October 25, 2008

Jackdaws

The day was gone
The night came on
The monks and the friars, they searched till dawn
When the sacristan saw
On crumpled claw
Come limping a poor little lame jackdaw
No longer gay
As on yesterday
His feathers all seemed to be turned the wrong way
His pinions dropped, he could hardly stand
His head was as bald as the palm of your hand
His eye so dim
So wasted each limb
That, heedless of grammar, they all cried : :That's Him!"

- Ken Follet

October 22, 2008

And back from the N.India trip

I am back; after 17 days as i had run out of my budget. I had planned around 3000 INR for a period of 30 days*, but i ended up spending a little too much on street food in Varanasi and Ayodhya and had to cut short the number of days and be back home. It was a good trip covering many aspects of life and meeting different kinds of people and talking to them and exchanging experiences; not to mention the 3000+ pictures that i clicked (have to upload em somewhere!!).

Trail :

Chennai -> Mumbai -> Delhi -> Agra -> FatehpurSikri -> Jaipur -> Pushkar -> Varanasi -> Allahabad -> Chitrakoot-> Varanasi -> Ayodhya -> Jhansi -> Orcha -> Gwalior -> Chennai.

Itinerary:
Day - 1 (30 Sep) Tue : Chennai to Mumbai (Flight- Spicejet) ; eve walk in Churchgate-Colaba. Around Gateway of India and Taj Hotel.

Bombay Marine Drive

Day - 2 (01 Oct) Wed : Mumbai to Delhi(Flight- Spicejet) ; Spend the eve in Delhi
Delhi Metro

Day - 3 (02 Oct) Thu : (its Id!)Around Delhi - Red Fort, India Gate; Leave for Agra(5 hour bus ride); Reach Agra in the Eve.

Day - 4 (03 Oct) Fri : (Its a Friday - Taj is Closed!)To Fatehpur-Sikri. On the way back, view Taj from Agra Fort. Roam around Agra.
Fatehpur Sikri - Salim Chisti Durgah

Day - 5 (04 Oct) Sat : Leave for Jaipur (5 hr bus ride); Eve around Jaipur(Amber Fort).

Day - 6 (05 Oct) Sun : In and Around Jaipur
Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day - 7 (06 Oct) Mon : To Pushar(uneventful ride to Puskar). In the eve to Gultaji-ka-Mandir(also called Monkey Temple).

Pushar Lake


Day - 8 (07 Oct) Tue : In and Around Jaipur(City Palace, Amber Fort and Gultaji-ka-Mandir)
Monkeys at Monkey Temple

Day - 9 (08 Oct) Wed : Leave for Varanasi/Benaras(reach Delhi by Jet and then to Varanasi via Spicejet). Took a beautiful drive from the Varanasi Airport to city bus stand via the local bus - nice ride - heard some good nice Avadhi Hindi and Bhojpuri. Stayed at Kanchi Sankaracharya Mutt, Hanuman Ghat. Went for a walk along the streets of Varanasi. Its Navami!! and the streets are filled with the most beautiful women and salivating street food.Roamed around the streets and the durga pooja pandals.
Durga Pooja Pandal at Varanasi


Day - 10 (09 Oct) Thu : Start for Chitrakoot(along with another family who were in the Mutt). Reach Allahabad. Bathe in Prayag/Sangam - confluence of Ganges, Yahuna and Saraswati.Visit some small temples around.Anand Bhavan closed.
View from the boat in Prayag. Australian Sea gulls there.


Dusty and bumby ride to Chitrakoot. Reach in the evening. Stay in a Ved-Pathshala - in the middle of agri fields and loads of greenery all around.

Day - 11 (10 Oct) Fri : Bathe in the Mandakini river(RamGhat). Visit Banarasi Ram, Bharat temple, trek-up to HanumanDhara(mysterious perennial stream appears from nowhere and disappears into nowhere), KanchMandir(temple made of mirrors and glasses), Janaki Kund(Sita used to bathe here), Ram Darshan and Ayush Dham. Ram Darshan was the best of this entire trip - the paintings and the PoP sculptures were amazing; the statue of Ram and Sita in the final room was like a 'durbar' and was pleasing to the eye,mind and the soul. Stroll along the Ayush Dham was beautiful, see different varieties of Cows and how they were nurtured; there is a Cow-research institute here. Came back to the pathshala to see a small snake in the room!

View from HanumanDhara, Chitrakoot


Day - 12 (11 Oct) Sat : Start the day at 4am. Bathe in the Vedpathshala's pumpset(in the open) in darkness. Did a 5km parikrama(on foot) of the Kamadhgiri). The pathshala's teacher('master') was the guide for the day.Visited Gupt-Godavari, Sati-Anusuya temple and Bharat-coop(this is the well in which Bharat(Ram's brother) poured the waters of the all the oceans and the rivers in the world - the well never dries and is the only well in the region that had water during my visit here).

