India”s Most unusual Post Offices….Our Country Celebrates National Postal Day today…

E-mails may have overshadowed the concept of snail mail, yet post offices still hold a special place in the Indian way of life. Having long had a presence in local communities, they have served as exchange posts for news, gossip and much more.

As the country celebrates the National Postal Day today, here’s a look at three of India’s most unusual post offices.

Send a postcard from any of these unique spots, and you are sure to score some travel bragging rights!

1. The Post Office at Hikkim




Perched at 15,500 ft above sea level in Himachal Pradesh’s strikingly beautiful Spiti Valley, the hamlet of Hikkim is reputedly home to the world’s highest post office.

A small hut with whitewashed walls and a red postbox hanging outside, the quaint post office is 23 km from the town of Kaza and has been functioning since November 5, 1983. With no internet and patchy cell phone signal, the facility is the only conduit to the world for Hikkim’s residents.

This inconspicuous little post office is single-handedly managed by Rinchen Chhering, who has been the branch postmaster for over 20 years. He was chosen for the post when he was just 22 because he could run fast and owned a bicycle!

Every day, two runners take turns hiking to Kaza on foot to deliver mail that is then taken by bus to Reckong Peo, onward to Shimla, further by train to Kalka, from where it is taken to Delhi and sent to its final destination. In winter, everything in the valley freezes – the rivers, the lakes, the mountains. As the snow cover cuts off Hikkim from the rest of the world, the village’s post office also shuts down for six months.

2. The Post Office at Antarctica

Dakshin Gangotri Station                                                                                                                                                           











Located in Dakshin Gangotri, India’s first scientific base in Antarctica, this post office first became operational on February 24, 1984, after it was established during the third Indian expedition to the frigid ‘White Continent.’ It was a part of the base’s multi-support systems that also included including ice-melting plants, laboratories, storage and recreational facilities.

The Dakshin Gangotri PO was brought under the Department of Post at Goa on January 26, 1988. Scientist G. Sudhakar Rao, who went to Antarctica as a member of the Seventh Indian Scientific Expedition in 1987, was appointed as its first honorary postmaster. Interestingly, in its first year of establishment, nearly 10000 letters were posted and cancelled at this post office.

However, in 1990, Dakshin Gangotri PO in Antarctica was decommissioned after it got half buried in ice. The post office was then shifted to the new permanent research base, Maitri.

Over the years, the unusual spot has become a favourite stop-off for tourists from cruise ships who came to explore the frozen continent and learn about its unique ecosystem. They send out postcards and letters that take between two and six weeks to reach their destinations via Hobart (in Australia).

3. The Post Office on Dal Lake











Built on an intricately carved houseboat, the Srinagar’s Floating Post Office claims to be the only one of its kind in the world. Here you can avail all regular postal services while being afloat on the Dal Lake. A heritage post office that has existed since colonial times, it was called Nehru Park post office before it was renamed by the then chief postmaster John Samuel in 2011.

After a pretty little philately museum and souvenir shop were added to it, the Floating Post Office was formally relaunched in August 2011. Interestingly, the seal used on everything posted from the this is unique, and tourist-friendly post office bears a special design — of a boatman rowing a shikara on the Dal Lake — along with the date and address.

While enthusiastic tourists row to the post office every day to send postcards back home, for the locals, the post office is more than an object of fascination. The islets in Dal Lake are home to over 50000 people (farmers, labourers, artisans and shikaraowners) for whom this state-run facility is the nearest source of postal and banking services.

Source…SanchariPal in




“உத்தரவின்றி உள்ளே வராதீர்கள்… மீறினால் கொல்லப்படுவீர்கள்”! – திகில் தீவு செண்டினல்..


