When you think of an island, rarely does a rainy day come to mind. But, as you can see from this series of images, a rainy day on an island can be fun too. I’ve just returned to Mumbai from a short visit to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, one of the two Malaysian states on the incredibly lush island of Borneo.
Sapi Island, a 15-minute speedboat ride away from Kota Kinabalu, is the nearest place to get away from the city if you want to enjoy a bit of adventure. Essentially the home of the popular 250-metre island-to-island Coral Flyer Zipline, this island receives visitors by the dozen everyday. The beach is small and perfect to lounge around before or after you go zip lining, snorkelling and scuba diving. So, you can pack in a good bit of fun before you head back on a speedboat to the Jesselton Jetty on the mainland.
Most of us live by the old adage that nothing is impossible. But is it always possible to believe that the sky is the limit or is it somewhat of a motivational phrase that keeps us going? Do we actually push the boundaries of whatever it is that we might be pursuing? Of course, there have been times when each one of us has aimed for the moon and succeeded at it. Do we truly believe that nothing is impossible each time we set out to achieve something? What if we could make the best of each moment of our lives by believing in our self? What if we could look past our flaws and follies to achieve the impossible, for the better part of our lives? We could try only to fail. Or, we could try and we might succeed. Whatever be the result, it’s important to give it a go.
Every once in a while, there comes a reminder of the infinite power of believing in yourself and your strengths. I recently came across the story of a young Indian man who overcame all odds simply because he believed in himself. This is the story of the 28-year-old Nagpur resident Ashok Munne, who has literally been scaling heights after he lost a leg in a train accident in 2008. This is the story of that elusive go-getter attitude that often gets lost in the recesses of our jaded beings.
Ashok had been a regular practitioner of martial arts, gymnastics and yoga, besides being a good swimmer. You could have called him ambitious, persevering even. Even when he lost his right leg to a train accident in 2008, he continued to dream of scaling heights even though it might have seemed like the unthinkable at the time.
He was fitted with an artificial leg from the Pune-based Command Hospital’s Military Artificial Limb Centre. It was during his recovery period in 2009 that he got word of Krushnaa Patil, the youngest Indian woman to climb Mt Everest. This bit of news inspired him to want to climb Mt Everest. Ashok has since not looked back.
In 2012, Ashok became the first physically challenged person to climb the 21,247 ft Mera peak, Nepal’s highest permitted trekking point, which is a pre-requisite for anyone who desires to climb Mt Everest. More recently, he rode his bike to Khardung La pass, an extremely high motorable pass in Ladakh, at 18,380 ft.
Ashok’s journey is far from over. In fact, as you read this, he is readying himself for yet another challenging journey. Ashok is currently receiving training in paragliding at Nirvana Paragliding in Kamshet. He signed up for the Elementary Pilot + Club Pilot programme with Nirvana after he expressed his desire to first climb Mt Everest and then fly down by paragliding.
It will be a herculean task for Ashok, first to scale Mt Everest and then to paraglide off the world’s highest peak, all the while braving extreme low temperatures, lack of air and the weight of equipment. Don’t you wish you could make the very best of your life by aiming high? It is stories like these that remind me, every now and again, that courage, strength, hope and belief are prerequisites for taking on challenges that life throws at us. As this brave heart’s track record has proved, nothing is impossible. And, as he prepares to take on his heart’s desire, we wish him the very best for his next journey.
The Ubud-Gianyar area of Bali is small enough to be covered by foot. At first, you might find yourself lost on one of its many narrow by-lanes, but by the end of your stay in Ubud, you’ll know your way inside out. It does, however, help if you have a bike. Or, you could hitch a ride with one of the taxi bikes for a reasonable rate to get from one area to another. I think I really enjoyed the fact that I stayed in three different areas during my trip to Ubud — Jalan Bisma, Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Raya Sanggingnan. This post is about the amazing stores in Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Bisma. I didn’t find much at Jalan Raya Sanggingnan except for two nice restaurants and plenty of art galleries and the sprawling Neka Art Museum! Besides, I think that the first two areas are places I’d definitely go back and stay at, whereas I had chosen to stay on Jalan Raya Sanggingnan for a few days only out of convenience, given that most of the venues of the Ubud writers festival were located on that road.
It helps to know that there are a few ‘main’ roads in Ubud—Jalan Raya Ubud and the Monkey Forest Road— both of which are best avoided unless you need to get one from place to the next. I first stayed on Jalan Bisma, a road which is just a few minutes away from the buzzing heart of Ubud and the touristy Monkey Forest road that’s lined with cafes big and small, innumerable Polo factory outlet stores, a Pandora store (!) and even more than one plush Guardian pharmacy! Not my kind of place, for sure. I stayed for a single night at the lovely Honeymoon Guesthouse, which was thankfully on one of the inner lanes, far from the busy traffic-filled road. Continue reading “Ubud Shopping Guide”
Google the term ‘Chief Belief Officer’ and the only references you’ll see are those that point to an Indian man. The man in question, Devdutt Pattanaik, is still known as a Chief Belief Officer well after his tenure at Future Group as consultant on matters relating to belief and culture. A trained medical doctor, Pattanaik worked in the healthcare industry for 14 years before he became business advisor at Ernst & Young. But his passion for mythology soon turned into a profession in 2008, landing him the post of Chief Belief Officer—a designation that has evidently failed to be disassociated from him till date.
