People are excited about #Jantacurfew, a one day #lockdown initiated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister as India’s fight against the #Coronavirus.
While normal people are stocking up based on what is missing in their pantry, there are many who are stocking up based on what has never been in their pantry. A family who never brought more than a kilogram of flour was seen buying four kilograms of it. Suddenly, shopkeepers whose shelves were always flush with stock keeping units, were seeing their wares fly off the shelves. Anything, virtually anything was up for grabs.
Bhelpuri, the quintessential #Mumbai snack was not to be missed on a Sunday evening. This was our only indulgence at the grocery shop.
The cook and household help were unsure of coming over on the day of #Jantacurfew. Switching off to what will turn out to be a turning point in the history of #India.
A final trip to the workplace which was already seeing measures like limited meal varieties, sandwiches and other snacks being removed, even buttermilk & lassi coming off the menu.
Picking up the utilitarian Thermos, found my way out of the workplace and headed home to face uncertain times. No time or opportunity to bid goodbyes.
There was an air of discontent among young associates who were being asked to come to work as they did not possess laptops. The company did not have any means/preparedness to ship desktops to their residences.
All the BCP manuals were practically rendered useless in these times. Emergency response teams were now facing a real life emergency and not a drill like it is always.
Back home, the cook and domestic help were both around but were not sure of their attendance on the #Jantacurfew. Groceries, vegetables, essentials were at hand to deal with a day of complete shutdown.
Working from home #WFH was usually reserved for unusual days – days of continuous calls, a utility service company coming over, someone taking ill, lack of transportation and of course weather.
A few days before the lockdown, had invested in a conference speakerphone to get over the always in ear phones. Tinnitus and loss of hearing was staring in the face and hence the arrangement provided much needed relief.
That set up the Home office really nice and could move around without the wires getting tangled.
Everyone at home getting used to working from within the confines of a 1000 sq ft space. The daughter getting a e-classroom schedule from school portrayed a face of gloom. The wife being a travel professional, thought nature had given her a break after a gruelling season.
We are going through stunning times. Unbelievable that one would have started the month of March planning their summer breaks and here we are, holed up within our homes trying to save our lives.
The attention shifted from #Wuhan to #Japan where the Diamond Princess was anchored to #Singapore as the virus snaked its way across to Europe. Who would have thought that the #Juventus vs #Valencia would be one of the last sporting events in some time to come. #Italy, #Spain, #Germany and many more start reporting aggressive spreads, hospitalization, and finally spiralling death counts.
Indian students, devout and stranded labourers were flown back in to India and quarantined.
19th March should go down as an important day in India’s history. The PM took a bold decision to declare a day of #Jantacurfew on the 22nd of March. This was to be a test bed for what was to come subsequently.
Decisiveness has been a hallmark of Shri. Narendra Modi ever since he took charge in 2014. There is a sense of agility in the way of functioning and it is visible with the way the government re-orients itself with every feedback and suggestion. This is a tremendous achievement for a bureaucracy which has not exactly been a forward looking one.
The preparation for #Jantacurfew and the days to follow was on everyone’s horizon.
Companies were getting their work from home and business continuity plans prepared (dusted off in some cases)
Part 1 saw us driving down from Varanasi to Prayagraj. We visited Kumbh as it drew to a close but nevertheless it did give us a glimpse of what the place would have looked like at its peak. The government of the day at the centre and the state were led by the same political party and hence co-ordination and co-operation were in order. On the second day of our #Kumbh experience, post the Triveni Sangam bathing experience, we planned to explore the Ghats where the space for conducting the #Kumbh was prepared.
Ghats of Prayagraj
An estimated 250 million people (25 crores) would have participated in the Kumbh this year and that is about the entire population of #Indonesia. The entire area covering the Kumbh was estimated to be about 3,200 hectares which is equivalent to 3,200 rugby fields. The Ghats and the main Kumbh area consists of spaces provided to Akharas from across the country. Akharas (Equivalent of Satras in Assam) or a place for the teacher – disciple relationship to flourish. The disciple is usually a religious renunciate and trains on the scriptures.