அந்தமான் பக்கத்தில் இருக்கிற குட்டித் தீவு செண்டினல். நூறு ஆண்டுகளுக்கும் மேலாக இத்தீவில் இருக்கிற மனிதர்கள் பற்றிய குறிப்புகளைப் பல நாடுகளைச் சேர்ந்த பல ஆராய்ச்சியாளர்கள் வலை வீசித் தேடி கொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள். இதுவரை அவர்கள் பற்றிய ஒரு துரும்பைக் கூடக் கண்டுபிடிக்க முடியாமல் திணறுகிறது ஒட்டு மொத்த உலகமும். அவர்களை எப்படி அணுகினாலும் பதிலாக வருவது வில்லும் அம்புகளும்தான். தப்பிப் பிழைத்தவர்கள் வெளி உலகத்துக்குச் சொன்ன செய்திகள் ஒவ்வொன்றும் திகில் ரகம். செண்டினல் தீவு மக்கள் இந்த உலகத்துக்குச் சொல்வதெல்லாம் ஒன்றேயொன்றுதான் “உத்தரவின்றி உள்ளே வராதீர்கள்.”

சம்பவம் ஒன்று:

ஆவணப்படக் குழு ஒன்று படப்பிடிப்புக்காக செண்டினல் தீவுக்குப் படகில் செல்கிறது. போகும் பொழுது சில பரிசுப் பொருள்களைக் குழு கொண்டு செல்கிறது. தீவில் கரை இறங்கிய இரண்டொரு வினாடிகளில் நான்கு புறமிருந்து ஈட்டிகளும் அம்புகளும் வந்து விழுகின்றன. பதறிப் போன மொத்த குழுவும் உயிரைக் கையில் பிடித்துக்கொண்டு திரும்பி வந்திருக்கிறார்கள். திரும்பி கரையைப் பார்க்கும்போது  ஒரு அம்பு படகில் வந்து குத்துகிறது. திரும்பி வரக் கூடாது என்பதற்கு எச்சரிக்கைதான் அந்த அம்பு. சம்பவம் நடந்த ஆண்டு 1974

சம்பவம் இரண்டு:

கப்பல் ஒன்று செண்டினல் தீவின் பவளப்பாறைகளில் மோதிக் கரை தட்டி நிற்கிறது. கப்பல் கேப்டன் உதவிக் கேட்டு காத்திருக்கிறார். இரண்டாவது நாள் அதிகாலையில் கரையை நோக்கி சிலர் வருகிறார்கள். உற்றுக் கவனித்ததில் வந்தவர்கள் எல்லோர் கையிலும் வில் அம்பு ஈட்டி என வைத்திருக்கிறார்கள். கவனிக்க வேண்டிய முக்கிய விஷயம் எல்லோரும் நிர்வாணமாக இருந்திருக்கிறார்கள். ஏதோ ஆபத்து வருகிறது என்பதை உணர்ந்த கேப்டன் பதறிப்போய் வயர்லெஸ்ஸில் கடற்படைக்குத் தகவல் சொல்ல ஹெலிகாப்டரில் வந்து எல்லோரையும் மீட்டு வந்திருக்கிறது இந்திய கடற்படை. சம்பவம் நடந்த ஆண்டு 1981. கப்பலின் பெயர் ப்ரைம்ரோஸ். கூகுள் மேப்பில் இப்போதும் இந்த சிதிலமடைந்த கப்பலின் உருவம் தென்படுகிறது.

சம்பவம் மூன்று:

2006 ஜனவரி மாதம் இரண்டு மீனவர்கள் மீன்பிடித்துவிட்டு தீவின் கரையில் ஒதுங்குகிறார்கள். இரண்டு நாள்கள் கழித்து அவர்களின் இறந்துபோன உடல்கள் கரை ஒதுங்கி இருக்கின்றன. உடலெங்கும் ஈட்டி குத்திய தடயங்களுடன் கிடந்திருக்கின்றன. உடல்களை மீட்கச் சென்ற கடலோர காவல்படையினரை நோக்கி அம்புகளும் ஈட்டிகளும் வர உடல்களை மீட்காமலே திரும்பி இருக்கிறது கடற்படை.