Monkeys with the statue of Tulsidas, during Parikrama of Kamadhgiri, Chitrakoot


Beautiful non-stop and full throttle ride from Chitrakoot to Sitamarhi via Allahabad.Sitamarhi is the place where Sita is supposed to be gone into the Mother Earth.Reach Varanasi at 10pm. Have a good pot of thick 'malai' curd in the local malaiwala and sleep.

Model of Sita going into Mother Earth, SitaMarhi


Day - 13 (12 Oct) Sun : Nice walk around Varanasi to visit the temples of Lord Vishwanatha, goddess Vishalakshi , goddess Annapurni and Kala-Bhairava. The security in the Vishwanath temple was amazing; there were a hundred gates to it, all of which merged into 2-3 final ones.Nothing is permitted inside the temple except for the dress that one wears and probably watch and a non-leather purse. Visited the ruins and the monasteries of Sarnath in the noon. Evening was a visit again to Vishwanath temple for the Saptha-Maharishi pooja;Got place bang opposite the lingam, near the garbha-griha and watched this mind numbing ceremony -- This was also one of the spotlights of this trip. The 1 hour long pooja with the priests chanting some mysterious mantras was amazing. The floral lingam decorations and the final arati of the lingam was something of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Came back after this and roamed around the streets and ate some good street food.

Sarnath ruins

Day - 14 (13 Oct) Mon : Woke up early in the morning and took a dip in the Ganges in Kedar Ghat. Came back took my camera and walked along the ghats. Went from Harishchandra Ghat(famous for crmating bodies) all the way to the right. And then came back and went all the left till Manikarnika Ghat(again, a very famous ghat for cremating). Met some interesting people from different walks of life along the ghats - a boatman, dhobi(cloth-washer),kids selling postcards, saints, naga-sadhus, drug-dealer, few foreign tourists, etc etc. Boarded the train at midnight to Ayodhya.

Ghats of Varanasi

Day - 15 (14 Oct) Tue : Reached Ayodhya at 4:30 a.m. Took a small cheap room near the station and slept for sometime (the previous 2 days have been hectic). Start the day at 7:30 am. Bathe in Sarayu river. Roamed around the streets of Ayodhya. Visited the famous Rama-Janma-Bhoomi(RJB).Security at RJB is impregnable - the entire region was like military stronghold - army and police at every nook and corner to take care of the delicate situation. Saw the statue of Lord Rama in the tent in the site - heard some 'interesting' comments from the visiting die-hard-Ram-devotees.Ate some amazing sweets and good food along the streets of Ayodhya. Boarded the train at 6pm for Jhansi and slept immediately :)

Streets of Ayodhya

Proposed temple at the Ram Janma Bhoomi Site


Day - 16 (15 Oct) Thu : Reached Jhansi at 7:30am. Dumped my luggage in the cloak room and started for Orcha.Roamed in the ruined palaces and the temples in Orcha. Orcha is a must-visit place in this region. The noon sun was too harsh and in the meantime i had also covered all places there(just didnt take a plunge in the river betwa - but the view from the palaces of the turquiose green waters was beautiful).

Palace at Orcha


Came back to Jhansi and visited the famous Jhansi Fort.

Place from where Queen Lakshmi Bai jumped out of the fort on her horse


Jhansi Fort


Took a train ticket in the UnReserved category to Gwalior and went into the Sleeper compartment - was caught by the ticket checkers, but managed to convince them and got out without a fine(actually i didnt know that i am not supposed to travel, as a Police constable told me that i could).Moved to the General(Unreserved category) and sat on the stairs. It was a nice ride in here. Midway i slept, and i think something hit on my knee, and there i was , with excruciating pain. For a minute, i thought that i had lost my leg, and tried to standup and i did, but could not feel my leg. I let the blood flow for sometime , but the pain was amazing - but there was no blood around! I just let it pass and controlled the pain till i reached Gwalior. I decided to play it safe a little, as the knee joint hurt a little when i tried to climb the stairs - spent sometime in the station's intenet cafe and then got bored and atleast thought of checking out the local lores.I chose not to visit the Gwalior Fort and the other temples as they needed some walking and i did not want to excert any pain on my knees. I asked around and went to the Baaada Bazzaaar and roamed around here. Some of the most beautiful(read 'not sexy') women are in Gwalior. It was great to see all of them wearing Indian dresses(i.e, Salwars/saris) - hardly could spot any wearing western wears. Spent some talking to the Fine Art students who were sketching in the bazaar junction. Also, ate some more luscious street food. It was a time well spent.

