July 30, 2006

Mousetrap - 64

Carrying on from last week, where we focussed on our Government’s order to ban a list of sites, here are a a few sites and pages that go into some depth on censorship in general.

Reporters Without BordersHandbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents
Reporters Without Borders says that more than a third of the world’s population live with an absence of press freedom, and it aims to restore their right to be informed. It is an international organisation with branches and offices in different parts of the world, and also works with local and regional press freedom organisations and the ‘Reporters without Borders’ Network. The website “functions like a press-freedom news agency,” and this handbook, which you can download as a PDF (print-friendly PDF) or read online, is one of their offerings.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
EFF is a non-profit group founded in 1990 in the USA, as a response to what its founders considered an attack on a threat to speech. Its perspective and history, are, naturally, rooted in America, but it has expanded to other countries around the world as well. The Blue ribbon campaign invites you to display your support for EFF’s goals by posting their banner on your personal pages. See also their Legal Guide for Bloggers. Again, the legal system referred to is American, where speech has strong constitutional protection, but since we in India live with ill-defined and sometimes uninformed laws on the subject, it is a good place to start informing yourself, so you can contribute knowledgeably to the discussion in India.

Boing Boing's guide to defeating Censorware
BoingBoing, as I’ve said in this column before, is one of the most popular blogs in the world, with astronomical readership figures. It also finds itself blocked in many countries, for reasons I’ve been unable to fathom. This page lists many useful tips and lots of advice from their team.

Campaign Against Censorship / Films for Freedom
A group that styles itself as “an action platform,” it has a membership of 300 plus Indian filmmakers. It formed as part of the Campaign Against Censorship, when the Mumbai International Film Festival attempted to screen and censor Indian films in 2004. The site features an archive of indie films made post 2002, and a discussion forum. The forum, oddly for a group that values freedom, requires many details about applicants, and takes up to a week to approve membership.


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 30th July, 2006.

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July 23, 2006

Mousetrap - 63

Over the last week, the press, including the newspaper you’re reading, gave the blog ban issue a lot of prominence. As of this writing, our government has admitted only to ordering some sites blocked, but has issued no explanations. All ISPs have not yet restored access to Blogspot, Typepad (both free blog providers) and Geocities (a free home page service) URLs. So, this week, a slightly different column.

First, without any of the usual attempts at witty commentary, the list of sites that the DoT allegedly ordered banned in India. It has been widely circulated online, and is even available on the back of a T-shirt you can buy via a web retailer. The front of the shirts says “I’ve been banned in India and all I got was more web traffic. Thank you India!”

http://www.hinduunity.org
http://mypetjawa.mu.nu
http://pajamaeditors.blogspot.com
http://exposingtheleft.blogspot.com
http://thepiratescove.us
http://commonfolkcommonsense.blogspot.com
http://bamapachyderm.com
http://princesskimberley.blogspot.com
http://merrimusings.typepad.com
http://mackers-world.com
http://www.dalitstan.org
http://hinduhumanrights.org/hindufocus.html
http://nndh.com
http://bloodroyaltriped.com
http://imagessearchyahoo.com
http://imamali8.com
http://rahulyadav.com

Why am I giving you URLs that you can’t view in India? Well, here are a few useful sites you can access, so you can make up your own mind on whether these are dangerous to see.

Bloggers Against Censorship wiki
Information about the ban, the ISPs that implemented it, the list above, a long list of ways to bypass the ban, links to media coverage and bloggers’ protests, tips on the Right To Information Act, and more. You owe it to yourself to visit this site. Now. Before some bureaucrat decides you need to be protected from it.

Bloggers Collective
A newsgroup run by a group of bloggers. Get an insider’s view of the events of the week, from the initial alarm bells, to the vociferous arguments and bickering, to the strategies, to the yells of triumph, to―well, the group is still active, and growing. Subscribe to get email updates or join in on the conversation.

PKblogs and INblogs
PKblogs was created by Pakistani geeks (Pakistan’s Top Level Domain or TLD is .pk, hence the name) to bypass their own government’s blog ban following the Danish cartoons controversy a few months ago. Indian readers accustomed to tut-tutting about clampdowns across the border wound up using a tool created by Pakistanis to combat censorship by our own allegedly democratic government. The irony. And INblogs (named for India’s .in TLD) is a gift by the same techies to bloggers in India. Blogs and borders? Phoeey!

More next week. Unless, of course, there’s a block on this column too.


