Saturday, October 25, 2014

India's most interesting railway stations

The Indian Railways is known to the world as the largest railway network in the world. The grand Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus which happens to be the busiest station in India has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are over 7000 railway stations in India and the Indian railway carries over 2.8 million people every day! Some railway stations really make your travel beautiful with their grandeur and scenic locations.

The Indian railway aims to maintain and upgrade railway stations with the latest technology every year. However, a few railway stations are so beautiful that they make your journey better even before it starts! The Dudhsagar railway stations lies just to the left of the glorious Dudhsagar falls and the Cuttack railway station has recently been renovated in the shape of the 14th century Barabati fort that lies in the Kalinga region. Have you seen these picturesque Indian railway stations?

Ghum: India's highest railway station, and world's 14th highest, Ghum is a rather small railway station. Close to Darjeeling, it lies on one of the most beautiful railway tracks in the world.

Chhatrapari Shivaji Terminus: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is architecturally one of the most remarkable railway stations in the world.

Vashi: The Vashi railway station boasts of a built-in commercial complex. Vashi railway station was built into and under the International Infotech Park, to ISO 9002 quality standards.

Dudhsagar: The Dudhsagar railway station lies just to the left of the majestic Dudh sagarfalls. This railway stations is a treat for the with a grey track running through the greenery.

Char Bagh: The Char Bagh railway station in Lucknow is among the most beautifully built stations in India. The ‘char bagh’ refers to the four gardens which existed here earlier. The railway station actually looks like a palace with the towers and clusters of circular Awadhi domes.

Cuttack: The Cuttack railway station is truly one of a kind. It was recently renovated in the shape of the historic Barabati fort, a 14th century fort built during the rule of the Eastern Ganga dynasty in the Kalinga region.

Kanpur Central: This is one of the four Central Railway Stations in India. The present station was built in 1928, though the imposing building was completed in 1930. The building's construction is inspired by Lucknow's magnificent Lucknow Charbagh railway station building which was built by the British in 1914 but could not be constructed similar to Charbagh because it would be enormously expensive.

Vijayawada: The Vijayawada railway station was constructed in 1888 when the Southern Maharatta Railway's main eastward route was connected with other lines going through Vijayawada. Vijayawada Junction has been given A-1 status in 2008 as the revenues crossed 100 crore ($17 mn in 2013 terms) in that financial year.

Howrah: Howrah railway station is the oldest station and largest railway complex in India. It is one of the four intercity railway stations serving the city of Kolkata, the others being Sealdah Station, Shalimar Station and Kolkata railway station.

Thiruvananthapuram Central: Trivandrum Central is the main railway station in the city of Thiruvananthapuram (formerly Trivandrum) in the Indian state of Kerala. The building of the railway station is one of the landmarks of Thiruvananthapuram. This station is also noted for a whole range of amenities available within the premises. The station has book-shops, restaurants, accommodation, Internet browsing centers and even an essential commodities shopping mall.

Dwarka: It may look like one of the temples in the holy city of Dwarka, but it is really a railway station!

Kanyakumari: The southernmost station in India, it marks the end of the Indian railways. The railway route from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari is currently considered to be the longest railway route.

Barog: Named after an engineer Barog who was unable to complete building the Barog tunnel, this tunnel was constructed under Chief Engineer H.S. Harrington's supervison guided by a local sage from July 1900 to September 1903 at a cost 8.40 Lakh rupees (Rupees 840,000). This tunnel is the longest of the 103 operational tunnels on the route of the Shimla-Kalka Railway, which is 1143.61m long. Barog station is located immediately after the tunnel. Barog tunnel is the straightest tunnel in the world.

