Friday, 27 June 2014

Road trip - A study tour to Rajasthan

The  Apeejay  Institute  of  Hospitality  located at CBD Belapur  shares its premises  with  The  Park  Navi  Mumbai. It is an initiative of the Apeejay  Surrendra  Park  Hotels  that  operates its collection of  Luxury  Boutique hotels in India. The  institute  offers  a 3 years   Bachelor’s  Degree programme in Hospitality Studies (BSc-HS)affiliated to the University of Mumbai.

AIH is also the center of learning for  Apeejay Surrendra  The Park Hotels. The group's Management Training Programme, Professional Development Programmes as well as consultancy projects for the hospitality industry are some of its  additional core activities.  The institute boasts of a world class curriculum augmented by state of the art facilities on campus with separate hostel facility for Girls and Boys.
Not only academics but extracurricular activities are also given equal impetus. Students have the advantage of getting hands-on operational training at The Park, Navi Mumbai, doing their industrial training from any of the Park properties or associated organizations and take up careers with the Park Hotels. 
This year the institute organized a Domestic educational tour to Rajasthan and visited the capital city, Jaipur and the other tourist destinations in Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Haldi Ghati. 37 students with 4 faculty members were there from the 11th to the 20th of December, 2013. The students learnt every aspect of this tour right from selecting the destination, zeroing down on the local attractions, reserving hotel rooms, planning the itinerary, identifying the hotels to visit as a part of the study tour, as well as all the Dos and Don’ts of travelling as a group.

Rajasthan was chosen as it is one of the most sought after tourist destination in the word and is one of the highest earners in the country in terms of revenue from tourism. It also has some of the best hotels in the country and houses some of the best Heritage hotels not only in India but are among the best in the world. Also this time of the year offered the best of Rajasthan in terms of the weather and travel.

The tour was a road trip of Rajasthan over 8 days. Train was the mode of travel taking us to Rajasthan and back from there. Road trip with students on an educational tour is certainly worth reliving our own college days. Since I as a professor at the institute was travelling with the group, I thought of taking my sons who were then 7.5 years and 4.5 years old. They would not have stayed behind at home when I was out for 10 days. So the children travelled with me. This was the first time I was taking my children on such a long road trip but wanted them to experience that. I believe that travelling is learning, . As a family, we take atleast two vacations in a year. Children learn a lot be it visiting historic places, wildlife sanctuaries or places of immense natural beauty.

The group left from Mumbai Central on the 11th of December 2013 by the Jaipur super fast train, that leaves at 9.30 pm. Reached Jaipur at 12.50pm on 12th December, we had a luxury tourist bus waiting for us at the station. We boarded the  bus and headed to our hotel at Jaipur.  Reached hotel in half an hour, were received at the hotel with refreshing welcome drinks and headed straight to the restaurant for lunch. There were two cakes waiting for the twins who were celebrating their birthday that day. The hotel was good and the rooms very comfortable. In the evening, that day we went to the World famous Choki Dhani, an ethnic village resort representing the culture, traditions and aspects of village life in the state.
Day two of the tour was for  a hotel visit, soon after the breakfast at our hotel we left for the Taj Hari Mahal Hotel. The group was large so was divided into two ensuring that they got a good exposure and got to learn all aspects of operations at the heritage property. Evening was left free for shopping.

Day three - The day of sightseeing, we started with the Amer Fort. The fort stands atop a range of craggy hills. The fort is remarkable as much for the majestic grandeur of its surroundings as for its sturdy battlements and beautiful palaces. Post lunch we visited the City Palace, situated in the heart of the old city and the first high rise structure (7 storey) in the city. After seeing the magnificent palace we went to the famous Jantar Mantar (observatory) the largest and the best preserved of the five observatories built in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in different parts of the country.  We also visited the Hawa Mahal, the 5 storied stunning semi octagonal monument having 152 windows with over hanging latticed balconies, a fine piece of Rajput architecture and Jal Mahal situated in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake.

Day Four – We left for Jodhpur it was a whole day journey by road we reached the hotel in the evening. Some of the students freshened up and relaxed at the hotel whereas some did a bit of shopping at the local market close to the hotel.
Day Five – We went to see the Famous Mehrangarh Fort.  It is one of the largest forts in the country. It is situated 400 feet above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Had a relaxed evening back at the hotel.
Day Six – Left for Udaipur. Reached Udaipur in the evening had our dinner at the restaurant and retired for the night.
Day Seven – We left early morning for Chittorgarh. We visited the Chittorgarh Fort, Vijay Stambh, Padmini Palace, Rana Kumbha Palace, Kumbha Shyam Palace. The story of Chittorgarh is a saga of valor, tenacity and sacrifice. The fort is a treasure trove of history and offers to the travelers an insight into the lives of the great Rajput rulers, who laid their lives fighting superior enemies instead of leading a life of submission under them.

Day Eight – We visited the Leela Palace hotel, one of the best modern palace hotels in the city. The tour was very well organized by the hotel HR and Training team. The property is amazingly beautiful with great service standards. Evening was free for camp fire. The students enjoyed the chilly evening sitting by the camp fire.
Day Nine - We visited the Haldi Ghati, a mountain pass in the Aravali ranges, the name is believed to have come from the yellow coloured soil that looks like turmeric. It is the site where the famous battle of Haldighati was fought between Rana Pratap and the Mughals in the year 1576. We saw the light and sound show based on the life of the Maharana and his horse Chetak.

