Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazing Things Your Smartphone Can Do

I'm sure we've all had "Aha!" moments. Why, when I upgraded my old phone to a smartphone, I've had them everyday. It took me a surprising while to get the most out of my phone. Well, aside from the obvious - calling and texting, taking pictures, listening to music and playing games, did you know that there are other cool uses for your smartphone?

Health Monitor

With accessories that you can use with your smartphone to measure your blood pressure and blood glucose levels and apps that can track your daily workouts, weight and diet, monitoring your health and fitness has never been so fun and easy.


Want to keep a watchful eye on the family? You can locate your loved ones by tracking them on your smartphone.

Remote Control

Do you know that you can replace your collection of remote controls with your smartphone? Yes, you can use your smartphone to control various home appliances.

GPS Unit

If you need a GPS unit for your daily runs and bike rides, you can download GPS apps or maps that you can use offline on your smartphone.

Digital Cookbook

Can't get enough of your favorite recipes? Download cooking apps and recipes and turn your smartphone to a digital cookbook you can carry everywhere.


There are tons of apps that will let you use your smartphone for all your barcode or QR code scanning needs.


If you're unwilling to splurge on tablets or eBook readers, you can use your smartphone as a digital reader. There are lots of apps, both free and paid, that you can install on your smartphone to make it a decent reading device.

Digital Wallets

You can now hold your payment and banking information on your smartphone and enjoy cash-free transactions, making carrying credit cards a thing of the past.


You can video chat using your smartphone.


Always on the go? Don't worry, you can still watch your favorite soap via live TV streaming on your smartphone.

Mobile Hotspot

Don't you find it annoying every time a friend has access to the internet and you don’t or vice versa? Good thing you can turn your smartphone into a wireless router and share your data access with other devices easily.

Measuring Tool

You may not have a tape measure or a ruler with you at all times (really, who does?), so if you need a measuring tool to measure height, width, distance, area, and what have you in a jiffy, by all means, whip out your phone and measure away.

Do you know of other practical uses for your smartphone? Please do comment share below! And for anyone in the market for a new smartphone, you can compare plans and get free information at


Sage Harman is a frugal living enthusiast, wife and mother. She runs, a site dedicated to providing free information to consumers trying to find viable no-contract phone and internet plans.

P.S:.Thank you Sage Harman for putting together some helpful tips. It will help many of us. And thank you for being my first Guest blogger :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Turning

