Monday, August 02, 2010

The Journey Begins!

[If you are interested in the rest of this memoir please click here]

In the railway station we had a quick intro to the rest of the group. Frankly that time I couldn't get anyone's name properly. Only thing I noticed was that there were too many ishs what with ishviene, ishrat, isha , aisha etc. In fact for the initial few days we were referring to them as "one of the ish's" as the names were too confusing ;) And the group was also very peculiar. For a Himalayan trek like this, I was expecting mostly guys who are into hardcore trekking and I was scared that I will be the only one left behind. But thankfully except for our two guides, there was only a sole male member and all others were ladies and most of them much older than me(but much fitter). I am not sure at their age whether I will be able to walk within my courtyard itself!!

We did an overnight train journey to Haridwar and then it was a long bus journey to Joshimat.

The route was picturesque though most of us resorted to sleeping.

There were few landslides on the way but it got cleared soon and we reached Joshimat by around 10 PM.

We were put up in a dormitory but thankfully the guest-house people gave us some rooms to freshen up. After a nice hot bath(that was the last proper bath for the next few days) all of us soon retired to relax before all the fun and excitement awaiting us the next day...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Glimpses of Delhi and a mad rush!!

[This is a memoir of one of the dream trips I have gone. If you are interested in reading the first part here is the link
Jul 31 : Kickstart

The next day (1st Aug) we got up late and after breakfast checked out from the rooms as advised by the manager. He promised to give us a room to freshen up once we come back after the Delhi tour. The taxi driver was waiting for us. Thankfully it was the same English speaking driver. He then told us where he will drop us in the evening and how we should come back to the hotel. We also confirmed how far the railway station is and he told that it's just 2 mins walk down the road. We were relieved and decided to roam around till 6 PM, come back, freshen up and reach the station at 7 PM.

Our first stop was Lakshmi-Narayan Temple (also called Birla Mandir). It is made of mostly white marbles and red sand stone and the architecture although good was too modern for a temple (at least that's what I felt and I have the same opinion about Iskon temples. Problem of growing up in kerala amongst the ancient temples I guess.)

We then headed towards the Indira Gandhi museum passing through Parliament House Rashtrapati Bhawan etc but unfortunately we couldn't get down. I am not sure if it was not allowed or our driver cum guide didn't want to stop. So I could only steal some pictures from the moving car :( But that route impressed all of us - Wide roads, nice neem tree coverings on either sides, no traffic jams. We almost concluded that Delhi is much better than B'lore infrastructure wise :)

Anyway we soon reached the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum which is actually the sprawling yet simple white bungalow where Indira Gandhi lived. I think one of the first biographies that I read as an Amar Chitra Kadha was that of Mrs.Gandhi's when I was 6 or 7 yrs old and from that time I am a huge fan of her strong character. I still remember the pain that I felt when I read that she burnt her foreign toys and clothes in support of the Swadeshi movement!

This museum has a collection of her personal belongings and it gives a visual narration of her life from childhood to her last days in such a manner that they are rendered alive by merely their presentation. The saddest part is that this includes the blood stained sari, which she wore on the day she was assassinated. It also contains the personal exhibits of Rajeev Gandhi. There also along with his photographs and other personal possessions, depicting the happy times of his life, there were the burnt clothes and shoes that he wore when he was assassinated in the bomb blast :( Then once you enter the gardens outside the museum, the place where Indira Gandhi finally fell after being shot has been marked, which also has few dried blood spots. I guess even if you have a totally different political view, no one can come out of that place without feeling the strong presence that this family has in the Indian History and appreciating their sacrifices for the country.

We then headed to Kutab Minar where our history books came alive. It was really hot but we enjoyed the time we spent there.

After an elaborate lunch we went to India Gate and spent sometime there - a leisurely walk, ice-cream and cotton candies:).
Our next destination was chandni chowk and then back to hotel. Btw on the way to chandni chowk we realized actual Delhi is not the beautiful Delhi that we experienced before. It was on the way to chandni chowk that the sisters got a phone call from home and she was explaining where all we went and where we are heading to and then the train. Our driver was listening to the conversation and suddenly he asked us ‘From which station is your train?’ and we were like isn’t it the station near our hotel? He then told us that there are many stations and not all trains come to all the stations. He said if our train is by any chance from old Delhi, after picking the luggage from hotel we are not going to reach there by 7 PM which was the designated reporting time. Unfortunately the organizers had not mentioned the train no or name or the specific station and we didn’t clarify it either as we assumed it is the one near the hotel. So we desperately tried to contact them but in vain. After 1 hr or so, when we finally got through the number, our worst fears came true. It was indeed the old Delhi station but thankfully he said the train is at 10 PM and only the reporting time was 7 PM. So thanking our stars we rushed back to hotel, freshened up and got ready but then the next hurdle - The taxi had left as he was not willing to come to old Delhi again and so we had to find another one. The hotel guy assured us he will arrange another soon. But the ‘soon’ didn’t happen very soon and finally by the time we left it was already past 8 PM. We were desperately asking them how much time it will take to reach the station and they were like normally 20-30 mins but in traffic it can stretch to even 3 hrs. Our heart sank! In between there was another tiff because the driver the hotel person had arranged who was the fastest had already some passengers and they were in no mood to shift to another vehicle. No other drivers were confident enough to get us there on time!!! Finally that was resolved and the driver kaka drove, rather flew, us to the station. I have not seen anyone driving so fast in such crazy traffic. No wonder the hotel guy picked him. He dropped us and then the vehicle refused to start again. Thank God it happened only after we reached. We then met the organizers and realized train is at mid-night and all the tension was not really worth it!! (Lesson learnt: Do your homework even though everything is supposedly taken care by someone else). Btw one more incident happened – one of the sisters lost her mobile. She had spoken in the car and so we realized it has fallen in the car itself. We tried calling the number but the car was no where to be seen. We almost thought we had lost it when we saw the cab coming back again. The driver heard the ring and he came back to return the phone. Honest people are not so rare in this world right?