Dunagiri – The Land of Mysterious Mountains

On a recent trip we went to Dunagiri  (also called Drongiri and Doonagiri) to a place called Dunagiri Retreat which is at an astounding height of 8,000 feet surrounded by lush forest overlooking scenic snow peaks. Its situated 400 km North of Delhi,  and it takes about 10-11 hours to reach.

The retreat offers organic vegetarian food, fireside dining, inspiring walks and treks to the nearby mountains, and modern bathroom facilities in the middle of nowhere. It truly is an amazing location, with a beautiful view.

When we met the owner of the retreat, it was revealed to us that the place was famous for its temple of Shakti known there as Dunagiri Devi. Apparently, this location is where “Bharat”,  the son of Shakuntala, was born. The mountains were said to have special energy.

In one of our conversations with the owner, we shared that almost every night we randomly woke up between 3 and 4 AM, which he found to be normal since that was the time “Mata ki chowki” landed on the adjacent mountains.  On one of two days I spent there, I even stumbled upon a medium-sized snake, and when we shared this with the owner, to my surprise he found it rather odd. Why? Because he has been living there for years and never once saw a snake in his campus. Weird, right?

Here are a few pictures from my trip. (all self clicked, some edited via snapseed app)

I got really tired after a trek
Dunagiri retreat
A common sight, clouds envelope the mountains

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China: All Work No Play?

I’m not going to lie. I’m biased towards China. The country where I learnt my first foreign language is truly my second home. It’s no surprise that China is one of the top most frequently visited destinations among travelers either for work or pleasure. The country offers everything- exotic locations to never-heard-before delicious cuisine.

Studying in China I assumed there were more Russians but according to the latest Expat Insider 2014 – the InterNations Survey, you’ll find more Americans, Germans and British people as compared to any other nationality.

While the language remains a huge barrier, except some of the locations where the number of expats is high, the rest of China is either reluctant to accept foreigners or it simply does not want anything to do with them. I don’t entirely blame them, there have been a number of cases where rowdy expats have upset the locals or when, in contrast, fanatic Chinese natives find it extremely hard to adjust to “aliens”. So, it’s not shocking that China falls in 52nd place out of 60 when it comes to judging it on the basis of “Ease of settling” into the country.

When it comes to cost of living, China isn’t so bad. This fact in itself is reason enough as to why many expats decide to move here in the first place. But because of factors like “family life” and “quality of life”, China finds itself on the 38th position out of 61 in the overall index ranking. Not everyone has a fairytale love story like Sara Jaaksola.

To be able to find love in China, get married, gel with the in-laws seems tough- all thanks to respective cultures which stand poles apart. My best friend from Beijing, a Hungarian who recently married a Chinese, is proof enough to conclude- your nationality or not, a mother-in-law stays a mother-in-law.

If you find the numbers I mentioned in this article interesting, do find time to check out the rest of the InterNation Survey 2014.

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image source: flickr/sunlightfoundation

4 reasons why you should bust your a## in a start-up!

When working in a start-up, you’re not just a part of the company, you’re also building it. Your list of responsibilities never end and neither do your meetings. Your boss is never satisfied, even though you put in 3 Saturdays a month. Startups are all about… well, more.

Its been 6 months since I joined Credihealth, and it has been such an adventure! Our team is consistently growing and so am I in my work. There is just so much to go around. Here is a list of what it feels like working in a start-up.

1. It’s risky (and then some whisky)

Its not news that startups are all about risks and experiments, especially if you’re trying to incorporate something as new as a healthcare portal functional in more than one city in the first year of establishment. All this and more being done simultaneously in a country where a concept like this is completely new.

Every day is new, every day we experiment and move forward trying out new methods, old methods, anything that’ll work for us. Needless to say, at the end of the day, whisky is a good friend to get us through this chaotic journey.

2. Think, think, think.

The more ideas you have, the more valuable you are to the company.

The more you think, the more ideas you have, the more you share these with your boss, the more he is bound to value you. Of course the quality of these ideas must be ranging between very good and brilliant. This requires a lot of brainstorming- be it while taking a shower or meeting new people at a party.

The company is a baby, more like your baby and it needs a lot from you. Your time and also your brain.

3. Start-up = A lot of learning

Because you’re constantly coming up with new plans, using the hit-and-trial method, you end up learning a lot. It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, trying new things ends up teaching you more than a traditional company would.

