Buy Buy ITC

19 Jul

Todays headlines has been the 13% drop in ITC stock – as an unexpected cess is expected to affect the bottomline. So the mood of the day is SELL SELL SELL. And thats how the market operates – knee jerk reaction. The impact of higher Taxes on ITC is a regular phenomena – Cigarettes are one of the highest category Tax products in the country – and the stock always bounces back to new highs. This is the perfect time to look at the history of the stock.

ITC is one of the best buys in the market. And with a 13% drop – this is a great opportunity to get into the stock. Every long term investor must have this in their portfolio.

Not many know that ITC’s FMCG business, which includes packaged food, personal care and education stationary products, crossed the Rs 10,000 crore revenue milestone in 2016-17 with sales growing by 8% to Rs 10,511.83 crore. Thats colossal and with a fast growing India – consumption stocks like ITC will continue to grow rapidly.

India has over 100M Smokers. By 2015, there were roughly equal numbers of men smoking cigarettes or bidis. About 11 million women aged 15–69 smoked in 2015. The absolute numbers of men smoking any type of tobacco at ages 15–69 years rose by about 29 million or 36% in relative terms from 79 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015. This represents an average increase of about 1.7 million male smokers every year. Habits die hard – and whatever be the price consumption will continue to grow. As affluence steps in more Bidi smokers will switch to Cigarettes. Legal cigarettes constitute only 11% of all tobacco usage in India and the per capita consumption of Cigarettes in India is one of the lowest in the world.

(Source – Trends in bidi and cigarette smoking in India from 1998 to 2015, by age, gender and education – http://www.cghr.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/low_bmjgh-smoking-trends-paper.pdf

http://www.itcportal.com/about-itc/shareholder-value/ITC-Corporate-Presentation.pdf

Lets look at the story in some simple visuals and question the knee jerk reaction

 

ITC  Crashes on July 17th – Panick button – everyone is in sell mode – headlines scream of thousands of crores of losses – mostly  notional.

 

 

 

Now look at the ten year graph and how ITC has given annualised returns of 18.6% beating the Sensex handsomely

 

 

Even in a 2 year period the stock has gone up from 190 to 280 ( after rallying to 350) and remember the 280 price is post Split. 

 

 

Talking of Bonus – this is one stock that gives you Bonus with regularity every 5 years 

 

And here is the company performance track record over the last 20 years – a tough one to beat and with Consumption and growth in India accelerating things can get only better. 

 

So make the most of it – remember every great stock gives you an opportunity to enter and this is the time to BUY ITC.

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Space @ Prestige Mayberry

7 Jul

Building a house in India is a long project that can run into many years. In the US you can get a custom designed house in 6 months – in India it could take you 6 months just to do the interiors.

Bangalore has been a happy ground for Trading Apartments and Villas as the prices of real estate soared between 2000 & 2010. You could book a property at Pre Launch and sell it on completion for almost 50 – 60 % profit in a few years. Those were the days when the complexes were small and the builders delivered on time.  Things changed after 2010 – projects dragged on , the complexes became monstrously large with 1000’s of apartments and the Builders camouflaged the cost under so many small sub headings that the billboard launch rate of 4999/- sft would actually be 6999/- sft.

Having done enough of “Buy – Sell”  – I finally wanted a dream house. After 25 years of work I had earned the right to build it.  A nice green gated complex , close to the main road but tucked away  from the hustle & bustle of the city. Not very crowded but a good community with excellent amenities & security .  And it was sheer luck that we chanced on a property like this.

In 2012 as we were aboard “The Palace on Wheels” a Broker called my friend with a great opportunity to invest in the Pre -launch of a project that met most of the above criteria. And thats how we invested in Prestige Mayberry – a lovely complex of 180 Villas spread across 25 acres in Whitefield near Hope Farm Junction. Prestige delivered on time ( a 6 month delay does not count in todays world where projects are delayed by 5 – 6 years) and price and we took possession in 2016 Sep.

