Judson L Moore http://judsonlmoore.com Humanitarian. Globetrotter. Idealist. Sun, 17 May 2015 04:14:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Mutual Mobile – Hyderabad http://judsonlmoore.com/career/mutual-mobile/mutual-mobile-hyderabad/ http://judsonlmoore.com/career/mutual-mobile/mutual-mobile-hyderabad/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 12:34:52 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3440 It’s no secret that I’ve spent some time in India, but I am frequently asked, “why were you there?” I know that I am better at documenting my weekends and time off, but I don’t just travel the world for fun, I do have a job to get done!

In India, my job was to launch a new facility for Mutual Mobile in the city of Hyderabad. This mission was an enormous challenge and a wonderful experience, but I didn’t have to go at it alone. We already had an office in Hyderabad with about 50 employees. Before I arrived, that team expended significant effort scouting a new location and negotiating a lease on the new space. I went to India once that space was selected and helped identify architects, designers and builders who would turn this concrete box into a cutting edge and inspiring place to work. I stayed in India and managed the project until the facility launched 5-months later.

Before I went to Hyderabad, I established what my personal measure of failure would be. For me, failure would be indicated at any point where I had to make a decision. Of course, I am capable of making decisions, and I am not hesitant to share my opinions and insights. However, at the end of this project I will leave India, and it is the Indian team that will need to maintain their new facility and have a sense of ownership for it. Therefore, they need to own the decisions. Additionally, if at any point my and their opinions differ so drastically, and I feel so strongly about my view that I overrule them on a decision, then we have gotten to a very bad place. Therefore, if ever I make a decision on this project, I have truly failed.

I am very thankful to too many to count, but I can’t go any further without acknowledging Abin Chowdhury, who’s hip I was attached to for five months. I also relied heavily on leaders of the Mutual Mobile Culture Club and Design teams to generate ideas and design decisions for the space. The architects from Ajay Pershad’s firm, the engineers and builders with Space Matrix and the sales team with Haworth, were all closely held team members throughout the course of the project. I am very thankful for their guidance, and at times, patience, in seeing us through to a successful and on-time finish.

Upon seeing the new space for the first time, I knew I was up against a new kind of challenge. The sum of my construction experience comes from a tree house I built when I was 12 and sets that I’ve designed for community theater productions. This was neither of those things. Our to-be future home in India was a 10th floor unfinished space with rough floors and not a single piece of conduit or ductwork to get us started. We even had a private lake to wade through.

Main entrance From the reception area From the reception area From the director's cabin Looking toward the break room From the break room looking back From the break room looking to the director's cabin Raw, rough, concrete

Starting from scratch was a great advantage for our design expressions. The only element that defined our design restrictions was the shape of the building. We went through many floor plan variations and even several different architects before we found what we were looking for.

Indian business culture is very hierarchical, and typical office layouts reflect that. Early iterations of the floor plan featured manager offices and conference rooms along the windows while putting workstations toward the interior, away from natural light. The space is L-shaped with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows along the entire outer perimeter. The views from our 10th floor windows are awesome. The nearest buildings are far enough away to prevent claustrophobia from setting in and most of them are nice designs. Many buildings in our immediate line of sight are not very tall, and so we look right over and past them. There is a nice park and Greek amphitheater out one corner, and the other end of the office has spectacular views of the sunset behind a lake.

Mutual-Mobile-HYD-Floorplan

Since this access to natural light and great views is the best asset of the space, we wanted a floor plan that would give as many people as possible access to these elements. Therefore, we moved all of the conference rooms to the center and built only one office in the corner, albeit with a great private view.

After locking in the floor plan, our next order of business was material and color selection. We selected Haworth as our primary furnishings vendor. Haworth provided all of our chairs, desks, tables and modular cabinets. The design team liked the new carpet we had in our headquarters office, so we stuck with the same carpet from Shaw, even though it had to be shipped all the way from the USA. I found a great Indian designer for our sofas and huddle furniture, Urban Ladder. The rest of the materials (paint, glass, laminate, vitrified tile, hard flooring, raised server flooring, lighting and countertop material) all came from vendors through Space Matrix.

Here is a quick look at the final materials and colors that we chose for each element of the office.

Desk material selection Desk material selection Blue conference room chairs Black conference room chairs Green conference room chairs Task chair backs Task chair bottoms Break room floor Break room table and chair colors comparison cabinet doors Blue huddle area glass Green huddle area glass Glass in work areas and conference rooms Comparison of blue glass and blue carpet Our white choice Reception tile Pantry tile Sofa fabric Sofa fabric Solar shade material Pin board material Choosing a grey for the ceiling Testing our color palette

While we were busy working on the color and material choices, construction was underway. The first tasks to complete was the laying of floor electrical conduit and then pouring the screed to give us a smooth, level floor.

