JAR Flag-off Ceremony (Day 7)

To commemorate the first day of the JAR program, the Rajasthan Foundation organized a morning Flag-off ceremony at the Hotel Khasa Kothi (in Jaipur) for the program participants. The six JAR program participants had an opportunity to get acquainted with each other over breakfast. All six of the JAR program participants (four from USA, two from Nepal) seemed excited and also a bit anxious about what the next ten days would bring. We were comforted to learn that the JAR-ites will be joined by a veteran Rajasthan tour guide (Hari) and an RF official (Ajit) for the entire ten day trip, and will have a chartered bus for our exclusive use.

At the flag-off ceremony, we also had an opportunity to meet with Rajasthan Foundation (RF) officials that were instrumental in setting up this program including: Vinod Ajmera (Acting Director), Rajeev Arora (Vice President), and Sourabh Taniwal (Executive Officer). The JAR-ites received some words of encouragement from the RF officials, snapped a few photos, and then were “flagged off” to commence our ten-day trip!

JAR in the Bhaskar Newspaper

Ankur_Jaipur

Ankur News

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New Delhi: Interesting Sites (Days 1-6)

Qutb Minar

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I was extremely excited to check out the Qutb Minar on this visit! Standing at 234 feet tall, this minaret can be seen from many parts of the city. The Qutb Minar was completed over 900 years ago by the Mughal rulers and was built using red sandstone.

So why did the Mughals build this impressive structure? As it turns out, no one’s really sure! Some people think it was to celebrate a major victory for the empire. Some others believe that it was used as a place of prayer. Yet others believe that it was strategically placed to be utilized as a watchtower to detect potential threats to the empire. Regardless of the reason, the Qutb Minar is an integral part of Delhi’s history.

Note: The entire Qutb Minar complex which includes Alai-Minar (unfinished tomb), gardens, and other monuments.

Red Fort

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The Red Fort was easily one of my favorite structures in Delhi. The Red Fort is entirely imposing from the outside, due its massive walls, sharp features, and vibrant red sandstone color. The fort was constructed by a Mughal emperor (Shah Jahan), and served as residence for future Mughal emperors. The Red Fort is a peaceful site to visit, and I found myself on a bench surrounded by green space and flocks of bird for almost 30 minutes.

Note: As I was walking through the Red Fort, I kept seeing similarities between it and the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, China!

Dilli Haat

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Dilli Haat is a unique craft bazaar and food plaza that features goods from all parts of India. It is a government sponsored bazaar, and it allows local artisans to sell their products directly to customers at reasonable prices. The craft stalls change every 15 days and follow a theme (when we visited, it was “Weaves”). In addition, there are permanent food stalls where we had an option of trying foods from every state in India. Think of the Dilli Haat as a “Taste of India”, both for crafts and foods!

Chandni Chowk

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One of the oldest and busiest markets in Delhi, and is known all over India. There are 2,500 stores located within the market selling an extremely diverse set of authentic Indian clothing, food, and other goods. Even compared to rest of Delhi, I find this market to be extremely congested! Some of the most notable Indian brands can be found with a location in Chandi Chowk, including the original location of Haldiram’s. After a nice walk through the market, I paid a quick visit to the Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, which is a historical place of worship for the Sikh followers. It was a neat experience, and I even had to purchase and wear a head covering before I could enter!

Other Sites
Purana Qila/Old Fort – Aged more than 5 thousand years, is considered to be the oldest existing structure in Delhi
Humayun’s Tomb – Famous tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun
Khan Market – Most expensive retail location in India (21st most expensive in world)
Jain Lal Mandhir – Best-known temple for the Jain religion in Delhi

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New Delhi: Overview (Days 1-6)

New Delhi is awesome!! If I choose to live in India in the future, New Delhi would be first or second on my list of places to live. It has all the amenities of a large, metropolitan city (e.g. nice movie theaters, global cuisine) and a diverse economy that includes a healthy expat population that serve across the sectors of business, media, non-profit, and international affairs. There is a place for every type of individual in this city, and I found it very manageable to get around this city via car/auto-rickshaw. It also helps that I have an amazing family here in New Delhi, who ensured that my first few days in India were extremely enjoyable!

I really found New Delhi’s cityscape to be quite fascinating. New Delhi’s town plan was designed to highlight the supremacy of the British ruling government in the early 1900s. Therefore, there is a strong British influence on the city architecture in addition to the influences from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim architecture.

