Monday, August 28, 2017

The Ladakhi Girl - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary

The Ladakhi Girl - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Meeting someone is a chance, but weaving her into your memories is a choice. I met this beautiful Ladakhi princess at Tso Moriri, Ladakh. If I recap my travel memories associated with the Lake Moriri, fresh images of this little Ladakhi girl top that recall list. It was breakfast time but food was yet to be ready. Heaviness of my head was gradually fading away. Yes, interrupted night sleep and morning headache were my constant companions throughout those eight days of Ladakh ride. Before venturing out for photographing the lake I couldn't resist the temptation of gulping a mug of morning tea. Weather was sunny though, taming the wild chilly component of harsh Tibetan Plateau. Unless the wind gets high, a pullover and earmuffs are all you need to embrace such a bright Ladakhi morning. After I occupied a table with my co-traveler in the dining hall, I noticed a small school girl (daughter of our cottage owner) curiously surveying my camera from a corner of the hall.

The Ladakhi Girl - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Being the daughter of a hotelier at such a tourist-favorite location as Tso Moriri, I believe she had seen enough jumbo photographic equipments to get charmed by my modest Nikon D3100 mounted with a Tamron 16-300 mm. Possibly Suzan (the name is purely fictional) was inspecting those multiple patches of sunburn over my bushy face. I am among those over-thinkers who are apprehensive of intimidating kids. Still I tried to toss a smile at her. Oh, that worked! She put her guard down and looked straight into my eyes. Child psychology is quite intriguing. At this age, Suzan is sufficiently mature to understand the necessity of maintaining a safe distance from strangers. But at the same time, she is vulnerable to pretentious acts of friendliness and affection. She is yet to learn the art of judging people, analyzing their motives, petting skepticism and nurturing misanthropy.

The Ladakhi Girl - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
Suzan categorizes goodness of everything around her as either black or white. Shades of gray do not exist for her as yet. As she looked into my eyes with an intent of smiling back, I pointed out my camera at her with a timid expression, which lacked words but clearly conveyed my innocent request to the girl: Honey, would you mind if I capture your frolicking mood? Of course, I wasn't expecting a verbal affirmative from the Ladakhi angel. Voila! Once again she spent her inquisitive smile on me. I ensured not to overawe her by approaching any closer. Rather, I made good use of the higher focal length and kept clicking right from where I was sitting. Suzan was sweet enough to preserve her patience for a while. Then she moved away. Luckily she didn't leave the hall though, leaving ample opportunity for this shutterbug to capture few candid shots.

The Ladakhi Girl - from my Ladakh Motorcycle diary
It had been quite sometime since I had last captured myriad moods of children. So, the brief episode was quite fulfilling for me. Do not ask me much about my Ladakh motorcycling diary. It was a disaster in short! Well, my tour operator turned out to be a fraud and that's a long story, already been blogged. Consequently, my dream itinerary got screwed and the flamboyant travel zeal was choked to death. Still, I got to experience the mesmerizing Ladakh. I got tickled by her wildness, reddened by her sun and intoxicated by her oxygen deprived air. Ah never mind, I was getting overly carried away. I'll fetch you glimpses of various travel destinations of Ladakh in coming photo posts. Till then, take care, travel smart, drive cautiously, do not fall prey to "too good to be true" travel offers, and definitely keep clicking photos on the go.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ladakhi nightmare Intensifies further as the lead Impostor from FM Group starts texting us Threats!

Ladakhi nightmare Intensifies further as the lead Impostor from FM Group starts texting us Threats
Stained with gravies of suspense, fraudulence and possible violence the title of this blog might sound very appealing to you, but trust me, our Ladakhi motorcycling lemon has turned utterly bitter for us by now. I'll give a quick recap of our stupidity in case you missed my previous post. We, seventeen travelers from various corners of India had registered with the Noida based FM Group for motorcycling trip to Ladakh and had flocked to Delhi with bubbling aspirations to explore the barren beauty of Kashmir valley. The travel package was prepaid and all our transactions were made online much before the commencement of the trip. In Delhi more money was borrowed from us with the promise of timely return. Then we were flown to Leh. From thereon our itinerary and expectations were further crumpled like used tissue papers. We got glimpses of few mesmerizing locations of Ladakh. But we were made to ride to those places mostly in extreme unfavorable conditions and odd hours of the day! Issues were plenty. Solutions were nonexistent. 

