Backpacking in Western India

With major development in highways and other tourist-related facilities, I have been tempted to go backpacking in India in recent years. Being a resident of Maharashtra State, I decided that backpacking in Western India would be a good idea. My first trip was a wonderful experience and is hopefully the beginning of many more. I traveled the four states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, and Maharashtra (in that order) which form the region called Western India.

Pushkar camel

I loved the strange mix of royal grandeur of Rajput palaces and the rusticity of its ethnic villages in Rajasthan. The state is a feast for the eyes with its magnificent palaces, forts, heritage palace hotels, colorful bazaars, desert safaris, and tiger reserves. Their Dal-Bhati was the most delicious vegetarian meal I had eaten for some time and the souvenirs in Tripoli Bazaar were unbelievably cheap.

I hailed a bus in Jodhpur in Rajasthan and reached the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat State. I had visited Gujarat earlier and had loved the place. There is a palpable feeling of hospitality in the state. The local cuisine, magnificent temples, ancient archaeological sites, stepwell, and jungles are a treat for backpackers. Do not miss eating their vegetarian thali, a complete meal with curries, flatbreads, rice, crispies, and dessert.

Goa

Instead of driving down to my own state of Maharashtra, I flew down further south to Goa. Being a very popular tourist destination, even the so-called cheaper accommodation is pricier than in the other three states. But I found a very good homestay option in a small town called Porvorim and fortunately a room was available. It was not too far from a bus stand, so the next day I went hurtling along with about 100 other passengers to Panaji City to visit Miramar Beach and other beaches along the coast. I had dinner of Chicken Cafreal and Fried Mackerel at one of the beach-shack style restaurants. The meal was spicy but fantastic! As I am not fond of gambling I avoided the floating casinos. Instead, I went on a cruise that takes you along the Mandovi River to the point where it meets the Arabian Sea. After a fabulous time of sunbathing, swimming, parasailing, eating, and sightseeing, I moved back towards Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra, I have always enjoyed the local cuisine. It is spicier than the food in the other three states. My first stop was in Mumbai where I like going to the Gateway of India and eating the street food called Bhel. I boarded a bus going to the Tadoba National Park because it has been on my bucket list for some time. After seeing several temples, parks, historical forts, beaches (Manori Beach), and admiring the glitzy Mumbai City, I was finally ready to go back home.

There is so much to see and do in Western India that time is insufficient to cover all the tourist attractions. After such a pleasurable trip, I would love to go backpacking in the rest of India, that is the eastern, northern, and southern regions as well.

PS: For a comprehensive guide on cheap accommodation, good food, affordable transport, useful mobile apps you can download, safety, communications, suggested itinerary, etc. you can also see my ebook “Useful Tips for Backpacking In Western India” at

 

 

 

 

 

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Step-By-Step Guide to Starting a Home-Based Tailoring Business

If you can sew, you can earn! By converting your simple sewing talent into a home-based business, you can earn a good amount of monthly income with very little initial investment. If you are already sewing your own clothes, then you obviously own a sewing machine. But converting it into a business will require proper planning. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to starting a home based tailoring business:

Identify your strengths

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Are you better at sewing women’s outfits or can cope with unisex and male outfits too? Also, besides cutting and sewing a garment, do you also know a little embroidery, piping, lacework, patchwork, cutwork, etc. that would give your tailored outfits a more professional look? You must identify and hone these skills so that you can offer a wider range of services.

Do you have the necessary equipment?

Does your sewing machine have the facility for stitching materials of different thicknesses? There will be some clients who want a thin cotton shirt and others who might want you to sew a denim jacket. Also, there are many sewing machine brands that have the capability for machine-embroidery. If your machine does not have these facilities, then you will have to make an initial investment in a new professional sewing machine and practice on it for a few days before you go public.

Collect the accessories

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You will need a selection of colored threads (reels or bobbins), two sharp scissors (a big one for cutting the cloth and a small one for cutting the thread after stitching. Use the old stock of reels to practice the different embroidery stitches.

Do self-advertising

tailored dress

Whenever you can, try wearing outfits that you have stitched at public events, like at the church, a wedding, a birthday party, christening, or even casual shopping. Each time, just mention in casual conversation that you have sewn the dress or top. Continue this trend for a few weeks.

Market your tailoring business

After people have started to notice and admire your outfits and sewing talent, you can ask your family, friends, and acquaintances to mention your name as a talented tailor. Word-of-mouth is the easiest no-cost way to market your home-based tailoring business.

Expanding the business

If you wish to go global, you can design a simple blog that showcases your talent. There are several automated platforms (like WordPress) where you can develop a blog without the help of skilled IT professionals. Put up pictures of the previous work done and advertise that you can sew the same item for others once you have their measurements.