As with most projects, the vast majority of the time was spent laying foundation work, which as time progressed, made us more and more nervous that we weren’t moving quickly enough to meet our deadline. Here are some photos in chronological order from the first day through the third month of construction.

Wall demo for HVAC adjustments Work lights up and floor conduit going in Breakroom walls and column glass support Monitoring progress Open floor plan Working on custom light boxs Future home of Operations Director's Cabin and Board Room Soon to be a floor junction box Director's Cabin Two conference rooms Framing around AC duct work Open ceiling Battery room and nap room From break room entrance Custom lighting Open duct work Working on custom lights Copy area Pantry Pantry Reception Operations and UPC room UPC room Break room Backup batteries Reception ceiling Custom lighting with paint protection

With just a few weeks until the grand opening, disaster struck! The floor above ours was also under construction, and the water from the screed was seeping through the concrete slab and dripping down into our nearly finished space. We had to replace sheetrock in the ceilings and some walls. Luckily, we caught the problem quickly, and the building management assisted us in a solution and in paying for damages. The disaster turned out to be a minor setback, but the timing was less than ideal.

The lake above us The point of water seepage below A big puddle The leaky water source The water coming through the slab and onto our floor Water seeping through the slab from above

In the last two weeks, the finishing touches came together almost overnight, transforming the construction zone into a believable office; all it needed was furniture.

Green huddle space Operations Open floor plan Board room From board room Break room Pantry Nap room Thinking about carpet patterns Laying out the carpet Laying out the carpet Abin dressed to match Abin dressed to match Workstations going in Pantry finished Determining entry signage size Conference room names in the frosting

When people ask me what my greatest challenge in India was, I tell them, without hesitation, that it was the procurement of anything. Buying things in India is incredibly difficult. Firstly, locating the item you need proves to be such a task that unless you have a true need for it, you are likely to give up looking before you ever find it. Once found, all prices must be haggled through several rounds until you feel that you are on the upside of a win-lose situation. When the deal is finalized, issuing payment becomes a nightmare, especially in business.

The P.O. system of invoices and crosschecks, last minute renegotiations and the issuance of paper checks, to then learn that the government just changed the tax rate, or the item which was available a week ago is no longer in-stock, or the vendor changes their mind about selling you the item at all, makes the process too cumbersome to bear. I once waited 5 weeks for some HDMI cables to be delivered, despite the vendor telling us on the first day that they were available and could be delivered the next day. On top of this, you can’t really just walk into a store and buy something, and online shopping rarely produced the selection we sought. It’s a nightmare.

The most difficult and project-threatening of these procurements was for our internet service. We had signed a contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) months before, and when the fated day of installation came, they had forgotten all about us. On top of that, the building was not honoring to provide the ISP with a proper hosting room in the building where their equipment could be stored before sending fiber cable up to our server room. Many dozens of emails, heated phone calls, meetings and legal interventions finally resulted in our getting internet just days before the grand opening. I had the honor of sending the first Tweet through our active internet line at 10pm on New Years Eve. Celebrations ensued like it was 2015!

This is where the internet comes on-site The orange cable is the building internet This room is on top of a parking garage The primary ISP server room The primary ISP server room The secondary ISP server room The secondary ISP server room Fiber cable The ISP lines going up the shaft to specific tenants. The black one is our internet The black one is our internet Our hub room (pre cleaning) The first Tweet through our active internet line!

The finished product is an inspiring, modern creative facility which will have a dramatic impact on the lives of the people who get to spend their time in it. It will be very exciting to see what products will come out of this space! I’ve done more than enough writing up until now. So I will let the photos tell this part of the tale.

Panorama of the finished product Reception entry Reception Rooms off of reception 2 pax 8 pax Entry to main office Green huddle space Finance and HR Finance and HR IT Department 4 pax Board Room 14 Pax Board Room 14 Pax Break room Work stations Work stations Blue huddle area Director's cabin Director's cabin Director's cabin 8 pax 6 pax

Of course this is good and all, but what’s the point of a new facility if you don’t have a proper grand opening celebration! Our Co-CEOs came for the occasion and led the ribbon cutting honors. We had cake and ate it too (with our hands) and hired a live band followed by super fun karaoke. Oh, did I mention we have a helipad? We did a company-wide sunset champagne toast on top of the building. It was awesome!

