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30 Offbeat Indian Destinations That Will Blow Your Senses

India is a land of many mysteries and charms, even for those who think they’ve been everywhere and done everything. If you’re an intrepid traveller looking for offbeat destinations that are far removed from the tourist trail, read on. In this list you’ll find hidden mountain getaways, a haunted fort, a magnetic hill and a fascinating lake that’s littered with skeletons.

Some of these destinations may be hard to reach but they are well worth the effort as I found out.

30 Offbeat Indian Destinations

The Protests Against ‘Padmavati’ Are Anti-Women And Reek Of Privilege

As a society, we often fail to distinguish between fact and myth. And the row around Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati and the alleged misrepresentation of the apparently fictional Rajput queen Padmini in it, is a great example of the same.

It is meaningless to argue whether Padmini existed or not. It is equally pointless to argue if her representation in the film (which none have seen) is inaccurate or offensive. She is a well-regarded icon for some and a mere myth for others. It is, however, important to consider what the objections to Padmini’s portrayal have to do with privilege, power and politics of a certain kind.


How to make a tweet/Facebook post go viral – 7 lessons from ‘You don’t need your polling card’

Last Wednesday, the day before the general election, I casually popped a little note on social media.

That message exploded. I’ve had posts go viral before, but this was by far the biggest. So I thought it would be interesting to bash out the stats of the tweet, and try to explore why this message triggered the instinct to share when others – whether about the election or not – didn’t.

In the run-up to the election, I’d been involved in the voter registration drive. So with pushing participation on my mind, the day before the vote I remembered that in the last election (they seem to come along quite frequently at the moment) many had asked if they could vote without their polling cards. So I did a quick message to try to pre-empt questions. Here’s what happened…

First Twitter…

The most important ‘viralness’ metric is the number of retweets, as that’s how many people republished it to their own followers. This included hundreds of ‘verified’ accounts many with substantial followings such as @achrisevans or @GemmaAnneStyles.

That, of course, generates into eyeballs on the message. To show how that translates, here are the full stats from Twitter Analytics (on Sat), including the number of impressions (how many people actually saw it)…

– Impressions: 5,050,836
– Total engagements: 136,896
– Retweets: 46,506
– Detail expands: 35,151
– Likes: 27,862
– Profile clicks: 26,766
– Replies: 549
– Follows: 62

Yet that was dwarfed by Facebook

What’s called a retweet on Twitter is a share on Facebook. As you can see, these triple the Twitter RT numbers. Sadly my Facebook account doesn’t give me access to details of the post’s reach (the only other stat I have is there were 2,000+ comments). Yet as a very clumsy and inexact method, if we take the same multiplier or ‘shares to reach’ as Twitter, this post had over 15 million impressions.

The response…

The feedback on the tweet was mostly strong, including huge numbers of relieved messages such as “Phew, I couldn’t find my card since refurbishing”, and others indicating they were relieved having seen it, and it encouraged them to vote.

The little criticism that came was from those who felt the message implied not to take your card, whereas actually having a polling card with you can make the process quicker (I took mine). Though some people who were acting as election tellers wrote back saying it really wasn’t a problem.

I did hear one report from a teller from someone who hadn’t been registered to vote turning up as “Martin Lewis says I don’t need a polling card”. That’s a shame – I think they must’ve misread the message, but as this was all done long after registration closed, I’m at least comfortable they hadn’t thought it meant they needn’t register.

Seven reasons this message got so big…

The post wasn’t calculated or designed to go viral. I suspect that is an advantage. Trying to make something viral would likely feel contrived. Having said that it’s still worth trying to work out why this particular message hit the ‘share it’ touch paper.

Of course that doesn’t mean following these rules will automatically result in another viral message – but it could help focus and increase the range of your social media posts.

These are just my reasons though, if you disagree or have other thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the discussion at the end.

  1. It had near universal application. The huge majority of UK over 18-year-olds are registered to vote. Turnout in the election was 68%. Even though my normal posts have a wide range, talking about credit cards, savings or mortgages – the constituency of this one was far larger.
  2. It was pegged on the topic of the moment. The general election is big news. We have saturation coverage and it’s the current water-cooler conversation. Therefore rather than trying to create a new story, this message was piggybacking off the zeitgeist of the day.
  3. It was a very simple, factual message. There’s no complexity, just an easy fact to understand.
  4. The impact is obvious. Immediately on reading the first line you can quickly understand why it matters. And then within the tweet I’d reinforced this with the line “Don’t be wrongly put off”.
  5. A trusted source. Hopefully I don’t sound a prat for writing this about myself. Yet I’m known and trusted to provide factual information (to provide an example of a source for that, see this Spectator article). When you get an information tweet like this, if there’s even a little doubt about the source, people won’t retweet – so the information provider has to resonate with the information.
  6. It had the ‘I didn’t know that’ factor. While of course some people know this (some people know everything!), reading the responses many were unsure. In fact some even responded to double-check with questions like, “Then why do they send it to you?” (It’s to confirm you’re registered and inform you of which your polling station is.) When people receive something they didn’t know before, the discovery factor makes them more likely to share it.
  7. There’s a level of public service – doing one’s duty. Many people, including me, feel engaged and protective of our democratic process and the right to vote. With that comes an almost evangelical zeal to make sure it goes right. This tapped into that.

