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Culture and Lifestyle

Melodies of Madurai



It had just dawned. The slow train ran through the vast sunflower stretches of Koyilpatti in Tamil Nadu, India. Keeping aside my yawn, I wake up to the light sun-rays on my chin over at my side lower birth in the train. A vendor arrives with his crass cacophonous advertising, selling breakfast on a hand tray with portions steaming idlis, aromatic ghee pongals and meduvadai ( pulse battered with spices and fried into little rounds) on it, alongside a tumbler of chutney. He also carries a dispenser that keeps hot chai. I make a purchase for my tummy god in a jiffy, no thoughts there! Savoring the venpongal and steaming tea, I await as the train makes its way into Madurai station in no hurry.

The town of Madurai in the south of India is a 2500 year old heritage city that boasts of numerous temples, dotted with high rise churches, heritage mosques and a famous palace called the Naykkar Mahal. This town was an important center of education and pilgrimage from ancient times of the Pandya kings to this date that it has always been charming to visitors and patrons refuse to leave. The river of Vaigai flows through the lands and in the summertime, it dries up into a thin stream where women wash clothes and little children loosen the grip of heat on them.

From the small patch gardens and playgrounds to famous temples and eateries that dot Madurai town, on a balmy day, one could walk through the bylanes and streets that sell flowers, veshtis (dhotis) and pooja goodies.  As Carnatic music soars in its myriad ragas at heart-warming pitches, the beats of mridanga, move the dancers’ feet in rhythm. Topped with the smell of fresh filter kaapi (coffee) lingering in the air, amidst the divine aura of temples, churches and mosques, any day is made memorable.

On the day I arrived at Madurai, my first stop was Tiruparankundram’s famous 15th century Muruka temple atop a hill. It is situated 14 kilometers off Madurai. I hire the local jeep that plies from Madurai town to Tiruparankundram. The temple was constructed over a hilltop centuries ago and one has to climb all the way up 1000 steps in an act of cleansing his sins and pray to Muruka’s deity for peace within. It is a temple carved completely out of stone with exquisite art, paintings and sculptures etched onto. Tiruparankundram is also famous for its dargah of Hazrat Sultan, a couple of metres away. This part of Madurai can be called a perfect example of religious harmony and secularism- one amongst many attractions of this town.

Tiruparankundram's artistry

Tiruparankundram’s artistry


The work on a pillar from Tiruparankundram

The work on a pillar from Tiruparankundram

There are regular buses to Tiruparankundram and back from Madurai Bus stand as well. Hardly takes an amount of INR 30 (less than a dollar) for a to and fro travel. Groundnut sellers wait for devotees to snack on them coned, in the scorching sun, as Macaque monkeys wait in patience to grab a fistful of those crunchy nuts.

Madurai town’s evening see a lot of light and color. The gardens of in the heart of the temple town harbour an undisputed sense of calm and peace, as doves and parrots adorn the dark blue sky laden with streaks of orange from the setting sun.

For me, a journey is complete only if the city caters my senses both in the afternoon and evening as well; and Madurai does that, oh so well!

The afternoon after the Tiruparankundram temple visit, it was Madurai town’s time to charm me. This humble town is in the beginning of being gripped by buildings and offices, nevertheless, it loses no tradition of its own. The lanes of Madurai have great eateries, amazing snack shops and heavenly sweet shops. I needed to bite into a part of Madurai; that which it holds closest to its soul. And so, my aim was to hunt down the best Paniyarams (little steamed/ fried dumplings of rice and jaggery) and Jigarthanda ( a famous traditional mocktail made of milk, cream and boiled grains) I could ever find, as those were what Madurai’s taste scenario was famous for!


