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First underground metro train line inaugurated in Chennai

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The much anticipated underground line of Chennai Metro Rail opened for the public on the 14th May, making the city the fourth in the country to launch such a facility after Kolkata, Delhi and Bengaluru. The line will cover a distance of eight kilometres from Nehru Park to Koyambedu, through tunnels and seven underground stations, to connect the already operational line at Koyambedu.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami and Union minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu flagged off a train and inaugurated the 8km underground line between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park on Sunday the 14th May. The underground metro train line was a pet project of late CM J. Jayalithaa.

The 7.4-kilometre stretch will connect Tirumangalam and Nehru Park along the inner periphery of North Chennai. Passenger services will begin 2pm onwards. A few free services were run between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park. The underground line has seven stations, which are in turn linked to the elevated corridors through a ramp between Thirumangalam and Koyambedu.

The underground line gives several localities including Kilpauk, New Avadi Road, Shenoy Nagar and Anna Nagar access to mass transit facility for the first time. The train sped in its maximum speed non-stop across the seven underground stations till Nehru Park. It then took them on a ride on the ramp that connects the underground and elevated corridors to Koyambedu.

The trains will run along both tunnels only between Koyambedu and Shenoy Nagar. Only one tunnel will be operational for trains running up and down between Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park, as it would not be possible for trains to change tracks without a crossover. There is a crossover at Shenoy Nagar and another is being built at Central metro station. Hence, the other tunnel between Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park will be opened along with Central metro station, planned by the end of 2017.

The stations are also built underneath prime locations in the city, giving commuters easy access. Four entry/exit points built with elevators and escalators on either side of roads will make it hassle-free for passengers to get in and out of stations without having to cross the roads. The stations are also located close to stops for MTC buses which can ferry passengers to other parts of the city. However, they may not provide the last mile connectivity where commuters will be able to reach the interior areas of the neighborhoods around the stations in small buses or share autos.

While the underground stations are similar to the existing elevated stations in terms of their two-level station design and ticket or token vending machines, passengers will still experience many new features. These may include air-conditioned interiors, tunnel ventilation systems, platform screen doors and detailed route maps to guide passengers to nearby localities.

Many commuters waited for several hours to take a free joy ride. The second train from Thirumangalam station began its journey in the midst of applause and cheers from passengers. “We had been eagerly waiting for years for this line to open. It is worth the wait. The experience is something we have never had before,” said 61-year-old Arumugam, a resident of Thirumangalam who took a a joyride along with his family.

Among the first passenger crowd were several residents from Thirumangalam and surrounding areas. A metro rail official confirmed they are all set to open the city’s first underground line on May 14. The inauguration comes almost a month after the commissioner of metro rail safety gave authorization for commercial operations after a three-day inspection across the stretch. Tamil Nadu minister for industries, steel control, mines & minerals and special initiatives M C Sampath visited the underground line between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park stations on Tuesday. The minister inspected the work in progress and safety measures, besides the facilities at the stations. The inauguration of the first underground stretch of phase-1 of the project, which is jointly funded by the Centre and state, is expected to be attended by top officials from the ministry of urban development and the state transport department besides other senior officials from the state.

The stations will connect several neighborhoods including Kilpauk, New Avadi Road, Shenoy Nagar, Aminjikarai, Anna Nagar and Thirumangalam, giving access to mass transit facility for its residents for the first time. A part of the line will run about 18 metres under the arterial Poonamallee High Road.

With the underground line, commuters can head anywhere from Nehru Park to the airport in one direction, and to Little Mount in the other, in about 60 minutes with a single ticket. However, they may have to switch corridors at the Alandur metro station, which is the elevated transit hub.

Metro rail’s first line was launched in June 2015 between Koyambedu and Alandur, covering a distance of 11 km through an elevated corridor. It was followed a nine kilometer elevated line from Little Mount to the airport in September 2016.

