Sunday, July 21, 2002

India Tour - Mathura-Agra-Delhi

21 July – Delhi 

Slept really well, as it got cool at night. Went to the station early in the morning to get tickets for Delhi on the Dehra Dun-Indore express. We boarded the general compartment. It was nice and entertaining –so many people….and of course there is the general rudeness also.  The wooden berths were so uncomfortable – I could not wait for Delhi to arrive! It arrived at 12 pm. We immediately got an AC retiring room (after Rs 50 under the table). Good comfortable room.  And then of course went out to the gali to have lunch – kachoris!! Again! And then had doodh malai – I tell you – good food is only in India! 

It was super hot, so came back and took siesta. Evening went to Chandini Chowk for Sunday market. Interesting stuff – fun to look around and also bought some stuff – don’t know how long it will last or if it is authentic. Went to Bhagirath palace to get some CDs…a lot of it was closed, but some shops were still open and yes – I did buy some CDs. As we were walking back through the Sunday market, papa was in the front and I was behind him, suddenly 2-3 guys went past me and I could not quite tell then but later recalled that I could tell that they were pickpocketers. And of course its always papa’s pockets that get picked, which is why I carry all the money. He did not lose a lot of money but it is still a violation of personal space. It brought us down a little bit. 

We came to Haldirams in Chandni Chowk and we had some samosa and kachori. Yum! Came back to our room by 6:30 pm and then went out to the market outside the railay station. Its quite good.  I needed to get a suitcase which we bargained one from Rs 650 to Rs 350. Unbelievable!! But did not buy that – bought another nice one for Rs 1100. (Note from later on – the handle of the suitcase broke on the way to USA!). 

Dinner was samosas and then off to bed!

22 July -  Delhi

Last day in India and Delhi is closed.  We packed up and vacated the room. Papa went to get a cheaper room, but they did not have one so we had to get a bed in the dormitory. And there was not a single woman there!! Just me! We left around 9:30 am to go to Darya Ganj to go to Papa’s bank, but found out tah the bank branch had shifted a few doors down. I went to Halidram to get some namkeens while Papa was at the bank.  It was a nice bank – clean and airy. 

Then we were off to Janpath to all the emporiums. Bought some nice jewely at the Gandhi emporium. Wandered around to the Coffee House and had vada and coffee. Definitely tasty! Went back to the room to rest but found some cops sleeping on our beds! Ugh! Went to the supervisor who gave some silly excuse as to “kya kar saktey hain? Police waley hain!” but after making some noise, they came and rudely woke the cops and then we had to wait until they changed the bedsheets and pillow covers. Disgusting behavior. 

Went back to Janpath again at 4 pm to enjoy the street market, which as always is enjoyable.  There is a lot of bargaining (from Rs 1800 to Rs 750) but the goods there are so good – all hand made and all the vendors are women. Amazing ladies!! 

Came back to the station – took a quick shower and got ready for dinner – which was naan and paneer – most awesome and it was just a dhaba near the station. Perfect ending to a great day.  Picked up the luggage and then we were off to the airport. 

Bye bye India.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

India Tour - Mathura-Agra-Delhi

20 July – Agra 

Left the hotel at 6 am to catch the 7:15 am shuttle to Agra (from Mathura). People were singing bhajan all the way…very nice atmosphere. We reached Agra at 8:30 am. This time we did get a retiring room at the railway station. Very comfortable. We then hired a taxi for Rs 550 for the day.  The driver, Ram, took us to Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort and then Taj Mahal. Fatehpur Sikri is about 45 min drive from Agra. There were some reech (bear) dancing on roadside. 

Once we got to Fatehpur, the first thing we did was pay respects to Salim Chisti’s dargaah. It is as soon as one enters through the Buland darwaza. Really pious place. One feels like all their wishes would come true. (Although none of mine did). There were so many vendors outside the fort, but thank god, none inside.  Then we walked around inside. We found a guide right in the beginning – always godo to have a guide.  Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar when his wish for having a son came true (by Salim Chisti).  We walked around to the Joda Bai mahal, Miriam mahal, Diwan-e-Khas etc. It was not a huge fort, very comfortable to walk around. They had good engineering back then also to keep the buildings cool, have a water system, etc. 

A little boy had been walking with us for a while and he wanted to recite a sher…well..finally he said it. It was so sweet – I don’t rememeber it – but it was cute. Our driver took us for breakfast – jalebi, lassi and kachori – nothing is better than that! We took some laddu for later. 

Next stop was Agra Fort.  Got a guide again from inside. It is kind of like the Fatehpur Sikri – same kind of living quarters, but larger. And once we walked out of Huaz Khas, I could see the Taj Mahal clearly. So beautiful, even from so far away. This is the location where Shah Jahan, along with his daughters – Jahanara and Roshanara were held captive by his son – Aurengzeb. The fort was all very beautiful and some of the lookout areas were even more beautiful. Sat out there for a while looking at Taj. 

Left around 2-2:30 for Taj. Cars don’t go there, so had to take a rickshaw.

There was great security to see the Taj. They went through the bags and removed – food items! Hmmm..okay. I left all that in the locker. There was a big enternace. The most interesting thing about the way one enters Taj is that you don’t see it until you see it….and then the view is just amazing.  So for the first few minutes one does not even realize where they are going. So after going through a huge gate, I first set eyes on the Taj – and of course the first comment is “Oh My God!!” – just so beautiful to see. 