The other way to go viral, of course, is to be very famous and say something controversial or revealing…

Do I need to show my boarding pass at airport shops? (video & guide)

It’s one of those niggling frustrations. You want to buy something at the airport and you’re badgered for your boarding pass in order to purchase. Many people ask me if they need to bother, so here’s my quick video answer…

Some frequently asked questions…

After I originally posted this video on social media, there were a few questions that came up, so for belt and braces here are the answers…

Q. Why do duty-free shops need to see boarding passes? In the words of HMRC, “Duty-free shops can sell goods where the excise, customs duty or VAT has been suspended, usually alcohol and tobacco. Sales in duty-free shops are tightly controlled and HMRC requires these outlets to know where the passenger is travelling to before completing a sale.”

The reason behind this is with duty free you’re potentially being exempted from duty as well as tax. If you travel outside the EU, while other shops only get an exemption on VAT, duty-free stores can also sell goods such as tobacco and alcohol free from UK excise duty. Of course that doesn’t automatically mean they are cheaper than you can buy elsewhere.

Q. What counts as a duty-free shop? As they’re the only ones that can advertise goods as ‘duty free’, they’re the ones that do that. In practice most duty-free shops are called ‘duty free’ and sell alcohol or tobacco.

However, a few smaller offshoots of the main duty-free stores may only sell, for example, cosmetics or sunglasses, but they must still see your boarding pass. Duty-free shops will have to have a sign saying they are approved by HMRC to be duty free. Here’s an example: 

Q. Are tax-free shops the same as duty free? No, they aren’t, and in the words of HMRC, “Other retailers are known as tax-free shops… There is nothing in VAT law that requires a traveller to produce a boarding pass to purchase goods.” Though of course without proof they cannot claim the VAT exemption if you’re travelling outside the EU – which is why they ask.

Q. If it’s somewhere I don’t legally need to show my boarding pass, can they refuse to serve me if I won’t show it?  Yes, any shop can refuse your custom (unless it’s doing it for discriminatory purposes, eg, over race) so there is a chance this will happen – or at least its procedures won’t allow it.

Q. If a shop doesn’t need to see my card, but wants to, is there any harm in showing it them? Not directly, no. The reason I suggest not showing it is part of a campaign to get airport stores to pass on the VAT gain they get from non-EU customers – as the Government indicates they should.

Already this has paid dividends with the change in policy from Boots and WHSmith as mentioned in the video – I would hope to see them go further and other stores join.

And finally, just for the record – here’s a transcript of the video…

Right hello. I’m at Gatwick Airport and I’m airside so I’m filming this on my phone and keeping rather quiet if you know what I mean because I want to answer one of those questions that people always ask me about travelling. “When they ask for my boarding pass when I’m buying stuff in the airport, do I have to show them?” Well, the answer… no.

On almost all the shops, with one big exception, duty free. In duty free, by regulation, they have to see your boarding pass or they can’t sell you stuff, so don’t give the staff in there a hard time, show them your boarding pass.

But for the rest of the shops in here and all around here, well, the answer… no. And the reason they’re asking you is if you show your boarding pass and you’re going outside of the European Union well, then they can claim the VAT back. Now I believe they should be sharing that with you and they’re not.

So if they ask you, just say no. Why should they gain if we don’t?

However, there have been some moves on this, down the bottom there you’ve got WHSmith and Boots. Shop in either of those, in Boots buying something over a fiver and in Smith’s over £6, they will give you the VAT back if you show your boarding pass and you’re travelling outside the EU, but only on items over a fiver or £6, not the total basket.

So it’s up to you to decide whether you want to give them your boarding pass or not. They can’t stop you buying stuff, there’s no law requiring them to see it, with the exception again of in duty free, over there.

Mystery Shopper

In this concept, you have to become a secret agent of the company & try different products of the company at their outlets.

Here you have to check your experience as a client & submit your feedback to the company.

e.g. Raymond wants to know, what treatment their customers get, when they go for shopping at their outlet in a particular city.

Or a chain of hotels want to know, how their customers feel while they stay at their hotels.

You have to actually shop or stay at hotels & all the expenses are provided by the company. You will get paid for sharing your experience.

Mystery Shopping

You can work as a mystery shopper for number of big brands. As a mystery shopper, you have to visit different stores, restaurants, theatres, hotels, hospitals etc. & do some shopping or buy their services.

While shopping, you need to check number of things like checking the behaviour of the staff, your comfort level as a client & your overall experience as per the instructions of the company.

All your expenses will be paid by the company & you will also get paid by the company for doing the work. Sometime you can keep the items you have purchased.

There are number of mystery shopping companies, we will send you once you signup free.

Affiliate marketing:

If you want to become rich by working hard then affiliate marketing is the best option for you. There is a great potential of making money from affiliate marketing

There are thousands of websites on internet that provide affiliate programs. You can join the affiliate programs of your choice & promote their products.

You can make up to 50% by selling the products of the advertisers. You don’t need to worry about maintaining the products, shipment, customer handling etc.

Some of popular affiliate programs are Amazon, Flipkart, Clickbank, VCommission etc