Photo wall The grand entrance The grand entrance Our CEOs making their welcoming remarks The audience waits in anticipation The love their new office! The kitchen has been converted into Audio World It's not a party without cake The core team together on our helipad Champaign toast on the helipad Champaign toast on the helipad Everyone on the helipad My best moment in India :) The server room multitasking as the beer cooler Our CEOs hit a home run with karaoke Live music and karaoke

In celebration of the new facility launch, I commissioned a video to be made which shows off the space and captures some colleague’s first impressions of the office. My hats off to Ankit Bakshi of Laputa Media for producing these awesome videos. Ankit came in just one week before the shoot and after a brief walk through looking at the space and hearing what my goals for the video were, he walked away and wrote a script and video flow overnight. What was most impressive, is that when I offered up an opinion or suggestion, he spoke up and shot me down if he felt that it would take us off-message. Rarely (if ever) in India did I come across someone who had the backbone to say “no” when it needed to be said. And for that, I would work with Ankit again in a heartbeat.

 

 

This whole project was a deeply impactful time in my life. The people I got to know, the country I got to experience and the skills I developed will all be with me for a lifetime. Thank you to all that made it fruitful and to Mutual Mobile for seeing it fit to send me to India in the first place.

I am also happy to report that in the duration of this project, I never made a decision. Success accomplished!

 

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Hyderabad 10k http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/hyderabad/hyderabad-10k/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/hyderabad/hyderabad-10k/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 13:20:20 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3064 Mutual Mobile participates every year in the Hyderabad 10k. I happened to be in town for this event and so, naturally, I ran with the team! The running path is along the Necklace Road, which surrounds the Hussain Sagar Lake in the heart of the city. The event was reminiscent of the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans because they had a stage with live music at every kilometer marker. The music ranged from traditional to rock, to school choirs. I ran the whole 10k, but only 1km at a time, then I would listen to the music for awhile and run to the next stage. I couldn’t help myself!

The VIP at the starting line was renowned Indian track Olympian, Milkha Singh.

 

Getting hyped for the start! The starting line and VIP guests One of the school bands Finish line! The Mutual Mobile team I do what I am told to do! ]]>
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Travel Advice to India http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/travel-advice/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/travel-advice/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 14:37:39 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3246 I have seen so much of India at this point that I feel like I can give you some good advice and connect you with folks in each area of the country. In the event that you visit India, I think the below read will be very helpful. Please, add your comments below!

For regional travel, trains are a great way to get around. The official online train ticket portal is here, but that site is difficult to work with, and you have to create an account before you can even see what the schedules are. The better way to book train tickets is with Cleartrip.  They typically don’t accept foreign debit / credit cards though, so it might get tricky. You can easily buy at the station, but you might want to get at least your first ticket booked before arriving in India if you’re getting on the train right away. Hotels and hostels are often helpful with booking train tickets, for a fee, of course. The train classes are very complicated and are a legacy of the caste system. You can learn all about the train classes here. I recommend traveling in 1AC (First Class Air Conditioning).

Carz On Rent is a very affordable service for hiring cars. You can easily book online with them. Rates are inclusive of the car, driver, fuel and a bunch of miles. Carz On Rent is great for hiring a car for a full day, or for a days-long road trip.

Uber works in most cities and is crazy cheap and very reliable. I recommend that you get a local SIM card for your phone so that the drivers can contact you. I have learned that you often need to send the Uber drivers a text message with an exact description of where you are and that you are ready. Though the maps on the Uber app are fairly accurate, a lot of drivers won’t start coming your way until you call or text them with a specific location and say you are ready. Having an Indian mobile number is the key to many things you might like to access in India. For example, free public wi-fi which often requires you to register an Indian mobile number in order to receive a serial number and pin code to login.

The best hostels are Zostel. They cost a few dollars a night are all placed in prime locations and have very good conditions. There is a Zostel in most Rajasthan destinations. AirBNB is also reliable. (that AirBNB link will give you a $25 credit!)

If you want to book any bus, flights or hotels in India, then use the website or app for Make My Trip. Air India is the national carrier and has the worst service. IndiGo is the best and has the cleanest aircraft.

I imagine that the most popular tourist route is the Golden Triangle: Delhi > Agra > Jaipur > Delhi.

A great travel plan would be to land in Delhi, see Delhi for 1-2 days, and then go by car to Agra. Agra only requires one day, but you should arrange your travel to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Don’t be late. Contact Sarfaraz on Whatsapp (+919412330010), he is an amazing guide. He is a university professor and is very knowledgeable about all things Agra. His rate for me was INR 950 for 4 (or maybe 6) hours. While in Agra, you must see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. I also highly recommend seeing the Taj Mahal from across the river; no one is over there, and you can get an awesome photo like this one:

 

IMG_2049

From Agra, take an overnight train all the way to whatever your furthest away destination is if you’re thinking of returning at the end to Delhi. So that means take a train to Jodhpur, Udaipur or Jaisalmer; then work your way back toward Delhi for your return flight.