Then came the dilemma of doing the Interiors – I had a very clear idea on what I wanted. But there were too many options and the price quoted varied from 40 Lacs to 10 Lacs. Getting interiors done is a complex job – its tougher than buying a house. Do you go with a Big established guys with German / Italian credentials  who will charge a hefty premium or choose one of the hundreds who will start calling you once your house is ready. Do you fall for the beautiful looking factory finish modular stuff or the proven and tested carpenter who may lack on finish and aesthetics but delivers solid stuff. The options for Ply, Veneer, Paints, Hinges, Handles  are all so many that its very easy to get confused. A good Carpenter is an asset but you will need a good Architect also  – and here are a few simple guidelines to choosing one

  • Look for Experience – Minimum 10 Projects, Talk to the clients with who they have done the work – don’t just see the photos
  • Check their contacts not just with Carpenters but with Plumbers, Civil Artisans , Electricians , Painters etc – in a 30 Lac project the woodwork will only be 50%
  • The Kitchen is complex – strongly suggest you go with an experienced Branded player for that even if the costs are higher
  • Discuss the Business Model – who is paying the vendor their bills , how are you avoiding double taxation , are the vendors insisting on Cash or are they OK with Cheques

Remember – you can have a very clear idea on what you want – but getting it executed is a big challenge. If you want a dream house you need to invest time. From Koramangla to Whitefield is a 90 min one way drive – we did that twice a week for almost 6 months. We loaded tiles and granite and bricks in our Innova and visited numerous markets & stores multiple times. After a lot of time , effort and money and a 2 month project delay – I think I  finally got 80% of what I had in mind. The Architect. the Carpenters and all the other vendors where very supportive all through the journey – and its thanks to their commitment and dedicated effort this project has finally happened. Its a great learning.  

So what is Unique about this House 

This is not a normal house  – its a bright energised space. A 2400 Sft Villa across two levels – its ideal for a couple or a small family. Its perfect if you are a Spiritual Seeker , a Vipassna Meditator, a Yoga Practitioner or an Isha follower. With a house like this you don’t need to hunt for an offbeat retreat – you can find the peace and quiet you seek right here in Bangalore. Our house warming reflected this spirit – we had no priests , just a few of us spending an hr doing Om Chanting , Gayatri Mantra , Guru Mantra, Trataka and a few melodious chants.

A Large Master bedroom opening to a spacious balcony, a lovely study room and a family space is what we have  in the 1st floor.

The Ground floor  has a beautiful and serene meditation room , a large bright sunny fully equipped kitchen with Microwave , Grill , Dishwasher and the Dining and Living space that opens to the garden.

 

 

The Villa comes with 3 Bathrooms (2 Attached) and a small garden where a gardner is already tending to Mango, Pomegranate , Guava , Papaya trees and a host of flowering plants. You have space to park two cars. the visitor Car park is also very close to our Villa

The Villa Number 27 is a special number –  it Totals to 9.

The painting , pictures and the artefacts in the house make it bright and energetic – and you will sense it when you enter the house. A semi furnished house – its ready with almost everything AC’s, Storage , Crockery Units, Shoe Racks , even a Gas Cylinder and clothes line. All that you need is your Bed, Sofa, Dining table  and Refrigerator. (That can also be organised for the tenant if required) – and you have 24 by 7 power and water.

Whats Unique about Prestige Mayberry 

Its not cluttered, Its rare to find in Bangalore today a Builder developing a 25 acre property with only 180 Villas leaving so much greenery all around. The Club House is fabulous – a beautiful large pool , Squash Courts , Two Badminton Courts , A well equipped Gym and a lot more. The design and quality of the clubhouse like in any Prestige Property is 5 Star.

And its so close to everything – just 200 m from the Main Whitefield Road , Hope Farm Junction is a stones throw away. The 3 Malls at Whitefield are easily accessible, Hospitals , Shops, Temples , Churches, Restaurants – all at close proximity . ITPL and the main Business District of Whitefield is less than 2 Km. And the Whitefield Police Station is round the corner. A professional Cricket Coaching centre is right behind the property. The best of International School on Varthur Road is a 20 min drive.

With all this it just amazes me that a 3BHK flat in a 15 year old complex in crowded and messed up Koramangla demands the same rent as this beautiful Villa in Whitefield !

And this lovely place is available on Rent  – given that we have spent so much passion in getting this house ready we will be picky in choosing our Tenant but for the right person we will be very flexible on Rent.

So if you are Pure Veg, A Spiritual Person , A Small Family or a Couple  – do reach out to us at

+ 91 98452 18532 ( Whats App or Message Only)

vak_1969@yahoo.com

Few More Photos of the Place 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sports Club adjacent to Mayberry 

The Sports Club adjacent to Mayberry 

 

 

Recharge & Connect in 48 hrs @ Isha Yoga Coimbatore

14 Jun

Some say that we are at the end of bad times (Kali Yuga) and the new cycle is on the verge of starting. I don’t know if this is true – but if you visit the Isha Yoga centre in the suburbs of Coimbatore for a few days you will start experiencing a unique feeling – it feels like you are in a world of peace and harmony , it feel like you are in Sat Yuga. 

