An adventure come true
British dishes go spicy
The thin and fat of it
Three cyclists give Ambika
Sharma a day-to-day account of mission
THE spirit of adventure, and the urge to do something out of the ordinary took Rajiv Sharma and his two associates Manoj Tomar and Pintoo to the world’s highest motorable pass on bicycles. At a height of 5602 metres, Khardung La in Leh is indisputably a tough terrain with steep slopes and gushing streams.
The team was flagged off at Shimla on August 27 amidst heavy rain. The expedition passed through Barmana and finally reached Manali by the end of the evening. "Lack of practice did not deter our resolve to embark upon the expedition though it made the journey tough. Progressing through the world’s toughest terrain was an experience, testing our courage and inner strength," says Rajiv Sharma, an excise and taxation official posted at Solan.
The next day began with a visit to the temple of Mata Hadimba at Manali. "The realisation that we had undertaken a gruelling task struck us once we hit the bridge on the Beas while entering the Manali-Leh highway," recalls Manoj.
This marked the beginning of a hard-hitting upward climb. The team reached Palchan at 9 a.m. The first day of 36 km and a climb of 1,300 metres from Manali left the team out of breath, and with sore muscles. Mashi, the next destination, welcomed the team with rain — adding to the hardship. The night brought hail, making the weather chilly.
A clear sky the next day made them start at 6 am. The cyclists reached the first pass Rohtang La about 9:30 am on August 30. Tandi (2673 m), 70 km away, was the next destination. Situated at 2673 m, it marks the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga rivers.
Reverence to the passing deities has a significance of its own and the troupe paid obeisance at Raja Ghappan temple near Sissu before proceeding ahead for Gondla. Located at 3120 m, Sissu’s marshy plains have long acted as a stopover for migratory birds. The journey ahead was all downhill, posing challenges in terms of maintaining the right speed and negotiating tough curves. "After driving on incomplete roads and stones, it was heart-warming to reach the Karga rest house after crossing the Tandi bridge," confides Rajiv. Awestruck by the natural beauty and cascading waterfalls, the cyclists halted at the rest house. The site marked the confluence of the Chandertal and Surajtal which originate below the Kunzum Pass and Baralacha La, respectively.
The third day began on a dull note with clouds lending a nip to the air. The troupe started the journey from Karga at 7 a.m. and a short climb of 6 km took them to Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti. With tiny pockets of green, Spiti is a cold desert which Rudyard Kipling in Kim called "a world within a world" and a "place where the gods live."
The first mechanical problem arose when Rajiv broke the clamp of his seat and the back-up team had to go all the way to Gondla to bring an identical clamp. A hardware shop served the need by making a clamp which served till the end of the expedition. After refreshing tea at Keylong bus stand, began the uphill climb towards Jispa. Rain restricted the crew’s movement from Manali where a brief halt was made at the Mountaineering Institute there. The weather remained inclement even the next day but the euphoria of continuing led the troupe to proceed to Darcha.
A journey of one and a half hours exposed the cyclists to the cool exotic locales of Darcha, where they pitched their tents. The night brought sleet followed by snow. A white mantle had spread all around Baralacha La when the crew woke up in the morning. Located at 4,890 m it literally means, "the pass with cross roads on the summit." Here meet the paths from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul.
The challenge of cycling on snow was a terrific experience. On a foggy day, on September 2, the cyclists reached Surajtal, (4,800 m), the source of the Bhaga. The unmetalled road around the pass, slush, mud and potholes brought fresh problems for the cyclists. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Himank, was doing its best under the circumstances to maintain the road. Amidst a slight drizzle, the crew started ahead for Sarchu. "Barring a brief patch of bad road, it was a pleasure riding on the remaining 25 km of the road maintained by the BRO. The back-up vehicle got caught in a running stream but efforts of the BRO helped it go on," narrates Rajiv, adding that the rest of the journey was most enjoyable. The day ended at Sarchu where the tents were pitched for the night.
The next day the ride was comfortable towards the base of the 21 Gata loops. "It is a tough climb to the top of Gata Loop but the journey doesn’t culminate there. Then there was a further 9-km-long ascent to Nakela Pass at more than 15,000 feet," quips Rajiv, describing the final leg of the arduous journey.
Between the two passes is an interesting Whiskey Nullah, where long time ago a truckload of whiskey had overturned. This served as the camping ground for the night. Places like Lalchungla at 5065 m and the great Morey Plains were other places the team cycled to before they halted at Debring beside a pond. The towering mountains and isolated terrain appeared like myriad natural treasures. The plains are unique in the sense that they extend for almost 45 km and not even a drop of water is visible anywhere.
An uphill ride of 21 km took the cyclists to Taglangla, at 17,582 feet. It is the second highest pass of the world. The sheer joy of having cycled up to that height made the team forget the fatigue that had set in.
"The thought that it was the final leg of our journey lifted out spirits and made us drive with ease for the next 3-4 km, where the road was like an express way. The downward slope on way to Rumtse was a pleasure," recollects Manoj. The team called it a day on reaching Rumtse. The next day brought the cyclists to Upshi, where the majestic Indus river flows. The green unblemished Leh valley was now in sight. It was now the test of perseverance and strength which motivated the team to complete the final climb.