Isn't it true that travel makes you wiser and it is also travel that brings yourself to you? I love to travel and among all I love to travel the mountains. Be it the Himalayas or the Sahyadris. When I say this, it would be ironic to mention about my fear of height. But that's the sad truth I have to live with or in time overcome it. But the phobia doesn't stop me from planning to visit these beautiful mountains.
It is their grandness that overwhelms you, it’s beauty that makes you feel loved but it is also their steep fall that makes brings the reality of your mortality to you. When we planned our trip to Kinnaur,  Himachal Pradesh in March, I was looking forward to seeing the beauty of Himalayas in off season. Tons of snow, calm appearing glaciers and the vapour released by your each breadth, a dream for a Mumbaite, isn’t it?
After enjoying most of the snow in Kinnaur, we started our travel to Manali. We were in our rented Innova and on the helm was our driver Mr. Vinkel. Vinkel had been a good driver and host. We took the Jalori Pass over the longer route via Shimla.
Jalori Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 10,800 ft (3.120m) above the sea level, situated in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
A few hours had passed and we were gaping at the steep path ahead. Vinkel pointed out to the top, “See there?”, he said. “The top of the trees are white. It means there is a snowfall at the top. If we do not pass it before evening, we will have to stop. It could be a trouble”. We looked at the faraway forest dumbfounded. What we gathered from his statement was not that snowfall could be a trouble but the thought of going up there so high. I looked down the steep slope from the window to my left. It was terrifying.
We kept travelling up. We heard Vinkel say he hasn't seen any vehicle coming down the other way. We nodded and he kept on the pace. After a while there was a vehicle coming down. The two drivers greeted each other. The other man said the snowfall has started at the top. He heard from someone a car crossing the pass some thirty minutes earlier. And that would be less risky for a car like Scorpio than ours like Innova to attempt it.
We all agreed to keep going b’coz if we’d stop, we would be stuck there, we wouldn’t know when the roads will be cleared. “We should cross the pass before it gets dark”, Vinkel said. We nodded, not wanting to be left behind of the schedule.
By the time we reached the top, it was dark. And there was snow every where. I looked around. The check post looked like an abandoned village now gripped under snow storm. Vinkel sighed. The snow and the darkness had finally got us. My parents and I were struck, now realising the gravity of the situation. It would be difficult to drive down. Going up wasn't much but going down needs grip on the road with a steep slope, especially the one covered with snow. But without proper shelter, staying the trip was also not an option.
Vinkel got out and inspected the situation. When he was back he said, he could see tyre marks, probably of the supposed car which had passed thirty minutes ago. “The snow is soft”, he said, “if we get down before the snow hardens we would be lucky. We have to move”. My parents were wide eyed.
The snow was coming down hard, and when I peeped out, it looked very beautiful white against the black blankness. It was the first time I had seen snowfall and I felt like blessings coming down upon me in the dark.
The damp air was clouding the windshield. So Vinkel started the AC. And with it came a gust of fragrant air with a crispness of green and a hint of flowers. The freshness was so assuring at the moment, that we all took a deep breath, filling our body and mind with confidence. Ready?, Vinkel asked. We sucked some air, the pure fragrance, soothing our tension, just what we needed. “Yes”, we replied.
Slowly, our car moved forward, running over the tracks left behind by the previous car and finally we reached down safely. When we drank hot tea in our hotel that night, each one of us was silent, trying to understand, the experience sinking in and thanking God repeatedly. But the real hero was our driver Vinkel, who did not loose confidence and took us to safety (later he confessed it was a first-time situation for him too).
Nature can throw you into a storm but it will also give you the strength and courage!

This post is written for Indiblogger contest - #InspireAFragrance. To know about different inspiring fragrances, check out GodrejAer website.

PS:.This post is not fiction, in fact I left out a lot of details for brevity. I wish I had taken a few pics of the night but we were very busy in watching the path ahead and clearing the windshield off the dampness. Our hearts were in our mouth!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Long run

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 47; the forty-seventh edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

imagesManu lied down in the dark space. He could hear distant sounds of dogs barking. It was the sound very close to his body that was making his heart beat faster. He did not want to die of rat poison. At least not before he could arrange something for his family, to save them from dying of hunger. He had found shelter in this big city.

Back in village, his little farm had turned to cracked dried mud and the very little food they had in the house was reducing to nothing even though he and his wife were eating negligible to feed their two year old child. From the frequent gatherings of the farmers that he learnt that a new tax will be levied on their village as was seen in neighbouring villages. The question that the farmers were mulling was if they should meet their Raja? Most of them were in the favour, but many were of view of finding alternative ways to earn. But they were farmers and  kheti was the only work their ancestors had done for years and so had they. While they were cursing their fate came Guna, like God. Guna was a young kid of seven when ran away from home, nobody knew where he vanished. Now that he had returned he claimed he had travelled west towards the sea. He had seen ships big equal to mountains. And in such ships he had found work as a helper.

Manu had never thought of being anything else than a farmer, but a decision was instantly made in Manu's mind. Today he was in the big ship city, people here called it bandar which he found extremely funny to name it on an animal. This sheher was drastically different from his village and he found many goras moving around on horses and magical moving objects, gaadi, as they call it. He planned to stay as far as he can from them. He had found work at a shop which supplied materials required for the ships. Who would have thought he will find work the very first day? Guna was right about that. He thanked God and Guna in mind. Guna while had raised disappointment over little crammed places, Manu was more than happy to find shelter even though it was a dark small place under the building(structures he found overwhelming) stairs.

