Journeys and Jottings
People Make Places
“You don’t always have to be doing something. You can just be, and that is something plenty. “ Alice Walker
In my very first session with my therapist, she asked me “Why do you always have to do something. Why can’t you JUST BE? “ She smiled and added, “ Your mind is on a treadmill. Get off it for now. “ Since then, I have slowly started practising the art of doing nothing. I often take a few pauses every day to just ground myself before flitting around from one task to another. Every breath I take is just my way of connecting to my own self. As Alice Walker says, “ It is to feel connected to and loved by the universe.”
Hello and Welcome to this issue of Journeys and Jottings. In this issue, we focus on the Art of Stillness. And I have a lot of announcements to make as well, starting with the workshop on Travel Writing vs Travel Blogging which is on this Saturday and if you have not registered as yet, please do so today.
I am also grateful to Thailand Tourism as I am the Super Winner of the Blog Your Thailand contest organised by TAT for the “ Best article”. Its so heartwarming that blogs are given so much importance in the era of instagram and tik tok. And finally, my most exciting announcement is that I am a National Council Member of the newly formed WICCI Rural Tourism Council and am so thrilled . In People Make Places, we are speaking to Sahana Ahmed, the National President of the Rural Tourism Council of WICCI and she will share more about the vision and mission of the council .
The Art of Stillness
Alice Walker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, “ The Colour Purple,” believes in slowing down and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. And another travel writer who inspired me is Pico Iyer. His book, “ The Art of Stillness - Adventures in Going Nowhere “ speaks about the joys of “sitting still as a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it.” As Pico Iyer adds, “ Going nowhere … isn't about turning your back on the world; it's about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.” There is a beautiful treatise about the book, although you should watch this video as well on Ted Talks.
Personally, for me, I have seen immense value by practising the Art of Stillness. It has helped me heal from pain and has made me feel more mindful and grateful. There are three simple ways you can practise Stillness in your day to day life.
Pause for five minutes
Switch off your phones, disconnect from the world, retreat into a quiet corner and just breathe or meditate for five full minutes. You can do this many times throughout the day.
Focus on the NOW
As my therapist says, “ Switch off from your thoughts and connect to the present.” Focus on the power of NOW. The wind blowing on your face, the birds chirping on the tree, the flower in your garden, the raindrops on the leaf. Every moment is there to cherish
Listen to music
Close your eyes and let your ears take charge. Lose yourself in the strains of the music and let the melody take you into a different world for a few minutes every day.
The Art of Stillness reminds me of a poem that I learnt in school - Leisure by WH Davis. Even today the words are etched in my mind. Here is the entire poem for you .
Courtesy - By W H Davies / Alwyn ap Huw - http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~alwyn/books/Supertramp/index.htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://cy.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22992
Travel Writing vs Travel Blogging - Workshop Alert
A travel writer prides on a byline.
A travel blogger prides on an audience
I am conducting a new workshop this Saturday, August 7 and if this interests you, do register for the same right now .
Details of the workshop
I have often been asked if they are two different careers and if it’s easy to straddle both While I do agree that the nuances are different, you can be both a travel writer and blogger as well . You do need a different approach and sometimes you will have to make that manual switch in your head as well .
From pitching to monetisation, content creation to storytelling , collaborating with brands to creating a media kit, we will cover some of the key aspects of both travel writing and travel blogging .
Learn the art of pitching
Collaborate with brands
Monetize your blog
Be your own brand
Become a storyteller
Look forward to seeing you there.
BLOG your Thailand
I am so grateful to be the super winner of this contest organised by Thailand Tourism and all the more excited that Blogging has been given centre stage in the era of Instagram and Tik Tok. While every platform is very important today for a content creator, blogs offers you the opportunity to do more powerful and indepth storytelling.
My winning entry - Glimpses of Rural Thailand
Cruising on a ferry along the Klong Chak Phra, I am exploring a different Bangkok from the one I know. We are sailing towards some of the villages of Thailand to get a glimpse of Rural Thailand. The silence is soothing and long-tailed boats replace the cars snarling down the roads. But it is not just the tourists who are floating along with us. The locals who live along the canal are taking the boats to the mainland. I see beautiful mansions and big bungalows with pretty gardens, built along the banks.
My boat seems to wander aimlessly, entering narrower canals and I see a water monitor peeping its head from the foliage. The canals lead to the Taling Chan Floating Market , where an array of fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, and other dishes are being prepared.
I am completely charmed by the Bangkok that I see. Musicians are getting ready to perform while locals throng the narrow canals to savour the colourful dishes served in the boats. The vegetarian dishes are tempting and I bite into some local sweets and try the sticky rice. “This is just the beginning, “ says my guide, introducing herself, “ Call me Uma. My name is otherwise rather long and you won’t be able to pronounce it.”