60000 ஆண்டுகள் பழைமை வாய்ந்த பழங்குடியினர் வசிக்கிற தீவு செண்டினல். வங்காள விரிகுடா கடலில் இருக்கிறது. உலகம் இத்தீவில் இருக்கிற மக்களை செண்டினலீஸ் என அழைத்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறது. அந்தமான் தீவுக்கு அருகில் இருக்கும் இந்தத் தீவு இந்திய அரசின் கட்டுப்பாட்டில் இருக்கிறது. பசுமை சூழ்ந்த காடுகள் அழகிய மணல் பரப்புகளைக் கொண்ட தீவின் மொத்த பரப்பளவு 72 சதுர கிலோ மீட்டர்கள். தீவில் எத்தனைப்  பேர் இருக்கிறார்கள், அவர்களின் பழக்கவழக்கம் என்ன என்பது பற்றிய எந்தக் குறிப்பும் இதுவரை இல்லை. மரங்களும் செடிகளும் சூழ்ந்திருப்பதால் ஆகாய மார்க்கமாக எடுக்கப்பட்ட படங்களில் அவர்கள் பற்றிய எந்த விவரங்களும் இல்லை. விலங்குகள், மீன்களை வேட்டையாடுவதை முக்கியத் தொழிலாகக் கொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள். உலகின் எந்தத் தொடர்பும் இல்லாமல் இருக்கிற தீவில் 50ல் இருந்து 250 வரை மக்கள் தொகை இருக்கலாம் எனத் தரவுகள் தெரிவிக்கின்றன.

2004-ம் ஆண்டு சுனாமியின்போது இந்தத் தீவு அழிந்துவிடும் என நினைத்தவர்களுக்கு எதிர்மறையான பதில்களே கிடைத்திருக்கின்றன. ஆழிப்பேரலையில் எந்தப் பாதிப்பும் நிகழாமல் இருந்திருக்கிறது. சுனாமியை முன் கூட்டியே உணர்ந்த தீவு மக்கள், உயர்ந்த இடங்களுக்குச் சென்று தப்பித்திருக்கலாம் என்கிறார்கள் ஆராய்ச்சியாளர்கள். சுனாமிக்கு பிறகான நாள்களில் செஞ்சிலுவைச் சங்கம் சென்டினல் தீவு மக்களுக்கு மருந்து மற்றும் உணவுகளை விமானத்தில் இருந்தபடியே போட்டிருக்கிறது. ஆனால், தீவு மக்கள் அவற்றை ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளாமல் ஈட்டிகளையும் அம்புகளையும் திருப்பி அனுப்பி இருக்கிறார்கள். விமானத்தை ஈட்டி பதம் பார்க்க, போன வழியிலேயே திரும்பி இருக்கிறது செஞ்சிலுவைச் சங்கம்.

இந்தத் தீவுக்குச் சென்று வெற்றிகரமாகத் திரும்பியவர்களும் இருக்கிறார்கள். 1991-ம் ஆண்டு இந்திய தொல்லியல் துறையின் திருலோகிநாத் பண்டிட் என்கிறவரின் தலைமையில் ஒரு குழு சென்றிருக்கிறது. பல ஆண்டுகளாக அவர்களைப் பற்றி முழுதும் தெரிந்து கொண்டு பயணித்திருக்கிறார். பல தடைகளுக்குப் பிறகு ஒரு முறை அம்மக்களை சந்தித்திருக்கிறார்கள். குழுவினர் கொடுத்த தேங்காய்களைப் பழங்குடியினர் பெற்றுக்கொண்டு அடுத்த பத்தாவது நிமிடத்தில் குழுவினரை திரும்பிப் போகச் சொல்லி சைகை செய்திருக்கிறார்கள். குழு சில புகைப்படங்களை எடுத்துக்கொண்டு திரும்பியிருக்கிறது.