He was lost in thoughts when he heard the sounds. They were coming from his seth’s home upstairs. He decided to stay where he is and listen for hints. There was crying, but suppressed, like someone was in pain but was trying to hide. The sounds continued for sometime but he decided to stay away rather than doing anything foolish and loose whatever was in hand. After sometime, his tired body gave in and he dossed off to sleep.

Days passed and he found himself settled in the routine of the city life. He found a small puppy abandoned on the road who in time turned to companion with whom Manu shared his feelings. They filled each other's emptiness. The work was simple and good. Tomorrow looked hopeful. Only puzzling were his dreams at nights. He saw himself in his village, running along the narrow path towards their hut clouding the air with the dust. He always saw himself smiling and hopeful while he ran. But his daughter and wife, who were at the door looked very sad like in a perpetual wait. They saw through him as if he was invisible. He woke up sad, not once he saw himself reach the door. It was like a run for lifetime.

But these dreams never bothered him. Each day he found new courage and hope to start afresh. He had to collect enough to send it home through Guna by the end of the month. After the days work, when he returned to his shelter, there was trouble to sleep. Some days due to the sound of the sobs while other days in its anticipation. The beatings were regular and after a few weeks he had concluded that his seth who otherwise (supposedly acting) gentleman to others was very cruel towards his wife. They were childless which he guessed the reason behind his brutality and which was confirmed when he once heard him call her baanj. He felt sorry for the woman he had never seen. But more than that he felt anger towards the neighbours who kept mum over it. But at the same time he also knew how they all shared the fear of losing which in their case was a home, all of them being seth's tenants. There was always silence over these events as their seth was wealthy and influential. Besides who would be namak haram to the one who is providing meal? Over few days he gathered that the one staying with his seth was his second wife. He had exiled his first wife to her maika and had married another woman for a child.

Days had passed and Manu had accepted his reality of cowardness. But it was the cruel Sunday when things upturned and his hopes fell apart. That day he saw his seth leaving the building. A few minutes before that he had heard beating and crying sounds. These usually happened during night so Manu wondered what had caused seth's ire early Sunday morning. Manu could still hear the painful crying. His brain ordered his body to settle in the hollow but something was twisting in his heart. When he needed to cover his ears he took a step towards the stairs. He could see himself taking the step like he was outside himself. And this estranged spirit also kept mum as if it too was convinced it was the right thing to do, screaming silence must be heard. Before he realised, he found himself up to the end of the stairs. The crying was coming from the room at his right.

But what was he supposed to do? What should he say to her? He is from a neech jaat. Is his presence before a uchha jaat woman be right? He realised he might be in trouble. He was brought to reality with a squeal and he noticed that he was carrying his puppy and was unknowingly strangling him. He didn't know why, but he lay him down and knocked the door. As if his floating spirit still had the wit, it shook his body. He heard payal approaching the door and anticipation took over him. His body drenched with sweat. This is not right and he may land in deep trouble. Instinctively he ran to the stairs and peeped through the small gap. The door opened.

She was a young girl not more than sixteen or seventeen. Her face was round and eyes had shape like lotus petals but were swollen and red. She was beautiful but her face and body was fear-afflicted. It was maybe his movement that she looked directly at his eyes through the hole. With fear he turned to run when he heard swear words and felt a punch in his face. There was terrible pain in his nose and he could taste metal in his mouth. He felt a little imbalanced but seconds later when he opened his eyes he saw his malik dragging him up. Seth’s wife was still at the door, her body shivering. Her face was contorted stricken with fear. She had the puppy in her hand who was squealing while she made repeated pleas to her husband.

