Solo travel has become a hot topic. Unlike “single(s)” travel, it is a broader group. It can include those who are single, married or have a partner/significant other. It may be a business person looking to add a leisure weekend or extension to a trip for work. Two stumbling blocks to solo travel can be: I. whether it is lonely to vacation as a “party of one” and ii.whether eating alone, especially dinner, is really uncomfortable.

Now having visited 68 countries and all 50 states, I have found 5 good ways to go alone without feeling you are “going it alone”.

1. River Cruise and Small Ship Cruises

I highly recommend river cruises and small ships. They are especially a good fit for a first time solo traveler. However, they are also great for well-traveled solos in two cases. That is where destinations like Cambodian boat villages are not otherwise easy to reach. Secondly, they work well in places where security is an issue.

Here are the key advantages of such river and small ships for solo travelers, they:

  • Give you time alone but a group for tours and meals
  • Can be competitively priced when compared to a piecemeal approach
  • Make unpacking a one-time chore
  • Work well with land packages
  • Often have discounted package pricing including flights

2. Select your own lodging, and take day trips.

Here are the key advantages of this independent approach:

  • Affords you the opportunity to select your own interests and travel style.
  • Provides more opportunity to interact with local residents.
  • Gives you a “day-off” when you need it.
  • Works with a range of budgets.

3. Combine both of the above approaches.

I really favor this approach when I travel. On solo travel for 17 days at New Year’s, I toured Southeast Asia. I started with a private taxi tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I then joined a top Mekong River Cruise on to Vietnam. On the last leg, I had five days in a 5-star hotel in Bangkok. In my last stop, I tried all 3 ways of sightseeing: 1. A large bus tour 2. A private guide and 3. Self-directed subway tour.

This blended approach puts you in the driver’s seat and:

  • Will let you set your own course while being free to pick and choose
  • Gives you a part-time group of travel mates but also time alone
  • Makes it possible to follow a budget (or splurges) tailored to what works for you

4. Sign up ahead for a class abroad.

This has become very popular now for cooking classes in France and Italy. However, for decades, language classes abroad have lured students for short-term or full summer programs. Add to that options for photography classes, skiing and scuba diving.

Here are the key benefits to this approach:

  • Provides you with a ready-made group
  • Gives you a local contact to hear what not to miss off the tourist path
  • Make it possible to connect with classmates for meals or sightseeing
  • Results in providing local contacts in an emergency

5. Join a volunteer group or exchange program.

I have done this twice. My first trip out of the US was at 18 joining 5 other girls on a summer YMCA project in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the best way to learn about day-to-day life in another country and participate in community activities.

The benefits were endless. They included:

  • Meeting local residents outside of the typical tourist path
  • Seeing distant and often more unusual destinations
  • Providing volunteer efforts to communities than may have experienced natural disasters or other hardships.

If you are new to solo travel, take a look at each of these options. You will be surprised how fast solo travel gives you the chance to make new life-long friends from around the world so that you feel you are solo to more.

1) The Ridge:

This is one of the most popular points in Shimla. Located on the Mall road, at the heart of Shimla, this is a much appreciated and enjoyed stretch here, where visitors arrive and drench themselves in the views of mountains and surrounding Beauty.

2) The Mall:

If you love shopping and want to get yourselves bagged with some shimla arts and other accessories then the best place for you is THE MALL. One can shop for local handicrafts, shawls, woolens, exquisite jewelry etc. here.

3) Kufri:

Kufri is just 13 km away from the main town of shimla. You can book a taxi or catch a regular HRTC transport bus from the local bus stand. The views and sceneries here are amazing and the landscapes more flattering, a bit untouched with the tourist rush.

4) Toy Train to Kalka:

if you want something really different then here is a TOY TRAIN SERVICE FROM SHIMLA TO KALKA. This awesome beauty was all setup during British Rule. This route is one of the most pictorial train routes in the world and it passes through more than a hundred tunnels It is a narrow gauge train route and it connects Kalka to Shimla.

5) Jakhoo Temple:

This Temple is well known for its world’s largest and Huge Hanuman Statue. This awesome statue can be viewed from most part of the shimla city. one must visit this place once his/her visit during Shimla tour. Must Visit the temple, to view this statue upright and strain your neck a bit admiring its magnificence.

6) Chail:

This place is very famous for having the world’s highest cricket and polo grounds. Must visit place in chail is Chail Palace. Once the summer capital of the Patiala Kings, the palace has now been converted into a hotel and a tourist destination.