At the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2004 (UWRF 2014), Pattanaik hosted art workshops like “Drawing the Gods”, but it was at the festival’s main programme, “The Chief Belief Officer” that I was truly enthralled by this man’s thoughts and simple ways of deconstructing myths in a contemporary context. Simply put, he uses mythology to approach questions in a creative way. Pattanaik is also an author, columnist, illustrator and author, but he most aptly sums up his skills saying, “I have this unique ability to articulate and communicate extremely complex ideas across structures. I discovered I have a patterned way of thinking, which is part intuition, part logic. It’s an ability that many people have, but I also have the ability to communicate and articulate.”
The second day of the Ubud Writers & Readers festival has ended and its been such a treat to listen in on the thoughts of some brilliant minds – writers, mythologists, thinkers, graphic artists, expats and locals. I left each of the sessions so much more inspired.
And it wasn’t just about writing methods or book launches. These were well-curated panels of people who threw light on their respective art. But more importantly, these individuals dug deeper to reveal a bigger picture – in relation to the world, culture, perspectives, ideas and the human mind.
I’ll be writing about some of my favourite sessions in future posts. It’s not very difficult to be connected to you all from Ubud via my blog and Instagram, but I’m also keeping my digital connections to the minimum. That’s what such places as Ubud do to you!
I had read so much about Ubud and had even heard about this little town from a dear friend. And here I am, sitting at the cafe of my guesthouse, Jati Home Stay (Wi-Fi is freely available at most cafés), after a long day of walking around and, of course, the press meet for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2014.
I arrived last night and was booked for a night at Honeymoon guesthouse, one of the many properties owned by the festival director Janet De Neefe. Staying in a traditional Balinese villa, although just for a night, was such a treat. I find it a bit daunting to arrive at a new destination in the dark of the night when travelling solo. I took a little walk outside and chanced upon Nick’s Pension, where I devoured a meaty club sandwich after travelling for hours from Mumbai. Yes, the adventurous side in me was dulled. But I knew I had plenty of time to sample Indonesian cuisine at its best.
Each room has a huge, ornately carved patio—something that I only noticed once I woke up. It was here that I thoroughly enjoyed a strong cup of Balinese coffee and felt much better, ready to take on the day. The rooms are clean and the bathrooms rustic, while breakfasts are as perfect as can be. I had to check that day as their rooms were already pre-booked but all went well as I would soon come to see.
I’ve been meeting many new people, mostly writers, many of whom are from Australia given its proximity to Ubud, as well as journalists from Jakarta and Bangkok. The town is a small one, so you can walk around if you have time to spare. But since I’ve to be at festival venues, some of which are over 15 minutes away, I’ve decided to take a ride every morning.
I’m in Ubud for the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. It has only been a day since I arrived and it’s been fantastic. Even though I’m here alone, with no skills to ride or drive, getting around is easy. Today’s a relatively free day before the next four busy days attending session after session on just about everything – from writing and politics, to cooking, coffee and the arts.
The media meet just concluded and on board the panel were such authors as Amitav Ghosh and Elizabeth Pisani, festival founder Janet DeNeefe, and Azyumardi Azra, a prominent Muslim scholar, among others. They addressed the many reasons for their being there at the festival. Interestingly, the theme of UWRF 2014 is Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. DeNeefe aptly mentioned that she was happy that this arts festival coincided with Ubud’s ongoing festival dedicated to the goddess.
Amitav Ghosh shared his thoughts on his works saying, “In Asian history there has always been some sort of a profound silence; it’s a problem that we face because there’s so much that hasn’t been documented.”
“For instance, from 1938 onwards, many Indians and Chinese left for Fiji and Mauritius as labourers. They left behind no sources, but using objects like immigration papers, it has been possible to reconstruct this occurrence in history. I’m also greatly fascinated by the opium trade. Again, this trade that financed European colonial trade hasn’t been documented,” Ghosh concluded.
Elizabeth Pisani, who has travelled for innumerable months across Indonesia said that her approach to writing and covering Indonesia is the same as the way she approaches everything else in life – to have a coffee. She recounted several instances of extraordinary happenings over a simple cup of coffee, or kapi, as it is known here.
“I got on a boat with no plan, but I found different stories everywhere I went. Indonesians are without doubt the most generous and hospitable people I have met on my travels, and I have travelled extensively across the world,” she said.
This was an exciting start to the festival with plenty of busy days ahead. To be a part of the media and to be able to cover such a great festival has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s proof that dreams do come true.