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 23rd July, 2006.

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July 16, 2006

Mousetrap - 62

It’s been a bad week in this, my city. Violence and arson on Sunday, then the bombings. So, let me use the column this week to point to a set of citizen initiatives (one of which this column has mentioned before) that attempted to help in some way. Yes, the web worked when phones were down. (Disclosure: I was heavily involved with two of these sites, and invited to a third.)

Helping hands
Mumbai Help
Mumbai Help sprang up last year, post the Cloudburst, following a pattern set by earlier disaster relief blogging efforts: assembling and pointing to useful information. Post the floods, activity wound down. But on the 11th, it came to life again. Some of the original contributors, with a a bunch of new ones, rapidly put together info on the situation: traffic and train conditions, phone scenarios, shelter advice and more. Plus there was a new development. With phone networks buckling under the strain of what must have been everyone in the city calling simultaneously, many were completely cut off from their loved ones. One post (right on top) asked simply: “How can we help you?” and went on to offer to try and pass messages on. It was promptly flooded with requests. And, in a truly inspiring twist, others, readers, not just the blog team, equally promptly weighed in by making calls, sending SMSes and then sending reassuring messages back to the worried ones. Go read.

Blackboard
The Mumbai Help wiki
Blogs are great online collaboration tools, within limitations, like their native reverse-chronological order format. A wiki, which is a kind of website that works like a virtual blackboard―anyone can write, anyone can erase―lets you do a lot more in the way of organising information. MumbaiHelp moved some data to the wiki and then stepped back to let willing hearts and hands take over. The list of phone numbers to be called and an English transcription of the Devnagari list of the dead and injured that the Mumbai Police site released came up here, produced by the joint efforts of people in different parts of the world. There’s one section you may want to contribute to even now: an ideas page that invites suggestions on next steps.

Picture this
Flickr (and then put the words “mumbai” “bomb” and “blasts” into the search box)
These are pictures by ordinary folk, amateurs with cellphone cameras or digicams. Some of the sights you’ll see are not for the squeamish, I must warn you.

Is the pen mightier than the sword?
Writers against terrorism
This collablog came up on the night of the 11th. Its first post stated that it would try to “address issues of terrorism, fanaticism, bigotry, war, censorship, human rights violation, women's rights and any act which violates the idea of justice and fairness.” and went on to invite suggestions, opinion and comments. Already, a bunch of writers are posting (around 40 posts up as of this writing), some skilled, some with rougher edges, with opinions across the spectrum being debated. This is the way differences should be worked out. With reason, with minds engaging one another.


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 16th July, 2006.

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July 14, 2006

Flavour of Kolkatta [Restaurant Review]

Flavour of Kolkata seems to be in some sort of identity crisis. Under the parent brand, it squeezes in Chowringhee, for Bengali food, Shahi Darbar (Mughlai), Tangra (Chinese), Southern Avenue (South Indian) and Aadda (Cal street food).
But, we learn, it is a food court in a mall, so I ignore my allergy to multi-cuisine food vendors—all the food is suspect, we think—and on the grounds that (a) it would be the most genuine, (b) I’m partial to fish and nuts about mishti, (c) the Anglo-Indian blood has to show up somewhere and (c) my parents honeymooned in Cal, we plumped for the Chowringhee menu.
It’s a bit of the beaten track. Correction. Make that bang on the beaten, rutted lunar landscape of a track that passes for a road between Vashi and Turbhe. The trucks that keep the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Market stocked are not kind to the asphalt. So getting here can be a bit of a spondylitis-inducer.
It had been pouring non-stop for a few days, and it was late at night on a weekday, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. A quick telecon with our Bong food oracle later, we ordered a mutton chop (Rs80) and a Chicken Kabiragee (Rs85) as starters.
The chop (which I would have called a cutlet) was a bit too mirchified for my taste buds, but one is assured that this is the real thing. The chicken was pure cholesterol—a large chunk of chicken in a lacy eggligĂ©, and oily—and heavy, and could well have been in the main course section.
Yes. The main course. Pabda Sorse (Rs165), fish cooked in mustard had, to my palate, way too much mustard. The “butter fish” was soft and delicate, but completely overwhelmed by its flavouring. Our big indulgence, the Crab Jhol (Rs500), was we concluded, overpriced but good. A large crab that required much wrist action with that thing you use to break crab shells up when you’re trying to be dignified. Better by far to abandon pretense and eat with both hands, no? My personal favourite: the Daab Chingri (Rs205), prawns in a coconut milk gravy, cooked and served in the tender coconut shell; succulent prawns, just a hint of sweetness in the gravy. I almost forgot. Our token veg dish was a first time experience for me: banana flowers, or Mochaar Ghanto (Rs105) was very nice indeed. Desert had to be Mishti Doi (Rs45) of course. I can never get enough of the stuff.
Overall, the food is worth the visit, and the ambience adds to the experience. The staff (Bengali to a man we were told) are extremely helpful with menu choices, and attentive. Bengali songs played softly through our meal. They also offer a membership scheme: fill out a form, and you get a card which entitles you to discounts on subsequent visits.

