Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Namaste India - Part 3

Our time in Delhi was a busy one and following are some of the top attractions I remember visiting in Delhi.

Qutub Minar is the tallest minar (tower) in India, originally an ancient Islamic Monument, inscribed with Arabic inscriptions, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Qutub Minar is made of red sandstone and marble. The tower has 379 stairs,is 72.5 metres (237.8 ft) high, and its construction was started in 1192 by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak and was completed by Iltutmish.  It is surrounded by several other ancient and medieval structures and ruins, collectively known as the Qutub Complex.

Before 1981, the general public could climb to the top of Qutub Minar by climbing up the seven-storey, narrow staircase. However, on 4 December 1981 an accident occurred when an electricity cut plunged the tower's staircase into darkness. Around 45 people were killed in the stampede that followed the electricity failure. Most of the victims were children because, before 1981, school children were allowed free access to historical monuments on Fridays, and many school groups were taking advantage of this. Subsequently, public access has been forbidden.


The Asoka Pillar is a mystery object and it is located near the Minar. There is a popular 'tradition' that it was considered good luck if one could stand with one's back to the pillar and make one's hands meet behind it.

The India Gate is the national monument of India.

Situated in the heart of the city, it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Following India's independence, the

India Gate became the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of theUnknown Soldier, for Indian Soldiers who died in World War I and the Afgan Wars.

Connaught Place is one of the largest financial, commercial and business centers in Delhi. It is often abbreviated as CP and houses the headquarters of several Indian firms. Named after the Duke of Connaught, the construction work was started in 1929 and completed in 1933. The inner circle of Connaught Place was renamed Rajiv Chowk (after the late Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi) and the Outer Circle was renamed Indira Chowk . Today, Connaught Place is one of the most vibrant business districts of Delhi. 

The Red Fort or Lal Qila (in urdu/hindi) is a 17th-century fort complex constructed by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi (in present day Delhi) that served as the residence of the Mughal Emperors. The construction of the Red Fort began in 1638 and was completed by 1648. The Red Fort has had many developments added on after its construction by Emperor Shah Jahan. The significant phases of development were under Aurangzeb and later under later Mughal rulers.

We booked ourselves seats for the Light and Sound Show in the evening. This is a must watch attraction! Not to be missed. It takes you back in the Mughal era. It takes place daily and lasts for about an hour or so. 


Chandni Chowk is a major shopping area of Delhi. If you are a shopaholic, you must visit Chandni Chowk!

The market of
Chandni Chowk is very old. The origin of Chandni Chowk dates back to the Mughal era in Indian history. According to legend, Chandni Chowk market was established during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. The legend also says that Chandni Chowk market was designed by Jahanara-Emperor Shahjahan's favorite daughter. 

Founded in1639, the place came to be fondly known as 'Chandni Chowk'. A canal used to run through the streets and on moonlit night, the reflection of the moon shine brightly on the serene water.

Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest bazaar existing in India today. The attraction here is that you can find almost anything in a small confine. Good food and great temples make Chandni Chowk a popular place for both Delhites and tourists.

Raj Ghat is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi's cremation, on 31 January 1948, a day after his assassination. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns perpetually at one end. A stone footpath flanked by lawns leads to the walled enclosure that houses the memorial. All guests must remove their footwear before entering the Raj Ghat walls.

 Delhi has a lot of history to offer, just like Lahore. A little bit of everything for everyone.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Namaste India - Part 2

So, we moved on, from Amritsar to Jalandhar. We reached there by bus. Aunty Sudha wanted to meet one of her relatives there. We reached there in the late afternoon for overnight stay.

It was a small house with a front garden. And it was there that I saw them............. Fire Flies! It was the first time in my life that I had seen Fire Flies. Lots and lots of them in the plants of that small garden.

It's been 30 years now and I haven't seen a Fire Fly since then.

Boy! what a joy it was to catch them and see them give off their florescent green light. I was completely mesmerized by these insects and spent the whole of the evening playing with them. 

Next day, very unexpectedly curfew was announced in the city due to riots and disturbance. Very urgently we got our bags, and begged our hosts let us go to the railway station. Keeping in view of the situation, it was highly unlikely to get hold of a taxi or rickshaw. Very desperate, short on time, we finally got a couple of cycle rickshaws. This ride was not enough for all of us. So, my mom and Aunty sudha got in one and we put our luggage in the other one. Rajiv, Minnie and myself..... we walked all the way to the station. On the way we were stopped by the Police. Aunty Sudha managed this obstacle by convincing the officer that we were tourists and on our way to Delhi. We were allowed to pass.

The railway station was to be our resting place till morning, thats when the train will arrive to take us to Delhi. Man, what a uncomfortable place it was. Almost all the wooden benches had mites in them. And lots of them. They made our stay at the station miserable. We were scratching ourselves at all places.