அந்தமானின் ஜாரவா, கிரேட் அந்தமானிஸ், சென்டினலிஸ் போன்ற பழங்குடியின மக்களிடம்தான் உலகின் ஒட்டு மொத்த மனித வரலாறும் புதைந்து கிடக்கிறது. ஜாரவா இன மக்கள் நவீன மக்களுடன் இணைந்து வாழும்போது பல பிரச்னைகளை சந்திக்கிறார்கள். சில வருடங்களுக்கு முன்பு ஜாரவா மக்களிடம் சில வெளிநாட்டுப் பயணிகள் பழங்களைக் கொடுத்து ஆடச் சொல்கிற காணொளி ஒன்றை யூடியூபில் காணமுடிகிறது. பல ஆயிரம் வருடப் பாரம்பர்யம் கொண்ட ஒர் இன மக்களை ஆடச் சொல்லி வேதனைப் பட வைத்திருக்கிறார்கள் சுற்றுலாப் பயணிகள். செண்டினல் தீவு மக்கள் வெளி நபர்களை அனுமதிக்காமல் இருப்பதால்தான் இன்னமும் அங்கே வாழ்ந்துகொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள். ஒரு வேளை அனுமதித்திருந்தால் ஜாரவா இன மக்களுக்கு நேர்ந்ததைப் போல நடப்பதற்குச் சாத்தியம் இருக்கிறது.

இந்திய அரசின் கட்டுப்பாட்டில் இருக்கும் இத்தீவுக்கு யாரும் போக கூடாது என்ற உத்தரவும் இன்று வரை இருக்கிறது. தீவைச் சுற்றிய மூன்று கடல் மைல்களைப் பாதுகாப்பு வளையமாக அறிவித்திருக்கிறது  இந்தியக் கடற்படை. அந்தமான் அரசு 2005-ம் ஆண்டு செண்டினல் மக்களின் வாழ்வியல் மீதும் வாழ்விடங்கள் மீதும் ஒரு போதும் தலையிடப் போவதில்லை என அறிவித்திருக்கிறது.

இறுதியாக ஒரு விஷயம். செண்டினல் என்கிறப்  பெயருக்கு “காவலாளி” என்று பொருள்.

Source:George Anthony in



வாரம் ஒரு கவிதை….” நெல்லுக்கு இறைத்த நீர் …” !!!


நெல்லுக்கிறைத்த  நீர்
தண்ணீர் விட்டா வளர்த்தோம்  நம் சுதந்திர செடியை  ?
கண்ணீரும்  செந்நீரும் விட்டு வளர்த்த கொடி மரமல்லவா அது !
கேட்க  முடியுமா நம் முன்னோரிடம் அந்த கொடியின் விலை என்ன என்று ?
விலை மதிப்பில்லா சுதந்திரக் காற்று சுவாசிக்கும் நாம்  விலை வைத்து
விட்டோமே  குடிக்கும் நீருக்கும் , குழந்தைகள் படிக்கும் படிப்புக்கும் !
விலை இல்லா பொருள் கொடுத்து  எனக்கும், உனக்கும், எவருக்கும்
ஒரு விலை உண்டு என்று சொல்லிவிட்டதே  நம்  அரசியல்
கட்சிகள் !  விலை  மதிப்பில்லா நேர்மைக்கே ஒரு சோதனை காலம் இது !
நிலைமை கண்டு துவள வேண்டாம்  தம்பி …நீ ! சோதனை பல
கண்டாலும் சாதனை புரிய காத்திருக்கும் நீ செய்ய வேண்டியது ஒன்றே ஒன்று !
எடுக்க வேண்டும் ஒரு உறுதிப்பாடு  நீ  இன்று…
“என் முன்னோர் செய்த தியாகம்  விழலுக்கு இறைத்த நீர் அல்ல …
 அது நெல்லுக்கு இறைத்த நீரே   அன்றும் ,இன்றும், என்றும் ! …என் தேசம் என்
 சுவாசம் !
 எதற்கும் விலை போகாமல் நான் காண்பேன்  ஒரு புதிய பாரதம் “
தடைக் கற்கள் யாவும் உனக்கு படிக்கற்கள் ஆகும் …புதிய
பாரதமும்  பொலிவுடன் மலரும் ஒரு வல்லரசாக …!
நாளை உனதே தம்பி ! நாளைய பாரதமும் உன்னை நம்பிதான் தம்பி  !

