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Sunday, August 15, 2021

The True Independence

 


Today we wake up to the dawn of having been fortunate to be born in India that gained Independence exactly 75 years ago! It has been a tumultuous journey with several ups and downs. Reams of achievements and moments of darkness that we as a nation have experienced can be recounted. I consider this journey one of the best opportunities that God has granted.  The best part of the journey has just commenced and all this happened due to the goodness that surrounds us,

Ever since I hung boots in the corporate world, I got a chance to engage with people who are making a difference in the lives of people struggling to make their ends meet. The finest moments are spent in their company. Ever since the pandemic struck, a new way of life emerged. The time that was earlier being spent in the company of the children in teaching them suddenly transformed to engagement through the internet classes. The obvious reason was to maintain social distancing a new norm that we are trying to live with.


Notwithstanding all the above challenges, this post is dedicated to these children who have shown me what real progress means. Imagine a boy selling snacks door to door and helping his mother, to become a teacher of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the country's leading institutions. He not only assisted his mother in running the home but also self-educated himself. He started schooling with the support of a benevolent  NGO, earned money by taking tuition classes, He went on to get a degree in engineering and is now not only pursuing further studies but also working with multinationals.

Equally inspiring is the story of a girl whose mother runs a tea stall and has recently scored more than 95% marks in the CBSE Class 12 board examinations, She has also qualified in the Combined Law Aptitude Test( CLAT) and aspires for Civil Services! 

Each of these children has seen struggles that are beyond our comprehension. Still, they fight every day to fulfil their dreams. It fills me with pride to see them running their own dance schools, working as entrepreneurs, and leading a life where they are now supporting others.

This is the real Independence and in the true spirit its celebration. I only hope that these success stories will replicate manifold in times to come. So, this day we not only salute all the valiant soldiers, doctors, and countless people who work as invisible hands to ensure everyone.s safety and well being but also such children who are making difference in their lives.

Monday, August 9, 2021

INS Vikrant – Reincarnated

 


The recent news about the ongoing sea trials of the indigenous aircraft carrier ‘INS Vikrant’ in Kochi filled me with pride.  A rush of memories occupied my mind and not without reason. I fondly recollect my first sight of the earlier INS Vikrant way back in 1978 where I was to join for my ‘sea acquaintance’ for six months. The mammoth ship was berthed on the jetty and awestruck I gazed at the huge structure. I stepped on board and saluted on the gangway as I boarded the ship with my luggage. I never realized that this would be the beginning of an association of spending five years at different spans of time onboard this ship.

One of the finest memories was to see the taking off of the Alize aircraft from the steam catapult and recovery of these aircraft at sea by a maze of arrestor wires spread on the flight deck.  It required a  calibrated approach by the Deck Landing Mirror Sight system and lowering of the hook from the aircraft to ensure arrest by the arrestor wire. I looked at every launch and recovery of aircraft with an awe of a school child. In years to come, this would be my full-time profession. As the technology advanced the ship underwent modernization and was retrofitted with a ski jump on the flight deck and more modern landing aids. I was s lucky to be a part of a team that witnessed the landing of the first Sea Harrier aircraft. It was unique and could hover on the flight deck like a helicopter before making a precise landing on a moving ship.

INS Vikrant being refuelled by INS Deepak

Every day I spent on the ship I learnt something new. The moving hulk weighed 20000 tons, had over 1500 men at operational times, a huge hangar for maintenance not to speak of massive engine rooms with steam turbines to turn the shaft. The ship was able to produce almost 2 MW of electric power with its array of diesel generators and turbogenerators enough for as small-sized city.

The ship was decommissioned in 1997 the year I took retirement from the service. Surprisingly, my entire sea time lasting over five years were spent on this ship, so it was like an umbilical cord separating us in 1997. There have been moments of anxiety, fear, thrill on the events that I was a witness to, besides watching the dolphins following the ship near Goa, countless dark nights with stars and moon, golden sunrise and sunsets and hours of fun on the quarterdeck watching endless movies and hours of fun in evenings.


The new INS Vikrant that has been built at the Kochi shipyard is almost twice the size of its predecessor having a displacement of 37500 ton and will operate the Russian built MIG 29K aircraft and Kamov 31 helicopters and indigenous aircraft/ helicopters too! It will also have specialized cabins for women officers too. The ship will be able to cruise 7500 nautical miles at a top speed of 28 knots. It will be equipped with the most advanced state of the art electronics, weapon systems and sensors. The ship will also have two runways besides a host of new features. A short video of the ongoing sea trials is attached to get a glimpse of this pride of the Indian Navy.