4. Startups give you room to blossom

A traditional working environment ends up shaping you, but in the case of a start-up its the other way around. Because you’re shaping everything else in the company, you also end up shaping the working environment. The company grows around your work, letting you be more you.

Image source: Sean MacEntee/Flikr

2015: All About Your Social Profile

Back in 2014, how did I get my job as a content developer? Not my graduate degree, not even my super oriental Diploma – but the blog that I starting writing while studying (and traveling) in China got me a job.

Living in the internet-era, it has become increasingly important for a person to have a social media standing. For example, a friend of mine graduated in a journalism course and it turns out the first few questions her boss asked her whether she was on LinkedIn and if she had an active Twitter profile.

Surprising right?

Today, YouTubers have a career earning much more than what they could have with their degrees. Take for instance, Jenna Marbles who fake cries every now and then with her degree wrapped around her arms, all in good humour. With millions of subscribers and fans all over the world, Jenna Marbles is doing more than great. All thanks to YouTube.

Similarly, other YouTube celebs like Superwoman, JusReign, Ray William Johnson have made a brand out of themselves. Each one unique, bringing their own charm in front of the camera, mostly from the comforts of their homes. These social profiles not just on YouTube, but also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram- People can not get enough of people.

Jennyandteets2 aka Jason Bigg’s wife is keeping me busy laughing every now and then with her IG posts of her newborn- absolutely hilarious.She even recorded herself in labour- in the hospital- about the deliver. Now she’s happily breastfeeding and joking about her new parenting ways.

There’s one other person in this list who made it big for themselves, all thanks to her ever growing subscribers and fans, and again, from all over the world. Michelle Phan. With millions of fans and hundreds of make-up tutorial videos in her bag, she went for her dreams and started her own make-up line. Now, that’s brilliant. Bringing us back to- Social Profile. 

I started blogging out of sheer attempt to just get my opinion out there- somewhere in the matrix of the massive virtual world of the internet.

After sticking to blogging a bit more regularly, and finding myself in the middle of an alien community in Beijing, I slowly saw the impact my articles have made in building my own profile internationally. This community isn’t confined to blogs- it stretches out to all social media giants. This connectivity makes it even more exciting because it leaves the possibilities endless.

Swinging from writing travel logs to international relations to philosophical existence, I’m enjoying writing more than ever before.

5 Major Social Media Impacts In 2014

Recently Facebook completed 10 years of its existence.

Believe it or not, 10 years have gone by since you set up our Facebook profiles, filling them up with personal pictures and videos. Amidst the infinite internet matrix, seems like everyone has found a place where they can speak their minds- be it through this social networking site, or any other- like Twitter, YouTube or even Instagram. With the whole world engaged, it was inevitable that companies, small or big, started showcasing as well as promoting their products through these Social Media Giants.

Ultimately speaking, Social Media has now turned into a platform where the active display of personal interests is used as an advantage by start-ups to well-established companies to directly get to its customers.

#1 High Social Profile Government… Really?

Not just shopping but in Politics as well, Social Media is becoming an important direct communication medium with the public and the Indian politicians are beginning to understand this.
Not so long ago, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram connected with the public through not only Facebook or Twitter, but also Google+ Hangouts. While some are keeping up with this trend like Modi who has about 2.3 million Twitter followers with 4.4 million Facebook ‘likes’, others like the Gandhis seem reticent.

#2 I Know Where Bipasha Basu Partied Last Night!

Like never experienced before, you can now get a quick news update through a tweet or your newsfeed. Celebrities have found a way through Social media to connect to fans and maintain public relations.
Be it an occasional Instagram post by Madhuri Dixit Nene sharing a moment from behind the scenes of her set, or Nikhil Chinapa updating his fans about his vacation in Cambodia on Facebook, or even just Mumbai celebs stuck in perpetual traffic jams updating their frustration in one line on Twitter, one can’t complain about how Social Media is bringing the world virtually closer.

#3 Hello Online Shopping!

I can now find several Facebook ‘pages’ selling everything from jewel accessories, gorgeous saris to even properties. Shopping portals such as Jabong or Flipcart are constantly promoting themselves through social giants like Facebook only to end up attracting hundreds, if not thousands of customers every day. Though a relatively slow pick, Indians are now happily logging in to shop.

#4 Display Your Opinion: It Matters

Our friend Facebook thinks fast. Just before the largest democracy voting, Facebook launched it’s “I voted” check-in. All of the sudden there was the need to share your finger selfie, showing your support and interest in your country’s future.

