Venice’s First and Only Gondoliera


In 2009, 23-year-old Giorgia Boscolo overcame one of Italy’s last all-male bastions (for 900 years) to become a certified gondolier. PHOTO: BBC

Travel empowers. Not just the map-toting, lens-faced tourists but also the people who make travel possible. Often, mere faces. Rarely remembered by their names for their service. Giorgia Boscolo is an exception. She’s a rare breed, in a league of her own on Venice’s canals. Should your travel plans point towards this city, do catch a glimpse of this spirit who sails right through 900 years of taboo.

As a little girl in Venice, Giorgia Boscolo was forever bugging her father to let her ride with him in his gondola. While her three sisters played with their dolls, she would beg him for a turn with the remo, or oar. Dante Boscolo, an indulgent Italian father, humored his pint-sized shadow — to a point.

“My father only let me row when it was bad weather,” Giorgia recalled with a laugh.

His retort was swift: “That’s how you learn.”

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Nutmeg – from Table to Design

You must have heard the phrase in a nutshell. Well, this post is not exactly that. It’s going to border on being a story in a nutmeg. Yet another tale to add to Kerala’s legacy of having a heart of spices. The nutmeg, though not as glorious as its cousins pepper or cinnamon, is integral for its medicinal, herbal properties and its place in the kitchen.

For me, it’s the embrace that links spending holidays with a grandmother whose heart had nutmeg all over it and a design sensibility at Xandari Harbour. The wispy haired grand lady is long gone, but the wind rustles up her memories among the nutmeg trees. So does a certain corridor at work.

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Little People, Big Things

“Unstuck”. The quotation marks in this post below are all too familiar. They stemmed from well-worded conversations that traveled across the 16,894 kilometers between Kochi, India, and Costa Rica. Between me and Crist Inman. About “getting back in”. Going back and forth on happiness and redefining it. On dreaming. Together.

And, I remembered this bouncing, hugging ball of happiness that owned me by the beach at Xandari Pearl in Kerala. Little person, but home of good things.

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Bringing Food Closer in South Africa

Lakheni is a social enterprise which harnesses the aggregated buying power of low-income communities to give them access to discounted staple food.

Lakheni is a social enterprise which harnesses the aggregated buying power of low-income communities to give them access to discounted staple food.

The Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) provides aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure, and $50,000 in prizes to transform their ideas into businesses that will have positive real world impact. And one of the winners this year is Lakheni, a service that could serve as a low-cost replacement for brick-and-mortar stores.

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Prefab Solar Classrooms Power Education in Kenya

According to a UN report, there are around 57 million children who don’t have a school to go to.The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) says in some areas it could take 70 years before there are enough primary school places for every child. There has been some progress though; there are now half as many children unable to go to school as there were in the year 2000. That means in the past 13 years around 60 million more children now have access to an education. And initiatives like Aleutia’s definitely play a big role in bringing down the number of children who lack access to education.

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The Tradition of a Most Dangerous Game

The Calcio Storico is an ancient form of football from 16th century Italy, which originated from the ancient Roman ‘harpastum’, and is played in teams of 27, using both feet and hands. Sucker-punches and kicks to the head are prohibited but headbutting, punching, elbowing, and choking are all allowed

Welcome to Calcio Storico, a centuries-old competition in Florence with very few rules and the sort of human wreckage generally associated with the gladiators. Dating back to 16th century Italy, today’s calcio storico (see photos from The Guardian here), or historic soccer, may be both the most violent form of soccer in the world. It is played only in Florence, Italy, where four 27-man teams representing four historic Florentine neighborhoods—Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito, and San Giovanni—face off to beat each other to a pulp, every June. Kicks to the head are forbidden. So are fights of two or more against one. Everything else goes, making the goal of moving a leather ball from one end of the field to another seem like a side note to the bloody proceedings.