~ Peter Griffin

Chowringhee, in Flavour of Kolkata food court, City Mall, B-1016 (on the road to Turbhe, past the APMC), Sector 19, Vashi, Navi Mumbai 400703. Ph: 2783 2773 / 2738, 8716. tr&h@hotmail.com. Make a reservation on the weekend. You should get a table without a problem at any other time.

Published in Time Out, Mumbai, 14th July edition.

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July 09, 2006

Mousetrap - 61

Everyone’s an expert on something
wikiHow
As with all wikis, this site relies on collaboration. It focusses, it says, on “offering clear, concise solutions to the problems of everyday life.” There are nigh on 9000 articles up, ranging from basic stuff like how to ride a bike and or preheat an oven to more long term or deeper stuff like how to retire at 30 or talking to fundamentalists. And since it is a wiki, you can contribute too. Its sibling site, eHow (a click away via the top menu), claims to give you “Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Everything.” Between the two, you can pretty much do without all your how-to manuals. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a tutorial for what to do with them.

The eyes of the beholder
The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA)
Whether this is all bad art is open to debate: I’ve seen the paper you’re reading chronicle the sale—for many columnists’ ransoms—of work that looks far worse to me. Never mind. MOBA (a neat play on the famous MOMA), presents, tongue firmly in cheek, a collection of art under the heads of Portraiture, Landscapes and Unseen Forces. Take the tour for the most impact, starting with the first portrait, Lucy In The Field With Flowers. Chortle through the lot, and then go see their news section. More joy.

Gallery of the Gods
Mark Harden's Artchive
After the site in the previous section, I must hasten to prove that I am not a complete philistine (and also make sure I don’t get beaten up by artist friends), so I’ll share with you a site that’s an old favourite. The Artchive is an absolute bonanza for the art lover, with free downloads of images of classic art by the cartload. I have enough of those stored to be able to change desktop wallpaper every day for years! There are also notes on criticism, and art links, but it will be a long time before you get down to those, I’ll wager.

***

This week’s blog

Chomp
Celebrities Eating
In the time since I bookmarked this site to include in this column, it has been “discovered” by a hugely popular entertainment site and a newspaper, and its owner seems to now be too overwhelmed to update further. Never mind. It’s not a complex site to explain. The name says it all. It’s just pictures of celebs (mainly Hollywood types), well, eating. Bon appĂ©tit.


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 9th July, 2006.

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July 02, 2006

Mousetrap - 60

Instant web page
shortText.com
Create your own page here by just typing stuff in and saving it. You can keep it private, which means you get a pass code, and the service doesn’t list it, or make it searchable. You get a unique address, which you can then pass on freely. Your page stays online as long as it is accessed at least once a year, so can be as “disposable” as you want it to be. What use is this? See their FAQs for suggestions. Here’s a quick page I created for the readers of this column as a demo: http://www.shorttext.com/yjsr4

Make a date
indiavents
Despite the name, this isn’t a place for all you citizens of this great republic to go let off steam. It’s a free social events calendar. Register with an email ID, and you’re free to set up pages that announce your own events. You can then invite people to your events by sending them a link. They can view your event without logging in, but will need to register to RSVP. It’s a newish service which hasn’t picked up steam yet, so it’s unlikely many people you know will be registered. The service itself isn’t unique (for instance, it comes bundled within several very popular networking sites), so I’m not sure if it will take off.

