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Bored Of Sweating It Out In Your Hometown? Here Are 7 Indian Destinations To Spend Your Summer In

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By Alisha Sachdeva:

What is summer in three words? Sun, Sea and Sand!

Or is it?

Now what is summer really like in three words? Sweat, dust and grime. Yes, welcome to the torturous Indian summer season.

Summer break is a time that is most looked forward to, in the student and work calendar. Elaborate mental plans are made with the enthusiasm of a hiker set to conquer the Himalayas, but when they actually arrive, most of us choose to simply curl up in a ball, turn on the air conditioning, and sleep our days away through the break. And the ones that don’t? They end up watching IPL, or Football, or Comedy Nights. And in doing all of this, the break comes to an end too soon (“but it had only just begun!”), and routine comes knocking back.

If it’s summer time in Delhi, except for unexpected showers, you cannot expect any real respite with its ruthless sun, the lack of ventilation thanks to our ill-planned residential complexes, and now also a prestigious recognition as the world’s most polluted city. There are sweaty shirts, sun burn, discomfort, and a lingering sense of escaping to a place where you wouldn’t have to squint your eyes every time you step out in the sun.

But tell you what, all it takes is a little wind to blow before that sweat begins to evaporate and leave you in bouts of joy with its ventilating effect. All you need to do is go back-packing to a place that can give you just that comforting breeze.

Here is a summer travel guide that’ll help you experience bliss even in this hopeless weather. There’s something for everyone.

1. Trek to Roopkund/ Rupin Pass in Greater Himalayas

If you’re seeking to do something you’ve never done before, a trek to Roopkund in the higher ranges of the Himalayas should be the first thing on your list of places to visit this summer. The mysterious Roopkund glacier is located in the Garhwal district of Himalayas at an altitude of about 5,029 metres. Apart from breathtaking views of picturesque curves and bends of the frozen ice caps, Roopkund is famous for a Skeleton Lake!

Alternatively, you can choose to trek to Rupin Pass, located at about 4,650 metres above sea level, and the trekking route extends from Dhaula, Uttarakhand to Sangla in Himachal. Seasoned trekkers swear by the Rupin Valley’s lush green meadows and scenic beauty.

You can find all you need to know about trekking to the two destinations, including how to get there, where to stay, and how it’ll be the greatest adventure to undertake this summer, here

2. Havelock Islands, Andamans

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If your idea of a perfect summer getaway is clear blue waters and tranquillity that surpasses every spa treatment, book your tickets to Havelock Islands in the Andamans this summer. Located 57 kilometres away from Port Blair, Havelock Islands are home to some of the best and cleanest beaches in Asia. You can choose from snorkelling at the Elephant beach to learning scuba diving or simply lying back and letting your senses refresh under the tranquil sky. There’s something for everyone at Havelock Islands.

3. Mount Abu, Rajasthan

Photo Credit: Alisha Sachdeva

Somewhere distant from the dusty deserts of Rajasthan, lies this beautiful Hill Station of Mount Abu. More than the place itself, it’s the way up to the mountains that is surreal. The uphill climb is so misty that you’ll end up feeling you’re cutting across thick clouds. If you just rub your hands together for a few seconds, you can notice the mist condensing on your hand. Mount Abu abounds in lush greenery, some beautiful lakes and exceedingly appealing views from the Gurshikhar mountain. It’s a popular retreat of the affluent Gujarati families, who come down to Abu for a drink or two. The best way to reach Mount Abu is by train, since the Abu Road station is merely a 27 km drive from the mountains. Cabs are easily available for hire at the station itself.

4. Valley of flowers, Uttarakhand

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When Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The earth laughs in flowers,” I reckon he must’ve been visiting the Valley of Flowers. In Uttarakhand, Valley of Flowers is a National Park recognized since 2004 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is home to a variety of endemic bird and flower species. With over 300 kinds of flowers in full bloom, the valley appears as a picture right out of an artist’s imagination — the colours run amok against a backdrop of azure sky, lined with snow-covered mountains. The Valley is open to visitors from June-September, and has to be reached via a long hike, but it is every bit worth the effort. The closest railway station is Rishikesh, and the nearest Airport is Dehradun.

If you live and breathe Yash Raj movies, do not miss the Valley of Flowers for anything!

5. Viceroy’s Lodge and Botanical Garden on the Observatory Hill, Shimla

Photo Credit: Alisha Sachdeva

Over the years, Shimla has come to be synonymous with the Ridge and Christ Church looming in the background. But while people come all the way to Shimla, they miss the Observatory Hill which houses the grand structure of the Viceregal Lodge built in 1888, as a resident for Lord Dufferin. Currently functioning as Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, this place is an architectural marvel designed by British architect Henry Irwin, and has the exuberance of a timeless castle. Surrounding the main building are highly looked after green gardens with colourful flowers and tall trees. What steals the cake, however, is the drive up to Observatory Hill, which can be described as nothing else but therapeutic. Bright red leaves and dense foliage dotting the roadway — what is it but therapy?

Go to Observatory Hill this summer and let its architectural splendour take over your senses.

PS. There is a library out there as well! Take a YouTube tour of the place here.

6. Wayanad, Kerala

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If you’ve never experienced South India before, Wayanad in Kerala is where you should start this summer. A district bordering the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Wayanad occupies pride of place in the Western Ghats with its scenic semblance of thick forests, waterfalls, wildlife sanctuaries and heritage sites. You can safari into the wild forest or simply enjoy a recreational view of the waterfalls and other unique vistas of natural beauty at Wayanad.

If Kerala climate doesn’t speak for its own, Wayanad is one of the least urbanised districts in Kerala, and its dense forest cover ensures you breathe in the freshest air — unlike the smoke of our metropolitans. There are also a number of rare bird species and monuments of historical and religious significance in Wayanad.

7. Pangong lake, Leh

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Remember the last scene of 3 Idiots where Kareena Kapoor rides up to Amir Khan in her bridal outfit? Remember being blown away by the serene surroundings? I do, too!

Pangong lake is the place where the scene mentioned above was shot, and so were many other Bollywood songs.

A Trans-country lake, sixty percent of the lake’s basin lies in Tibet, and the rest in India. Pangong lake lies to the North-east of Tibet, and can be accessed via channels in mountain ranges surrounding the area. The view of the majestic waters of the lake nestled in the Chushul mountains are a sight to behold. The weather around the area remains pleasant in all seasons, though the lake (despite being saline) freezes in winters, which means the best time to visit is summers. This very summer, I say!

PS: Don’t forget the sunscreen, I am not taking the blame for your tan!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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