I couldn't sleep the whole night, neither did anyone else. I spent my time moving about on the platform watching trains go by after short intervals.

We left Jalandhar railway station in the morning, on our way to Delhi. I think it was a 5.30 hour long ride. We all were very glad to leave that place.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Namaste India - Part 1

The year 1981 took us to Saudi Arabia on a holy trip to Makkah & Madina. My parents and I spent approximately 5 days there. We visited Baitul Allah (house of Allah) and Masjid Nabvi (Masjid of the holy Prophet peace be upon him). We were there to pray so we prayed. 

Then, an unexpected chance came in 1983. My mom’s friend Aunty Sudha was going to visit her relatives in India and she asked us to join them in this trip. Things moved quickly and swiftly. We got the visa, booked train tickets and we were on our way. This was a completely ladies led expedition. My mom and aunty Sudha.  The ladies were in-charge. Apart from these two marvelous ladies, the rest were Minnie and Rajiv (aunty Sudha’s daughter and son) and I.

This time around we planned the trip via train service. Mainly, because it was less expensive then air travel.  But the catch was that we all wanted to have fun along the way so it was decided, in the interest of all concerned parties.

The trip from Karachi to Lahore is an overnight trip and takes almost 18 hours. We had lots of fun along the way, singing, playing card games, sleeping and sightseeing. Golden colored wheat fields, green sugar cane fields, orchards, cities and many train stations.

Train infrastructure in Pakistan has not developed much since the departure of the British and Pakistan’s own independence in 1947. Same routes, same station buildings, same rail lines and old and battered railway engines. 

Karachi Railway Station

Lahore Railway Station

There is a saying in Pakistani Punjab, "if you haven't seen Lahore, then you are not born yet!", so the next day I was born. Ha ha.

We reached Lahore in the morning. Lahore is a beautiful city, historic and very cultural. If you get a chance to visit Pakistan then do make a plan to visit Lahore. It has a lot of history to offer. Shahi  Killa (Royal Castle), Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, are just a few teasers to get you interested. Lahore has a lot of Mughal heritage and it is truly reflected here in abundance. The festival of Basant (kite festival at the starting of spring season) is very famous and something of an annual event.  During Basant, Sky above Lahore gets filled with thousands and thousands of colorful kites. In addition to flying kites, there is music, food and festive mood all around. Everyone enjoys. Lahore has museums, old heritage buildings, mausoleums and it is also very famous for it’s food. Lovely food, you can’t resist the food Lahore has to offer and you can’t beat a Lahori in a culinary warfare! You’ll loose.

Moving on, we took a cab from Lahore Railway Station to Wagah Border, this is the only land route open along the overall border between the two countries.  Pakistan has a very long border with India but due to long hostilities between the two countries, only 1 point of entry into each other’s area is kept open. Strict checking of papers and luggage takes place at both ends and this is a tedious process.

But……. Wagah Border has a very unique and memorable spectacle to offer. And I believe, it is one of the very rare performance that take place at any border in the world. The Flag Lowering Ceremony. Man! This is really something. Everyday, in the evening, flag lower ceremony takes place at Wagah where thousands of spectators on both sides of the border watch this performance.

Action, drama and patriotic songs and slogans.

It seems as if both sides are at war. Eye to Eye hostility, but all for public demonstration. Spectators on both sides cheer patriotic slogans to encourage their soldiers, the guardians of the national border.

 If you are visiting Lahore, I highly recommend it that you take time out and see this performance for yourself. I can safely bet, you haven’t seen this anywhere in the world.  

Once cleared from immigration, we again hired a cab to take us to the city of Amritsar. I forgot to mention, there are two Punjabs, one in Pakistan and one in India, so like Lahore (in Pakistan) is the main city close to the border, similarly, Amritsar in Indian Punjab is close to the border.

The visa issued from Indian Consulate in Karachi was a reporting visa, that means, we can go to selected cities in India only and in each of the cities we have go the Police Station for visitor/foreigner’s reporting. So, in all the cities that we visited we had to go to the Police Station for reporting. A hassle? Yes, big one. It is time consuming and a very irritating process.

In Amritsar, we met with Aunty Sudha’s relatives who opened their doors for us. We were given two rooms and were made very comfortable. This was a brief stay, nothing much see here. However, we did visit Jallian Wala Bagh. This place will always be remembered in history with sadness. An incident made it memorable. A massacre of innocent people. During the British Raj, a protest against the British was taking place here when the British Officer General Dyer ordered the troops to open fire on the crowed. This sad event took place on Sunday, 13 April, 1919. Bullet holes everywhere. Several hundred were killed that day……

Our actual destination was Delhi, where bulk of our time will be spent during this trip. So, next stop is Delhi.