March 2008

Vol 7 - No. 9
 

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Travel | March 2008

 


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   Miscellaneous  

Benares ( Varanasi) Revisited
the spiritual center of Pilgramage for Buddhists -  centre of Hinduism and Sanskrit learning

By Srijit Maitra

Our trip to Benares was truly revealing. The city is not majestic, but inspires awe. As you take a buggy ride into the city, what unfolds before you is a four thousand-year old history. 

Some of the structures, which include temples and kothis (mansions), date back to seven hundred years. If one can overlook the chaotic traffic and the occasional annoying cow dung on the streets, one is sure to marvel at the labyrinthine lanes and by-lanes and the smell of incense that pervades the entire Dashaswamedh Ghat Road, the road leading to Dashaswamedh Ghat, regarded as the ultimate destination for a Hindu.

The city is supposed to have 330 million temples, which leaves very little space for any other structure. Along with my wife, Joyita and son, Shinjon, I saw some ten out of them. The heavily guarded Bishwanath temple (celebrating Lord Shiva), Durga temple and Ram temple, all built around a thousand years ago, were resplendent in the glory of their past. A trip down the Ganges in a country boat (they do not allow motorized boats to prevent sound and air pollution) along the many ghats (banks) opens a canvas before your eyes – of a city standing still in time. Munshi Ghat, Digpatiya Ghat, Harishchandra Ghat (the one meant for cremation), and Ahilya Bai Ghat - you pass all of them, each one telling you a 

folklore or an anecdote from the Vedic history. To enjoy it more, one should take a ride in the evening, slowly drifting away from the grand aarti on the ghats.   

During one of our shopping sojourns in the city, I happened to meet one Mr. Debashis Kanjilal, owner of an eighty-year old Benarasi silk shop – Mohinimohan Kanjilal & Bros, inside the Bishwanath Gali – the serpentine lane that leads to the Bishwanath temple. I was amazed to discover Calcutta’s cousin there! While Joyita took a plunge into a sea of silk saris, I struck up a conversation with the congenial gentleman. I was fascinated to learn that this middle-aged Bengalee entrepreneur was the fourth generation migrated from Calcutta. The shop, the humble wooden showcases inside, the iron safe – everything was the same that his grandfather had built. In spite of being born and brought up in Benares, he could read and write

Bengalee and spoke the language with a distinct North-Calcutta accent. I was saddened to learn that his two sons, who were in their late teens, cared nothing about the legacy that they would inherit, and were more inclined towards other careers. The shop, I mused, was not just a business, it was a family heirloom.

I was also dumbstruck by an ascetic, replete with matted locks, who declared somberly that his age was four hundred years! Equally amazing were the ushers at the doorsteps of the scores of sari shops (each claiming to be factory outlets, to add to the authenticity of quality and price), who spoke broken English, Bengalee, Tamil, Telugu, French and Spanish with equal élan.

Benaras has held on to so much of history. I spent quite a few enchanting evenings on the ghats and inside the myriad by-lanes. I returned home with one truth - Benares is not only about religion or redemption, or even history; it is also about discovering oneself.  I am bound to visit again, like the many Bengalees who do so every year.

Srijit Maitra is a Senior Executive in the Materials Management department of a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. But from the core of his being he is a true artist displaying soul whenever he wields the brush, pen or camera.

Miscellaneous

Asia's boom in air travel will moderate this year on a possible recession in the United States, but the region's growing wealth and business opportunities may help it weather the storm. 

The rapid growth of air travel in Asia over the last few years was fueled by emerging wealth in the region and the entry of low-cost carriers such as Malaysia's AirAsia, Tiger Airways and Jetstar, but regional economies are now faced with the threat of slowing Western demand for Asian exports.

"I think the aviation industry tends to reflect the state of the economies of the world, so there will be some effect on demand for air travel," said Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines.

“Asia is forecast to be the largest single aviation market, accounting for 27 percent of all air travel and nearly 300 million more travelers than today”, said Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of International Air Transport Association (IATA) at the Singapore Airshow.

However, with airlines looking to pass on high fuel costs by raising surcharges, and the possibility of a global economic slowdown, consumers may not think about taking hops around the region. Yet the region's industry may prove more resilient given its high growth, experts said.

"The areas that will be less affected will be China and India because they have two fast-growing markets and Asia Pacific will be not so much affected," said Bisignani, who added that North American carriers will bear the brunt of the economic slowdown.

Randy Tinseth, a vice president of Boeing's commercial planes division, said a global slowdown would not affect air travel in Asia as much as it had in the past. "We have seen significant growth in the Asian economy, it's more diverse and it's more self-sustainable... what happens in the US or Europe will probably not have the same kind of effect as it has in the past," Tinseth said.

Premium travelers -- travelers who fly business or first class -- form the most profitable segment for many airlines. However, with the credit squeeze and turbulent financial markets, companies faced with the prospect of cost cuts would reduce business travel.

"What is deteriorating is the business travel, the travel with high yields," said Bisignani.

However economist Liew thinks that business opportunities in Asia will be a buoyant factor for business travel in the region. "In the Asian context, the business opportunity is here, so business travelling might slow but will still be there," he said. 
(Source: Reuters)

Boeing seeking viable biofuel solution within five years. 

Boeing is bullish on the prospects for biofuels and hopes to have a commercially viable product within five years. Technology Leader-Energy and Emissions Dave Daggett said second-generation biofuels such as algae "show great promise."

He added that he sees a regional solution, with differing biofuel sources depending on native plant matter in a given part of the world. In Brazil, for example, it could be the babussu nut from Brazilian Palm trees and in Australia it may be jatropha plants, which can survive in a dry, harsh environment. The big advantage of algae is that the liters/hectare yield is 150 times higher than for soybeans or canola. A major factor in the search for biofuel sources is the amount of CO2 emitted, with many of the "solutions" requiring processing that would have a far greater CO2 impact than using oil-based fuel to operate aircraft. Daggett pointed out that "jet fuel from coal has twice the CO2, while liquid hydrogen from coal has four times the carbon emissions." 
(Source: Air Transport World)

 

AIR INDIA LAUNCHES NEW YORK TO NEW DELHI DIRECT FLIGHT

 

Air India's launches its non stop flight AI-101/AI-102 on the Delhi-New York sector, effective February 8, 2008. With the introduction of this new flight, Air India will become the first carrier to offer non stop services between Delhi and JFK, New York.

 

The passengers traveling in premium classes - First and Executive - on the Boeing 777-200LR (Longer Range aircraft) will get a free limousine pick up and drop service to/from Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and JFK airport at the time of departure/arrival.  Additionally, they will receive a gift voucher of USD75 and USD50 respectively for each sector of travel for onboard duty free shopping. On August 2007, Air India introduced a daily Non-Stop flight between Mumbai and New York. 

 

Those who purchase tickets in India for travel by the Non-Stop flight from Delhi/Mumbai in the Economy Class on full published IATA fares can avail of Air India's Companion Free Scheme.  The scheme is valid till March 31, 2008.

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