On the ninth day of our trip we were abandoned at Leh by our tour operator. With three more days of our trip remaining, she had escaped without paying our hotel dues and motorcycle rents! Like fools we kept dialing all the contact numbers of FM Group, with faint hope of getting immediate assistance in that remote land. We couldn't reach the lead impostor from the FM Group, Mr. Arun Chaudhary AKA Prince over phone. How could we on earth have reached him? Knowing that his staged plan was perfectly executed by his associate Ms. Chandani Mishra he had switched off all his contact numbers by then. Eventually, to buy our safety from Ladakh we 17 idiots had to pay all those outstanding dues, purchase our return flight tickets and hurry back to Delhi retired hurt! If you have ample free time and nothing better to do, give a quick read to my previous post where I had better described how the dream destination Ladakh was turned into a nightmare for 17 travelers by the fraudulent FM Group.

Ladakhi nightmare Intensifies further as the lead Impostor from FM Group starts texting us Threats
Meet Mr. Arun AKA Prince Chaudhary, the lead Impostor from FM Group.
After returning home with superfluous emotions of low self esteem, frustration and vengeance I had made up my mind to blog about our Ladakhi story of getting duped. I knew what we had lost were irrecoverable, but didn't want another single fellow traveler to commit the same mistake. It was simply an awareness article against travel frauds. The bitter-sour experience of our Ladakhi nightmare was well received in most of the travel communities. I was overwhelmed by the support offered by my blog readers. Apart from blog comments, I received many personal messages from various unknown travel enthusiasts and legal advisors who were curious to know the details of our mishap. Most of my readers and well wishers have suggested to sue those travel frauds. Honestly, my mean profession leaves me with little scope to nod around. I wish, but I don't have the flexibility to cry over spilled milk. I never knew that genuine empathy from complete strangers had such healing potential. After every interaction I felt little lighter and slightly better! In a way I was letting it go. But... man proposes, God disposes. A different story was being written on the other face of the coin.

Clearly, my previous blog post had stripped off FM Group and exposed their lack of credibility as a travel operator. Ouch, it had hurt their business interest of course! Their first response was deleting their one and only Facebook page, formerly named as "Travel around with FM Group". Second response was hollow threats of Arun to my fellow travelers! My blog post unmasking their fraud faces was his primary area of agony. At first he placed the bait of refunding our lost money in exchange for taking down my blog post. When things didn't go his way, he started threatening us with false police charges. 

It is such an irony that an impostor who is already on run is trying to scare his victims with police and court. At least I find it highly amusing! In this failed attempt to scare the blogger among us (yours truly), fraud Arun has struck the wrong cord. He has to suffer the consequences and it's totally on him now. Leave that harsher aspect. Enjoy these brainless mobile phone screen-shots where Arun AKA Prince is weaving his tales of lies in vain to scare the shit out of us. I have collected many screen-shots from my co-travelers, but to save your time I'll be publishing only a few of those. To help my non-Hindi speaking readers fathom the hollowness of these threats I'll be providing summarized translation below every set of screen-shots.

Co-traveler 1: Three days of the trip were still left. We had to pay over two lakhs in excess. We want that returned. Otherwise we'll go to the police.

Arun (Prince Ji Delhi): I do not care whether you trust me or not. I could retrieve Chandani's location and I'm going to bring her back. I'll get to know from her why she did such- whether due to Deyor or due to Mehboob. You must have been badly troubled but I assure you that you won't be having any financial loss. Within two days I'll ring each one of you up and transfer your respective expenses back to your individual accounts. Do not disturb me any further. I've been wandering since last two days in search of Chandani. Just pray that I get to find her soon. Rest, do whatever you want.