Aside from that, I can give you specific advice from my experiences in Jaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar (links are to my other blog posts for those destinations). Wiki Travel and Trip Advisor will be your friend throughout any travel.

You should try to see Pushkar. It is the holiest site in Hinduism and is the location of Moon Lake which is believed to be the origin of the Earth.

If you have time to do something other than the Golden Triangle, then you should go to Dharamshala, the home of the Dalai Lama. Check his schedule to see if he will be home while you are around. If so, he often gives teachings which open to the public, you just have to show up way early. Also, if you go there, I have a fantastic contact for buying the best jewels, rugs, carpets, Indian handicrafts and Tibetan paintings, and at fantastic prices.

Useful Apps

  • Uber – Taxi service
  • Make My Trip – Flights and hotels
  • Cleartrip – Train Tickets
  • Zomato – Location-based recommendations (like Yelp)
  • Book My Show – Tickets for events
  • Google Maps (note: traffic and drive-time data is unreliable)
  • Pocket (combined with WikiTravel it is a great resource to store travel guides on any place you plan to visit)

Other Online Resources

Comment below if  you make it to any of these destinations! Have fun and good luck!

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Bangalore http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/bangalore/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/bangalore/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 13:49:58 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3058 My trip to Bangalore was rather spontaneous. I’ve made some expat friends in Hyderabad who work with Deloitte, and they travel a lot as a group. Since I am traveling solo in India, they are kind enough to invite me on a few of their weekend excursions. But due to some last minute changes in their ability to come to Bangalore, I spent most of the time touring the city on my own. As it turned out, Mutual Mobile had representatives here conducting some recruitment efforts, so I spent my first day with them interviewing candidates.

After the interviews, I met up with the Deloitte crew for dinner at the City Center, followed by dancing on the City Center Rooftop lounge, Skyye, probably the best club I’ve ever been to.

 

Photo Credit: http://cdn1.cntraveller.in/

 

I didn’t stress about seeing too much in Bangalore, as my time here was short, and I just wanted to go with the flow. When I did start getting around the town, my first stop was the Bull Temple. It was a fairly typical temple in many regards, except for one: the idol is huge! In most temples, the idol on the shrine is very small, usually just 24-36 inches tall. But the bull statue resting on the altar was some 20 feet tall! Also, unlike most temples, photography of the idol was permitted here.

 

Bull Temple Bull Temple Bugle Rock Park Bugle Rock Park Bugle Rock Park Bugle Rock Park My bindi from the Bull Temple didn't last long...

 

The next stop was to the Starbucks on Church Street. We took an Uber there, which was awesome, because I left my iPhone in the car and thanks to the magic of Uber, I was able to report the forgotten phone and the driver came back with it just a few minutes later. I was VERY happy about this! We rehired that driver and kept him on the clock for the next several hours while we toured the Bangalore Palace and then headed to the airport to go back to Hyderabad.

 

Apparently, there is good chicken on Church Street Bangalore Palace Bangalore Palace Gardens Bangalore Palace Grand Stairwell Elephant trunk pedestal and photos Elephant-foot side tables Mosaic bench at Bangalore Palace Prince Srikanta Wadiyar, Maharaja of Mysore (1974-2013) The Maharaja's private office Palace festival grounds ]]>
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Agra http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/agra/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/agra/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:42:23 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3061 Bucket list: check! After an 18-hour drive direct from visiting the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, I’ve made it to Agra to see the Taj Mahal! There is a Trident Hotel here in Agra, and I was able to arrange a room so that I could freshen up. It was an awesome perk they offered me, and I very much appreciated the opportunity to shower, change and have some breakfast before heading over to the Taj Mahal.

The hotel also arranged a guide for me today. Sarfaraz is a university professor with a Ph.D. in Indian History. He is the perfect guide for a day in Agra.

We set out to the Taj Mahal and parked one-mile away from the gates to the compound. Because of the sensitivity of the brilliant white color of the Taj Mahal marble, you are not allowed to operate a combustion engine within one mile of the site. From here, one must walk, take an electric cart or ride on a cycle rickshaw. We chose the cycle rickshaw.