Day - 17 (16 Oct) Fri : Boarded the train at 3:30 a.m from Gwalior to Chennai. Train was late by an hour. Day spent in the train and chatting with the fellow travellers. There were teens(in their 19-20) from Kashmir who were undergoing AirForce training in Avadi and were returning back(to Avadi) after a vacation back home (in Kashmir); and also jawans(soldiers) who were returning home(to TamilNadu) from Kashmir border for Diwali vacation. Brain numbing chats with the guys and their experiences. Spellbound. The teen soldiers were showing me the pictures of their girl-friends back home in Kashmir and how one of them got engaged to his GF recently. I could see a couple of wet-eyes here and there. The guys also offered me Golden Apples(the best variety) and dry fruits. Had a wonderful chat with the guys on Kuran and the Kashmir-issue. I must say that this was one of the best days in my life. Train was running 3 hours late.

Day - 18 (17 Oct) Sat : Train 15 min ahead of schedule. Bid adios to mates in the train - exchanged addresses and ph nums. Reached Chennai(Home) at 8:30 a.m.

There i was .. bearded+stinking..back home.

* Update : I was sponsored from Mumbai to Varanasi. After that, it was on me.

October 07, 2008

Travel Update

The project has come to a close and we have had some very interesting times. We had some real great fun and explorations over the past one week and things have come to an 'official' end. We were kind of unlucky w.r.t the project as we had not clicked even a single picture till today. And today turned out to be the 'lucky' day with some really-great-fabulous(and yes, i can use more adjectives here!) frames being clicked.

ok..ok.. Curious Q is : What is the project about? i understand the curiosity , but am afraid that i have to keep my mouth shut for some more time, till we get the entire series shot over the next couple of months(or years ??). Please do cooperate and and do understand that this project is something that will be great to watch after a few years or after a decade. (now i totally understand that your curiosity levels are at an all-time high and i have completely got your attention :P .. but yes, things will be 'revealed' once things fall into place.)

Brief of what has happened till now :
(30 Sep) Tue :Chennai to Mumbai (Flight- Spicejet) ; eve walk in Churchgate-Colaba
(01 Oct) Wed : Mumbai to Delhi(Flight- Spicejet) ; Spend the eve in Delhi
(02 Oct) Thu : Around Delhi; Leave for Agra(5 hour bus ride); Reach Agra in the Eve
(03 Oct) Fri : Around Agra
(04 Oct) Sat : Leave for Jaipur (5 hr bus ride); Eve around Jaipur
(05 Oct) Sun : In and Around Jaipur
(06 Oct) Mon : In and Around Jaipur
(07 Oct) Tue : In and Around Jaipur

So that completes the Golden Triangle!!

I am going to Delhi tomorrow and am planning to spend some time in Benaras(Varanasi) , by the Ganges. Then i plan to visit Lumbini and Kathmandu(both in Nepal) and return back home. Also, i need to crunch in Gaya,Sarnath and Allahabad - dont know how i am going to manage all those!

Hope things go on fine and hoping to stumble on right minded people & continue the journey.

October 01, 2008

Day-1 Mumbai

Took the Spicejet flight from Chennai to Mumbai and reached Mumbai on time, but wait...all my hopes of taking the pictures from the flight got wasted, as i had a really bad window glass. I guess Spicejet has to change all its window-glasses ..mind it - it is not dirty - i guess it looked like small broken glasses were fixed with fevicol - i could hardly see anything - it was like some really thick cloud stuck to my window glass. Hence, my camera for the most part of it was sleeping and i was sleeping, as it was futile 'peeping-out'.

Then came the most interesting part -- i had to go from the domestic airport to NewMarine Lines(near Churchgate). I could either take an auto to Andheri or SantaCruz and take the train and reach Churchgate in less than 1 hour and end up spending 20Rs(at the max) or take a taxi and reach directly. I chose the latter, and ended up paying 300rs and almost spent 2.5 hours in the taxi -- the traffic jams near Dadar and KablaDevi were bad!!! I did not have a choice but to take the taxi, as i was carrying my camera and wanted it to safe.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was nice. I could see many facets of Mumbai and it was fun watching all of it. I did not realize 2.5 hours just flew by. There are couple of things that Mumbai has impressed me with, till now:
- The city when seen from the plane is different from other cities - the skyline is gorgeous.
- I did not see any group of people standing anywhere in the city and chit-chatting -- everyone was on the move and everyone carried an air as if they had some business meeting in sometime.
- Everyone is equal here - people here are what they are for - i saw some really good dressed women and men standing by the road and having tea('chai') , which one cannot see in other cities.

Having said that, we did not do much clicking today. we just went on a long walk from Churchgate to Colaba and back - saw the Gateway of India(which is under restoration) and also went inside the Taj(hotel). Taj here is lavish , extravagant and grand - the best hotel in India i have ever seen. I wanted to click inside the hotel, but i was kind of shabbily dressed and was already attracting attention - and hence we quickly moved out. Had dinner at Kamat and moved back to the hotel and am penning this down from my bed with all lights off, eyes semi0closed and ...i ...slepttttttttttttttt................
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