Arun (prince): Guys, you left no stone unturned (referring to my blog link). Right from today I'm going underground. With lot of efforts I had traced Chandani, but don't know how things will go after this. From now onwards all my contacts shall be closed. FM Rooms shall be taken over by another company on coming Monday. You guys made that uncertain too. I can't survive after this...

Arun (Leh 1): He has committed a great mistake by mentioning Chandani's name (referring to my blog link).

Co-traveler 2: Bro, go wherever you wish but return our money before that.

Arun: You're expecting your money refunded even after this! What is left with me now? Please try to understand, whoever has done that (referring to my blog link) just get that removed.

Co-traveler 2: We had trusted on you earlier. Why did Chandani vanish (abandoning us at Leh)? We were made hostages in that hotel. Ask them what we had to do to get our freedom. You didn't even pay their dues. You better call us and clarify. Otherwise we'll blacklist your website and blog individually about our harassment.

Arun: Put anything on website now, but, if anything happens to Chandani you'll see the worse of me. She is only 25 years old. Imagine things she can do. After that do whatever you think is proper.

Co-traveler 2: Bro, just call and clarify everything. There'll be no misunderstanding then. Don't talk much. You know it quite well what wrong you've done to us. No sum of money can ever make up for the harassment we had faced that day. Better don't talk of money. 

Arun: Say thanks to all. Chandani is vanished from her hotel room. I beg you, don't message me anymore. But, Samanta has committed a great sin by blogging. He can reply to his blog comments but can't remove the blog till tomorrow! Now he'll face consequences if anything goes wrong. If I can't find Chandani, I'll register FIR against Samanta to Varanasi Police.

Co-traveler 2: So, you're hiding in Varanasi! 

Arun: It's almost 3 AM and she couldn't be found anywhere in Varanasi. If she faces any slightest problem I'll screw the doctor. You will come to know the real story after reading her diary. Don't message me anymore.

Co-traveler 2: You're a clear fraud. Once you are saying Chandani is with you, the very next moment you're saying she is gone! Return our money and we'll remove the blog. Otherwise more blogs will be written in coming days.

Arun (Prince): Just got in touch with Chandani. She is hospitalized near Nepal border. If anything happens to her I'll screw all of you. I've filed FIR against 17 of you, charging you with 6 sections. I have provided police with 12 evidences against Samanta's blog along with Chandani's statement. In the morning you will receive your FIR copies. Get ready in the morning. Remember, my only aim in life is to get you arrested and imprison in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The fake doctor (along with a more offensive swear word) has been screwing with my mind since last two nights. Tomorrow you'll get to see the FIR.

Co-traveler 3: OK, we'll see.

Arun (Leh Trek Arunji P...): Sorry guys I got late, as you know legal formalities take some time. You must be very happy that you've blogged about your incident at Leh, especially Samanta. Here's a good news for all of you. FIR has been filed. But my advocate has advised me against leaking any information as I do not want to give you any time to defend yourselves. I have submitted all documents against Samanta's blog and court has agreed to make FIR against all 17 of you. There's a surprise. As of now I've put charges against 12 of you. Keep the guessing game on. All my communication will be closed from today onwards. See you soon in UP jail. People are coming for you! 

Ah, that was some lengthy shit. Hope you had some entertainment while going through these baseless, yet laughable WhatsApp screen-shots. That fraud has been constantly following my blog. So, here's my message for Arun Chaudhary (and also, anyone associated with FM Group): Apart from your actual identities, I've also dug up a fair amount of information about your background, families and activities. We're coming for you. Watch out con man! Run hard to save your drunken ass. And one more important thing, the BLOG shall remain Live as long as I want it to be.




#CheatAlert #FraudAlert #FMgroup #FMrooms #Beware #TravelFraud 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group!