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Travel Made Easy Through Air

An upcoming aerial ropeway might be the solution to Kolkata's traffic congestion issues

An upcoming aerial ropeway might be the solution to Kolkata’s traffic congestion issues

No, we are not talking flying here. But the Curvo, the world’s first non-linear aerial ropeway for second tier urban commutation. Pollution and traffic-free, the service, operational on electricity, would be on steel frames spreading at a distance of around 90-100 m running through the existing arterial and other roads to avoid congested streets of the city. There will be elevated stops at every distance of 750 m and the cars would be able to gain speed of about 4.25 m per second (12.5 km/hour) with the ability to carry an estimated 2,000 people every hour. Curvo is expected to be introduced in 18-24 months. The cabins will have an accommodation capacity of 8-10 persons.

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For the Love of Rains and Traditions

Celebrated in June every year, San Joao is one of Goa's cultural festivals. Tradition has it that it was on this day that unborn St. John the Baptist 'leapt with joy' in his mother Elizabeth's womb, as Mary, the mother of Jesus visited her.

Celebrated in June every year, San Joao is one of Goa’s cultural festivals. Tradition has it that it was on this day that unborn St. John the Baptist ‘leapt with joy’ in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, as Mary, the mother of Jesus visited her. PHOTO: Harsha Vadlamani

Yes, this is yet another rain-inspired story, after the one on Communist reading rooms. But such is the power of the Indian monsoon, that it can sway even the most stoic of minds. For comparison, the feelings and emotions associated with the deluge mirror those of when sighting the first of the cherry blossoms or even the Northern Lights. May be less, may be more. Any how, this post is about a fun tradition that has its roots in the picturesque villages of Goa, a popular tourist destination. And the feast of Sao Joao is a playful mix of religion, tradition, lots of merrymaking, and jumping into wells. Yes, wells. And oh, the event marks the six-month countdown to Christmas!

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What’s That You Hear on Uganda’s Streets?

Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with over 78% below 30 years of age. PHOTO:

Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with over 78% below 30 years of age. PHOTO:

Uganda is a ‘young’ country if the above numbers are anything go by. And that makes the nation’s present population one that is acclimatized to he ways of the English language. A consequence of it is the development of a new language  – Luyaaye. Designated an Urban Youth Language (informal varieties, the new variant is a combination of mostly English, Sheng (a Swahili-based cant, originating among the urban underclass of Nairobi, Kenya), and other Sudanese languages. Now, why should anybody pay attention to this nascent dialect, that is less rigid than traditional languages and mainly involves word play? And should its dark past be forgotten, the one about the language helping criminals do their business?

“Programmes have been carried out to spread information about AIDS but even with increased dissemination there was a decrease in the take-up of that information,” she said. “When asked what would help, people said ‘speak our language’.

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Ferry Around


The Cochin harbor lights caught on the move from the ferry

“Airrrrr, waterrrrrr and laaaaaand” – my first grade Geography teacher chanted the three main modes of transport until we pony-tailed girls were sure to never forget them. While travel by land was a plain daily affair, air transport completed family vacations. It was the much-awaited – but timed – visits to the grandparents, their home on an island in the backwaters, that sparked my love for the ferry.

As with love of all kinds and sizes, it began with the unknown. “How much water is there in the river,” “Will we die if the boat breaks”, “How works the ferry” – curiosity trumped grammar in my little world. There were some answers but the fascination stayed because how could wooden planks and boards placed across two large canoes carry people and vehicles! So every time the car reached the water’s edge, out jumped a little girl with 5 rs ($0.08), stood on tiptoes to reach the greasy ticket counter and waited until the father maneuvered the car to climb onto a ladder placed between the ferry platform and the edge of the boat (craving to do justice to this bit but Physics is not my cup of my tea). If I promised to not go close to the railings, I was allowed to stand out in the open, letting the river breeze ruffle my curls and rouse up conversations I’d drown my grandparents in.

Yesterday, the ferry was about a little girl reaching her elders on an island where once there was no bridge. Today, two decades on, the ferry is the bridge that connects the old and the new, brings together kindred and the wayfarers, and tells her stories of the land and its people. Continue reading