The Navy is more than a job, much more than a service to the country. According to Theodore Roosevelt

‘A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty to peace’.

PS: Images and video kind courtesy Google and YouTube and own collection

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Markthal, Rotterdam - The Rise of the Phoenix

  

The Markthal- Rotterdam

It is almost unbelievable to see the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands and the way it has risen from the ashes after the relentless bombing it suffered at the hands of Nazis during World War II. Adding its unique signature to the regeneration of the city, stands stunning Markthal, a 10- storey, 120m deep arch of apartments in its heart. 

A huge mural inside the Markthal

The Art of Plenty mural designed by the Dutch artists Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam inside the arch boasts of being the largest art network in Europe.

The Erasmus bridge on River Maas
The structure is composed of a vaulted market hall wrapped with 228 apartments, a brilliant design. There are more than 100 stalls, eight restaurants and a string of stores in its belly as one cascades down to the underground floors. The 175 million Euro structure stands tall in Laurens Quarter close to the Blaak station where once stood the prewar centre which was razed to the ground. 
Blaaktoren and Cube houses in the vicinity

The elite neighbourhood comprises Piet Blom’s Cube Houses and Blaaktoren, a pencil-shaped pentagonal building. The biggest church of Rotterdam, Sint Laurenskerk is just at a stone’s throw and had a providential escape during the bombing in the vicinity.

The Gian Feris Wheel outside Markthal

The beautiful structure of Markthal has a 2800 sq m glass facade on either side of the arch. The panes are movable and are suspended on a steel cable net the largest of its kind. As the water table is just 1 m below, the task of laying the foundation 20m deep, was an unprecedented challenge. The herculean effort culminated in the creation of three levels of underground parking, an underground supermarket, dispatch centres and refrigeration areas. The residents that live in the building are treated with a bird’s eye view of the stalls, a green roof and a huge giant wheel beside the unhindered view of the nearby MAAS River.

Markthal decked up for Christmas

The huge murals created on the walls and ceilings are akin to the gothic paintings in medieval churches. The 4500 aluminium sheets on which the murals have been created look stunning. All the colour adds to the vibrancy and friendliness of the place. The place is a shoppers paradise for unique wares ranging from food and vegetables, all kinds of cheese, meats and fish, sweets and cakes, tea and coffee parlours, flowers and gifts besides speciality restaurants and supermarkets. The exhibitions and constant flow of visitors in the complex are the throbbing heart of this huge place.

A visit to Rotterdam is incomplete without, seeing, smelling and tasting or feeling Markthal. It is indeed a must-visit destination . According to the Dutch saying ' God created the world but Dutch created the Netherlands' is almost true when one sees such marvels

PS: All pics are mine

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Trendy Covent Garden- London


Remembering one of the most stylish shopping arcades and centres during the times of confinement is not only soothing but therapeutic too! The feel-good factor is raised several notches on visiting a place like Covent Garden in London’s Westend. The biggest grosser in Hollywood in 1964, ‘My Fair Lady’ starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle was set in Covent Garden where she meets the English professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) who teaches her English to the exacting Edwardian society standards of the era. I had seen the movie in my early childhood and little did I realize that several years later I would visit the place one day.

A Christmas Tree outside the Covent Garden
Located at London’s Westend, it is very close to the Royal Opera House. It is a very popular shopping area and a huge tourist attraction. The use of the name Covent- the term for religious community equivalent to a monastery or a convent was coined around 1515 AD. By the 18th century the place had become a well-known red-light district. Once a vegetable and fruit market the character of the place went through rapid transformation in the 1980s.

