Monday, May 08, 2006

My Trip to Manali

This should be the first time I am writing kind of journal in my blog. Kind of new to me as well, but thought it does make sense to write about the Trip. It was certainly one of THE BEST trip I ever had. In fact, not only was it cheaper (around $125 USD), it was extremely well organized, thanks to guys from our class, Mani Parthasarathy, Miennah Raja, Sathish and so on.

We started off to Chennai Central Railway . I started a bit early at around 2 PM for the trip, reached Hostel, joined Saravana Kumar (a.k.a Venna thalayaa) and reached Central. We were an hour early for the train and were the first to reach the platform :D... Slowly people of the trip started coming. It was also great to see a lot of other guys, who came just to help those who came for the trip and to bid them farewell, notably Senthil Nathan (a.k.a Senthil Maddy - Senthil don't think u are endorsed with the nick maddy - we know how you look :p ). I just had 2 bags and was pretty comfortable with my luggage. The first place we visited was Agra. The train started at around 4:30 PM on 25th Apr. We got 40 seats contiguous and the 5 coupe was full of our trip people. I was in the third one, with Balaji, Saravana and others... We had a great time.. Though the temperature was soaring, it was awfully hot inside.

We played cards, 5 cards, Ass and so on. Ass was the only game I knew, but enjoyed learning 5 cards, and it was a great time pass game. It was fun to get 50 points with a wrong deck :)). We also played a mutated 7 cards, which was same as 5 cards, but the number of cards are more and the penalty of a wrong deck is 70. :-). We had lot of time, so playing 7 cards meant we had more cards and time pass. When we reached AGRA, it was 1 AM morning. We went to a hotel there. There were 4 in our room (including me), Balaji, Me, Sai, Saravana. Sai and Balaji went (unintentionally) to some room which was not allocated to them, slept for a while and ended up being asked to leave that room (that's euphemism for you :p ). We then started at around 9 or 10 AM, went first to Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal was great. I admired it a lot for its architecture, but my personal opinion was that it was too much a cost for the King's love. Spending up the tax payers money for his personal ends is typical Monarchy, but this seems to be too much of that sort. May be, the king could have built a dam there, making the area fertile. But of course, had that been done, we would never have got one of the wonders of the world; just my thoughts......

The next place we went was Agra Fort. It was the seat of power of India from 1000 - 1800 (well the years are approximate). There was mention about water in it. Aurangzeb had blocked Yamuna and the king there surrendered because the ground water/well water at Agra fort wasnt drinkable. True, when we filled water there, it really wasnt that good. It was too salty. Myself and Saravana went to the fort early, sat at a quite place and "bird watched" everyone entering the Fort :D.

Also, I shouldnt forget to tell about the Black Salt (aka Kaala namak). The road sellers there use Kaala Namak for Water Melon and Cucumber. It is a salt that is obtained from fertile water springs in North India, as opposed to normal salt, which is obtained from sea shore. The biggest deal of it is that it is very enticing. If you have one sip of Lemonade with this salt, it would entice you to have another. I got suspicious that it might possibly be a DRUG added to salt and called as kaala namak (just like brown sugar, is this Black Salt?? :)) ). I asked a few people there, who said that it was not so. I got relieved only after that. After seeing Agra Fort, it was time to do some shopping. I bought Agra's peta. It was supposed to be something special of Agra. Its a sweet made from Pumpkin. I bought one for home. But its kind of irony that from the date i came back , i have tasted only little (bad stomach).

After Agra fort, we went back to rooms, cleaned up everything and left to Delhi. We had a second seater when we went to Delhi. I should surely mention about the Soup matter here. I had a good hot soup abishekam. (Abishekam is a Hindu ritual that they perform to god, where the priest pours oil, sandal etc on the diety). We went to delhi at 1 AM and immediately entered the waiting bus. This is where we met the Tortoise master. He is the Tortoise driver. The bus never goes beyond 60 km... when we were back to Delhi, people from our crowd took video talking in tamil, which he didnt know at all, telling him that he was the slowest driver that we saw (well euphemism here too... just censord out other tougher words they used). The vehicle moved to Amritsar. It was long and tiring one.

After we reached Amritsar, we went to hotel had breakfast and then visited the Golden Temple. It was very very hot when we went there and was very crowded as well. The best part of it was that they poured cool water on the floor so that the people can walk on the tiles without heat. I came to know that people do this as a service for a day. I also saw a lot of golden fishes there at the temple tank. In all the floors of the temple, the priests there chant verses from holy book. I also heard that it happens 24 x 7 (except a few hour break every day). People take turns and do. From Golden Temple, we moved to Jallianwala Bagh. It was the place where the British left red scars (rather Red big scars) in the minds of Indians. A brigidaire by name Dyer, ordered dispering of 2000 people gathered there by firing them. There was no place to go and 2000 people died. Some jumped into the well and died. Others faced the bullet directly and died.

