Keeping warm the Kashmiri way

As Delhi winter draws to an end and the days get warmer, I am thinking of my brief stint with the cold and snow in Kashmir in January.

Different cultures learn to keep warm in different ways. While the Bhutanese, for instance, eat chillis to keep warm, Inuits use seal oil lamps and animal skins, and the Japanese huddle around (or under) kotatsus.

(image source)

kangriIn Kashmir, they use the kangri. It is somewhat like a personal heater; a mud pot filled with red-hot coal embers kept under your clothes and close to your body. When I first saw all these Kashmiris walking with their hands hidden under their voluminous robes (called pheran), I thought it was just a way to keep their hands warm – the local equivalent of putting them inside the pockets. But no, they are actually keeping their entire bodies warm with kangris, earthen pots covered by a wicker basket.



Kangris are sold in shops everywhere, with vendors even carrying them around in local markets. Imagine the skill needed to hold a burning hot mud pot close to your stomach, but even kids carry them with insouciance, walking with one hand holding a kangri and the other, a school bag. I am told that kangris are also kept on beds, under quilts or blankets. And guest are welcomed at home with a kangri, as much as a cup of hot kahwa.


kids with kangri
(image source)

Interestingly, the Japanese have a similar “belly warming” device, called haramaki. The original haramaki is armour a samurai would wear around his chest, but now refers to a narrow knit garment wrapped around the tummy to keep your core warm. They used to have a ruddy-duddy image, associated with the very old or with kids. But now, fashion houses have gone all out to make the haramaki a trendy, must-have accessory in both winter and summer.

So, it is true that if you call it high fashion, anything goes in Japan.

But if it is Kashmir you are still thinking about, see this lovely photoessay on the kangri. Like other forms of indigenous knowledge, the kangri is also fighting against more modern heating aids, but nothing comes close to its cost effective and eco friendly little pot.

Need your help

I got a big scare related to this blog yesterday – a fake blog which is identical to this (an exact mirror image) has sprung up in the last few weeks. This person has copied all my content, including my profile photo(!), blog posts from ten years, descriptions of all my journalism work and ever single thing that this Itchy Feet blog has. I did some research and found that they have bought the url using my first name – and on the fake name, my name gets linked back to the url of the fake site. They have even copied my line asking for writing assignments based on the strength of my work, giving their email id. I have complained to the url provider but I have no other way of dealing with this.

I am writing this blog post now also to check if this gets picked up immediately on that site.

If you have been a reader of this blog, or if you like this blog – I request you to go to that site and leave comment asking them to remove that blog immediately. Any other suggestions or ideas from you also most appreciated.

Update: October 27

It’s been about three weeks now since I discovered the fake blog and I have taken a few steps. My direct request to the site owner did not get any response (I can’t really say I was expecting any) and strangely enough, the url provider (godaddy) and the hosting company (Host Key) did not respond either. I have not yet sent a DMCA complaint but tried other measures to get the site off. The fake site has been taken down in the last few days and I hope it stays that way. I have moved my travel blog to my own domain and installed security measures (closing the stable door after the horse has been stolen, I know). I’ll now be keeping my eyes open!

Are you a travel addict?

Or should I even be asking this question, considering you are reading a travel blog? For traveholics? Named ‘Itchy Feet’? On a week day?

I came across 21 signs you are a travel addict and they had me at No. 1. “Your travel bucket list is 4 pages long.” Other people count down from 100 when they can’t get to sleep. Me, I spell out the countries I want to visit, drawing up detailed travel itineraries in my mind at 3 a.m. Sometimes I reach out for my smartphone to check for cheap fares but that’s not a detail I’m particularly proud of sharing.

That apart, my surest sign is that I am always planning my next trip when I am currently travelling. I often get angry looks for handing out small change in unrecognisable currency – Croatian kuna anyone? And I seriously judge people (there, I said it) who don’t travel (yes, yes, I know – money, kids, work, health, ho hum, yawn).

Now, if I can figure out how to fit my life into a giant backpack, I am all set.

