India, Travel

Weekend getaways to visit over the weekend in Delhi, India

There are several places  to visit over the weekend or for a day trip from Delhi. Here is a list primarily for myself and friends of such places. These include mostly places that I have visited myself.

Please note that several of these places would be done better, if you include an extra day i.e friday or monday or do it over a long weekend of 4-5 days as traffic and road conditions make it difficult to cover much distance for a reasonable trip in India unlike US or other western countries.

Weekend Trips

Common ones, first choice, if you haven’t seen them before:

Itinerary I:

* Agra – Famous for Tajmahal & Fatehpur Sikri (which is about 25 km from Agra). Agra is appx 200 km from Delhi & it takes about 3.5 to 4 hours on average each side.

* Mathura & Vrindavan – It is en-route to Agra from Delhi – Appx 150 km from Delhi. It is famous for temples & ashrams & birth place of Lord Krishna. A good place to visit, if you into this but can skip, if you are not too fond of crowded places. It can get very crowded especially on weekends.

You can do both Agra & Mathura in one day, if you leave early or you can spread it over 2 days.

Itinerary 2:

* Jaipur – Appx 200 km from Delhi in Rajasthan, famous for its palaces, handicrafts, Rajasthani food & culture.

* Ajmer Sharif – Appx 50 km from Jaipur, Holy shrine of Khwaja Ajmer sharif attracts a lot of visitors. It is one of most sacred shrines in India.

* Pushkar – Appx 20 Km from Ajmer sharif, famous for its Bramha temple, food & culture that attracts tourists from all over the world. It is probably one of the most visited (among lesser known places) by foreign tourists.

Jaipur, Ajmer Sharif & Pushkar can be done in appx 3-4 days comfortably. If you want to cover other places in Rajasthan  (which are certainly worth visiting) such as Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer etc you need several additional days.

Mountains:

If you love mountains or are planning to travel in summers, here are the destinations up north. Again, first the most popular but a bit crowded ones:

Shimla: Appx 250 km from Delhi in Himachal Pradesh – Good Road, you can reach in appx 7 hours. It used to summer capital of India during British Rule. It still is a very popular choice to beat heat of people from Delhi & nearby areas. Shimla has several places nearby for local sightseeing. You can do Shimla in 2 days, but a 3 day weekend would be better.

Mussorie: Appx 250 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station has good hotels & sight seeing. Can get crowded during summers so try to do hotel booking in advance. It would take appx 3 days to cover Mussourie & nearby places.

Nainital: Appx 300 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a nice hill station surrounding a lake with many nearby local sightseeing places. You need appx 3-4 days for Nainital.

Landsdown: Appx 200 Km from Delhi in Utrakhand, a quiet militray cantonment can be done. Make sure you don’t reach there after 6pm as most of the market closes by then. Leave Delhi early morning so that you can reach Landsdown by noon.

Kasauli – Kasauli is also a miltiray cantonment hill station in Himachal Pradesh, 50 km before shimla. You can leave friday after noon. A quiet place with nice weather.

Chail – 40 Km from Kasauli on route to Shimla is also a good hill station in Himachal pradesh. There are about a dozen hotels to choose from. Can be done in 2-3 days & can be combined with Kasuali & shimla if you have additional days.

Parwanoo – Timber trail resort in Parwanoo is a recent destination that has become favorite among weekend travelers. The resort is great with awesome views. You reach the resort via a Gandola. Advance booking of the resort is highly recommended.

Other destinations that one can cover over the weekend or in 3-4-5 days are Chandigarh, Amritsar in Punjab. Dalhousie, Kulu, Manali, Dharamshala, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

Rishikesh & Kudiala: Rishikesh (Shivpuri) & Kudiala have surfaced as very popular destination for river rafting among adventure seeking travelers. Shivpuri is appx 240 km from Delhi. This itenerary can comfortably done in a regular weekend. If you leave on friday afternoon, you can reach Rishikesh late night, can do rafting for 2 days i.e sat / sunday & come back by sunday evening. There are dozens of tour organizers for river rafting and camping for Shivpuri & Kudiala. They charge anywhere between INT 2000 – 4000 per person for the whole weekend including camping in tents, rafting & meals. You can also contact Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), govt of Utrakhand for booking of the package.