Arriving at the outer gates of the Taj Mahal is not as overwhelming as I expected. The lines took only a few minutes to pass through, and the architecture is the exact opposite of what I thought I would find. We are all familiar with the picture of the white Taj Mahal, but what we don’t often see in photos are all the other buildings in the compound, which are made from a red stone. Though these other building are beautiful, they are not what you come here to see.

The outer courtyard is a huge rectangle filled with gardens and surrounded by a low structure which houses stables, living quarters and short-term accommodations for visitors. These are all vacant today but are well preserved. In the center of each of these structures stands a large gate. Three of these gates lead to the outside of the compound while the fourth and most impressive gate leads to the main attraction.

This gate is very impressive, and as you get in front of it, you catch your first glimpses of the Taj Mahal. I have been to many historical sites in my life that claim to have design features that play tricks on your eyes with scale and shape, but none have ever been this effective. In the next photo, you will see what I saw from one position. But at every step the view of the Taj Mahal drastically changes. In this photo, the Taj Mahal looks like it must be very close on the other side of the gate.

 

Taj Mahal Main Gate

 

As you pass through this gate, you get to see more and more of the Taj Mahal. It is not until you pass nearly all the way through the gate that you see the entire structure and realize that it is still several hundred meters away. The effect this has is pretty amazing and nearly induces a vertigo sensation. It’s awesome!

Once inside the gate, I had to push my way past gawkers and photographers so that I could get my own photos. I took a few standard shots, walked the gardens and then went into the Taj Mahal. On the white-stone surfaces of the Taj Mahal, I had to slip booties over my feet. We walked freely around, in and throughout the structure.

Above eye level, the inside of the Taj Mahal is mostly plain. Eye level and below there are many inlaid semi-precious stones cut into flowers and other shapes of nature. The guide explained to me that the use of semi-precious stones rather than precious stones was a strategic decision, not a financial one. There was a real fear and understanding that if the Taj Mahal had been built of precious materials, that it would be a more likely target for pillaging. You can hardly find a stone missing or damaged in the whole place, so I think the king made a good decision with his material choice.

At the end of the day, we drove across the river to get a backside view of the Taj Mahal. This is the rumored site for a second Taj Mahal that would have been made of black stone, but which was never built. Now this space is a beautiful rose garden, and you can find some ruined foundations. I think this view of the Taj Mahal is the best, and what makes it even better: no one else is around!

 

Taj Mahal minaret IMG_2084 The Taj Mahal! Check! From across the river My guide and I The central gate leading to the Taj Mahal From the front terrace of the Taj Mahal The standard photo everyone has to have The "Princess Diana" pose that everyone does Detail of inlaid semi-precious stones

After the Taj Mahal (but before the gardens behind the Taj Mahal) we paid a visit to the Agra Fort. A large portion of this fort is still under active duty, but parts are open to tourists. We were at the fort for about two hours.

The Agra Fort is very nice and has some similar design features and colors as we saw at the Taj Mahal. However, it is in many ways like most other palaces: gates, walls, harams, royal quarters, gardens, etc.. If you visit Agra, don’t miss the Agra Fort for sure. But after seeing the Taj Mahal it’s hard to make an impression! Just the same, here are some photos from the Fort.

 

Detail work inside the main gate View of Taj Mahal from the Agra Fort Main gate of the Agra Fort The Taj Mahal is off in the distance Inner courtyard Detail work inside the Agra Fort Crossing above the moat of the Agra Fort The pupils' court where the King hears his people's needs A "portable" bathtub. ]]>
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Dharamshala http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/dharamshala/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/dharamshala/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 13:45:18 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3060 The Dalai Lama represents peace and tranquility to millions throughout the world, and Dharamshala is his home in exile from Tibet. Tibetan buddhists believe he is the incarnation of the Buddha of compassion, who has long been considered to be the patron deity of Tibet.

Dharamshala sits within view of the Himalayan mountains and covers the side of a very large foothill. The upper area of the town is called McLeod Ganj and is where the Dalai lama lives. Our hotel was in the town proper at the foot of the mountain. The drive from bottom to top is about half an hour up a well-paved switchback road which, ironically, mostly weaves in and out of an active military installation. At every corner, we had commandos sitting behind sandbag walls with very large guns pointed at us. Peace and tranquility indeed!

The several blocks of a town which make up McLeod Ganj are beautiful and scattered with street vendors, a few temples and a a bunch of Tibetan monks. There is also a KFC and a Pizza Hut, so don’t fret. There was no sign of Hinduism here and most people looked more Asian than Indian. It really was like being in another country.