Papa and I sat in the front for a while and then walked to the Taj. There is really not much to see there anymore. The engravings are beautiful, they used to be colored but now they are just empty engravings. But still the intricacy of it all is commendable.  All the Koran aayetein are written in such a way that one can read them top to bottom, so the size changes. The graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz are below the main floor, but they are locked up now – they used to be accessible before. 

There are two mosques on either side of the Taj and of course the four minarets on the four sides. I think the most impressive thing about the Taj is the symmetry of it all. And I think that is why I feel so connected with it too. I like symmetry in my life. 

Papa sat down while I walked all around the Taj. It was too hot and we are not allowed slippers in the Taj, so it was a little tough to walk around. But I wanted to. Very nice – so scenic, sitting on the banks of Jamuna. Great tour! 

Went back and on the way back our driver, Ram Babu stopped at Brijwasi Petha – of course I bought some! Also stopped by a UP Handicraft store and bought Taj Mahal replicas, one for me and one for Bhaiya. Bought carpet for Bhaiya and chappals for me. Had Bhaiya’s stuff mailed to him from the store directly (he got it after about 4-5 months – not a bad deal!). 

And we were back in our room by 4:30 pm. Great tour! And then it rained. No problem. We ate namkeen, chatted and just rested. Went to the Sadar Bazaar later – it was quite a posh bazaar. Came back soon as we had planned to do shopping in Delhi. Had dosas for dinner and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

India Tour - Mathura-Agra-Delhi

17 July – Mathura 

Left Delhi for Mathura early morning and took the train at 8 am. We got the 2nd class sleeper car. A ticket checker came by and then another and asked us to pay Rs 150 fine (for what?). we gave it to him. Then he asked papa if he should write it, papa told him to do whatever, so the TT gave Rs 50 back and pocketed 100! What?!! What a joke. Reached Mathura at about 11:15 am. 

It was really hot in the city. Papa got conned by the rikshawala to take a hotel in the city rather than stay at the train station guest room as we always do. So we reached Pyare Mohan Hotel on Junction Road. Room was a little dirty, but ok. The hotel staff came and cleaned it up. All temples are closed till 4 pm, so se slept till after 3 pm. I got some dahi kachori for some lunch. Yum! 

We had to go to the bus stand to get an auto to tour the city. There was no auto near our hotel. A nice autowalla, Rajesh, took us on our tour. Unfortunately it started raining within 15 mins of our tour. We picked up a religious studies student/guide for our 4 hr tour (Rs 350). First we went to Holi Gate market. Went to Brijwasi Sweets, bought some peda, ghevar and ate some ras malai and badam milk. Then walked back to Brijwaasi chaat and had gol gappa, tikki and gujiya – all for Rs 23. And all just so tasty – no words!!

18 July – Mathura 

Today we toured around some temples. We went to Jamuna banks – so peaceful there. There is very little water in the river. Our guide said that Krishna used to sit on this one particular tree to see the gopis…yeah – sure!! Went to Vrindavan. This was possibly my favorite place. It was a medium size garden full of tulsi – about 3 ft high. Apparently all the tulsi are gopis, and at night Krishn comes and plays flute and does raas in this garden and all the tulsi turn into gopis. Radha is also comes during the night.  For me it was just magical. The only problem was in the daytime was there were too many monkeys in the garden! They almost took my camera! One interesting thing the guide said is that anyone who spends the night here does not live to see the day. Hmmm….

Last stop was the birthplace of Krishn in Mathura. We could not take our cameras inside so papa and I went in one by one. Krish was born in the prison where his parents were prisoned by his Uncle, Kans. There is a temple there, but the prison is also maintained as a prison. Of course it is not the original prison, but one gets the idea.  It was a nice walk through. I wish I had brought in my purse with money so I could buy some little trinkets. Another time. I will come back here some day again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

India Tour - Dehra Dun

26 June Varanasi -> Dehra Dun

We left Varanasi after buying parwal and tori. We finally had some good kachodi and jalebi for breakfast and took some to go. Packed up and left for the train station.  But despite being so prepared and all, Papa went in the wrong compartment – 3 tier instead of 2 tier. So coolie was a waste; I had to move the luggage to the next bogie over. Thank god for AC!  The dinner guy never came, luckily we had ours with us, although it was in the best condition. The oil had all solidified so it was weird tasting, but it was still food.

Arrived in Dehra Dun at 7 am! It always feel like I am home when I come there.

2 July – Dehra Dun

We booked a taxi and went around all the places in Dehra Dun. We started with Sahestradhara. It has become really commercial and dirty. It used to be so pristine when I was growing up.  And now ..ugh.. And then it rained! We waited for about 20 mins for the rain to stop. Then we went to a nice temple. All us sisters got completely drenched at this time in the rain. Then it was to Sai temple on Rajpur road. And it rained again.  After another few minutes of waiting we were off to Mussoori. The drive was beautiful despite the small rainy patches.

Mussoori was extremely crowded. There were cars everywhere, horses were pooping and the rickshaws….it was terrible! Not the scenic hill station I was hoping for. And the air was smelling terrible. We walked about 5 km to Mall road and then to Camels Back road. Very tiring. The view everywhere was great. If it wasn’t for the crowd Mussoori would be lovely. We had our lunch at Camels Back road and then walked back to the car and drove down to Dehra Dun. 

Before we went home, we stopped at Dear Park – a very small zoo. Very pretty place. Lots of ducks, monkeys, dears and yes…leopards.  And then stopped at the Shiv temple on the way down. Really nice temple. Bought some little trinkets.