The shop wasn’t anything fancy, but on standing in front of the little eatery, the warm aroma of Paniyarams with liquid jaggery fills your entire lungs; literally leaving you breathless. The Paniyarams are of two kinds; the spicy one and the sweet one. I am greedy, I agree. Surrendering my taste buds to both kinds of those savoury dumplings was what my tummy wanted at that point. I did just that. Soft, warm and fluffy rice balls as big as a golf ball, might not captivate your sight in the first go. Dipping those little charms into a bowl of warm liquid jaggery and ghee (the sweet paniyaram) or a plate of spicy tomato chutney (for the spicy paniyaram) and biting into them would make you wish you had the capacity of an elephant in an instant! And there’s no stop for that feeling then on!


that's the way paniyarams are made

that’s the way paniyarams are made


and that's served

and that’s served

Burp was yet a glass away!  Off the Paniyaram eatery, I walk a short distance to reach a juice shop, tucked in a corner of the road, with oranges hung on the ceiling of it in patterns, all for my share of ‘Jigarthanda’. This drink is a fancy mocktail of milk, cream, boiled Sago and flavours of sweet colors. The combination might sound utter rubbish, but the taste is of a million dollars. This is the only drink in this world that could induce a burp despite being cold!

The ice-cold Jigathanda

The ice-cold Jigathanda

As time flew by, evening came, making its way through the balmy weather bringing in cool winds and a relaxed atmosphere. The Nayakkar palace, in the heart of the town of Madurai is a famous 16th century palace made of white sandstone in full, laden with glass-work and stucco art on its walls. That was my next destination that Madurai placed on my plate.

There is a light and sound show at the palace in the evenings, attracting the tourists to the events that those giant palace pillars have witnessed in time; from history to today. The show begins at 6:00 pm but I was loitering around half an hour before, clicking the chirpy birds playing in the garden in front of the palace, to bargaining for the prices of corn boiling, smeared in chilli paste and lemon, on pushcarts that also sold roasted groundnuts and sliced, spiced mangoes. Tossing them all into my mouth, I look around to see kids playing on the grass, a few uniformed security guards standing at doors chatting and large sculptures made of white sand, broken here and there, guarding the palace from time immemorial.

cut mangoes and corn!

cut mangoes and corn!

As the doors open of the palace and into its large corridors, the beauty of it, begins to unfold.  This site is also nowadays used for Indian movie productions and I for once recognize that in no time. The sculpture and carving work is unbelievably brilliant here and the sandstone shines its way into the hearts of the onlookers.

Pure white at Naykkar mahal

Pure white at Naykkar mahal

The light and sound show begins shortly, with myriad colored lights making imprints on the walls of the palace and its pillars, as the voiceover enacting portions of history are rendered along. Kings, wars, happiness, celebrations, anger and power; all emotions touch the cord of the onlookers. As the show winds up at around 8:00 at night, we are welcomed into a calmer and cooler Madurai town outside, mellowing down in the anticipation of the next day! At night, I move at a friend’s invitation for dinner and sleep, whose hospitality is a finest example of Madurai’s manners to her guests. Impressed much!

palace nights

The following day was the most anticipated of all. The glory I was about to bask in, being at Madurai Meenakshi temple, the most famous of all temples in India, and one of the oldest heritage sites in the world was just undeniably the best! The glorious architecture, the intricate craftsmanship and all devotion that stands the test of time, is an experience in itself.

One gopuram of the Meenakshi

One gopuram of the Meenakshi

The pillars of Meenakshi

The Madurai Meenakshi has four entrances/ temple gates facing all four directions. The temple boasts of paintings that trick one’s eyes, numerous sculpted pillars and centuries of unhinged charm. The streets outside are swarmed with flower sellers and pooja shops. The warm aroma of incense fills the air near the bylanes of the entrance. It begins and ends divine.

sculptor hands

sculptor hands

As I enter, I am stunned and a beautiful aura of spirituality that engulfs me. The stone structures built on huge pillars whisper a million stories through their deep eyes. With little lamps of brass and silver hung from the ceilings being lit, it was splendid to look at the majestic interiors. Chants of Mantras rose, and for a moment I seemed to be covered by millions of those. Everything around gleamed, chrome yellow. Lamps struggled to flame and flicker in their oil-less wicks. Old women crouched under huge pillars, closed their eyes and prayed teary eyed bringing their palms together. Gold on the Meenakshi amman statue shone. The warriors guarding the temple carved out in stone, gave away the cast of anger for a moment. Old folks gathered and sang praises. The temple bells imitated pendulums. They brought out the divine and I get goose bumps as I witness. People thicken up for prasads from the priest; as he stands on a podium to distribute a small mix of flowers, saffron and sandal paste. Devotees accept the prasad in utter humility and extended respect, closing their eyes and placing the flowers on their hair. Large lamps adorn the sides of every statue and pillar. Priceless.


