Cool Buddies

How to transfer money from India to Nepal?

Posted in Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on June 2, 2015

We have written about our previous experience of trying to send money to Nepal in our book. We spent several days and did several trips to banks, numerous phone calls and finally were unsuccessful. After that, since there was no need, we left it at that. Now, an urgent need again came up. This time, we were prepared mentally. We knew money transfer would not be easy, but we also had to send it urgently due to the Earthquake relief work that needed it badly. So, we started where we left off back in 2010, were careful not to repeat the same mistakes and still it was not easy.

Finally, as a last resort, we had to call up Pasang (our tour operator for EBC trek in 2010 and who is now on a mission to work for earthquake victims in the Everest Area) and request him to setup a bank account in Nepal SBI! And guess what, since we were so persistent, he agreed to do so!

Note: We do not have credit cards, probably that would have made it easier, but not sure.

So, here are the pre-requisites, without which do not even try to go further:

1. Sender from India should have an account in SBI in the same branch from where they want to send money
2. Recepient should have an account in Nepal SBI Bank Ltd.
3. Account number, Cheque book, ID proof, preferably passport (attested photocopy) or DL of Sender
4. Name of account holder, Account number, Branch name, contact no. of the Receipent in Nepal

Once these are ready, a trip to the bank is all it takes. We are now one small step away to send the money. This visit to bank is broken down into smaller steps:

1. Go to SBI bank and speak to NEFT transfer department or Branch Manager and request a transfer. Clearly explain that it is to Nepal SBI and Nepal is another country (it might look stupid or rude, but better to be careful)
2. Fill in an NEFT transfer form (challan) using the details mentioned in pre-requisite
3. Nominal charges for transfer are applicable. Check with the bank personnel the charge applicable for the amount you wish to send. Eg: for Rs.20,000, the charge was Rs.100
4. Write a cheque in name of “YOURSELF” for the amount you wish to send + Charge applicable. Eg. If you are sending Rs.20,000 to the recepient, the cheque should be issued for Rs. 20,100, including charges of Rs.100. Do not cross the cheque
5. Attach a self-attested copy of your Identify proof (passport) to the challan and cheque. In the challan, write the recepient phone no. right on top (there is no field to enter this, but it is required)
6. Wait till they confirm the details and stamp a seal on the acknowledgement
7. Inform the recepient in Nepal, they would need to go and check at the bank. It takes 2-3 days for the money to get transferred.

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“Kaimagga” [by Sharada]

Posted in Social Work, Travel by Ratheesh & Sharada on September 22, 2014

Every kurta has a story behind it. I picked up one; off-white with blue stripes and ran my fingers over it. The coarse feel of raw cotton, the minor imperfections at places which comes with handloom and the brown buttons carved out of coconut shells got me thinking. Where did this one come from? How many people would have been involved in getting this beautiful piece of garment to the wearer? What was the motivation that got them to make it? I never knew that these seemingly random thoughts about a kurta would set me off on a trip to the place of its origin – Charaka.

When RangDe came up with a field trip to Charaka on Independence Day, my interest in understanding the weaving process was rekindled. The eagerness of spending time in a peaceful ashram coupled with the excitement of driving to a remote village – of which we knew very little – made the decision to visit, an easy one. With two of my friends, we set off on the Bangalore-Honnavar road towards Sagara; a diversion at Ulluru set us off on a village road. A few minutes later, we would be entering a lesser motorable mud road, which would take us to “Shramajeevi Ashram”. Mr. Ramesh was waiting at the entrance of the path that would lead us to the wooden barricade of the ashram. We dropped our voices a few decibels down when we noticed the peace and quiet of this place. Apart from a few far-away birdcalls, the air was still and we had to readjust our tired city-ears to pick up the faint sounds of nature. IMG_4660 Charaka is a weaving community setup in the village of Heggodu near Sagara taluk of Shimoga District, Karnataka. It was started as a dream, passion and ideology of Mr. Prasanna, an alumnus of National School of Drama, and a well-known Kannada playwright and theatre director, who started Charaka to start a positive activism and empower rural women in the village of Heggodu. Desi (meaning native or indigenous, stands for Developing Ecologically Sustainable Industry) is the marketing division of Charaka, which has over 9 outlets across Karnataka to sell Charaka products.IMG_4662 Charaka has improved the livelihood of multitude of womenfolk from in and around Heggodu and has given them confidence to stay independent. They talk about the ashram with a sense of pride that can come only from hard work, which befits the name given to the ashram “Shrama-Jeevi” meaning “Hard working Soul”.

