Saturday, August 8, 2009

The ENDless journey...

After the visit to the Ganga, I felt that my trip to Haridwar was not so worthless after all. After i came back to the hotel, I had some good food and slipped into the blanket. There was some movie coming on TV but the walk and the crowds and all that excitement drained the life force out of me. I was in deep slumber, dreaming about the shit load of work I had to do after I returned to Vizag, when my uncle interrupted my beautiful slumber. I woke up sleepy eyed. It took quite sometime for me to get back my surroundings into focus. Time was 3.00 AM. MY uncle was telling me something about getting to Delhi fast so that we could get my brother to a better hospital in case he didn't get better. I went, took a bath and dressed my self in a t-shirt and a short. The driver took sometime to get ready. So, 3.45 AM we said good bye to Haridwar and took to the roads. Again, the roads were uninhabited. The driver was zooming away as he was on roads very familiar to him. Roads on which he took thousands of tourists. As we were cruising at top speed, our journey was interrupted by a road block. The guard was looking sleepy was a bit irritated when the driver approached him to ask some information on what new route we had to take. He spilled out some random directions and identifications most of which I was not able to catch. But the driver looked convinced and confident as ever and was again zipping through the cold night ( didn't know how it was outside because of the AC. Brr!!) the night looked perfect as we passed on countless intersections, small villages and places that looked unaffected by time. It was beginning to took all comfortable. Then, we approached this junction which was blocked because a rock slide took place somewhere and it was too dangerous to go that way. We then entered this diversion which was a huge industrial settlement. I was hypnotized by the huge chimneys glittering in the neon lights of the street. The whole place was very well maintained with perfect roads and if it was not for the street signs, we would've definitely lost our way. It was here that our relatively inexperienced driver made a mistake. He took a wrong turn that took us to a mud road that passed though a small village. The road was built for people to walk and was not that helpful for our car which was groaning to pass through the innumerable pot holes on the road. After a while we convinced ourselves that we were lost. The time was about 5 o clock. We were desperate for help when this milkman boy popped out of nowhere. He guided us though the network of mud roads and then, soon we were back on the highway. He refused the money we gave him, saying that he was performing his moral responsibility. I looked at the boy who was about 15 years old, refusing the 150/- that my uncle offered him. I felt proud! My uncle was filled with admiration. The driver was shocked. The situation didn't get any better on the highway. We were still not sure about the route. As dawn approached, we were still passing through Uttarkhand. Nevertheless i was still taken by the beautiful surroundings we were passing through. Tall trees that grew for hundreds of years. The lush green fields and the occasional petrol bunks scattered here and there. The time was about 6 AM. My bro was still down with severe stomach ache. But, luckily the pills put him to sleep so he was not really aware of the long journey we were taking. At six, hunger pangs started giving ME a stomach ache. My uncle was reluctant to stop for breakfast. So, we stopped at this small store and i got myself a big bag of uncle chips, a pack of good day biscuits and a bottle of chilled slice! I was not complaining anymore. Just as we are hopeful that we were back on the correct road, there was a huge traffic jam at this place called sharanpur. The time was about nine in the morning. We took a huge detour. The driver did a smart move and asked a farmer sitting nearby about an alternative route. He suggested us a 50 KM road through a set of paddy fields. That part of the journey i can never forget for the rest of my life time. We just went on and on. I guess i saw half of rural UP. The sun was blazing so much that we were sweating in the AC.
We were beyond pain by that time. At 10.40 AM we saw a street sign suggesting that Delhi was 39 KM away.
We didn't have much time to rejoice. We entered the outskirts of Delhi at 11.25 AM. The midtown delhi traffic proved too much for our already about-to-break patience limits. There were traffic jams for every ten minutes. It was twelve by the time we reached our hotel. We were numb from the journey. We ate our lunch in silence and then i don't remember. It was a total blackout! I passed out! :P