7) Tatta Pani:

“Taatta Pani ” is a hindi Synonym of HOT WATER. It is a very well known tourist spot situated at 51 km away from shimla. This place is very famous for its natural hot water springs.

8) Naldhera:

Naldehra is located around 22 km from Shimla and is famous for the Naldehra Golf Club. Situated at an altitude of 2200 m, this is a 18 hole golf course and is among one of the best golf courses in India.

9) Tara Devi:

Tara Devi is dedicated to the Deity of Stars. This Temple is located at a mountain peak near Shogi. Tara Devi place got its name after this Deity. There are legends and tales to the origins of the temple, making it a simple yet subtly fascinating experience.

10) Indian Institute of Advanced Study:

IIAS was originally built as home for Lord Duffein, who was the Viceroy of India during the years 1884 and 1888. A residential centre for higher education, the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), is located on Observatory hill – one of the seven hills of Shimla.

Have you explored it yet? GOA is a destination of beaches. Explore till you get your peace and your favourite spot. Discover the ones, which have not been explored by many.

Butterfly – If you are planning a quite vacation, then this is the place to be.It lies towards the north of Paloeum beach. Best way to reach is via boat ride from Paloeum beach. Calm peaceful with no disturbance away from the hustle bustle.

Tiger – Located in South Goa. It is one of the most isolated beaches in Goa and truly a wild one. Taking a stroll with your loved one on the soft white sand is a delight here. Fresh breeze hitting the rocks, sea looking at you with all the brightness and shine is breathtaking. Ferry from Kola beach can be rented to take you there.

TIP: carry your snacks and water and other important items.

Hollant – This beach is a delight for travellers. It’s a great beach to go for nice swim unlike the others in Goa. Enjoy a swim and get your perfect tan here. It’s well connected and can be reached in your scooty or car from Vasco. Good cafes and hotel are around.

Betul – is a secluded beach and picturesque. The stunning side of the Mobor peninsula is around the Betul hills giving a spectacular view. It’s a great place to do some fishing the goan style. Trust me worth an experience.

TIP: carry your picnic basket

Cola – A romantic beach, it’s mesmerising and magical at the same time. It feels the sea is begging you to visit again and again. The beauty of the beach is the river flows very close to the beach. Highly recommended. Take a ride from Palolem- Cancona to reach here.

Arambol – It’s a non-crowded beach unlike the Baga and Candolium beaches. Away in the extreme North Goa this beach is located. You can take a long walk by the seaside. Heavenly isn’t it. Arambol takes care of the basic amenities from food to shacks and if you want to relax, then get a nice massage done by the sea.

Morjim – is the now called: Mini Russia, as lot of Russians prefer this beach. This beach gives bird enthusiasts a reason to keep coming back again and again. Great place for bird sighting and travellers thrill lies in dolphin sighting.A must visit place in North Goa if you want to watch turtles by your side.

Vagator – is a great place to enjoy the sunset by the rocks with a beer in your hand. Quiet yet a ravishing place to visit. Lot of tourists prefers this to Anjuna and other beaches.

Siradio – It’s a beach with all that can interest a traveller. A beach great for shell collection to a rocky sandy beach, which entices you to explore the caves around it. It has the great history, which is best explored when you are there.

If you have plans to visit Japan, there are some things you need to know. Familiarizing yourself with some basic Japanese cultural practices will go a long way in making your trip there enjoyable. Also, you are not likely to get into trouble. Here are things you should not do based on Japan culture.

1. Don’t enter a house wearing your shoes

Are you used to walking around in your house in your shoes? Well, you might get yourself in trouble if you do that in Japan. There is a special place where you should keep your shoes before entering the house. Also, there are slippers for guests when entering a room.

2. Don’t shout on the train

Trains are very common in Japan. However, people don’t make noise while in trains. They are always silent. If you have to speak to someone, do it in a low tone. Use your earphones if you have to listen to some music.

3. Don’t use your phone on trains

As indicated earlier, Japanese don’t like any noise in the trains. You will rarely find someone using his phone to make a call in the train. If you have to use your phone, send a message or talk in a low tone so as not to distract other people.

4. Don’t eat on trains

Japanese do not eat when traveling on commuter trains. Drinking is okay unless the train is too crowded. However, in long distance trains, eating and drinking are allowed. Food and beverages are also sold in such trains.

5. Don’t forget to remove toilet slippers

Once you get to Japan, you will notice that there are slippers only used when going to the toilet. These slippers are easily noticeable since they have particular words or pictures. Always remember to remove them when entering your house or walking on the streets.

