Monday, December 21, 2009

6 Hours and 40 minutes

Six hours of journey time.
40 minutes of looking around.
Lots of money spent.

Obviously, doesnt make any sense! But thats what we did this Saturday.

After a super-busy phase, it was a whimsical choice to relax in Yamuna Bio-Diversity Park. From where did it crop up in our minds, I have no clue. And no clue as to how to reach the spot. There were three of us, so we chose to avail of public transport... just for the sake of it. Do not form the impression that Delhi's public transport system is very exciting... well, it is, but in the wrong sense.

Friday evening, I just spotted the place on Google Maps... road links were not clear enough, but what we could judge was that if we could reach Jahangirpuri Metro Station in North Delhi, we would be reasonably close. And so next morning, three of us jumped in a bus and went to Central Secretariat, the nearest Metro Station, which is a cool 15 km away. Even on a Saturday morning, congestion was immense, and the journey cost us about 1 hr and 15 minutes. And our destination was at the other end of the Metro route. By the time we emerged out of the mostly underground track, we were already exasperated from travelling. And difficulty had just begun.

No one who we chose to ask had even heard about Yamuna Bio Diversity Park. We enquired for spots around as we had seen on the map, and got confused more and more. One seemed to be in a direction diametrically opposite from the other. Finally, we chose a direction which appeared feasible to all of us. We boarded a cycle rickshaw and reached a bus stop on the Karnal Byepass. The backdrop of a sanitary landfill site with its strong smell appeared to excite the landscape architect in my husband and the urban designer in our friend, as they started taking photographs enthusiastically. I took the initiative and requested an inter-state bus to drop us a few kilometres ahead to our next intermediate destination. We had to walk 500 m down to get into a crowded RTV, another point-to-point public transport service. The vertical height of the vehicle was so small that I could barely stand upright, just imagine the condition of the other two with me... both of whom are much taller than me.

Sant Nagar extension was the spot where we chose to have a bite, as it was already three in the afternoon. We started with the approach of a quick refill, but so hungry and thirsty we were, that we hogged like pigs. Let us at least do one thing properly, seemed to be our approach.

Post lunch, we checked out the park on the internet once again. We made further inquiries from the local people, policemen on duty and finally, an auto driver seemed to know what we were talking about. Infact, he took us fairly close. Just a few more directions obtained from the street hawkers, patrolling policemen, local people relaxing in the winter sun and we were finally there... at the gates of Yamuna Bio Diversity Park. The auto driver was, however, very confused. "What is so interesting in a jungle?", he asked, when we told him where we had come from.

The guard on duty came up to us. It was evident from the bewildered look on his face that he wasn't used to get visitors. And before we could actually react, he said what we were dreading: the park wasn't open to general public. Oops!

Blessed with sudden visitors, the guard took pity on us. He mumbled something about permission being available for students... we jumped on those words almost, as my husband drew out his student ID promptly. We called the Scientist in Charge, on a number provided by the guard and obtained access. It was five in the evening. Time in hand was short. A worker took us around a small portion of the 157 acre park as a short overview. He showed us an artificial lake, which did not appear man made at all. Migratory birds were everywhere... on the trees of the central island, on the bordering plantation and in the water. A band flew in, looking stunning on the background of the evening sky. Our guide took us next to the small museum wherein we saw how barren the land had been, and documentation of the wide variety of flora and fauna one could see now. Snake skins, scorpions and dangerous looking insects were on display too.

Getting back proved comparatively easier. We got a rickshaw to the main ring road wherein we got into a bus to take us to Kashmere Gate Bus terminal. We seated ourselves in a bus that would take us straight to home. So tired were we that we did not seem to mind the long journey at all. Instead we caught small naps.