sculptors that adorn the walls of Meenakshi

sculptors that adorn the walls of Meenakshi


As the sun coursed its rays down, the smooth sandstone paths of the temple, seemed to extend its help. Cold buttermilk were available near small corners as refreshments. A lovely elephant (the temple elephant) with its mahout, stood guarding a hallway, with its trunk swaying playfully, tail wagging and ears flapping. Laxmi, the elephant has been trained to accept donations and bless her fans with her trunk which she does, willfully. Sometimes when she’s a little miffed, she splashes drops of water (or possible spit) on onlookers. I was one such lucky to be bestowed by her grumpiness.

A miffed Laxmi

A miffed Laxmi

Leading off the pathway is the famous 1000 pillar hall. This hall is one of the prime attractions of this temple as the hall is famous for its 1000 pillars each of which on being struck, produces a different musical tone from inside. It’s a marvel that still makes curious eyes crowd. As light pours into from the windows into this hall, it looks majestic, close enough to be astound by the craftsmanship; not that one wouldn’t be! It indeed, makes us all wonder how we can never push the past that built its glory sans any technology.


The thousand pillar hallway

The thousand pillar hallway

Time had come to bid goodbye to this charming town of Madurai with a handful of yummy sweets including ghee laden halwa and savoury murukku, alongside camera filled with beautiful snaps swelling with snippets of memories. Only to be back soon, but this time, to soak into the soul of this humble town; and to never let go.

Madurai, take me back. Make me yours.


The panorama of Meenakshi

The panorama of Meenakshi



highly expressive, roaring appetite for books, food and design; have occasional bouts of flippancy to all things needed. Always hungry for Biryani. Nomad. Binger. Lover.

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Culture and Lifestyle

Where can you buy Argentinian products in the United States?



For immigrants, the aromas and flavors of their countries of origin are something sacred, and they will always want to enjoy them in any situation. For Argentinnians in the United States, the best way to get closer to their roots is through Latinafy, a platform that has a wide variety of South American products that can be ordered from the comfort of your own home.

The United States is among the countries in the world with the largest number of immigrants (of many different nationalities), most of them coming from Latin American countries. According to the Census Bureau, in 2020 there were 31.7 million Hispanic Americans, representing 11.7% of the total population.

The fact that many Latinos live in the U.S. has generated an enormous growth of markets and sectors oriented to satisfy their needs. The idea behind them is to ensure that migrants can have the closest possible connection with their home countries.

When a person leaves their country of origin, they will always miss many things that they have had throughout their lives: their traditions, their usual environment, their acquaintances, but without a doubt one of the things that they will miss the most and that they will look for in the place they go to are the aromas and flavors of their homeland.

The immigration to the United States has been increasing in recent years,especially among Argentinians, in fact in the year 2020 it was known that it exceeded 292 thousand people. This has increased the demand of these immigrants to have access to their favorite products, and thus feel closer to their homeland at all times.

Products from Latin American countries, such as Argentina, are highly sought after around the world, however, they are not easy to find in any physical store, although they are available on digital platforms that are increasingly available for users in various countries, including the United States.

Latinafy, the ideal site

Among the ecommerce sites where you can find a wide variety of items from Argentina and other South American countries, the best and most complete is undoubtedly Latinafy, a place that brings together all those aromas and flavors that make Latin American culture unique.

The team that works on this platform do so with the great pride of showing authentic South American culture to the whole planet. 