6. Don’t tip anyone

While it is common to tip anyone after an excellent service in many cultures, Japan is an exception. No matter how satisfied you are with their service, they never accept tips. In fact, someone will come running after you, returning the tip!

7. Don’t ignore someone you are speaking with

If you are talking with a Japanese person, always stay calm and attentive. You may sound impolite and rude by just failing to show that you have understood a point. Whenever speaking, show your attentiveness by talking back.

8. Don’t photograph everything

Despite Japan being a beautiful country, you are not allowed to take photos everywhere. It is advisable to always ask someone before taking photos. You must be granted permission to take pictures in museums, temples, and shrines.

9. Don’t hug anyone you meet

Hugging is common in western countries. However, in Japan, it is not. You don’t hug someone you come across in Tokyo streets. Most of the older folks don’t like the habit. If you want to hug someone, then it’s best to know their age group and whether they are comfortable with it.

10. Don’t eat or drink when walking

It is uncommon to find Japanese eating or drinking while they are walking. Even on the streets with food stalls they always find a place to sit. Now you know how to behave when you are on Japanese streets so you don’t look foreign.

11. Don’t receive a present with one hand

Whenever receiving a gift or a visiting card from a Japanese, use your two hands and bow. Then tell him thank you. On receipt of a gift, don’t open it until the person who has given it to you has left.

12. Don’t throw away trash haphazardly

Another thing you might find hard to get used to is how to handle your trash. In most cities around the world, there are a lot of trash cans however, Japanese cities are different. People are encouraged to carry their trash until they find a place to dispose of it.

13. Don’t fail to say “thank you”

The verb “thank you” is highly valued in Japan. Learn to say it after being served in a hotel or store. Familiarize yourself with how bowing is done in Japan. You must always bow and say thank you when you meet with elders.

14. Don’t write down a person’s name in red ink

In Japan, it is OK to write “goodbye” in red ink but not a person’s name. The Japanese consider it to be disobedient. Therefore, if you have to write down your Japanese friend’s name, you know which color to avoid.

15. Don’t be shy

It is common for tourists to ask for help from locals. When you get to Japan, don’t be shy or afraid of asking for anything. They are very friendly and helpful. Even when you accidentally forget something somewhere, go back as no one is going to take it away.

In the world of travel destinations, Iceland occupies a unique position. It has a landscape like no other with a delightful mix of active volcanoes, erupting geysers, hot geothermal springs, some wonderful beaches and also caves.

It is also the land of fairies, dwarfs and elves. Iceland fires up the imagination and makes it the perfect place for a vacation with kids in summer.

Why Iceland and Kids? The answers are not hard to find.

• When one plans to visit with kids it is best to join one of the family tours in Iceland where the tour operator offers a private 4×4 vehicle with large wheels and spacious interiors. One can undertake the golden circle trip in comfort and if the kids feel like falling asleep, there is ample space.

• However, it is the attractions of Iceland that will keep kids wide awake. One such is the presence of geysers across the country. The Strokkur geyser erupts with clockwork regularity and for kids, this is a novel sight. It is safe to get close to the geyser and kids love it.

• Watching a geyser is one thing but luxuriating in the warm waters of geothermal springs is another. The Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik is like a hot tub bath and kids will love cavorting in the waters, exploring the waterfalls and caves.

• Talking of caves and grottoes, Iceland has them in plenty and one will come across such ice caves and lava tubes while on the Golden Circle tour. Exploring caves and grottoes is perfect for kids who always have fantastic imaginations.

• Then, for a bit of fun, kids can go snowmobiling on the Langjokull glacier. The Gullfoss Falls present another experience and kids simply love to be under and behind a waterfall and romp about as they are exposed to water sprays.

• Iceland can be a voyage of discovery. It is the land of volcanic rocks, ice caves and the place where two continents meet under the sea. Along with fun kids learn geography in a hands-on way.

• Kids are safe. You can sit back and have a drink and your kids may wonder about but there is no need to worry. Crime is low and people around are always helpful and watchful over kids. Even restaurants go out of their way to have “kid-friendly” menus.

• Invariably the talk will get around to fairies, dwarfs and elves. People here believe in them and some might even tell your kids interesting tales about local elves or dwarfs. For kids,this is an added element of mystery and excitement. Who knows? They may come across one.

