•Take at least two breaks this year, and visit a place you’ve never been to.
•Lend a hand, a voice, a skill or a few bucks to a cause. Find some people who could use your help at www.livemint.com/cause.htm
•Stop depending on your wallet for entertainment. For example, find free online games or collect used stamps rather than first day covers.
•Practise stillness. It’s not just for Zen Buddhists and yoga practitioners.
•When you are pressed for time, multitask. Listen to an audiobook, make cooking a hobby or take a staycation (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staycation) and finish pending chores.
•Dine: The Miele Guide (Ate Media, October 2008, $15) hopes to be to South-East Asia what the Michelin is to Europe. One major difference: it has uses local food writers and critics to recommend the top dining choices in each country, as well as laymen voting! Sign up at http://mieleguide.com to buy it, and also vote for the 2009-10 edition.
•Surf: Check out the free “networked book” from the Institute for the Future of the Book, London, titled Songs of Imagination and Digitisation, a set of responses to the works of William Blake. Available online at www.songsofimaginationanddigitisation.net , the compendium (launched on 9 October 2008, National Poetry Day in the UK) will be expanded over six months by 10 collaborators, including an artist, an actor, a technology journalist, and the chair of the Blake Society.
•Listen: The Rough Guide to the Best Music You’ve Never Heard (Rough Guides, October 2008, £12.99) recommends music by the best may-have been-The-Beatles and other “lost classics”. With tragic histories and maverick figures, it may expand your repertoire of club talk as well as your playlist.
•See: Chris Wooding’s forthcoming title Malice (Scholastic, February 2009, £6.99) fuses together comic book and traditional text formats into a story of an urban legend about a comic book featuring real children in a strange alternative world. Looks worth collecting, though we suggest sharing it with your 11-year-old.
Also Read Wheels of fortune
Take up a new hobby or revive an old one this year
•Try a two-day workshop on metal enamelling. Timeless Moment in Mumbai teaches basic techniques for jewellery making and enamelling on copper and steel, for about Rs2,500. For more information, call Kana Lomror, 9920334326 (Mumbai) and 9899201926 (New Delhi).
•Enrol at Bangalore’s Planet Scuba diving school to get PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification. All it takes is three days in a classroom, two in a swimming pool and the last two days in the open sea. The course costs Rs20,000 (travel expenses extra). For details, visit http://planet scubaindia.com
•You’d try out a gadget before you buy it, but what about spending big bucks on a foreign degree? Upod, Oxford University’s podcast series, allows you to sample courses free of cost. Visit http://pod casts.ox.ac.uk/
•Or you might want to enrol at iTunes U: http://www.apple.com/education/itunesu_mobilelearning/itunesu.html
Maybe there’s a market for comic tourism?
•Ivrea, Italy, holds an orange-throwing carnival from 21 to 24 February, in an annual recreation of a medieval battle where the townsfolk pelt each other with fruit. (It originally started with people flinging lentils out on the street—read more at www.carnevalediivrea.it/ english/battaglia.asp)
•On 26 May (tentative date), you might choose to participate in the annual Double Gloucester cheese-rolling competition in (where else?) Gloucester.
•In July 2009, Sonkajarvi in Finland hosts its annual wife-carrying championships.
•Boryeong in South Korea celebrates its 12th annual mud festival on 12 July (tentative date).
•On 22 August, Punkaharju in Finland (home of Nokia) has a mobile phone-throwing competition.
•On 7 September (tentative date), there’s the 8th World Ice Cream Kicking Championships in Aarhus, Denmark.
Dates for your events diary, whether you are into movies, TV, music or books
TV and movies
•11 January 66th Golden Globe awards, Beverly Hills, California.
•13 January (tentative date) 14th Lumiere Awards, Paris.
•8 February British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) Film Awards, London.
•22 February 81st Academy Awards (Oscars), Hollywood.
•16-24 May Cannes Film Festival, France.
•21 September (tentative) 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, New York.
•16 January Big Day Out festival in Auckland, New Zealand.
•8 February 51st annual Grammy Awards, Los Angeles.
•17-19 April Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, California.
•24-28 June Glastonbury Festival, UK.
•2-5 July Roskilde Festival, Denmark.
•9-12 July EXIT festival, Serbia.
•21-23 August The Green Man Festival at Glanusk Park, Wales.
Books and other media
•7 April (tentative) 93rd Pulitzer Prize awards, New York.