Monday, September 14, 2009

One year through

One year past a fateful day when I was amidst a bomb blast, I am alive and kicking. Phew!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Misty Trip

A long weekend was gleaming at us from the calendar… we were itching for a break. Things started falling in place all of a sudden. My salary was credited on 11th, I booked tickets on the 12th and 13th we were off, late at night, after a complete working day. We witnessed rush due to the long weekend, but perhaps it was a bit toned down due to the panic created by swine flu epidemic.
Early morning, I woke up to see some beautiful buildings of Chandigarh and Mohali. We got dropped off at Kangra. Debating among ourselves about the next course of action, we evaluated our options. Our eyes were on the metre gauge train journey to Palampur, but we were unsure about the train timings. Again, although the railway station was only 4 km away, the auto drivers were not quite willing to go. Dharamsala was definitely closer, so we decided to have a quick lunch, explore Kangra and move on to Dharamsala. Kangra temple would be a devotee’s delight with its bells and a campus strewn with deities. Kangra Fort, built by the Katoch kings, was awesome. With very few tourists, it was a delight to go around the fort, listening to the Audio Guide [this is the latest innovation] at our leisure, clicking pictures at a freedom allowed by digicams. Back to the bus station, we just hopped in a bus to Dharamsala, about 40 km away. Note that we hadn’t bathed till then. So a shower each we took at the hotel and went out for a walk. Discovered that the vegetarian items tasted better than their non vegetarian counterparts. Next morning, we woke in a cool mist, to see clouds resting lazily on the range in front. We were informed that there was nothing to do in the small town from a tourists’ point of view, and all attractions were in Mcleodganj, 10 km away. The holy Dalai Lama hails from there. I was surprised to see a small monastery claiming to have been the home to the Nobel Laureate. Daal Lake was under renovation, and our next mission was the Bhagsunag Waterfalls. The 3 km long walk was perhaps the best decision we had taken, because the only driveable roadway was hopelessly clogged up with two-way traffic. We meandered through cars, autos, two wheelers, cycles and trekked our way over rocks and steps in the second half of the route to reach the waterfalls, and wade our feet in the water. There were people in the plunge pool, although the water was extremely cold and had force latent in it. The way down would have been adventurous enough, but enough is not a word in the dictionary of either my husband or brother in law. So down the rocks we chose to climb down, through the waterfall. It was exciting, but definitely scary. I slipped a couple of times, hurt my knee, wetted my shoes… but enjoyed it all the same. It had started to rain, but we returned victorious and walked upto a church on the way back. The rain was picking up, drenching us. We had come far from the traffic jam, and it seemed the buses had evaporated completely. Eventually, however, a bus arrived and dropped us back to Dharamsala, amidst heavy rain. We had a quick lunch, settled our hotel dues and started for Palampur. The journey was picturesque, amidst clouds. Palampur turned out to be a small hill town, a photographer’s delight, a pedestrian’s dream, and devoid of the tourist attraction as we had feared. There aren’t many hotels, and we got decent rooms, too. We walked up to the market street, munched on the way, made enquiries typical to tourists and sunk into deep slumber after a sumptuous lunch. Next morning, we woke up early and went walking downhill and downhill and downhill and downhill and downhill and downhill. The weather was cool; everything was so serene that we didn’t realize the distance we covered. We crossed a tea factory on the way. On the way back, we were met by groups of monkeys who didn’t pay us any heed at all. After breakfast, we caught a local bus to take us to Baijnath temple, about 16 km from Palampur. The temple was beautiful, more so because of the rivulet flowing far below. There were about 200 steps and our enthusiasm was such that we climbed down the entire set to reach the water. The climb up was tough, and we were panting when we re-entered the temple complex. It was built in Orissan architectural style. We returned hurriedly to the town to visit Neugelkhad, a site where the cliff is plumb vertical and a rivulet flows far below. We were horrified to find that the edges were not rock solid, and would give in under our weights if we weren’t careful. And if you slip, you would fall straight on the rocks along the edge. Nothing can obstruct your fall midway. The mountains on the otherside weren’t that steep, however and we could see lush green stretches.
Time in hand was running out fast, so we wrapped up hurriedly. We shot back to the hotel, had a heavy lunch and started on our journey back to Delhi. The bus took us downhill along the path we had walked in the morning and further. It was dark and raining, but I could not sleep. The roads were wet, and muddy, and the bus was skidding. Everytime the headlights of the bus swept over the steep edge, my heart would jump. The road was narrow and the bus did seem to go too much towards the edge to allow traffic from the opposite side. Sometimes, amidst vegetation, my eyes caught an occasional built structure. I could sleep only after we were safely off the hills. More drama came our way when our bus was stopped due to agitation at Una, a town at the foothills. We were lucky that the trouble got sorted out within two hours. Further ahead, another half an hour was lost in lending the spare tyre [stepny] to a bus stuck up due to a puncture. I woke up on the borders of Delhi. As if death needed to sign the conclusion, I witnessed recovery activities at a spot where an accident had happened between a car and a milk van, killing three people right there.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Singh is King

