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.