Transformation Through Tragedy – How Delhi Has Become Safer Than Ever. April 7, 2013

A Perspective from a single Delhi female, who is also our lovely Operations Director in Delhi. Ekta lives and breathes India, and gives her perspective of how the horrific rape incident in December has changed the city and nation making it safer than ever before. 

Soon after the barbaric case that hit, first the nation’s consciousness and later of course the entire world, I got a call from one of my clients, a lady traveller planning to come to Delhi from Jaipur, expressing her anxiety and checking if it was ok to be in Delhi. At first I was surprised..had not anticipated it would become the genesis of fear amongst travellers, who depend largely on the selective news feed they are subjected to. I assured her that Delhi was safe, more than ever before and she would feel the warmth of the city if she came here. I am grateful to her for having trusted me. She later went back with lots of fond memories of the city and the nation at large.

I believe it’s a classic example of some of the many paradoxes life introduces us to. To say that the incident woke a nation up from its deep slumber, would not be an understatement. It was the first time in the recorded history of recent times, that the youth across the country (led by those in Delhi), both men and women, united for a cause and staged unprecedented, peaceful protests that refused to die, long after the heroic girl had gone herself. At the core was only one issue: safety and security of women in the country. An issue that never came centre stage, that never found space in election manifestos, that was buried under so many taboos, suddenly became mainstream, was being discussed right up in the Prime Minister’s office and right down to not just urban but also rural households! Women in the country had decided to raise their voice for themselves for the very first time and India had to wake up and take notice! Infinite debates followed, not just in political circles, but also amongst families in their homes, urging change of mindsets, questioning archaic laws and patriarchal society that encourages misogyny, seeking transparency in law and order in the cities and so much more.

The results have already crawled in, in the form of new and stricter laws for crimes against women that have already been implemented, but more importantly in giving a direction to the society towards becoming more aware and sensitive towards women and their security. Umpteen cases across the country have been reported since, of men fighting for women in danger, reporting crimes against women to the police, and demonstrating courage that was always there, but remained buried under a primitive mindset. Crimes against women were happening all the while in India just like they do in every part of the world, but more than 90% of these were never reported to the police or to media. Post 16/12 as the society began to find its bearings after a deep sense of shame, more and more people decided to speak up against crimes, which resulted in more cases being reported to the police as well as the media.

To me it appears to be a positive sign in the pattern of growth in a society. To sit up, accept and take action against a crime instead of burying it (that’s been happening in our society all through), is the first big step towards addressing it, as more and more culprits are tried and punished, the bigger the deterrents against committing one. More reports in media of crimes against women, could be a result of this phenomenon, and not necessarily a growth in crimes per se.

As a single woman in the city of Delhi (just like so many other women like me), I feel more safe and more free today than ever before. 16/12 scarred us forever, but also stirred the soul of the country on the path of evolution. Coming times are only going to get better!

Ekta Kapur

The Day My Life Changed Forever… August 16, 2012

I would love to say this is going to be a warm and fuzzy feeling blog post. I really wish it was. For about 5 years, I have kept this story to my heart and told those close to me or to small presentations. I feel I have doing a huge disservice by keeping this story so close to my heart. Today it’s time to tell you all about it. The day my life changed forever.

If you have a queasy stomach, I would suggest that you still read this post, however the video is VERY graphic and confronting. I strongly suggest NOT to watch it, as you may feel sick to watch this.

In 2007, I took the trip of my life to India. I’ve discussed it on other posts. I’ve talked about the life changing moments and briefly mentioned about the horrific experience I witnessed, but not in the detail I am about to share now. The times I’ve spoken about it, it brought up the emotion, and maybe that’s the reason I haven’t talked about it so much. Bursting into tears during a presentation isn’t always a great look!

So here goes…

My trip to India in 2007 had an aim to visit the national parks of India. To experience them through the eyes of the local and tribal communities, the forest department and the NGO’s (Non-Government Organisations) to find out what was really going on with issues like poaching and conservation initiatives.

