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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Monsoon at last!

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Most Delhites woke up this morning to be greeted by a burst of steady rainfall. This probably is the first real monsoon shower this season. There had been sporadic rains, rather sprinkles, over last few days. The humidity had been real energy sapping. But the rains this morning was a relief.

Out on the street, the traffic was moving relatively slowly on the busy Vikas Marg. I could see artificial ponds getting created everywhere. Once off the main road, I faced a big artificial pond at the PSK junction. The problem in Delhi is that after a good rain, sewer lines overflows and creates those artificial ponds. It really stinks and is very dangerous. I was lucky to be inside my car and felt pity for those who had to cross the pond in bikes. People had very little choice as to avoid this you may have to take a half km detour and who knows what awaits there. I drove into the pond as I was aware of the potholes in this part of the road. But even then the water was deeper than my expectations. There was another big pond in the parking lot of our office building. Where are the drains! This is the result of this morning’s rain which by no means was a downpour. My God! This is Delhi, the capital of India.

We thought it happens only in Guwahati back home. But in Guwahati, sometimes we receive real downpour which we call ‘Kolohor Mukhere Dhala’ which will roughly translate as if rain god is pouring waters using buckets. Delhi will be doomed if it is to receive such a downpour.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Buying photography books online

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I had recently explored the possibility of procuring good books related to photography through international boksellers on the net. I was browsing www.amazon.con when I found plenty of materials on what to read. I was delighted to see the abnormally low price of second hand books being sold at the amazon.com marketplace. But then, I had no clue as to whether I can make payment in foreign exchange with my credit cards, whther the books will be shipped to India, whether any customs duty etc. are payable. A litle enquiry with amazon apprised me that from India I can buy only from amazon.com, not from its marketplace sellers. Amazon sells book at roughly 50% of its printed price. But at its marketplace, some of these books are available for may be 5% of its printed price. I explored more and it yielded good results. I stumbled upon a site named www.thriftbooks.com. I could purchase 3 good books from them. The price I paid for 3 books were less than what I had to shell out for buying one book in India. Though the books were rated second hand, it was as good as new. One of the book "The photographers handbook: A complete reference manual of techniques, procedures, equipment and style" (ISBN: 0394407547) by John Hedgecoe cost me just 1 cent (plus shipment charges), i.e. less than 5 rupees. It's original price is $20. The books arrived, nicely packed, through courier within a month without any hitch. Three books cost me Rs.1170/- of which $18 is shipment charge. The shipment charges for first book is normally $9 and subsequent books from the same seller is $4 or so. Believe me it is quite cheap. If you want to buy second hand books, try out www.abebooks.com. Unlike amazon.com, they ships both new and old books to India.

Currently I am reading the book "The A-Z of Creative Photography: Over 70 Techniques Explained in Full" by Lee Frost (ISBN: 0817433139) . It is a good book and recommended by many readers. I have been able learn few new things from whatever I have read till now. I would like to inform you that I had purchased this book in India through www.firstandsecond.com. This is an Indian company located at Okhla in New Delhi. It is actually a subsidiary of a UK based company. They also offer a wide range of books many of which are not available at bookstores in India. But the books are costly and also they did not deliver the book within the stipulated time. I had received the book after almost 1 and 1/2 month. This book cost me Rs.1240/-. But here you can make payment without any credit card. Further, in as they are located in India you can always catch hold of them if something goes wrong. Buying from outside India is cheaper but involves the risk of packet never arriving. But I found the return worth the risk.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

One year of blogging

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A break from Delhi and the work pressure on return had kept me off my blog for most of last month. But then I realized that during these days I had completed one year of blogging. My tryst with blogosphere is not very long. It started sometime in April-May last year. I still remember going through various definitions of a blog on the net. Creating a blog in Blogspot.com was very easy. But then started the process of giving your blog the desired look. In the process I had learned some html coding as well. Customising took some time before I finally settle down with the design and look. Everything had undergone a change -- from the blog name to the url to the template. I started the blog as ‘Guwahati Diary’. But finally settle down for ‘India Travel Diary’ with a new template. This was phase I. Then I understood the need for promoting the blog. It did wonders as my blog started receiving around 20 hits a day. Around 50 posts, more than 3000 hits, a few phone calls from visitors, some emails for more information and some comments – it certainly has been a very satisfying experience. It has made me feel that whatever little time I had spent in blogging was worth it. The milestone was probably marked by the opportunity to be a part of the first ever bloggers meet at Guwahati.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Guwahati in 2006 vis-a-vis 2005