More details about it here

From JWB, we left to Wagah Border. Its the border area between India and Pakistan. I learned from the people there that parade happens every evening for sure, whether there is tension in the border or not. Very interesting.... we also saw some pakis on the other side of the gate. We took some snaps. Mani parthasarathy shouted "Long Live mother India" and there was a swift acknowledgement of the same from a Sikh military person there. Well, this reminded me of my opinion that the Sikhs are the most patriotic people.. When we went to Wagah Border, the parade was just over.. we missed it, though we took pics of Wagah Border. I was as usual telling some stale jokes like -
Q: Is Amritsar male or female ?
A: Its male since its Amrit'SAR' and not Amrit'MADAM' :-))

Nee thinnu(thinnu in tamil means eat) illenna thin aiduva

At wagah border, we met jawan(s) (jawan is a soldier in hindi). There was one jawan who was from south india (thirunelveli). We talked to him in Tamil, took some photographs, asked him if he saw Tamil Films and so on...spent some time...
we asked them how do they protect our nation's borders. They said they have high tension cables 100 meters from the international border line... and there are three levels of security . The Border Security Force (aka BSF) does do patrolling till the internation (buffer) border...

From Wagah, it was time to move to Manali. The superb driver (sarcasm) drove very well... He slept the night ...the bus dint move..and if at all he drove, it was as slow as a bullock cart. Though I should tell that he drove the vehicle very very safely. That guy drove the vehicle, stopped at a lot of places, and finally took the vehicle to Manali, by the evening. The first day evening we just spent time at the room.. It was great! It was really "cool" (cool in the sense of both temperature and place). We went for a small shopping with a few of my friends... While most of them spent their time looking for something, I didnt have any idea to shop for stuffs. So, went to browsing center, browsed for half an hour, chcekd mail. God, it was really slow.. they had a dialup and it seemed way too slow, since I am now kind of used to my 256 kbps broadband. Also, it was very expensive. While average cost at any browsin center is around Rs. 20 for an hour(40 cents), it was around Rs. 30 for half an hour... and it was terribly slow...goddamn.. I checkd my mail, mailed Mitch, a junior .As usual, i was forgetful when my friend gave username and password to check mail...goddamn, when will i remember everything?

The next day we woke up to goto the so called Snow Point... It was really really superb... We rented some Fur clothes for Rs. 100 (around 2.4$). They gave fur cloth, gloves, shoes for that amount. It was tough to go by bus to the snow point. So the guide had arranged Sumo ( a vehicle that looks like a jeep). I took skeeing shoes from the shop we rented the fur clothes. Unfortunately, i didnt use it, had to shell out a hundred bucks uselessly. It was the first time i saw snow.. so it was kind of very very interesting....we talked to the people there, who said that it was around 2 degrees centigrade when we went up at 10 AM in the morning.. We returned at around 3-4 PM from the snow point when the mercury had dipped to - 10 degrees centigrade. When we talked to the driver (who surreptitiously stole one mobile phone), he said that it is not recommended to stay at snow point for more than an hour, since we were seeing snow for the first time.
There were six of us when we walked the 2 kilometers to reach the snow point.. The vehicles dont directly go till snow point, since it would cause a lot of vehicles(traffic jam) at snow point making it lose its splendor (well thats my reasoning). They were, myself, Saravana Kumar, Balaji, Priya, Nithya and Jayanthi. The first thing we went was (kind of skating) on the bus tube...From the road, we skatd to the river below, it was kind of steep and enjoyed..(I am rolling on the floor and laughing about my skating..:-)) ). When balaji and saravana skated, they both flew when they left their hand, after almost reaching the end of the skating. Each one took individual photos before a rock, and then we left to the snow plateau of the snow point (well, slow plateau is my terminology :p). I first went for another Tube skating. Then i went for a Yak Ride. ride.

Then we took for skating with bala, karthik, kartheeshwari, sairam , sathiya narayanan , jayanthi, raja vikram (and a lot more people, i dont remember). It was Rs.100 for skeeing till we get tired. I skeed for an hour. It was great skeeing.. I fell a lot of time. If you fall down, it its really tough to get up. After an hour, 1) i really got tired 2) It started to rain/snow and the temperature started dropping. So I decided to QUIT ;-). It was terllibly cold, got a hot tea (which actually was a HOT water, though it dint matter, the hotness of the drink only mattered). After a hot tea, I had some noodles. It was all hot and great at that weather. Then me, balaji saranvaa formed huddle, putting each other's hand in other's Fur coat so that we get warmth. The gloves didnt have any fur or something in it. It was plain leather gloves.. so it was great doing that. Priya had a tough time, since her legs started to frost too much.. They poured Garam paani (Hot water) several times on her legs. She really had a tough time. While there were some people like this having tough time with frost, some guys of my class took photographs with no shirts (just trying to be brave :D ). They also found some alumni students of my college(MIT) and had a chat with them. I missed them.. though it was nice to know that our class pals met MIT alumnis. By that time we started leaving, it was getting tougher...the weather became inclement. We started walking towards the vehicle, which was parked 2 km down. I was almost felling that I wouldnt make it, since it was slippery due to the rain and my legs had long lost sensation. If i had a fall, it would have been really tough for me. I chanted Hanuman Chalisa. I usually never remember more than 2 paragraphs, accidentally I chanted 3 of them :-) ...It gave a lot of mental strength. By the time I finished chanting, the Sumo(jeep/car) driver had started driving towards the Snow Point and we met them half way. Kulanthai, his mom, nithya, priya, saravana, sai, jayanthi, me, balaji were in the sumo and we went back to Manali.

