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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mujhe Raat Din Ye Khayaal Hai (Oomar Qaid - 1961)

I remember first hearing this song in 1979. I used to listen to late-evening song programmes on Vividh Bharati (All India Radio) like Bhoole Bisre Geet and Aap Ki Farmaish. There are many songs I first heard only on these programmes.

Now there are different ways in which songs work on you. There are songs that you do not care for very much when you first hear them but then, the more you hear them, the more you begin to like them. They grow on you. Then there are songs that totally floor you the very first time you hear them. And you want to hear them again and again.

Of course there are songs that you somehow never like at all, however many times you hear them.

Anyway, that evening when the announcer said "Film Oomar Qaid, Gaayak Mukesh, Geetkaar Hasrat Jaipuri, Sangeetkaar Iqbal Qureishi" I did not know what to expect. But I reached for my Mukesh book.

Yes, I had a Mukesh book in those days - somebody had presented it to me. I used to be a huge Mukesh fan in those days and this book had hundreds of Mukesh songs. In fact, I learnt a lot of Mukesh songs from this book. Songs like "Teri duniya mein dil lagta nahin", "jhoom jhoom ke naacho aaj" and "mehboob mere".

(I am still a big fan of Mukesh though many think that I have ears only for Rafi saab. :-) This is SO not true. I have huge amount of respect for ALL singers and I believe they have all given us unforgettable songs that live in our hearts and minds long after they have themselves left this world. I do not participate in discussions about "who is better - Rafi or Kishore ?" because to me they were both great in their own ways. I enjoy Kishore Kumar songs as much as I enjoy Rafi saab's songs.)

Anyway, coming back to this song, it belonged in the category of "instant love". The first time I heard this, I was just amazed. The voice, the music, and above all, the lyrics. Mukesh's ability to excel in songs like this came as no surprise to me. I had never heard of Iqbal Qureishi till then - this was my introduction to his music. But I think the lyrics are what got me the most.

I am a sucker for good lyrics. To me good lyrics does not necessarily mean esoteric stuff, though I am happy to hear such stuff too and try to understand it. No, good lyrics to me is something that has the power to go straight to your heart. And this song has such lyrics and, when presented in Mukesh's voice, is guaranteed to go straight to your heart.

I kept singing this song in my head after that one occasion in 1979. Luckily I did find it in my Mukesh book so the full lyrics were available to me. But I did not have the music as such (on cassette or otherwise). So I used to just sing it and hope to hear it again on radio sometime.

When the internet came along - and more specifically when youtube came along - one of the first songs I searched for was this one. I was thrilled to see that somebody had already put it out there. Thus I got my first chance to see the picturisation of this song.

There are songs which have been ruined by the picturisation. Maybe "ruined" is a harsh word but let's say I have felt disappointed after seeing the picturisation of some songs that I had only heard before and loved as music. Sometimes I wish I had not seen the picturisation of those songs.

Thankfully this song is not one of those. Picturised on Sudhir and Nazima, this song , already one of my favourites, shot up even further in my favourites list when I saw the picturisation. Sudhir portrays the emotions of this song perfectly and Nazima, as the sympathising but silent observer, looks really beautiful, if a little helpless.

I can listen to this song any number of times. It goes straight to my heart.

Here it is. I have tried to provide a translation for the lyrics. It may not be entirely accurate but it does provide a reasonable picture of the sense of the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDK6GP-oe1E

(For more info on the song, see http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/mujhe-rat-din-ye-khayaal-hai/)

Here is the translation :

Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai
Wo nazar se mujhko gira na de
Meri zindagi kaa diyaa kahin
Ye ghamon ki aandhi bujhaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…

I worry day and night
That I should not fall from her eyes
The light that is my life
Should not be extinguished by these storms of misery
I worry day and night...

Mere dil ke daag na jal uthen
Kahin mere seene ki aag se
Ye ghuti ghuti meri aah bhi
Kahin hosh mere ganvaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…

That the scars in my heart do not get singed
By the fire that burns within me
That these sighs that I struggle with
Do not drive me totally crazy
I worry day and night...

Main diyaa hoon aisaa jahaan mein
Ki jalaa to hoon nahin roshni
Jo jigar mein hai wo khalish kahin
Meri hasraton ko mitaa na de
Mujhe raat din ye khayaal hai…

I am such a lamp in this world
That, when lit, provides no light
(I worry) that this torture in my heart
Does not destroy my dreams/ambitions
I worry day and night...

