms and villas. It is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Quality of rooms and service was excellent. Rates are comparable to the 5 Star rates in India.

Bali has a sense of energy balance – the place is blessed , you can feel the vibes. The people are calm and relaxed (not restless like in India) , soft spoken and seem to be at peace with themselves. there is a sense of contentment and joy and it was wonderful to soak in this environment for 5 nights.

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Tourists come to Bali and spend weeks and months – but if you have 4 days here is a itinerary to follow

Day – 1 : City Tour  9 AM to 6 PM

  • The Goa Gajah or the elephant cave
  • Artisans Village
  • Plantation walk
  • A Visit to a Mount Agung – A live Volcano that last erupted in 1996 (View it from a  Distance – Trek takes 1/2 a day)
  • Shopping at Ubud (Lunch at an Indian Restaurant – Queens)
  • Monkey Forest

A temple supposedly built by sage Agastya – it was excavated recently. 

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Mount Agung – one of the active volcanoes in Malaysia

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An organic farm that grows Cocoa, Coffee , Spices – they served us a tray of over 5 different types of coffee .

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Day – 2 : City Tour 9 AM to 7 PM

  • Butterfly park
  • Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (UNESCO World Heritage site) *
  • Hot Spring
  • Floating temple (Pura Ulun Danu Bratan)
  • Tanah Lot – Sunset
  • The other 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bali are the Pakerisan Valley & the Taman Ayun temple ( We did not have the time to visit these beautiful places)

A 2 hr drive from Nusa Dua our first stop on day 2 was a small but pretty butterfly park.

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The Jatiluwih rice terraces are located in a hilly part of Bali – the weather is cool and pleasant and it feels like a hill station. The undulating greenery is soothing to the eyes. Spend some time here and take a relaxed walk by the rice fields and be with nature – its calming & serene. Not very crowded as getting here takes almost 3 hrs.

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Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, or Pura Bratan, is a major Shivaite and water temple  The temple complex is located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul.

Built in 1663, this temple is used for offerings ceremony to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu, due to the importance of Lake Bratan as a main source of irrigation in central Bali. The 11 stories of pelinggih meru dedicated for Shiva and his consort Parvathi. Buddha statue is also present inside this temple.

Lake Bratan is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. Located 1200 m above sea level, it has a cold tropical climate.

Its a beautiful temple with landscaped gardens and a large lake – we reached here in the evening around 4 PM and it was a wonderful sight.

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The Tanah Lot temple is best visited at sunset or sunrise. It was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples was established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. This temple reminded me of the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram and the fact that maybe the Pallavas or their descendants had some influence in the design and construction of these temples at Bali.

In addition to Balinese mythology, the temple was significantly influenced by Hinduism. At the base of the rocky island, venomous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. The temple is purportedly protected by a giant snake, the temple complex has a snake park.

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The Bali temples are well marketed but are no comparison in size, stature and design to what we see in S India.

Day 2 was a long trip and we were back only by 730 PM

Day – 3 : At the Resort , Shopping and the Devdan Show

With 5 pools, 5 restaurant , amazing green landscape and a great beach we had to spend one day at the Grand Hyatt Resort and most of day 3 was spent there.

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Right next to the Resort is a beautiful mall called the Bali Place where we stopped by for some shopping and late lunch and in the evening visited the spectacular Devdan show.

This is a live 2 hr show ( like a Las vegas show) with light & sound effects that presents the different art and cultural treasures of the Indonesia archipelago. A well choreographed program it was indeed a sight to watch. ( Tickets are expensive ~ 80$ / person)

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We ended the day with dinner at an Indian restaurant and felt like a millionaire as the bill was 1 M Indonesian Rupiah. ( that is about $ 70 or Rs 5000)

Day – 4 : Cruise to Lembogan island and water sports 

The last day was a cruise to the Lembogan Island – this is about 1 hr from the Nusa Dua harbour. You spend the day here – its a picnic, you leave the resort at 7.45 AM and are back by 5 PM  . Activities include snorkelling, diving, Aquanauts, kayaking & banana boat. The package includes vegetarian lunch (and we were pleasantly surprised to get good vegetarian food)

The girls were brave enough to go diving while we experimented with Aquanauts. This is the easy way to go to the seabed (10 metres) as you get down with oxygen masks to see the flare and fauna below. Kids above 9 are allowed.

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That brought us to our last supper and the chef was kind enough to prepare a meal of paratha , dal and curry for us ( Food at Bali & the Hyatt is a bit challenging for vegetarians and the Balinese dishes are not as nice as the Thai ones – during the trip we were mainly on Pasta / Pizza )

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That brought us to the end of a lovely 8 day trip. I am thankful to the weather gods and all the people who helped in making the trip successful – the travel agents in India , the tour operators in Bali (Bali Hai Cruises who managed all the bookings for us msuwitra@yahoo.com), my brother who helped us in Singapore , the friendly tourist guide Karma in Bali, the staff at The Grand Hyatt at Singapore & Bali , the kids who were wonderful all thru the trip, for SQ that took off and landed on time , to the immigration officials where the lines were zipping and our friends from Mantri – it really helps to go on a holiday as two families – its a lot more fun.

A big Thank You to all for a memorable trip.