•4 June (tentative) Orange Prize for Fiction award, London.
•6 October (tentative) The Man Booker Prize, London.
Air travel is a major global warming threat. Some resources to reduce your carbon footprint and support green practices:
•Flight-free Europe (TimeOut Guides, July 2008, £14.99). This book has options ranging from the obvious (trains) to more adventurous (boat, bicycle, motorcycle, green car rental) within Europe.
•The Man in Seat Sixty-One by Mark Smith. The book (Bantam Press, August 2008, £12.99) lists different train routes and lines across Europe. Smith’s website, www.seat61.com, addresses other continents too.
•Adventure Travel (AA Publishing: New Leaf series, September 2008, £14.99). Ideal for the eco-conscious adventure seeker: Try sea kayaking, dogsledding or paragliding rather than mountain biking this year.
•Fragile Earth books (Alastair Sawday) include such titles as The Book of Rubbish Ideas.
•The Good Tourist by Lucy Popescu (Arcadia, October 2008, £11.99). Remain a do-gooder even after you have returned from your vacation.
It’s not just the Siberian cranes that have deserted Bharatpur. Birdwatchers in northern India on the lookout for an idyllic weekend of scoping avian species have found many alternative sites for indulging their hobby.
In the last few years, when the water level at Bharatpur dipped, birders took new flight paths as they tailed the feathered migrants. As a result, many a new birding lodge, resort and camp has sprung up for weekend watchers.
•At the Chambal Safari Lodge (www.chambal safari.com), on the banks of the Chambal river, near Agra, you can spot not only ducks but the rare Gangetic dolphin too.
•At Pangot, off Nainital, a variety of thrushes and other Himalayan species greet visitors to the birding lodges here (www.pangot.com), some of which go the extra mile to offer “birding tours”.
•Birders are also flocking to Assan Barrage, in upper Mussoorie, to see waterbirds such as coots, mallards and pochards.
•An offbeat destination is the rather rugged Mandakini Magpie Birdwatchers Camp, better known as “Mr Negi’s Camp” in the Garhwal hills.
•Wildbrook Retreat (www.wildbrookretreat.com) at Rajaji National Park and the Morni Hills area off Chandigarh have also become part of the winter birding circuit out of New Delhi.
•So have Sattal (near Nainital) and Sitabani (on the periphery of Corbett).
•Meanwhile Bharatpur, which has got over its dry spell, is seeing a revival of sorts again.
If Jack Sprat can’t stay out of the sea and his wife needs rarified air to breathe easy, the perfect holiday recipe combines trips to the beach with a nearby hill station. Twin vacations could also be a city with a leisure spot, or a cultural-and-scenic combination.
•Kodaikanal and Kovalam may be separated by a state boundary (Kovalam is in Kerala, Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu), but the distance is just 277km, so they are all of 6 hours apart.
•Mahabaleshwar and Panaji are 340km apart, so plan a night’s stay in Pune.
•Or combine Mahabal- eshwar and the Dahanu- Bordi beaches (a stretch of yet-to-be-thronged beaches and a sleepy town in Maharashtra).
•For a laid-back vacation alongside city attractions, take in Matheran and Mumbai (just 86km, 3 hours drive apart).
•A more ambitious option: Daman-Diu and Mt Abu (overnight train journey).
•Or consider Udaipur and Mt Abu (1½ hours’ drive).
•Off the beaten track are Gopalpur-on-Sea (Orissa) and Mainpat (hill station, Chhattisgarh).
•Ooty and Puducherry is another good option.
•Prefer a more active holiday? First arrive on Alubadi river beach (in Assam, near Dibrugarh) for some good rafting, and then trek up to Haflong to look down on a rainbow.
Spring cleaning in winter? Wondering what to do with old blankets, rugs, dhurries, your dog’s old coat or even the feeding bowl she’s outgrown? You could ask your local animal welfare non-profit organization if they need any of it.
Chances are, the answer will be an enthusiastic yes. Most of us think of giving money first, but several animal welfare organiz- ations require huge amounts of bedding, shelter material and clothing, especially in cities that shiver in winter. Even sackcloth comes in handy.
While you’re at the shelter, peek into the kennels: You may fall in love with a robust, loyal “indian dog” or an old faithful of good breeding deserted by its human family. For more information, visit www.wsdindia.org
— BENITA SEN