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MUMBAI: Racing is considered a man’s sport in our part of the world and when it comes to the tough rallies, most of us disagree to even think of a woman daring to try it, however there are some inspiring women who believe in thinking out of the box and refuse to go with the typical mindset.  Amongst those league of women, is Sarah Kashyap, whom I call a “Chotta packet, dhamaka.” and rightly so. A short height Sara, took martial arts as a passion since her primary schooling days and took part in many competitions fighting many bouts of the toughest fights, survived and won many medals. 

After her schooling, Sarah went to the United Kingdom for her higher studies, but kept the passion alive and played martial arts in the UK also.  Adventurous nature made her try her hand at riding a bike and one fine day, she took the challenge of taking professional biking sport as her passion. Sarah, tried, fell, got up stronger and never lost the fire in her and after a long struggle with the wheels made the whole nation proud when she became the first woman to have completed the toughest “Raid de Himalya”.  

Sarah proved to be the ignition, to be the inspiration, to be the woman to give hope to the rest of the women to see the ray to have the freedom of think of the unthinkable. This season, at the conclusion of the India’s biggest rally competition “Desert Storm”, Sarah not only completed all the stages of the rally but finished at Number 8 over all. Desert Storm Stage 4 of India's biggest rally competition advanced between the dunes of the Thar desert. The route extended almost alongside the India-Pakistan border. 

The race started at Marriott Hotel, Jaisalmer. The fourth stage started off with the Moto category. The stage was split into 4A and 4B, with the latter being a night stage. The first section of stage 4 paced through the flatlands of Turkon Ki Basti. Tight turns and long straights made this section particularly interesting. Being a flatland, one could see the cars and motorcycles speeding from a distance towards the horizon. Adding to the drama was the dust cloud behind them. 

The next section stretched beside the dunes of Thar desert. The route of Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2018 has levelled up. The sun was really hot. The air was dusty. But the wind was cold. Visibility was hindered by mirages everywhere. In between all that aroused the sound of motorcycles and four-wheelers. That was the only signal saying that the contestants were coming. 

The sun was really hot. The air was dusty. But the wind was cold. Visibility was hindered by mirages everywhere. In between all that aroused the sound of motorcycles and four-wheelers. That was the only signal saying that the contestants were coming. Sarah, witnessed all of it and emerged as a winner and made us all prouder. I wish to see more and more feathers adding to her cap and wish the best possible to her in the days and years to come. And today let me officially change her alias from bada to bahut bada dhamaka. Well done “Chotta packet, bahut bada dhamaka”. This is what came from her on Instagram at the end of the rally:



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SRINAGAR: In a heartening development, Kashmiri girl Nighat Sahiba will be awarded with the recognition as the young talent on the eve of  the birth anniversary of Mallika Sengupta on 27th March, a periodical ‘Bhashanagar’ felicitate an award in the name of the poet. The program will take place on the evening of 27th March at Sisir Mancha. Renowned poet Sankha Ghosh will give the recognition to her. Nighat Sahiba used to write in Urdu. She got the Young Poet Academy Award in 2017. Three books of Sahiba have been published till now.  Last year Payel Sengupta and Souvik Banerjee secured the award. Another face Anindita Gupta Roy was awarded for the poetry translations of Maya Angelou. 

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It's said that world witnesses similarities in almost everything and almost everything has a twin made in this vast world. It's a common saying in our part of the world that everyone and everything has a twin and one could be lucky to witness a twin or two in his lifetime.

So in that case, lucky am I, who witnessed a twin, not of himself but his motherland. Yes, I am talking about a twin of my motherland, Kashmir. I have been travelling for the past one month and after travelling to a few countries, my last destination before heading home was Tajikistan, which was earlier a part of USSR and now an independent country. After taking off from Mashhad in Iran on an Aseman Air flight, I dozed off and after the flight landed in Dushanbe, my fellow traveller woke me up with full enthusiasm saying, "Roohullah, wathu thoad Ghare ha wotukh". Which means, Roohullah, get up, you have reached home.

I got up and without looking out of the window, I pulled my cabin baggage from above and got going half asleep. But what happened next was surprising, the moment I got out of the aircraft, I literally stopped and for a second thought that I actually landed at Srinagar Airport. The same breeze, the same light, the same atmosphere, the same view and the similar surroundings. 

Since my walking out of the aircraft at Dushanbe airport, there is just one sentence making a run in my mind, "Kashmir with an asterisk". The two places are so similar that anyone would get confused and anybody can be befooled with the pictures.  The Dushanbe city reminded me of Paris, same kind of streets, same kind of shops, same kind of the style and a similar kind of the nature in people that would make you hold your head because, even if they know English, they wouldn't respond, they would still talk in their own language. 

After spending one night in Dushanbe, the next day, early in the morning we started our 200 KM long journey and the more we were going away from Dushanbe and getting closer to Kulob province, we felt more in Kashmir and not once but a few times my fellow travellers and I repeated, "aes ma watav ghare?" That means "are we reaching home?"

The surroundings, the trees, the houses, the people, everything looks so similar that it feels that we are in Kashmir a hundred years ahead or at least thirty years behind. Don't get confused with the sentence the way we got with the place, I mean to say a hundred years ahead in terms of development and cleanliness and three decades behind in terms of the house structures. The same type of houses that we witnessed three decades back in Kashmir, but with a better strength I am sure of the architecture.

The muddy houses, the smoke coming out of the kitchen chimneys, people working in their farms, ladies carrying something or the other on their heads, similar faces, similar physique, similar way of walking, similar way of expressions, similar surroundings, same chinars, similar spring flowers on trees and plants, similar willow trees, similar grass, similar spring fragrance but not the similar concrete jungles.

After staying in Kulob, one fine morning we decided to take a day tour to a place around 75 kms ahead of Kulob. I wanted to sleep but the surroundings didn't let me. Such breath taking views of mountains, landscapes and nature that would take anyone's heart away and would make anyone want to live there in the lap of nature and feel peace. One of my fellow traveller said in humour, probably the Mughal king Jahangir didn't get a chance to witness this place that he concluded in Kashmir saying " garr Firdaus baroye zameen ast, Hameen ast o hameen ast o hameen ast". Another responded saying that it has been his short sightedness thinking that there couldn't be a better place on earth than kashmir forgetting that God is great and must have made a place that's better than Kashmir and which is perfect. We witnessed this and thought it was something out of the world but surely there would be places that are better.

Tajik people have for sure maintained their roots and taken care of them with off course a better understanding of the good and bad effects of doing so. Don't even think of letting a thought come into your mind that they are decades backward, no, not at all, remember they are well advanced and well exposed than us in everything and in maintaining their way of living, they aren't 3 decades behind us but 5 decades ahead of us, because we have started to feel the ill effects of going away from our roots and culture however it would take us two more decades for the complete realisation when we would have no chance of looking back.

I was lucky enough to witness a twin of my motherland, are you? If you have the will to replace your holiday to Delhi, Mumbai or Goa with a trip to Tajikistan with a little more money, do visit this beautiful country and you would get back with loads of memories to cherish for the rest of your life.