My trip to Oslo, Prague and Rome…Part 2

This blog is the 2nd part of my one of the amazing travels. It was my first international trip where I traveled to Oslo, Prague, and Rome. My stay in Oslo was purely for work for 15 days but that didn’t stop me from discovering the culture, the people and the lovely places which the place has to offer. In case you missed reading all of it, here is the link of my Oslo adventures, ‘My trip to Oslo, Prague, and Rome…Part 1.

After spending my time in Oslo and Bergen in Norway, I went to Prague where I met another colleague of mine, Andrea who played a super host and created a perfect itinerary for me for the next 2 days I was supposed to spend there.

The first day we went to Karlovy Vary, a town which is approximately 130 km west of Prague. The town is quite famous for its hot springs which are said to have medicinal properties. (yes…I drank from most of them 😛 ) and there is a special cup which people purchase to drink the water from those springs. Quite cool! 😛

It was almost an entire day tour on the streets of Karlovy Vary where one of the major highlights was our visit to Moser Glass Factory and where we discovered the beauty of the glass craft and got a chance to look at the artisans at work right from moulding the hot glass to different shapes to finally carving lovely designs on to them. It was an experience to remember.

The next day was dedicated to a tour to the touristy places of Prague. Yup, you guessed it right! A visit to Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Old Town Square, St. Vitus Cathedral and checking out the different architectures of buildings that we crossed.

My guide apart from telling me the history behind each of the landmarks was also quick to educate me on different architectural styles of Prague buildings. Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Cubism were some of the architectural styles that I could witness on the streets of Prague. It was just a half-day walking tour but I would suggest taking a full day tour where you can actually spend time at the monuments and explore more about the city.

Now, without much blabbering, let me show you what I did in Prague. 🙂

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My trip to Oslo, Prague and Rome…Part 1

It’s been almost 5 months that I have written and that’s because I was on my own trip.

Ah…that’s a lame excuse. 😛

Maybe I was too lazy to pen down…err…type up something. Too many things happened all this while but the main highlight was my ‘first ever international trip‘. I went to Norway (all expenses paid trip by my company…perks of winning a seat in Global Exchange Program 😀 ) followed by my self-sponsored trip to Prague and Rome.

My 15 days at Oslo and Bergen were one of the best days of my life so far. My colleague cum friend Mats played the perfect host and made sure that I spent the best time ever in Oslo. Weekdays went by working while weekends were all about exploring the city and its culture.

We attended amazing dinners where I met some lovely people and got to know about their culture and lives. I got a chance to witness their Constitution Day celebrations where everyone dresses in their traditional ‘bunads’, enjoys feasts and flocks the streets to watch the parade to the King’s palace. I enjoyed my weekends walking the streets, visiting museums, spending time at the sea-side and the parks, attending events like Oslo Vegetarian Festival and Oslo Instagrammers Walk and doing sightseeing (yes, all the things which you can find at TripAdvisor in ‘places to visit’ list 😛).

The people here are warm, friendly, punctual and have a simple life. On weekends, they love to spend time out with friends or occupy themselves doing activities like skiing. There is greenery all around with small parks spread across the city, you can see people running and cycling, laughing and chatting. The city had a lovely vibe where the pace of life looked just apt where nobody is in rush and people have time to sit and relax by the sea-side to end their day.  Also, usually most of them have their own cabins (a small house somewhere in the mountains or by the sea-side) where they like to go on weekends or on special occasions away from the city’s hustle bustle. 🙂

I and Mats also went to Bergen (a place which is covered by 7 mountains and where it rains almost 300 days a year). The highlight was the road trip. Since I went in May, I could see different landscapes throughout my road journey. There were snow covered mountains, green landscapes and fjords welcoming us to Bergen.

After a 1 day stay at Bergen, it was time to say goodbye to the beautiful Norway and say Hi to Prague.

Here is a quick photo story to give you a glimpse of my trip to Norway. Enjoy 🙂

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A couple’s journey of bringing Art & Travel together – Artologue

There are very few people you meet, who leave an impression on you. 