When people in the west think of poachers, they think of a tough guy with a gun, in an international organisation conquering the forests looking for tigers and “prized” animals ready to smuggle their parts through to the borders of China. This is so far from the reality. The reality is it’s a local villager that has  been approached by a middle man with the offer of possibly a years supply of rice or 20,000 rupees to feed their family. That is a pretty tempting offer for a family man with many mouths to feed.

I got to meet former poachers, and poachers families. They were beautiful people. They just had a family to feed. What they were doing was wrong and illegal. I met NGO’s, that worked with these local communities making a difference, empowering local communities to value their environment and looking at sustainable ways of making a living. For example, there were tribal communities with in depth knowledge of the forests and its animals. They could become the jeep drivers and naturalists on game drives, or they could make handicrafts instead of illegally poaching endangered animals.

In January 2008, I travelled to Assam, and spent time with an organisation called Aaranyak.  What an amazing organisation. An NGO that actually is on the ground, involved in scientific research, working with the forest department, making a difference to local communities and their environment, teaching the younger generation of the value of their beautiful forests.

I stayed with Aaranyak at Kaziranga National Park. This forest is a wild, untamed environment, unlike any other place I had been to in India. Tigers, Rhinos, Buffalo, amazing bird life in the wild east.

On this particular day, we went into the park quite early in the morning for an elephant safari. The mist rising over the savannah was mesmerising. We set out to find the endangered one horned rhino.

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 And then we found not one, but two! A mother and baby rhino. I quite like this picture I took, their bums looks cute. So different from the African rhino. The Indian rhino is much more “ancient” looking, with its plated body.

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After this touching experience, seeing these beautiful creatures, we heading back to the research station, I was staying at. Driving along, we were hailed down by a local police officer. He knew the members of Aaranyak very well. He pointed to a the right, a tea estate, to head down there urgently.

So we ran down there as quick as we could. I could see 2 groups of locals gathered around, however I couldn’t see what was happening. The first group we came across were standing around a large hole that was being filled with dirt. We found out it was a poached baby rhino that was being buried. The poaching happened the night before.

I was in shock and saddened by the news. I was scared to see what was happening around the next group of people. I reluctantly walked over. I was with a local reporter as well. He told me a mother and baby rhino had been poached that night.

What I saw next was revolting, inhumane and the cruellest of cruel. The locals looked on in shock, and I cried my eyes out. I was in disbelief. It was the mother rhino. Wounded with a bullet to her head, and a bloody mess where her horn SHOULD have been. The worst part, she was still alive. I was sick to my stomach and thought to myself, how could anyone do this to such a beautiful animal.

The horn of an Indian one horned rhino is quite small compared to that of an African rhino.As I gathered myself, still in tears, l took out my camera and filmed. In disgust at the human race, and feeling for the loss of the mother rhino for her baby. I couldn’t believe she was still alive. Occasionally she would stand up to urinate. The vets were onsite to try and reduce the pain. I wondered whether she should have been put down, but it was not my place to interfere.

The video that follows is after treating the rhino with whatever the vets could to reduce the pain. It’s totally unedited and shows the gruesome aftermath of what this animal is now left with, no horn, in shock and imminent death.

You will see real footage. This video is heavy and you will be saddened, hurt, angry, but it may be necessary to watch to make change in this world. When we experience and see injustices, only then can we make some kind of change, don’t you think?

You can watch it here

This rhino died shortly after this was shot. This poaching was in national and international newspapers in India and around the globe.

This event changed me and my purpose in the world. It wasn’t about living the corporate life anymore. There was meaning for me. The meaning became clear and Mantra Wild Adventures was born. Our business aims to have our clients experience local environments, understand communities through local experiences. Only when you can understand local issues and communities, only then can you really understand the beauty of a place.  Our safaris and adventure page lists our adventures and all of these experiences incorporate conservation in some way.

If this story has touched you in some way, please share this below. Share it with your friends and family. I personally don’t know what will happen to this story, but I know it’s important to get it out there in the world. I hope some way it helps.