Truly a song that goes to your heart. Absolutely top-drawer.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Travel to North India - New Delhi Railway Station

Way back in September 1989, my to-be boss told me “Work life is all about managing expectations”. He was referring to a simple fact of life – if you deliver what you promise, whatever it is, everybody is happy. But if you bust your ass and deliver the sky - but they, for some reason, expected the sky AND the moon - you have failed. In other words, make sure you set the expectations right – so that you can work on delivering to that right level. Simple.

I have never forgotten that lesson. Actually it works not just in work life, it works for everything. Wall Street hammers a company if it has fallen short of market expectations, even if it has announced record profits. Roger Federer’s losing a Grand Slam semi-final is seen as a failure – we expect nothing less than a Grand Slam final from him. At the same time if an Indian player reaches the second round of Wimbledon (men’s singles), he has over-achieved. Sachin Tendulkar’s getting a 50 in Test cricket is counted as a failure, we somehow always expect him to go on to a hundred. In business, salespeople often push a sale into the next month the moment they have achieved a certain month’s target.

So what has all this got to do with Delhi ? It does – it is just that, as usual, I do not come to the point straightaway. I quite like the long-winded route. It will be clear soon enough how the subject of managing expectations is relevant here.

Let me come back to my story, the one I started in my previous post.

Where was I ? Oh yes, I am making my way to New Delhi Railway Station (New Delhi RS) on that Monday to meet my sister and brother-in-law by around noon. We are to catch a train to Punjab that afternoon.

If you remember, I had had the most fantastic two days in Delhi. I had stayed at my friend’s place (bordering Delhi and UP) and had been chauffeured around in my friend’s car by his driver through various parts of Delhi, mainly South and Central Delhi, upto Connaught Place. I had been very impressed by the wide roads, the traffic signals and the signposting. There had been some visible construction activity, put down to Delhi preparing for the Commonwealth Games later this year, but even this had not been disruptive to traffic. All in all, everything I saw impressed me.

As we near New Delhi RS, I begin to get a feeling of déjà vu. Not déjà vu as in seen yesterday but déjà vu as in seen 28 years ago. The last time I had been to New Delhi RS was in July 1982. I remember that very well because it had not been a particularly enjoyable experience then. I was to catch the Rajdhani Express to Howrah (Calcutta) and my auto-rickshaw had got stuck in the traffic near the station so badly that I had got to the station only at 5.15 p.m for a train that was to leave at 5.10. I had barely managed to jump into the running train, luggage and all. (It is another thing that I thought the departure time was 5.30 (never bothered to check the ticket actually) and was therefore still pretty cool about it all, till I reached the station and a coolie told me “Rajdhani ? Woh to nikal rahi hai (it is just leaving)”. I remember doing an Edwin Moses 400m hurdles impersonation, dodging the crowd, climbing up and down the stairs to get to the right platform to jump into the moving train. Just threw my luggage in, threw myself in and found both of us, in acceptable condition though one of us was a few breaths short, inside the moving train. I was not even 20 then. Such acrobatics are only distant, wistful memories now.

Anyway, back to March 2010 - and memories of that experience outside the station come flashing back. If anything, the chaos outside the station seems to have grown manifold. There is utter confusion and a huge amount of swearing as every vehicle of every type seems to be looking for just that much space to be able to squeeze its way between two other vehicles and get ahead in the race to enter the station parking area. Roads near railway stations tend to be crowded anyway but this is way worse than anything that I have ever seen in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai put together. (I will not talk about Calcutta because my experience in that city, the return trip of that July 1982 trip to that city, beat even my Delhi experience. I had to abandon my taxi and walk the whole length of Howrah Bridge with my luggage to get to the station because the traffic just did not move an inch. I am not exaggerating – my cab driver gave up and suggested I walk !)

I am told that some of the East-bound (UP, Bihar) trains that currently arrive and depart from New Delhi RS will be diverted to a station near Noida and will not touch New Delhi RS in future. I don’t know if this is true but it would greatly relieve the congestion at this station. Already we have Nizamuddin and Old Delhi RS taking some of the Delhi traffic anyway. And, from what I can remember, these stations are much better stations than New Delhi RS.

Anyway, so I finally get to the station and, after some “where are you ?” mobile phone communication, manage to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law. There is another person from their office with them who is to be part of our trip to Punjab.

Our train is the 2203 Garib Rath, scheduled to leave at 14:05 hrs. We have something to eat at the station itself and then go on to the platform. The information board announces a delay of 10 minutes.We just shrug this off. It is already 1.30 p.m, so it is no big deal.