One of them is a lovely couple Mee and Jey. I know them from quite some time but got to know more in a recent panel discussion conducted by Chevening India Art where Mee and Jey shared their journey of becoming Travel Artists and the birth of Artologue.

mee-jey
Mee and Jey with their Hari Bhari at their IHC exhibit

Mee (Meenakshi) is an artist who is a master in Madhubani art and playing with colours is her life while Jey (Jey Sushil) is a journalist and is also Mee’s sidekick, a strong partner in her art venture.

They are an inspiring couple who have taken an initiative to take art to everyone’s homes. They believe that why art should be restricted to few elites or be in art galleries where common people feel so intimidated with the silence and the aura of the place. Art is unrestricted and should be within reach of everyone.

They strongly believe that everyone can paint their imagination, they just need a canvas or their home’s walls 🙂

Yes. The journey began when on one fine day, Jey asked Mee what she wanpainting on the wallsts to do in her life and she replied, “I want to paint the world”. And there you go! That’s how Artologue was born. Mee and Jey travel to people’s homes, offices, schools and even have gone to jail and hospitals to paint. Mee takes the inputs from the hosts, draws the basic outline and then hands over the brushes to the people and let them add their own touch. And the magic begins. An erstwhile dull wall starts to speak to the onlookers.

They have taken the concept of Artologue to more than 17 states, 60 places and met more than 6000 people on their bullet called Hari Bhari and Kesariya. They have a pool of stories to share right from how they travelled to a school in a village in Naxal belt of Jahanabad where the students haven’t seen the colours before to the jail of Dasna where prisoners accused of heinous crimes like murder and robbery took the brush and started painting their jail walls.

mee-jey painting in jail
Mee-Jey in Dasna jail painting with prisoners

They have hundreds of stories to share, some of them you can find on their Artologue blog. But there is one incident which Mee shared during her talk at Chevening India Art Week. She never used to sign her paintings. Once when a renowned artist, S.H.Raza asked her about the reason, she said, “The piece is an inspiration and hence I can’t own it. I have seen these things around me and I can’t take the entire credit for my art.” However, after Mr.Raza’s advice, she started penning her name on her creations as this is how the industry works.

But this reply not only shocked the artist but me as well and the respect for her increased manifold. In a world, where people are hungry to take credit, get famous and are too self-involved, Mee’s thoughts are enlightening and give you a new perspective to look at life. Getting rich, famous and fighting for what is yours is not bad, but at times we should just pause and introspect if it’s worth it.

Will close this blog on this thought. Hope to come back with another one soon. Till then, live, love and laugh. 🙂

My favorite ads this Diwali Season

In this age of advertising and brands flowing money to grab the attention of the consumers, there are few ads which make the cut and leave an impression.

Diwali is a time when almost every brand rolls out offers and bring new ads to entice consumers. While all the e-com players like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc. have flooded the TV and Digital space with their promotions like The Great Indian Festival, Big Billions Day, Unbox Zindagi  and others where the primary focus is just pure deals and offers on products, there are few others which have stood out!

I particularly loved these two this Diwali season:

Amazon Kindle Ad:

Though I couldn’t find the ad on digital space, I am sure you must have seen it. It depicts a girl reading biographies of inspiring people/ players like Kalpana Chawla, Ronaldo and finally showing off her skills on a football playground. This ad touches you in many ways:

  • Clearly points out why reading is important and how if the habit is developed at an early stage in children can help in nurturing their minds
  • Focuses on girl child and also subtly encourages sports. Bang on in context with the recent Olympic and Paralympic wins.
  • Also, hints at the kind of books a child should read.

#FlipWithDell by Dell India:

More than the product placement of Dell, I loved the progressive concept of the ad. A women entrepreneur finishing up some crucial office work while husband helping in the kitchen so that the festivities are still on. Dell has beautifully tied its product in the ad that you don’t miss it.

What are your favorite ads this festive season?

 

A trip to Manali

I am a mountain child. And it’s my dream to build my abode in the laps of the scenic mountains. The calmness, the greenery, mighty mountains, lovely stream of the river and the simple living of the people attract me so much that I make sure that I do a trip to hills every 2-3 months. They are my escapade from everything.