Day Ten- We visited the Jagdish Temple, built between 1628 and 1653 dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The next attraction was the City Palace, which is one of the architectural marvels of Rajasthan, it is the most visited attraction in Udaipur. The palace has various towers, domes and arches. It boasts of the wonderful blend of Medieval, European and Chinese architecture. We also visited the palace museum. We returned to the hotel, had our lunch and checked out. On our way we visited Saheliyon ki Bari, this is a well planned garden blessed with extensive and shady lawns and great water fountains.
Towards the evening we did boating on the Fateh Sagar lake and visited the Jagmandir island in the centre of the lake it was a sight of rare beauty. We then visited the Pratap Smarak, which is on top of the Moti Magir or Pearl Hill overlooking the Fateh Sagar Lake. The path to the top, traverses through elegant gardens including the Japanese rock garden.

We had dinner at the Natraj restaurant that is famous for its Thali meals. Then it was time for us to board our train back home. We came back with very informative and enriching memories of the Royal Rajasthan.
We used the expertise of Royal Tours, a Mumbai based travel company that specialises in group tours especially school and colleges. We found them doing a fantastic job! 

This post is written for http://www.carconnect.in

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Who kills your dreams?

Dream is a beautiful word and has many meanings, carries different interpretations for different individuals.
The dictionary describes dream as, "a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep."

There are dreams that you see in your sleep and there are some that keep you going after them till you actually achieve them, forgetting whether you slept or not. 

If your life is without any turbulence, everyone loves you, all your ideas are accepted with no oppositions- it simply means that your dreams aren't big enough! Everyone of us is capable of dreaming, its a fantasy world, We can be all that we want to be. But a majority of us are dreamers only in our sleep. 
If you ask older people or people of my generation to list some of their dreams. Its very difficult for them to even come out with just10. The other day I was talking to my husband, what his dream was, He couldn't come out with any. I know that he has been a go getter, an achiever in his own right and I am proud of him. But he, in his early 40s, having more than 20 glories years in his career; couldn't think of a dream. I am a person who'll always talk about positivity, optimism and dreams. Wanted him to think about his dreams, dreams that he cherished and the ones that were hidden somewhere. I felt the need to wipe the dust that was gathering over his dreams and hiding them from his vision as well as his mind. He represents a lot of us out there who have forgotten what dreams they once saw. I feel that we all need to have that drive to keep us going otherwise life certainly has no meaning. Again, these are my thoughts...

At the same time it made me wonder, why does this happen to people?Where do our dreams go? What distinguishes us from other animals is that we dream, We believe in them and we can achieve them. I also happened to ask my young sons the same question and they both came out with many dreams. Infact the elder one wrote down a big list of his dreams right from what he wanted to become when he grows up to the kind of house, car, toys, electronics, bikes and loads of other things that he wanted. The younger one who is only 5 and can't manage writing that well, told me more things than his brother. You know how kids are! to seek my appreciation he ensured that he came out with things that sounded jazzy! 

It made my thoughts stronger  that there had to be something that killed our dreams. When we grow up the focus moves from dreams to the harsh realities of our lives and that we somewhere forget to dream. As children our dreams are so many that we need to stretch both our arms to try holding and expressing them. As we grow up, finish studies, enter into the professional lives. We then try to fit the dreams into our earnings. They still look so big . We then try to make them smaller and smaller till they fit into the pay checks that we receive.These we take as our realities, the bitter truths and live by them. 
In this process we tend to lose our dreams, some may even kill them. The people around us become experts in telling us what works and what doesn't. Society starts forming rules for the living safely, following somebody and doing what someone wants us to do. 

Society and the people somehow become like the stadium where a cricket match is on and passing their expert comments and directing players to play the shots. Does this work? Does the advice work? will the players listen to these so called experts sitting up in the stands? Definitely not! 
Then why do we listen to others when it comes to our own dreams. We create them in our imagination and in our minds. Our thinking makes a strong imapct on our subconscience mind. We visualise how to take them forward, what measures on our part will take them closer to realisation. We know the journey that we have walked and the steps that'll take us closer to our dreams. 

Our dreams are ours and only ours! we must certainly not risk them at the mercy of others. 
I love this saying," If you can dream it you can do it". If you were not capable of doing it you won't even imagine it in your wildest dreams. And if you have have dreamt it then allow your dream to take off.

Back to the questions who kills your dreams? It can be YOU, the experts in the society, your own circle of friends who haven't attempted what you are thinking of and the general experts who have no experience whatsoever. If dreamers and achievers listened to the losers in life, the earth would have still been plat, the sun would have been the centre of the universe and there would've have been no inventions and discoveries.

We all know that we have this one life, this one opportunity to live to the fullest, Do what we want to do, be constructive, be an achiever, live a worthy life and be proud of what and who we are.

Picture courtesy: Himanshu Tomar and Bharadwaj Dayala