From Golconda to Kandahar to London: The Journey of the Fabled Kohinoor Diamond…!!!


Described by the Mughal Emperor Babur as ‘Worth the value of one day’s food for all the people in the world‘, Kohinoor is one of the most coveted and valuable diamonds of all times. This dazzlingly beautiful rare jewel has been in the eye of the storm ever since it left the hands of its original owners, the Kakatiyas of Warangal. Never bought or sold, the fabled diamond changed many hands as it traveled through several dynasties that included the Khiljis, the Mughals, the Persians, the Afghans and the British before ending up at the Tower of London.


This is the intriguing story of its eventful journey.

Photo Source

The Kohinoor has a complex history that goes back to the 13th century. A large colourless diamond that weighed around 793 carats, Kohinoor originated in India’s Golconda mines when they were under the rule of the Kakatiya dynasty.

Legend has it that it was used as an eye of the deity in a Kakatiya temple in Warangal in 1310.

In the early 14th century, Alauddin Khilji, second ruler of the Khilji dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, and his army began looting the kingdoms of southern India. During a raid on Warangal, Malik Kafur (Khilji’s general) acquired the priceless diamond for the Khilji dynasty. It was then passed on to the succeeding dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate.

In 1526, Babur handed a resounding defeat to Ibrahim Lodi at the Battle of Panipat. The victorious Babur received reports that the Fort of Agra housed an immense treasure, which included a diamond that defied all description. Enraptured by the jewel on its acquisition, Babur called it the ‘Diamond of Babur’ and even mentioned it in his memoir, the Baburnama.

After Babur’s death, the precious stone was inherited by his son Humayun from whom it passed on to successive generations of Mughal rulers, including Shah Jahan, who set the priceless gem in his legendary Peacock throne.

Later, when he was imprisoned in the Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan used to see the reflection of the Taj Mahal in the glittering jewel, placed near a window.

It was in Aurangzeb’s reign that Tavernier, an enterprising French traveller and gem connoisseur, visited India in the search of rare and wonderful gems. Having been shown the diamond by Aurangzeb, Tavernier made the first sketch of Kohinoor in history.

Aurangzeb also entrusted the work of cutting and enhancing the diamond to Hortenso Borgia, a Venetian lapidary (gem artist) so clumsy that he reduced the weight of the stone from 793 carats to 186 carats. So enraged was Aurangzeb at the carelessness and stupidity of the lapidary, that not only did he refuse to compensate him for his labour, but he also confiscated all of Borgia’s worldly possessions.

During the rule of Aurangzeb’s grand son Muhammad Shah in 1739, Delhi was invaded by Nadir Shah, the Shah of Persia. His army looted all the jewels in the royal Mughal treasury, which also included the famous Peacock Throne, and Daria-i-noor, the sister diamond of the Kohinoor. However, the Kohinoor was nowhere to be seen. How Nadir Shah acquired the Kohinoor is a very interesting story.

Muhammad Shah used to carry the prized diamond with him hidden in the folds of his turban, a secret known only to a selected few, including a eunuch in the harem of the Emperor. Hoping to win the favor of the victorious Nadir Shah, the disloyal eunuch whispered the emperor’s secret into his ears. Devising a plan to deprive Muhammad Shah of his prized possession., Nadir Shah ordered a grand feast to coincide with the restoration of Muhammad Shah to his throne.

During the feast, Nadir Shah proposed an exchange of turbans as a gesture of eternal friendship and Muhammad Shah, unable to refuse the gesture, had to hand over his turban. After the ceremony, Nadir Shah returned to his private chambers where he eagerly unfolded the turban to find the diamond concealed within. Dazzled by its beauty, he exclaimed ‘Koh-i-noor‘, which in Persian means mountain of light. One of Nadir Shah’s consort, wonder struck by the Kohinoor, had said,

“If a strong man were to throw four stones, one north, one south, one east, one west, and a fifth stone up into the air, and if the space between them were to be filled with gold, all would not equal the value of the Kohinoor.”