A long weekend arrives in September and here I got my excuse to make a trip to the hills and this time, it was Manali. I have been to McLeodganj, Nainital, Mukteshwar, Lansdowne, Kasauli, Shimla, Dalhousie, Mussoorie and more and was expecting a similar landscape in Manali as well – the mountains, river, greenery, etc. But this place is all this and beyond.

I boarded the 5 pm bus from Delhi to Manali on Friday evening which got delayed and started at 7pm. After the usual halts for dinner and our good night sleep, we woke up to a rainy weather in Mandi and some amazing scenic views on our way from Mandi to Manali. The Beas river was in its full flow storming and roaring. The mountains were so green that you hardly find the patches of barren land. I started reading a book but was looking out of my window every 2 seconds. I just did not want to unsee any part of this amazing journey. It seemed like our bus was crossing a Jurassic Park area where we could be greeted by those big dinosaurs from anywhere. Yeah, my imagination got a bit wild but you need to see it to believe it. Early morning, rainy weather and green mountains had just set the tone for me as we were still 85 km away from Manali.

Day 1:

Our bus reached at around 11 am in Manali and we straight away went to our hotel. After resting a bit, we headed to Old Manali. This place will give you feels of McLeodganj. Italian cafes and lounges, Live Music, Bob Marley’s T-Shirts and posters, shops selling artifacts and clothes, sadhus sitting at the corners lighting up a smoke and restaurants cum stays are some of the things that you will find here.

We (me and my husband :D) tried Cafe 1947 based on TripAdvisor’s reviews and gorged on Chicken Pizza and Penne Pasta with Ginger Honey Lemon tea. The Pizza was great but the tea had too much of honey and Pasta was bland.

After strolling a bit and taking a halt at Manali mall road, we came back to our hotel. We also booked a cab for a day tour of Rohtang Pass and Solang Valley from one of the Taxi Booking counters for our Day 2. Though after talking to people and reading reviews at Tripadvisor, we were skeptical of going to Rohtang pass in an off-season with no snow but finally decided to go ahead and make a trip for which we thanked ourselves later.

(Pic credits: Dhiraj Pandey, my awesome husband 🙂 )

Day 2:

After a heavy breakfast, we started from our hotel at 9 am for our trip to Rohtang Pass. What we witnessed was pure gold. Throughout our way, we were greeted with mighty mountains encircled with clouds, waterfalls, shepherds grazing their sheep in the fields and the chilly breeze. The way to the top can’t be described in words. Marhi, Kothi, Gulaba are small towns which will come your way where one can take a stop to have a cuppa of coffee and enjoy the scenic views.

As we were approaching Rohtang pass and were 8 km away, we could see the snow-capped peaks of mountains. And once, we reached there we could see people with jackets and caps as the wind was too chilly.

There were bikers and cyclists taking halts on their way to Leh. After reaching the top, we were literally in the middle of clouds with winds giving us chills to the core. Woahh, that was totally unexpected but was super amazing. There was a small lake as well adding beauty to the entire landscape.

This place is worth every penny and should not be missed out at any cost if you are planning a trip to Manali.

On our way back, we halted at Solang Valley which was a total let down in this weather. It could be a beautiful place when it snows, though. Hence, you may skip it from your itinerary and can spend more time at Rohtang Pass.

While on our way back to our hotel, our cabbie drove us through the lush green apple orchards and us, who can occasionally buy apples at Rs.100/kg in Delhi just couldn’t resist to take a stop and buy 4 kgs of apples right away costing us only Rs.200. Though, the thought of taking them back home in our backpacks arrived much later. :Pus

Day 3:

Today we had our bus at 4:30 pm and we had almost the entire day with us. We had an option of doing a half day tour of Manali with temple visits, Vashist water springs, etc. but we wanted to keep it a low-key affair. After checking out from the hotel at 11 am, we went to the Hidimba Temple and spent some time there. We have also heard a lot about IL Forno restaurant on Hidimba road and wanted to check it out. Hence, that was our stoppage for lunch. The place is worth a visit. The ambience is quaint and serene and serves amazing Italian food. Fresh wooden baked pizza in the laps of nature and easy on your pocket, what more can you ask for! We spent almost an hour and a half there before heading to our final stop – The Bus Stand.

