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05/08/2013

The dirty Frenchies exploring Sundarban…

 Here is an interesting angle to tell about my trip to Sundarban...

Departure from Kolkata at 8:30 in the morning for a 3 hour ride in a van falling into pieces. Thighs glued by the sweat to the fake leather seat. No need to complain; better to just try and avoid fainting by swallowing gallons of water. 

 

We arrive at the pier to embark on a motor boat that a guy is vigorously bailing out. It is midday, not a shadow of shadow, and the “cruise” is not ending – an hour and a half by 40 degrees seems to last much longer...

We finally get down on our island, where the eco-village is set up. Hell and damnation, there is network!! I do as planned (be without a phone for 4 days) and switch off my Blackberry as if there was no network: I'm on holidays!

On our left, a kind of big pond of brownish water in which a water buffalo is chilling. And in which we are invited to jump... Since we are not sure whether this is a joke, we first go and drop our stuff in the room. And, to my surprise (and I daresay even relief, since I had opted for “roots” holiday (without electricity)), there is a fan – so I won't die of heat! 

I enter the dark bathroom to discover that...

 

(Click on Lire la suite to read more)

Read more ...

04/30/2013

Getting ready for the mangrove!

It comes this time of the year again where the need of nature and disconnection becomes a urge…

Though I have travelled a lot in India there are still many places to discover, luckily!

My criteria are usually: a remote area, a comfortable place to stay, wilderness, no phone network, option to exercise.

 

So when I read this: “The largest mangrove forest in the world is a mist-shrouded, river-riddled swamp region of shifting tides, man-eating tigers and off-the-beaten-track adventure. It’s surrounded on three sides by two of the most densely populated countries on earth – India and Bangladesh – yet it remains remote, inhospitable and largely uninhabited by people. This is truly wild terrain, and chug-chugging along its river channels into its swampy heart of darkness is as thrilling as it is serene.*” I could only say “let’s go!!”.

 

And this magic place is called… Sundarbans!

 

Looking further, I tried to decide whether to visit from the Bangladeshi side or Indian side. The Bangladeshi part seemed even wilder and mostly visited by boat, so I was really keen on going there. But May was the beginning of the rainy season and there were risks of storm. Plus I needed a visa. And travelling from the airport to the Sundarbans would require one night bus. So I decided to be reasonable (for once) and opt for the Indian option.

 

Looking for an agency I found this very appealing site: “We try as much as we can to buy our vegetables and fish from the local farmers and fishermen, engaging local folk artist to present their art to our guests. Our island does not have electricity and we want to keep it that way. We use lanterns and lamps and some solar powered lights. The idea is to let people break away from their daily life chaos spending few days in the lap of nature and doing things which pleases their senses. Take a dip in our ponds, take a boat into the mangrove to watch birds in the daytime and stars at night, take our goat for grazing and give our water buffalos a shower. Learn some bengali cooking and meet travellers’ in the community center for sharing travel stories...**”. I was conquered!!

 

News when I get back!


* http://www.lonelyplanet.com/bangladesh/travel-tips-and-articles/77644#ixzz2MqK2my3c

** http://www.tourdesundarbans.com/

04/24/2013

About casts and inequalities in India - Illustration

 To continue on the subject of untouchability and castes, I am often asked the question whether it still exists and is still visible. And I answer that either it doesn’t really prevails in my world (personal and professional), either it is too subtle for me – at the same time I don’t really dig because I find it a pretty abominable system – this being a personal point of view. 

However, below is something I witnessed last week.

I was having lunch with an Indian guy, fluent in English, a shrewd sales guy and a manager in an MNC. He is about 35 years old, 1.60m, 90 kilos, the type of guys who impose. Rather silent, he commands respect by his looks more than by what he says (since when he opens up it is often to say stupid things). 

A nice guy but completely devoid of humility (to put it simply, when I told him maybe he could work on his humility he had never heard the word…).

So I was at the restaurant (local joint) with Mister Me-Me-Me and he had just ordered a coke. The waiter brought the can and stood on the side.

My Indian fellow showed him to come closer and with a smile full of empathy asked him whether he was tired. I was amazed: it doesn’t look like him at all to worry about other people’s (whoever) health. Maybe it was an example that only stupid people never change??

The waiter answered he was okay. So my associate pointed at the can and said "so??'' The poor guy had not opened the can for him...

The whole point of this story is that due to the cast system in India there is a real rigor in the task division. There is a guy to wash clothes, one to iron, one to put in the cupboard etc.

End