There are many other exotic places if you have a few more days i.e 5-7 days that I would cover in one of the other posts. Feel free to ask questions or clarifications via comments.

 

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Vicky Roy – from picking empty bottles to lunch with Prince Edwards

Last week, I had the pleasure to listen to Vicky Roy, who is rightly been termed as a true example of rags turned riches. He narrated his quiet an interesting story in great detail starting from his running away from his home, stealing money from his uncles shirt, ( his first failed attempt and being successful in the second attempt), staying at New Delhi Railway station, picking up empty water bottles from station and near Ajmeri Gate and selling them to 3rd class category passengers at Rs 5 per bottle (which is appx 10 cents), being bullied by older boys, moving to a near by dhaba, then being approached by a salaam balak volunteer, staying at Salaam balak trust, learning photography, his “Bidai” from Apna Ghar, traveling extensively within & outside inside, various photo shoots & exhibitions and then upto being invited to Buckingham palace at lunch.

You can read his biography from his site & salaam balak trust, which I have summarized below as well.

Vicky is indeed a true example of rags turned riches & a clear demonstration of the fact that with enough passion & endevour, nothing is impossible. Here is a nice video from a French media where Vicky openly talks about his journey, passion & his love for art & travel. The video is in French, but Vicky speaks in English.

Vicky’s Biography from his site & salaam balak’s site:

Vicky is from Purulia, West Bengal. He left his home in 1999 at the age of 11, after he realized that he didn’t have the freedom to live the life he wanted and also was lacking basic facilities. He was studying in grade 6th at that time. He left his family house in Purulia and came to Bankuda- another town of West Bengal. There, he boarded Nilanchal Express and landed in Delhi.

He spent his first lonely night at New Delhi Railway Station. In the morning he was welcomed by the children already living at the railway station. He joined the group and started collecting plastic bottles as they did. He spent about 6 months living in the railway station this way. During those days, he was bullied by older boys. So, he decided to work at a dhaba-a road side restaurant, were he worked for approximately three months.

Salam Balak Trust (SBT), an organization working for street children, rescued Vicky in 1999 and enrolled him in school. Once at SBT he got opportunities that he never had before.

Dixie Benjamin, a British photographer asked Vicky to join him as an assistant on a photo shoot around Old Delhi. This is when Vicky actually got addicted to the camera and enrolled at the Triveni Kala Sangam for an intensive course in photography. Later, he joint famous portrait-specialist photographer Anay Mann as an assistant and learnt a lot from him.

Having called the streets his home, Vicky is a master at capturing the street life – he treats a subject so easy to sensationalize with great maturity and the sensitivity in his work is unparalleled. In 2007, he held his first solo exhibition titled, “Street Dream” at India Habitat Centre, supported by British High Commission. His works have been exhibited extensively in India and overseas in England and South Africa.

In 2008, Ramchander Nath Foundation (RNF) nominated Vicky for a mentorship program by the US based Maybach Foundation (MF), through which he will work on the photo-documentation of the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York. Out of numerous applications, from all over the world, Vicky is among the four participants and the only one from South Asia.

This is a six-month residency program and is scheduled to begin in February 2009 and Vicky will be leaving by mid-February. On his return he will hold his second solo show in Delhi. Vicky is a real-life example of courage, resilience and effective mentorship.

Geeks, Tech, Startups, opensource, Technology and Software

Online Privacy & National Security – A statement by Oxblood Ruffin

I had the pleasure to listen to Oxblood Ruffin at All India Privacy Symposium at New Delhi last week & was hugely impressed by the way he put the case for on-line privacy in very simple yet extremely persuasive words. I particularly liked the analogy between our virtual selves and our covered real selves. I have included the complete statement for the readers.

