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The Original Indiblogger Meet in Bangalore, hosted by HP

Date: 20th January, 2013

After having lots of fun at the first one hosted by Nokia, I attended my second Indiblogger meet held this past Sunday at the Fortune JP Celestial Hotel on Race Course Road — this time sponsored by HP and Harper Collins. With a name synonymous with printers and associated with one of the world’s largest book publishers, it was no surprise they tagged this event #OriginalCopy.

The hotel didn’t seem to be buzzing when I entered the lobby, and there was a bit of a wait before we could enter the hall.

HP Indiblogger Bangalore meet
The event began around 2pm after registrations — and as usual, we could Tweet our way on to the screens ๐Ÿ™‚
Fortune JP Celestial conference room
The venue wasn’t as big as the last meet, but a good 200 bloggers still showed up!
Guitarist HP Indiblogger meet Bangalore
The “show” began with the familiar notes of a rock classic performed by Karun Verghese
Nihal singing Indiblogger meet Bangalore
It was a rocking performance of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” by Team Indiblogger
Anoop Indiblogger meet Bangalore
Host @AnoopZombie had everyone stand up, clap along and sing the chorus
Bloggers HP Indiblogger meet
But just as we all settled into our seats, Anoop told us we now had to get up and shift tables. From white tables to black… and some other conditions too, but I forget.
Indiblogger meet Bangalore Harper Collins
NOW that we were finally seated, a lot of us were randomly asked to give an introduction

As usual, we were asked us why we blog and at the end, mention our favourite character. Bonus points went to whoever could imitate their said character!

Of course, there were loads of prizes to give away and HP USB thumb drives, head phones and books published by Harper Collins were all on offer.

Bangalore Indiblogger meet activity
As the introductions wound up, it was now time for an activity

We were all given chart paper which came with an unique QR code stuck on it. Using QR code scanners on our smartphones, we were asked to note down the hidden messages on our charts. The phrases were all part of a much longer sentence and our challenge was to find the two other bloggers who had the matching phrases to complete the whole sentence. If you couldn’t find right pairing, you could still win if you got creative with your sentence creation.

I couldn’t manage to do either.

Activity during Indiblogger meet Bangalore
Because the setting soon turned into a marketplace with lots of bloggers shouting and milling about seeking the right chart partner. It was a funny sight to behold.
HP country sales manager Indiblogger meet
With the madness of that activity over, HP’s Country Sales Manager took to the stage to talk to us about why his company was part of this ‘original’ initiative

Given its advertising right now (and has been for a long time), it was quite obvious what an HP-sponsored event was going to focus on. The exec briefed us on being original versus “counterfeit/fake” and why people shouldn’t be deterred by the cost of buying original HP printer ink versus opting for a cheaper alternative. In fact, he informed us the starting price for HP original cartridges have now come down from an earlier Rs. 800 to just Rs. 449 — which was welcome news to me!

Also, HP’s range of cartridges use a lot of recyclable parts, therefore doing their bit for the environment. The company has also made it easier for you to buy original HP ink right from the source, with a toll free number (1800-425-4999) and even a home delivery service. “Dial-A-Cartridge,” who would have thought! ๐Ÿ™‚

HP printer original Indiblogger meet
He even asked us bloggers if we have ever had our content plagiarized. I spoke of how some of my photos have appeared on other websites without even as little as a credit or link back to my site.
HP photobooth Indiblogger meet
After the talk, we were invited to have our photos taken and printed at this photobooth HP had set up
Bloggers eating Indiblogger meet
I was hungry, so I grabbed some food first
Race course road view from Fortune hotel
You get a great view of the Bangalore Turf Club from Fortune JP Celestial hotel
Food buffet Fortune JP Celestial hotel
As for the food, it was: chicken rolls, samosa, sandwiches, spring rolls and gulab jamuns for dessert.
Indiblogger meet stage activity
Back inside after the tea break, there were more activities and prizes to give away

We all had a blast during the activity in which we were divided into teams and given popular movies to re-enact, which the audience would have to guess. We had to figure out how to re-enact the movie on stage without even uttering a word. My group was given an easy one: ‘Lord of the Rings’. Believe it or not, there were a few guys on our table who hadn’t seen the film(!) and worried too much about whether they would be able to pull it off on stage or not. I told them to relax, because give how popular the LOTR characters were, there surely would have been at least one guy in the room who would guess it instantly.