• Then there is the grand spectacle in the sky: the Northern Lights. Plan the trip outside Reykjavik or farther North just right with the help of local tour operator and one can get to view this stupendous sight. It will certainly result in dropped jaws and eyes popping. One may find it difficult to tear the kid away from the spot.

• Kids and food go together. There is the standard fare by way of burgers and sandwiches but there is also a chance to sample Iceland’s unique cuisines, some of them simply lip-smacking enough for kids to want to gorge on them.

The days are long in summer and it may be difficult to get the kid to go to sleep. Iceland is a lure hard to resist and just right for a family vacation with kids.

Travelling is a thrilling experience for a lot of people. It gives them the adrenaline rush they are looking for and makes them exhilarated about all that is related to travelling. The travelling lust is quite hard to resist and there are people who cross all limits of fulfilling all the wishes and desires that they hold for travelling in their hearts.

It can turn out to be an amazing experience only if one plans it perfectly and takes care of all the little to do things that should be taken care of while travelling. It is a joyous ride and it can turn out to be really amazing.

Let us have a look at some of the tips you need to know for travelling:

• MAKE A PROPER LIST

Always have a list of everything that you would be needing and pack accordingly. A list will help you remember everything that needs to be packed and you will not forget anything in the last moment. So keep everything in your mind so that everything is kept in your mind and you know exactly what all you will need while you are on the road.

• LEARN THE COMMON TONGUE OF THE PLACE

This always helps no matter where you are travelling to. If you know few of the common phrases of that place in their mother tongue it always makes it much easier to travel and makes it much more convenient as well. Therefore try to take out some time and learn just few of the common phrases that people mostly use their so the conversing gets easier.

• DON’T FORGET THE EXTRA CAMERA BATTERY

Camera is one of the most important things to carry when you are travelling. You would obviously want to take a lot of snaps of every place you visit and capture all your memories in those photographs, therefore do not forget to carry that extra camera battery just in case of an emergency. You never know when your camera might run out of its battery due to constant usage; therefore it is always safe to carry an extra pack.

• KEEP YOUR ROOM NUMBER AND HOTEL ADDRESS NEAR TO YOU

This is just in case you have to refer to it suddenly or you get stranded and you need to ask for directions. Keep these two pieces of information handy so that you can use it whenever necessary. It is for your own good and safety, therefore just be alert while you are travelling and keep the important tips on mind. This is absolutely necessary to make your trip a successful one.

Earlie Beach is a little town with about 1.300 people, in Queensland, Australia, along the Whitsunday Coast. It’s the gateway to the unparalleled Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s very popular with backpackers… and I was one of them! After arriving in the famous locality, I spent a couple of days relaxing and having a look around, trying to find out what could interest me in the area.

I simply loved the feeling of being careless free, fortunate to be in this superb part of the world.

One day, I do not remember if I was in a backpacker or in a pub, I saw an advertisement on the wall that unchained my imagination. The image of wonderful tall ship with all its sails unfurled appeared in front of me. A comment said that being on it would have been an adventure of a life time experience.

It was about a week cruise around the Whitsundays, a collection of 74 continental islands in the North-East Coast of Queensland.

I was hooked. I knew that I needed to go.

The ad also published: “Backpackers willing to help out with serving food and cleaning up will get a huge discount.” Without hesitation, I went to a travel agency and I bought a ticket immediately. I was very lucky; the ship was nearly booked out for the next weeks and they only had a few places left.

I was very excited about the trip and the ship as well. I started to gather information about my new mean of transport, which was a brigantine.

What is a brigantine? I am sorry about the technical wording but there is no other way to get around it…

It was, they do not exist anymore nowadays, a two-masted sailing vessel with an entirely square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square top sail and a gaff sail mainsail (behind the mast). The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.

The ship was built in 1910 by the Ports and the Harbours of Victoria, in Australia. At that time, she was called “Plover”.

For its construction, they used the best materials: the New Zealand Kauri, a gigantic native tree, and copper fastenings.

This astonishing 30-meter vessel was one of the last tall ship on planet earth.

It is hard to describe the feeling of being on it.

Its story is fascinating. It started as a steam powered ship in Melbourne and worked at diverse jobs as fishing ketch, ferry, scallop boat and finally as a striking cruise ship.

Unfortunately, in 1986 it caught fire. Luckily nobody died while the fire was raging but the deck was destroyed. Even its superstructure was completely wrecked. The ship then was abandoned in the mud for 2 years in the Marybyrnong River. A disaster!