Velankanni: The pristine white structure designed loosely on the style of a Cathedral characterising the Velankanni Railway Station is only a couple of years old. The complex bordered by twin-towers on its northern and southern point and mediated by a central dome has been conceived as a pivotal aspect of the 10-km Velankanni rail line project at Rs.48 crore.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Nobel Peace Prize 2014 for Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai  and   Kailash Satyarthi

Indian children's right activist Kailash Satyarthi  and Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls' right to education,  won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on 10.10.2014.
Satyarthi, 60, and Malala Yousafzai were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.
The award was made at a time when hostilities have broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir - the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade.
"The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism," said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The prize, worth about $1.1 million, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will.
Kailash Satyarthi :
Kailash Satyarthi, is  an Indian child rights activist born in Vidisha, about 50km from Bhopal. He studied engineering at the Govt Engineering College, Vidisha and gave up his career as an electrical engineer over three decades ago to start Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement. Today, the non-profit organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan he founded is leading the movement to eliminate child trafficking and child labour in India. The organisation has been working towards rescuing trafficked children for over 30 years. It receives information from a large network of volunteers. 
"It's an honor to all those children still suffering in slavery, bonded labor and trafficking," Satyarthi told TV news channel CNN-IBN after learning he won the prize.
In a recent editorial, Satyarthi said that data from non-government organizations indicated that child laborers could number 60 million in India or 6 percent of the total population.
"Children are employed not just because of parental poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, failure of development and education programs, but quite essentially due to the fact that employers benefit immensely from child labor as children come across as the cheapest option, sometimes working even for free," he wrote.
Children are employed illegally and companies use the financial gain to bribe officials, creating a vicious cycle, he argued.
In an interview to The Times of India about four months ago, Kailash Satyarthi had said, "My philosophy is that I am a friend of the children. I don't think anyone should see them as pitiable subjects or charity. That is old people's rhetoric. People often relate childish behaviour to stupidity or foolishness. This mindset needs to change. I want to level the playing field where I can learn from the children. Something I can learn from children is transparency. They are innocent, straightforward, and have no biases. I relate children to simplicity and I think that my friendship with children has a much deeper meaning than others." 

Satyarthi, 60, admires Mahatma Gandhi and has likewise headed various forms of peaceful protests "focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain," the Nobel committee said. 
Malala Yousafzai 
Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC's Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban's efforts to deny women an education.
Unable to return to Pakistan after her recovery, Yousafzai moved to Britain, setting up the Malala Fund and supporting local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.

Yousafzai last year addressed the U.N. Youth Assembly in an event Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called "Malala Day". 
This year she traveled to Nigeria to demand the release of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram.
"To the girls of Nigeria and across Africa, and all over the world, I want to say: don't let anyone tell you that you are weaker than or less than anything," she said in a speech.
"You are not less than a boy," Yousafzai said. "You are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country. You are the future of your country. You are going to build it strong. It is you who can lead the charge."
Yousafzai, aged 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner by far.
The previous youngest winner was Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915
Source: Yahoo News,Times of India 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Malvika Iyer's amazing story of grit

Malvika Iyer
Malvika Iyer , the essence of courage and optimism.

The incidents in the life  of Malvika Iyer is a real life story of a young girl with determination to come up in her life .Her  inspirational and motivational life story is guiding beacon to thousands of handicapped persons like her.

A bilateral amputee from a freak bomb blast in 2002, Malvika Iyer is :
  • A Junior Research Fellow at Madras School of Social Work.
  • Global Shaper (An initiative of the World Economic Forum)
  • Speaker at TEDxYouth@Chennai 2013, MMA Women Managers' Convention 2014
  • Master of Ceremonies (MC) at India Inclusion Summit, 2013 at Ritz Carlton, Bangalore, GFK Run 2014
  • State topper in class 10th in 2004
  • Invited to meet with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in Rashtrapati Bhavan
  • Recipient of 'Outstanding Model Student' from Wisdom International Magazine
  • Recipient of 'Rolling Cup' for the 'Best M.Phil. Thesis' in 2012
  • Awarded certificates, cash prizes and medals for meritorious performance by Sri Sivakumar Educational & Charitable Trust, the DMK President- M. Karunanidhi, the Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Rajya Sabha MP- Mrs. Renuka Chowdhury, the Chief Minister of Kerala- Mr. Oommen Chandy, Astrologer- SAP Varadhan, the Chairman and Director of Art Heritage Gallery- Mr. E. Alkazi, Rotary Club, Punjab Association
  • Worked with differently abled children at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Well Being, Delhi
  • Undertook research projects in PEHEL, Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCRAF)
  • Model for accessible clothing in India (An initiative of Ability Foundation- NIFT)
  • Alumnus of St. Stephen's College, Delhi and Delhi School of Social Work
When Malvika was 13 years old, a freak accident caused her to lose both her hands and severely damaged her legs, raising serious doubts about whether she would ever walk again.