And one guy did. In less than 5 seconds! All he needed as a clue was our guy playing Gollum. We barely even made it on to the stage, and the guy guessed the film right! ๐Ÿ™‚ If they were awarding teams for performing a skit with the easiest guess, we would have won. But no prizes for us.

Still, as the evening wound up, pretty much every blogger walked away with a USB thumb drive, a few books and a lucky few taking home some nice HP printers! It was yet another great IndiBlogger meet hosted by a great sponsor and well put-together by the core IndiBlogger team, who so well deserved to be felicitated.

As always, I can’t wait for the next one!

Also read: 2012 IndiBlogger Meet in Bangalore, hosted by Nokia

IndiBlogger Meet in Bangalore, hosted by Nokia

Date: November 11th, 2012

Considering I have been a member of IndiBlogger since 2010, I had yet to attend one of the many blogger meetups the popular forum hosts in cities across India (and occasionally abroad). This being an event sponsored by Nokia and hosted by one of my favourite NDTV anchors Rajiv Makhni and a Michelin-starred chef by the name of Vikas Khanna, I just couldn’t make excuses this time around.

A ‘gadget guru’ and a celebrity chef thrown together summed up what Nokia India’s Apptasting theme was all about. Given Nokia and Microsoft’s combined efforts to popularize the Windows Phone OS, I had a hunch what was in store. But I’ll be honest, part of the reason I immediately signed up for the event was in the hopes Nokia would have their Lumia phones on display – especially the much anticipated Lumia 920.

You see, I’m at the stage where I have to upgrade from my Nokia E72 – a 2009 smartphone, but has since been ‘outsmarted’ by the many touch-based devices that have now become the norm for mobile phones these days. I’m no fanboy but important to me were a stable ecosystem with a healthy dose of good quality apps, a good screen and an excellent in-built camera. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is tempting but Android is way too open a platform for me, Nokia’s Lumia 920 blew me away with its camera features, and seeing what the complete package of what the iPhone 5 offers… I’m tempted to go for it. Sadly, I need both my kidneys, which is why I’m open to learning more about the alternatives.

Anyway… after an epic (and tiring) Saturday night, I made my way to ITC Gardenia hotel which was to be the venue for tonight’s IndiBlogger meet.

ITC Gardenia hotel Bangalore
The 5-star ITC Gardenia on Vittal Mallya Road
ITC Gardenia hotel lobby
Quite a posh setting for a bunch of bloggers! ๐Ÿ™‚
ITC Gardenia Mysore hall
We were directed upstairs to the Mysore Hall

Continue reading “IndiBlogger Meet in Bangalore, hosted by Nokia” »

My journeys, and the people who made them special

This is my entry for Indiblogger’sย Around The World With Expedia! contest, where the topic is about the interesting people we meet on our journeys. I may travel alone most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always been alone on my journeys. Be it in India or abroad, there are people whose stories have kept me enthralled or those I could easily label ‘interesting’.

Like Christine, whom I met in Chiang Mai, Thailand…

Christine Maesa elephant champ
Christine was travelling alone too

Unlike me, Christine wasn’t working. But like me, she too had started a personal blog to chronicle her journeys across the world. Despite her age, she wanted to make the most ofย  her life now and see this amazing world. We shared a common dream — but unlike her, young Mithun needed to head back to office to make enough money to continue travelling. Still, people like her only reassured me that the decision I made to start travelling abroad was a good one. I began travelling outside India in late 2009, but I now knew I had many more years left to make up for the countries I couldn’t afford to visit just yet.

You can come across interesting people completely at random as well, like on a walk in Penang

Penang Japanese tourists Mithun Ramesh
This young Japanese couple wanted to take one photo with tourists from every nationality they came across. An interesting thing to do and something fun to remember your travels by!

I know the Japanese are known for their wackiness, so I can’t imagine what awaits me if ever I manage to fly to Japan. *cough*takethehintExpedia*cough*

Of course, I could joke by labeling the random drunk on the street “interesting” too…

San Fernando drunk local Pampanga Philippines
Like this guy in Philippines
Angeles City Dau pickup-point to go to San Fernando
...and even this guy

But just when you thought a drunk could only be funny (or a nuisance), he ends up being of great help when I wanted to know how to get to San Fernando — like the guy above.