Travel on Purpose,

Reena

 

Why Visiting an Ashram is the Wrong Reason to Travel to India August 2, 2012

I hear it all the time. “I would love to visit an ashram in India for a month!” or “I’m going to an ayurvedic retreat in Kerala to detox!” There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to India to sit in the lotus position in an ashram and find yourself, or to spend a couple of weeks on a detox in wellness retreat. Go ahead and do it, but you are wasting your time if that’s all you are going for…

Photo credit: Swaswara

Photo credit: Swaswara

Here is my thinking why this is the wrong reason to go to India. In our western lives, we spend most of our days within 4 walls. When we wake up, we are in our homes, we do the daily routine, go to work and for most of us, we work somewhere that has 4 walls. We may go out for lunch or the gym (another 4 walls) on our lunch break, however pretty much, our day-to day lives is within 4 walls. This is with the exception of any outdoor activities we do.

So when I hear that someone is willing to spend thousands of dollars to travel to a destination like India, to then sit in a room with 4 walls in the lotus position, it saddens me. In my humble opinion, you can “find” yourself anywhere. You don’t actually need to travel to India to find yourself. You can meditate in your room, at a meditation centre and you will get the exact same experience.

When you think of the places where many of the spiritual beings “found” themselves, it was not in an ashram or a building…it was in nature. When we look at Buddha, he attained enlightenment while sitting under a Bodhi tree. If you ever do get the chance to visit this place, it is quite an experience. I visited Bodhgaya in 2010. It is an experience I will carry with me forever. Something I cannot describe – it has to be experienced.

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Before Buddha attained his state of nirvana, he experienced many things. He was a married man, a father, a prince, he saw poverty (although his family tried to hide this from him), he felt compassion for people less fortunate, he experienced hurt, competition and all the things a human being feels and experiences. It is these experiences, that lead him to discover his true purpose, and finally led him to meditate under that famous bodhi tree and attain enlightenment. The journey was needed to reach the destination.

That is why it is not the best step to go to India JUST to visit an ashram or a wellness centre. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice to sit within 4 walls of a room for your time in India. There is a whole world out there, a country that is so vibrant, rich in culture and history and it’s spirituality is in its people and the land.

I challenge those of you that are hungry to go to India’s Wellness centres to think about discovering the holiest places of India first.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Elanor Roosvelt.

How true is this quote?

That’s what we do here at Mantra Wild Adventures. Our Spiritual Retreats are not yoga retreats or wellness programmes centred at happening in one place. They are experiences…and right at the end you will visit a wellness centre, after your whirlwind experience to India’s holiest places.
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When you visit these sacred places, you will feel the energy of the place, and relate in your own way to what you are experiencing. The best time to contemplate and look back on your journey is when you have finished your 18 days of travelling on purpose with some quiet time to yourself at a wellness centre – eating healthy food, sitting in meditation, going for nature walks or some art yoga…whatever you want to do!

Photo Credit: Swaswara

Photo Credit: Swaswara

Experience India….then sit in the lotus position!

Travel on Purpose,

Reena 🙂

Mantra Wild Adventures offers 22 day journey – Mantra Wild Essential Elements, from $4,599 per person (base on twin share).

Highlights include the extravagance of the Taj Mahal with it’s ultimate symbol of love, the beauty of Khajaraho’s erotic temples, a peaceful boat ride on the Ganges, the sight, smells and sounds of Delhi. Listen to the Mantra of wildlife in Ranthambhore, and you may be lucky to come eye to eye to a Bengal Tiger, an unforgetable moment, if you are lucky to spot one! Sit under the Bodhi Tree where Budda attained enlightement and and soak in the energy of Bodhgaya.

After all of these experiences, finish your journey at Swaswara Wellness retreat situated by Om beach. Become aware of the inner sound of your being. Only when the outer world becomes quiet, can you hear it. Enjoy yoga and meditation daily, relax and enjoy specially prepared meals made with fresh local produce.

 

The perfect way to end your trip.

Forget Africa! Why India is the Hottest Safari Destination July 19, 2012

I just made a pretty bold statement didn’t I?

