Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tour memoirs - part 1

The following is an attempt to capture in a few pages that which cannot truly be captured – after all one cannot bundle a myriad of emotions in a few pages. Yet, to gratify myself, I have attempted here to focus on certain emotions and situations that will in retrospect, perhaps years later bring tears of joy to my eyes.

Thanks to the efforts of Vasu, Hermus, Kamakshinathan, Ayyaparaj and Karthikeyan, (I may have missed out a few of my classmates’ names which don’t in any way lessen their efforts in magnitude towards making the tour a possibility.) the idea of a north India tour took shape when our end semester exams had just started and the first plans were set in motion. The entire class was methodically briefed, money was collected, the college authorities were informed, permission was obtained and finally the tickets were booked.

The days leading up to the tour after the exams were those of frenzied excitement and preparation. At last, December 2 came and I boarded the bus with a suitcase and a small bag for Chrompet. As usual, it was the hostellers ( J ) who delayed the start though the staff also played their part.

When we finally boarded the train, there was just enough time to reach Chennai central, find our friends who had come directly there and reach the platform in time.

The train started promptly and again thanks to Vasu and Hermus, I think every body was comfortably settled for the night. The tour manager, a Mr. Babu and his team of cooks joined us along with the ration and utensils needed through the tour for providing us with food. As we braced ourselves for rail food, Vasu and Mani generously shared their dinner with almost all of us.

I was fast asleep by about nine thirty while some of the boys played cards. Around one o clock sairam woke up most of us and later I learnt that a person was stubbornly trying to occupy one of the berths meant for us.

The next day was spent playing cards, cards and cards. I think many of us got quite bored. Some people buried themselves in novels. (I was able to see Mario puzo and Sidney Sheldon with some.) As the day wore on, there was a palpable chillness in the air and it was time to get the sweaters and jerkins out.

A Punjabi (Sukhwant Singh, if I remember his name correctly) almost played the role of entertaining us late that night. To our repeated pleas of trying to make him sing a Punjabi number, he skillfully evaded and till the end refused to budge. His demeanor attracted our attention and we were not disappointed whenever he spoke. We had to be content with admiring his looks and occasional comments about his life in Chennai and the different ways of tying the turban.

All the time, Prasad was trying his best to learn Hindi as fast as he can! It amused us to see him checking his limited vocabulary with Mr. Sukhwant and another Rajasthani who was with him. By early morning, the Rajasthani was noting down equivalent Tamil words for the ‘parts of the body’ in a small handbook and Vichu was assisting him!!

Just before New Delhi, the train halted for a few minutes in the outskirts when we could see people defecating out in the open…no matter how fast our economy grows, the fruits of development don’t reach certain sections of the society and it is the same with all cities…no basic sanitation facilities….certain things never change…be it Chennai or the national capital.

After alighting down, we dragged our luggage slowly to the 49-seater bus that was waiting for us. Soon enough we were able to catch sight of CNG buses and rickshaws unique to Delhi. Visibility was not cent percent. In half an hour’s time, we reached ‘western queen’ in the Karol Bagh area.

I, Sudha, Muthu and Alex luckily got a room on the ground floor. (We were divided into groups of four and allotted rooms) and after taking a much needed bath, it was time for breakfast that was served in the top floor of the hotel. Everybody was impressed with the food that was served.

By late morning, we started on our local sight seeing and it was to the Birla Mandir that we headed first. It was an imposing structure and proved to the perfect first choice with its calm and serene atmosphere. The place was teeming with foreigners who were clearly marveled by the temple’s architecture and the Hindu myths. Outside the temple, the courageous among us posed with snakes around the necks.

From there, we headed for the Qutb Minar. On the way, we were able to see a lot of ‘round annas’. Mani felt that land utilization in the capital was poor. We were struck by the smooth flow of traffic and the near absence of hustle and bustle that we wondered whether the day was a holiday! We could spot men playing cards in groups. Another thing that soon registered in our minds was the western attire that the Delhi lasses seemed to prefer. I think that they spend a lot of time making up their faces before the mirrors for it was quite evident from their appearance that they spend a lot of money on cosmetics and beauty products than young women down south. I wonder what girls thought about the Delhi males J

On reaching Qutb Minar, we spent a good amount of time trying to capture the tall structure within the focus of our cameras. The sun appeared to have made up its mind to stay under clouds for the day and hence the weather was pleasant. We settled ourselves on the grass and tried to think how Delhi might look from the top of the Minar.

Our next halt was at the India gate where we were served our lunch. After a hearty meal, we set out on foot to take in the sights nearby. It was then that a curious thing happened. The girls of our class had assembled together for a group photo near the India gate. Just then a small group of highly interested foreigners passed by the place and literally every one of them posed with the girls group one after another. This strange photo session attracted the attention of many people around and the girls were on cloud nine from what I could make out from their broad smiles.

Then we started walking down the long road to the rashtrapati bhavan. The walk took longer than I had expected and at the end of it we were elated to see some dignitary entering the president’s residence with all the security in place. The traffic on the lane was temporarily suspended and people were asked to steer clear of the way and soon enough a black limousine passed us by preceded and succeeded by many security vehicles.

A small group went off towards the parliament while the majority including myself started the long walk back. Along the road on either side we could see couples relaxing in the grass and behind trees. Their public display of affection seemed a little too much.

Back in the bus, as always, it was time to wait for the last group…back in the hotel, some people went shopping in the nearby Monday market and after bargaining hard got themselves gloves, jerkins, sweaters and many other things…

The next day, we started early to Chandigarh after our breakfast. Our driver, a Mr. Mishra was driving at a slow and steady pace. At one of the dhabas, we had our lunch though the food served had been prepared by the team accompanying us.

At the end of what seemed to be a journey that would never end, we reached Chandigarh by 4 in the afternoon. What immediately caught our attention was the organization of the city into well planned sectors as was evident from the many signboards. Here too, the traffic was thin when I tried to compare it with Chennai’s.

Our first stop, rock garden impressed one and all. Divided into 3 phases, it is an artificial garden most of which is built from recycled waste. Running through it were innumerable narrow passages where one could easily get lost. Also to be seen were small waterfall like constructions which made for some good spots to click away photos.

We took a long time inside the garden marveling at the ingenuity of the people who were responsible for coming up with such a novel idea. When we got to the artificial lake nearby, already it was getting dark and a light drizzle began. It however did little to deter our spirits. Had we been a little early, probably we could have enjoyed boat rides.

That night, the dinner was quite memorable at a dhaba with rotis and tomato thokku in the chill weather. Many of us having been used to the Chennai weather (hot, hotter and hottest) got our gloves out for protection. We reached Amritsar in time to catch up with some sleep before the next eventful day. (The day, I enjoyed most)

Note: All suggestions and comments can be directly conveyed either to my email-id or to my orkut scrapbook..


Prathiba said...

Thanks again Shiva, for capturing these moments.. have been meaning to read this again for sometime, got the chance to do so today...

Since nobody seems to answered your query, I thought I will do so :) I don't remember the Delhi guys making much of an impression on us. In fact, we did not notice them at all ;) too bad, huh? In chennai, we atleast noticed them enough to lament our misfortune ;)

And about the photo session, we thought you guys looked a little green, I wonder why.. :P

Shiva said...

That is an interesting revelation Prathiba :)

Once in a while, I try to read some of these old posts...helps me relive those beautiful moments and imagine what must have made me write them...blogging is fun!

Looking forward to reading your experiences with book blogging, keep posting!