San Pedro Cutud Filipino roman soldier Pampanga Philippines
I'll especially never forget the people I met in the Philippines
San Fernando street children smiling Philippines
Be they the innocent street children who often call out tourists with big cameras for a photo... and then shy away when that tourist actually takes their photo!
San Fernando local boys Pampanga Philippines
Or the local boys who noticed me taking photos of street children, and then insisted I take theirs too -- with everyone else around them joining the frame
Angeles City walking street girls Philippines
Filipinos loved to ask random tourists to take their photo*

Philippines was the only South East Asian country I experienced this. In Singapore, people on the street were generally shy or wary of getting their photo taken by a stranger. Proof, that no matter how close a nation may look geographically, cultures can still be vastly different.

It wasn’t just the random people on the street that left an impression on me in Philippines.

Joy Spider Pension house lady El Nido Palawan Philippines
I remember Joy, who ran the beach side inn I stayed at in El Nido. She was curious to know where I was from, asked a lot of questions about India and gave me company when I never asked for it
El Nido lobster dinner Philippines
And later at night, Joy cooked an amazing dinner of lobster soup, grilled lobsters, fried tuna and rice -- all for just Rs.250!

It’s one of the joys of backpacking — meeting people and sharing experiences. At a conventional star hotel, you really don’t chat with the reception staff or the bell boy, but at most hostels catering to backpackers, the staff are often times the best people you can talk to for just about anything. The lesser you pay for a room, the more a human connection there is, really.

Meeting other backpackers have been another memorable aspect of my travels. I’ll never forget the zany Japanese surfer dude I met in Puerto Princesa who told me about his travels. From picking apples in Canada to make some money for his journey across North America, to spending 3 months in India lazing around, it made me wonder how some people in this world didn’t care about living the ‘normal’ life centered around work and family. As much as I envied them for their freedom, being a person of some responsibility, I knew I could never live that carefree a life. Plus, being Indian and how we’re treated when it comes to international visas, let’s be honest, I know I can’t travel like these people can.

Kalui restaurant dinner Puerto Princesa Philippines
The Swedish girls, the Polish guy and the local who was of great help in giving me suggestions on how to go about my travels on the island of Palawan

One of the best sources for local information around the world have often been taxi drivers. Since they come across people from all walks of life, they sure do have a lot of stories to tell.

Kerala taxi driver Abu Dhabi
I always spoke to every taxi driver I hired in the UAE, many of whom were Indians

The guy above told me about how one of his regular assignments were to pick up wealthy (& lazy) Emirati children from their homes and then drop them at school. It was part of a UAE government program to educate them so that it can justified when those very same youth are handed plush jobs! (The program was to hand more jobs to locals instead of expat workers)

There have even been the occasional taxi drivers with similar great tastes in music too, like this Malaysian taxi driver we hired in Kuala Lumpur, who turned out to be a huge Radiohead fan!

Then comes age. Given how long they have lived, the elderly have a lot of experiences to share.

Mrs. Selam Jew town Fort Kochi
Like Mrs. Selam, one among the last remaining Jews living in Cochin's Jew Town

Mrs. Selam told us about her ever-changing environment over the years. She spoke of the diminishing population of Jews in Kerala, her neighbourhood becoming a major tourism draw and even pondering over her very own future in Fort Kochi. Despite being an attraction herself, she was only too happy to answer the questions we asked her.

Everybody has a story to tell.

Chiang Mai light man weird street artist Thailand
I'm sure even this guy in Chiang Mai has a lot to say!

As much as the people above have made my travels memorable, my special moments weren’t always restricted to humans.

Langkawi Sweet Inn cat Loiyumba
Like this cat, who snooped outside our hotel room in Langkawi
Langkawi Sweet Inn cat eating
...who we ended up feeding
Sunset cafe Kudle beach pizza cat
Or this cat who joined us in Gokarna for lunch... whom we, again, had to feed
Om beach Namaste Cafe kitten
And the next day too... you get the idea

Of course, I’ll never forget the once-in-a-lifetime moments of meeting famous people on my travels:

Rick Astley Mithun Divakaran Singapore F1
Like singer Rick Astley in Singapore

… or one of my best days…

Mithun with Mike Shinoda Linkin Park Abu Dhabi F1
... when I met Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park in Abu Dhabi!

I’m not done with my travels. As mentioned earlier, I still have much more to see in this amazing world. I’m only restricted by money these days (time can be managed). And as I have experienced so far, apart from Planet Earth’s natural beauty, what makes our world even more amazing are the very people who inhabit it. They are as much a part of the experience.

As the old proverb goes: โ€œHe who does not travel does not know the value of menโ€. It’s true.

Contest sponsor: Expedia India

*Okay, so not every Filipino!

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