For me, the main attraction here was to see the palace of the Dalai Lama. We were not allowed to take cameras, phones or any sort of electronic device into the palace but you can see many beautiful photos on Google. The approach to the palace is very humble; rough roads, reminders of stark poverty and unkempt street animals ranging from dogs to cows. Before you arrive to the palace, there is a checkpoint after which phones and cameras must be deposited. At the palace entrance, you meet airport-style security and through pat-downs.

Once inside the palace I was free to roam around. I took my time with people watching and taking in the scenic views from the palace terraces. Many people were praying and in such a fashion that I had not seen before. The inner rooms were adorned with beautiful paintings and tapestries of Buddhist figures. Exterior walls were lined with prayer wheels.  Unfortunately, on this day the Dalai Lama was not in-residence, he was in Alabama speaking at the University of Birmingham.

Though Hampi was my favorite place to visit in India, this was the most impactful. If you ever get a chance to visit here, do it. It’s a bit off the beaten path, a 15 hour drive from New Delhi, but there is an airport nearby that you can fly in to for a price. If the Dalai Lama is in residence, you can catch one of his many public teachings. Check the Dalai Lama’s schedule to see if he will be home while you are around.

Also, if you go there, I have a fantastic contact for buying the best jewels, rugs, carpets, Indian handicrafts and Tibetan paintings, and at fantastic prices.

 

Tiny streets. Big roofs. Prayer wheels The main intersection of McLeod Ganj The main intersection of McLeod Ganj The Dalai Lama lives just down that alley. This is the furthest I could take a camera. The gates to the Dalai Lama's palace Street vendors in front of the Dalai Lama's home Tanveer and I The morning light makes The main intersection of McLeod Ganj glow Maybe this I hope so Morning stroll At the front steps of a temple Buddha Buddha Buddha This shirt is stained in Tibetan blood ]]>
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Pushkar http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/pushkar/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/pushkar/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 13:43:26 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3067 In the heart of Rajasthan is a small town called Pushkar. To get to Pushkar, we took a train from Jaipur to Ajmer, then walked two miles to a taxi stand where we hired a car to take us the rest of the way, about a 30 minute drive.

Pushkar is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Hindus believe that Lord Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, created Pushkar. Despite the significance of Lord Brahma, there are very few temples in the world are dedicated to him, thanks to the Curse of Savitri. The Pushkar temple is, however, the most significant of the Brahma temples and viewed by many as the only legitimate temple. Pushkar is widely considered to be one of the most religious places in the world.

As legend has it, Lord Brahma killed the demon Vajranabha while it was attempting to murder his children. Lord Brahma’s weapon is the lotus flower. Upon striking the demon Vajranabha, three petals of the lotus flower fell to the Earth and created three lakes, including the lake at the center of Pushkar, which would later be visited by Lord Brahma himself. During his visit, he married a consort who was not his wife, Savatri. When Savatri learned of this marriage, she cursed Lord Brahma such that he would never be worshiped except for in Pushkar. It is because of this act that the Pushkar temple is considered to be the only temple that can be or should be dedicated to Lord Brahma.

The lake which Lord Brahma’s lotus flower petals formed in Pushkar is the other majorly significant site to see in Pushkar. I was told that the name of the lake is “Moon Lake,” but I’ve not been able to find any reference to that name online; most places just call it the “Pushkar Lake.” A dip in this lake is to Hindus of similar significance what a submersion in the Jordan River is to Christians. Swimming here cleanse sins and can cure skin diseases.

Though seeing these significant sites was highly meaningful toward my greater Indian experiences, the real draw that brought us to Pushkar was for a desert camel safari! If you’re ever in the area and seeking an adventure, I highly recommend getting in touch with the folks at Pushkar Desert Safari.

We made our safari trip in December, which is very much in the off-season. Tobi and I were the only customers this weekend, so we got to have a special experience. We met our guides near the Brahma temple and were taken by motorcycle (yikes!) to where the camels were waiting for us. We loaded up and started through the town. We stopped at the Moon Lake and went down to the waterfront where we had Brahmin priests bless us for our journey.

The sun was setting as we ventured away from Pushkar, and we had the most breathtaking desert landscapes changing colors with ever blink right in front of us. We even saw a Gazelle in the wild! I tried to take a lot of pictures of this, but very few of the photos came out thanks to the low light and the bumpy camel ride.

It took us about two hours to reach our destination. Our camping spot was just a patch of sand with tent made of tarps. Inside the tent were two raised platforms we turned into beds with the pads that had been on top of the camel, acting as our saddle. The treatment we received at the camp was epic. Tobi and I huddled around a fire; it was very cold, and the guides (7 of them!) prepared dinner. This food was easily the best thing I ate anywhere in India. After dinner, we went right to sleep, and it is probably the hardest I have ever slept. I was exhausted. The desert air was so pure, but has it’s own smell which was new to me. It was a great atmosphere for rest.