Nadir Shah was assassinated soon after he returned to Persia and the diamond fell into the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali, one of his ablest generals, who later became the Emir of Afghanistan.

A descendant of Abdali, Shah Shuja Durrani brought the Kohinoor back to India in 1813 and gave it to Ranjit Singh,the ruler of Lahore, in exchange for his help in winning back the throne of Afghanistan.

Ranjit Singh , the founder of the Sikh empire, had the prized jewel sewn into an armlet, which he wore on all the important state occasions. It remained with him for the next twenty years. Ranjit Singh had willed the diamond to the temple of Jagannath in Puri, in modern-day Odisha, but after his death in 1839, the East India Company did not comply with the terms of his will.

His son, Duleep Singh lost the second Anglo-Sikh War leading to the annexation of the Punjab by the British. Under the aegis of Lord Dalhousie, the Last Treaty of Lahore was signed, officially ceding the Kohinoor to Queen Victoria along with the Maharaja’s other assets. The treaty specified,

“The gem called Kohinoor which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Malik by Maharaja Ranjit Singh shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.”

On 6 April 1850, the Kohinoor left the shores of India on board of the HMS Medea. So shrouded in mystery was its departure that even the Captain of the ship did not know the priceless cargo his ship carried.

n a grand event organized in Hyde Park in London, the Kohinoor was formally handed over to Queen Victoria by the officials of the East India Company.

Disappointed by its Mughal-style cut, the Queen, along with Prince Albert and others in the court, decided to refashion the diamond to enhance its brilliance. The re-cutting of the Kohinoor, that took a mere 38 days and costed £8000, resulted in an oval brilliant that weighed 108.93 carat. Despite the efforts of the Dutch jeweler, Mr Cantor, the results reduced the diamond drastically in weight. In 1853, it was mounted on a magnificent tiara for the Queen that contained over two thousand diamonds.

Queen Victoria wore the diamond frequently afterwards and left it in her will that the Kohinoor should only be worn by a queen of the royal family. This was due to rumour of an ancient curse associated with the Kohinoor that said,

“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”

As a result, the diamond is worn only by the female members of the British Royal Family. Since getting into British hands, the Kohinoor was been worn by Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

It is now displayed along with the other British crown jewels in the Tower of London. Crystal replicas of the diamond set in the oldest crowns as well as the original bracelet given to Queen Victoria can also be seen at the Tower’s Jewel House.

During the Second World War, the Crown Jewels were moved from their home at the Tower of London to a secret location. The biography of the French army general, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, by his widow Simonne says that George VI hid the Kohinoor at the bottom of a lake near Windsor Castle where it remained until after the war. The only people who knew of the hiding place were the king and his librarian, who apparently revealed the secret to the general and his wife on their visit to England in 1949.

The subject of bitter battles and court intrigues, today Kohinoor casts its brilliance on the millions of tourists who, for the most part, are unaware of its long history in shaping the destinies of men.



France mints Rs. 65 lakh gold coin with Taj Mahal….!


The world-renowned Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) has unveiled a rare work of artistry – a gold coin bearing a Taj Mahal engraving – at their Manhattan showroom. The limited edition gold coin weighs one kilo and is priced at Rs. 65 lakh. Each coin, which is minted in .999 pure gold and measures 37mm in diameter, is the world’s first coin to include 68 hand-set Cartier diamonds. Here’s a look at the limited edition Taj Mahal coin that was issued on November 17, 2010.


A picture taken on November 17, 2010 in Paris, shows the world’s first one-kilo gold coin to feature 68 hand-set Cartier diamonds, bearing a Taj Mahal engraving. The coin is released in a limited edition of only 29 pieces with a price tag of 100,00 euros. The Taj Mahal, built in the 17th Century by Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, has been a symbol of eternal lover for centuries. (Photo: AFP)

In India the collection will be marketed by the Taj Association for Art, Culture and Heritage (TAACH). Walter J. Kole, Chief Numismatist for The Franklin Mint, said the Taj Mahal gold coins offer a unique opportunity to buy a piece of history for any collector who is looking to buy gold.