 The online citizenry of any country is part of its national security infrastructure. And the extent to which individual privacy rights are protected will determine whether democracy continues to succeed, or inches towards tyranny. The challenge then is to balance the legitimate needs of the state to secure its sovereignty with protecting its most valuable asset: The citizen.

It has become trite to say that 9/11 changed everything. Yet it is as true for the West as it is for the global South. 9/11 kickstarted the downward spiral of individual privacy rights across the entire Internet. It also ushered in a false dichotomy of choice, that in choosing between security and privacy. It was privacy that had adapt to the new realities, or so we’ve been told.

Lets examine some of the fallacies of this argument.

* The false equation. Many argue that we must give up privacy to ensure security. But no one argues the opposite. We needn’t balance the costs of surveillance over privacy, because rarely banning a security measure protects privacy. Rather, protecting privacy typically means that government surveillance must be subjected to judicial oversight and justification of the need to surveil. In most cases privacy protection will not diminish the state’s effectiveness to secure itself.

* The deference argument. Security advocates insist that the courts should defer to elected officials when evaluating security measures. But when the judiciary weighs privacy against surveillance, privacy almost always loses. Unless the security measures are explored for efficacy they will win every time, especially when the word terrorism is invoked. The courts must take on a more active role to balance the interests of the state and its citizens.

* The war time argument. Security proponents argue that the war on terror requires greater security and less privacy. But this argument is backwards. During times of crisis the temptation is to make unnecessary sacrifices in the name of security. In the United States, for example, we saw that Japanese-American internment and the McCarthy-era witch-hunt for Communists was in vain. The greatest challenge for safeguarding privacy comes during times when we are least inclined to protect it. We must be willing to be coldly rational and not emotional during such times.

We are often told that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. This is the most pervasive argument the average person hears. But isn’t privacy a little like being naked? We might not be ashamed of our bodies but we don’t walk around naked. Being online isn’t so different. Our virtual selves should be as covered as our real selves. It’s a form of personal sovereignty. Being seen should require our consent, just as in the real world. The state has no business taking up the role of Peeping Tom.

I firmly believe that the state has a right and a duty to secure itself. And I equally believe that its citizens are entitled to those same rights. Citizens are part of the national security infrastructure. They conduct business; they share information; they are the benefactors of democratic values. Privacy rights are what, amongst others, separate us from the rule of tyrants. To protect them is to protect and preserve democracy. It is a fight worth dying for, as so many have done before us.

Thank you.

Oxblood Ruffin

You can follow Oxblood on Twiitter @Oxbloodruffin

Blogosphere, hindi

हिना रब्बानी खार, पाकिस्तानी विदेश मंत्री का भारतीय दौरा

बना डाले atom बॉम्ब तूने, बना डाली मिज़ाइल पाकिस्तानी
लाखों आतंकवादी भेजे हमारे यहाँ, करता रहा तू अपनी कारस्तानी
पर आज तूने मुलतानी बॉम्ब भेज, दिला दी याद हमे हमारी नानी
अरे पाकिस्तान, तेरे हज़ारों आटम बॉम्ब से ज़्यादा धमाकेदार है
तेरी हिना रब्बानी

Blogosphere, corruption, India

Dr. Naresh Trehan & Medanta Medicity Management, Please Fix your hospital’s parking staff

Update (Jul 4th, 11) : After about 10 days, since Dr. Nalini Jain, Director, Medanta Hospital Contacted me, I am yet to hear regarding any response or update regarding any inquiry or action, whatsoever. Still Waiting for any response from Medanta 😦

Update (Jun 24th, 11) : Dr. Nalini Jain, Director, Medanta Hospital Contacted me & asked me further details about the experience, She consented that the behaviour of Parking Manager Mr. Rakesh Ranjan was extremely disrespectful and improper. The Medanta hospital doesn’t condone or approved of such rude behaviour to the visitors to the hospital, who anyway may be going through some distress upon arrival to the hospital. She assured me to look into this matter & take necessary action. I am glad to have talked to her and look forward for some real action.

