Kasturi Das

Independent journalist I Editor I Photography

Divided by borders, Lahore and Delhi are united in smog

The sister cities of Lahore, in Pakistan, and New Delhi, in India, share many things – food, culture, and now a pall of air pollution that hangs over the cities through much of the winter months. While New Delhi has consistently ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the world, in recent years Lahore has swiftly climbed up those rankings – sometimes overtaking New Delhi.

In both cities, the brunt of the problem falls hardest on children. In New Delhi, schools were ordered to shut in Novem

Cancer survivors take first steps towards conquering mountains

Swagatika Acharya and Dr Kunal Kumar Das may be poles apart when it comes to age, but not in spirit. The two recently climbed more than 11,800 feet to Dayara Bugyal in Uttarakhand. But that’s not their only achievement. 24-year-old Acharya and 71-year-old Das are both cancer survivors. The duo, along with six other survivors, embarked on this four-day trek organised by Apollo Cancer Centres and IndiaHikes, to prove to themselves and to others that there is life after cancer. The survivors, aged

Manipur landslide sparks ecological debate

Sixty-one people died and 18 were injured after a massive landslide hit the construction site of Tupul Railway station on June 30. The Tupul substation is situated in Manipur’s Noney district. The railway project, which is part of the Act East policy through the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), aims to connect with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

The first landslide occurred at 12.30 am on June 30, and the second at 6 am. At least 79 people were affected, of which

Habitat changes may be causing sarus cranes to form breeding trios

A new study by K.S. Gopi Sundar, Swati Kittur and Suhridam Roy, at the Nature Conservation Foundation, details the discovery of a novel social unit among sarus cranes. The study has found that while breeding, sarus cranes, which typically mate for life, form trios to raise their chicks, in order to improve brood survival.

“Bringing in a third member to raise chicks is not a trivial matter, because cranes are highly territorial birds. They have synchronised behaviours like unison calls and behav

Fences of lemon trees keep elephants away from Assam farmers’ crops and homes

Six years ago, on a November morning, Sambhar Hazarika witnessed a sight that left him crestfallen. His farmland, located a few kilometres from his home, was plundered – the cowshed he had built was smashed to the ground and his crops devoured by a herd of elephants the previous night.

But this wasn’t an unusual sight. Hazarika, in his 60s, is one of the many farmers in Sauraguri chapori (riverine island in the Brahmaputra river basin), which lies roughly 23 km away from Assam’s Sivasagar city,

An artist captures the North-East in aerial embroidery

It is a bird’s-eye view of Loktak Lake that catches the eye—two lotus pickers rowing their boats on the freshwater lake, against a striking blue background surrounded by greens and pinks. Only this is neither a picture, nor a painting. It is a landscape created on a piece of cloth, with a myriad knots and minuscule stitches, secured by a wooden hoop.

Architect and urban planner Diti Baruah, who is from Assam, is a self-taught aerial embroidery artist who creates hyper-realistic landscapes focus

Black bears stray from Assam national park in unprecedented numbers

On the night of 15 December 2021, Suken Gayari got the shock of his life. The elderly resident of Daurebari village in Assam, northeast India, had just finished dinner and was about to retire for the night when he heard a loud thud in the kitchen. Gayari rushed towards the sound and found that the kitchen door had been broken. When he peeped inside, to his horror he saw a large black bear relishing a pot of leftover rice and curry.

“The bear also ate 18 eggs, and a few chicks that had hatched r

In Gujarat’s Amalsad, a ramshackle crematorium comes to life as a recreational space

When he first set his sight on the barren piece of land, with just a hut meant for cremation rituals perched precariously on top of a slope, Himanshu Patel knew what he had to do.

An Ahmedabad based architect, Patel was put in charge by a local trust to renovate a dilapidated crematorium in Gujarat’s Amalsad town. When we think of crematoriums, the first thought is a sense of uneasiness, a feeling of gloom. Patel wanted to challenge this thought.

“Amalsad is a small town, with no public areas

Doctor Who

ne of the first things Dr. Abhijit Neog asked Majumdar for was Stephen Antony’s registration number. When he keyed this into the National Medical Commission database, he discovered the profile of C. Stephen Antony from Malleshwaram, Bengaluru, very much a Batch of 2007 graduate of that city’s well-known St. John’s Medical College. Neog matched the information on the website with the estate management’s records. No issues there. But one of these details stood out like a sore thumb: the address. M

Meet Cyclist Ankit Arora Who Has Redefined The Meaning Of Slow Travel

A former journalist, 32-year-old Ankit Arora from Jaipur, is a pan-India cyclist who began his journey aiming for a Guinness World Record for the longest journey on a bicycle within a single country. But along his journey, that idea made way for a greater purpose. By Kasturi Das

Travel + Leisure India: You’ve been on the go for over 1,000 days now. How did it all begin?

