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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.

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.


Nandini Vishwanath said...

I hope there's another post coming up! :)

I think I knwo the not-so-diplomatic someone rather well ;)

Bharath Hemachandran said...

Nice newsy post Raja.

I miss Delhi as well sometimes. Did you try the new metro? It's lovely

memsaab said...

I loved your facebook updates. One of my favorite things about travelling in India is the manic-depressiveness of it all :D It is both fabulous and infuriating.

Tell us more!

squarecut.atul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
squarecut.atul said...

Lovely to read about your visit to Delhi. Meeting your school mates after thirty years ! Nothing can beat that experience, I am sure.

Raja Swaminathan said...

@Nandu,I was not referring to a specific person at all. Least of all, the person you have in mind. :-)

@Bharath, yes, I took a short ride on the metro. Felt really good. Can't wait for the metro to start operating in Bangalore.

@Greta, fabulous and infuriating ! Could not have put it better. That pretty much sums up my trip too.

@Atul, indeed it was a very special evening. Did not want it to end at all.

Jewellery By Shalini said...

Fantastic! Good to see you blogging again Raja.

That Facebook T20 version was great fun but now we are into the longer version, its much better! this is the real deal! :-)

Look forward to reading more...

Delhi has changed so much even I don't recognise the city now. And I only left in June 2000!

Best of North India said...

Here you came with Bang ! Nice one. Hope you will post more on travel.