Geography and the 2018 Winter Olympics

Winter brings chills to various parts of whichever hemisphere is having winter. How chilly it gets, varies from place to place. You must have read about climatic controls – those factors that affect the kind of climate a place has.

31 Jan, 2018

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Fire-mouth – jvālā-mukhī

“Don’t go on the internet!”, you are often admonished. And rightly so. It is addictive and can lead you to waste a lot of time, believing things are neither true nor wholesome for you. I get all that and I agree with it. However, …

17 Jan, 2018

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Little Rajasthan, Bengaluru

My father was a veteran of the old market (pete; pronounced PAY-tay) area of Bengaluru. Every evening, he used to walk from the Accountant General’s office (near the Vidhana Saudha) back home to where we lived at the time, on the shores of the emerald lake! It was actually Yediyur lake, the supplier of all […]

10 Jan, 2018

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One plate idli

I have lived in a few different parts of the world over the years. Of all the breakfast foods, the ones I grew up with in Bengaluru are my favorites. Though I like and relish the various other kinds of breakfast foods out there, my comfort foods for breakfast include: idli (no. 1 favorite!), vaday, […]

08 Jan, 2018

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Underwater vulnerability

“I have just sent you an email. Check it and let me know what you think. I’ll stay online”, is a common part of conversation across continents these days. Usually, in a matter of seconds the recipient is able to read that email. I often find myself saying, “It’s been ten minutes, since I sent […]

02 Jan, 2018

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Deadly geographies (1)

The four questions of geography: Where is it? Why is it there? So what? What if? We apply these to some deadly geographies today.

12 Dec, 2017

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Deadly geographies (2)

Coca to cocaine, we saw, was a process of bulk-reduction (large volume of coca leaves reduced to smaller volume of product) and value-addition (the cost of the product is higher than that of the raw material).

05 Dec, 2017

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Deadly geographies (3)

Today, we look at the geographies of heroin, another very deadly drug. It is connected to terrorism (especially in Afghanistan), international violent crime, corruption, and efforts by many governments to control its flow. These control efforts have not been particularly effective, alas.

03 Dec, 2017

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Circular concerns (1)

China, India, Pakistan, USA, … relationships with ups and downs lead to long-term policies that make for very interesting geographies of international relations. This is the kind of current geography (and history) that we ought to be studying in our classes.

21 Nov, 2017

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Circular concerns (2)

International geo-politics (geography-related politics) is a very tricky process. It requires a good knowledge of history, human psychology, economics, anthropology, etc. And, of course, geography. So, keep your atlas handy while you read all this.

14 Nov, 2017

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Circular concerns (3)

We looked at several things in the last two weeks in this column: the rivalry among the USA, Russia, and China for global power. At the same time each and every country has concerns about terrorism and its many effects, including drug trafficking. From Asia, mainly Afghanistan and Myanmar, the trafficking in heroin is deadly […]

06 Nov, 2017

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Geographies of our daily needs

manasi cha paritushtey k’orthavān ko daridaha If one is contented in the mind, who is wealthy, who is poor? We often confuse needs and wants. This leads to many complications in life. As with everything else, this also has a strong geography connection.

15 Oct, 2017

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Crises of extremes

There was a time in India, when “May you have a house full of children” was a blessing. I used to mockingly bless my niece that way when she was in college (she used to make excellent cardamom tea for me). My mother used to chide me, “Don’t say such a thing even as a […]

11 Oct, 2017

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This time, two puzzles for you. Work on these with your friends. If you have seen another person whom you don’t know, but would like to get to know, you can make friends with them using these puzzles. Invite them to join you in solving them. It might well lead you to a good long-term […]

04 Oct, 2017

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Those Teacher Moments (Part 1)

Where was the Treaty of Versailles signed? What is the color of the passing bear? A spirited response to rain, rain, go away. And the light bulb going on. The many moments only I have gotten to enjoy.

27 Sep, 2017

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Those Teacher Moments (Part 2)

Continuing my sharing of some of the teacher moments from my joyous experience of geography education with children …

20 Sep, 2017

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Śrī Purandara-dāsa’s geography

Last time, I shared a brief introduction to the sacred traces of hari-dāsas (servants of God) and mentioned one example of a hari-dāsa, namely Śrī Purandara-dāsa (‘SPD’ for short). Today, I want to share a few selected examples from his songs that connect with geography and geographic concepts.

12 Sep, 2017

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Sacred geography … on the move!

We are all geographers, whether we realize it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. So, every bit of curiosity that we feel about the world around us is valid and important.