Ankit Arora: I started my journey on August 27, 2017. I wanted to explore India for 150 days and eventually go back home, to

Artificial nests for barn owls help farmers befriend these natural rodent killers

On a cold winter morning in late 2009, Dilip Konwar, a sprightly man in his late forties, scrambled up a bamboo ladder and peeked into the dark insides under the roof of his shop, to investigate the mysterious sounds coming from there. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Konwar saw a group of barn owl chicks, huddled together. Scattered around were severed heads of rats, snakes, and garden lizards.

Konwar lives in Gohaingaon, a village in Kadam tehsil of Assam’s Lakhimpur district. In this pa

Petrichor, A Vegan Forest Farm-stay, Is Conscious Travelling Done Right

Sidhartha Blone and Sweta Pradhan, a couple in their early 40s, came up with the idea of building Petrichor, a forest farm-stay. The birth of this concept took place when they started questioning the food on their plates. Located between the foothills of the Neora Forest and the tea gardens in Kalimpong district, Petrichor is not just a farm but a way of sustainable living. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Pradhan. By Kasturi Das

1. You call your forest farm Petrichor Regenerativ

Not just groundwater, flouride has poisoned agricultural soil, crops in Bengal

Farmers in Bankura and Purulia rely on groundwater, heavily contaminated with flouride, to cultivate crops

West Bengal has been grappling with groundwater contamination for decades. About 12 per cent of the population in eight of the state’s 23 districts is impacted by water contaminated by fluoride. The contamination is higher in western parts of the state such as Purulia and Bankura.

Now, a new study has pointed out how crops and vegetables that use fluoride-contaminated groundwater have bee

Nagaland Gets Its Own Hobbit Home, Thanks To Asakho Chase!

When 29-year-old Asakho Chase started building his holiday home in the wilderness of Nagaland, little did he know that it would create such a frenzy amongst travellers! The Home, as Chase likes to call it—because of its resemblance to the homes of s in JRR Tolkien’s books—is located a few kilometres away from the quaint village of Khonoma, near the Indo-Myanmar border. Here are some excerpts from an interview with the man himself. By Kasturi Das

What made you build the Home?

I was home for alm

Climate change forces Uttarakhand farmers to migrate

Climate change in Uttarakhand will increasingly force people to abandon farming at high altitudes and move to the plains over the next 30 years. A new study on the state in the middle of the Himalayan range by the Germany-based Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi has forecast the worst impacts will be in higher elevations. This may accelerate the trend of people migrating and leaving land fallow.

Uttarakhand, a state in

Assam: Alzheimer’s patients suffering due to lack of dedicated vaccination system

The pandemic has been tough on people from all walks of life. One could argue that last year, it impacted the marginalised communities and the elderly the most. But in the second wave, it has left no one. It has made matters even worse for people who find life to be tough even without a pandemic. In recent years, Guwahati has seen a sharp rise in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Families affected by these illnesses are now facing another ordeal – getting their family member saf

Navaneeth Unnikrishnan Talks About Deep-space Photography

discovered his passion for astrophotography by accident when he took a long exposure photograph of the Milky Way, back in 2014. This 28-year-old photographer from Kerala now captures ethereal shots of deep-sky objects that range from nebulae to galaxies. By Kasturi Das

1. Were you always interested in astronomy?

As a child, I was interested in space science. My father ignited that curiosity in me. He would show me pictures of outer space, and that sparked an interest. But it faded with time. A

In quest of pithas

Last year, my maternal grandmother published her first book — a long-anticipated book about her life — that she had been working on for a while. Aita, as we call her, has had an illustrious life, from being the first girl ever in her village in North Lakhimpur to pass matriculation to retiring as the headmistress of a local school. It is a book everyone in the family was looking forward to. Two chapters of her book are dedicated to the subject of pitha, one of which is on a particular one called

Segregating waste to save Guwahati

It was by sheer chance that Shirshendu Sekhar Das, a PhD student in astrophysics, came across a short video that changed the way he saw the world, and eventually the course of his life. The impact of the video – which showed how plastic waste on Midway Island in the North Pacific Ocean affected the lives of albatrosses – was so powerful that the 29-year-old decided to quit his PhD and work for the environment.

Three years later, Das now leads a small team working to reduce waste in Guwahati, th

This Couple Ditched City life To Open A Pottery Studio At A Mango Farm

A couple ditched city-life: A few months ago, Nikita and Karthik left Bengaluru to embrace solitary life at a 50-acre mango farm called Velanga Orchard, which is named after a 200-year-old wood apple tree (Velanga in Tamil) that adorns the farm’s entrance. Apart from being home to the couple, this farm in Andhra Pradesh—half of which borders a forest—also houses a residential pottery studio where students can learn pottery while enjoying the slow, farm life. Here are some excerpts from a convers
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