There is a huge crowd at the platform, with classic Punjabi salwar-kameez, colourful patkas and Sikh turbans visible everywhere. We initially think the crowd is waiting for our train but then realize they are waiting for an earlier train, going to Amritsar, which has not yet arrived. As soon as that train arrives, we manage to get seats to sit at the platform. Not bad, I think.

When I go to check the information board after a while, it says 30 minutes late.
Hmm. The first signs of doubt begin to creep into my mind. In the last several years, the only train journeys I have done in India have been between Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and once from Mumbai. All terminus points, not intermediate stations. The chance of a train starting late from a terminus point is much less than its getting delayed down the line.

I ask my sister, who has booked our tickets “Where does this Garib Rath start from ?”

As if on cue, the PA system announces “Saharsa se Muzaffarpur aur Moradabad hotey hue Dilli aane waali do do shoonya teen Garib Rath ek ghante late chal rahi hai”. (The 2203 Garib Rath, coming from Saharsa via Muzaffarpur and Moradabad to Delhi, is running one hour late).

I am like “WHAT ?”

(For those of you who are interested in facts and train schedules, here is the train being discussed.)

My sister says “I don’t know. I booked it online. I asked for “Delhi to Jalandhar”and this was the first train that came up which suited our timings, given our flight arrival time”.

“Do you realize where this train is coming from ?”

“No. Where ?”

“Bihar. And not just that, it is just travelling the whole distance of UP, east to west, to come here. You think there is the SLIGHTEST chance that it will EVER arrive here on time ?”

I do not have the slightest harsh tone in my voice but I think my sister feels a bit offended. By then it is beginning to get a bit warm also, it is that time of the afternoon.

“How was I to know ? I thought it starts in Delhi. I would never have booked a train that has to come from somewhere else to go to Jalandhar. Especially from Bihar. As it is, Garib Rath was introduced during Laloo’s time and maybe Mamta is trying to put Laloo down by intentionally messing with the trains that he introduced.The Garib Rath down South seems to be running OK, how was I to know about this one ? Anyway, I have booked AC seats ”.

She seems hassled and I have absolutely no intention of upsetting her. Would not dream of it.

“Ok, it does not matter. I don’t think it is Mamta, I think it is the passengers. Anyway, I am having fun here, so I’m fine”.

3.05 p.m comes and goes. The train is supposed to be one hour late but after that announcement there is no other announcement. The information board is also not updated.

Some other train headed for some place in Bihar (I do not remember the name now, let’s call it ) now comes on Platform 1. People board it and it leaves.
After two minutes, there is an announcement “Platform no. 1 se nikli express chain-pulling ke kaaran ruki hui hai. Kripaya karmachari jaanch karen (Train no which has left from Platform no. 1 has been stopped due to chain-pulling. The appropriate personnel may please investigate the matter).

My sister and I look at each other. In all these years, we have never heard such an announcement being made.

A few minutes later another train headed for UP arrives and leaves from Platform no.1. And believe it or not, exactly the same thing happens. The same message ! Chain-pulling ! My sister and I are in splits by now. The announcement is all so casual, as if it is routine business.

I remind my sister that we better not laugh too much because it sounds quite ominous. Trains leaving from Platform no.1 (from which our own Garib Rath is to leave) seem not to be able to go two minutes without chain pulling. She says she would rather first see the train coming – and worry about its leaving later.

Anyway, it is 3.30 p.m by now. There is no sign of our train nor any announcement about it. I have read the day’s newspaper from front page to last page, I have had two cups of chai and I have started singing Rafi songs, rather loudly. This last bit, possibly causing my sister to want to distance herself from me and divert me into some other activity, makes her tell me “Why don’t you go check with the station master what is going on with our train ?”

So I look for the station master’s room – he is not to be found but the Assistant Station Master is.

He is busy chatting with somebody and, judging by the nature of the conversation, I am totally convinced that it is anything but official work that is being conducted.

“Sir, ye Garib Rath kab aayegi ?” (Sir, when will the Garib Rath arrive ?)

Hain ?”

“Sir, ye Garib Rath kab aayegi ?”

“Kaun si gaadi ?” (Which train ?)

“Ji, Garib Rath. Jalandhar jaane waali. Do paanch ka time hai par abhi saadhe teen baj rahe hain.”
(Ji, Garib Rath. The one going to Jalandhar. The scheduled time is 2.05 but it already 3.30 now).

