Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
By Rebecca McCourtie
EXCITEMENT, that’s what I felt when I got in a taxi at the train station and told the driver to take me to my next volunteer gig at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.
So far I had been a chef at a chateau, a goat milker, a cheese maker, a gardener, a beekeeper, a honey extractor and an English teacher. After leaving Sweden I had been making my way around Europe volunteering. Essentially the deal was, I worked five hours a day, five days a week and got free board in return. It had worked an absolute treat to date! Well… mostly a treat, except for the goat farm stint when I had to leave early because I had a severe allergic reaction to the goat hair. Aside from my sinuses almost exploding out of my nostrils, I had had nothing but positive experiences and it was a no-brainer for me to T-something up in Israel doing the same sort of thing. Thinking hostel work might be fun and something different, I organised a three-week stint at a hostel in central Tel Aviv.
Like I was saying, excitement filled my body as I hung my head out the window of the taxi and allowed my lungs to breathe in the warm muggy air and my eyes to absorb the bright lights that illuminated the skyscrapers in the dark of the night. When the driver pulled up outside the hostel, I paid, got out and made my way up the four flights of stairs with my heavy bags. My excitement disappeared when I walked into a room full of eighteen year olds. ‘SH*T!’ Eighteen year olds who were all drinking, smoking, running around and generally acting like eighteen year olds.
I was greeted by the VERY young manager on the night shift. ‘Hey, who are you?… Rebecca who?’ This wasn’t a good start! I had organised with the boss to volunteer, but the manager hadn’t been filled-in and wasn’t expecting me. After a few brief introductions, explanations and pleasantries, I was taken to ‘the bag rack’ outside. ‘Just leave your bags here.’ I reluctantly put my downs in the open area, cautiously aware of the fact that anyone of the heavily intoxicated, financially questionable teenagers could steal from me.
‘So if my bags go here, where will I sleep? My bags won’t stay out here the entire time will they?’
The young man looked at me perplexed, as though he couldn’t understand why I was nervous about my personal belongings being stored on an oversized shoe rack out on a terrace with zero security. He may not have had anything of great value in his luggage, but I had my laptop, jewelry and basically my entire life in those two bags. The last thing I wanted was to leave everything unattended in amongst barely legal drunkards.
‘Yeah, your bags will stay here the whole time because the room is small. It’s OK, I think they will be OK.’
The child-manager’s tepid reassurance towards the safety of my belongings was not satisfactory, nor was the tiny room with ONE double bed that I was expected to share with all the other volunteers.
‘I am not sleeping here and sharing a bed with strangers.’
Again, he looked at me perplexed as to why I would have a problem with one bed and four people!
‘I’m almost thirty, I’m too old for this sh*t. I need my OWN bed!’
Evidently my message wasn’t getting through.
‘That’s not an excuse, thirty is NOT old’ said the 19-year-old child running the shop. I tried to accept the words of the barely-legal baby telling me I wasn’t old. I knew I wasn’t old, but I also knew I wasn’t young enough to be playing ‘stacks’ in a bed with three male strangers a decade younger than myself.
I exhaled: ‘OK fine. Not only am I not young enough for this sh*t, I DON’T want to share a bed with three strangers.’
He looked back at me, not willing to lose the battle: ‘you can sleep outside on the terrace if you want. There are chairs out there. People sleep on them all the time. You’ll be next to your luggage that way.’ The more the young man tried to convince me to stay, the more horrified I was becoming with the arrangements.
‘Sorry mate, call me a cab. I’m going to another hotel. This isn’t going to work!’Reluctantly, the young man called me a cab and asked me one more time why I was leaving.
‘Well, outside of the fact that I am not comfortable top’n’tailng with three to four strangers, I am also not OK leaving my bags unattended and out in the open. Before you say ANYTHING else, even if I WAS comfortable being in close proximity to you under a bed-sheet, its too freaking hot this country to snuggle! See you later!’
With that I grabbed my bags and fanged it down the stairs and out onto the street. What a disaster that had been! It wasn’t a good start, but like everything in life you just have to deal with it! When life knocks you down, you gotta get back-up.
I managed to book myself another hotel using the wifi on my phone during my brief ‘tour’ of the hostel from adolescent-hell. It wasn’t glamorous, but it would do for three nights while I sorted out what the hell I was going to do with myself! I was definitely not young enough to handle that situation, but old enough to know that I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to do!
Indicators that you’re probably too old to be backpacking (but screw it, you should do it anyway!)
When you took your first trip overseas:
- Technology wasn’t ‘Apple’, it was the apple shaped pocket at the front of your backpack that could store your portable CD player and allow your headphones to feed through to the outside.
- Mobile phones weren’t smart, but looking under the payphone and getting the box’s number, emailing that number to your Mum, T-ing up a time and getting her to use a phone-card to call you on said payphone WAS!
- MacDonald’s was a place to buy food and use the toilet, not tap into free wifi.
- A couple of steps before phone cameras, your camera took film… digital what now?
On this trip:
- Shared dorms with bunk beds are a NO, given that the likelihood of you bouncing instead of breaking is slim to none.
- The room isn’t the cheapest room unless it has wifi, in fact it isn’t even a room without wifi, it’s a shanty!
- Breakfast inclusive rooms are a MUST! Your body can’t function without breakfast… including coffee… did I say coffee already?