I woke at morning’s first light, and the guides already had ginger tea hot and ready. We had a quick breakfast and then started to head back to Pushkar. My camel, Romeo, behaved pretty well the day before but on the way back to Pushkar we had a hard time controlling him. Apparently there were several turns we could have made (but didn’t) which would have taken him to his girlfriend. He was not happy about not getting to see her. Camels are much taller than horses, and I was pretty scared of getting thrown off. My guide was confident that we wouldn’t get bucked, but I am still impressed that we didn’t! In the end, we prevailed over Romeo and got safely back to Pushkar.

Once back in Pushkar, we had to move quickly to make our bus back to Jaipur. Our bus departed from Ajmer and to get back there we had to haggle with a driver pretty hard. He only agreed to take us after we decided to walk away, which is a great negotiating tactic, but he decided to drive us to Ajmer on a back road that seemed very much in the wrong direction and Google Maps seemed to confirm that we were just being taken out into the desert. This was a pretty scary moment trying to figure out if we were being kidnapped, but in the end, the road we were on took us exactly where we were trying to go and the driver was a pleasure to ride with. But you never know…

All in all, this trip was one for the ages. Here are a few photos.

 

My camel and I, Romeo Moon Lake in the background Showing the versatility of the Minaal bag A Sikh temple Riding off into the sunset My driver and I Dinner being prepared Dinner What I slept on What I slept in Tobi and I stoked for tea Romeo Because, why not? ]]>
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Satsang http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/hyderabad/satsang/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/hyderabad/satsang/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:45:17 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3298 This weekend I accompanied my colleague and dear friend, Abin, with his family, to the Satsang Vihar – Hyderabad. This ashram is home to a large Satsang temple. Satsang is an Indian philosophy, which ​teaches a process of ​spiritual meditation​,​ which encourages people to listen to, talk about, and assimilate the truth. This typically involves listening to or reading scriptures, reflecting on, discussing and assimilating their meaning, meditating on the source of these words, and bringing their meaning into one’s daily life.

The ashram is a beautiful building of white marble surrounded by massive boulders, forest, and a compound of living quarters and facilities that accommodate Satsang pilgrims who travel here for periods of spiritual reflection.

On this day, there was a festival for the Satsang Sri Sri Dada 4th Anniversary Celebration. The festival had a wonderful performance of traditional Indian song and dance performed by the famous Sonali Fine Arts Institute. I was honored with being sat at the center of the front row and was even asked to come on to the stage to help pass out awards to some students. I was also given a nice framed memento of the ashram.

After the performances, we had a tasty dinner and then waited for sunset to observe the daily evening prayer.

Throughout the day, I was humbled by the overwhelming hospitality and eagerness of everyone who wanted to know me. The prayers, the dances, the music and the food were all equally fantastic. I greatly appreciate Abin, his wife Antara and daughter Abheepsa for including me in this festive day!

 

Satsang Vihar - Hyderabad Boulders surrounding the ashram An any colony in a tree So many ants! Wise words Abheepsa and I having a staring competition. I won. The Sonali Fine Arts Dancers Me being gifted flowers Me giving awards to students Me receiving a memento from the ashram Dinner time! So much food Afternoon prayers and songs Abin and I! Portrait of Sri Sri Thakur Anukulchandra The main prayer hall Awaiting sunset for the evening prayers ]]>
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Ajmer http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/ajmer/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/ajmer/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 20:46:03 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3066 My first train ride in India led me to Ajmer, a small town in the heart of Rajasthan. A German friend of mine, Tobi, who is also staying at my hotel in Hyderabad, joined on this weekend adventure which also covered Jaipur and Pushkar.

Ajmer is a small town of only 500,000 people (which is a small town in these parts). The town was easily walkable, which is what we opted to do for the mile journey to Daulat Bagh, a park on Lake Anasagar. In the park, we came across an interesting temple to Lord Shiva. I would later learn that king cobra snakes are present in all of Lord Shiva’s temples, but in Rajasthan they seem to be much more prominent. Despite this, I only came across one real king cobra snake on my journey and I was more afraid of its charmer than I was the snake its self. More on that in my post about Jaipur.

After the temple, we continued on to Lake Anasagar, a 900-year old man made lake. The prominent feature about this lake is a 5-pavilion marble structure known as Baradari. I am not sure what the significance of this site is, but it’s expanse of white marble overlooking the lake is beautiful; no wonder the tourists flourish to this site.