After my Inner Engineering program in 2011 I had visited the Ashram in 2012 – that time there was a lot of ongoing construction . I visited a second time last week ( June 2017) with a few friends and did not want to come back. If I have to describe the Ashram in 3 words  it would be Energy , Peace & Nature. Sadhguru is not a normal guru and the Isha Ashram is very different from the other Ashrams I have visited.

Let me try and explain and set the contours for you to plan a visit. And please do visit – if I have a choice of going to Goa for two nights or to the Isha Yoga Ashram – I would without a second thought choose the Isha Yoga Ashram. There is a lot to see and do and  a sense of deep satisfaction at the end. And you leave knowing that you will be back very soon.

Reaching Isha Yoga 

Located in the suburbs of Coimbatore its about 380 Km from Bangalore , we left Koramangla at 5.30 AM and reached the Ashram by 1 PM after two breaks for breakfast and lunch. The road is excellent and the FastTag  helped us avoid the Q’s at the Toll gates. Choke points are in Salem and Avinashi Road Coimbatore – rest of the journey you can zip at 100 + km / hr . We stopped for breakfast at Krishnagiri and lunch at Annapoorna Gowrishanker (Avinashi Road – immediately after Le Meridian). After you cross Coimbatore city you drive for almost 40 Kms thru excellent Village roads and reach the foothills of the verdant Velangiri Hills. ( Trust Google Maps it gets you to your destination correctly)

Stay at Isha Yoga

They have excellent rooms at the Ashram – you need to book in advance. Room rates are Rs 1300/- per day that includes pure veg Lunch and Dinner at the Ashram. Excellent, nourishing, healthy food. Its a sit down meal. Lunch is served at 10 AM and Dinner at 7 PM. Book  well in advance – on any day there are well over 300 people attending the different programs at the Centre. The place is buzzing with energy. Everything is managed by volunteers and it is done with efficiency that will put the largest of corporates to shame.

In between if you want some snacks or Tea (I would say avoid if possible) you can visit the lovely Pepper Vine eatery that opens at 830 AM and serves a wide variety of snacks , juices , fruits – all at very reasonable prices. For those who want a early morning cup of coffee you need to walk to the main gate – the restaurant there opens by 6.30 AM.

How to plan your day 

You have the choice of starting your day at 4.30 AM with the soothing chants of Nirvana Shatakam and Guru Paduka Stotram. After a shower we headed to the large open platform near the SuryaKund that faces the Lily Pond , Dhyana Linga and Linga Bhairavi Temple. This is the perfect place to do your morning Yoga and Kriyas.

At 6 AM we headed to the Dhyana Linga ( it opens at 6 AM) – we were lucky to be there during the Full Moon and were amongst the first to do the Milk Abhishekam.  The best time to visit the Dhyana Linga is at 6 AM in the morning or late evening. Rest of the day it gets very crowded – avoid weekends when the crowds are bustling.

The Dhyana Linga is a highly energised space for meditation. The sole purpose of Sadhguru’s life was to create and consecrate the Dhyana Linga something he has been trying for the last few lifetimes. (For the full story on Sadhguru and his journey of building the Dhyana Linga read Sadhguru: More than a Life by Arundhati Subramaniam)

 

We were lucky not just to be the first to do the Abhishekam but also to do the ” Linga Snanam“. This activity happens at 8 PM the day before the full moon when you can volunteer to wash and clean the Dhyana Linga. Its a rare and unique opportunity and we were blessed to be able to do it.

We have all grown up knowing that the Shiva Linga as being very auspicious and only the select few are allowed to come near it. And hear was a group of volunteers and visitors who were doing what normally only select ordained brahmin priests can do.

After an hr of meditation at the Dhyana Linga we headed to the Linga Bhairavi temple. A powerful sanctum  dedicated to the Goddess. The design and aesthetics of everything in the Isha Ashram is unique and classy and you cannot but stop admiring every walkway , every wall , every stone – the eye for detail is amazing. The walk from the Linga Bhairavi is thru a beautiful green garden and you cross the Sadhana Centre, The Aum Meditation hall and the Chandra Kund before exiting the complex near the entrance of the Dhyana Linga.

 

By now it was 8.30 AM and we stopped by at the cafeteria for a cup of tea and then slowly walked by the verdant green landscape to our room for some rest before heading to the Bhiksha Hall for lunch at 10 AM. The lunch hall closes sharp at 10 AM so be there by 9.55 AM. You can always join the second group at 10.40 AM if you miss the 10 AM slot. The food served here is tasty, nourishing and filling. And after the meal you need a little rest post which we headed for the Aum Meditation.