Anyway. Much as some of would love to be on the move all the time, we cannot. Vagabondish helpfully suggests Six Ways to Prolong the Joy of Travel – so get cracking on these right away.

Lock your hearts and throw the keys away

I have been seeing love padlocks on bridges everywhere I go, especially in Europe. Of course, Paris is the most famous for these love locks but I spotted them recently in Ljubljana and Venice (anyone seen any in India?)




So couples affix locks to railings on bridges – I think they write their names on them – and throw away the key. And voila! undying love.

I can’t find anything definite on when and how this custom came into being. This story in the WSJ says that it grew in popularity in the wake of the 2006 Italian novel ‘I Want You’ featuring two Roman lovers who immortalized their bond on a bridge in the Eternal City and threw the key in the Tiber.

Turns out though, not everyone is a fan. If Rome trod carefully around this phenomenon, Florence tried to get them removed from Ponte Vecchio a few years ago. Parisians thought of these locks as nothing better than graffiti and sought to have them removed (they made their way back quickly though) while Chicago had a cutting response.

Me, I like them – they make for great photographs and I am going to keep my eyes open every place I visit.

Memories of river cruises and boat rides

It must be one of the best things to do ever – sitting on a boat, book in hand (or not), feeling the cool breeze on your cheeks, watching life on the banks, watching the sun set in the horizon, watching the birds head back home… It’s definitely one of my favourite things to do ever. And here are some of my fondest such memories.


Bosphorus absolutely tops the list here – you float past grand mosques, ruined fortresses, seafood restaurants and pretty houses by the water (each of which I desperately want to own). You can float all the way to Anadolu Kavagi, a fishing village close to the Black sea or get off at some point mid way and make your way back to Ortokoy. The latter I recommend especially on a Sunday it is where you can sip on a hot chocolate, tuck into a plump kumpir (jacket potato) and then graze through the Sunday flea market.

Read my story on a Bosphorus cruise – One river, two continents

“It is of this experience that Orhan Pamuk has written, “To travel along the Bosphorus — be it in a ferry, a motor launch or a rowing boat — is to see the city house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, and also from afar, as a silhouette, an ever-mutating mirage”. The Bosphorus is a strait between the Black Sea and the Marmera and runs through the heart of the city, dividing it into two – Rumelia and Anatolia. For a moment out there, you are straddling two continents. The Bosphorus is everywhere in Istanbul; in many ways it defines the dualism of this city: European and Asian, traditional and modern.”




The grandest of them all, the Nile and the cruise we took was for four days, all the way from Luxor to Aswan, from where we made a day trip to Abu Simbel. The Nile cruise is an utterly fascinating experience, punctuated as it is by regular stops and excursions to temples and ruins all along the way. At Aswan, we also got into a smaller boat and floated along for an hour late in the evening. Definitely one of my favourite holiday memories.




What is not to love about a spring evening in Paris? After walking around the city all day, we eagerly looked forward to sitting down and giving our tired feet a break. We again chose a late evening cruise (surely one of the best time to be on water) and watched the lights of Paris twinkle and wave to us as we crossed bridge after beautiful bridge. Especially watch out for the illuminated Eiffel Tower.




Nothing to beat an early morning ride on the Ganga – this is the time the ghats come to life and people begin to dip their feet tentatively into the cold water and then immerse themselves totally, getting up with hands folded in supplication. The flower sellers make their way around the devotees, the pandas get busy with their business development activities, local boys nose dive into the river and everyone manages to wear a purposeful look on their faces. This is what I have written about Varanasi – Shortcut to Salvation.



And then, there are those boat rides, not exactly on rivers but wonderful experiences nevertheless:

– an excursion into the floating village on the Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap – Shifting Shapes


– cruising on the good old backwaters of Kerala, all the way from Alleppey to Kumarakom…


– punting, or rather, being punted on the Cam in Cambridge, past those glorious college buildings and the lucky, lucky young men and women who study there. My first ever published story was on this experience – Apunting we go on the Cam


And finally, a ride on the canals of Amsterdam, easily of my favourite cities in the world – I could easily live there for the rest of my life!


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