A mid-day wedding: a Sardar's.

Venue: A banquet hall located almost at the other end of the city.

Date: A bright, sunny Sunday.

I chose to go with the office crowd, because the groom is a colleague unknown to my family. And a pack of girls pooling in is actually fun, giggling and gossipping. The distance did not seem to be a problem at all. Inside the venue, the number of guests tends to startle you, but we could locate a familiar face at the far end of the hall. He was looking quite nice, dressed in white and a red turban.. our young Sardar was looking like a prince, holding a sword. "Its real", he told me later.

Within minutes of our arrival, the fellow was carted off by the relatives to the Gurudwara for the "actual" wedding, leaving us at the mercy of the DJ. I stayed away from the dance floor a bit, sipping a refreshing glass of juice, watching the people around. There were people from all age groups. Most dont bother to dress up much... sober, simple, presentable but they could be just anywhere. I owe apologies to the men for not noticing them much. All Sardar men appear alike in a crowd, with their turbans, tall(ish) structures and facial hair. Its only three breeds: Elderly, Middle Aged and Young Sardars. And the women, just in case they choose to dress up, they surely know how to go overboard! And its mostly Salwar-kameez.... they would look at me questioningly, "Saree?" and answer themselves, "Of course, you are not a Sardarni".

But its the DJ who stole the show. He had perhaps taken it upon himself to underline the fact that it was a Sardar wedding. One song would be a Bollywood dance number, followed by a couple of completely unheard of Punjabi songs and then would come, "Singh is King", a song extremely popular among Sardars just because of these three words. And even the children enjoy it... their heads would start nodding everytime the speakers announce "Singh is King"...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Something went wrong this morning.. I was off schedule by three minutes. The morning chores before going to office form a system, and a little alteration can create a mess. I almost missed my bus. I got my husband to drive me down, chasing the bus.. we overtook it, stopped it and got in. It was full. But I got beaming smiles from 90% of those on board: "Oh, there you are!" were the unsaid words.

I never realized people notice me so much. I am reasonably regular on the bus, miss it every few days... and even if I do catch it, I sink into those low but tall seats...reading, or even sleeping!!! I travel almost terminus to terminus, but I am not very noticeable, I thought. I dont fight, dont talk in a loud voice, dont gossip... I am in my own world in that one hour journey, often lost in my day dreams. But other people do notice me. Feels good.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life Guard

The signal is red. A stream of pedestrians are crossing the road. I try hard to join in, making use of my long legs. I was perhaps the last one in the group. Three fourth down the road, the signal turns green. The ignitions were on, the accelerators are pressed. I, and a few others, were trying to negotiate through. It was then it happened. He jumped. From where, I have no clue. It seemed as if Spiderman had accidentally lost his grip. And he was right in front of a Blueline bus, the kind which is famous for being killer. Call it reflex if you will. Because, honestly, there was no time to appraise the situation and take action. I just realized I was holding his shirt around the belt line. Luckily the man was of thin build, so I could hold him back. Question in my eyes, I helped him reach the other side. My outburst was curbed by a smile. No words, excuses, explanations. He just walked away.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