Monday, August 3, 2009

Haridwar Day 3

I read in one of Agatha Christie's books that fey is the word that is used to describe an intense feeling of happiness before something bad happens. That was precisely the feeling i had when we left to Haridwar, to see the Mother Ganga at the place where she originated. We left at 5 o clock in the morning in order to avoid the rush hour traffic. Delhi might have a million people, but early morning it was just us and a few enthusiastic morning joggers and walkers. All of them working for a fitter body and a healthier mind. We zipped through the lanes at speeds which one couldn't even imagine in the latter parts of the day. As we reached the outskirts of Delhi, the traffic started getting thicker and all of us in the car had a smug smile. We fooled the traffic! Yay! By the time it was nine o clock we were already on the NH that took us into Uttar Pradesh. As we progressed on our journey, the climate just kept getting better and i couldn't;t have asked for more. We didn't stop for breakfast and got some chips and biscuits to munch on. I was feeling totally bindaas with a packet of uncle chips in my hand, a bottle of slice in another, legs stretched out in the front seat ,music playing in my ears and a flat road with a car traveling at about 100 kmph. This is what i call life. Through the taffic got worse at some places like Meerut and some other towns we came across on the way, we managed fine. The real journey started once we entered the parts under Uttarkhand ( I still thought it was Uttaranchal until I went to some check post, with the driver to pay some road tax). The road was smooth with tall trees on either sides and a slight drizzle started. The AC inside the car and the rain outside created a wonderful ambiance which got the joy in me to a new level! As we went on along the highway, my brother started to complain about some little pain in his stomach. That reminded me about my own stomach which was also hurting, but the difference was, i knew why it was hurting. HUNGER! I gave my uncle advice that all pains will be settled once we get to a restaurant and have something to eat. We spotted this beautifully maintained place with beautiful grass and all somewhere along the route. I had a sumptuous breakfast with a Masala Dosa ( An insult!), a bread sandwich (Yuk!) and finally an omlette (Better! Eat food which they can prepare ;) ) I was back on mood again. But my brother was still feeling a bit uneasy. His stomach trouble gave way to some loose motions. We were in a fix if we should go back and check on him or to continue the journey as we were already half way through. After a little bit of head breaking, we decided to make the journey. The second half of the journey was even better. The rain stopped and the trees on either sides started getting bigger and the climate got cooler and as the clouds clogged the skies, it got darker as well. We passed a few bridges. Frankly speaking, Ganga at these parts was extremely turbulent. It scared the shit out of me, whenever we had to pass over some really long bridges. The nature just kept getting better and better with each passing minute. As we closed in on Haridwar, the mountains( Shivaliks, the foot hills of the Himalayas came into picture). It was a feast to the eyes to see the river snake its way through the hills. After enjoying the untouched and well preserved beauty of mother nature, we entered the holy city of Haridwar.There were two things that caught my eye as soon as we entered the city. One, the city was brimming with crowd as some festival was on (There is always some festival for most parts of the year!). Two, the huge Shiva statue on the river which is more like the city's personalized logo. As i was getting high :P enjoying the ride, my poor brother was getting worse of his stomach ache. We decided to go to a hotel first, though it was not on our list of things. So we got to this hotel something. It was good, but i don't quite remember the name. The thing about new places is that, whenever things go the way we plan everything is clear and perfect. But now, our plan for the day was ruined and now everything appeared unclear. My bro was feeling no better. My uncle being a doc himself, was not ready to give him any conventional standard medicine which any of us would use for such a trouble. He consulted one more physician in Vizag over the phone and sent me pill hunting in a place where medical facilities appeared scarce and everyone seemed to be using Ganga for medication. Anyways, so this guy in a shop looked totally clueless when i showed him the name of the pill i wanted. So, I and the driver traveled a few more kilometers to another medical store. This fellow didn't have that particular medicine but had something with a similar configuration or something :) (I'm not familiar with medical terms for stuff!) Anyway, I called my uncle to find out if I could take that particular pill. This calling itself was another herculean task. The hotels internal phone system was screwed for some reason. So, I had to call this bellboy and he had to go all the way to the second floor, knock, wait for my uncle to answer and then speak to him. All this had to happen when my phone was on roaming. X( Thank god for the plentiful balance on my phone. My uncle is not convinced and asks me to call that another physician in my place to find out if we could use that. After that, I got the green signal for the pill. I went back to the hotel and delivered the stuff.(Frank Martin!) My heart really went out to my bro whose really good time turned sour. Frankly, I myself was not feeling really good. Stuck in an artificially cooled room when the weather outside was something like this. From the window, I saw three full hills with white clouds under them and dark clouds above them. The road below me was filled with people in orange, carrying god's idols with the holy spirit in the air. The trees too were gently swaying as if mocking at me. Finally, I get a green to go out and see some stuff. Um Hmm... Not so fast. Conditions apply. No taking baths in the river. Still, I agreed. But that was after a visit to the doctor. Took us quite some time to find out the biggest hospital in Haridwar. We estimations about the place turned out completely wrong as the place was as big as any conventional town with all the facilities and stuff. My bro was diagnosed with Amebiosis which was no big deal considering that we have good medicines for it. But it meant some more bed rest. Then, after getting back my uncle and brother to the hotel. I made my way to the one of the many ghats there. The place, the people, the river, the temples. WOW! No words. It was one huge culmination of people predominantly orange. It took us about 30 minutes to walk a kilometer. To see the people worship a river like that, with so much of fervor and devotion. Ain't possible in any other place on the face of the planet. There was people taking holy dips in a river that was carrying ice-cold muddy water.
All due to a single wonderful phenomenon which keeps human race and relationships running, FAITH. Faith that it is auspicious, faith that something for the better will happen.
The river was also majestic with full flow owing to the on time monsoons in that part of India. Then the stoke of sheer luck came, right out of the blues. We were just in time for the evening aarthi given to Ganaga mata each evening. The aarthi went something like this. The priests of three temples on the banks of the river come out around 7.00 PM in the evening and give aarthi to the river for bringing them prosperity. Thousands of people rather each evening to watch this grand spectacle. The sun was just dimming as the lights shone like gold, glittering under the darkening skies.
As one of the priests lifted the sacred fire into the air, the place reverberated with people muttering, GANGA MATA KI JAI! I unconsciously joined rhythm and it was one of the moments i felt really good for where I was. After that, I really felt content and happy for some strange reason.
. As i saw the lights of the banks fade away into the darkness, I got the feeling that it was worth it.
Content, I came back to the hotel and soon, I was fast asleep after not such a significant meal. Little did I know that the excitement was still not over. The return journey is something that I would not forget for a long long time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Agra Day 2