This is conducted in a small hall near the Chandra Kund as you are walking away from the Linga Bhairavi. A 30 minute session you are initiated to the correct way of chanting AUM. Sadhguru explains in a video the reason why it needs to be chanted in a certain manner and the

benefits of the same. You are advised to do this practise for 40 days twice a day – 15 minutes each. The practise can be done anytime even on a full stomach.

Our next stop was the “Theertha Kund”. Ancient and powerful temples invariably held a sacred water body, where visitors could take a dip before entering the main energy space. This was not only for physical cleansing and freshening, but also to activate and sensitize the energy body of the visitors, to prepare them to fully receive the energies of the space. There are two theerthakunds at the Isha Yoga Center – the Chandrakund for women and Suryakund for men.

Embedded 30 feet below the ground, and approached by a descent of thirty-two massive steps, the Chandrakund is framed by gigantic granite stones and vaulted by a colorful mural depicting the Mahakumbha Mela. Measuring 55 x 15 ft., this exquisite artwork follows the traditional Kerala style of painting dating back to the 15th century, using only natural colors and vegetable dyes.

The Suryakund is larger and measures 130 by 40 feet, and is embedded 22 feet in the earth. It is surrounded on three sides by a wall of 200 massive, 50-ton granite blocks. One major feature of the Suryakund that nobody can miss is the Sun sculpture which hangs from the ceiling. Constructed in just two days, the Surya sculpture is 20 feet across and has been constructed out of brass and copper. The water is energized by the submerged Rasalinga, weighing over 660kgs. A dip in this vibrant water significantly increases spiritual receptivity and also rejuvenates the body.

The Kund is indeed magical – the cold water refreshes end energises you. Its ideal to take a dip at the Kund and then visit the Dhyana Linga but the Kund opens at 7.30 AM and the Dhyana Linga at 6 AM. (Do take a towel with you to the Kund, this is for drying yourself, they give you a towel / robe for women  to wear while entering the holy water space), you can leave your valuables in a locker.

Post our dip in the Kund we again went back to the Dhyana Linga for an hrs meditation and the on the way out stopped by the Cafeteria and Isha Shoppe. The Shoppe has a wonderful collection of items – dresses , artefacts etc – budget at least an hr to browse thru all the items at the store.

A glass of lemonade and then we headed to the grand Adiyogi statue that is a 10 min walk . Its massive and the area is so windy – the whole experience is breathtakingly beautiful. We were lucky that there was hardly any crowd and we had the place to ourselves. Its best to come here in the evenings or in the morning when its not very sunny.

As we headed back to the room we were able to witness another rare spectacle  – the Linga Bhairavi Procession that happens on every full moon night. A high energy spectacle of Drums , Dance , Fire with the procession of the Linga Bhairavi and the Aarti in the open space near the Nandi. Try and visit the Ashram doing the New Moon or Full Moon time – then you can get to see these rare ceremonies.

The day ended with an outdoor dinner near the Nalanda Cottage. Another unique experience eating a tasty piping hot meals in the darkness below the cloudy sky with the dark hills looming in the background keeping a watch.

Between the two days we also attended the evening Satsang at 5.30 PM in the Sadhana Hall. (If Sadhguru is in the Ashram he conducts it in person – with his travel schedule thats rare) and managed a short visit to the Isha Rejuvenation centre for a Massage. While here do get a pack of the Snana Powder – its a great body wash.

An important thing you will observe all through the Ashram is the connect with Snakes. They are everywhere – right from the entrance , the Lily pond, even the knobs in the room are designed like snakes.

You can even buy a copper / silver snake shaped ring. Sadhguru has a strong connect with snakes – and we all know of the connect that Shiva has with Snakes. Wonder what this means.

Isha Yoga centre is about Hatha Yoga in its pure form and meditation techniques to connect with your inner self. This is a  place of Yoga and Karma – people at the Ashram are dedicated and work hard. This is not a place where you will find lectures on Vedanta and Gita.

The two days we spent flew by and it was wonderful to have the company of two wonderful people – company does make a difference, when you visit an Ashram like this find people who are not garrulous and can absorb the energy of the place. The trip was perfect from start to end – and we owe it all to the blessing and grace of Sadhguru.

Running an Ashram like this day after day, catering to large crowds and managing everything so efficiently is remarkable and hats off to the administrators and the band of volunteers who make this happen and create this amazing experience for us.

 

Most of the Photos are from the Public Domain space and not shot by me. Photography is prohibited in most places inside the Ashram.