Chennai Metro Rail has carried out a special study that reportedly shows train vibrations do not affect the buildings close to the underground stretch. This is of significance in the backdrop of tunneling work leading to several road cave-in incidents across the city and the first underground stretch is all set to open in a few days. According to officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), the lining of tunnels is built in such a way that it can withstand a substantial amount of vibrations of trains. Also, a low vibration technology has been carried out before laying tracks at places where hospitals or laboratories are located, they said. Rubber pads placed. “We place rubber pads between stage one and stage two concrete of tunnel; after this process, the tracks are laid. The pads of 40 mm will dampen the vibrations from trains. These have been placed in 12 locations across the city, including Kilpauk Medical College, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and Vee Care Hospital. Hospitals have sensitive equipment which may feel even the slightest of vibrations and disrupt its functioning; hence this idea,” an official said.

In other areas too, though such pads are not laid, they claim the study and subsequent trials with trains show the vibrations are not beyond the permissible limit. Experts from IIT Madras said the precast segments that a tunnel is made of will take in the vibrations from trains.

B.N. Rao, another professor of civil engineering at IIT Madras, said, “I haven’t looked at the report but they may have arrived at values and consequently gone ahead with operations based on varied factors. This is because, usually, the vibration values will vary depending on the soil structure, the depth of tunnel and the speed of trains and its acceleration and deceleration in various areas.”

India’s longest river bridge

Meanwhile, India’s longest river bridge, capable of withstanding the weight of a 60-tonne battle tank, will be inaugurated in Assam close to the border with China on May 26 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With the inauguration of the 9.15-km-long Dhola-Sadiya Bridge over the Brahmaputra River, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will start the celebrations of the NDA government’s three years in office from this eastern-most part of Assam. It is 3.55 km longer than the Bandra-Worli sea link in Mumbai, making it the longest bridge in India.

The bridge is seen as an attempt by India to shore up its defence requirements along the Sino-Indian border, particularly in the northeast, besides providing easy access to the people of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam with air and rail connectivity. “The prime minister will dedicate the strategically important bridge to the nation on May 26. It will bolster the road connectivity in the Northeast as the bridge will be used by people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh besides defence forces extensively,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal told PTI.

The construction of the bridge began in 2011 at a project cost of Rs. 950 crore. The design is such that the bridge can withstand the movement of military tanks. “Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have huge strategic value to the country. Since the bridge is located close to our border with China, it will help quick movement of military troops and artillery in times of conflict,” Sonowal said.

The bridge is located 540-km away from Assam’s capital Dispur and 300 km away from Arunachal Pradesh’s capital Itanagar. The aerial distance to the Chinese border is less than 100 km.

After Kaliabhomora bridge near Tezpur, there is no bridge over the Brahmaputra for the next 375 km upstream till Dhola, where the new bridge is constructed. Currently, all transportation between the river’s two banks is carried out through water only.

The bridge, when opened for the public, will cut down the travel time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh by as much as four hours. As there is no civilian airport in Arunachal Pradesh, this bridge will help people of the state to reach the nearest rail head in Tinsukia and the airport in Dibrugarh easily. Sonowal said the delayed works of the bridge was expedited after PM Modi assumed the charge in 2014. The bridge was originally scheduled to open in 2015.

The BJP government in Assam will complete one year in office on May 24. The bridge is one of the key projects of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in the Northeast and is built in public-private partnership with a construction company.

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Most Unique Dubai Hotels to Stay In

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Planning a trip to Dubai, lots of students are interested in hotels located by the sea. The hotels with their own beaches are internationally recognized as a standard of luxury and wealth. We have collected together the unique hotels located by the sea and in the middle of the desert, having their own zests.

Don’t hesitate to find a reliable writing service that can work your home assignment out as soon as you ask them, “Could I pay for my essay to have my paper done?” to get more spare time to enjoy your holidays.

Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa

This luxurious resort is built in the dunes of Dubai. Being a guest of this hotel, you have a scenic pool overlooking the desert. The hotel spa offers a wide range of treatments both for men and women. Outside the hotel, you will find rows of fountains, lush gardens, and stone narrow streets. If you are tired of staying in the hotel area, you could explore the surrounding nature by horse or camel. In addition, you should try to take up archery, falconry, and croquet. Kids can take advantage of Sindbad’s facilities at a children’s club or swim in the children’s pool. 

Palazzo Versace Dubai

If you want to enjoy Arabic places of interest and feel the Italian spirit by the sea, you need to visit this wonderful place. The building of this magnificent hotel resembles an Italian castle, built in the 16th century. The territory is decorated with a garden. The interior rooms are decorated in Italian style. The hotel complex has 8 restaurants, bars, and a terrace in the open air. You can swim in the pool or relax in the garden.