Providentially 4 guys from Germany and a professional rigger of Geelong, called George Herbery, had the vision of seeing the huge potential of the discredited ship.

The brothers, called Helmut, Günther and Gert Jacoby and an engineer called Ed Roleff, were ship lovers. Within 4 years and 6 months they turned the derelict into a classy and elegant sailing vessel.

It was so picturesque, eye-catching and unique that it was regularly used in movies. One was the notorious softcore “The Blue Lagoon”…

Nevertheless, the day I was impatiently waiting for to start my new journey arrived…

The ship was blue with immaculate sails. What a wonderful sight when I saw it for the first time! What a feeling to embark on this masterwork!

My imagination ran wild… The Golden Plover reminded me of pirates, black and white flags with the skull, symbol of piracy par excellence… of deadly naval battles and hidden treasures…

Not only I was on a magnificent vessel… I was going to cruise along the legendary, stunning Whitsunday Islands.

Shiny white sand beaches and turquoise waters were waiting for me…

What’s next? Just follow me… And I will show you the world.

Expat Groups are a way for those living abroad to meet and make new friends with like minded people who are living in a country other than their own. Whether you are traveling the world for leisure or working for large or small global corporation, when you first arrive at a new country you can be ‘lost at sea’ and not having any friends can be both daunting and lonely. The challenge is to find and join expat groups, clubs and association to help you adjust to a new way of life, in what may be an exciting move, yet alien and strange at first. Expats, Travel, Food and Hospitality go hand in hand and many expats living abroad crave for their home grown foods and beverages whilst being away from home. Fortunately due to the world of online shopping and web surfing expats can order food and beverage, gift packages, fine wine, premium beers and ales and all kinds of alcoholic beverages and have them shipped directly to their door without having to leave their living room.

Additionally they can search for and find catering companies for their corporate function of social event. Whilst playing tennis and going to movies and enjoying many of the wonders of a new country may be fun, expats often still feel the loneliness, especially when they come to make friends only to find their friends have moved on to work in another county. And so the wheels of the merry go rounds continues to turn and the need for companionship and familiarity can be so powerful that it can often leave you sad depressed and totally alone. This is where familiar food and beverages from home can help to ease that void and Expats from around the world can now find many of the foods from their country of origin here at the worlds first and only dedicated directory for fine food and premium beverages.

Expats can buy directly from global specialty food stores and they can even find local and international logistics companies for all their logistics and transport needs. Be it the need to ship a case of wine from one Australia to China or a whole container load of personal effects. Be sure to visit our logistics platform to search our detailed list of the world’s most reputable and experienced freight forwarders, airlines, shipping lines, customs agents and global removals companies for all your transport needs.

Bangalore is not only an IT hub of India but it is also the party capital of India. It provides ample of opportunities for doing adventures, indulging in fun -activities, night parties and relaxation in luxury resorts. The city not only demands the hard work of the people but it also serves the people with some wonderful team building activities and places so that they can have fun as well as learn.

There are numerous team building activities in Bangalore. Manchinbele is an ideal spot for team building activities in Bangalore. It has some fun water and adventure sports in which the employees and employers can involve and strengthen their relationships with each other.

The city has many resorts as well which provides a luxurious home like stay, fun activities for team building, amazing food and all the other basic and amazing amenities. Staying in resorts makes the team members comfortable with each other. It also helps in establishing communication with the bosses. A thin line between the bosses and the employees can be broken while having fun activities as a team as well as staying in a comfortable environment.

Shilhaandara Resort is for rejuvenating the nerves of the team members. It is placed at the foothills of the Ramangara. It is surrounded by lush greenery and is a perfect place for nature as well as adventure enthusiasts. It has a swimming pool, space for fun-activities indoor as well as outdoor, different cuisines of food and many more amenities. There are many activities like zorbing, paintball, rope climbing in which you can take part with your team. There are many resorts in and around Bangalore that boost team building activities and are perfect for corporate team outings.

The city serves many opportunities for team building. There are many adventurous trekking and camping spots in Bangalore as well which helps to boost the confidence in employees. Adventure sports bring back power and vigor back in the lives of the employees. Savandurga is one of the best places in Bangalore for trekking. This place provides tranquil surroundings as well as thrilling treks which boosts up the employees. Similarly, there are many more trekking places in Bangalore. Employees can head and stay in night camps. They can play games around the campfire, roast food in the early man’s way, stay in camps among the wild animals, and enjoy the scenes of a bed of stars in the dark sky at night. Together with getting involved in camping and trekking enhances the bond and they get to work better as a team.