Manu’s mind started to make sense. Seth must have seen his wife and him, looking at each other, in the same frame and his crude mind put the pieces together albeit wrong. “You kutta get out my sight otherwise I will kill you. Don't show your face again” his seth yelled. Manu began to beg. He had done nothing. Seth was taken it all wrong. But this turned Seth's face crimson and he struck his leg on Manu's face, who was on his knees. Manu went rolling down to the street.

When Manu stood at the street, he realised it was all over. He wiped his nose to his sleeves. People were rushing around. Nobody stopped to see a man beaten and kicked. Nobody cared there were two mouths suffering in hunger miles far. Nobody would care even if he just jump off the bandar and drown himself. His wife’s and child’s face hovered over his eyes. He felt dizziness. But he cannot kill himself. He sighed. It wasn’t over. He started to walk to nowhere in particular. He has to make a way.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Participation Count: 17

Sunday, May 25, 2014


The wild bird perched on the branch high
Looking forward to the intimate sky
Ready for the jump ahead... BUT
Only if he knows, WHERE and WHY

*Just what I am feeling now, directionless and anxious.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Trip to Himachal trip [Shimla - Kinnaur - Manali]

This trip was originally planned last year, but due to sudden cloudburst in Uttarkhand and Himachal, with heavy heart I had to cancel our plan. After a long wait of a year finally our plan to visit beautiful Himalayas finally got realised this March (March is end of winter).

I have put down my itinerary. I know it looks quite elaborate but my idea was to record everything I have seen, heard and felt. Here’s the first part.

17th March’14 - Mumbai – Pashim express – When I planned our trip, we were not sure of the dates and the delay landed us in sleeper class coach. I need not say how much we suffered as we boarded the heated train from Mumbai. The nights were better though and the prospect for cooler coming days gave us the strength.

18th March’14 - Shimla
Once we reached Chandigarh, we met Mr. Vinkal Handa whose car we had booked, and started our journey to Shimla. We had suffered enough in train and were desperately waiting for the cool Shimla breeze. But as our car crossed the borders of Haryana and entered Himachal, we noticed the change in climate and our minds started finding its peace. It was approx four hour journey and we took a break on the way to have hot Maggi and Tea. By the time we reached Shimla, it was dark and we hurried to find a suitable hotel for one night. Our driver, Vinkelji, suggested Hotel Sangeet where rooms were available but I thought it expensive for just one night stop. We were supposed to leave the next morning.

But after the endless train journey, searching for hotel sounded a big task. Hotel Sangeet too was full by then and we had to drag our feet to look for others. We met two helpers, Mr.Nari and his brother who took us to hotels per our requirement. Finally after checking 2 hotels we settled for hotel Sea rock. The room was more of a enclosed box but we were good as it had hot water and it was just a matter of one night. If you ask for review I would rate it 2*.

Next morning, we strolled through the Shimla market and bought a few winter items for dad. The market was reasonable and we got some good deals. I found the locals walking to their offices in trendy clothes. It was a pleasant morning and we were happy, finally satisfied to be there.

Source : IntenetShimla also known as Simla, is the capital city of Himachal Pradesh. Most of the town lies between 2,100 m and 2,300 m. Shimla is well known as a hub for India's tourism sector. It is among the top 10 preferred entrepreneurial locations in India. Its name has been derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali.

The Green Valley

19th March’14 – Sarahan

We skipped sightseeing in Shimla and started our journey for Sarahan at noon. It was a long road along the beautiful landscaped mountains and we took stop at Narkanda for lunch. The hotel owner was Tibetan and chatted with us as we paid the bill. She had been to Mumbai few months ago in December for fortnight trip. They had also been to Ajanta & Ellora caves and enjoyed the trip. We left with smiles and with her good wishes for our journey.

Sarahan is small town and has the famous Bhimakali temple, dedicated to the mother goddess Bhimakali, presiding deity of the rulers of the former Bushahr State. The temple is situated about 180 km from Shimla and is one of 51 Shakti Peethas. The town is known as the gateway of Kinnaur.