05 Sep, 2017

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Geographer’s ear

As any kind of seeker of knowledge (i.e., vidyārthī), we employ more than one sense at a time to learn about our world … and, hopefully, about ourselves. Even when one or more of our five external senses (touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste) may be weak or not functioning, we find ways around these […]

08 Aug, 2017

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Proscription and Prescription – Taboo and Compulsory Geographies (Part 4)

In one of the three previous articles in this series (you can read it here), I spoke about the taboo geographies of menstruation. Today, I will explore that topic in a little more detail and suggest reasons we should all care about it.

08 Aug, 2017

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Proscription and Prescription – Taboo and Compulsory Geographies (Part 3)

In the previous two articles, I spoke about some taboo geographies and some of their impacts in one particular context. There are other geographies that are compulsory. These also have an impact on individual lives. Today, a brief introduction to a few of these. The school The Indian constitution stipulates that every child, up to […]

08 Aug, 2017

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Proscription and Prescription – Taboo and Compulsory Geographies (Part 2)

Last time, I introduced the concepts of rasa and geography. I talked about how these are intimately connected. I also talked about why this connection is important for us as Citizen Geographers. Today, I want to share with you an example of taboo geographies that a team of students researched and took action on. I […]

02 Aug, 2017

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Proscription and Prescription – Taboo and Compulsory Geographies (Part 1)

In this four-part series, I invite you to explore geographies (yes, plural) in a different way. Such exploration has certainly changed my life and educated me a lot. I hope you, too, will find the same.

26 Jul, 2017

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Geographer’s eye

This is for for you, the student (noun; a person who actively seek knowledge; vidyārthī)! By this definition, everyone is a student if you are “actively seeking knowledge.”

19 Jul, 2017

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Eye in the sky

Imagine the battlefield of Kurukshetra and that famous conversation that happened between the two personalities: Krishna and Arjuna. This forms the situation in which the poem, Bhagavad-gītā, is set.

12 Jul, 2017

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Climate change is unhealthy

Human-caused, fast global warming is unhealthy not just for our planet but also for us personally. We have to adjust to new realities. We also have to take action to reduce or prevent some new realities.

05 Jul, 2017

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As the ice goes …

Under-water waterfalls sustain life. What’s above is a protective structure. And a protective process. When that protection is gone, life itself is threatened. We wreak havoc and have to adapt to changing circumstances. We do. But not fast enough. This week, disturbing news from Antarctica.

28 Jun, 2017

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Weather maps

The weather is a description of the atmosphere’s physics for a place for a shortish duration of time. This much we know. We also know that you can show weather conditions on maps. This seems like it’s not a big deal! But it is! Would I lie to you?

21 Jun, 2017

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Geographical Rights

Over the past few years, I have been writing about geographical matters to get you to look at geography beyond the classroom. Your textbook can only show you some important concepts in geography, but very little application. So, here’s a look at one.

14 Jun, 2017

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Why we need you!

Greetings, young geographers! Welcome back to school and a new academic year. When you care about your world, you are using geography. A good geography education can make you a more powerful agent of change. It’s not just about location and Google maps. Discover how! Wrong notions For far too long, you have been mistakenly […]

07 Jun, 2017

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“Thank God, I’m a 100% American!”

Well! Here are we are, at the end of another academic year. Final exams are already underway for many of you. I think of exams as kolli devvas (ಕೊಳ್ಳಿ ದೆವ್ವ) – the Kannada term probably refers to a swamp gas (methane, one of the deadly greenhouse gases) that has lit up and is being blown […]

23 Mar, 2017

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Desire and despoliation

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” However, those of us who can afford to pay money for what we want (more than what we need) very often end up getting it. We may buy it, but we are not paying the true cost of […]

15 Mar, 2017

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Foodie geography

Once a student whom I taught geography, born in India, raised abroad, was then in Bengaluru because his father had bee posted here by his company. He had a younger sister, too. I was to find out that he not only had a great sense of humor, but was also a brilliant geographer!

09 Mar, 2017

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It’s a small world!

All places interact with other places – through the flow of certain resources (air and water, for example) and through the movement of human beings. This is called spatial interaction (spatial is the adjectival form of space).

02 Mar, 2017

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Points of view

Point of view, often abbreviated to POV, is very important for us to make sense of our world. And since POVs differ among us, we have to learn to accommodate each other.

23 Feb, 2017

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Earth Karma

It is often said that everything that the universe is made of, we are also made of. We eat Earth! Think about it just a little and you will easily see how our physical bodies take up and throw out various elements. It’s all in the food we consume and the waste that we shed. […]

16 Feb, 2017

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Restless Earth

Quake, shake, roll … Nothing is as still as it seems. We live in a truly false sense of security about the ground below us!

07 Feb, 2017

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Home to geography

Geography is everywhere in our lives. It’s just that we may not be paying attention to it. Not only is it everywhere, we are using it all the time. Take away geography and history from our lives and everything falls apart.