Firstly, here at Mantra Wild, we LOVE Africa. Africa is an amazing place, and personally I am looking forward to the opportunity to go myself in the near future. The safari experience on the African Continent would be fantastic. I just want to make that clear. 🙂

In 2007, I wanted to discover Wild India. This trip would really be a safari adventure for me. I wanted to visit as many National Parks as possible in 2.5 months. I did get the chance to do that, and so much more.

One of my favourite experiences, was visiting Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan. I was everyone’s good luck charm. Why? Every single game drive I went on, I saw my favourite animal, the tiger. On this one particular safari, we were driving up a steep part of the road. If anything came up the road, there would be nothing we could do but sit there and allow whatever animal came up, to try and pass us.

Just our luck, of all the animals, we see a tiger walking up the road!! We had a couple of jeeps behind us. This made it difficult to reverse and keep a safe distance, and after a while the jeeps behind us stopped reversing, and all we could do was watch this tiger walk around our jeep. If I reached out to touch the tiger, I could have stroked his soft fur, however I’m not that silly….the video tells the story better

It was the most exhilarating, adrenalin pumping, scariest moment of my life. To be so close to one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. I really lived that moment to its fullest.

You would never have an experience like this anywhere in the world, except in India. That’s is why I say, “Forget Africa!”. (I really love Africa)

Here are my top 4 reasons why India is the hottest safari destination….

1. There is no other place on the planet to see a tiger in the wild, better than in India…

As rare as the tiger is becoming, India has the largest number of tigers than any other country. Once apon a time, in 1900, there were 100,000 tigers remaining in the wild. The number is closer to 3,200-3,500 left in the wild today.

1% of India’s land mass is national parks and forests. That is pretty impressive for a country of close to 1.2 billion people.

India has some amazing national parks. Our top picks are:

1. Corbett Tiger Reserve in Northern India, at the foothills of the Himalayas and India’s first Tiger Reserve.

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 2. Kaziranga National Park, Assam, also home to the one horned rhino, Kaziranga is wild and untamed.

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3. Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan your best chance to see a tiger in the wild. It is one of the well known reserves. I call it an Oasis in the Desert.

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There are so many more, and will give you more information in the near future of the best Tiger Reserves in India.

2. You are not just stuck on safari when in India

This is what I mean. The wilderness of India is only 1 part of the broad spectrum of what it has to offer. You can definitely visit the national parks only, however why would you, when you can add on an experience to the Himalayas, or the Lakes and Palaces of Rajasthan, or a day trip to Bhutan when visiting the eastern national parks, or the beaches of the south, hill stations of the north and temples.

The variety and diversity of India allows for a holistic experience of culture, spiritual, religious, historical or relaxed.

3. Every National Park/Tiger Reserve is different in India

I have been to many national parks in India. Corbett, Ranthambhore, Nagarhole, Kaziranga, Manas, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Ranthambhore are a few that come to mind that I have seen and experienced.

The vegetation, landscape is so different on the vast sub-continent. The foothills of himalayas to the north, provide a spectacular backdrop to Corbett Tiger Reserve, wet and wild Kaziranga is a lush grassland savannah mixed with tropical forests and marshlands, and Ranthambhore is a desert beauty. So much variety!

4. The “Big 5” exists in India too!

How many of you knew there were lions in India? India has the last remaining Asiatic lions in Gir National Park, Gujarat.

India is also home to the tiger, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant….there you go!

A visit to India is not just a visit to the Taj Mahal, Delhi, visiting temples. It is a wild and untamed destination.

We would love to hear your safari experience in India, or if you have not visited India for safaris, tell us what you think!

Travel on Purpose,

Reena

 

5 Things You Must Know Before You Travel To India July 6, 2012

It’s Not That Scary

Wow, this is exciting. Our first blog post! Firstly, I wanted to introduce myself. I am Reena Tory, Founder of Mantra Wild Adventures. This company is my passion into reality. My aim is to provide you with the most up to date information about India and help you see India in a way that no one else can do.