A winding pathway lined by a natural fence created from Cassuarina poles separating the path from the rest of the vegetation, consisting mostly of shrubs and thin, tall trees. The use of earthy material for constructing the place ensured that the human settlements blend well with the natural beauty of the place. As we walked, to our right we saw the prayer hall, which we would visit the next morning. Beyond it was Mr. Prasanna’s living quarters, which he had made his home. The pathway led us to rows of huts constructed around a large courtyard which served as a flower / vegetable garden. The huts were simple mud walls and mud flooring, with roof lined with tiles. The walls were painted yellow with simple hand painted designs around the doors and windows. The whole place is powered by a handful of solar lamps and there is no electricity in the huts. The hut is modestly furnished with a charpoy and bed and a small kerosene lamp serving as the single light source during night.

IMG_4672“Raghupati Raghava Rajaram …” sang all of them in unison; their voices had a restraint and calmness to it. Assembled in the prayer hall around 9am, they sat around Gandhiji’s portrait, delivering soulful hymns, sometimes a main voice leading and the others repeating after her. They paused between lines; the momentary, purposeful pause and the sudden silence caused thus gave us time to register and contemplate. With noble thoughts filled in our minds, we walked out of the prayer hall, following Mr. Ramesh, who would show us the weaving process. The women proceeded to take their positions behind their charakas or handlooms or tailoring machines, depending on their core skills and their work. As we walked, looking curiously at each equipment, pausing to take photos (and in some cases, pose for photos), my eyes met some of the womenfolk in a fleeting moment; some smiled shy smiles, some giggled, some others just looked downwards, too reserved to smile at strangers. Of course, in most cases, we could hear them burst out into laughter and small talk about us as soon as we walked away; our strange ways and our curious looks offering them their share of entertainment for the day.

The cotton is spun into raw thread in the mills. So, the first step in the cloth manufacturing process, which is processing of the cotton and spinning them into yarn, is not done at Charaka. This is the only part, which happens outside and hence, their raw material for starting the process is the cotton yarn procured from mills situated in and around Shimoga. We also understood the difference between cotton fabric and “Khadi”; khadi is hand spun yarn, which is spun from raw cotton using Charaka; it is a manual process. Cotton garments, which are non-khadi start from the yarn spun at cotton mills. A batch of ladies was working on large wooden wheels that would spin the yarn on a bobbin. These bobbins would later be used for the weaving. IMG_4693The next step in the process requires special skill and a keen eye for design. This is the step where several bobbins are arranged on a huge wooden rack in a particular order, then a thread from each of these are carefully drawn by hand and fed into a device having fine teeth like a comb. The order in which the threads are drawn and fed into this comb determines the overall design of the fabric. If the cloth requires thin blue lines interspersed with white and yellow, then the designer has to carefully arrange it in such a way. This requires utmost concentration and they had their best person on the job for this. IMG_4728Once the threads are arranged in the feeder, they will then be routed to the huge wooden rolls in the same order to form the entire length of the fabric. During this process, it is important to ensure number of turns of the barrel is accurate and there are no cut threads in the process. If there were an error, it would have to be corrected and in some cases retraced till the point of error and then corrected. It takes almost 1-2 days to lay out the thread, in this manner, which forms the length of the cloth.These rolls have to be firm and tight to avoid any knots, breakage during the weaving process.