19 Jan, 2017

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Pongal-oooh, Pongal!

Minimum temperatures in Bengaluru have been quite low lately – in the mid-teens on some mornings, making the mornings a little chilly. My colleague Ms Vidya Shankar, visiting Chicago, reports minimum temperatures of 1 degree Fahrenheit (what’s that in Celsius?) and even lower on some days.

12 Jan, 2017

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New Year

Welcome back from your holidays and to a new year … one of many we observe each year! Ugadi, Vishu, 2017, etc. depending on the calendar we use. This year is going to be geographically interesting in many ways. Here are some examples.

05 Jan, 2017

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MAD madness

Today, a rather depressing interactive map and evidence of how stupid we humans are. We have spent so much time, money, resources, and energy to build weapons that we can drop on each other and wipe life out.

22 Dec, 2016

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One-ness and geography

One-ness and geography Human-environment interaction is a major theme in geography. Several school textbooks only vaguely talk about this. Agriculture, industrial activity (primary, secondary, tertiary), global warming, climate change, and settlement are the usual topics subjected to this cursory treatment.

19 Dec, 2016

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Faithful geographies

Faithful geographies Religions and their geographies are fascinating to study. And to understand. The geographies of religions is an important part of cultural geography – the geography associated with cultures.

08 Dec, 2016

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Pious Citizen Geography

Pious Citizen Geography A journey My guru, Dr Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj, is a specialist in sacred geographies. My upbringing with Karnātaka sangītam; with the sacred lore in Samskrtam, Tamizh, Kannada, Telugu; and the syncretism that I spoke of in my previous column was the result of many cultural influences by many gurus. My parents, uncles, […]

23 Nov, 2016

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Syncretic geographies

Syncretic geographies Syncretism is “the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.” ( In my life, several gurus have taught me the importance of syncretism; chief among them were my amma and my geography guru (Dr. Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj). What are syncretic geographies and why […]

15 Nov, 2016

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Melodious geography

Melodious geography Hindu iconography of Krshna (I prefer this spelling) shows him with a vamshi – a short flute. What geography connections do I find with this?

10 Nov, 2016

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Geographical olio

Geographical olio Olio means “a medley or potpourri, as of musical or literary selections; miscellany.” ( Today, an online geographical olio for you to explore.

03 Nov, 2016

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The Indian Diaspora – at home and abroad

The Indian Diaspora – at home and abroad Migration. Relocation. Push-and-pull. “Greener pastures.” That itch in the foot. Recollection, re-enaction, re-creation. Tensions. Homecoming and home-going. All these, and the lens of geography. In today’s column.

03 Oct, 2016

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Pilgrimage ‘basin’

Pilgrimage “basin” Chandra Shekhar Balachandran The Institute of Geographical Studies, Bengaluru Rivers. Catchment areas. Sacred places, sacred journeys. Tirupati – local to international. Coffee time conversations with my guru. All add up to the perfect recipe for learning geography.

11 Sep, 2016

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Maps galore!

Maps galore! A cautionary tale from the USA – an HIV crisis mapped. Then, a set of interesting maps of the London ‘tube’ trains (or the ‘underground’). Ending with a map of where our foods come from. These are on today’s special menu at the Geography Darshini!

07 Sep, 2016

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Up above, Down below

Worlds less-known, but suspected to be rich with resources. Clutter on the ocean floor. Mapping poverty on land. Geography pervades all of these because it addresses its four fundamental questions. Remember them? (1) Where is it? (2) Why is it there? (3) So what? (4) What if …?

21 Aug, 2016

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Bicycle sharing. Migration. Euro-toponymy in the USA. Map-reading. And other matters in today’s potpourri. Pay special attention to the italicized words – they are geography concepts you should explore.

11 Aug, 2016

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Yummy provenance!

Bangarapet chat, Mysore paak, Maddur vaday, Ooty apple, New York pizza, Mysore / Kancheevaram / Dharmavaram / Benaras silk, and Andhra pickle. So many products come with place names attached to them. The geography of foods includes the concept of provenance.

02 Aug, 2016

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The stories we write

All together now, loudly: “Geo means Earth, graphy means study of; Geography means study of Earth.” I, too, grew up on that diet.

25 Jul, 2016

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A geographical potpourri

“Potpourri” is usually used in the context of fragrances, specifically a mixture of fragrances. The origin and meanings of the word are interesting. This week, I share a collection of geographical items with you. Check them out; they’re more interesting than anything you will see in your textbook! Guaranteed! Or your money back! (Terms and […]

21 Jul, 2016

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Geographies of disease

Geography is inescapable. Because, in all things, place matters. Take a whole lot of species, include humans, in a place and you will see what location has to do with disease. Here are a few examples.