Random fact: Delhi is a sister city of Chicago (my former city)!

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Indian Humor at Café Coffee Day

If you walk behind the Barista counter, you will wash plates!

If you walk behind the Barista counter, you will wash plates!

Café Coffee Day, also known as CCD, is the most popular coffee shop in India. Similar to Starbucks in the United States, it is hard to walk more than a couple blocks in a metropolitan area without running into a CCD shop. Although CCD has experienced rapid growth over the last few years (over 1,300 shops today), I was surprised to see several new competitors in the marketplace today. Still, CCD hopes to continue its dominance in the Indian marketplace by focusing on serving coffee efficiently, catering to all types of coffee drinkers, and providing attractive pricing for the growing middle class in India.

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Playing Cards: A source of controversy?

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On the first leg of my flight to India on Emirates Airlines (DC –> Dubai), I asked the flight attendant for a pack of playing cards. Much to my surprise, the flight attendant first demanded proof that my final destination was not Iran! As it turns out, possession of playing cards in Iran is a federal offense and punishable by law.

After showing my second boarding pass (Dubai –> Delhi), I was able to secure two packs of playing cards. One pack was a lifesaver for the long bus rides and late night masti/fun with JAR, and the second pack made for a nice gift for a bhaiya/older cousin.

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Greetings & Namaste!

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Introduction

Hello, friends and family! I am currently writing to you from the beautiful city of New Delhi, the capital of Republic of India. I am setting up my first-ever travel blog so that I can share the best of the best of this journey with you. The title of this blog is inspired entirely from a book named India Calling. It’s a fantastic book that captures the intricacies of modern India through the perspective of author Anand Girdharadas, who is an American-raised Indian and a former strategy consultant that traveled to India to better connect with his motherland, India. Sound familiar?!

For this blog, I have simply one mission: to keep my readers engaged and eager to come back for more! I will aim to focus the posts on the best sights, stories, travel tips, and cultural experiences. All photos that appear on this blog will be taken from my camera (aka phone).

Now, let’s get started!

The Journey (in 5 questions)

Who?

Me! For the purpose of this trip, the most important part of identity is that my family is originally from the Indian state of Rajasthan.

What?

I am traveling to India to participate in the Jaane Apna Rajasthan (JAR) program. JAR, also known as Know Your Rajasthan, is a newly founded program that targets non-resident Rajasthani youth (between 18 and 28 years of age) that wish to learn more about their heritage.

JAR has organized a full 10-day itinerary for a small group to travel throughout the State of Rajasthan. Some of the most interesting activities on this trip include:

• Visits to major historical places
• Stays in ancestral and rural villages
• Exploration of deserts and wildlife sanctuaries
• Tour of major industrial projects and factories
• Meetings with NGOs, universities, gov’t officials, and distinguished village personalities

I have extended the JAR travel itinerary by 11 more days. This affords me the opportunity to visit extended family and travel to other Indian states.

Through the gracious support of the Rajasthan Foundation, JAR will be covering 90% of the round-trip flight expenses to India. JAR will also provide housing, transportation, food and a small Per Diem for out-of-pocket expenses. Quick shout-out to my uncle, for introducing me to the JAR program.

Where?

New Delhi (5 days) – The capital city of the Republic of India, with over 17 million residents (second most in India)

State of Rajasthan (10 days) – The land of Rajputs, or “kings”, and the largest state by area in India. Visits to the following cities: Jaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh Fort, Alwar

Goa (4 days) – A small, coastal state in West India that brings in over 2 million visitors per year.World-renowned for its favorable climate, excellent beaches, party atmosphere, and world heritage architecture.

Bangalore (2 days) – Third most populous city In India, and is located in the state of Karnataka. Known for being the central hub for India’s IT sector.

When?

From mid-December 2012 to early January 2013.

Why?

I hope to realize the benefits from JAR’s primary objective (in their words):

“To instill a sense of pride and respect in the hearts of the Non-Resident Rajasthani Youth towards the glorious heritage, cultural splendor and exquisite architecture of the State and at the same time acquaint them with Modern Characters  of  Rajasthan with  its  economic,  educational, technological  and industrial progress so that they develop  affinity  and  affection with the land of their ancestors.”

I also plan to take this opportunity to re-connect with my extended family in India.

Conclusion

I will work diligently to earn your readership and I am excited to share my journey with you! I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback, along with your patience while I work to incorporate them into future posts.

I’ll be right back,
India is Calling

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