Citizen Facilitation services
India has seen cleanliness set in to its national consciousness since 2014. The National cleanliness mission has been driven on every available platform and has largely contributed to disease prevention. The drive was at the forefront of Kumbh 2019 as previous Kumbh Mela’s did not pay adequate attention to the sanitation needs of 250 million people. Apart from makeshift toilet grounds, cubicles with privacy were set up for people to change clothes and even for nursing mothers. Safety and cleanliness were reflected in the kind of arrangements that were made.
15,000 sanitation workers to support operations
1,500 volunteers spreading the message of cleanliness
20,000 waste bins with one every 50 metres
20,000 security personnel supported by over 100 police cabins
1000 cameras watching the proceedings and sending them to an integrated command center
A lost and found center for re-uniting children / elderly who have lost their way
Brands in Action
When 250 million people are expected, how can the brands stay away. They found their unique ways to blend in to the atmosphere of the Kumbh and engage with the millions. Nothing seemed like in your face but more became like a discovery.
Beginning with a cup of tea, Fried stuff like bread pakoras and Samosas and even some sprouts to keep the energy going, visitors to the Kumbh can always find a low cost option for themselves and their families so that no one goes hungry. There were also camps which were serving free food for those who could not afford. Fruits were being sold in plenty along with tender coconut water and sugarcane juice.
This Kumbh was one of the most successfully conducted, accident free and clean Kumbh in living memory. The Prime Minister made it a point to honor the sanitation workers who played a key role in ensuring a clean and disease free Kumbh. As it is emphasized, cleanliness is equal to godliness.
The next Kumbh Mela is scheduled to be held in 2022 in the holy city of Haridwar in the state of Uttarakhand. Any Kumbh is a once in a life time opportunity to visit and understand what India truly stands for. Come and fall in love with India
Kumbh Mela, in Hinduism, is a religious pilgrimage that is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years. The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimages on four sacred rivers as listed below:
Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand
Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh
Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra
Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Pradesh
The twelth year of a cycle sees the Kumbh happening in Prayagraj. The last grand gathering happened in the year 2013. Six years since, Prayagraj becomes the site for an Ardh Kumbh or the mid way in the new 12 year cycle. One can read more about Kumbh 2019 and its significance here.
The 2013 Maha Kumbh and 2019 Ardh Kumbh have happened during different ruling dispensations and hence were expected to be handled differently. This two day travel experience to the Kumbh was to get a bath in the confluence and experience how the grand event was handled.
The Kumbh Tent City
Heading to the Triveni Sangam
The Bath at Triveni Sangam OR Confluence of Three rivers
Getting to Prayagraj
Prayagraj is about 120 kms from Varanasi, the closest international airport. Prayagraj airport too has now been brought on India’s aviation map with services getting launched from May 2019. All of India’s major airlines like Air India, Indigo, Vistara and SpiceJet have excellent connectivity to Prayagraj and Varanasi. If one enters and exits via Varanasi, the added benefit of experiencing the oldest city in the universe can be realized.
We will explore the Ghats of Prayagraj in our next blog piece
Majuli (Land between two rivers) is a river island on the mighty Brahmaputra in Assam. While getting in and out requires a lot of effort, not going there is not an option. With closer observation, it is infact the cultural capital of Assam. The island is now a District and covers a total of 441 square kilometers and has over 144 villages, schools, colleges and all the amenities required to lead a decent life.
To reach Majuli, travel around 300 kms from Guwahati, reach Jorhat from where you land up at Nemati Ghat which is on the banks of the Brahmaputra. There are about 7 ferry services at various times of the day plying between Nemati Ghat and Majuli with the last service around 330 PM from either sides. We spent 5 hours which was more like an orientation session to Majuli. That was however good to get us back in the future. Savor some of the main sights of this picturesque island
Uttar Kamalabari Satra
Handicrafts from the Mising Tribe
The Majuli Brand Mustard Oil Project
Majuli Brand Mustard Oil Project is a contineous project being run- by IMPACT-NE since 2005. It is a kind of project for socio-economic development of Majuli through agricultural processing and rural industrialization. The main objective of the project is to ensure benefit to the farming community by providing them direct market linkage to sale their mustard seeds at actual market rate. As mustard is the major agricultural products of Majuli so it requires a competitive market for the benefit of the farmers.
