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Gotthard Base Tunnel: Switzerland completes the construction of the world’s largest tunnel in 17 Years

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Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann, right, speaks with French President Francois Hollande, left, on the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world, at the fairground Rynaecht at the northern portal in Erstfeld, S. Image source: Reuters
  • It took 17 years for the Swiss tunnelers to complete World’s largest tunnel
  • It is called Gotthard Base Tunnel, officially opened on June 1, 2016
  • Celebrations started on Wednesday June 1, 2016
  • The rail will be open for travelers this year, in December 2016

In this day and age everyone wants fast. Faster internet connection, faster customer service, faster results. In 1947 Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner was dreaming about faster transportation. Switzerland’s Gotthard base tunnel is a staggering 35.4 miles long, and a mile and a half under the Gotthard mountain range. This tunnel stretches from Erstfeld and Bodio. The tunnel cuts commute time from Zurich to Milan by 45 minutes; that is fast.

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Before opening the tunnel as a means of public transportation, the Swiss wanted to take the time to commemorate and celebrate such an amazing feat. The tunnel’s website says that the tunnel presents to the world, “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability.” The celebration was far from just being a combination of Swiss values. Modern dances accompanied the opening of the tunnel, and drew much of the attention.

Swiss police officers stand beside of mock gates of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel inside the event hall for the upcoming opening ceremony near the town of Erstfeld, Switzerland May 31, 2016. Image source: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Swiss police officers stand beside of mock gates of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel inside the event hall for the upcoming opening ceremony near the town of Erstfeld, Switzerland May 31, 2016. Image source: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

One dance number featured dancers who wore orange construction suits an boots. They danced on and near a flatcar. Another dance featured an angelic like creatures. The dancers danced in what appeared to be white briefs. One dancer suck out wearing wings and an oversized head. One other dance number spectators watched the dancers move about the tunnel wearing suits that were said to be, “a cross between a pom-pom and a hay bale.” These dance numbers all pay tribute to the Gotthard mountain range, and the significance it holds in Swiss society.

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Dancers and spectators were the majority of people who attended the opening of the tunnel. The inauguration of this milestone also drew attention from the leaders of the EU; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The opening also featured the traditional playing of alphorns. With this, the tunnel was blessed and the tunnel’s theme song was played.

The festivities do not stop there. This weekend a festival is planned to occur on both sides of the tunnel. There will also be a train commuting people through the tunnel from one end to the other.

This $12 billion monstrosity of a tunnel was completed on time, and Gruner’s dream came true. After 17 years of construction, 9 deaths, and $1,300 of taxes added to each person, this marvel of a tunnel has been opened. In December, the rail will be open for travelers.

Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle: @abby_kono

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Diwali Puja 2017: Everything You Need To Know About Timings, Muhurat

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Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped
Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped by devotees on the day of Diwali. Pixabay

New Delhi, October 18, 2017: Diwali is around the corner and everyone is busy with the preparations. On the eve of Diwali, the most important ritual is to perform Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja during the right muhurat (time) and with the right rituals(vidhi).

Here are some of the things you must take care of:

Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja Rituals

It is important that on the day of Diwali, you wake up early in the morning and pay homage to your ancestors and worship gods of your family. It is advised to observe a day-long-fast until the Ganesh-Lakshmi puja is performed in the evening.

Kalash pujan
Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja kalash. Wikimedia

Preparations For Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja

Families can embellish their home and office with Asoka and Marigold flowers, banana and mango leave on the day of the puja. Mangal Kalash covered with unpeeled coconut should be placed at both side of the main entrance of your house.

For puja preparation, place at the right hand side a red cloth on a hoisted platform and put in idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on it after gracing them with jewellery and clothes. Once this is done, Navgraha gods must be placed on the left hand side on a hoisted platform under white cloth. Prepare carefully nine slots of Akshata (unbroken rice) for placing Navgraha on white cloth and sixteen slots of wheat must prepared for the red cloth. You should perform puja with all the important rituals.

Idols of Ganesh-lakshmi are being worshipped on the eve of Diwali. Wikimedia

Timings (Muhurat) for Lakshmi Puja

Pradosh Kaal muhurat is the time during which puja needs to be performed. It starts after sunset and lasts for about 2 hours and 24 minutes. Goddess Lakshmi will stay in your home if you perform Lakshmi puja in the Pradosh Kaal when it is Sthir Lagna time. Sthir refers to ‘immovable.’  Before you do the puja, make sure you find out Pradosh Kaal (time) for your city or area. It is important that you know the right time to perform the puja.

– prepared by Siddheshwar Sharma. Twitter: @MancSiddheshwar

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UN Brings the World Together to Fight Violence Against Women and Girls; 1 in Every 3 Women Currently Face Gender-based Oppression Globally

A third of all women experience violence at some point in their lives, and that figure is twice as high in some countries, according to the United Nations

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Violence against women
Head of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks on stage at WE Day U.N. at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, in New York City (VOA)

United Nations, September 21, 2017 : World leaders meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday launched a half-billion-dollar effort to end violence against women and girls, a crime suffered by 1 in 3 in their lifetimes.

The effort will fund anti-violence programs that promote prevention, bolster government policies and provide women and girls with improved access to services”, organizers said.

It will take particular aim at all categories of violence against women- human trafficking, femicide and family violence.