Atlantis The Palm

The lovers of the underwater world should visit this amazing resort. The hotel has its own sandy beach offering stunning views of the Persian Gulf. The hotel has a large aquarium where you can swim with dolphins. The hotel has the best boutiques and high-end stores to buy everything you need. The hotel guests can book a helicopter ride for a 15-minute tour of Dubai and see the resort with your head in the clouds.

Grand Excelsior Hotel Al Barsha

The prestigious Grand Excelsior Hotel Al Barsha is notable for its unusual modern building, stylized as a cruise ship. There is a beautiful rooftop lounge with a swimming pool, hot tubs, and many furnished terraces. The rooms are notable for their spacious and original design.

 It’s also worth noting that the hotel is one of the few hotels in Dubai, which has a license to sell alcohol. Its restaurants offer a lot of elite alcohol sorts, brought from all over the world. The convenient location and high service level make the Grand Excelsior Hotel an ideal place to spend your leisure time.

Raffles Dubai

It’s a unique hotel whose design looks like an Egyptian pyramid. The building is made in the sand color scheme to complement the mystery and atmospheric interior. All the suites have balconies and are considered one of the most luxurious and spacious rooms in the city with a stunning panoramic view. The hotel has 10 restaurants and bars, which will satisfy the most demanding gourmets. 

The hotel has a huge botanical garden with exotic plants and a unique spa center with an unusual outdoor pool. A personal marble bath with Jacuzzi will be a big surprise for you as well as the luxurious decoration of bedrooms made of handmade fabrics and wooden products.

Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

The hotel represents a single complex with the famous shopping center Mall of The Emirates and an indoor ski center. The hotel’s clients can enjoy unique rooms with panoramic windows overlooking the ski center’s snow-covered slopes. The hotel’s customers can be engaged in interesting skiing activities under the guidance of a personal trainer, and they can enjoy many privileges in the amazing entertainment center. Gourmets will not be disappointed by this hotel, which has 5 restaurants of different specializations to choose from. Among them, you can find Spanish and Italian restaurants, and the fans of elite tobacco will enjoy the aristocratic cigar bar.

The Meydan Hotel 

It’s the first hotel in the world, which was built directly on the racetrack. It’s a modern chic building, whose guests can watch the races from the best angle without leaving the hotel! Besides, a huge spa salon is an attractive feature of the hotel, a recreation area with a huge swimming pool and sun terraces on the roof, and concerts with world stars’ participation.

The word “meydan” means “meeting place” in Arabic, reflecting this hospitable hotel’s philosophy — comfortable luxury and entertainment are available to every guest. The hotel building is made in the famous architectural style of modern Dubai. The interiors reflect the eastern wealth and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

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Rokeby Manor springs right from a fiction book

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image source: rokebymanor.com

I visited Rokeby Manor in Mussoorie earlier this year. The property springs right out from a fiction book. Each room is uniquely designed by Ms. Rachna Narang has its own appeal. From the starry night room, it is easy to look at the walls which have a beautiful night sky painted on them and feel like you are a part of something larger. The room also has a small opening in the ceiling which can be opened right out whenever someone wants to glance at the night sky.

The Landour bakehouse is actually a landmark destination in Mussoorie. Landour gets many travellers, hippies and tourists who have driven 2 hours just to try the treats at the bakehouse. Rumours say that the bakehouse has come to life from a cookbook which was created by a woman in Mussoorie centuries ago. The vivid imagination is brought to life as a dog named Chu Chu always guards the entry to the bakehouse. A broken delivery van is placed outside the bakehouse creating an almost mysterious feel making travellers realise that they have come to a place with remarkable history.

Mussoorie is a place which I visit almost twice a year, just to feel more close to myself within. The place never fails to show a new side to me each time. Glancing at Dehradun city lights, the valley view and pine trees from Cafe Ivy, and the wondrous sunset from the Tea Garden at Rokeby Manor feels like a great grande break from the city life. It’s the pause one often needs in their life. The mere feeling of going back to a destination which one somehow finds their heart comes back to life.