It has a variety of product categories to choose from: Best Sellers, Combos, New!, Christmas and holidays, alfajores, books, cheeses, fresh cuts and sweets, traditional desserts, salamis, dulce de leche, candies, infusions, cookies, healthy snacks, alcoholic beverages, authentic leather shoes and jackets, board games, wholesale, pharmacy, mates and thermoses, coffee and tea, cell phone cases and much, much more.

The prestige that Latinafy has achieved is such that they are trusted by the main international manufacturers to represent their products. This is due to their integrity, honesty, reputation and reliability as suppliers, as well as the excellent service and attention they offer to both wholesalers and retailers.

Likewise, their team strives to provide the best products from abroad, constantly expanding, which results in a steady growth. They even offer the opportunity to bring foreign products that are not in their catalogs to your doorstep, just ask for them.

There is no minimum purchase with Latinafy and  the shipping is free on purchases over $45. Undoubtedly, there is no easier way to receive all these products that are so loved and longed for, now you can get them from anywhere and without leaving home.

Products that identify Argentinians

There are several foods and beverages that Argentinians identify with, products that they want to keep tasting even if they are living far away from their homeland, and that thanks to online stores like Latinafy, they can still enjoy without having to leave their homes.

One of the most popular products are the delicious alfajores, which, although not originally from Argentina but from the Arab culture, are widely consumed in the South American country, perhaps it is consumed there more than anywhere else in the world. In fact, according to the Asociación de Distribuidores de Golosinas, Galletitas y Afines, 6 million alfajores are sold every day.

The alfajores are two sweet dough tops with a filling in the middle. There is a wide variety available, being the most popular one the “chocolate con dulce de leche”. The most sought after are the white Guaymallén, Cachafaz, the triple chocolate Fantoche and the chocolate Jorgito.

Chocolates and chocolate bars are also in great demand by Argentinians spread around the world, being the traditional Biznikke cookie with snowy coating one of their favorite chocolates,  a candy that has been in the market for more than 60 years. Milka or Cadbury chocolates are also included.

As for chocolates, Argentinians will surely evoke their happy childhood years when tasting Georgalos or Arcor chocolates, as well as the traditional Jack de Felfort, which popularized chocolates with a surprise toy inside.

A product that Argentinians also love is dulce de leche, which is available in several brands such as Vauquita, La Serenísima, Chimbote, Havanna (which also produces alfajores), San Ignacio, Vacalín and more.

A drink that also identifies the gauchos is Yerba maté, a herb that is placed in hot water and consumed in a container known as a bombilla or mate. There is not a set time of the day to drink it, they drink it at any time, since more than considering it as just another random drink, it is a ritual for Argentinians, something to share with family, friends, or to enjoy alone.

Another very popular drink in Argentina is fernet, of Italian origin. It is a bitter liqueur of the amaro type, made from different herbs that are macerated with wine alcohol. It is then filtered and rests in oak barrels for between six and twelve months.

Overall, if you are looking to taste all the flavours Argentina has to offer from the USA, then we can not stop recommending you check out Latinafy, their big catalog will not disappoint you

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Culture and Lifestyle

12 Travel Podcasts To Inspire Your Next Trip



As the COVID-19 restrictions ease up, travel is on the cards again. If it’s been a while since you’ve thought about traveling, you might be glad of a little inspiration. These podcasts have plenty of traveling stories and tips to share. Whether you’re traveling solo or in a group, you’ll find lots of great ideas here.

1 . Active Travel Adventures 

ATA curates travel adventures for people who love to paddle, bike, hike and more. If you love exploring the planet in an adventurous way, this is the podcast for you. Active Travel Adventures want to inspire people to dream big when it comes to travel.

The podcast is hosted by Kit Parks who also curates the traveling trips. Here you’ll learn about everything from trekking Nepal, to hiking Machu Picchu, or rafting in Colorado. In recent episodes Kit talks about hiking the canyons of Sedona. Throughout the shows you’ll learn everything you need to know about exploring the USA by campervan, and Gorilla trekking in Uganda.

