Hello Honey Bunny!

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Hello Honey Bunny – IDEA Cellular (Ad Campaign)

Hello Honey Bunny is the most happening and viral ad campaign in India at the moment. With a catchy jingle, Honey Bunny is intended to highlight the strength of Idea Cellular’s coverage across all the regions of India. If you watch the video (click image or link above), you’ll notice that Indians of all cultural backgrounds and regions can be seen humming to Honey Bunny. Idea Cellular has supported this campaign with a 360-effort, focusing on both traditional and social media delivery channels to reach an extremely wide audience.

Check it out, its pretty catchy. I take no responsibility if the song gets stuck in your head!

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Udaipur! The best Christmas gift I received was from my cousin, who set me up with an unlimited mobile internet connection on my laptop… finally internet! I’ve been blogging offline since it’s been almost impossible to connect to the net over the last few days. Expect to see several updates over the next day.

This year for Christmas, I will halfway around the world from home. Instead of waking up late to mom’s chai and opening presents with family, I will be sitting on the JAR bus for six hours as we head onward to Jaipur. That’s not going to stop me from enjoying the Christmas spirit, however. I just downloaded every Christmas song known to man-kind, so we’re going to have a fun bus ride!

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The Indian Railways System: It’s Huge!

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Like clockwork orange, each time we have approached a railroad crossing there has almost always been a near-approaching train. After the JAR bus comes to a halt, I found myself always in awe of how developed the rail infrastructure seems to be. Earlier today, I asked Hari (our tour guide) to share his knowledge about the Indian Railways. Hari: “It’s huge!”

Indeed, it is. As an employer to 1.4M people, the Indian Railways is the 8th largest employer in the world (and largest employer in India). The Railway also transports over     9 Bn passengers and 1 Bn tons of freight in a calendar year, utilizing a system of over 7,500 stations across 70,000 miles of track.

Who is largely responsible for the creation of such a vast railroad enterprise that transformed India? The British monarchy, who continued to rule over India in the mid 1800s. At the time, the British government encouraged private UK investors to join them in developing the Indian rail system. The government promised these investors a guaranteed annual return of 5% to build a railroad system. After the rails were built, there would be a transfer of ownership to the British government and the private company would retain operational control. This was an amazing deal for the UK investors, and naturally led to an acceleration of railway development in India.

Source: Wikipedia image

Source: Wikipedia image

 

 

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Fire Dance in Pushkar

Photo Credit: Anirudh Choudhary

Non-locals partaking in a fire dance during a Pushkar sunset. | Photo Credit: Anirudh Choudhary

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At some point during this fire dance, the woman’s hair was clearly on fire. Whether she was in the moment, or partaking in the local hippie culture (re: narcotics), is anyone’s guess. For the ~50 people of us watching as the sun was setting over the lake, we were simply glad to be able to watch this electrifying performance.

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Pushkar: “The Lotus Pond Town” (Day 7)

After a qJAR_trip_ankurphotos 361uick stop to Ajmer, the JAR group continued on to the beautiful, holy town of Pushkar. As host to a holy lake and sacred temples that separately honor the three most notable Hindu deities, Pushkar naturally serves as an important pilgrimage site for millions of Hindus each year. In fact, Pushkar has been often cited as a top ten religious places in the world. In addition, Pushkar also holds an annual Camel Fair for five days each Fall, which draws in thousands of tourists to witness the livestock exchange, camel races, and other cultural events.

The JAR group was able to visit the major cultural sites in Pushkar, all while taking in a stunning sunset and fire dance at Pushkar Lake. It was absolutely therapeutic way for us to spend our first evening on the trip!

Pushkar Lake

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A holy bath in Pushkar Lake is believed to wash away a person’s sins.

Pushkar Lake has religious and historical significance to the Hindu observers. According to some, Pushkar Lake was formed by the tears of Lord Shiva (Hindu god of transformation) after the passing of his wife (Sati). In the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Pushkar Lake is said to have been formed by lotus petals dropped by Lord Brahma (Hindu god of creation) after battle. However the case, the end result is quite stunning!

There are 52 ghats, or “series of steps leading to holy water”, surrounding Pushkar Lake. Each ghat has its own character and style, but each have a series of consistent rules:

  1. Each ghat must have at least one temple associated to it. By logic, Puskhar must therefore have 52+ temples in the city.
  2. No shoes allowed on the ghat or walkways adjacent to the lake.
  3. No unauthorized photos of people that are bathing in the lake.