But young Malvika braved the odds and emerged victorious. Today she is a dedicated social worker, a motivational speaker and model for accessible clothing in India.

Malvika is also a Global Shaper from the Chennai Hub, which is a part of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

She gives a first person account of her ordeal and how she overcame it to            S Saraswathi.

Let us hear Malvika Iyer in her own words:
I was born in Kumbakonam. My father was transferred to Rajasthan when I was still very young. I spent nearly 13 years of my early life in Bikaner, Rajasthan.
I had a very healthy and a happy childhood. I was a tomboy; I enjoyed outdoor sports and learnt swimming and skating. I also learnt Kathak for about seven years.

It was a fun-filled life till the day I met with the accident: May 26, 2002. I was 13 years old.

The accident:
Some months before the accident, an ammunition depot had caught fire in the city and hand shells, grenades and other bits and pieces were scattered all over the city. One such piece landed in our neighbourhood.
We were told that it was a diffused shell. I was trying to stick something on my jeans pocket, and I wanted something heavy to hammer it with. I just took this shell and hit it.

With the first hit, the shell exploded in my hand.

There was almost nothing left of my hands. Both my legs had severe injuries, nerve damage and multiple fractures.

It took nearly two years and several surgeries for me to walk again.

Bedridden for two years:
For the first three days after the explosion, I was totally conscious, aware of each and every thing happening around me, but my body was numb.
Within moments of the explosion I heard my mom screaming, "Meri bachhi ke haath chale gaye!"

I was taken to the hospital immediately. There was so much damage to my limbs that my body went into a state of shock. I could not feel anything as the four main nerves were instantly cut. There was 80 per cent blood loss.
When I reached the hospital there was zero BP, the doctors were not sure if I would survive.

Even in that state I remember apologising to my mom, telling her that I am sorry I put her through this. Then I said I wanted to meet this friend of mine. It was so strange. I gave the contact number of my friend and told my parents to call her. I was terrified; would this really be the last time I was going to see these people?

The doctors were not sure that they would be able to save my leg, especially the left one. It was dangling, just hanging from a small bit of skin. They wanted to amputate it, but my parents did not want to risk any more damage. They took me in an ambulance to Jaipur.

The splinters were stuck all over my legs and had penetrated deep within. The pain began to sink in and it was terrible. I can remember those days and nights filled with pain.

But the doctors were good and managed to save my leg. Though completely disfigured, with no sensation in my left leg and a foot drop (difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot) in the right, I am lucky I still have them.

My hands, though, were completely cut off. There was no need to amputate them because they had been blown off; they couldn't even find any trace of them at the accident site.

Later a skin grafting operation was done and with that I am left with just two stumps. Fortunately, the stumps, especially the right one, were quite long, so I was able to lift them like how a squirrel does.

I was treated at a Bone and Joint clinic in Anna Nagar in Chennai. After months of intense therapy, I was finally able to walk.

My accident happened in May 2002. I took my first few painful steps in November 2003.I still had a long way to go.

Getting on with life:

We started enquiring about artificial hands. There was not much awareness about this, so my mom and I used to Google. We found a German prosthetics company called Ottobock that had a branch in Chennai.

That is how I got a pair of bio-electric hands.

I started practising to write; initially my handwriting was very big, and then slowly, with practise, I improved.

This was in December 2003. In four months my friends would be appearing for their 10th board exams. I felt totally left out.

I was in touch with a very close friend in Bikaner. She used to tell me how they were preparing. I decided that I would give it a shot. My mom found this coaching centre right behind our street.

I had just three months to prepare. All my childhood, I have been into sports and dancing and skating, and now I could do nothing but sit and walk a bit. As I had no other choice, I think all my concentration went into academics.

I prepared and prepared and when the results came, my life was completely changed.

I got a State rank among the private candidates, and I was one among the State toppers, as well. I scored centum in both Math and Science and 97 in Hindi, also a State first.