These huge rolls are then placed on the loom to start weaving the breadth of the fabric. The hand loom, so called due to the human effort involved in moving the “bullet” from left to right by pulling a string by one hand and stepping on a wooden stepper at the same time in a rhythmic way. The bullet carries the thread that will run through the breadth of the fabric, with the length being supplied by the huge rolls previously arranged. The weaving also requires the thread from the rolls to be arranged in a way that the bullet moves through in between two layers of thread (the number of layers determine the thickness) to ensure it is “weaved” in tightly. The rhythmic movement is essential to avoid crimps in the fabric. Although this seems easy, trying a hand at it for a couple of minutes, we were successfully able to create several crimps, which would then pass off as imperfections of hand woven fabric. We also got a compliment from the supervisor, amidst giggles and guffaws from onlookers “This kind of weaving is suitable for coarse rugs”, subtly indicating that the imperfections caused disqualifies it for a kurta!IMG_4719

What comes out of the loom is ready to be stitched into garments. It will then be sent to the tailors to cut and stitch into desired designs. The other post processing like block printing, ironing happens in the next room. They use dyes to create designs using wooden block stencils. The final finishing like stitching in buttons happen after the prints are dry. We also visited the creative team that uses mostly waste material (pieces of discarded cloth from stitching clothes) to make quilts. These beautiful designs are discussed in a room, then each person in the room takes up a part of the quilt, one just cutting waste cloth into square pieces, another stitching them together into patterns, another stitching them together into quilt with a foam layer in between. The end result is a vibrant, multi-color quilt with beautiful patterns and designs.

We were ushered into the kitchen for a tea break, where we again met all of them. Just behind the kitchen area is a large soot-covered cauldron, which boils a concoction of various vegetable matter to prepare dyes. The bubbling liquid gave out a pungent smell, which we were unable to place, and later learnt was mostly of pomegranate peel. The thread obtained from the mills are dyed here and kept for drying in a IMG_4741large room filled with racks of thread. They need to be turned over periodically to ensure uniform drying. The duration of dipping of the thread into the cauldron determines the shade of the color. There is an in-house lab, which constantly experiments with various combinations of dyes to produce different, new colors. The successful ones that pass the experiment are determined mainly by which holds well and whether the color would run when rinsed. All the successful ones are documented for reference. Since no chemicals colors are used in this process, some colors are not obtained. The raw material required for preparing the dyes (like indigo, pomegranate peels, areca) are sourced from other places.

After going through the entire process, we were eager to see (and shop for) some finished goods! Bidding farewell to our kind hosts at Shramajeevi ashram, we set off towards the Charaka outlet that is on the way to Sagara. It is an old house, artistically constructed; we later came to know it was Mr. Prasanna’s house before he moved into his dwelling at the ashram. We were soon engrossed in appreciating the fabrics, spoilt for choices. This time when we picked up a kurta, or even a pillowcase, we did so with certain respect; respect that comes out of knowing the toil and care behind each of these finished pieces. And of course, with a certain satisfaction that we were encouraging this dying art of handloom, which provided a window of opportunities to women from this village of Heggodu.

RangDe has funded part of this initiative by lending a collective loan to this community. By doing this, they promote handloom and provide recognition to this beautiful community of weavers.

Amongst the Sholas [by Ratheesh]

Posted in Environment, Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on November 17, 2012

The temperature drop was drastic as we drove through a narrow winding road. The road would take us to Pudhiya Edam; where we intended to stay for a day. It had been long since Saleem had invited us to come over to this place located almost at the edge of human inhabitation.

Our landmark was the Muneeshwaran Temple, the gate after which we looked out for a curving, ascending, non-tarmac stretch that posed a challenge to our car but sent our adrenaline shooting through the roof. We bid the car goodbye at a turn where only the human body could go further. Carrying our luggage we reached our destination by noon. Starting early from Bangalore, it took us hardly a day.

With a stream running alongside that befriended you with a musical welcome and promise of constant company; with dense sholas that surrounded the huts you will be caught surprised that such paradise exists just round the corner from where you parked your car. The ambience of the place immediately got us hooked.

We spent an hour or two just sitting at the dining area and talking. Interruptions when one of us spotted a bird here or an insect there were very frequent. In fact hardly a minute goes by without the Ghats exploding into some kind of activity.