- The single most horrifying accommodation option is SHARED BATHROOM!
Prior to the brutal second wave of the pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cautioned civil services probationers against developing the despised "babu mindset". He gave the invaluable piece of advice while addressing civil services probies at the well-known Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie via video-conferencing. He also outlined the keystone mantra of "minimum government and maximum governance".
With the recent collapse of the under-construction flyover in Bandra Kurla Complex which injured 14 labourers, it seems like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has got the PM's keystone mantra all wrong. The recent flyover collapse isn't an isolated incident, in fact, a month ago a similarly bemusing incident took place in the eastern part of the suburbs.
On 1st August 2021, the honourable Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri. Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated a flyover in the eastern part of the suburbs. In his inaugural speech, he quipped the BMC to smoothen the rough road surface. The BMC swing into action and the surface of the flyover was swiftly re-worked upon. But, instead of smoothening the pre-existing rough surface, the shoddy repair work added to the problem. To top it all off, the BMC added a barrage of speed breakers and rumbler strips on the bridge.
The shoddy repair work combined with a plethora of speed breakers caused long congestions on the Mankhurd-Ghatkopher stretch, ultimately killing the purpose of building the bridge. Moreover, after numerous accidents of motorbikes skidding on the bridge during the rain and the subsequent death of a rider the bridge was closed for traffic.
The construction of the flyover commenced in February 2016 at an approved cost of ₹500 crores. The project was slated to be delivered in January 2019 but was delayed multiple times. The BMC had also made a design change in the flyover by adding a connector to the Deonar dumping ground due to which the construction cost of the flyover was increased to over ₹700 crore. The flyover was expected to bring relief to the traffic on Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road but instead, it added to the existing traffic woes. On a concluding note, the maximum city of Mumbai runs on barely minimum governance, literally.
Keywords: Mumbai, Narendra Modi, Civil Services, Governance.
Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.
The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:
#1: Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. In addition to three high-altitude passes and five river valley crossings, this is the only trip in the Himalayas that includes seven alpine lakes, each of which is a stunning shade of green, blue, or turquoise. The extravagance is limitless and breathtakingly stunning every day: infinite blue sky, a larger-than-life backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, colourful meadows overflowing with wildflowers, river crossings are just a few examples of what you will encounter during the trek.
You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. | Photo by prayer flags on Unsplash
#2: Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora Trek: The Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora trek is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into Kashmir's undiscovered regions. Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey that is the perfect experience for anyone looking to get away from the frantic tourist rush. This trek is a fascinating journey that allows nature enthusiasts to bask in the splendour of nature's grandeur. The trek goes over many high mountain passes, some as high as 4000 metres in elevation. The hiking route, in addition to providing breathtaking views of the magnificent Vishansar Lake, provides visitors with the chance to see more than 50 alpine lakes.
Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey. | Photo by YASER NABI MIR on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Top 10 Beautiful Sights To VIsit In Kashmir
#3: Tral-Narastan-Marsar Trek: The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. The hiking trail passes past a waving saffron field, beautiful meadows, and several streams. The path also crosses the Dachigam National Park, where there is an opportunity to see various animal species. Trekkers may take in spectacular views of the high mountains running parallel to them as they cut and pass through Narastan, a Hindu pilgrimage place.
The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. | Wikimedia Commons
#4: Chhatargul-Mahlish-Gangabal: The journey, which passes through beautiful locations such as Chattargul, Mahlish, Kolsar, and Trunkul, provides a peek into an utterly uninhabited wilderness of Kashmir. There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one trek into the alpine wilderness. Trekkers can also enjoy fishing in the crystal clear lakes, camping, or just seeing towering snow-capped mountains while on their journey.
There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one treks into the alpine wilderness. | Wikimedia Commons
#5: Kolahoi Base Camp Trek: The Kolahoi Base Camp trek in Kashmir has been famous since the early 1900s and has been a goal for many seasoned hikers from across the world. While Srinagar serves as the beginning point for the trip, it is in Aru Valley that the actual hiking begins. The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. The breathtaking sight of the peaks rising into the sky on the horizon of the Pirpanjal and Karakoram ranges is certainly worth capturing. It is considered to be one of the most popular treks in the Kashmir valley.
The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. | Wikimedia Commons
Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere. Trekking through various valleys and peaks while taking in the scenic beauty is something that always calms the heart and provides us with memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Keywords: Kashmir, Lakes, Alpine, Hiking, Trekking, Treks, Sonamarg, Gangabal, Kolahoi, Chhatargul, Mahlish, Tral, Narastan, Marsar
The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.
It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.
For fifteen days, prayers are offered in temples and rituals are performed to help the souls get free from the cycle of birth, life, and death, and attain salvation.
At the same time, the Pitru Paksha is also an important period for people with Pitru Dosha, which means the curse imposed by the ancestors. Hence, in order to ask forgiveness, people perform Shradh rituals and offer food to the crows, who are considered as living beings that represent the dead. It is believed, if the crow eats the offered food, the ancestors are happy and pleased. But, if the crow doesn't eat the offered food and flies away, the ancestors are not happy.
The event of Pitru Paksha is widely observed by Hindus from all over the world, and they perform prayers and rituals in order to gain their ancestors blessings.