#5 Resources For Entrepreneurs

Crowd sourcing is now a major way to receive funding for your startup, through social media. Enough said.
Another Social Media giant is YouTube which has been around relatively longer than Facebook but somehow stills maintains its importance and individualistic approach to social networking.
This site is not just used to watch famous saas-bahu serials for Indian television lovers abroad, but YouTube is also being used to upload and share audio-visual projects by students. For instance, a prestigious film university based in London asks its prospective students to display their talent by creating and sharing a video. A scholarship is awarded to the most popular video, i.e., the video with maximum ‘likes’ and comments. Polls and surveys are now easier to conduct as access to the public is more convenient- faster and inexpensive.
People are using this Social medium to demonstrate their skills like singing, playing a musical instrument or even act out a role. In other words, reaching your targeted audience has never been easier.
Be it companies, consumers, customers or students, everyone is enjoying the perks of Social Media and looking forward to what else there is in store for the future.

Take A Seat: China Is Bringing The Future To You

Although according to the economist China says 2014 trade growth may lag last year’s rate, there is so much the Chinese are looking forward to adding to their wow list in 2014.
As part of an ambitious development plan, a new district is being constructed in the city China’s Hunan Province, and its focal point will be a sinuous, Mobius strip-style pedestrian bridge that arcs over Meixi Lake. With a span of 490ft (150metres) and a height of 79ft (24metres), the undulating bridge incorporates a variety of routes at different levels and its looped design also references traditional Chinese knots, which are used in decorative Chinese folk art. Conceived by Amsterdam-based firm Next Architects, the Changsha bridge is one of a number of confirmed and proposed distinctive bridges this year.


More Shopping

SkyMall is mostly a catalog of the utterly useless and completely extravagant that we may pull out of the seat pocket in front of us when we’re cruising at 36,000 feet, out of sheer boredom. And it just so happens that the Chinese are adding fairly low priced cars, at around 100,000 yuan ($16,000) to that list. Although there is a small percentage that does, it’s still rare to buy a car without first taking it for a test drive.
For Chinese consumers, who are just becoming accustomed to the thought of owning personal vehicles, the percentage may be significantly higher.
Particularly interesting is the fact that flight attendants will be educated about the details of each model. Passengers may even qualify for discounts, just for buying in the sky, all to encourage passengers to purchase.

Do the Chinese really eat insects?

This is to answer that one question you always had about the Chinese. Do they really eat insects? Let’s find out.

Even though eating insects is a taboo in most societies, it dates back thousands of years. Not only do the Chinese but a lot of south Asian countries like Korea and Thailand including other parts of the world like North, Central, South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand enjoy ingesting insects.

I come from a culture where we more or less kill insects to protect ourselves and not because we want to eat them. It’s a cultural difference and perspective that’s hard to step away from.

While researching on the consumption of insects or entomophagy, it came to me as a surprise that the main consumers for these creepy guys  are in Thailand and not China. Grasshoppers, centipedes, various bug larvae, silkworms, multiple creepy giant cockroach lookalikes fall into the list of bugs humans consume.

Other unusual food consumed includes seahorses, scorpions, even animal body parts like snakehead soup, duck feet marinated in blood, solidified duck blood, pork lungs, peacock and pig face. Banquet specialties include cow’s lung soaked in chili sauce, goose stomachs, fish lips with celery, goat’s feet tendons in wheat noodles, shark’s stomach soup, chicken-feet soup, monkey’s head, ox forehead, turtle casserole, pigeon brain, deer ligament and snake venom, lily bulbs and deer’s penis… no, no typo, penis.

What came as a bigger shock was that even though people blame the rapid rate of urbanization and industrialization for China’s pollution problems and water shortages, few recognize that meat industries are to be equally blamed. Livestock produces more greenhouse gasses on the planet than all automobiles and other forms of transportation combined.

China’s meat consumption per capita has nearly quadrupled over the past 30 years to an estimated 71 million tons per year. And if China’s meat consumption doesn’t slow down, the environmental consequences could be disastrous.

So is there anything in the world that can gross the Chinese?

Believe it or not, many regard eating cheese or butter as disgusting; they consider eating a plain cooked steak as primitive and unappetizing and find the French custom of eating snails to be strange.

[Images from Flickr][sources: http://factsanddetails.com]