We only had a few hours to spend in Ajmer, so after finding a quick coffee we hailed a cab and moved on to the nearby town of Pushkar where we embarked on an overnight camel safari. Read on! 

 

My First Indian Train My First Indian Train First Class AC Sleeper First Class AC Sleeper Lord Shiva Temple Baradari on Lake Anasagar Rubbish ]]>
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Jaipur http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/jaipur/ http://judsonlmoore.com/location/india/jaipur/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 18:09:38 +0000 http://judsonlmoore.jlm.me/?p=3065 The Pink City is called as such because all the buildings here are painted a reddish pinkish color to imitate the red sandstone architecture of Mughal cities, from which Jaipur is fashioned. Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan, and it is the place that I had intended to be my first destination to travel to in India. Because of the abundance of amazing invitations I received from friends and colleagues to tour other destinations, it’s taken me three months to actually get here. The famous Golden Triangle of India is the route that connects Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, so that should tell you something about how important of a place this is.

Many of India’s most infamous landmarks reside in Jaipur. The most glorious of these is the Amber Fort. To enter the fort, one must ride an elephant up the mountainside at a price steeper than the mountain its self, but it is well worth the 10-minute experience. While ascending to the fort, I dropped my sunglass case on the road far below me, but not to worry, the next elephant picked it up and handed it to me! After a short Purell bath, the case was as good as new.

Once inside the Amber Fort, we were overwhelmed by the architecture and detail work. Between the geometric gardens, facades with incredibly preserved details and surviving paintings of the Kama Sutra, the space was a lot to take in. All of that was small potatoes compared to the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace). The Mirror Palace is a space within the Amber Fort, which is covered in tiny convex-shaped mirrors. The light reflecting off of all the surfaces shifts as you walk through the space and the feeling is very dazzling.

Scenes from the Kama Sutra Ganesh Pol Entrance Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) Elephants ascending the Amber Fort Tobi and I riding our elephant One of many gates at the Amber Fort Elephant picking up my sunglass case! Entry Pavilion of the Amber Fort We found coffee! Scenes from the Kama Sutra Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) The Amber Fort View from the back of the Amber Fort Elephants ascending the Amber Fort Geometric Gardens

We spent a few hours at the fort and then moved along to explore the rest of Jaipur. Directly across from our hotel is Jal Mahal (Water Palace). This palace is a manmade island and structure for which the original purpose wasn’t explained to me, but which is now closed to the public and slated for renovation as a fine dining establishment. This 5-story structure of Rajput and Mughal styles will be a grand place to dine, but the high level of pollution in the lake will make it challenging to maintain an appetite; the foam and water’s edge was literally seafoam green.

Since we couldn’t go out to the Jal Mahal, we just took a few photos and then went into the heart of Jaipur’s old town. The second most architecturally impressive structure in Jaipur is called Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace). Aside from the stunning wedding-cake layered details of the building, it is special because of the abundance of windows, many of them only the size of a head. These windows were viewing portals for the royal family to look out on the city and people as they would gather around the front of the City Palace. With the windows open, the whole building is filled with a breeze that makes the desert’s summer temperatures more suitable for royalty.

Behind the Hawa Mahal stands City Palace, the old capital of the Rajasthan State and seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Much of the palace is open to the public but it is still an active royal residence, so the residential chambers are off-limits. However, you can buy a $100 ticket that will allow you to walk through the living quarters of the current Maharaja. Imagine paying $100 to walk through the Queen’s apartment at Buckingham Palace!

The City Palace is home to some pretty interesting architecture, paintings, and artifacts, including the Ganges-water urns: the two largest sterling silver objects int he world. The purpose of these vessels was to carry water from the Ganges River from India to England for the 1901 coronation of King Edward VII so that the Maharaja of that time would not have to drink the English water. The vessels are 1.6 meters (5.2 ft) height and each have a capacity of 4000 liters. They weigh 340 kilograms (750 lb) and are made from 14,000 melted silver coins.

One art piece that I thought was striking was a number of rifles and spears that were laid out in a large circle. The guns are pointing in toward the center while the spears are pointed out toward the edge. The guide said that it was to symbolize Indian strength and wealth, but I think it symbolizes the imperial occupation of Britain who had a superior military versus the Indians who had less advanced weaponry. There is a photo below, so you can make your own opinion about it.

Hawa Mahal City Palace Jantar Mantar City Palace Detail work within the City Palace World's largest silver vase Jantar Mantar Jal Mahal Detail work within the City Palace Detail work within the City Palace Mixed messages here.. Snake Charmer ]]>
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