But we still had almost an hour with us and this gave us an opportunity to spend some quiet time besides the Beas river. One could just sit for hours reading near the river bedside but sadly, we didn’t have much time at hand and had to say goodbye.

Hence, our amazing 3 day trip to Manali ended with loads of lovely memories. I am definitely coming back to this place during snowfall and would recommend anyone and everyone who love mountains to pay a visit to this place.

Few tips:

  • For stay, you may look up hotels at Hidimba Road. The hotels here are close to Mall Road and Old Manali and you can save on auto expense.
  • For bus bookings, go for Semi-Sleepers as it is a 14-hour journey and you would not like to end up like a zombie once you reach your destination.
  • Do not forget to pay a visit to IL Forno if you love Italian cuisine.
  • Make sure you carry jackets if you plan to go to Rohtang Pass. There are bike rent options available too which you might not want to miss.
  • A lot of deals on hotels and bus bookings keep running on Goibibo and MakeMyTrip especially during the off-season. Make sure you capitalize on them to save few bucks.

The unsung heroes of the movie ‘Queen’

The other day I and my husband were watching the movie “Queen”. It is one of those movies which you can watch anytime and it would still give you those fresh vibes. You are always awed by Rani’s naivety yet strong-headed character, beautifully portrayed by Kangana Ranaut along with the vibrant scenes of Amsterdam which leave you refreshed.

While we were watching the movie, my husband shared an interesting perspective which I had not invariably thought. And that was about the role of Rani’s parents in the film. Though we all get deeply involved with the character of Rani as she sails through her break-up and emerges out to be a formidable force who could do anything and is up for embracing life with open arms, we tend to ignore the side roles played by her parents who were actually her knight in the shining armor.

It was her parents who have stood by her at every step. Be it agreeing to her love marriage, supporting her through her break-up, allowing her to travel solo (that too abroad), and until the end when she asks to meet Vijay (her fiance) again and finally breaking up with him and returning the engagement ring. Her parents were there for her during her highs and lows trusting her judgment and let her be.

Queen movie

This movie is a great portrayal of how one’s parents should be –

  • Supporting and Not Imposing
  • Loving but Not Pampering
  • Protective but Not Over-Protective
  • Trusting and not Commanding

This movie is a great example for all the parents who have daughters. In today’s society, where a girl is subjected to tremendous societal pressures of getting married with no concern towards her education and career, where her opinions about how she would like to lead her life are heard at the last and sometimes not at all, this movie actually shares how parents can be a crucial force in building their children’s confidence. If a girl is let down by others, it is her family which is responsible for lifting her up and giving her that self-assurance that she can fight the world.

And the same has been beautifully presented in ‘Queen’. Kudos to Vikas Bahl, the director for making a path-breaking movie. To honor the movie ‘Queen’, here is its trailer to refresh your memories!

 

 

Movie with a soul…Udta Punjab

udta punjab

One gets to know how a movie will be as soon as one watches its first scene. Udta Punjab is one such marvel. You know the movie will be dark with subtle hints when you see that flying packet from across the border used as a symbol to write the title of the movie ‘Udta Punjab’. Dude, the movie sets the tone for you right away.

This movie gives you chills, frightens you and hits you bad. Yes, it’s a horror movie – a horror which is real and has gripped our generation hard. For them ignorance is bliss.

Be it Shahid’s portrayal of a Rock Star who became an overnight success or Alia’s performance as a distraught yet fearless woman, you will feel with them in their moments of highs and lows. The way the movie journeys through the lives of Alia, Shahid, Diljeet, Balli and Kareena and then how everyone’s lives get interlinked, is crafted quite well. Alia was the powerhouse for me minus the Bihari accent.