I felt like a celebrity. The next day, all the leading newspapers covered me.

They wrote about how I overcame my disability to achieve this distinction. It was all very encouraging.

I was invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (then President of India).
Malvika Iyer with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
  Malvika Iyer with former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
I got to meet a lot of other celebrities. I was given an award for outstanding model student by Wisdom magazine.

After 12th, I joined St Stephen's College, Delhi, where I graduated in Economics (Honours).

I then did my Master's in Social Work from the Delhi School of Social Work.
During my field training, I had the opportunity to work with differently-abled children. I realised that this is something I have to be a part of. I could empathise with them and understand them better. Since I was always given a lot of encouragement, I wanted to give something back.

A new beginning
Last year, I was invited for a TEDx Talk(In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. ) and that talk completely changed the course of my life.

Until then I was just doing my work and trying to be a part of society. But that wasn't helping me much and I would still feel bad that everybody else is normal and I am not.

But when I started talking about myself, I realised that I was actually much better off than a lot of people, who would complain even without any problem in their life.

I was seen as a motivational speaker. Now I get invited to talk at colleges and schools or to corporates in Chennai and other cities.

Last year, I was invited to host the India Inclusion Summit in Bangalore. I was the emcee and had the opportunity to meet a lot of differently-abled people.

Malvika speaking at India Inclusion Summit

There were people who had actually achieved something or who were in the process of recovering and coming out of it. It was a great honour to be able to host such a programme.

This helped me realise that I have to accept my disability. It is not like I am ever going to get my hands back.

The people around me made this possible -- my friends, my family, and my mom especially. She was my support throughout. She was like my shadow. She made sure that nobody hurt me in any way. It is her positive spirit that has made me who I am today.

She has given me a lot of freedom; she never treated me differently at all. There was never any show of pity.

Presently, I am Junior Research Fellow doing my PhD in Social Work at the Madras School of Social Work. I am studying the experience of inclusion; how differently-abled people feel in society and what is society's attitude towards them.

Initially, I used to feel bad when people stared at me. It made me very uncomfortable, but now it does not matter. I know who I am. I have become more strong-hearted, what they feel or how they see me does not affect me any more.

Apart from this, I have been passionately working on everything outside. Recently I did a ramp walk at NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), Chennai.

I am a model for accessible clothing(Clothing designed for persons with disabilities, to allow more independence in dressing. Its use is intended for those who have difficulty dressing, as well as for those with special clothing needs.); it is an initiative of Ability Foundation and NIFT.
Malvika Iyer on the ramp at NIFT
Malvika Iyer on the ramp at NIFT
The students designed two gowns for me, taking into considering my prosthetic hand. I was the showstopper for that evening and it was an amazing experience. Ever since then I have been writing about accessible clothing.

When I was in the hospital bed 12 years ago, I thought that I could never come out of this. Now I can see that there is so much more to do. I think life is really, really good.

I was invited to host a Run in Bangalore recently.

Malvika hosting the GFKRun 2014 at Bangalore 

I went all by myself. I handled everything, from the airport, all the travelling, the stay in the hotel, etc. Today I can do 90 per cent of my work on my own, without any assistance.

When I think about how my life has turned out to be, I think it is fine, whatever happened.

I would not have wanted to live a mediocre life. I have always been scared of mediocrity and I am not sure how my life would have turned out if it were not for this accident.

I feel I am blessed because I know that something very horrible happened and even now it is not like I am 100 per cent all right. I can't just run around and do everything on my own. My legs still hurt when I walk.

But a lot of good has come my way.

I am confident I can do something meaningful with this life. I don't have any regrets.

Dancing was my first love. I used to be sad that I could not dance like before. But now I have started dancing again. I cannot dance as gracefully as before, but I still dance.

At the Bangalore Run, I danced on the stage. I think life is all about making the best with what you have.

I got engaged in February this year to a wonderful man, a design engineer, and there is a lot to look forward to in life rather than just sitting around thinking of what could have been.

"I learnt to embrace every inch, every scar and every emotion."


Note: I thank Ms.Malvika Iyer for giving permission to post this heart touching and inspiring article about her in my blog.