Respected Dr. Trehan & Medanta Management Team,

First of all, I would like to congratulate & thank you from deep of my heart for having setup, such an esteemed medical institution, The Medanta medicity in Gurgaon, which has been a boon not only to Gurgaon / NCR residents but to patients from all across India and abroad.

I myself, have gone there a number of times and found the doctors, administrative staff, nurses, housekeeping, radiology, sample collection, cafeteria and all others staff extremely courteous, polite & helpful. My experience has been more than fulfilling & I thank you for the same.

On several occasions, I parked my car on the surface parking and there has never been any issues and the staff was very helpful. Today, I went there for some blood tests and to meet my doctor again & happen to decide to park in the under-ground parking.

That is when, a nightmare, which I wouldn’t even expect even from the worst of worst hospitals in India started. On basement 1, there were a number of vacant parking slots available but those were being cordoned by ropes and a few cars were being allowed, reasons best known to the parking attendants. I inquired, if I can park here as I was getting late for appointment, but was very rudely told that this floor is reserved for staff only and I need to go further down. When all over the campus, it is mentioned that the underground parking is Rs 20/-, It was beyond my understanding why the first floor was reserved for staff.

Upon asking, why some cars are being allowed, I was told that they are staff or they are pass holders. Never the less, I went one floor below again and wanted to park in the early free slots available but then again, I was told that I need to go further down and these are reserved. Again note, there were more than ample parking spaces available but they were cordoned by ropes. I asked to talk to supervisor but wasn’t allowed to do so.

Finally I parked my car & then I went up and then I wanted to meet the Parking Manager Mr. Rakesh Ranjan. I was hoping that he would at-least listen to my grievance but to my extreme surprise, he started giving me excuses that these spaces that are cordoned by ropes are meant for doctors. Upon my asking, where is it not mentioned that they are reserved for doctors, he said that the boards are damaged and we would get new boards. He was extremely rude in his language.

He even showed me a Mercedes and said this is Mr. Trehan’s Mercedes and how can you park next to it. OMG !!

I asked his manager number & he told me that he is not in India, albeit he gave me the name Mr. Rajiv Kaushik and some email address, which proved to be invalid.

Respected Sir: After this experience, I am having serious thoughts of ever visiting Medanta again as the same doctors are available in nearby hospitals also. In any case, I am not going to park my car in Medanta compound.

I am extremely surprised that such a reputed hospital has such a poorly managed underground parking and if I may say so, some goons running the parking lot. (please note, I am only talking about underground parking. my experience with surface parking has been satisfactory & without any issues so far). Hope you would look into this matter.

Regards

PS

Blogosphere

Price Discrimination in India

Likethatonly has a great article on Price discrimination in India. He articulates very well some of the abnomalies in pricing for instance:

Convenience charges – It is quite true that vendors save cost with customers doing the booking online instead of doing physical transaction, In India, most of the time, as of now, you end up paying higher if you do the booking online. This is the case for train bookings, movie tickets etc.

Higher pricing for driving lessons for women – as the perceived value to women drivers is higher and as, very right mentioned in the article, they would likely be coming from rich family – Many driving schools have higher pricing for driving lessons for women.

Other examples such as “Peak rate mandis” & different prices for foreigners  for tourist attractions are also very interesting.

The last one “language” is also very interesting that shows price discrimination based upon the language.

Blogosphere, hindi, Web Culture

Saint – Lal Bahadur Shastri

A guy was standing in line for admission to the college. When his number came up, the clerk for admission returned him his admission form & said that the father’s occupation column is empty, he needs to fill it. The boy filled it quickly & returned the filled form to clerk. Taken the form in hand, the clerk stunningly jumped out of his chair. The boy had wrote “The Prime Minister, Government of India”.

He was actually, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son, Shri Sunil Shastri. We all might have read this in our childhood. Sunil shastri had confirmed it some time back that indeed this incident is completely true. He said “Papa did not like that we should be like VIPs”.

Simplicity was the greatest attribute to a great leader i.e Lal Bahadur Shastri. This incident is so appropriate for today where everybody’s family, friends & relatives wants to get benefited from holding even a minor important post or position.