A Statue of Michael Faraday the scientist at Savoy Place in neighbourhood
Covent Garden is dotted with some best-known sights like the London Transport Museum, a string of theatres and places of entertainment, the Royal Theatre and St Paul’s Church in the vicinity. There are 13 theatres and over 60 bars and pubs in the complex. There are trendy retail outlets that are a huge draw for the young clientele. The street performers can be found and impromptu acts can be witnessed. There is a wide range of restaurants in the central area and around the piazza.  A wide range of cuisine ranging from traditional fish n chips, a variety of sandwiches, international cuisines and fine dining options are available. Some of the best and trendy coffee shops, heavenly tea salons, patisserie pit-shops and bakeries are also located here. Covent Garden is home to more treats than one can imagine for connoisseurs of chocolates, cookies and gelatos and much more

The lovely interiors of Covent Garden
Covent Gardens has a deep-rooted cultural connection way back to Charles Dickens time when he wrote ‘’Pickwick Papers’ where a central character spends a couple of nights at Covent Gardens. The movie ‘My Fair Lady’ was based on George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘ Pygmalion’ which was mentioned in the earlier paragraph. The movie ‘ Frenzy’ created by Alfred Hitchcock where a fruit seller of Covent Garden turns out to be a serial sex killer.

The fine dining options at Covent Garden
Covent Garden is well connected with public transport and has a tube station served by Piccadilly Line. There are more than 30 routes of London Buses that have stops around the periphery of Covent Garden. For centuries the culture vultures have swooped in here in search of the area’s eclectic ever-changing mix of operas, theatres and drama. So the next time you plan a visit to London do include Covent Garden on your itinerary.

PS All Pics are mine

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Shopper's Stop- Amazing Thailand


If anyone was to look for a perfect getaway for a holiday, at the same time even if on budget, be able to return home with loads of gifts there is only one answer- Thailand! A country with so many gems including it is. A country that is unique in many ways attracts one of the highest footfalls in terms of tourism . It has many diverse options for every age.



The first time I visited Thailand, I was not aware of the vast array of choices. After several visits to places like Bangkok, Pattaya, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Phuket I realized how little I know about the “Amazing Thailand”. 


So much has already been written about the food, the beaches, nightlife, temples, wats, wildlife, and a culture that there is little I can add except some pictures that speak for themselves. 

The most striking thing that stands out is the unique markets that Thailand offers to tourists. The James Bond movies ‘The Man with a Golden Gun’ , ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ and Leonardo de Caprio’s ‘The Beach’ high- lighted the perfect beauty of the ‘ Floating Market’ and brisk sales on boats ,Sinn Sathorn Tower on Thonburi Road in Bangkok and Krabi’s beauty and its life in busy market places.


The stellar marketplace that is a must visit when in Bangkok is the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It comes to life every weekend and has over 15000 stalls of diverse range of consumer electronics, art, cosmetics, food, clothing, furniture just to name a few. The bargaining at shops is a fine art that can be practiced even by a novice here.


The Ratchada Train market in Bangkok is well worth a visit if you are a foodie. The options are mindboggling at great bargains. One can even find of quirky piece of jewelry or a fashion garment here.



Bangkok and most of the cities in Thailand never go to sleep. If you have the energy at theend of the day, do spend a few hours in the night markers which are as colorful or even more. Patpong, Khaosan and Silom markets in Bangkok are very lively. One can get incredible bargains in the moonlight. There are endless eating and drinking options at these venues. The Chang Chui Plane market that pops up on the nights goes to a new height in form of a market in the shell of a Tristar airliner. Khlong Thom market also known as the ‘Flashlight Market’ is also unique and gets its name from the need to carry a flashlight to view the goods sold here.

Besides Bangkok, places like Chiang Mai have a Warorot Market that sells a huge array of food items. The Cicada Open Air market is an Artist’s paradise in Hua Hin district with a unique display of arts. The Krabi Walking Street Market and Maeklong Railway track Market are unique. No matter where you are, a market is always close by in Thailand. (#BlogYourThailand #AmazingThailand #TATNewDelhi #TATIndia #ResetInThailand)

Monday, July 5, 2021

A Dreamworld- TimeOut Market, Lisbon

Time Out Market Lisbon

 While travelling in a new city, have you ever run into a surprise which was not on the agenda of sightseeing! I confess that on my several trips I have had such occurrences more than once. One of the most exciting and rewarding surprises was the Time Out Market located in the heart of Lisbon, in Portugal. 

Beautiful city- Lisbon

While exploring the city my wife and I were admiring the graffiti on the walls of Cais do Sodre district of Lisbon which runs parallel to the River Tagus. There were numerous cafes that were active and a steady stream of tourists was visible everywhere.