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
Ladakh, the barren beauty of Kashmir valley has become the dream destination for motorcycle tourers since the last decade. Apart from the promotion aided by the movie "3 Idiots", the challenging altitude of the plateau coupled with its rugged terrain beguiles travelers from all around the globe in the most enticing manner! My Ladakhi dream was conceived two months back when I had stumbled upon a Facebook advertisement- Delhi to Leh biking package for 12 Days/11 Nights at sub-thirty thousand bucks. From the very title of this article you can clearly make out its purpose. Yes, my dream motorcycle trip got cursed into a nightmare. It was not just me but 16 other fellow travel freaks from different corners of India, who had fallen for the easy trap laid out by the Noida based fraudulent FM Group (synonymous to FM Rooms). Our wounds of betrayal are still fresh and deep. It is impossible for me to present the case before you in a single paragraph. 

Although I've returned back to my hometown I'm still engulfed by mixed feelings of low self esteem, frustration and vengeance. Our common loss, be it financial or psychological, is irreversible. At this point, our common goal is to expose the ugly face of the FM Group and its associates, so that no other travel enthusiast gets cheated by those apparently lucrative offers advertised online by this travel fraud. I'll try to portray this tale of deception in its schematic form, truncating all dramas and side stories linked to it. Probably it'll cost you nine minutes.

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
Memorize this Logo of FM Group. Whenever you spot this you know what to do next, right?
* With whom did I correspond to get into this Ladakh motorcycling trap?

-> Mostly with Mr. Arun Chaudhary AKA Mr. Prince, who had introduced himself as the well off proprietor of FM Group, and also an ex-Captain of Indian Army. As per his skillfully fabricated narrative, he had to retire from the army after getting an injury in the Kargil War. Ouch, that's where he grabbed my trust most conveniently! Our interaction was mostly through WhatsApp and sometimes through telephone. Mobile numbers as used by Mr. Arun Chaudhary to communicate with me till date are: +91-9821138317, +91-9821260271 and +91-8278290626. When he wasn't reachable I had communicated with Ms. Chandani Mishra (introduced herself as Mr. Arun's daughter) through Facebook Messenger. She had forwarded me to Mr Deepak Sharma (introduced himself as Mr. Arun's business partner) who had kept the conversation alive through WhatsApp and telephone. Mobile numbers as used by Mr. Deepak Sharma to communicate with me till date are: +91-9560690092 and +91-9411946829.

* What was the proposed Itinerary?

-> Day 01: Delhi-Manali, overnight in a Volvo bus.
     Day 02: Arrive Manali, Manali city tour on motorbike, overnight at hotel.
     Day 03: Manali-Rohtang Pass-Keylong/Jispa ride, overnight in camp/hotel.
     Day 04: Keylong/Jispa-Baralacha Pass-Sarchu ride, overnight in camp.
     Day 05: Sarchu-Leh ride, overnight at hotel/guest house.
     Day 06: Leh-Nubra ride, overnight stay in Nubra.
     Day 07: Nubra-Pangong Lake ride, stay overnight in Pangong.
     Day 08: Pangong Lake-Moriri Lake ride, overnight in camp.
     Day 09: Moriri Lake-Sarchu ride, overnight in camp.
     Day 10: Sarchu-Manali ride, end of motorbiking, overnight at hotel.
     Day 11: Depart Manali, overnight in a Volvo bus.
     Day 12: Morning arrival in Delhi to wind up the tour.

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
Mr. Arun Chaudhary AKA Mr. Prince, who had introduced himself as the proprietor of FM Group.
* How much the Ladakh motorcycling package was supposed to cost?

-> 23,000 INR + 5% tax per person (triple sharing)
     28,000 INR + 5% tax per person (double sharing)
     Fixed departure date: 1st August, 2017.
     Inclusions: Breakfast, Dinner, Volvo bus tickets, all accommodations, Inner line permits and wildlife fees for restricted areas, Basic first-aid kit and medicines, Services of certified and experienced guides, Services of Wilderness Medicine Institute certified guides, Services of a Royal Enfield trained specialist mechanic, Royal Enfield 350 cc motorcycle with fuel and One backup jeep.