Note: For mail-order business, you must put up a guide on how to take measurements so that they don’t make mistakes. If they don’t mail you the correct measurements, your sewing will go wrong and your reputation will be at stake.

Running a successful business from home can be a very fulfilling experience. If you are good at sewing and needlework, then you can be an ace home-based tailor by following these simple steps.

Wish I had Known the 10 Benefits of Skipping Earlier!

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A week ago I was just browsing for some simple tips on fitness and health. What caught my attention was a write up on the benefits of skipping exercise. I remembered my childhood when owning a skipping rope meant fun. We girls were just three of us, but we would skip and skip every evening till our mothers called out that dinner was ready.

With an office job, marriage, home, kid and all that life entails, the habit of skipping was sadly left behind and forgotten. But I wish I had read this article on skipping a long time ago. Everyone I’ve met says that it would have probably prevented arthritic pain.

Dear readers, if you have a family history of arthritis, please do read this post and start skipping before you develop painful joints. Some of the advantages of skipping exercise are:

  • It is equivalent to a mile-long brisk walk,
  • It is just like running for an hour and is the best exercise for slimming,
  • The calories burnt in skipping exercise for an hour are 700,
  • Skipping benefits other parts of the body besides the legs,
  • The jolting of joints is less with skipping than running,
  • It improves blood circulation,
  • It helps teaches the body to maintain the balance at all times,
  • It makes your movements swift and agile,
  • It prevents the symptoms of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis,
  • It keeps the heart healthy.

HOW TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO SKIP REGULARLY

The best way is to promise yourself a brand new wardrobe once you have lost weight. There is nothing like shopping for new clothes and accessories that can motivate a woman of 40+ to exercise. So skip for shopping!

If a wedding or some other big family function is scheduled in a few months, that’s another motivator. Why not aim at stunning all the guests with your new, slimmer and gorgeous self?!

Eat a good mix of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and carbs. Don’t overdo any one of the food categories over the other types. Make time for yourself by cooking fresh meals, at least the breakfast and dinner. A couple of sandwiches and yogurt for lunch are fine.

But don’t ever overdo the skipping in an attempt to slim down faster. This is a fitness idea, not a crash course for slimming; although the ultimate effect will be a slimmer you. Take a break from skipping every 4th day. That is, skip for 3 days, miss 1 day; skip for 3 days, and so on…

An exercise like skipping will also diminish the chances of you falling and get injured once you become a senior citizen. I wish….!

6 Step Closet-Special Workouts for Lazy Women of 40+

Easy body sculpting workout for women of 40+

Being unmotivated to exercise is not a crime. I hate any kind of regimented exercise routine. But to prevent lifestyle diseases I had to think of some activity which would compel me to exercise.

That’s when I decided to turn the boring job of cleaning a closet into a full body workout. I decided to sort out one drawer of my wardrobe per week. This is not an ideal daily routine but I did say “lazy women”. A workout once a week is better than nothing at all! So here’s my 6-step full body workout for lazy women of 40+ (and men!):

WEEK ONE:

Start by cleaning the top drawer of the closet. Lay a mat/rug/blanket on the floor next to the bed.

Step 1: Let’s begin with biceps, triceps, knee joints and leg muscles.

Lift out all the paraphernalia from the topmost drawer and keep each item on the mat. The heavier the items are, the more toned will be your arm muscles. Even if you are tall, use a small stool to climb and remove each item and place on the rug.

Step 2: Pseudo bench press

Once the drawer is emptied, go tic-tac-toe and select the first box of items for sorting. Sit on the bed and push the chosen box just a few centimeters (for about 10 seconds). Repeat this process twice.

Step 3: Squats for Upper/Lower Abs and knee joints

Experts say that 3 sets of squats and 7-8 repetitions are an essential part of workouts for a sculpted body. In that case don’t pull up a chair to sit and sort out the stuff you have removed from the closet. Squat on the floor and then separate “keepables” from the junk. If you have too many things to sort out, squat for the first 5 minutes, then sit on the stool while you continue working.

Step 4: Bending and full body stretches

Once you know what goes back in the closet, it’s time for some bending exercises for the back. Don’t squat this time, but stand straight, bend forward and lift up the items you want to store in the top drawer. Now don’t use a stool to place the stuff in the closet (if possible). Instead stand on your toes, stretch upwards and keep your belongings back in place.

Step 5: Cardio

Collect the dispensable items in a garbage bag and carry it out to the trash bin. While doing so, walk at a brisk pace or at least as fast as you can. This will hardly take a few minutes but you will still be sweating at the end of it. Along with the junk, you are rid of the toxins in the body and your face is definitely glowing. If you don’t believe me just take a look in the mirror!