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PS : Additional contact for car booking – we did not use this since we were a group of 8 and had booked a van – but was strongly recommended by our friends for a family of 4 : Driver Name Abbe +62 878 60570999

 

PIO to OCI @ Bangalore FRRO

23 Feb

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This morning I submitted my daughters application to convert her PIO to an OCI. Lots of learning in the process – which I felt may be of use to others – listing the same below.

  1. You need to log in and complete your application in the online portal https://passport.gov.in/oci. Information that you will need to fill the Online Application – a) Passport & PIO card Details b) Aadhar card c) Body Identification Mark d) PP Photo & Scan copy of Signature as explained in point 2 & 3
  2. You will need to upload a PP Photo but there may be no specifications in the portal – Please have a Square Photograph not less than 51 by 51 mm with 80% face coverage with plain light colour background – not white – without the border with front view of persons head & shoulder showing full face in middle of photograph. While uploading the photo there is no mention of specification – but after you have completed and printed it out there is a space to paste a PP photo – and that has the specifications listed above. Now you could have a situation where the uploaded photo does not match the one you are pasting – and this could cause rejection.
  3. Filling the Online form could take about an hr – the tough part is scanning the PP Photo and the Signature in a certain format  a) Both images must be in jpeg or jpg format, with max size 200kb  b) The Min dimensions are 200 Pixels(W) X 200 Pixels (H) for the Photo and Max Dimensions are 900 Pixels(W) X 900 Pixels (H)  C) For the scan signature the Min dimensions are 200 Pixels(W) X 67 Pixels (H)  and Max Dimensions are 900 Pixels(W) X 300 Pixels (H)Once you have completed this take two print outs – the printout will state that all you need to attach are copies of the PIO & Passport – but beware you need many more documents to be  submitted.
  4. The FRRO office is located at TTMC A Block , 5th Floor , BMTC Bus Stand  Building, Shantinagar – Bangalore – 27 (Located at the Rear of the Bus Stand)
  5. The FRRO office is clean & well organised – starts at 930 AM – but they allow you to enter at 9 AM – Open only from Mon – Fri , 930 – 530 PM (Closed on Sat) – No Brokers
  6. Most people walk in with the printed form and a copy of the Passport & PIO – and they are sent back – so to save time and get the job done in 1 visit here are the set of  documents you need to carry
    • Copy of Applicants passport & PIO card – self attested – 2 sets , Take both front and back pages

    • Copy of Parents Passport – front & back pages

    • Address proof – Recent Gas / Electricity bill

    • Birth certificate of applicant – Copy self attested + Original

    • Aadhar Card Copy self attested + carry original

    • Parents Aadhar Card copy self attested + carry original

    • Good to have DL / Pan card of parents Copy self attested + Original

    • Have the address of your last Res abroad handy – you will be asked to write that in the form at the end

    • Keep extra copies of the PP Photos that you have pasted in the form ( keep a glue stick also) 

With all this you may still run into problems – some examples

  • The address has changed from your old PIO card – that will mean police verification
  • Your PIO card was issued in another City
  • The Passport Number endorsed on your PIO car is different from the current passport
  • Solving this will need the help of the Staff at the FRRO office and could delay the process 

If you sail through – you will get an acknowledgement – and I was told it takes 45 – 60 days for the OCI card to be ready. It will not be mailed out and one needs to go back to the FRRO office to collect it. In the interim if you need to travel abroad – the existing PIO card with the original acknowledgement should suffice.

Two More Points 

  1. No fees are charged – This could be till March 30th 2016 only
  2. Applicant need not attend – parent can carry all the documents
  3. Last Date was recently extended from March 30, 2016 to June 30 2016 – http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/conversion-of-pio-cards-last-date-for-application-extended-till-june-30/articleshow/51143520.cms

All the best.

 

 

Offbeat Resorts in India – Been there + Got to get there soon List

24 Jan

I enjoy travelling – and a lot of people keep asking me on good places to go to. I have compiled a list of these places and will keep adding to this as and when I spot something unique.

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Places I have visited in the last few years

16

 

Others in my list

North 

6

 

East 

  • Sikkim Village Walks
  • Glen burn Tea Estate Darjeeling
  • Mayfair Palm Beach – Bhubaneswar

1

West

  • Machan – Lonawala
  • Hidden Village – Shahpur
  • Ahilya Fort – MP
  • Nilaya Hermitage – Goa
  • Swaswara Gokarna (Outstanding)

 

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South

  • Wild Planet Jungle Resort http://wildplanetresort.com/index.php/how-to-reach/
  • Orange County – Kabini
  • Kumarakom lake resort – http://www.kumarakomlakeresort.in
  • Spectre Resorts – Munnar http://spicetreemunnar.com
  • Briar Tea Bungalows – http://teabungalows.com/talayar-valley-bungalow-munnar/
  • Niraamaya – Cardamom Club, Thekkady, http://www.niraamaya.in/thekkady.html
  • Malabar House – Fort Kochi
  • Niraamaya Retreats Backwaters & Beyond, Kumarakom, http://www.niraamaya.in/Kumarakom.html
  • Yacht @ Goa – http://www.niraamaya.in/foxy-lady.html
  • Aanavilasam , Luxury Plantation House Thekaddy – http://www.aanavilasam.com
  • Paradise Plantation – http://www.paradisaretreat.com
  • Windermere Estate Munnar – http://windermeremunnar.com
  • Turtle Bay Beach Resort – Marvanthe
  • Meriyanda Nature Lodge Coorg – http://www.meriyanda.com
  • Fishermans Cove Chennai

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A few Good websites 

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