2. Extra Pack Of Peanuts

Extra Pack Of Peanuts is brought to you by Travis Sherry, a world traveler and entrepreneur. Throughout the shows you’ll learn all you need to know about traveling more, (without breaking the bank). Travis interviews plenty of famous travelers including Chris Christensen and Bruce Poon Tip. You’ll get tips on cheap hotels, budgeting and flyer miles. In a particularly interesting episode Travis chats to Mike Savas. Mike talks about his recent travels, ‘learning 12 skills in 12 countries in 12 months.’

3. Girls Talk Travel

In this awesome podcast, hosts Alice and Megsy bring you all you need to know about female travel. The show provides practical and inspirational info about traveling as a woman today. Each week they’re joined by guests who have been there, with plenty of motivational stories to tell. 

Girls Talk Travel dives into a range of different topics including ‘How to be assertive during your travels’ and ‘Kickass female travelers to follow’. You’ ll get traveling safety tips, and advice about adventure activities. The ‘Hometown Highlights’ feature invites female travelers to talk about their hometowns, explaining why other travelers should take a trip there.

4. Outdoorsy Diva 

The Outdoorsy Diva is hosted by Lauren G, a top travel blogger. Tune in for travel trends and interviews with travelers. Throughout these episodes you’ll get lots of advice about making your life more adventurous! Episodes cover a diverse range of themes including ‘swimming with manatees’, ‘a tour of Florida Springs’ and ‘empowering black women’. Lauren interviews Dr. Kim Walker, founder of the Abundant Life Adventure Club. Kim shares what inspired her to create the club, along with her plans for the future. Expect a freshly unique podcast, with plenty of wisdom to share.

5. The Thoughtful Travel Podcast

Amanda Kendle brings you an awesome travel show, packed with fun stories from travelers across the world. Explore topics like getting lost, meeting locals and learning languages. The Thoughtful Travel Podcast offers advice about planning a big trip, single parent travel and travel trends.

Here you’ll find plenty of useful advice to inspire your next trip. Check out themes like, ‘emotional travel’, ‘volunteering experiences’ , and ‘traveling for a sporting event’. If you’re a sports fan you might consider researching the best NFL stadiums when booking a trip.

6. Women Who Travel 

The Women Who Travel podcast is hosted by Meredith Carey and Lale Arikoglu, (both 

Condé Nast Traveler editors). WWT wants to inspire you to get out there and have a real adventure. Lake and Meredith discuss subjects like outdoor hiking gear, traveling in a van, solo travel and meaningful souvenirs. Check out episodes such as ‘what we wish we knew before moving abroad’, and ‘traveling post COVID-19.’ Learn about how traveling can help you to process grief, and the beauty of meeting new people. To ease your worries about traveling solo, Women Who Travel have got all the tips you’ll need.

7. Alpaca My Bags

Alpaca My Bags is a podcast about responsible tourism. Each week Erin Hynes and guests discuss what it means to be a responsible tourist. Erin explores plenty of different themes including authentic travel, travel privilege, sustainability and more. Throughout these shows you’ll get to learn unique perspectives, helping you to be mindful when you travel. Themes on the show have included, ‘colonialism and travel’, ‘is voluntourism ethical?’ and ‘the complexities of adventure travel.’

8. The Family Travel Podcast

The Family Travel Podcast helps families to plan their next trip. The idea is to show families that they don’t need a huge budget to plan the trip of a lifetime. Here you’ll find plenty of inspirational stories from families who are traveling the world. There are plenty of highlights, tips and hints, and more. You’ll get advice on home schooling, funding, destinations, documenting your travels, and lots more. There’s plenty to learn including preparing for family travel and using YouTube to fund your trip. Traveling full time with a family is possible, you just need to be prepared to get a little creative.

9. Wild Ideas Worth Living

If you love adventure and the outdoors, you’ll certainly love Shelby Stanger’s podcast. During these shows Shelby talks to travelers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and authors, about how they’ve made a ‘wild idea’ come to life. To inspire your next escapade, Wild Ideas is what you need. Tune in for a great interview with Angela Tucker, the creator of an epic wildlife documentary ‘The Trees Remember’. Throughout these shows you’ll get plenty of awesome ideas. If you’re looking to do more outdoor activities, Wild Ideas can show you how.