For more details visit the Isha Blog

http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/lifestyle/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-isha-yoga-center-and-more/

 

 

MBA Gold Medalist searching for a job in Booming Indian economy !

5 Jun

The title sounds contrarian doesn’t it. The worlds fastest growing economy , stock markets at an all time high , positive spirits all around – and yet the job market for the youngsters seems to be spiralling downwards rapidly.

In this Blog I am going to try and connect the dots between 3 things

  • The economy – Job Readiness and availability
  • The need for young entrepreneurs for self employment.
  • A few radical solutions for generating employment and settling the restless youth

I have and continue to be an ardent admirer and supporter of this government and PM Modi. Its our last hope and the string of economic reforms, interest cuts, demonetisation, new initiatives have all been exciting – if all of this doesn’t get the economy and jobs pumping – what will, I wonder. Or is there a lag between policy and change on the ground – if so whats the gap. This gap better be bridged fast – well before 2019 or the backlash from the youth voters could be very very strong.

Let me share with you a few recent incidents of the last few weeks. These are real life incidents.

Case – 1 : A very bright young girl  who has been a topper in her Under Grad and Post Grad Science programs goes on to do a MBA in HR from the Premier Management Institute – Fore School of Management Delhi (Ranked in the top 20 in the country), Is a Gold medalist in her MBA class – there are Zero campus placements for HR and she is actively hunting for a break.

 

Case – 2 : I was at the JetKing centre at Calcutta. JetKing is the country’s premier Skill development institute. I met a M Tech student who after 6 years in a premium engineering institute, with excellent grades at the age of 25 had enrolled with JetKing for a 1 year program hoping to get a job that would pay him a salary of 10 – 15 K ./ Month. JetKing graduates have great hands on skills in IT, Networking, Digital technologies – and he was lured by the thousands of engineering graduates who had managed to get a job after enrolling with JetKing. He was happy to settle even for a 10 – 15 K / month salary. (Thats comparable to what a Swiggy delivery boy earns and way less than what an Uber driver earns)

Case – 3 : While at Cal I caught up with a very bright young person who used to work as a free lance trainer in my extended team some time back. He was one of the best – sharp, intelligent , excellent attitude – an engineer with a few years experience, excellent communication skills. he took a break 6 months back and is now struggling to get a job. He says there are just no open jobs in Sales or Training. Attrition levels are almost zero and for all the tall claims we see nobody is really expanding the physical sales force – with a fast growing commerce market and everything including Training becoming Virtual and online.

We hear that 90% of Indian Grads are not ready for the Industry – but these 3 people mentioned above are in the 10% of very capable and competent people , Good technical skills , good communication ability , IQ levels well above average , excellent attitude – yet they struggle for a job in the worlds fastest growing economy.

Case – 4 : After these 3 challenging situations I saw a very different scenario when I met my daughters Chemistry teacher. Surya is in his early 30’s  – an engineering graduate from Vishakapatnam Andhra University in 2005. Surya is one of the most sought after Chemistry tutors for class 11 – 12 in Bangalore. He visits the children at their house ( so they save a lot of travel time) – has a group of 5 – 6 students , takes long sessions of 3 hrs at a stretch and charges a princely sum of Rs 500 / student / hr. Compare this with the Rs 100 a month I used to pay 30 years back to a REC Durgapur Phd professor. But nobody is complaining – he is doing a great job , the students love him , the parents are happy that he comes home. Its a Win Win.

If Surya had joined Wipro or Infosys like most of his peers did 12 years back he would probably have been one of the thousands who were getting laid off – but thanks to his spirit of entrepreneurship Surya now makes more than 5 Lacs a month and the best part is – his day starts at 430 PM after school – he has the full day to himself.

There are many Surya’s out there who have ventured out to be self employed professionals and these are the people who are standing out in the challenging economy of today. If you are talented and smart – there are enough opportunities out there – but you need to find an avenue where people start running after you Vs you running after companies for jobs.

The meltdown of the eCommerce market has dried up whatever few job openings were coming. There is a blood bath in the IT industry and what we have seen is the tip of the iceberg – this will gain momentum as the crisis deepens.

However there is hope – there are 12 massive disruptions around the corner , the 4th industrial revolution is at our doorstep and can create colossal changes.

The next set of Wipro’s and Infosys will emerge in the coming years and the old order will change yielding place to the new.

These technologies are rapidly moving from the lab to touch the common may in their day to day lives… but there is still time for this massive change to integrate and drive the economy. The impact of this will not be visible to the millions of unemployed Indian youth before 2019. To them the Digital world is just a Smart Phone with an App on which you can transfer money or watch a Video.