Emily’s the classic restaurant at the manor boasts Italian food far better than anything you find in the city. The cheese at Emily’s is sourced from the local shop Prakash stores which has nailed the art of cheesemaking over several decades. Overall, Emily’s is one place where people come to feel like they belong again. Facing the valley and Himalayas, one can enjoy their lopchu (mild flavoured tea) and some fantastic baked potatoes with cheese. Their ratatouille is out of the world as they decorate each dish beautifully.

Mussoorie is the quaint destination where you find yourself bumping into locals who make great conversation. I met people working at WWF on my recent trip as they were trying to work on the Jabarkhet Nature Reserve to preserve the beauty of the place. Walking in Jabarkhet and trekking along the forest line made me feel like I was closer to nature. The stupendous view of the Himalayas with occasional views of Dehradun city made me feel grand.

As I walked around Char Dukan, I saw various sayings which were stuck on the walls around. I realised that Mussoorie was indeed the hidden wonderland which few people even knew the insides of. “The network is weak here but connections are strong”, said one saying which was pinned to a tree. Right when I was reading the saying and taking a casual evening walk, the Himalayan view opened up to me with snow capped peaks. I realised that the view of the Himalayas was so profound that I may just stay there forever.

I was walking around mall road, the market street the next day and I ended up at Cambridge Bookstores. Casual chirp and mountain gossip later, the bookstore owner told me that he could arrange a signed copy from Ruskin Bond. I was delighted and decided to buy it for my father. What better gift than a book of mountain reflections from Mr. Bond himself.

There’s a local village called Sainji around 40 mins away from Rokeby Manor. I learned that the property had played an important role in preserving the village and I decided to pay the place a visit. It was a fantastic experience travelling and exploring the village houses with corn adorned outside them. I felt delighted to stay at Rokeby because I saw that they are playing an important role in preserving the local cultural heritage. I was proud of choosing to stay with a place which was deeply vested in the community.

After hiring a scooter from the manor, I whistled away in the woods and glanced at the valley view. Mussoorie is a place where I have made so many memories and I am certain that there are many more to come. I may just stay there forever. The mountain gossip, evening tea, valley views and delicious food truly have my heart.

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Shivya Nath: A bold solo traveler who is breaking gender stereotypes

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Image source: the-shooting-star.com

In a majorly patriarchal Indian society, Shivya Nath found it in her to be a bold solo traveller. She leads a nomadic lifestyle, travelling across the world with her backpack. Shivya is the author of a best selling book, “The shooting star”, in which she highlights more about her life and experiences travelling. The book is an inspiration to women who are staying at home, craving a free lifestyle, and want to travel the world solo.

In this interview with Modern Diplomacy, Shivya tells us more about her life experiences journeying the world. She tells us what it takes to travel the world as a solo woman and narrates her experiences both bitter and sweet.

You have travelled so much and seen the world so intricately that you might as well be a nomad. The most obvious question – what convinced you to travel the world?

I grew up in a protective Indian family in Dehradun, a valley at the base of the Himalayas, and spent my childhood wondering what lay beyond the mountains I could see from my rooftop. Upon finishing high school, I went to Singapore to study, with big dreams and a big student loan. As luck would have it, I graduated in the middle of the financial recession of 2009, when most companies I wanted to work with had ceased hiring. I landed a job with the Singapore Tourism Board, where my experiments with social media began, and I first began following the journey of travel writers / bloggers around the world. It was impossible to tame my restless cubicle-bound soul, so in 2011, I took a 2 month unpaid sabbatical from work. I went flash-packing across Western Europe with a friend, and volunteer-travelled by myself in the high Himalayas of India. In those two months, I saw, experienced and lived more than I ever had before. Within a week of my return to work, I decided to quit my first and only corporate job with a dream of travelling the world on my own terms.

Your new project, Voices of Rural India is picking up steam and picking accolades for telling the most unlikeliest of stories. How do you envision it forward?