Verse-us
QuickMuse
Poets are generally held to be gentle souls, abhorring conflict and suchlike. Perish the thought. I could tell you about... Never mind, let’s talk about this site. QuickMuse as an idea isn’t all that unusual: it pits poets against each other one on one, gives them a cue and a time limit, and lets them loose to write. Technology steps in here. You can “watch” the process, tracking the poet’s pauses, their erasures and editing, the speed (or lack of it) with which they put down a line or a word. And no, you don’t have to be online at the precise moment the poet is. The archives let you see not just the finished poems but also the “recordings” of the writing process. And no, you won’t be subjected to random outpourings from netizens with nothing better to do. A select list of highly-regarded poets have featured thus far, among them, Robert Pinsky, the US Poet Laureate.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India / Outlook Traveller, Mumbai edition, 2nd Juky, 2006.

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July 01, 2006

Bright Lights, Wet City

Our passion for the monsoon took a bit of a beating last year. There’s something about 944 millimetres of rain in a matter of a few hours that can, um, dampen one’s ardour.

The memories—of flooded houses, possessions irretrievably damaged, of trudging for hours through a murky soup of sewage and rain water, of being stranded in offices, busses and God knows where else, some of us for days—have faded away over a pleasant winter (yes, ye shivering snobs from the north, we know it’s hardly a winter, but we’re proud of it, so there) and a scorching, sweaty summer. But for many of us, the first rain this year didn’t bring on the usual grins of delight. Instead, there were quickened pulses, a what-if tension in the air. Worried calls were made, family and friends checked on. Though once we knew all was well, we got back to our favourite monsoon hobby: swearing at the municipality.

But we’re losing the plot.

Let’s start again.

We luhrve our monsoon. We adore how it unceremoniously interrupts summer, flushing the grime out of our buildings and our trees, washing away the smog. We coo over that special fresh green of new leaves, new grass, new weeds (we’re not picky, as long as it’s green). We joyfully anticipate fewer water cuts as our lakes fill up, and, perhaps, less load shedding.

And we smile indulgently when petulant out-of-towners ask what there is to do in this blasted city when it’s pouring. Come, sit down. A nice hot adhrak chai while we chat?

We have a lot to offer you, we do, from the sastha-sundar-tikao (roughly translated Bambaiya for “simple and won’t kill you”) to the mildly expensive or somewhat loony. Caveat: you won’t find much here about the lives of the very rich—much the same all year, one ACed environment to the next—or the very poor, for whom the rains are even more misery. This is a largely middle class list, my own favourite indulgences plus the recommendations of friends.

On, then, with the show.

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If you have time for only one monsoon indulgence in Bombay, you must do this: walk in the rain along one of the seaside promenades. Marine Drive for choice, where waves smash against tetrapods, exultations of foam and salt splashing twenty, thirty feet into the air, the spray hurled over the retaining wall by the wind, drenching anyone in the vicinity, reaching as far as the other side of the road. There is no experience more quintessentially Bombay In The Rains than that.

Reasonable facsimiles of this can also be had at Worli Sea Face, and at Bandra’s Carter Road or Bandstand. If you’d prefer wet sand under your feet instead of pavement, head to one of the chowpattys: the northern end of Marine Drive, or Dadar or Juhu. (Stay out of the water, it can be dangerous. Foolhardy people die there every year.) Or wander around near Powai Lake, beautiful any time of the year for water without the wave action.

If you’d rather not walk, take a bus! Get a top deck seat right in front, on the BEST’s route 123. It starts in Colaba, hits Marine Drive near Churchgate, and traces its length all the way to Wilson College, carrying on from there to Naik Chowk (near Grant Road station). From where you can take the same route back. The 108 between VT and Kamala Nehru Park, via the entire length of Marine Drive from Nariman Point to Walkeshwar, is worth a ride too, though it’s a single decker. Bonus: it takes you to Hanging Gardens, another beautiful place to watch the rain: Chowpatty below you, and the curve of Marine Drive stretching out; you know the rain is on its way when Nariman Point disappears from view. At nine bucks per head for the entire route, these are the cheapest joy rides in Bombay. No, wait, any rainy afternoon, after the morning commuter madness is done, and before the evening return match, take a Harbour line train from Mankhurd and stand at the door all the way across the creek to Vashi. Get off, come back. Repeat. Check pulse. See? Lower already.

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What about slightly longer diversions?

One classic city getaway is the Aarey Colony, near Goregaon. Green through the year, it is particularly lovely in the rains. Get thee to the area halfway in, called Chota Kashmir, where you can frolic on the grass, picnic, even row a boat on a little lake. Or just stop by for a chai at one of the stalls.

In Thane, the Yeoor Hills area on the fringes of the National Park is dotted with hotels and restaurants which, during the monsoon, get brisk custom from people out for a drive in the rain.