Saleem suggested a walk up the hill all the way to Muneeshwaran temple and beyond. We readily agreed. In an hour we were walking up a non-existent pathway through absolute wilderness following Saleem into what we expected would be a spectacular culmination. And was it not?

Once right on top we could spot hills far, far away. And being a beautiful day when god woke up on the right side of the bed, the sky was a painting in itself. We spent a good amount of time up there before racing against the sun while descending. With Saleem to trust we almost believed that all roads would lead to our hut.

The hut was the ideal living conditions and complemented the surroundings. Made of earth, thatched roof and a floor polished with naturally available material you would be caught standing outside the door admiring the creators. Incidentally we never actually slept inside.

Come night and we spread some warm bedding outside the hut and moved from one dream to another, the transition, almost unnoticeable. Such was the beauty of the land.

Situated a few hours from where we lived, just a few kilometers from Talapuzha in Wayanad, Pudhiya Edam was definitely something we would have terribly missed if we had not made the effort.

Muthodi and Mullayyanagiri Trek [by Sharada]

Posted in Animals, Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on January 7, 2009

Chikkamagalur (Younger daughter’s town), is known for its picturesque hills and coffee estates. Our weekend trip to this cozy town was thoroughly spontaneous and a good one at that. We discovered some surprisingly beautiful places very close to this town. Quick trips like this; without too much planning sometimes leave us disappointed, but most of the time we end up enjoying it completely.

So off we started on a weekend in December armed with a bus ticket on our journey. We did not have much idea, though we had done some reading on the internet about some places near Chikkamagalur – the top on our list was Muthodi – a wildlife sanctuary.

We left Bangalore at 11:30PM on an Airavath (KSRTC Volvo), it is a five hour journey to Chikkamagalur. It was a comfortable ride, and we reached early in the morning at 4:30AM. Since there was nothing much to do till the town wakes up, we strolled around the place on the empty roads. While walking we made a mental note on the direction and the road to Muthodi. Chikkamagalur is a small town, there are only a couple of main roads, so it is not very tough to know the directions. We managed to spend around two hours this way, by which time we found the town had started to stir. We walked into Kamat hotel for some coffee. While having coffee we struck a conversation with the owner of the hotel. We enquired about buses to Muthodi and other places nearby. He suggested we take a bus that starts at 7:30am to Muthodi. We decided to have breakfast there and also packed some lunch. There are no government buses to Muthodi, so we walked to the private bus stand, which is just behind the KSRTC bus stand. We had plans of staying back in Muthodi if we get accommodation. The bus did not come to the private bus stand on that day, fortunately we heard about this a few minutes in advance and walked over to the nearby bus stop which was near Chethana Nursing home. The bus came at around 7:45, however we almost got tricked as the name of Muthodi was not written on the bus; we found Mallandur-Kolagamey written. We would have easily let it pass, had we not taken a chance and asked the conductor. Finally we were on our way to Muthodi. It was an uneventful one and half hours trip, though the scenery all the way was enchanting and just as we reached Muthodi a Sambhar crossed the road right in front of our bus. The locals sat unfazed as our jaws dropped at this unique sight.

The bus reached Muthodi at 9:30am, we got off and walked to the forest office to get permission to enter the place. The forest guards were friendly people, who explained to us the things we can do at Muthodi. There are cottages to stay overnight at that place; there is a 3.5km guided nature trek thorough the forest and safari morning and evening. Since by the time we reached we were too late for the safari, we decided to do the nature trek. Even before we started the walk, we spotted a malabar giant squirrel on one of the branches. We quickly took out our binoculars to get a closer look. We immediately knew this was going to be a very engaging trek. We wished to stay there overnight, however we came to know that since it was a weekend, all the cottages were booked. Though we were disappointed, we decided to come back some other time again for that. This time around, we decided to make the most of the nature trek. It started at around 10am with a guide and both of us. As we walked through the forest along a trek path, we spotted an amazing amount of birds, we quickly started noting down the features and identifying whatever we could. We were enchanted by the bird density in that place. To name a few – racquet tailed drongos, red-whiskered bulbuls, woodpeckers, plum headed parakeet, bee eaters, orioles. It was a mesmerizing walk, which we felt was a bird watcher’s dream come true. We took some photographs of the place, experimenting with some photography tips and tricks we had learnt recently. dsc027611