I have one suggestion to PM Modi – like the demonetisation move it may sound tough and harsh – but thats the fastest way to get the employment engine going.

So here is what I propose

Pass a legislation to make the retirement age in companies Pvt & Public to be 50 years. People who have worked for 25 – 30 years are specialists in their area – they have savings , most have a Pension to fall back upon – and now they are the best equipped to take their expertise and become entrepreneurs. If they are pushed they will do it – and they will have a better chance of success than a raw 20 year old. This move will open up millions of jobs in months , it will reive the consumption economy as billions locked up in PF accounts will now become liquid in the hands of those retiring at the age of 50.

This may be the easiest and fastest way to get the young and restless gainfully employed and to rev up the economy to faster levels.

There is a second option – Universal Basic income 

The next best option is to do a Universal Basic Income – dismantle the subsidy income and deposit 15,000 Rs / month to every Adult who has a bank account. I recently read that the cost of  subsidy and its administration is comparable to giving every adult a 15,000 Universal Basic Income in this country. So the Govt doesn’t lose money, eliminates corruption and the middleman in one go.

Yes PM Modi promised 15 lac in all our accounts – he may as well make a start with 15,000 / month in our accounts from 2018.

Who knows this may very well happen – lets pray for the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in Havelock – Andaman Holidays

3 May

April is our holiday season. Over the years we have had wonderful holidays across Bali, Krabi, Cambodia, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and many more exotic locations. Each one has been memorable and we felt like staying on and on ….. However, this year was different.

Driven by my daughter’s desire to go Scuba diving we decided on the Andaman’s. Scuba Diving seems to be the latest passion of teenagers and it’s an expensive hobby – the problem is it’s difficult to find a good safe agency and a clean sea with a lot of divining spots. After weeks of searching we finally zoomed in on Barefoot Holidays and Havelock.

Why Havelock? It’s the best place for diving in India – Pristine clean waters, over 2 dozen diving spots in close proximity, a wealth of reef and oceanic life.  You can dive for almost 10 months a year though the best season is from Feb to April when sea conditions are best.  I was also driven by Modis push for nationalism and felt it best to promote the Indian economy with my tourism $$.

Why Barefoot? Of all the Scuba agencies I called in Bangalore they responded the best. I had good references on people who had used them. It’s for the Pro’s – so if you are on a discover Scuba mission you have enough options – but my daughter wanted her PADI certification so we decided to go with the best. Barefoot Scuba divers are passionate and well trained – almost all are Dive Masters with 500 – 5000 dives under their belt. Their infrastructure, safety records are the best. They have good equipment, reliable boats and the Barefoot Scuba resort is bang on beach no 3 with sea facing rooms. Yes, they are expensive – and a 4 day Open water PADI Certification course will cost you 24,000 + Stay / Food ….. (Cheaper options are Dive India & Bubbles). Add to this they also have a transit service apartment in Andaman called ” the Nest” and take care of all your travel in the Andaman’s (Pick up , Ferry etc)

So why am I not very thrilled? The Andaman’s are difficult to get to (Bangalore – Chennai – Port Blair by Flight and then a Ferry to Havelock) – there is no Wi Fi in most hotels / restaurants in Havelock and the network connection is very very poor – there is not much to see – hardly any entertainment – and its expensive – the service is functional and basic, hotels in Havelock have no TV or newspapers – natural beauty is OK nothing spectacular – Check out is at 7 AM – the hotels are decent but not WOW. Add to this the energy of the place is a bit dull and listless – there is some sadness in this place – the minute you land at the airport you can sense that something is missing and that feeling carried thru the trip.

Maybe this is because of the history. This is where the British incarcerated our political prisoners. Torture and treatment meted out to them is comparable to what the Jews suffered in the Nazi camps. Thousands were hanged. Things got worse during the brief occupancy by the Japanese during World War 2. Havelock was not inhabited till the early 50’s and the Indian Govt made this the home for shiploads of refugees from Burma and Bangladesh.

The population in Port Blair is 30% Bengalis and 30% Tamil with the rest from Andhra, Jharkand, Bihar, Panjab etc. Havelock is almost all Bengalis. The whole population in Havelock is now catering to Tourists – agriculture has come to an end and surprisingly we did not see any cows, goats, birds – just a lot of cats. I wonder what that signifies? Yogi Adityanath would have surely said – with no cows there is no positive vibration in Havelock. The Bengalis who are everywhere are good people – but they seem to be engrossed in deep sorrow. Speed, efficiency and a courteous smile is not their natural trait

Day – 1

We landed at Port Blair in the afternoon at 2. Barefoot has a service apartment with 4 rooms “The Nest” that is 5 minutes from the airport. Its decent and homely and was perfect for our transit stop.