It has an average elevation of 7,589 feet.

The temple is made of wood and has intricate beautiful carvings.


We reached Sarahan at around 6:30 pm. I asked Vinkelji about hotels. He mentioned his friend's hotel Green valley. I still went to see the guest house in Bhimakali temple but decided in favour of Green valley which had better view than the Bhimakali guest house which was nothing more than a close room without windows. By the time we freshened up and reached the temple by 7:15 pm, (the Aarti starts by 6:45-7), the Aarti was finished and the temple was closed. The next morning we got ready and visited the deity. We were impressed by the temple’s peculiar architecture and by it’s intricate wooden carvings. The premise is spacious and we sat there for some time taking in the beauty of the temple and basking in the sun in the chilly morning.

Shrikhand View from Hotel


20th & 21st March’14 Kalpa

Sangla Valley or the Baspa Valley starts at Sangla and ends at Chitkul. The Baspa River flows in the Sangla Valley which is rich in pine nut orchards, Royal red apples, cherry trees, and glacial streams with trout. The main villages in the valley villages include Chitkul, Rakcham, and Batseri. 

Sarahan was the last town in Shimla district and was also the last with proper roads. As we entered Sangla Valley, after a few kilometres, the roads got narrower and crude. Those who are afraid of height may find their BP rising as the car treks it’s way thousand feet above the steep slope. We took stop at the Mata temple which was built by military to please deity for frequent accidents on the road. There we met an appointed military personal from Maharashtra. He was pleased to find someone from his homeland and so were we.


Power Plant

We followed the steep path, in awe of the skilful driver as our car passed along the edges, with River Sutlej flowing below. Our itinerary was for Sangla/Chitkul but due to weather havoc, the road was closed, so we headed to Kalpa. We took halt at Reckong Peo for lunch. Reckong Peo, also simply known as Peo by the local inhabitants, is headquarters of Kinnaur district. It is at a height of 7,513 ft.

Kalpa is a small town in the Sutlej river valley, above. Inhabited by Kinnauri people and famous for its apple orchards. Apples are a major cash-crop for the region. It has an average elevation of 9,711 feet. It is located at the base of the Kinnaur Kailash snow-capped ranges. The Shivling peaks rise up to 20,000 feet. Kalpa is among apple orchards, pine-nut forests and the stately deodhars. It is above the town of Reckong Peo, the district headquarters of Kinnaur, which has a hundred-year-old Buddhist monastery.

There was fresh snowfall at Kalpa the previous day and most of the hotels were closed due to insufficient staff and water. Vinkalji took us to Rolling Rang resort where we got ourselves a room with direct and perfect view to Kinner Kailash & Shrikhand. We were so close to snow, we gasped at the magnificent mountains as we had a nice hot cup of tea.

The Kinnaur Kailash (locally known as Kinner Kailash) has a height of 6500 meters and is considered as sacred by both Hindu and Buddhist Kinnauris. The pass accessible on the trek is the Charang La at an altitude of 5300m. It is considered as the toughest trek in Himachal Pradesh.

As per legend this shrine too finds its presence since the time of bhasmasur, the Deadly Asur/demon who got a boon/vardan from lord shiva that whoso ever's head will be touched by him, will be turned into bhasma or ashes. Seeing the powerful effects of this boon he tried to bhasma Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva kept on hiding from place to place and then finally came to this place. He resided here for some time meditating with Lord Vishnu. Then finally Lord Vishnu helped him by killing the demon.

Kinnauris believe in the shivling seen on the Shrikhand range as shown in the left pic (picked from net, my camera lens is not powerful enough to capture it). As per locals, the snow never settles on the shivling.