 

Pastel De Nata

We stopped by a cafĂ© that was unusually crowded. A cup of coffee would be welcome, but the sight of hot ‘Pastel de Nata’ a baked custard pastry dusted with cinnamon with the scorched top surface looked very inviting. I had only read about them the previous day. We hurriedly purchased the lovely melt in the mouth dish with a steaming hot coffee. The experience of tasting these pastries is difficult to express in words.  With a feeling of contentment, we walked out only to be confronted with a very happening place with a huge hoarding ‘Time Out Market’!

Endless Fruit and Vegetable stalls


There were literally a few hundred people with endless rows of shops all under one roof. ‘ Time Out Market’ in Lisbon has a unique distinction of selling things like curated burgers, curated pizzas, sandwiches and even curated fish! It is the first market in the world where everything has been chosen, tasted, and tested for a rating of four or five stars by a panel of experts and critics. It is a perfect place to try the best gastronomic delights all under one roof. There are over 24 restaurants with creations of very well-known Portuguese chefs, that serve delicacies ranging from burgers to sushi.  The most classic dishes that are available include Balcao de Esquina (Roast Pork Sandwiches), Cod a la Bras(French fries, shredded cod and onions) and Marisqueira Azul(Fried Soft Shell Crab) just to mention a few. No less than 21 such signature dishes created by well-known chefs are available here.  The live, music bands and even live broadcasts of soccer matches make the place fit for unending fun.

The Freshest tomatoes

There is almost an endless stream of shops that sell fresh fish, meat, flowers, fruits, vegetables. The vibrancy of the place keeps it ticking right from the early morning hours till the wee hours of the night. The market has been in existence since 2014 and is now on the ‘Must Visit’ category of places when one is in Lisbon.  

25 de Abril bridge

No matter how busy you get when in Lisbon exploring the wonders like Castleo de S Jorge, Belem Tower, Praca de Comercio, and many more do not forget to visit the alluring Time Out Market


PS- All pics are mine

Monday, June 28, 2021

La Boqueria- A little paradise in Barcelona

A rainbow of colours

 The discovery of some of the most fascinating places while travelling ignites the memories of one of the most colourful markets called La Boqueria in the midst of a happening city Barcelona in Spain. God has been so generous that every possible colour of nature is visible in this market not only in terms of the things available but equally happy and cheerful locals as well as the throng of tourists at any time of the day or night. It is very well connected by the public transport system. The Green Line metro( Liceu), bus routes 59,91, V13 and Hop On Hop Off tourist buses at Gothic Cathedral stop are the easiest way to reach here.

The Street performers at Las Ramblas
La Boqueria is located in El Raval and has a huge distinct entrance from Las  Rambla, a prominent street. Since Las Ramblas is a congregation of several streets each having a unique name, the street is addressed in the plural as Las! The north end of Las Ramblas is the  city centre called Placa de Catalunya. At the east end of the street is Barri Gotic or the Gothic quarters. On the west side is El Raval where there were once religious and medical institutions and on the southern end is the Christopher Columbus monument. Las Ramblas is bubbling with energy and the tree-lined boulevard makes it appealing at any time. Street performers, vendors, curio shops and cafes line up the streets. Due to the perpetual crowds, one must guard against the pickpockets who lurk around. 

 

Main enrtrance to La Boqueria

As you near the La Boqueria, the aroma of food and an atmosphere charged with high energy grips you. The stream of unending small stalls and shops with s high pitched sales fill the air. The colours of the rainbow seem to have descended on the stalls that sell the farm produce and fruits. 

Fruits and Nuts sellers

So many choices of fruit drinks and cocktails are available that one is literally spoilt for choices. Nuts and seeds, sweets, as well as meat, fish, dairy and cheese seem to have conquered the place. Even if one does not want to buy anything, it is worthwhile to soak in the environment while rubbing shoulders with the unending stream of visitors.

Spoilt for choices for fruit cocktails
The concept of Boqueria is almost 800 years old and with the passage of time, the traders from the adjacent areas have immensely helped in the growth of this market. Every day of the week more than 200 traders come in early to roll up their shutters to welcome the stream of visitors who come to enjoy the gastronomic delights the market offers, 

The La Sagrada familia
So if you happen to be in Barcelona, do not forget to see this amazing market besides visiting the La  Sagrada, familia, Parc Gueill and other delights in the city 

PS: All pics are mine