After the walk, we rested near the guest house, at the lunch area. We took out our packed lunch and gorged on it. In case you have not carried lunch, there is a canteen with a cook to serve a decent lunch. After lunch, we sat on a wooden bench in the park and watched birds all around us. We realized even if we sit in one place, there is so much around us to see. So we just sat there and saw an amazing variety of bird life around us. The most important thing on this trip was the binoculars, since without that we would not have been able to enjoy even half of what we did. Around evening, we saw people coming in cars to occupy their cottages. We realized how peaceful the place was till then. We were happy we were leaving the place, since it was not peaceful anymore. The best time to go to this place would be on a weekday, one and half days are more than sufficient to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. If you are not a bird watcher, you can still soak yourself in the natural surroundings, the sweet smell in the air and the cool breeze. All you need to remember is to be as calm and quiet as possible and take care not to pollute the place, since it is right in the middle of the forest. If you are quiet you would spot some wild animals too. Evening is the time for the safari, where all the people who landed were headed, however, for us it was time to leave, since the last bus from that place is at 5PM. Just before leaving we got some time to chat with a young, newly recruited forest official who was friendly; we just talked about his job and the excitement of living in the forest. It felt good to meet young people who were enthusiastic about protecting the forests. dsc02796

The bus got us back to Chikkamagalur, we headed straight to Kamat and had a masala dosa. We somehow had taken a liking to Kamat food, though there are a lot of restaurants in and around the place, we were very loyal to Kamat, not sure why exactly, but the food definitely was extremely tasty there. We had no idea what to do the next day, however, we were contemplating on a couple of plans in our heads. One was to leave Chikkamagalur, travel overnight and reach some other place altogether. Another plan was to take a room, spend the night in Chikkamagalur and next day head to Mullayanagiri. We had this inclination to do our bit of trekking and climb Mullayanagiri. Since there were no suitable buses to any place we wanted, we decided to stay back. This was a decision we would appreciate later, since only when we hit the bed did we realize how tired we were!

We found a nice hotel just next to Bus stand – Samrat Deluxe, we were happy we didn’t have to walk very far in search of a hotel. Also we had noticed that this was one of the good ones in that place. We checked into the room at around 7:30PM and crashed into bed. It was a nice room with TV too, we found the double bedroom decent and clean for Rs.350/-

The next day, we got up rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep. We had bath, packed up and went for breakfast at Kamat again! We found the friendly owner there, so we again discussed the plans with him. The plan was to take a bus that goes to bababudan giri, get down at Sarpana haadi (or Sarpa daari, meaning snake path). We packed lunch and boarded the private bus just in front of the hotel. It was not a very long ride, in about 45 mins we reached Sarpana haadi and were dropped off there. The bus continued to Baba Budan Giri. At Sarpana haadi we found that there was a definite trek path, we knew if we follow that we would reach the top. There was not too much confusion in the route, however in a couple of places we felt we might lose the way. It was a steep climb in some places, however since we have done tougher treks before, this was a very easy climb. We stopped on the way to enjoy the view and take some photographs. It was wonderful view of hill ranges and clouds all around us. dsc02820The sky was a beautiful blue with a white line separating it from the lower air. On the way to the top, we spotted a few raptors and other birds like the Malabar crested lark. Just as we reached the top, we saw a cave formation. Later we came to know that these were unexplored caves. The wind was blowing in our faces as we reached the top, it was an amazing experience having climbed the tallest peak in Karnataka. There is not much once you reach the top, there is a temple that was getting renovated. However the view all around is breathtaking. Though there is another easy route by vehicle to the peak, the sarpana haadi way is much more peaceful as there are no people around and the view is very good all along.