Bangalore is a perfect city for corporate outings. There are many other activities like archery, rappelling, rock climbing, boating, and much more in which the teams can take part and work as a team. It is rightly said that sports activities not only provide enthralling experiences but also build skills in people. Skills like teamwork, confidence, risk-taking abilities, better planning and development skills are inculcated while performing sports activities.

India is a land of festivals. Being a secular country, there is no dearth of things to celebrate in this land of wonders. From Christmas to Eid ul Zoha, Independence Day to the Cricket World Cup, there is hardly anything that Indians do not like celebrating. Simply point us towards an occasion and we are all for it. But hidden amongst this long list of celebrations is a gem in the form of Durga Puja, something celebrated in its full glory in the Bengali community.

So, what exactly IS the Durga Puja?

Well, for the sake of clarity, Puja refers to a religious festival. However, for us Bengalis, Durga Puja is less of a ‘Puja’ and more of the embodiment of the spirit of festiveness. What exactly does that mean? Well, let us go back a few millenniums to answer that question.

The tradition of invoking the goddess Durga (or the mother, known as ‘Ma’) is first considered to have been done by Lord Ram before he went forth to battle Ravana, as documented in the epic Ramayana. However, the tradition lay dormant till about the late 1500s, when the landlords in Bengal took it up. It was finally given its final form in the 18th century as Baroyaari (or 12 friends’) puja, a term which finally came to refer to community sponsored Durga Pujas held in Kolkata.

Essentially, all parts of India celebrates this period, but in the form of Navratri. It constitutes of 9 days’ worth of fasting, which ends with Dussehra, a day where an effigy of Ravana is burned as a way to show that evils are always championed by good as Lord Ram had championed above Ravana.

In Bengal, however, the meaning of these 10 days are quite different.

My earliest memories of Durga Puja are that of waking up in the middle of the night to listen to Mahalaya on the radio. It is a programme that has been airing on the first day of the Bengali month Ashwin for more than 7 decades and 4 generations of Bengalis, forcing them to wake up at 4 am, something I still do religiously every year on that particular day. Although the magic of the scent, the half awoken self and knowing Ma is coming has somewhat diminished with the years, the idea of something so collectively powerful that it makes a whole community look forward to it still holds a great deal of charm nonetheless.

We treat Ma Durga as something more than just the goddess. While it is true that she embodies the raw power (or Shakti) that overcame evil by slaying the evil demon Mahisasur (hence the term Mahisasur-mardini), she is much MUCH more than just that. The ten days that start with Mahalaya signify her annual visit to her paternal home in Bengal with 4 of her children. As such Ma is, at the same time, a mother, a wife, a goddess, and most importantly, a member of our family. We pamper her, we respect her, we love her and we adore her. She is more than just a divinity.

To us Bengalis, she embodies our truest nature. No matter where a Bengali might be, come Durga Puja, he/she feels a connection to his/her family.

THIS is what it means to celebrate Pujo (a colloquial term for Durga Puja).

Frankly, it cannot be compared to anything else in the world. But, remember the togetherness one gets when visiting the family, or the warmth during Christmas, or the feeling you get when you visit your family after a year away? That is what Pujo means to a Bengali. It is more than celebrating a religious festival. The idea of Pujo is bringing everyone together. And what better way can there be than a mother facilitating all that? We eat, we cry, we talk, be happy and celebrate something that is practically unheard of anywhere else in the world. It does not matter what you religion is. Whether a Muslim, a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain or anything in between (including atheists), if you are a Bengali at heart, Durga Puja is for you. From visiting the tens of thousands of makeshift podiums (or pandals) for hoisting Ma Durga to having a cup of tea in the middle of the night (under a tree in the local shop because it seems to inevitably rain during Puja nights these days, especially if you are out at 2 am) to dancing during the idol immersion ceremony (called Bhashan), Durga Puja is something that you have to experience at least once in your life.

Oh, and did I mention scrumptious luchi and khichudi as lunch during Ashtami and the gorgeous ladies who grace the pandals? Pujo is worth it… believe you me.

And once Pujo is done, while we are all sad, we pray for Ma to return safely to her heavenly abode atop the Himalayas. Thus begins the wait for the next Puja. Another year to spend before our dear mother comes back. Because Pujo never ends, it simply gets shifted by another year. After all, Ma is like the mother who wants you to be happy even when she is gone.

Come, be a part of this wonderful festival of togetherness.