Throwing out the junk is the hardest part while cleaning a wardrobe. But you must harden your heart and throw anything that hasn’t been used for over a year (except personal items like albums and memorabilia).

Step 6: Eat a protein-rich salad

After you are done, treat yourself to an easy-to-make, delicious protein-rich salad. Maximum nutrients are absorbed if you eat within half an hour of completing the workout. Now curl up with a book or take a much-needed power nap.

SUBSEQUENT WEEKS:

Continue this body sculpting exercise routine till you reach the last drawer of the wardrobe. When you are removing your belongings from the bottommost drawer, naturally the workout will begin with squats. The other exercises will remain in the same order. Repeat this process with the next closet or the top drawer of the same cupboard.

Following these closet-special full body workouts have not only improved my health and complexion, but they have also helped me emotionally.

A clean closet gives you a satisfied feeling of a job well done. When your wardrobe is organized you don’t have to go through the stressful process of searching every time you need something urgently. So ladies, clean and keep fit!

 

Can the Indian Middle-Class Afford International Baccalaureate Schools for their kids?

 

In the last ten years the number of International Baccalaureate schools in India has risen tenfold…from 40 to over 470. These schools usually follow a curriculum prescribed by International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International Examinations or Edexcel. Some CBSE and ICSE schools also follow a combination of local and International curricula.

COST OF ADMISSION IN IB SCHOOLS

Let’s look at the fee structure of the top six IB schools in India for admissions to Playgroup, Nursery, KG-I and KG-II, Grade-I:

Name of school One time fee

INR approx.

Recurring fees

INR approx.

Woodstock School 2,65,000 7,90,000
Ecole Mondiale World School 6,10,000 6,90,000
Doon School 3,50,000 9,70,000
Scindia School 3,22,000 6,75,000
Mayo College (IB school) 4,00,000 5,91,000
Welham Boys School 3,01,000 6,00,000

Fees for upper grades are even higher.

One would expect the fee structure to be a deterrent but in reality there has been an increasing demand for IB schools. The apparent reason why parents are willing to pay such high sums is – so that their children can follow an education system that is similar to the one in the U.S. or UK. The ultimate goal is to be eligible for admission in one of the top Engineering, Medical or Business Schools in the world.

Not surprisingly, there is a waiting list for admissions even to Playgroup in some of the top International Baccalaureate schools in India. The probable reasons are:

  • The schools have a high standard of education and state-of-the-art infrastructure,
  • They students develop the ability to think independently because of the interactive study sessions,
  • The co-curricular activities that involve creativity, action and service (CAS) improve the global and local awareness of students,
  • Subjects like humanities and fine arts help to develop hidden talents of individual students,
  • The children develop non-academic skills like setting goals, strategic planning, organization and implementation,
  • The kids learn soft skills like cooperation, sharing, compassion, etc,
  • Education in a reputed IB school makes it easier to seek admission in highly ranked colleges and universities across the globe,
  • In some cases for snob value.

Another important reason for this paradigm shift was the pressure on students in local schools for better and better grades; leading to increasing cases of school dropouts and student suicides.

CAN THE INDIAN MIDDLE CLASS AFFORD IB SCHOOL EDUCATION FOR THEIR KIDS?

Of the 400+ schools, the fees of all the IB schools across India are not as high as the top six. Even so they charge a lot more than the local schools.

Nationalised banks in India offer educational loans only in cases where admission is sought in an ICSE, CBSE or state board school. But one can avail of a personal loan from banks or private finance companies depending on your family income and capacity to pay back the loan. Parents are willing to make sacrifices to give their children the best education. Personal loans at affordable rates have made it possible for middle class parents to opt for International schools for their kids over state schools.

Central Board, Delhi Board and state board schools will have to considerably revise their curriculum to match the International schools. From the current trend one can safely say that the culture of International Baccalaureate schools in India is here to stay.

HAPPY PI DAY TO MOTHERS OF SCHOOL GOING KIDS!

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The date 14th Match (3-14) is celebrated by Mathematicians all over the worlds as “Pi Day”. I know of a fact that many mothers help their kids with school assignments – as long as they don’t have to deal with Mathematics! “I leave that to my husband” is the usual comment. So why do most mothers hate Math? As a hypothesis, let’s blame Pi!

The number π (/paɪ/) is a mathematical constant. Originally defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it now has various equivalent definitions and appears in many formulas in all areas of mathematics and physics. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi”.

Definition of “Pi” on wikipedia.