Ease of getting drugs at cheap rates, the involvement of police and political parties, carelessness of guardians and ignorance of young generation – you can see it all in this film. Though there are other more pressing factors as well like unemployment and illiteracy leading to this drug menace in Punjab which I believe should also be touched upon.

Nevertheless, the movie is brilliantly directed and I am glad it could reach the theaters and minted 10 crores on its opening day. Another achievement for the makers since the movie got leaked 3 days before its official release. I am glad that people opted to watch the movie in theaters rather than on their laptops.

The other recent movies which had hit me hard were ‘Ugly‘ and ‘Talvar‘, former being a Phantom production again.

Kudos to Anurag Kashyap and the brilliant actors and a special mention to Amit Trivedi for his awesome compositions especially “Ik Kudi”. Mind blown and worth a watch!

Drifting away from tiring schedules – How Travelling helped me!

Hey Guys, sorry to keep you waiting. It’s been over 2 months that I haven’t penned down anything.

Loads of things happening and largely it’s my random travel plans which kept me busy and I am not really complaining. Who doesn’t love to travel? That’s one thing, where you spend your money and it makes you richer. (yeah…wise investments too! :P)

I have seen people saving money for larger good, but they keep on missing the fun of those small breaks which they can steal by taking those small trips once in a while. The motto should be at least one trip a month and that one big trip in a year.

You will say, “Are you insane…why should we even listen to you?

I say, just because it’s tried and tested. Since this year’s start, I am averaging almost 2 trips a month and I am a super happy child. Those trips have given me an outlet to not only rejuvenate myself but helped me do my work more efficiently. Those trips were not only about exploring the unexplored, but also visits to my family and relatives places.

It’s not very long ago, since travelling has become an indispensable part of my life. And my journeys have made me realize few things which I want to share with you all:

Chail, Himachal Pradesh
Chail, Himachal Pradesh
  • Take small duration but frequent breaks: As I mentioned above, this really helps. Just do an ad-hoc weekend getaway, or plan a 3-4 day trip in a month somewhere to be away from the hustle bustle of the city.
  • Travel plans should be a mixed bag: Make sure your travel visit includes visiting your loved ones  as well. Work takes us to different cities but make sure you keep giving those surprise visits to your family and loved ones. And for the rest of the travel plans, there are thousands of places to chose from.
  • Travel with mixed bunch:
    • Travel with friends: to do crazy stuff
    • Travel with family: because such moments are rare and should be cherished
    • Travel with your partner: to create those lovely memories where it’s just you two and solace
    • Travel with unknown people: to meet new kinds and grow new friendships. You never know whom you can meet and a life long bond gets created
    • Travel solo: to discover yourself and what are you capable of!

I have not done the last two but I wish to do them in near future. In case you are looking for travel partners, there are many who keep organizing such trips like,

One of the latest which I came across was from Streets of India (Instagram account) who are planning a trip to McLeodganj this June and are inviting people to participate.

Just do a simple google search, join different travel groups, especially the ones like The Himalayan Club and you will just keep looking for excuses to travel.

Hope reading this inspired you to plan your next travel. If yes, type in your destination in the comments below and let me know. 🙂

HAPPY TRAVELLING! 😀 😀

 

 

Influencer Marketing : What to measure?

influencer-marketing-lifetelecastWhat is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer Marketing involves marketing one’s products, services or brand communication via a set of people who have influence in their field. It helps the marketers not to mass target and rather inspire/pay influencers to spread your message. These influencers talk about your brand and services on their respective social channels and build credibility for your products among their followers.

There are many aspects on which we can debate on choosing right set of influencers but this post is more about the post mortem of the influencer activity which one does for its brand.

In this post, I am only covering Twitter as I see most of the marketers choosing this social medium over others to create immediate noise for their brands.

What we MEASURE today?

Total number of tweets: I have seen most of the agencies only representing the buzz volume they created for the brand via influencers. Maximum, they will share the Organic and Paid tweets number. But the case shouldn’t rest there.