I get a lot of questions from my client’s about India, and my client base tend to be first time traveller’s to India. We can only answer so much. The rest is to be experienced. However, I can provide you with the best advice before you leave, so you are prepared for the unexpected.

So here are my top 5 MUST KNOW before you travel to India….

1. Expect The Unexpected…

There is only so much we can tell you, or your friends and family can tell you about their experience. My first trip to India was in 2007, and what I heard was everything from “you will get sick, and it’s expected”, “don’t trust anyone!”, “don’t travel on your own”, “beware of people trying to rip you off”, “the poverty is so depressed and sad”. You WILL hear all of this and more!

What I have found is that everyone will have their own experience. No two experiences can ever be the same. What I can promise you, is that India will show you exactly what you need to see, hear, feel and experience. My advice is to go with a open heart and mind and let the journey unfold.

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2. Everything you hear is true and isn’t true

Every experience is real. As per my first point, everyone will give you their opinions and what you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do. As a travel operator, I give my own advice too, based on my experience.

BUT, what I suggest is to listen again with an open mind. Realise that everyone’s perceptions are different and are filtered based on their own experience to this point in their  life. And for heaven’s sake, don’t listen to those that have their own opinion and have NEVER travelled to India! I have heard it many times ” I would never travel to India, I just couldn’t bare the poverty”, “I hear it smells when you get off the plane”. Smile and nod!

3. Leave your western expectations at home….

There is this thing called IST in India. It means Indian Standard Time. It means that our western way of being on time goes out the window.  As a rule “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” means 30 minutes, “I’m just at the lights, I’m coming now” means I’ll be another 30 mins – 1 hour, especially with traffic in Delhi or Mumbai.

I lived in India for 5 months from 2009-2010, and I became dear friends with people I met and lived with. It was a common theme. Everyone’s intention to be on time is with a genuine heart. Just go with the flow, take your watch off. If you have booked an experience with Mantra Wild Adventures, timing is important and will be adhered to, however as a general rule when visiting restaurants, spending time with locals, remember IST!

There is good and bad in every country. We won’t hide that you will see poverty. We won’t hide that you will see things that you would never expect at home. I can guarantee you will probably get ripped off, AND it’s all part of the experience. There is good and bad in every country. In many ways, our own society hides its “stuff” under the carpet, behind close doors. In India, its out in the open for all to see, so enjoy it!

Everything that goes in the western world does not matter in India.You are in a new country, with new cultures, enjoy the ride..

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4. You will be challenged in a way you have never been before, so much, that you will want to come home

There is a great travel quote that expresses this well…

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

 

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This sums up India perfectly. It will be different for everyone. Expect to be challenged in every way, and when you are in it, be in that moment and ask yourself ” Why am I feeling like this?, what’s going on for me”. As woo woo as it sounds, you will understand that it’s your “stuff” and you are not going with the flow. You will feel frustrated, you will get angry, you will lose it, you will start calling your travel agent or their airline to change your flight or think to yourself ” what the $%@$% am I doing here?” It will pass. When it does, you are ready for India.

5. India will change you forever

You must know that before you leave for India, that you will not be the same person when you return home. There is one thing and one thing only that will change you. It won’t be the beauty of the landscape, or the chaos of life happening before your eyes. It will not be the ashram you stayed at and gotten closer to know who you are, although that is also pretty amazing. It is not going to be the fantastic shopping, arts, clothing and things you will buy, and the shopping is excellent. It won’t be the Taj Mahal. OK, yes and no, the Taj will bring tears to your eyes.

If you ask anyone that has travelled to India, they will tell you the same thing. The one thing that they will hold close to their hearts. The REAL India, are it’s people. The people of India is the hidden gem. You will be touched by their kindness, openness, willingness to help, genuineness. When you leave, you will not forget the way it’s people treated you.

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Mark Twain described India in the following way…

The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday’s bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.

This is India!

If you liked this article, please like and share it with your friends. 🙂 Leave a comment below about your own experience to India or if you are planning on going in the near future. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Looking forward to more giving you more fantastic tips and information about India.

Travel on Purpose,

Reena

Send me my $200 travel voucher Yes Please