* When did I make the payment?

-> On first week of July through IMPS (Immediate Payment Service), in two installments. In the offer mail it was stated that the 50% of the package cost had to be paid in advance (at least 20 days before the trip) and the remaining 50% had to be settled one week prior to the commencement of the trip. But, in the middle of the first week of July Mr. Arun Chaudhary had rang me up and insisted on transferring the full package fee that day itself, on the pretext of growing client demand and possibility of hike in the price due to implementation of GST. Blame it on my poor judgment or the spell casted by enchanting Ladakh, I ended up obeying his command! Although my payment was instant, it took them almost 2 weeks to send me the e-invoice.

* Now, most of you would enjoy questioning my mental acuity for transferring a large sum of money to some stranger whom I had never met in person. Well, as I've been successfully conned now you have every right to prove you're way smarter than me. Still I would like to highlight few factors which abducted my thinking hat and pushed me to the victim zone:

-> Ladakh motorcycling package offered by FM Group was much cheaper than other tour operators. When Mr. Arun had told me that it was a corporate sponsored trip I was convinced with the feasibility.
-> Mr. Arun was frank, well-spoken and always ready to respond in all conversations I had with him before my Ladakh motorcycling trip. If I have to summarize, he had the perfect recipe of a con artist!
-> Like majority of Indians I too have a soft corner and immense respect for our army personnel. So, Arun's repetitive reference of army background and Kargil War made me believe that I was talking to a genuine guy.
-> Ah, it is pointless to deny that my wisdom was hibernating deep inside my arse throughout this dealing!

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
 Ms. Chandani Mishra, the supposedly daughter of Mr. Arun Chaudhary.
* The point where the drama started- 5 days before the commencement of our Ladakh motorcycling trip, Mr. Arun informed us of an altered itinerary through WhatsApp! The reason provided by him was monsoon struck patches of Manali-Leh highway. We were too naive to see though his motives. We thought it was for our safety reasons only. Our revised itinerary was:

-> Day 01: Start from Delhi to Leh by flight, check in to Leh Hotel.
   Day 02: Start to Nubra on bike ride via Khardung La Top and reach to Paramount Camp Nubra, take rest, enjoy Turkish camel ride on Hunder dunes in the evening, night stay in camp.
    Day 03: Start for Turtuk, the last point of China border, return to Nubra camp for night stay.
    Day 04: Start from Nubra via Diskit Monastery and return back to Leh.
    Day 05: Ride to Pangong Lake, night stay in camp at Pangong.
    Day 06: Ride to Moriri Lake, night stay in camp at Moriri.
    Day 07: Ride to Tso Kar, night stay in camp.
    Day 08: Ride back to Leh, night stay in Leh.
    Day 09: Ride to Kargil via Magnetic Hill, night stay at Kargil.
    Day 10: Come back to Leh for night stay.
    Day 11: Local sight-seeing at Leh, evening flight to Delhi.

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
My e-invoice from FM Group.
* How exactly did our Ladakh motorcycling trip turn out to be in reality?
Day 01: I reached New Delhi station by 11 AM and checked in Hotel Raj Villa at Paharganj area. By then it was informed that our flight was booked for next morning [TWIST ALERT]. Mr. Arun was supposed to join us by night. Well he didn't. There was no update from him either. Cool, we had to pay for our dinner [DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT]. Past midnight (at around 2 AM) we got a call from Arun. He requested for Rs 2,000 loan from each 17 of us which he promised to pay back once we landed Leh the following morning [TWIST ALERT]. Again, we were too polite (or, dumb) to turn down his request.