Potential impressions: This is represented as {sum total of (no. of tweets done by each person * no. of followers the person has)}. This number is just again an eye catchy figure to create an illusion that the campaign generated ‘X’ mn impressions. We all know that our tweets are not seen by each one of our followers. My last 10 tweets show only 50% tweet impressions out of my total follower base that too because one of my tweets has got a lot of engagement, else my average impressions rate has come out to be only 20%.

What we SHOULD measure?

Unique Contributors: I have seen people measuring only no. of tweets done during the campaign but have you ever gone through how many Unique Contributors were there. It is a very important metric to judge how many unique people talked about you. Usually in an influencer campaign, a person keeps tweeting umpteen no. of times which doesn’t make sense to measure. You should know if you invested in 100 influencers, how much more people contributed to your campaign over and above those influencer number. That will be a true measure of your Influencers’ influence.

Engagement: You also need to measure the clicks/likes/retweets your influencer has got on his/her tweets. If you do not have a tool to measure that then ask for the same from your influencer, the same is available in his twitter analytics.

Reach: How many people have actually viewed the content from your influencers’ feed? The same is also available in Twitter analytics. It is pretty important to know to cross check if the influencer has yielded the results you expected from him. You should ask your influencers to share the average Reach which their tweets usually generate/generated for the campaign.

Follower Growth: Last but not the least, also check if this influencer activity has actually increased your follower’s growth. You should know if the influencers have been able to create enough excitement about your brand among their followers and whether it helped you gain some follower base.

How CONTINUOUS MEASURING helps?

Set Benchmarks: Once you keep monitoring and measuring your influencers’ performance, you would know who are worth empaneling with again. You would also know the benchmarks w.r.t Reach/Unique Contributors, etc.

Comparison with other Twitter Paid Media: You can also differentiate whether an influencer campaign is better or the other paid media offerings from Twitter basis your campaign objectives. Twitter gives you an option of Top Trending Topic/ Top Trending Account / Top Trending Tweet.

I myself have seen a lot of brands working on Influencer campaigns and it really pains me to see how some of these influencer campaigns are used just as a gimmick to create one-time trend for a couple of hours rather than thinking it through. To sum up, here is my two pence to marketers and agencies running influencer campaigns:

  • Choose your influencers wisely
  • Make it not just one-time activity but think on an influencer advocacy program
  • Measure not just the cream but go deep dive into each layer
  • Measure on a continuous basis to set benchmarks and understand the ROI of such campaigns vs other paid media

Let me know your thoughts as well.

Top 3 Ads which hit the Indian Television last week!

There are very few occasions these days when ads on Indian Television really make sense. Came by few last week which are cut above the rest and worth mentioning!

Ariel – #Sharetheload ad:

The recent Ariel ad which highlights the position of women in our society and emphasizes on sharing of household work among couples is completely bang on! Why only a woman is responsible to cook, to do laundry, to clean and manage the entire household? Why a man can’t help in the household chores? This ad has been clearly able to pin-point the root cause and hit the right chord by talking about a social change and subtly placing its brand.

Do have a look!

Fevicol – Govinda Ek, Dahi Handi Anek:

Pidilite has made its name in the advertising world with its unique and innovative ads for Fevicol. We have grown up watching their ads and literally wait for them to bring gems, one after the other. And they do not fail to match up our expectations. Here is another one from their stable!

One month to go for the Festival of Colors – Holi, Pidilite has come up with its new ad for Fevicol. With full fervor of Dahi handi, Catchy tune and Govindas piled up like the unbreakable bond of Fevicol, the brand has yet again proved that why it is considered as the king of advertising industry.

Birla Sun Life Insurance Ad: #Khudkokarbuland

Though all Life Insurance ads look the same, this one does stand out! It touches upon a lot many emotions – fear of getting sick, confidence of being in control of the situation and joy of seeing your loved ones happy and the most impressive part of the ad is it all seems justifiable when you relate it to the main concern of the ad.

The above ad is 2nd in the ‘#Khudkokarbuland’ series of Birla Sun Life Insurance. The first being another heart warming one which focuses on the story of a father’s efforts in providing his autistic child a normal life to include him in the mainstream society. You can watch it here.

Do let me know which are your current favorite ads on Indian Television. I can always update the list! 🙂