The last day, September 8, proved the most tiring for the team. With cumulative fatigue of 10 days, they undertook a climb of 39 km. It took 11 hours to finally make it. The moment came at 4:40 p.m. The team-mates found no words to congratulate each other on reaching the highest motorable pass, Khardung La (5602 m) on bicycles. Enjoying each moment, the team stayed at the top for over an hour and then started back as it had started getting dark. The famous Ladakh festival was a refreshing change on the return journey.
Like bridal finery, wedding invitations too are getting more ornate and elaborate, says K.D.L. Khan
THE wedding card market in India for the six million marriages performed annually is said to be worth Rs 5000 crore. Maharashtra alone has more than 200 card printers with 20 of the most important ones in Dadaseth Agiary Lane in central Bombay. The prices vary from Rs 3 for a plain card to Rs 10,000 for a precious stone-studded card.
The elaborate wedding invite comes with the main card and three to four add-on cards. There can be separate cards or multiple inserts within a card. These could include the RSVP card, the reception, engagement and the puja invite, and also an invite to attend the sangeet, cocktail and mehndi functions.
The types of wedding cards available in the market include cards as per religion as well as designer cards, scrolls, handmade invites and jewelled cards. One wedding card firm states, like a maharaja and open your account in the invitee’s heart with our scroll wedding invitations. So fly your pigeons and run your horses now. The wedding scroll designs presented by us are reminiscent of the ancient Indian marriage. These royal Indian wedding invitations are offered in wide varieties like handmade paper, silk paper and cloth scrolls."
Besides the regular rectangular shape, the cards come in various shapes and sizes like that of a hand fan, coconut, turban or a doli. It is difficult to fathom in how many shapes a wedding card can come till you flip through the fat catalogues with card designers. One shop in Bombay claims, every year, they add 300 new designs to their collection.
The much-adored Ganpati adorns most of the cards in myriad forms. Then there are simple abstract motifs on mehndi-red handmade paper or more realistic forms on gold, silver or ivory printed sheets. The days of ordinary letterpress printing are gone. Silkscreen printing and offset printing are in vogue. With improved technology, card sellers offer a better choice to customers. The price can go beyond Rs 2000 for a card that boasts of a silk exterior studded with semi-precious stones.
The printers source paper from Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, and from cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Ballarpur. Most of the imported paper comes from Germany, Indonesia and Korea. The printers claim they work on thin margins. Many lament that they work on a margin of 15-20 per cent, while the card sellers make 300-400 per cent profit. — MF
Popular Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala and tandoori items have permanently changed the British diet, feels the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE).
According to the CRE, food and exotic cuisines from foreign countries have become so popular that some of them are now being referred to as the national dishes of Britain.
Last week, the CRE celebrated the 30th year of its existence by inviting 12 leading chefs to contribute recipes that originated abroad.
Antonio Carluccio, Gary Rhodes, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Antony Worrall Thompson, Aldo Zilli, Ainsley Harriott, and Ken Hom are among the contributors, The Independent reported.
The dishes prepared included Caribbean dish curried goat, Thai food with a prawn curry, a tuna dish, tandoori foie gras with celeriac, stir-fried chicken with black bean sauce and cinnamon duck drizzled in honey.
"The biggest change in British food has been that we are using a lot more ethnic ingredients than we were 20 years ago," said Michael Moore, one of the chefs participating in the event.
Alveena Malik, the commission’s head of integration, said food was an excellent way of getting people to interact with each other because in many cultures it was the point at which people met.
Worrall Thompson said there were more than 100 different food cultures in the UK.
"It was a struggle to get an avocado 30 years ago, unless you were in London. Sweet potatoes? We just hadn’t seen them. You had the Chinese and Indians at first and then the Thais after that," he added.
Chef Roopa Gulati said that in modern British cooking root ginger, tamarind and hot chillies were as likely to be used in an innovative roast as in a traditional Indian curry. — ANI
IF you are not blessed with an hourglass figure or a good height simply blame your parents, for a study has shown that mothers influence the weight of their children, while fathers tend to determine their height. Researchers began to look at genetic and environmental influences on the growth of foetuses and young children in 1999. They concentrated on the genetic make-up of fathers in their study of 1,000 families.
About 1,150 children were measured at birth, and again at 12 weeks, a year and two years. Height, weight and head circumference were recorded. Blood readings were also collected from the children’s umbilical cords.
Initial results show that taller fathers produce longer babies at birth. However, when it came to body fat, the experts from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Peninsula Medical School found that the mother’s body mass index, or BMI, was the main determinant.
‘Obviously one of the biggest influences on a baby’s growth is the size of the mother.
But we have confirmed that a father’s height also has a definite impact on their baby’s growth, with taller fathers having longer and heavier babies," research midwife Dr Beatrice Knight was quoted by the Daily Mail, as saying.
‘Our study is quite unusual in that both parents are included, not just the mothers, and one of the main aspects of our research is how fathers can influence the growth of their babies," she added.
Dr Knight said that data on fathers was essential to mapping the genetic influences on babies’ growth.
‘Despite the initial reluctance of many fathers to have blood taken we have managed to obtain a vast amount of quality information from the men, for which we are most grateful,’ she said.
Researchers say that the growth of babies in the womb and in the early years of life may be crucial for their development and in helping to predict future health problems, particularly diabetes. — ANI