Venice’s First and Only Gondoliera

Venice

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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An American Soldier, World War, and India

photo

28 years ago, a Chicago-based couple found a shoebox of photographs of the Indian countryside and they traveled halfway across the world to find their origin. PHOTO: Scroll

Here’s the plot: In 1988, a couple visited an estate sale of a deceased friend and stumbled upon a shoebox of old photographs tucked under a couch. It contained more than a hundred envelopes filled with negatives and contact sheets for photographs depicting India in 1945. The identity of the photographer: unknown.

But only until they set out to discover the man behind the lens. The answer (and the photographs) hang at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts till January 31.

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Hiking for E-mail

mahabir pun

For six years, Mahabir Pun trekked long distances to check emails in Nepal. Until he brought the Internet home to his remote village. PHOTO: Hiking for Emails, Vimeo

In India, there exists this dwindling practice of writing letters to the Editor. Of publications. Most people write on current affairs, some write to highlight issues that range from a lack of streetlights to dissent. Some write in to commend actions, public campaigns. A handpicked bunch of these are published in a column titled Letters to the Editor. Mahabir Pun of a remote village in the mountainous country of Nepal wrote to BBC, asking for help to bring the Internet home.

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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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When A Legend Fades Away

Stories about the Yeti date back thousands of years, especially in the Himalayan nations. Legends say it can be seen only when it comes down from the high mountains to lower elevation and that it passes through the forests and into the villages where it surprises or scares people and sometimes kills a yak for food. Several climbers claim to have seen an unusual animal on their way up Mount Everest. A few have taken photographs of very large footprints in the snow, claiming they belong to the Yeti. It has another name that many people will recognize: Abominable Snowman. Think of a big human-like animal covered in white hair, with huge canine teeth and very big footprints.

But now, no one’s looking for the Yeti.

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When Stories Travel the World

Few books have been narrated, written, re-written, translated and adapted as much as Panchatantra, the collection of tales of wisdom. PHOTO: Scroll

Few books have been narrated, written, re-written, translated and adapted as much as Panchatantra, the collection of tales of wisdom. PHOTO: Scroll

For more than two and a half millennia, the Panchatantra tales have regaled children and adults alike with a moral at the end of every story. Some believe that they are as old as the Rig Veda. There is also another story about these fables. According to it, these are stories Shiva told his consort Parvati. The present series is based on the Sanskrit original.

A king, worried that his three sons are without the wisdom to live in a world of wile and guile, asks a learned man called Vishnu Sharman to teach them the ways of the world. Since his wards are dimwits, Vishnu Sharman decides to pass on wisdom to them in the form of stories. In these stories, he makes animals speak like human beings. Panchatantra is a collection of attractively told stories about the five ways that help the human being succeed in life. Pancha means five and tantra means ways or strategies or principles. Addressed to the king’s children, the stories are primarily about statecraft and are popular throughout the world. The five strategies are: First Strategy: The Loss of FriendsSecond Strategy: Gaining FriendsThird Strategy: Of Crows and OwlsFourth Strategy: Loss of Gains and Fifth Strategy: Imprudence.

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Let My Country Awake

A photo dated 15 August 1947 shows Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, delivering his Famous

A photo dated 15 August 1947 shows Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, delivering his Famous “Tryst With Destiny” speech at the Parliament House in New Delhi

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance… And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for anyone of them to imagine that it can live apart…

I write this at the eleventh hour, before the hands of the clock officially rest on India’s 68th Independence Day. Oh wait, isn’t it a national holiday? I must admit the latter has me more thrilled. Also admit to not having read the country’s first Independence Day speech (excerpt above) in its entirety until now. I shall wallow in shame for a bit, until I cross over to gratitude. Grateful for this chance to dwell on what freedom meant then, means now, and will come to be.

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