The definition itself scares the life out of me! I would prefer to say that I’d rather read fiction than get down to exploring the application of Pi. IBut the reality is that child development and math activities have a very close relationship.

WHY OUR KIDS NEED PI & MATH

One cannot rule out the importance of mathematics in child development. I think we ladies should celebrate Pi-Day even if we are not fond of Mathematics, at least for the sake of our children. We can do that by encouraging our kids to love Math

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. You can buy innumerable varieties of learning toys for different age groups. From simple numbered blocks for kindergarten kids to rubix cube and abacus for the older children – there is a wide range of toys available online. The abacus especially will be useful lifelong. Child development and math games are closely related because they help to perfect the Mathematical skills of your children.

Math is the basis for many career options and there is a genuine need for learning the subject. A reasonably good knowledge of mathematics and the value of pi are required in the fields of:

  • Computer algorithms (pi computations),
  • Testing of supercomputers,
  • Cosmology,
  • Engineering,
  • Physics,
  • Econometrics,
  • Business statistics,
  • Seismography (study of earthquakes)
  • Meteorology (weather),
  • Geometry,
  • Trigonometry, and many, many more…

Giving your children the opportunity to explore Math and Pi at a very early age will leave the field wide open for interesting careers when they grow up.

Ladies of 40plus, please overcome the fear of Mathematics for the sake of your children so that they may have a bright and successful future. Take care…

7 Volunteer Services That Improve Your Self Esteem

volunteer services

No skill is too small to help others. There is probably a huge reserve of hidden talents in all of us, waiting to be tapped and channelized for a worthy cause. Government authorities and NGOs try their utmost to help those in need. But what can women of 40+ do to make our society a better place to live?

Helping others to have a better life can be a very fulfilling experience. It gives the helper a sense of well-being, a feeling of doing something nice for others. That’s why volunteer services improve self esteem and confidence.

Here are a few ideas…

Assisting senior citizens

Senior citizens are going through a very difficult phase in life. They are not so physically active nor are they confident enough to do even the small routine tasks on their own. Many times they are in old age homes and just want someone to chat with. Assisting senior citizens to use computers, going shopping with/for them, meeting them occasionally for a long chat, reading to them, playing chess, scrabble, bridge, rummy, etc are some of the activities. Just one hour of free time is all that’s needed.

Mentoring children

Mentoring a child would involve a little more time and a small expense as compared to seniors. You can mentor a child’s school education till he/she is able to earn a living. You can either teach the child or pay for tuitions. The aim here is to hone the existing talents of the child for financial independence. This activity would also include (in most cases) cost of basic necessities like food and clothing till they reach the age of 18 years.

Collection drives

What happens to the leftover food after a party, marriage, christening, and other social events? Are you aware that there are food banks in most major cities and towns across the globe? If you Google search you will find the nearest community volunteer services in your city. Just ring them up once the party is over and their representatives will collect the leftover food to distribute among the poor while it is still edible. In a similar way there are NGOs collecting old clothes, blankets, woollen garments, footwear, etc for the poor. You can register as a volunteer with the NGO as a collection point.

Working with animal shelters

animal rescue shelter

If you are fond of animals lending a hand at an animal rescue shelter can be a pleasure. Shelters are notoriously short-handed and every offer of help is welcome. Look around for the nearest shelter and offer your help at least on weekends. The benefit is threefold – you experience the joy of assisting helpless/wounded animals, the shelter get additional help at no cost, and the animals have more people looking after them.

Free vocational training

Everyone is not cut out for a formal education. The challenge is in identifying the latent talent in a destitute child and converting it into a small business. For example, you can teach a child to make soft toys, gift wrapping, painted stationery, baskets, etc. These can then be sold for cash so that the child learns to earn through art and craft. Become a vocational training volunteer and help the child to attain dignity in life.

Counselling children/teenagers

Many NGOs need volunteers for counselling the youth in situations like school dropouts, substance abuse, violent behaviour, emotional distress, depression, children with special needs, etc. You can conduct activity-based workshops for positivity, so that their minds are diverted from the cause of their distress. You can organize activities like sports, dance, music, dramatics, etc which help to improve the mood and encourage positive thinking.

Medical volunteering

This does not mean you need medical knowledge. Medical volunteering involves two types of activities:

  • Spending time with and counselling terminally ill cancer patients,
  • Activities like administration and computing, public relations, fund raising, organization of awareness drives, etc.

One such organization that has done really good work in the field of cancer treatment and support is the non-profit organization Max Foundation.

There is a phase in everyone’s life when you are fed up with the sameness of the office-home routine. When the mind becomes restless to do more, that’s the time to bring forth your hidden talent and use it for a social cause through volunteer services.

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