January 2009

What a month this has been! All amidst a very stereotype time bound work-home-work cycle. The 1st day heralds a new year and you are supposed to be in festive mood. But the economic recession cut it all out...scaled it by a tremendous fraction, but thats ok. Late that night, a sudden new year wish from a long lost friend. Lifts all your spirits as you reply sleepily. We had fought when we had last communicated, but that was all forgotten. 5 years is long. Happy, you take on the month ahead. My ma in law was supposed to come, all that went haywire [refer previous blog]... you are drained out emotionally...suddenly comes a site visit all out of the blue. Dead early on a foggy morning we head for a small town in Himachal Pradesh... tasty food,but pathetic road surfaces. The meeting gets prolonged, we start late. Get caught in traffic jams behind many trucks... get mixed up in some unrest by villagers because two calves had got run down. Then comes the phone call. Its my friend who never calls me unless there is any need. Maybe STD is not for catching up, unless you are the fiance. That day he chooses to chit chat. Then comes a call from another friend in Delhi whom I had promised to meet. The next call was from my inlaws.. "What! You are out at this hour of the day?" No point trying to explain to people at least 1500 km away. 2 o' cock in the morning, I am home. While compiling the success story of the trip, I get documents from site, with all information mixed up. Set that right, send it across. On a Sunday I had carefully preserved for myself, an elderly relative surfaces... you cannot say, "I want to sleep". So I drag myself over... participate in the cooking and consume vegetarian food [very tasty, although] while my better half enjoyed the chicken curry I had made. I met my friend, got enriched with the benefits of yoga. A sudden phone call from a school friend who was in town for some official work. He wants to meet up... I agree. We had studied two years together way back in 1994-95-96 and then seperated. And has he changed! Although he claimed I haven't, I beg to differ. A mail arrives from the college alumni... its the annual magazine with an interesting, but difficult theme. Makes you wonder, "One year is gone?". I try hard, request for extra time, but can manage only 500 words without being too elaborate. The school alumni chose to get active too, the planning for the reunion in Delhi is on. I really am not sure whether to look forward to it or not. A senior friend, who seemed to be in a cosy job, suddenly lost it. Shook me. I get a great job offer, but am confused. I said yes, but was contemplating. It seemed I was tailormade for the purpose, still. Suddenly things did not materialize. I was kind of spared the trouble, but am still wondering which situation would have been better. I have to go home all of a sudden. I had refused, but no one is interested. So I go. Touch, smile and come back. But met lots and lots of people. Thats very important. Cousins who are abroad, or any other city in India... cousins who are there in Calcutta. All relatives who could make it to the gathering. Granny. Mom and Dad. Pop in law. The next generation. Numerous phone calls. Great food. The work pressure chose to rise simultaneously.. so I carry an AutoCAD cd among my luggage. Work at night. Sleep less. But I have loads of homemade stuff with me now that I am back, so I end the month on a happy note.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Drama Galore

My mom in law had chosen to come over to our place in Delhi all the way from Calcutta for about ten days. Contrary to popular ideas, the arrival of Ma in Law is not a terror for me at all. I just hand over the kitchen to her and live my life happily... enjoy the cup of tea accompanied by an unending supply of tasty and innovative snacks when I return from work, the suddenly multi-item dinner, the morning tea as refreshing as it can be and the very nutritous breakfast. The house would be clean, things would be in order...

This time, however, God chose to intervene. He knew I was looking forward to my days of freedom from housework. Some stupid accident had to take place in Kanpur on the 5th only, causing all trains, including the Rajdhani Express, to be cancelled. But would I take it sportingly? Neither would she. Back home she went, but made arrangements for booking another ticket for the 6th. Got me stuck on the railway booking site as well. I managed a tatkal reservation on the 8th, called to inform her, only to be told that my efforts have been a waste; her travel agent had got her confirmed tickets for the 6th itself. Dejected, I cancelled the reservations I had made minutes ago. Forget the financial loss I incurred.

Destiny rules. The train on the 6th got cancelled as well. As the news reached me, I felt dumbfounded...

But my lady is not the tigress of her home alone. Once she has decided to reach Delhi, reach she must. And my my, is she influential? She made arrangements to reach Agra... how were bookings made, I have no idea. All I know that she is coming. And somebody has to receive her in Agra and get her back to Delhi, bag and baggage. The drama continues...