Sunrise View


On the second day we went out for some wandering. First on our list was Roghi village. The road to this village is very narrow and it added our admiration for the local drivers. We went by car but there were people who had set out on foot. Along the road was the suicide point with cliff with a terrific fall below. As we reached Roghi village, we found a truck filled with construction materials taking reverse on the steep, narrow, unsettled road. We stood by to look at the operation with eyes opened wide.

Suicide point

Cabbages at the village

I went into shooting spree through the almost-empty lanes with traditional houses & beautiful wooden temples.



Next on our plan was the Tibetan monastery in Chini village a few meters below our hotel. As we reached the temple, a few monks were leaving. We were surprised to see them photo-shooting with iMac. We went around the temple, spinning the prayer wheels offering prayers. It was nice peaceful place like a world in itself. The next morning we could hear a players from the monastery, it’s vibrational rhythmic chants engaging us immediately.


Interesting setup

Even though days are warmer in Kalpa, nights get cooler. My parents found it an effort to adjust to the cold. One can also get a heater on rent, thought we came to know about it only on second night.

22nd & 23rd March’14 Rakcham

Next morning we started for Rakcham. Another Bengali group from our hotel was also following the same route. The manager of Running Rang, Mr. Thakur also accompanied us after Sangla. Thakurji is an interesting person and has lots of stories about the place which takes you to closer to the native and makes you more curious about the Kinnaur.

Rakcham is at an altitude of approx. 10,000 ft. Being at higher altitude and almost in the cold mountains, it is quite colder here than Kalpa. So our accidental change of plan in visiting Kalpa proved to be in our favor. It helped our body to get accustomed to cold and direct transfer to Raksham may have proved adversely on our health.

At Rakcham, we checked in at Rupin river, the only hotel there. As it was end of winter, the water pipes was not operational yet and the water was been provided from buckets. Thakurji (who runs this place too), showed us wooden cottage which he said would be less cooler than the cemented hotel. But when he showed us 301 room with a beautiful view to the mountains and the soothing flowing river, we comfortably voted the room over the cottage. But this time we asked for heater which is must here.

Beautiful view from hotel


After lunch we headed towards the river. It was 1:30 pm and the sun was shining brightly above us. As we trekked down to the bridge, we found the snow under our feet soft and our shoes sinking and getting wet. We hopped our way carefully to the bridge. Even though the river looks calm from the hotel, it is not so calm under the bridge where it is forceful enough to bore multiple holes in the big boulders through which you see water coming through. Next few hours we just sat in the hotel balcony under the sun and soaking in the magnificent surroundings.

Just sitting was never so interesting. In the mornings, we watched people walk easily over the snow (the snow gets hard in the cold morning and begins to melt in the sun) on which we were struggling a day earlier. People carried fodder, wood over their back. There were college students who trekked to the other side in morning and were out in afternoon skiing. We realised that this place has the least of entertainment and I wondered how much time one will have on hand after daily chores. Also I read this place is absolutely free of any form of crime.

After breakfast we thought of just checking around. Thakurji told us that Chitkul (which is the last Indian village before the Tibet Border was on our original itinerary and not Rakcham) had fresh heavy snowfall and one of the cars that had gone there that morning had stuck in the snow and had to be pushed. The road towards Chitkul was breath-taking and we came across a few glaciers. However after a few kilometers, we turned back to our hotel. 

Chitkul (Chittkul) is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibet border. The Indian road ends here. During winters, the place mostly remains covered with the snow and the inhabitants move to lower regions of Himachal. Potatoes grown at Chittkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly. It is also the last point in India one can travel to without a permit.


Temple Wooden Carvings

After lunch at hotel, we strolled through the village, which unfortunately was mess with cow dung and melting snow. We made our way to the only temple in the village but found it locked. Later we came to know that it opens only once a month, on the day of Sankranti. The wooden walls displayed Hindu dieties and also hint of Tibetan influence with dragon carvings.

** Indented red text is taken from net, mostly Wiki & Himachal gov tourist site for specific details.

…Part 2 to be continued