In the evening we visited the Cellular Jail – a very well maintained piece of history where you learn that there is a lot more to India’s freedom struggle beyond Gandhi & Nehru. This is where Veer Savarkar and countless others bore the brunt of British cruelty. The light & Sound show at the Cellular jail is good – the story of the Cellular Jail is narrated by an old tree that has seen it all over the years. This is a must visit for every patriotic Indian. However, my friend recommended the Light & Sound show at Ross Island – which is a ferry ride away – that is supposedly even better.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at a beautiful roof top restaurant “SeaShells” with a school buddy I am meeting after 29 years. As we were discussing history and Andaman’s with the children we all agreed that the history that is represented in our school books is very different from what actually happened. Whether it is the contribution of the Cholas or the thousands of freedom fighters and their struggle in places like “ Kala Pani” – our school history does not do justice to what really happened.

Day – 2

We visit the Chatham Saw Mill and a Govt Aquarium (Budget less than 30 min for each) and were back at The Nest for lunch before departing by a private Ferry to Havelock. The private Ferry Service “Makruzz”  costs Rs 1000/- one way – while the Govt ferry is Rs 435). The ferry takes about 2 hrs – they serve snacks on board (Got to pay for it – Sandwiches / Tea / Brownies etc). The service is good.

At Havelock the Barefoot guys were there to receive us. The service from Barefoot was exceptional. It’s part of the Café Coffe Day group and Netaji the manager at Port Blair who was coordinating for us did an outstanding job.

Barefoot has two properties at Havelock – the main property called Barefoot Havelock is an Eco Retreat on the world famous Radha Nagar beach tucked inside a woody rainforest. They have 31 elegantly designed thatch huts, cottages & villas. The other property where we were headed is called Barefoot Scuba – this is the place for Scuba Diving. It’s on Village no 3 near the Jetty and the main market. A few cottages and the rest are shacks. Great food and good service. This is where the hard core divers stay for weeks and months.  The rooms are a stones throw away from the beach. This beach has azure blue water and sand as fine as powder – but the beach is narrow and not a shade to the one at Radha Nagar.

Day 3 to Day 6

My daughter was busy with her PADI certification. Day – 1 was theory and passing an exam, Day – 2 was confined water divining and Day 3 & 4 were the deep sea diving. She enjoyed it and says that the experience was unique. This was her 16th birthday gift and I am hoping she will carry memories of this all her life.

My little one and me had a tough time spending our days. Other than Scuba Diving and Sea Food there is not much to do at Havelock. The Radha Nagar beach is awesome and we went there almost every day.

 

A second beach called Kala Pathar is OK. The place for touristy activity is Elephant Beach – a 30 min ferry or a 1.5 km trek. We took the Trek that was more adventurous, thru thick forests and some wading thru knee deep water (The Crocs and Anacondas were having an off day)

The ferry costs 700 Rs round trip while the Trek guide charges you Rs 400). You can do Snorkelling , Banana Boat and Sea Walking here. If you have been to S East Asia and Phi Phi island you will be disappointed – there is hardly anything to see in the waters here. Rides are expensive (Rs 500 each for a 5 min ride and the sea walk is a whopping Rs 3500 / person, It’s better to do you jet Skiing at Port Blair)

Kayaking, sailing etc seem to be options on paper but we were told that Sailing has been closed down. Clearly this is one island which has a lot of potential but the authorities don’t want it to get more commercial. The recent liquor ban and a threat to ban diving from May 1st was surprising. A Taj property is opening soon and that may drive some high end tourists.

We tried a bunch of restaurants – all of them stone’s throw from our resort. “Anju Coco” was great – awesome food and service. We wanted to visit “Something Different” – but a last minute panic of a strike in Havelock against a possible diving ban from may 1st made us prepone our return and we missed going here.

Autos & cars n Havelock and Port Blair go point to point – so a short 30 min to and fro ride from our resort to Radha Nagar Beach costs Rs 800/-. Most Tourists are couples and backpackers and they rent two wheelers for Rs 400 / day. Liquor is banned in Havelock (The main Barefoot property has a bar – but most other places the bar is closed). No entertainment in the evening – so you are very much done by 830 PM and go to sleep by 9. Carry books, board games – things to keep you occupied if you are travelling with Kids.

The sun rises early – we are on IST but almost halfway to Thailand. So by 5.30 AM it feels like 8 AM in Bangalore. It’s a cash economy – so ensure that you carry lots of cash. There are two ATM’s in Havelock near the jetty. The small Village market has all that you need including a stationery and pharma store.