A third of all women experience violence at some point in their lives, and that figure is twice as high in some countries, according to the United Nations.

“Gender-based violence is the most dehumanizing form of gender oppression. It exists in every society, in every country rich and poor, in every religion and in every culture,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of U.N. Women, said as the United Nations held its annual General Assembly.

“If there was anything that was ever universal, it is gender inequality and the violence that it breeds against women,” she said.

In other forms of violence against women and girls, more than 700 million women worldwide were married before they were 18, and at least 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries, according to U.N. figures.

The initiative of 500 million euros (US$595 million) was launched by the U.N. and the European Union, which is its main contributor, organizers said.

“The initiative has great power,” said Ashley Judd, a Hollywood actress and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) who participated in Wednesday’s announcement.

ALSO READ Violence against Women and Girls Imposes Large-scale Costs on Families, Communities and Economies, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“There are already so many effective, research-based, data-driven programs,” Judd told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of the announcement. “Financing for existing programs is a beautiful thing.

“It also makes an incredibly powerful statement to show that the world is increasingly cohesive around stopping gender-based violence,” she said. (VOA)

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Line Up of Mouth-watering Kolkata Eateries this Durga Puja

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Indian bengali food on Durga Puja
Indian bengali food.

Kolkata, Sep 19, 2017: From traditional local delicacies like fresh river prawns cooked in coconut cream and hilsa in pineapple gravy to international dishes such as Caribbean chicken steak or fish in hoisin sauce, city eateries are gearing up to woo revellers during Bengal’s biggest carnival, the Durga Puja.

The metropolis’ fine dining hubs have spiced up their menus with buffets, mostly including lavish platters — both traditional and continental — ahead of the festival, set to be celebrated between September 26 and 30.

The Taj Bengal, a landmark hotel in the heart of south Kolkata, will keep its doors open round-the-clock during the Puja days, exhibiting mouth-watering spreads for brunch, lunch and dinner.

The Sonargaon outlet will have on its menu narkel diye cholar dal (Bengal gram tempered with cumin, coconut shavings and ginger), Sonargaon chingri malai curry (fresh river prawns cooked in coconut cream), sorse bata illish (river hilsa cooked in mustard sauce), and pabnar murgi (chicken morsels cooked in onion-based gravy with a hint of radhuni seeds).

While the chingri and hilsa thali will cost Rs 2,900 per head, non-vegetarian gourmands will have to shell out Rs 2,500 for a sumptuous meal at the eatery. For vegetarians, the price will come down to Rs 2,200.

For those who want to try something that is not cooked at home on a regular basis, The Hub, the hotel’s multi-cuisine restaurant, offers a range of continental and Indian dishes like murgh badami shorba, Kabuli pulao, phulkopir paturi, mozzarella melt, prawn and mascarpone pie.

For dessert, foodies can spoil themselves with gajjar halwa sita bhog and dry fruit milk cake. The buffet will have unlimited cocktails and mocktails all tucked into a price tag of Rs 2,450.

At Novotel Kolkata Hotels and Residences, in the heart of Kolkata’s IT hub in Rajarhat, the breakfast assortment during the Puja days includes bhog khichudi, heeng kachori, aloor dum and jalebi.

The pocket pinch here would be within Rs 1,300 — with breakfast priced at Rs 900, lunch at Rs 999 and dinner for Rs 1,299.

For a filling lunch on Ashtami (September 28) afternoon, look no further than the hotel’s Studio restaurant, the pan-Asian galerie serving sorshe illish, illish paturi, chingri malai curry, kosha mangsho, narkel bata chingri, mangsher kofta pulao, pui sager chorchori, channar kalia and toker dal among many mouth-watering dishes.

“Traditional delicacies will be the focus. Somehow we have seen during the Durga Puja days just everyone wants to eat Bengali food,” Neelabh Sahay, Executive Chef of Novotel, told IANS.

People eager for a different flavour can try the Afra Tafri on Camac street, a posh and bustling south Kolkata locality.

From pan-fried fish with chilli basil sauce to Caribbean chicken steak, fish in hoisin sauce, and cottage cheese garlic, this gastropub will also be easy on the pocket. The buffet price is kept at Rs 699, inclusive of all taxes.

“Keeping in mind the various ways of satisfying the food lover’s taste buds, we introduced the contemporary festive buffet which will be available at Afra Tafri on the festive days of Durga Puja,” Chef Mohammad Feroz Hussain said.

Also Read: This Durga Puja Brings Narratives of Communal Harmony 

Before you burp, for those who have a sweet tooth, Park Plaza in South Kolkata’s Ballygunge will offer chhana toast from Krishnagar in Nadia district and langcha from Tarapith, a small temple town near Rampurhat in Birbhum district.

“We want our customers to get the original flavour. That’s why we will bring the sweets from where they belong,” Chef Gautam Kumar told IANS.

There will also be “chat contests” for those who will avail the buffet priced at Rs 999 for lunch and Rs 1,199 for dinner.

Back on Camac Street, the gastropub Monkey Bar has lined up a specially curated “thaala meal” of home-style Bengali delicacies specially curated by Kolkata-based home chef, food critic and passionate foodie Iti Misra. The offerings come in three variants — vegetarian, fish and chicken — at a price range of Rs 999 to Rs 1,299.

(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at debayan.m@ians.in)

(IANS)