New Bombay, fringed with hills, offers many delights for the nature lover. Short drives out and off the beaten track can take you to small waterfalls, ponds and much greenery. Carry a plastic groundsheet if you’re finicky about getting muddy, stow some towels in the car and go find yourself a picnic spot.

For the more energetic, the waterfalls at Chinchoti and Tungareshwar near Vasai in the North are hugely popular day-trips during the rains, and will mean a bit of a hike before you get to the falls. If you’re feeling energetic, the rains are also when hiking season starts in the city. Most weekends see energetic groups of all descriptions heading off by the last train on Saturday night or pre-dawn on Sunday, out to the nearer ghats, where they will spend the day clambering joyously up hill and down dale, getting wet. It’s really the only time when these hills are remotely friendly; they’re hot, desiccated and brown the rest of the year, but now they’re green, waterfalls are everywhere, birds chirrup... you get the picture.

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Of course, walk, ride or wade, you must eat.

Buttas for choice, corn-on-the-cob roasted over hot coals as you wait, then smeared with lime and chilly powder. Or the city’s signature snack, the vada-pau, mashed potato balls spiked with bits of chilly, coated in batter and fried, then slipped into the bread, with lashings of chilly powder. Or bhajiyas, if you prefer them, batter-fried onion or potato slices usually, but also spinach, whole chillies, even slices of bread. There’s the rest of the panoply of the city’s street food, of course, but careful about bhelpuri, panipuri and the like—they’re not cooked on the spot, and water-borne diseases are a real danger in the monsoon months. Tea to wash it down, bambaiya-style cutting chai, over-boiled, over-sweet. (Avoid the sugarcane juice: jaundice lies that way.) Everybody swears by a different area or vendor for the best munchies, so I won’t name names here. Ask around; you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Prefer to sit someplace comfy while you eat and a snack, while you watch the rain?
If you’re picky about the view, a personal favourite is Samovar, at the Jehangir Art Gallery: open on one side, looking on to the Museum grounds. Tea by the pot, or beer, excellent food and snacks (try the mutton samosas). The management is fighting a court case, and if things don’t work out, this city landmark may just down shutters, so go soon!

Aside from that... Cafe Sea Side at Bandra Bandstand is beautifully located and won’t break the bank. The coffee franchises have a few good well-positioned outlets too—Cafe Coffee Day at Carter Road, Bandra, and the Barista at Bandra Bandstand are the best, in my opinion.

When you’ve managed to get drenched and have picked up a sniffle, head over to one of the South Indian restaurants around King’s Circle and Sion for some sinus-clearing rasam (and of course wonderful dosas and other good stuff). Or look for red carts with pseudo-Chinese brushstroke signboards proclaiming names like Hungry Eys and down a bowl of soup China has never heard of.

Strictly carnivorous? Paya soup at Saarvi, near Naigaum police station, Biryani at City Cafe, or kababs and naans at any Muslim restaurant in Mohammad Ali, Bombay Central, Mahim or Bandra. They tend to be open enough for you to watch the rain while you pig out. A roadside kababwalla is even better; you can warm your hands over the coals while your kababs are being done.
What if you’re with that special someone, or on an expense account, and have an itchy credit card? The 5-star options: in South Bombay, The Sea Lounge at the Taj, the Oberoi’s coffee shop, the Dome at the Intercontinental all give you achingly beautiful sea-and-rain panoramas; likewise, restaurants at the Taj Land’s End and Searock (a friend swears by their Arabian Lounge) in Bandra, and most of the Juhu beachfront hotels (the coffee shop at the J W Marriott has the best view).

Oh yes. An editor not unconnected to this magazine speaks fondly of popping across the creek for lunch at Admiral Pereira’s Uran Plaza. Not as impossible as it sounds. Simply call them up first to see what’s on the menu (the Admiral gently brags that his kitchen can give you anything from daal chaval to Lobster Thermidore). Then head to Bhaucha Dhakka (Ferry Wharf), where a boat will get you across in an hour or thereabouts. Except for the boats for Uran, Mora and JNPT, the other ferry services don’t operate during the monsoon, so sailing further South isn’t an option.

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But there are times when you want to get away from the city’s bustle.
For a slice of the beach-in-the-rains experience, within city limits, but in the North-Western corner, there’s The Resort at Aksa and The Retreat at Erangal, who will give you the 5-star treatment. U-tan (at Uttan), Manoribel, Domonica’s Beach Resort and Domonica Hotel (Manori) and a slew of cottages at Gorai will lighten your wallet far less.