The next day of the trip was set to Agra where we wanted to see the world famous Taj Mahal(obviously :P). We took the wide NH 8 ( correct me if i'm wrong) via Gurgaon to reach Agra. The drive in on the AC Indica was very comfortable with the road sliding smooth under the rubber. Though we were sitting in the AC, the weather god showed signs of an unbearably hot day under the sun. After a bit of talking, songs and drowsing.. We stopped in between at Sikandra to pay respects to Muhammud Jallaluddin Akbar ( thanks to Ashutosh Gowarikar and Jodhaa Akbar ;) ) anyway, we stopped there and went around the tomb of the great man. I was shocked to know that he was about 5 foot 4 inches tall with a blackboard dark complexion. My image of Hrithik as Akbar got destroyed the very minute! :( The place was again beautifully maintained with lush green all around the place. One of the few places on the trip where i saw deers moving about in good numbers. The acoustic design of the palace explained by one of the many broken English speaking guides, was really very impressive. I also came to know that Sikandra was a mass burial chamber with some more tombs of his daughters and few more people. Oh yeah, one more thing i came to know about mughal tombs was that, the male tomb had a kind of projection on the top to signify the gender. The females also were buried there only because they died bachelors. After testing the Wall to Wall Wireless Voice Transmission System(WWWVTS! Just kidding...!!) we moved around the place which was built to signify Akbar's love for art and his tolerance towards various religions, we moved to the inner chamber where his tomb was... We had to pay some money who made a long and loud prayer by singing something in some incomprehensible language... Which i assumed was some pre-historic Urdu(!) We then moved onto Taj Mahal, the biggest wonder of India and one of the seven wonders in the entire world put together. No matter how great the place is, and no matter how many people visit it each day, its a pain in the ass to get inside the premises of the Taj. After parking in a lot which was about 3 KM from the gate, we took a camel ignoring the more comfortable electric auto. The camel needed a wash and the fellow who was in-charge needed to keep his mouth shut. X( After a really stinking and uncomfortable ride on the rickety, underfed camel ( I felt bad for the poor thing!) in the 12 o clock sun, we reached the main gate of the complex. The security and everything was fantastic, keeping in view the terrorist threats the monument was under. After we took tickets for ourselves, our digital camera and video camera, we proceeded to the metal detectors. It was here that i lost my patience. I forgot to take out my mp3 player as i got down from the car. I tried to convince the guard that i was not carrying a bomb or any kind of explosive. He remained adamant and i had to walk all the way back for a kilometer, so that i could deposit it in a safety locker.(Phew..! It was hot!!) as the bag mood bugs started running into my blood.. I vented it by shouting on the many people swarming around me, trying to convince me that there was stuff here that you couldn't dream of buying elsewhere. We then came to the grand gate of the Taj. Before i could take in the beauty of the marble marvel, More people swarmed around us, this time photographers, trying to show us the many fancy stills one could possibly imagine with the Taj in the backdrop. My uncle being a NRI was convinced that the photographer could take better pictures than me with a 8 MP camera (I am Jack's broken heart!) I was surprised to notice that he didn't use zoom on his pictures for some strange reason. After some fancy photography with sexy Taj in the backdrop, we proceeded inside the Taj with the sun draining the life force out of our bodies at an amazingly fast rate. Few hours later, the visit to the Taj was complete and we were on our way back, this time taking an auto for obvious reasons! We had lunch at three in some so called fancy south Indian restaurant where they didn't know the difference between Dal and Sambar(!) We ate slowly so as to delay the exposure to the sun for a second time. So, at around four thirty we made our way to Agra fort. One of the places i liked the most on my previous visits. By this time, the heat had taken its toll on my NRI bro and he was already too tired to walk. Since i was an ATV (Any terrain Vehicle) ;) i could still walk and take video's. After a fairly cursory look at the place, we got back into our more comfortable AC Indica and made our way back to Delhi. To prepare for day 3 &4 in Haridwar and Hrishikesh which i've never seen before. Little did i know that, they would turn as sour as any of my hoidays could've become...