The Taj Mahal gold coin, especially designed to appeal to specialty collectors, is one of the largest coins of its type in the world.

Founded in 1964, The Franklin Mint is an American icon which is renowned for its innovative design, meticulous attention to detail and creation of the highest-quality collectibles in the world.

The eye-catching coin is housed inside a custom leather display handcrafted by the makers of the finest luggage in the world, Goyard



How a Class 7 Indian-Origin Girl in Texas Raised Rs. 13 Lakh to Distribute Free LED Bulbs in Delhi…?


This Class 7 student in the US raised funds to buy and distribute LED bulbs for free to poor people in India. This is the story of her determination to do something concrete for the future of the planet.


“Small things can make a difference – provided all of us do our part. I am asking you to join me in the effort of replacing 77 crore incandescent bulbs in India with energy efficient LED bulbs. This will go a long way in reducing energy consumption and carbon emission along with the electricity bills of those who can least afford these bulbs. For the sake of India and for the sake of this planet, let’s all change our future, one bulb at a time.” – This is 13-year-old Meera Vashisht’s message to children of her age around the world.

An Indian-origin girl who was born and raised in the US and lives in Sugar Land, Texas, Meera will soon be in Delhi to distribute LED bulbs for free to those who cannot afford them.

Meera’s interest in the project came about when she was researching a project in school. She stumbled across a news article about the LED revolution in India. The Indian government is in the process of replacing 77 crore incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, as a part of the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme. She was intrigued to learn that simply changing a bulb at home can not only change the lives of people by offering increased energy savings, but reduce our carbon footprint as well.

Under the UJALA scheme, the Indian government is distributing LED bulbs across 16 states, in the price range of Rs. 75-95.

“But even at these subsidised rates, people belonging to the poorest sections of society would find it difficult to afford these bulbs,” Meera concluded.

“This was my moment of reckoning. After all those days when I had thought of doing something for India but didn’t know what to do, I suddenly discovered something that I could actually do and make a difference,” she wrote in an essay.

Meera’s first thought was to save her allowance money and send it to India as her contribution to the UJALA scheme. But that wouldn’t be enough she realized, so she thought of something else: “Let’s distribute the bulbs for free!” Her parents encouraged her to develop the idea further and it was then that she came up with the idea of a fundraiser.

She picked up a telephone directory and started writing letters to random people in the US, asking for help in making LED bulbs available to those who need them the most in India.

The challenge here was – why would anyone in the US want to fund something that was going on in India? But Meera was willing to take on this challenge. She told us – ‘The planet is one. We all share this planet. Whatever happens in India affects everyone. So let me try and draft this letter,’” says her mother Sunanda Vashisht, who works as a writer and columnist.

To everybody’s surprise, the first cheque arrived for Meera in just a few days, and the money kept coming in after that. Meera sent 500 letters and collected $ 2,000 (approximately Rs. 1,40,000) over the span of a year.

“In my letter, I explained why an LED revolution in India can save the whole planet and why we all should participate and contribute. I explained that a simple action of switching a light bulb in India could help achieve the goal of providing 24/7 electricity across the country. What most of us don’t understand is that electricity is empowerment. In rural areas it helps kids study after dusk, it helps ease the workload of people, it improves agricultural output, it helps set up small scale industries and connects remote areas with the world at large via the Internet and smartphones. This is empowerment in its truest sense and real democracy in action,” she wrote.

Now Meera had to find a way to reach those people who would need these bulbs the most. Sunanda contacted India’s Ministry of Power, informing them about Meera’s desire to visit and contribute to their mission, and the authorities were more than willing to help.

Sunanda and Meera will reach Delhi in the first week of July, and the Ministry will help them identify the underprivileged families that need these bulbs.

Meera’s father is an engineer and her family’s ancestral home is in Punjab. “We have family in India and we keep going back to visit them all the time. We are inculcating affection for India in Meera. She always says that she wants to work for people there,” says Sunanda. Through this distribution drive, Meera also wants to create awareness about the use of LED bulbs among people who might think that giving Rs. 75 for a bulb is a waste of money.