The next day we went to the two temples. I had a bad stomach. So I went to Hadimba Temple and came back to room, slept till 2 PM had lunch and then the vehicle started at around 4 PM to Delhi. climbing down from the hill, it was dizzy and I already had bad stomach. So it was kind of
food leaving the body in both directions :p. The next day, we were at Delhi, Karol Bagh.. We went to Qutb Minar (QM). QM was boring. May be, if I were a muslim would have admired it and enjoyed it much better. Then we went to Lotus temple (of Bahais). It was great, the architecture was great and it had news for all the religions of the world that it is harmony between religions that is required.

That evening we went to shopping at Karol Bagh. It was the first time I did serious shopping. I had called my relative at Chennai about Karol Bagh, who said me to start bargaining for any item at 1/10 of its price. It was rediculous to hear at first, but I understood it when I started bargaining. There are two markets at Karol Bagh, one for whole sale market. It is also called as Tank Road market. Jeans, T-Shirts are available ther. The other is the Karol Bagh market, which contains all retail items. It was funny and puzzling at first to bargain a product which he first said as Rs. 400 for say Rs.40. After sometime, It started to get boring... aah! I got a travellers bag and a belt for my dad, a purse each for my mom and sister. It was simply great. When we were back to our rooms and talked with our friends boasting on how great each's bargain was, we found that each one had been cheated/duped in atleast one bargain. :)) :))

The next day we made to Metro train. Took metro train from Karol Bagh to Rajiv Chowk. I also got a Souvenier ticket token to show to everyone that "yes yes, i went in Delhi Metro train". It was fully air conditioned. It had LCD screens and audible messages saying which was the next station and which side the doors will open and so on....was certainly a new experience... We went from there to Paalika Bazaar. Me , Saravana, Balaji, Priya went there. We did some shopping. We almost would have been duped by a duplicate 50 rupee note. We went to Jantar Mantar, a place where there were several instruments of Astronomical importance (of which I could comprehend the sundial and a few others). From there we came back to our rooms, had food and then everyone started to the train at 6 PM. Before going to the train, we went to India Gate. I went boating with saravana. Sairam, Nithya and Jayanthi went for a three boat ride. Priya and Balaji went for a two boat ride. My boat(with saravana) had a nice dashing game with Balaji's and we took some pic there. When we reached Delhi Railway Station, it was all fun...people took videos with the bus driver (which I wrote earlier), took some snaps and we moved to the platform (IIRC it was platform 10).

There was only one person who's relative had come to Delhi station to give a send off and it was Jayanthi's cousin. We had chat with him for sometime the same morning, when he came to meet Jayanthi. He took her, Sairam , Nithya with him for showing them Delhi.... Well I should tell lucky Jayanthi and unlucky him :p.

The return journey wasnt that comfortable, since the whole 40 tickets got split in 2 compartments, and the whole students became two discrete groups rather than one. We had slam books, each one spent the time in the train filling other's slam books and exchanging addresses and contact numbers...With that the whole thing ended, and we reached the day after at chennai morning 7 AM...

There are a lot of positives from the trip. First, my level of interaction with friends has increased considerably... Though late, its the latest from my side... I made a few good friends(notably Jayanthi, with whom i have never talked much before the trip), Karthik (who has become fan of my mokkais), extended my depth of friendship with others (Saravana, Balaji, Priya, Nithya). I have been in touch with them always, much closer after the trip. With saravana, i have always been much much closer. :-).

Well I think i have written much more than what I would have typed in a week... This is a really great experience writing a BBBBIIIIIIIGGGGGG journal.


Santhosh said...

I never thought you would such a big 'thing'

santhosh said...

missing 'write'

ivak said...

hey u have really written a big and hopefully most comprehensive post... kudos to ur memory... and i had split feelings on this... on one hand i was feeling gud i cud get to know more abt the tour while on the other really missd having been there esp the manali experience

Nithya.S said...

Hello Varun Dear,
Nithya Soundararajan here, where are the trip fotos?

rahulv said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pavitra Duba said...

Your tour seems to be good and enjoyable. I also had been to North India tour through and enjoyed the tour like yours. One should go to North India once in a while.

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