After spending some time at the top, we got down and climbed the hill just next to this. This was not any tourist spot, it was just another hill. Since there were no people there except the two of us, we decided to have lunch there. The time we spent here was one of the most beautiful and peaceful moments. We watched a few raptors hunting their prey. We also heard a jungle cat, but couldn’t see it. We spent the next few hours watching birds, trying to follow their behavior. After we were satisfied with this, we decided to walk back through the road route. This was one of the mistakes we made, since we could’ve easily got down the same way we climbed up. We chose the road instead to avoid the steep descent. But the road is definitely longer, so we had to walk 8km till the junction where we get buses back to Chikkamagalur. On the way we found a temple – Seethalayyana giri, here the priest showed us a short cut and guided us to the road. We refilled our water supply and continued our walk. dsc029171When we finally reached the junction, we were tired, we could’ve waited for the bus but we took an auto coming in that direction and reached Chikkamagalur.

We went to the bus stand to buy our return tickets after this. Without having much to do till our bus, which was at midnight, we decided to go to a small town called Hiremagalur (Elder daughter’s town) nearby. It is just 3kms away from Chikkamagalur, we boarded a bus going to Hasan and got down at the Hiremagalur stop. It was 8:30pm, and the town was already sleepy, there were hardly any activity. However we instantly took a liking to this small town due to the peace and calm we found there. We visited a Rama temple, which is what the place is mainly known for. Seems the temple is around thousand years old, of course it has been renovated now to make it look modern. The specialty of the temple is all the chants are uttered in Kannada instead of Sanskrit. As we walked out, we roamed the streets looking for some night birds, we did spot a few owls and bats. The best part of this place was the night sky was amazingly clear, we were able to see a lot of stars, star clusters, nebulae and even the Milky Way. It was a memorable sight. We then took an auto back to Chikkamagalur. Our bus back to Bangalore came at 11:30pm, we boarded it and immediately fell fast asleep, having the satisfaction of an eventful weekend!

Click Here to view all the photographs

Places Visited:

Chikkamagalur – just a base camp to see other nearby places

  • How to reach – Easily accessible from Bangalore by bus or private vehicle. Buses take 5 hours and there are plenty of government buses, road is pretty decent
  • Places to stay – Samrat Deluxe, Soundarya, many more
  • Food – good hotels available – Kamat, soundarya (both pure veg), many more

Muthodi – Wildlife sanctuary and bird paradise

  • How to reach – From chikkamagalur take a private bus that goes to Mallandur-Kolagame and get down at Muthodi. Bus starts at 7:30am and last bus back is at 5pm.
  • Places to stay – There are forest guest houses and cottages, but need to book atleast 1 week in advance
  • Food – Canteen serves decent food

Mullayanagiri – Tallest peak in Karnataka, moderate trek.

  • How to reach – From chikkamagalur take a private bus that goes to Baba Budan Giri and get down at Sarpana Haadi, from here it is a moderate trek for 3 ½ Kms to the peak. This is one of the routes, the other route is by road (no buses though, only private vehicles) through Seethalayyana giri, this reaches till the top.
  • Places to stay – None
  • Food – There is no food available on the peak, should carry food and water

Hiremagalur – Small town having a Rama temple

  • How to reach – by bus or auto from Chikkamagalur, 3 kms on route to Hassan
  • Places to stay – No hotels, if you know a local, then they might let you stay with them!
  • Food – no restaurants noticed

The writeup on Trek that never got completed

Posted in Environment, Travel, Trekking by Ratheesh & Sharada on May 18, 2006

Well… both of us started off on writing about our trek to Bandaje Arbi and Ballalarayana Durga. But neither of us completed it. Far too many reasons for it we must admit. In the last two months just too many things have changed. Sharada quit the wretched IT world for good. She plans to do something thats worthwhile. Something that will put a smile on the common man’s face. Something that will turn out to be good for the animals around us. There are lots of plans on the workbench (ah..there I go..another IT word used by bullshitters 🙂 ). But none of them have been implemented.

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