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My first post was probably an article named ‘Natun Guwahati’ writing about the changing landscape of Guwahati in 2004. Well, for those who belongs to Guwahati and who are not been lucky enough to visit the place in last few months here are some updates. 3 new flyovers are being constructed – at Bhangagarh and Six Mile on the GS Road and at Basistha Chariali at NH Bypass. Fortunately the contracts are supposed to have been awarded to reputed builders (not to sulfas). Work has already started at Bhangagarh and Six Mile. In fact the Bhangarah chariali is witnessing a steady traffic jam in the busy hours. The vehicular traffic has really burgeoned in Guwahati. The GS Road, which looked so wide once, has now started appearing congested. The registration numbers in Guwahati has almost exhausted AS-01-Z series. People had started guessing as to what will be next --- will be AS-01A-A or will be it AS-01-AA?

But the major change I had observed was the widening of the GNB Road. I went to Goswami Service to attend the Blogger’s Meet at TRAFFIK. I was surprised to find a real wide road that is almost twice that of the old road. This has been a real bottleneck and it is good that this has finally been widened.

On my way to Nagaon, I could also see that the work on four laning of highways linking all state capitals of NE states had started. Reputed construction companies like Madhucon Projects had started working. But the sad part of this is that all the age old trees along the highways are getting cut. This will have a huge impact on the environment. The classic view of driving through canopies of trees will be a thing of the past soon. Even if new trees are planted it will take another 15 / 20 years to grow and provide a green cover. Anyway, changes that happen for a better future should always be welcomed.

Himanta Bishwa Sharma is now the minister handling GMDA. Taking cue from Delhi, he has also started action against illegal constructions in Guwahati. The list has almost all well known buildings in Guwahati. The real intent of this drive is not known as I am certain that he certainly is not a philanthropist. But it is required in some cases. It is easy to understand the corruption and malpractices of GMDA / GMC as all procedures were thrown out of window in granting permission to these constructions, many of which do not even have parking facilities and visitors to these buldings create traffic jams.

So guys lets hope to see a better Guwahati next time you visit.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bloggers Meet at Guwahati

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Sunday the 11th of June, 2006 will go into the history of blogging in North East India as a milestone. A Blogger’s Meet was organised at the restaurant Traffik at Silpukhuri, Guwahati that brought together few blog enthusiasts. The meet, the first ever of its kind in the region, was the brainchild of Babul Gogoi and Dr. Jugal Kalita. Though 15 bloggers had confirmed their participation only 7 could made it to the meet. Enjoying my annual break at home, I was one of the attendees.

It is worth mentioning that Dr. Kalita and Babul had been pioneers in dissemination of news and information from Assam to all Assamese living abroad through effective use of the net. Dr. Jugal Kalita is a professor of computer science at the University of Colrado, USA. He is the soul behind the popular sites like www.assam.org, www.guwahati.com, etc. Sri Babul Gogoi had been assisting Dr. Kalita for more than a decade now. Way back in 1995 or so, the duo started a system of e-mailing news paper headlines from Assam to many Assamese living abroad. Internet was only in teething stage during those days and it was not a very powerful tool. Many of us might not have even heard of internet then. My first brush with the net was in 1998 only. Therefore, for many Assamese, the mail from Dr. Kalita was the only source of information on Assam.
The due had recently started a site for bloggers from Assam named www.bihu.in. It is slowly and steadily growing in popularity. One more domain has been registered as www.superhit.in which is proposed to be a repository of regional Indian songs (non hindi only). They are looking for songs with rights. Please contact them if you want to contribute.

Dr. Kalita told me that though the sites generate some advertising revenue, the expenses for maintaining the sites are mostly borne by him. Given the utility of the sites, seeking donations from regular users should be explored to maintain the sites. I had stumbled upon these sites sometimes back and even had a link to www.guwahati.com on my blog. It was indeed a memorable experience to meet people like Dr. Kalita and Babul. Dr. Kalita was on vacation to his hometown and so together with Babul they organized this blogger’s meet. Their effort to bring together bloggers from around Guwahati for the first time was a laudable effort. It was decided to organize a bigger get together of bloggers next year. I will look forward to it.

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