The teenager also stays connected to her roots through music and dance. She learns Hindustani classical vocal music and has been learning Bharat Natyam since she was four years old. Her grandfather’s passion for environmental causes has inspired Meera to work for the environment as well.

“He is an avid lover of nature, an artist, and an environmentalist. He is very considerate and compassionate. From him I have learnt to respect all life…I am so glad to be finally able to now come to India and make a contribution to the cause of cleaning the environment in a tangible way. I couldn’t be happier,” she says.

Here’s hoping this young environment enthusiast finds success in all her endeavours towards making the planet greener and more compassionate towards the less fortunate.

You can contact Sunanda by writing to her at

Source….TanayaSingh in www. the betterindia .com


Shakuntala Railways: The Only Train Line In India That Is Still Not Owned By India !!!


The Indian Railways is India’s lifeline. Every day millions of passengers avail its facilities.

It has become such an integral part of our lives that we cannot imagine a life without it. The Indian railways were nationalized way back in the year 1951. But today, we are not going to talk about the Indian railways but we are going to talk about of its long forgotten relative ‘The Shakuntala Railways’. I am sure that for most of you this sounds a bit alien. Hearing the name you might think of it as a name of some train or maybe a little-known rail zone.

Shakuntala Railways is one of only a few operational railway lines in India that remains with private owners and perhaps the only one that belongs to a British firm.


But Shakuntala is neither one of them. In fact, it is an independent railway which does not come under the Indian Railways. So, technically the Indian Railways does not enjoy a monopoly. When Nationalization happened in 1951, Strangely this line was left alone. Interestingly till date, nobody knows the exact reason why this line was never de-privatised.

The birth of Central Province Railway Company (CPRC) or The Shakuntala railways took place way back in 1910. It was founded by a British Firm called Killick-Nixon.


It was formed during the British Raj. During those times, most of the rail lines were operated by individual firms. The location of the track was quite strategical as this route was used to transport cotton from Vidharba. This cotton then made its way to Manchester.

During those times, there was a deal between the CPRC and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR). This deal stayed in place even after GIPR became Central Railways.

Soon, not only cotton but the line was used even to ferry passengers. The GIPR used CPRC’s lines to run its trains and paid a compensation or rent to the company. The deal continued even after GIPR was replaced by the Central Railways. To this day, the Central Railways pays the British firm a compensation for using its lines. Interestingly, in recent times, the Indian Railways has not paid the decided rent instead has been adjusting it from the cost of repairs and maintenance.

Unlike most train lines in India, this train line still uses a narrow gauge.

The rail line itself is quite unique as the unlike most of the rail lines that are broad gauge lines, Shankuntala railways still use narrow gauge lines. The British company still gets more than 1 crore rupees from the Indian Railways for running a train on its tracks called the Shakuntala Express.

The Shakuntala Express is a passenger train that runs from the towns of Yavatmal to Murtijapur


The train runs through the beautiful cotton growing areas of Achalpur, which falls under Amravati division. If you are ever lucky enough to board this train then this train journey is sure to take you back to the 19th century. Everything about it is old school. It seems that when modernisation happened everywhere it forgot about poor Shakuntala.

Every day it covers just one return journey and even today it is a lifeline for hundreds of poor people, who cannot afford to take the road, as it almost 5-6 times the train’s fare

It covers a journey of almost 190Km in about 4 hours.  For these people, it is the cheapest means of transport and they can’t imagine their lives without it. The train runs through a narrow gauge which itself gives it a very toy- train kind of feeling.

It still runs on a steam engine and the rail signals have been there right from the British Raj

Most of the official works are also done manually. In times when our trains run on electric engines ,  Shakuntala Express still uses an old steam engine. Another interesting thing that you would find when you board this train is that all the existing rail signals are still from the British era with the words ‘made in Liverpool’inscribed on it.

This journey literally takes you on a trip down the memory lane.

Source….Abir Gupta in