A Simple Lunch before Departure
The Ferry Service
Heading to Majuli Island
All major airlines fly in to Guwahati from where one can either take a train or drive about 315 kms (7 hours) to reach Nemati Ghat from where one can board a Ferry to Majuli. Majuli does not have any chain hotels but provides a number of home stays. For more questions write – firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Part 1 of this blog series we explored the U-Bein bridge in Mandalay. In Part 2 of this blog series we explored the township of Mingun in the Mandalay region. In Part 3, we continued our exploration of Mandalay with a shore expedition to Innwa also called as Ava. In Part 4, we explored the raw energies of Bagan. Now, we set out to explore the key sights and sounds of Yangon during our first ever visit to this wonderful country.
Rangoon was the earlier name for Yangon since independence from the British in 1948. Yangon became the closest pronunciation to its original Burmese (Myanmar) name. The world now knows Rangoon as Yangon since 2006. We planned a two day tour of Yangon covering its key sights and sounds. A good Japanese made second hand rented, re-furbished and chauffered cab is usually available with the tour companies. They are well versed with the routes and are polite and very service conscious. If doing by self, taxis can be hailed but negotiation is a must before boarding.
Tamils have been an integral part of the ethnic fabric of Myanmar. Their presence dates back to the chola period between the 9th and 11th century AD. Later, after British annexation, many Tamils are said to have moved to Myanmar to work as labour in Rice fields and Rubber plantations. While current generation of Myanmar Tamils have embraced the Myanmarese way of life including their own name that resonates locally, they have kept their religious fervor alive by celebrating key Hindu and Tamil festivals. The Tamils inhabit townships in Yankin and Dala.
The Holy Trinity Church and Scotts Market
The Holy Trinity Church was the first Anglican church to be built in Yangon between 1886 and 1895 replacing a modest structure. The church was designed by a Madras (now chennai) based architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm and accommodated architectural styles to suit the climatic conditions of the city. The Scott market bult in 1926 is the former name of what is now called Bogyoke Aung San Market named after the founding father of modern day Myanmar. The name Scott is said to have been attributed to Mr. Gavin Scott , a former Municipal Commissioner of the area. The former colonial era building now virtually sells everything; You may call it the Alibaba / Amazon of Yangon.
Yangon CityHall area
The City Hall area gives you one place to marvel at all the colonial era buildings of Yangon. It is estimated that that Yangon has the most of these buildings in almost all of South East Asia. The City Hall is the administrative seat of the Yangon Development Council. The building dates back to 1936. In its vicinity are the Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandula Park, The High Court, Main Post offices and other structures. There are numerous snack and betelnut vendors and plenty of open space to just sit and indulge in people and building watching
Travelling to Myanmar
Travelling to Myanmar is now a breeze. Number of airlines fly in to Yangon with a single stop at any popular hub. Mandalay and Bagan are well connected from Yangon.
Air India offers twice a week flight between Kolkata and Yangon on Saturdays and Mondays. Its a surprise that the two countries which share such a common heritage still dont have good direct connectivity.
Tourists can check visa requirements on The Myanmar eVisa website. This is a government website and one can apply online for an e-visa. Check out for countries for whom Visa is provided on arrival. Indians can now apply for visa upon arrival. A recent government order to this effect. However, as a travel best practice it is always wise to utilize the e-visa facility offered. One however has to be careful while entering the passport details in to the Visa application form. Mismatch very clearly results in deportation.
In part 2 of Sights and Sounds of Yangon, we explore the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Reclining Buddha