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Brahma Temple & Pushkar Town

As the only temple dedicated to Brahma (Hindu god of creation), the Brahma Temple is believed to be over 2000 years old. Once a year, there a religious festival in honor of Lord Brahma in Pushkar. The JAR group paid our respects at the temple, and also visited a small prayer site for Lord Kuber, who is noted as the “treasurer of the world”. It is said that 3x prayers for Lord Kuber will ensure a financially healthy and wealthy life.

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Travel Tips: How to Handle Street Beggars

Dear Reader,

Please take this following note with the spirit of which this post was intended. I recognize that poverty is very, very real in India (along with many parts of the world, including the USA). With that said, if you’d like to help fight poverty in India please feel free to visit the following site for more info: Indian Charities. Thanks!

After visiting the Darga Sharif (Ajmer), the JAR group decided to walk back to the JAR bus which was required ~10 minutes of walking through a narrow market street congested with pedestrians. Only a minute into our walk, a few street beggars approached our group asking for change. Each of them had a sad story to share, and it was not hard to feel a bit touched by their stories. However, we had been instructed not to engage them or offer them any cash.

So I kept walking. And the street beggars, both women and children, continued to follow me. It was quite impressive, considered I managed to change my pace and direction several times, but they had no trouble keeping up! Then, I made my first mistake. I engaged one of the street beggars and requested that she please stop following me.

Tip #1: Do not ever engage in conversation with street beggars, if you are not planning to offer them cash

As soon as I verbally acknowledged the street beggar, she took it as a sign that I could be won over. From this point forward, I had no chance of escaping her using either reason or my (lack of) speed.  To her credit, she was extremely persistent. In fact, in her pursuit she knocked over a small toy at an outdoor merchant’s stall. When the merchant yelled at her, she accused me of knocking over the item. In effect, she was able to make me feel like it would be more convenient to pay her to get the privacy I so desperately wanted.

Tip #2: Never flash any sort of currency in front of a street beggar, unless you’re expecting to pay

In this case, I didn’t… but I have been burned before. If you show the cash, expect to pay. Once a street beggar sees the cash, they will start to get a bit more aggressive in their pursuit.

Tip #3: Pay for one, pay for all

If you decide to pay a street beggar a small to moderate amount, you will finally be left alone right? Not the case! In fact, the story of your generosity will spread like wildfire to the nearby street beggars and they will seek to receive your blessings (aka cash) as well.

Tip #4: You can still help!

After my first few tips, it may seem that my negative experience dissuaded me from wanting to help out the street beggars. Not the case! I found it personally fulfilling to provide alternative forms of help to street beggars. If I had a juice box or food on hand, I would offer it to a child beggar. If a street beggar was performing a service (e.g. playing music), I felt more inclined to offer them a small amount of change while walking by.

There are times you may want to help in your own way, and that’s perfectly ok. My only recommendation would be to have a game plan prior to interacting to street beggars and then consistently stick to that plan!

This was the first of many times that the JAR tour guide, Hari, would tell me to take it all in… “It’s part of the Indian experience!”

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Passing through Kishangarh & Ajmer (Day 7)

On our way from Jaipur to Pushkar, we passed through two notable cities, Kishangarh and Ajmer.

Kishangarh: The “Marble City”

Kishangarh is notable because it is the “Marble City” of India. The marble industry of Kishangarh employs over 100,000 people (equivalent to 1 lac people). Rajasthan produces and processes green and white marble, which are recognized worldwide for their strength/hardness and natural beauty. In Rajasthan, marble is extensively used for housing structures.

Ajmer: “City of Good Understanding”

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In Ajmer, we stopped to visit Magazine, the city museum, which was once the residence of Prince Salim, the son of Moghul Emperor Akbar. We were greeted by an overly enthusiastic museum caretaker, who suggested that the museum should be referred to as the fort of Ajmer. He went on to share the importance of Ajmer in Indian history. Some of the highlights include: first place where British education was implemented, seeds of India’s modernization, provide good shelter to India’s freedom movement, and also a city of religious tolerance (holy city for Muslims and Hindu).

After our visit to the museum, we decided to hike up to see the Dargah Sharif, an Islamic shrine for the saint Moinuddin Chisti. Chisti is revered for building the permanent foundation of Islam in India. It was extremely crowded 10-minute walk to get into the shrine, and we were also required to wear traditional Islamic head coverings while paying our respects at the shrine.

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