Day 02: Mr. Arun introduced us with his supposedly daughter Ms. Chandani and told us that she would escort us to Ladakh in his place [TWIST ALERT]. Early morning flight to Leh was uneventful, rather scenic. In Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport at Leh, we kept waiting for around 45 minutes for our pickup [DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT]. Ms. Chandani borrowed the mobile phone (BSNL postpaid) of my friend Yasin (which she kept repeating shamelessly throughout our trip) and kept calling to her contacts desperately for a pickup. We were finally taken to Hotel Mount Castle. It was a sudden change in altitude for us. Leh is situated well over 3,250 meters from sea level. Instead of acclimatising us that day Ms. Chandani informed us that we must get ready for our ride to Nubra via Khardung La Top immediately after breakfast [DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT]. After I insisted she had talked with the hotel management to open two rooms for us so that we could at least use washrooms! It took them about 4 hours to prepare "plain paratha with pickle" breakfast [DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT], and it was clearly evident that the hotel management was neither expecting our arrival nor happy with our visit. We left the hotel at around 1:30 PM. Oh wait, there was chaos in motorcycle allotment too. Chandani was vanished with excuse of some urgent work. I had to almost beg to the bike vendor for a proper motorbike. In the petrol pump we kept waiting for about one hour for Chandani to arrive. It had started raining by then. Increased altitude with explicit mismanagement had induced enough negativity in my mind to decide against riding to Nubra that day in rain. My idea seemed practical to few more mature heads in our group. Realizing the impending non-cooperation from our front, Chandani connected me to Arun over phone who was very apologetic in his tone and requested me to bear with them for the day. He assured that I won't be regretting for anything from the following day! I swallowed my anger and agreed half-heartedly. I wish I did otherwise. Since then, she made us ride in rain, failed to provide route briefing, zero medical support, not even adequate space in back up vehicle in situations where the rider fell sick and extreme unsympathetic approach whenever I pointed out her follies! I reached the camp side at Nubra by 4:30 AM in the following morning. There was no food and assistance waiting for us in that ghostly hour of the day [DISAPPOINTMENT ALERT].

Since then the revised itinerary got torn apart. Moments of twists and disappointments became infinite. We started getting used to the inefficiency and callousness of our tour operator. Despite non-existent leadership and meager services, we managed to wind up our ride to Nubra, Pangong, Moriri and Tso Kar to return back to Leh. It was the 9th day of our trip. We all had reached the zenith of frustration with our tour operator. We clearly informed her that we needed our money (Rs 2000/person borrowed by Arun) back. There had been multiple instances of failed commitments before. Moreover, a co-traveler had lent Rs 20,000 to Ms. Chandani for refueling our backup vehicle which wasn't returned either. We told her and also Arun over phone that we would start our ride for Kargil only after our borrowed amount is refunded. We kept waiting in the hotel (Mount Castle) till late afternoon when we got to know that she had escaped, abandoning us to our respective fates! 

The dream destination Ladakh turned into Nightmare for 17 travelers - Beware of the fraudulent FM Group
We 17 losers double-paid to free our ass from Leh.
The hotel owner at Leh drove us to the local police station for lodging complaint. After listening to our story, the police officer cleverly refused to accept any written complaint and politely shifted the blame on us for getting conned! The hotel and motorcycle vendors were not ready to let us go without getting their dues cleared and Leh police was on their side. We were already cheated by FM Group. What followed next was the extortion by bike-rental vendor Glacier Trek-n-Tour. Yes, we 17 losers double-paid to free our ass. That night itself we booked our Leh-Delhi flight for the following morning because few of us got psychologically traumatized by the entire chain of events. 

What we did after returning to Delhi is beyond the scope of this article. Do not be optimistic my friend, we couldn't avenge those culprits in FM Group. We couldn't trace them either. In India, every year thousands of crores of rupees are stolen through various scams. Sometimes big-shots involved in those get caught. But the lost money is almost never recovered! I'm quite conditioned to this Indian way of justice. So, I do not expect to get any compensation. My only aim is to warn travelers against the dark face of FM Group/FM Rooms and any name associated with it. I had to literally fight hard to keep this article compact. In that attempt, most details had to be trimmed off. So, you're free to contact me for any clarification or details.






#CheatAlert #FraudAlert #FMgroup #FMrooms #Beware #TravelFraud