Monday, June 16, 2014

55 Fiction: I have a voice, Stop Now!

I am a part of nature. I have a purpose to my existence, like how you do.  You must understand that by killing me you are annihilating your race steadily. Without me, not just you but the entire ecosystem will be doomed. You aren't farsighted my friend. I am warning you today – Stop being greedy!



Monday, June 9, 2014

55 Fiction: I am a woman. No trespassing please!

Source: Internet Image care of Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly
I strain my neck to catch my baba walk home against the backdrop of the simmering sunset. A sudden fear grips me as the sound of a marching force approaches my village. Before I can alert, men barge into our homes. My mom is brutally raped by three hungry militants.  I live in Kivu, Congo.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jo'burg in 2 days!

Jo'burg or Jozi as the natives would like to call it is city of contrasts. Johannesburg has a rich history dating back to thousands of years but the city got its real attention with discovery of gold. George Harrison was the man who stumbled upon the gold bearing reef which led to the gold rush with thousands of migrants thronging the city in search of wealthy prospects. It is believed that this man sold his claim for 10 pounds and left the city!

The Jo'burg CitySightSeeing Hop On- Hop Off tour is a great way to explore the downtown and learn the history of Jozi. They also offer combined tours of Soweto and Jo'burg city which is a worthy deal. Soweto is a township that provides housing to several blacks who were evicted during apartheid. The city had to bear the brunt of Apartheid and has been a witness to hatred, pain, and tears which is poignantly captured in the Apartheid Museum. A visit to the museum has left many in tears! It is indeed quite disturbing to know that the natives were treated inhumanely and were subjected to a grotesque livelihood.  The city tour covers the Apartheid Museum but be warned that a decent tour around the museum would take about 2-3 hours. Right now, there is a temporary exhibition of Nelson Mandela that takes you through his life history.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" - Nelson Mandela

The quote beautifully summarizes the spirit of the freedom struggle in South Africa.

You can find more details about the City tour here. You get a discount when you book your tickets online.

Gandhi Square

The downtown depicts one side of Jo'burg while the sprawling suburbs of the city tell you a different story. Swanky cars, Glittery shopping malls, High-speed free ways, Fancy restaurants, Expensive apparel stores and Fashionable diamond outlets paint the burgeoning city!

After a tiring tour of the downtown, you can pamper yourself at one of the many plush up-market shopping areas. You can choose any one from the list that is close to your place of stay - Rose Bank, Melrose Arch or Sandton city. The Nelson Mandela Square is next to the Sandton city mall which boasts of a larger-than-life Nelson Mandela statue and is a quaint place to have a sumptuous evening meal.

What is an African city without wildlife? You can plan your Day 2 to visit one of the many private game lodges. Lion park is a famous wildlife conservation enclosure where you can drive through to meet and greet the lions. You can either do a self drive or book a guided game drive. You can also pet lion cubs. There are other similar private games within the vicinity of Jo'burg. I would recommend Lion Park as I have had great close viewing experience of lions and other animals. If you are with children, Jo'burg Zoo is another option but zoos aren't unique like the game drives. If you are visiting Jo'burg, I am sure a visit to the Kruger National Park is on the cards. In that case, you can give this a skip.

Cradle of Humankind is another prominent tourist destination which is a World heritage site depicting the journey of human species since evolution. If you are interested in science and curious about our origin, it is a place worth visiting provided you have time to juggle things!

View of the city from Carlton

Jo'burg also boasts of a couple of theme parks that makes to the top of popular tourist destinations but in my opinion, there isn't anything African in a theme park. Gold reef city is a theme park that is built over a closed gold mine. A tour down one of the mine shafts is possible but i believe it is currently not open to visitors.

Safety in Jo'burg is a huge concern for many travelers. There are many do's and don'ts that one must follow to not attract any untoward incidents. Just stick to the basics and am sure you will be safe. There are certain areas that are better avoided after sunset and venturing to such places can land you in trouble. By and large the city and its after-the-dark shopping malls are quite safe.

Things you shouldn't give a miss

  • An African meal - Try Moyo @ Melsrose arch or if you are the adventurous, try the shebeens in Soweto ( Exercise caution if you are visiting in the night, it is better to take a local along)
  • An evening meal at the Nelson Mandela Square/ Rose Bank 
  • A walk around the Downtown in daylight - haggle and shop at the roadside
  • A visit to the African Market in Rose Bank to get curios (open till 6 p.m)
  • The view from the Carlton center

Curios @ African Market

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recycle, Reuse and Reduce

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide.
That's over one million plastic bags used per minute.


It is not happening elsewhere, it is happening in your home. Although we know that the use of plastic is detrimental to our environment, we are unmindful of the plastic bag that we carry back home from our shopping. why? People give importance to issues that have an immediate impact on their lifestyle. Unfortunately the use of plastic does not fall in that category. The tangible impact of plastic use in our everyday life will not be witnessed by you, but by your children. Don't you want to leave a greener environment for your children?

Plastic pollution affects humans. Period. If you thought, plastic is only choking the marine world and destructing the fauna then, you are completely mistaken. Chemicals used in the manufacture of plastic are toxic. While on one hand we struggle to practice sustainable waste management measures, on the other even a successful composting has the danger of injecting the toxic materials into our food chain. We shouldn't forget the ecology lessons thought in school, what affects a fish will eventually affect humans.

We need to act. And, act now. Reduce the use of plastics and it has to begin in our homes.


Somethings I do and I suggest you consider doing:

1) Carry a reusable cloth bag for your grocery shopping
2) Buy products that are packaged in boxes/glass bottles rather than plastic containers/bottles
3) Avoid frozen foods. Two-way benefit, you not only avoid the use of plastic as most frozen foods are packed in them, you will also get to eat nutritious fresh produce.
4) I avoid straws as much as possible.
5) I do have a few bio-degradable plastic bags at home for the need of the hour situations. I reuse them.
6) Avoid drinking aerated drinks/juices that come in plastic bottles. Two-way benefit, Health and environment

I believe once as an individual we become aware of the consequences of our plastic usage, the measures to curtail our usage will follow suit.

I am sure there are several other ways to reduce the usage of plastic in our homes. Please do share your ideas and spread the awareness to create a plastic-free world!

PS: I was inspired by the work of Chennai Trekking Club in creating awareness and initiating the Chennai Coastal Cleanup drive. Sitting far away from Chennai, I decided to do my part by writing and spreading awareness.

If you are in Chennai and want to be a part of the cleanup drive. Click here.