Or you could drive to the mainland beaches, Alibag, Kihim, Kashid and Murud to the South, or Dahanu or Daman Northwards. Cottages and holiday homes abound. And private homes are available for short stays.

For a little hill air, take a train, bus or drive to Khandala, Lonavala or Matheran, or closer by, the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, on the road to Goa. Or drive to Malshej, park near a convenient waterfall, and get wet!

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Whatever it is you decide to do when you’re visiting Urbs Prima in Indus, you may find that friends in the city seem reluctant to join you in your explorations, claiming bad traffic or ill health. Fact is, for most of us, the sweetest thought of all is staying home when it’s really coming down in buckets. A pot of tea, or a hot, spiced brandy (boil water with cinnamon, cloves and pepper corns, add a little honey, brandy to taste, sip slowly), something just-fried, a good book or a DVD, feet up, listening to the rain, knowing you don’t have to venture out... That, my energetic friend, is Bambaiya Heaven.

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Info

BEST route finder: bestundertaking.com/transport/index.htm, or IIT Bombay’s Mumbai Navigator, cse.iitb.ac.in/navigator/index.html.
Nature walks and camps with experts: Bombay Natural History Society (weekends): 22821811, bnhs@bom4.vsnl.net.in, bnhs.org or World Wide Fund For Nature (monthly hikes): 22071970, wwfindia.org
Weekend hikes in the ghats and other outdoor activity: Wanderstruck: 9820552995, wander@bom5.vsnl.net.in. India Outdoors: 24186360, info@indiaoutdoors.com, indiaoutdoors.com. Outbound Adventure: 26315019, outboundadventure@hotmail.com, outboundadventure.com, Odati Adventures: 9820079802, odati@vsnl.com, odati.com
Uran Plaza: 27222318 (resort), 28510731 (city).
U-tan: 28451151, 28452345 (resort); 26206063, 26282653 (city booking), utan@rediffmail.com, u-tan.com
Manoribel: 28452806/7/8/9 (resort); 22691301, 22692108 (city booking), manoribel@vsnl.net, manoribel.com
Domonica’s Beach Resort: 28452163, 28452178 (resort); 24462161, 24469735 (city booking).
Domonica Hotel: 28452643, 28452280.
MTDC: 2202 6713 / 7762 / 4627, maharashtratourism.gov.in
Little Chef’s Danny Denson is an agent who can fix you up with a beach house for a few days in the Alibag-Murud stretch: 9850239157, danden47@rediffmail.com.
Add “022” for calls from India, but out of Bombay. Add “+9122” or “009122” for calls from outside India.


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For the party animal, pubs and discotheques function as normal, but there is one genus that is monsoon specific. Each year there’s bound to be at least one rain dance somewhere in the ’burbs. A large open-air venue, whatever music is popular at that very second, played very loud, and dancing in the rain and slush. And if the weather gods don’t play ball? No problem. The organisers help things along with sprinklers and hoses.


Published in Outlook Traveller, July 2006 issue.

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Cybertrack - 11

www.airsafe.com

A site that I wish was around before I took my first flight. A wealth of information for the air traveller, including, for the ones like me who are nervous flyers, reassuring information on air safety.
There’s stuff here that’s invaluable for the first time flyers of course: tips and advice on security, what one should avoid carrying, safety and security concerns, especially in the post-9/11 world, and much else. It goes beyond the stuff in minute print on your tickets (does anyone manage to read all that?), and, in fact, to things you’re unlikely to find airlines telling you, like how to make a complaint. One particularly useful section deals with travelling with children, and for children travelling unaccompanied.
But, by the site’s own admission, the most popular sections have to do with accidents and fatalities and the statistics thereof. I’m guessing they were originally meant to help make the case for how safe air travel is, but human nature being what it is, you’ll see that half the items in the Most Requested Information have to do with fatalities. They’re available sorted by airline, aircraft model, even airports. Thankfully for my blood pressure, there’s also lists of airlines without fatalities.
One of the negatives is the lack of clear distinction between links on the site and links elsewhere. Which can get irritating when one clicks through what looks like being a useful page to find that it merely lists links elsewhere, many of which turn out to be paid sites or promotions for books, CDs or courses.
Overall? Useful, though a tad too many body counts for this passenger.


Published in Outlook Traveller, July 2006 edition.

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