He gives me a look that combines indifference and contempt in perfectly equal measures.

“Aayegi, ji, aayegi”. (It will come).

“Aayegi, wo to mujhe maaloom hai, par kab aayegi…chaar baje tak aa jaayegi ?” (I know it will come but when will it come…will it arrive by 4.00 ?)

He does not bother to reply. I have already elicited his quota of customer service communication for the day.

I return to my sister, informing her that I was no more enlightened about our train’s likely arrival time after my visit to the Station Master’s office than I had been before such visit. Not strangely but somewhat disturbingly, she does not seem to be surprised. At least she has got me to stop singing.

An announcement on the PA system shakes us. “<…> train <….> jaane waali, aaj sham chaar baje jaane ke bajaaye kal subah saadhe chaar bajey niklegi. “. My sister and I look at each other again. Not quite believing what we have heard. The English version of the announcement follows. “<..> train going to <…> , scheduled to depart at 4.00 p.m will now depart at 4.30 a.m tomorrow”. As if to soften the blow, the English version has an added “The inconvenience is deeply regretted”. That’s all right, then.

We now begin to get genuinely concerned. There is absolutely no announcement about our train, there is nothing on the information board either. And the Station Master’s office has been as useful as an umbrella helping against the rains in July on Marine Drive in Mumbai.

In all this, we have lost the seats we had parked ourselves on earlier and have now no proper place to sit. Due to some water leakage, the platform is getting a little uncomfortably wet. I decide I might as well have some fun. I take out my camera and click a few pictures.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There is finally an announcement - that we need to go from Platform no. 1 to Platform no. 10. No mention of timing though. We start moving but some others, waiting for our train, are not convinced. For them there is a repeat announcement “2203 Garib Rath ke liye agar koi yatri ab bhi platform no. 1 pe hon, to veh turant platform no. 10 ko jaayen”.(If there are still passengers for 2203 Garib Rath waiting on Platform no.1, they are requested to go to Platform no. 10 immediately).

By now it is past 5.00 p.m. We see the Rajdhani Express, starting from Delhi and going towards Jalandhar and Amritsar, scheduled to leave at 4.00 p.m , leave from Platform no. 1 at 4.30 p.m. I look at my sister, she says “I didn’t know – our train was the most suitable one according to the timing”.

Finally at 5.15 p.m, a miracle happens. A train appears on Platform no. 10. And it happens to be the 2203 Garib Rath. We are thrilled as if India has just won some World Cup. Everybody jumps in – there is a major scramble but soon everybody settles down and the train chugs away. We are on our way to Punjab ! There is no sign of a "Jab We Met"-style Kareena Kapoor look-alike but I am too excited to complain about it.

The co-passengers are pretty decent. One of them tells us “Ye to aaj sirf teen ghante late hai, kabhi kabhi to ye bees ghante late hoti hai. Iska record hai ki ye gaadi, jab se shuru hui, ek din bhi time pe nahin pahunchi hai”. (This is only 3 hours late today. Sometimes this is 20 hours late. This train holds a record – from the time it was started, not once has it reached on time). Hmm. It could have been worse.’

Though the train is air-conditioned, I am not too happy with confining myself to the seat. I prefer to go to the door and get some fresh air from the breeze. Put on my MP3 player and listen to some old songs. “Chhodo kal ki baatein, kal ki baat puraani”, “Gun guna rahe hain bhanwra…”and others. The stations pass by. Sonepat, Panipat. I see the beautiful sunset. Ambala. Ludhiana. And then finally, at about 11.00 p.m, Jalandhar.

What a day ! In hindsight – and actually even then – I quite enjoyed it. But New Delhi RS was such a shocker compared to what I had seen the previous two days in Delhi. The station surroundings, the station itself, the staff.

Which brings me to my very first point. About expectations.

All my expectations, built up during those two days over the weekend, that New Delhi had moved with the times were brought crashing to earth with my experience on that Monday. I must confess I was very disappointed at New Delhi RS. Perhaps I was comparing it with other stations that I know. Bangalore and Chennai in particular. Both these stations have improved tremendously in the last few years. A lot of money has gone into upgrading these stations. I saw nothing of the sort at New Delhi RS. It surprised me a lot – considering that New Delhi is the capital of the country and there must be a lot of passengers, even foreign tourists, travelling from and to New Delhi RS.

This is not to say that Delhi has not progressed. Of course it has – but I could not help feeling that there are two Delhis even today – the one that has moved with the times, and the one that has not.