As we take photographs of the variety of dishes prepared on the boats, Uma tells us that we will soon be heading into Rural Thailand and our destination will be Nakhon Nayok and Parchinburi Provinces.
People Make Places
Sahana Ahmed is a writer and poet and the author of Combat Skirts. As the founder-director of Alpha Sierra Academy, Sahana has worked with leading institutions as a training consultant, including Reserve Bank of India, Utkal University, KIIT School of Management, and Army Wives Welfare Association.
Sahana is an alumna of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing India Workshop. Her writings have been published in The New York Times, The Pinch Journal, The Hindu BusinessLine, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, among others
I met her through a Facebook group related to Writing and I have always been overwhelmed with her kindness and grace. Later when she announced on twitter that she had taken over as the National President of the Rural Travel Council, I was keen on being a part of her council and work with her to promote Rustic Tourism in India. In this interview she speaks about her childhood and her writing and her role as head of WICCI’s Rural Travel Council .
1.How did a promising hotelier become a writer ?
My father was in the Infantry, so that meant an itinerant childhood. I studied in eleven schools — officially, and lived in the remotest parts of India. I ended up training to be a hotelier because that was the trendiest career option for an army brat in the 90s. I am not sure if I had the personality for Hospitality, but all my subsequent professional choices, especially Learning and Development, were an upshot of my IHM days. I took up writing when I fell ill a few years ago. I felt my days were numbered and wanted to leave behind something for my daughter to know me by.
2. Tell us a little bit about WICCI and how the Rural Travel Council came about ?
WICCI is a national business chamber for women from all walks of life. It has councils at various levels representing 160+ sectors. I head the Rural Tourism Council.
How it came about is an interesting story. I was invited by the founder, Dr. Harbeen Arora, to lead a council of my choice. This happened on Facebook, just after I received her friend request, and I almost missed the opportunity because I am not very active on social media. At least, that was the case in late June. Anyway, I saw that Rural Tourism had no office bearers. I am an unschooling parent to a ten-year-old, and I was contemplating moving to an eco-village with her, so I was already thinking a lot about sustainability. I also have a master’s in Tourism Management that I had never put to any use. And I was confident that I could reach the right people, with the resources, intent and experience to benefit this sector, so I said yes.
3. What’s the main agenda and the focus areas for the Rural Travel Council ?
The council is currently working on making policy recommendations to the Ministry of Tourism. There is great depth and width of inter-disciplinary knowledge in the team, so I have been able to incorporate twenty focus areas including Banking & Finance, Hospitality Training, and Marketing & Promotions. The vision is to have a positive impact on rural tourism by fostering networks for collaborations and capacity building.
Pic Courtesy - Uttarakhand Council
4. Tell us about the members who have come together
Like I told you, I was sure I knew the right people for the job. I started with Hotel Management alumni groups, then reached out to fellow army wives, who then led me to entrepreneurs and academicians. I got many responses via Twitter too, and that includes you. Within three weeks, I was able to gather 22 National Council members and 19 State/UT Sector Presidents. I wanted, personally, to see greater representation from the north-east and happy to report that we have active councils in Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya, and Tripura will be added to the list soon.
Pic Courtesy - Nagaland Council
5. What are the next steps for the WICCI Rural Tourism Council
The next steps are to consolidate the teams at the state and city levels, set up robust processes, and start collaborating with stakeholders on the ground. I am expecting a lot of social media activity. Working for this council has restored my faith in the power of social networks to create real impact. I am seeing that every day.
6. How will this help the cause of tourism post the unlock travel phase
This is the right time for us to engage in knowledge sharing and skill development initiatives. The migrant crisis last year showed us, in tragic detail, our deeply unequal development models. We need to create sustainable, viable livelihood opportunities in our villages, especially for women, and tourism can be one of the most important drivers for this change. Indians are hospitable people, blessed with an immensely rich cultural heritage. We need to capitalise on these strengths and create an awareness of how income can be generated with dignity and pride.
I do hope that you enjoyed reading this issue. Stay safe, stay at home, and get vaccinated at the earliest. Looking forward to your feedback as always. We are going to keep the flow of conversations going and I would really appreciate it if you will share my newsletter with your friends and family.
See you soon! You can also read my travel stories on my blog and follow me on my social media
Blog - www.lakshmisharath.com
Twitter - www.twitter.com/lakshmisharath
Facebook - www.facebook.com/travelwithlakshmi
Instagram - www.instagram.com/lakshmisharath