07 Jul, 2016

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Doing geography research (Part 1 of 2)

Geography research is fun! Project work. Chart paper. Wikipedia, copy, paste, get marks. Topic something mundanely boring, usually not related to where you live. This is very common. Instead, try something different. And get recognized and encouraged for it. This includes marks and a lot more. And, in the process, learn how geography works. Then […]

14 Jun, 2016

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Doing geography research (Part 2 of 2)

This, the concluding part of “Doing geography research”, contains two examples of how to ask the “four geography questions” and how you may consider presenting your research. (Read Part 1)

13 Jun, 2016

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Here, eat some grass!

Food grains, staples, geographies, and eco-friendliness. With a slight modification in your diet, you, too, can be more eco-friendly while also improving your health. Here are some grasses that can help!

07 Jun, 2016

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Greetings to all my young geographer-friends (and not-so-young readers, too)! You are now in a new academic year. Exciting possibilities, new things to learn, new friends to make, and I hope new ways to learn also. Considering the season, I want to begin this year with these: rāga Amrtavarshinī, drought, legend, a place, its people, […]

02 Jun, 2016

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Summer kosambari

Cooling, soothing, mixture of mung dal, cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice, coriander, coconut, etc. – kōsambari is a lovely mixture for a summer day. Today, I give you a geographical kosambari, to refresh your mind (and body?) … with geography. Relish it and open your mind to enjoyment during your summer holidays.

30 Mar, 2016

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Climate pictures

Different places. Different locations, heights, proximity to sea, clothing, foods, agriculture, and culture. Understand the geography and you understand a lot of these things. Here are four examples.

23 Mar, 2016

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Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Brazil. And, alas, Zika. Holi in India. Topsy-turvy world designed to give kids in geography classes headaches! And, of course, the dreaded annual exams. Summer vacation soon to come! Well it’s jaggery and neem!

16 Mar, 2016

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Mother tongue!

Travel, human migration, language, communication … they can open up interesting geographical experiences. Here is language geography lite … with a little latitude, if you know what I mean.

10 Mar, 2016

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Teacher moments

Venn diagrams. The biosphere. Interactions – apparent and otherwise. Children’s intuition. The lighting up of eyes, a comment, an answer, … Each one a Teacher Moment that thrills. This is part of why I am a geographer.

03 Mar, 2016

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It’s about TIME!

Looting by imperial powers. Enslavement and human trafficking across seas. All this sounds evil. But sometimes there are other consequences that may not have been intended … including coordination of economic activities across the world … and generations of young children suffering in geography class trying to figure out the time in different places of […]

24 Feb, 2016

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Inspirational citizen geographers

Subject vs. discipline. Textbook vs. lived life. How does a geographer bridge these “vs.” gaps and integrate them in life? What is a “geographic” life? Two examples from my world of geographers show me how it could be done.

18 Feb, 2016

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Globalization blues

“It’s a small world!”, we sometimes exclaim. In a pleasant sort of way. When we meet someone in an unlikely place. Geography, you know? But it is not always that pleasant. Welcome to the other side of spatial interaction.

18 Feb, 2016

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Geographies of Zika

Babies being born with defects. Pregnant women advised to be careful where they travel. Other women told not to get pregnant. Travel agents worrying. Geography. And a mosquito in the middle of this mess.

18 Feb, 2016

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Sometimes, you just have to wonder. Are some people serious or are they just kidding around? Take planoterrestrialists, for instance. Rapper B.o.B. tweets and raps, disses astrophysicist who, in turn, disses the rapper. It’s all funny but not funny!

29 Jan, 2016

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What’s in a name?

Lavelle Road or …? Leningrad or …? Bangalore or …? Why do place names matter enough for people to fight for or against a name? Why do governments officially change names of places? This is another way in which we engage with places, the primary concern of geography.

21 Jan, 2016

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High school students at NGYS-2014

Secondary school. Primary and secondary research in geography. Professional presentation at a geography conference. These two did it. Can you? Of course, you can. You get your chance in September 2016.

03 Jan, 2016

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Geography exploration using the Indian Railways

Traveling by Indian trains has a romance all its own. A good part of this romance comes from the geography of it all. And that’s not just the hills, valleys, villages, and towns you travel through. There’s a LOT more!

02 Jan, 2016

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End-of-year chur-muri

Well, another year comes to an end. Time for you to relax and have some churmuri. Get away from the textbook geography and explore these links online. If possible, ask your parents to join you on this exploration.

30 Dec, 2015

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Merry Christmas!

Winter. “Monkey” caps, shawls, sweaters, ear-muffs, and brrrrr-ing. There are certain geographical aspects to Christmas. Here are some.

17 Dec, 2015

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