And it is I who have to set my expectations right. Some things just take much longer to change. If they change at all.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Travel to North India - the years come rolling back !

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything on my blog. So long, in fact, that I had almost forgotten I had one.:-)

This is the result of a couple of things.

Firstly, my innate laziness, always a threat to progress of any sort and an eternal cause of despair for all those who expect me to do SOMETHING in and with my life, has reached frightening proportions in the last few months.

Secondly, there have recently been certain changes in my personal circumstances that have made it somewhat difficult for me to muster the required enthusiasm to write about anything at all. Not that there has not been material to write about. There has been material aplenty and I have rarely been short of words, but a very confused mind (even by my already highly confused standards) is hardly in an appropriate condition to process and express thoughts and feelings.

I have therefore let my blog be. Almost abandoned, if you will. It is not like anybody missed it. ;-)

Anyway here I am again after a long break. Talking of a long break reminds me of that classic scene from Aandhi(1975) where Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar meet. That “ammavas bahut lambi thi…” scene, part of the song “tere bina zindagi se”. This song used to be one of my favourites in my schooldays.

OK, I am digressing again. Would be very atypical of me if I did not. :-) Anyway, the main reason for coming back to blogging is that I recently made a trip to North India and thought it would be nice to just write a bit (ok, more than a bit !) about the trip and my experiences.

It was a trip of only about 2 weeks. Just a fraction less, in fact. To Delhi, Punjab, Jammu/Katra/Vaishno Devi and then Rajasthan. As trips go, it was not as hectic as it would appear at first glance. I had plenty of time to relax. And to report and rant on Facebook from time to time. :-)

No, it was certainly not a bad trip, it was quite enjoyable. Yes, there were moments when I thought “Do I have SUCKER written on my forehead ?” (a question that I dared not ask aloud for fear of getting it confirmed by a not-too-diplomatic somebody) but this comes with the territory, I guess, when you are travelling in North India. Ok, let me be careful here. When you are travelling in India.

Overall it was a mixed bag of experiences. My Facebook updates also probably reflected this. One day I had a high, the next day I was letting off steam. But, as any golfer who has played at a Masters will tell you (or any captain in Test cricket), it is the final score that is the most important, not the intermittent end-of-day statuses. And the final score, to me, was pretty satisfying.

I must confess that, in writing this piece, I have been wondering about the level of detail to go to. I am aware that much like pictures, in fact, almost certainly more so than pictures, elaborate accounts of a person’s travel experiences are major put-offs, almost in the league of a non-subtitled Chinese art film of the 1960s. (There are many other current-day put-off equivalents I can think of but I will pass for now. Feel free to let your imagination free on this one).

Unless you are Michael Palin of course, in which case you can make a routine breakfast in Bombay (oops, sorry, Sainiks !) sound like the most life-enriching experience. Or of course if you are yourself planning a visit to those places – in which case you would be well-advised to check your facts at another source. I don’t claim to be a fact-factory. ( Btw, I love creating new words in English, words which make sense to me and sound fun too but which my English teachers (God bless them, they were wonderful !) would almost certainly frown upon). Well, they are (almost) certainly not reading this, so I am going to let myself go. As I often say, it is my blog, so I set the rules).

Let’s see how brief I can keep this. Delhi was nostalgic, Punjab was warm (in a people sense), Jammu-Katra-Vaishno Devi was both scenic and spiritual, Rajasthan was warm in a very non-people sense. There, that’s it.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit too brief. And it is very un-me too. (There comes the frown again !)

I guess I will go my usual route. Write as I think. And see how it turns out. If anybody wants to switch off mid-way, feel free. It will not be the first borathon (frown, frown !) travelogue anyway. And, since people never seem to learn, I seriously doubt it will be the last.

So here goes. (“Phew ! Finally !” they say, the breath getting increasingly less

Hmm. Come to think of it, my trip to North India almost did not happen. It so happened that my sister and brother-in-law, based in Bangalore were travelling, via Delhi, to Punjab on business. Seeing as I wanted to get away from Bangalore anyway for a few days, they suggested I could join them on the trip. They had only a couple of days work in Punjab and would be back in a week.

I thought it was a great idea, I had never ever been to Punjab and I just love Punjabi food. In fact I love all things Punjabi. Well, almost. So I said “sure”. But then the dormant traveler in me got active, coming out, saying we could probably add a Rajasthan leg also to our trip, considering none of us had ever been to Rajasthan.