10. City Travel With Kids 

This show is brought to you by Keri Hedrick, Marianna Rogerson and Marta Correale. City Travel With Kids help families to plan their trips, with all the best advice. Learn about the best places to travel, dining recommendations, and managing your itinerary. Whether you want to take your kids to Melbourne, Singapore or Tokyo, you’ll get all the recommendations you need. Get great advice on ‘family travel products’, and ‘flying with babies and toddlers’. Many families worry about traveling with children, but with this podcast, you’ll keep your trip stress free!

11. The Indie Travel Podcast

Craig and Linda Martin are the globe hopping pair behind the Indie Travel podcast. The couple started traveling full time in 2006. Check out the tips and stories, to motivate yourself and get planning. The Indie Travel Podcast offers plenty of ‘how-to’ guides. Learn about budget travel in Auckland, or how to travel with kids. There’s advice about road trips, long flights, and plenty of interviews with fellow travelers. Whether you’re traveling as a family or traveling alone, the Indie Travel Podcast has plenty of wisdom to share. 

12. Between The Mountains 

This is a show for all the explorers, hikers and kayakers. Each week Chris Kilworth interviews traveler guests, with a range of epic stories to share. Here are stories of mountain climbs, forest treks, extreme sports and more. These stories will inspire you toward a different kind of traveling experience. Between The Mountains will give you lots of amazing ideas for your next trip. Expect plenty of entertainment and laughs along the way.

Planning a traveling trip takes a lot of preparation. From choosing your destinations and itinerary to booking your transport and accommodation. Some people like to get super organized, while others like to have a bit of more of a relaxed itinerary. Wherever you are on the scale, don’t forget to check out a few of these handy podcasts.

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Culture and Lifestyle

Common Places To Seek Motivation and Inspiration



As a social species, we humans thrive on interacting and learning from others. When there are problems to be solved, we can pool together our experiences to find out the right solutions. That’s kind of the basis of how humans have come so far–because we’re an intelligent species that understands the importance of cooperation.

But there’s another reason why we humans like to socialise and learn about one another; because it can help give us direction in life. When we’re struggling to overcome a plateau or need inspiration for something, we can typically look at what other people have achieved, what they’re doing, and also what they could become.

So here are some of the most common places to look if you’re lacking motivation or want to seek out something inspirational to help push your life forward.

Seeking out inspirational figures and learning about them

A surprisingly inspirational and valuable resource that is available to everyone is Wikipedia. We can search up almost anyone and find out plenty of information about them, what their life was like, where they came from, and how they rose to success. We can learn about entrepreneurs that we want to mimic, we can learn from famous people in our field, or we can even learn from influential figures.

But it doesn’t always have to be someone extremely famous. We can also look at people such as Mitch Vanhille, a successful athlete that understands the power of inspiration and shares their journey for others to learn from. Similarly, we can learn from YouTube videos that discuss interesting or difficult topics.

Wherever we look, there is someone out there that could inspire us and give us the motivation we need to break our limitations and reach new heights. We just need to drop any pride that we have and start looking up to other figures.

Understanding a different way of life

Another great way to inspire yourself is to look at another worldview. For example, the process of understanding different cultures can help you embrace a unique way of life. You don’t need to adopt it yourself, but understanding their motivations, what inspires them, and also what compels them can be an amazing way to learn about humans and their actions.

There are so many different ways to approach life that it can really be eye-opening to see how other people plan to make their journey through life. Some people might be hyper-focused on reaching their goals, while others might have a more laid-back approach. Whatever your reasons or motivations, these are both extremely valid ways to tackle life’s challenges.

So whatever struggles you encounter, it’s important to reach out and learn from other people. After all, we’re a social species and we tend to learn more when we start engaging others, interacting with them, and just talking about things. So if you ever need some motivation in the future, we hope these tips can help you overcome life’s challenges and get you back on the right track to your own definition of success.

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