After 4 days of completing her certification successfully we headed back to Port Blair. The capital is a busy town and a lots of tourists use this as their hub to visit the islands nearby. Barren islands the only active volcano of India is in the Andaman’s and can be visited on a day trip. Lots of options for diving, water sports exist in and around Andaman’s – but we did not explore.

On the way back we had 24 hrs at Port Blair – again staying at The Nest. We managed to visit the Anthropology Museum, the Science Museum, The Naval Museum and a few art stores (Lots of lovely shells to buy at affordable prices). We stopped by at the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram which is located right next to the sea.

We discovered Annapurna – Pure Veg South Indian restaurant and after 5 days gorged on Idlis, Dosas and Sambar (Sadly no curd rice was available). The ITC Fortune hotel is close by to “The Nest” and we had lunch there – nice place with an excellent sea view. Other good hotels in Port Blair are Peerless Inn & Sinclair’s.

By the time it was time to leave we had started liking the place. It’s different – don’t expect Goa here. The place has its own rhythm and it takes a few days to get acclimatised. Weather in April end was warm but manageable – best time to travel is Jan – Feb (Nov – Dec the North East Monsoon may cause disruptions)

I may not come back here again– but there are 3 Things that make it worth a visit

  • Diving in Pristine Waters
  • Cellular Jail
  • And some beautiful beaches with soft white sand and azure blue waters….

So go for it!

 

 

 

Journey of Souls – Book Review

8 Apr

Most people are scared of death – some are inquisitive of life after death. I belong to the latter group. From our childhood we have heard so much about heaven and hell – its as if there were two big mansions up there in the sky – one which was full of gardens and fairies and everlasting happiness and the other where they tortured  you and dropped you in cauldrons of boiling oil.

Spirituality, Materialism, Energy, Infinity, Supreme Power, Life , Death, Purpose …. how do you connect the dots with all these interesting but deep subjects ? Read the book “Journey of Souls” by Michael Newton.

 

This amazing book reveals the hidden mysteries of life in the spirit world after death on earth. Dr. Michael Newton, a hypnotherapist in private practice, has developed his own hypnosis technique to reach his subjects’ hidden memories.

The book is a real life log of his sessions with  twenty-nine people who were placed in a state of superconsciousness. While in deep hypnosis, these subjects movingly describe what has happened to them between their former reincarnations on earth. They reveal graphic details about how it feels to die, who meets us right after death, what the spirit world is really like, where we go and what we do as souls, and why we choose to come back in certain bodies.

 

What the book can educate you on 

  • How it feels to die
  • What you see and feel right after death
  • The truth about “spiritual guides”
  • What happens to “disturbed” souls
  • Why you are assigned to certain soul groups in the spirit world and what you do there
  • How you choose another body to return to Earth
  • The different levels of souls: beginning, intermediate, and advanced
  • When and where you first learn to recognize soulmates on Earth
  • The purpose of life

So Why read the book

It will remove the fear of death. The book explains that after Death you will go to a beautiful place where you are loved , nurtured , taken care of , healed and then you decide when and where to come back in a physical form. There is no hell , there is no boiling Cauldrons.

You will realise that the time you spend on Earth is a learning curve , you are sent here to work on your weakness and help your soul advance in its journey to immortality. A learning that there is a purpose for this life. You were born in a family and with a set of friends as per your choice to change yourself. Soulmates come at pre defined times to help you in the journey. They try to help you – but its up to you to decide whether you want to change or not. Some people adapt and change and progress – while others resist change and the journey for them is longer.

 

As you evolve the colour of your soul changes. The highly advanced sages and masters who guide other souls are Blue & Purple in colour while the beginners are white. (I have heard Sri M talk about how when life ceases he can see a white wisp of smoke emerge from the body and move on) – less than 1% of souls are in the Advanced + category

You will start understanding the concept of energy and infinity and time better. A Soul can choose to be in any Planet, Galaxy or Universe, or Astral plane – there are numerous points in space where life forms or energy forms exist. Souls can recollect their previous lives thousands of years back  – the concept of earth years is just a flash of a second in this infinite universe.

After reading Journey of Souls, you will gain a better understanding of the immortality of the human soul. You will meet day-to-day challenges with a greater sense of purpose. You will begin to understand the reasons behind events in your own life.

Journey of Souls is a life-changing book. I found the initial section very interesting , it was a tad boring in the middle but the last few chapters that talk about Life Selection and Choosing a New Body is fascinating.