Sounded great but time was the obvious issue – my sister and brother-in-law lead extremely busy lives (unlike yours truly, of course, who has all the time in the world. On a sidenote, what does “all the time in the world” mean anyway ? How much time is it ? Forget it, back on-topic). Anyway, we agreed that we would include Rajasthan - and that, since it was my baby, I would work out an appropriate itinerary for Rajasthan, one that brought us back to Bangalore on their desired return date.

In between, their Punjab contact suggested a trip to Vaishno Devi. Just a day-trip would be enough, we would go from Punjab to Jammu and then on to Katra (base for Vaishno Devi). Sounded terrific !

With their limited time, my sister and b-i-l would only be able to leave on a Monday morning flight to Delhi. I had friends in Delhi that I wanted to see – so I decided to leave a couple of days earlier. I would spend the weekend with my friends and catch up with my sister on the Monday. That was the plan.

The two days I spent at Delhi were just fantastic. I had spent a few years in Delhi in the early 80s – but had moved out in 1984. After that, except for a couple of “transit” movements between the domestic and international airports, I had never visited Delhi in the last 26 years. As the driver took me through the streets of Delhi, as I saw the road signs, the buildings and the buses (some of which I had travelled in, all those years ago) , I was swept by a wave of nostalgia. Obviously a lot has changed in Delhi since my time (it better have !) but there was still enough in the heat and dust of the city to make it like a homecoming for me. The Delhi Hindi for one. Oh, I had missed it so much !

I stayed with a friend, let´s call him R, one of my dearest friends from my schooldays in Orissa. He is now doing well as an independent lawyer and an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. I got to see him at work and I must say that not only is he hugely passionate about his profession but he also works really hard. He is a special guy with varied interests and , for all his success in his profession in Delhi, has never forgotten his roots in Orissa. I am very happy for him and wish him the very best for the future.

R has this lovely top-floor apartment just outside Delhi and this is where I stayed. Thanks to his great taste and keen sense of design – something that is reflected very well in his apartment - his place gives you a special feeling. But I think, more importantly, it was his warmth that made the most difference to my stay.

The day I reached I caught up with one of my friends, let´s call him B, from my kindergarten days. He is a friend not even known to R, they were from different schools. B had been trying to get in touch with me for years. Only very recently (Dec 2009), we managed to get in contact with each other over e-mail. He is based in Delhi and is a Chartered Accountant with his own practice. Now that we had established contact over e-mail, I had decided that if I were to visit Delhi, I would definitely make it a point to meet him. And that is exactly what I did. R was kind enough to take me to Connaught Place (where we had decided to meet). I introduced them to each other, we had some lovely snacks in a restaurant there but the most important thing was meeting after all these years. Sure, we go our own way in our lives and some things change, but the basics of the relationship, built during schooldays, remain the same. And I don’t think that will ever change.

R also arranged a get-together with a couple of our classmates from school. There are a lot of my schoolmates in Delhi and we could have had a big bash if we had wanted. After all, I would be meeting these guys after 30+ years ! But I chose to just meet up with a couple of them so as to have more quality time in catching up. Otherwise it would have just become one big “hey-how-are-you ?” 2-minute session with each person, without any depth at all. You cannot do justice to thirty years in two minutes and I did not want it to be a superficial meeting. Sometime in the future (and I do plan to visit Delhi more often now), I will catch up with the others also. Everything in its time.

As it turned out, even meeting these two friends over dinner was such a fabulous experience, I wanted time to stand still. It is very difficult to describe the emotions I went through at that dinner. When it was time to leave, I felt we had only just started talking. It was totally a case of “ye dil maange more”. That evening, when we were returning to R’s apartment, I kicked myself for not taking even a single photograph at the dinner. I had taken my camera with me but in the excitement of all the meeting and talking, I had completely forgotten to take a picture. Tut, tut…

The next day it was time to get ready to leave Delhi and go on to Punjab. My train was from New Delhi Railway Station in the afternoon. I had agreed with my sister and brother-in-law, who were flying into Delhi that morning, to meet at the station at about noon.

I was all set to say goodbye to Delhi – not without a pang of pain. In just two days, Delhi had really grown on me.

Little did I realize that Delhi was not willing to let me go so easily or so soon. My experiences at New Delhi Railway Station will remain, in a weird sense, some of the more memorable experiences of the trip. But that is for another chapter.

In a sense, the real `North India´ trip was only just beginning.