Voices of Rural India is an effort to turn this unprecedented pandemic into an opportunity to create alternate livelihoods by upgrading digital skills in rural India, while also preserving grassroots knowledge that is slowly disappearing. Voices of Rural India is a not-for-profit digital initiative that hopes to revolutionize storytelling, by hosting curated stories by rural storytellers – in written, photo or video format. Unlike most existing online platforms, the stories of rural India are told directly by local storytellers. In the short-term, Voices of Rural India is creating a revenue stream for affected communities through digital journalism. In the long run, it aims to develop digital storytelling skills at the grassroots level, along with becoming a repository of local culture and knowledge, documented in local voices. We are currently working with rural communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat, through on-ground community-based tourism organisations like Global Himalayan Expedition, Himalayan Ecotourism, Himalayan Ark, Spiti Ecosphere and Grassroutes Journeys. The initiative is supported by the Digital Empowerment Foundation. We’re eagerly looking forward to a post-Covid world, where we can physically travel to visit the communities we’re virtually working with, conduct digital storytelling workshops, identify local talent and hopefully bridge some of the gaping urban-rural digital divide.

Your favourite place so far? You can give multiple answers of course.

There’s so much to love about so many places! I love my home country India, because despite its challenges, nowhere comes close to the diversity of natural beauty, food and culture it offers. It’s perhaps one of the few places in the world where strangers are the quickest to become friends. Other than that, I feel a deep connection to Guatemala, Bhutan, Georgia and Iran.

Your passion for environmental protection and climate change issues is also noteworthy. What do you think should be the biggest change that can make mankind save itself?

Unlearning.

The more I slow travel around the world, the more I unlearn conventional ways of doing things. And that’s exactly what we need on a massive scale – politically, economically and individually.

We need to unlearn our reliance on fossil fuels, the issues based on which we elect our leaders, the way we treat some animals as friends and others as food (speciesism), the way we measure development and so on.

A deep unlearning will (hopefully) allow us to re-establish a world driven by mindfulness and compassion, rather than money.

Your book ‘A Shooting Star’ is a bestseller. Along with the travelogue, it is also about a spiritual journey one undertakes. Do you thus agree with the phrase that humans can better understand oneself and another with more communication and a better experience of diversity?

The Shooting Star charts my battles and adventures from the cubicle to the road, and from small-town India to remote corners of the globe. I write candidly about my struggles of transitioning from an average Indian girl to a free soul, who wanted to live on her own terms, explore the world meaningfully and smash stereotypes along the way. I write about my relationships, battles, triumphs and life-changing encounters, and how I tried to conquer my deepest fears.

There’s no doubt that travelling is as much an inner journey as a physical one.

Tell us about a time when you were travelling alone and felt challenged?

After traveling safely and adventurously through some of Central America’s more notorious countries (like Honduras, labelled ‘the most violent place on earth’),  I had pretty much let my guard down in Costa Rica. On a hurriedly hailed cab ride to the airport to impulsively catch a flight to the Pacific Coast, the cabbie and I chatted like long lost friends. Closer to the airport, he told me we’d get stuck in traffic so it’s better to drop off a street before and walk; I agreed without thinking twice. When we arrived, I paid him and got off the cab, only to see him grabbing my small bag – the one with my passport, laptop and everything precious – asking for more money or he’d take off with it. I had the equivalent of 50$ in my pocket and gave it to him, shivering at the idea of being left alone without my valuables. In retrospect, there were a lot of hints I didn’t catch; he asked me if I had family in the country, or if I had a local SIM card – pointed questions that should have made me wary. I felt shaken up for days, refused to trust anyone else I met along the way, and found solace in places crowded with other tourists, much unlike my usual travel style. It really wasn’t about the money I lost, but the trust I lost, and it took me months to rebuild it.

What has been your biggest achievement till date? The most satisfying moment in your career?

There have been many satisfying moments on this journey: Publishing my first book and seeing it become a national bestseller in just over a month of release; recognition, awards and international features for my work to promote responsible, immersive travel; launching a clothing collection inspired by The Shooting Star that raises funds to grow forests in my home state Uttarakhand; and most recently, co-founding Voices of Rural India to challenge the way digital storytelling is typically done in India. But I think I feel the deepest satisfaction when a reader reaches out to me to share how my work has played a role in inspiring them to make different life or travel choices.

Travelling, that too alone is still considered a taboo for women in large parts of India. What do you think will change that?

As more of us choose to travel solo and share our stories online or offline, change is bound to happen. While female solo travellers are still considered an anomaly in some parts of India and the world, there’s a lot more chatter, acceptance and encouragement online now.

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