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The Great Trip

When most people think about places to visit in London, they have Buckingham Palace or Oxford Street or London Bridge or some historical Museum on their mind. But to me it was always Lord’s.

Walking into the Lord’s stadium was something I always dreamed about.  I would be lying if I said that my dream didn’t involve me wearing the Indian jersey and walking out onto the ground along with my heroes. However the second part of that dream was sadly no longer probable. But it did not have any diminishing effect on my enthusiasm to visit the stadium.

It was a bright Sunday morning, quite a rare sight in London for that time of the year. The wind was quite brisk. I reached the gates of Marylebone Cricket Club around 10.45 AM.

The guided tour was scheduled at 11AM. The man at the counter told me that the ticket price was 16 pounds. Although it was quite expensive, I just had to see it.

My tour group was pretty small, 3 South African guys, a Pakistani couple with their 2 young kids and of course me. We were all given badges which I must say looked pretty great.

The tour began with us visiting the historical Lord’s Museum. It had hundreds of stories to tell in the form photographs, old cricketing gear and of course the Ashes Urn. But what interested me most was the autographed bat of India’s greatest Number 3. Sadly photography was not allowed in the museum. So instead, I stared at it forever.

Next stop was the hallowed dressing room at the home of Cricket. We first entered the home dressing room. I was quite surprised on seeing it. It was from a different era. The guide explained that the Club wanted to preserve of the charm of the good old times. So the ambiance of the place was left unchanged.

As I stood on the balcony looking at the beautiful green ground I couldn’t help but notice the great slope we had heard so much about in the match commentaries. The altitude at the left end of the ground was at least 20 feet higher than the right end.

The guide then asked where everyone in the group was from. When I said I was from India, he showed me the spot in the Members stands where Kapil Dev had lifted the World Cup on that memorable evening of 1983. I could visualize it happening live in front of my eyes even though I wasn’t even born in 1983.

Now I couldn’t wait to see the Away dressing room. As we entered the Away dressing room, I charged into the Balcony and sat on THAT bench. I felt the sudden urge to take off my shirt and wave it around just like our beloved Dada. But thankfully I regained my senses and decided against it. When I re-entered the dressing room, the guide was telling about the favorite seats and rituals of all the Indian legends.

Next he pointed out the boards with the list of batsmen who have scored centuries and another board with the list of bowlers who have taken 5 wickets in an innings in a test match. Surprisingly, many of the top batsmen were missing from that board including our very own Master Blaster.

After visiting the dressing rooms, we walked to the opposite end of the stadium through the stands to reach the Media box. It was a magnificent structure, apparently built by a boat company.

The view from the media box was just perfect, perhaps even better than the view from the dressing room balconies.

Then we came down from the media building and walked around the boundary ropes. The guide told us that the getting onto the ground was strictly off limits.

I was tempted to step on the grass when he was looking away. But walking onto the Lord’s ground was something I wanted to earn, and so I held myself back. ‘May be next lifetime’, I consoled myself taking a deep breath.

The final part of the tour was the Souvenir store. It had the Lords’ T shirts, miniature cricket bats, balls, key chains and plenty more.

My dream of seeing the Lord’s cricket ground in person had come true. I was very happy about that. But somewhere deep down I felt a strange sense of sadness. May be it was because I knew this might also be the last time I ever set foot in that place or may be because….

Uploaded By: Abhishek
Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak
Goa re-visited!

On a lazy afternoon, over a cup of coffee I was flipping through the pages of an old travelogue. The soothing picture of a golden beach lined with palm trees caught my eyes! A sea-holic as ever, I started reading the article minutely. After re-reading it, I googled ‘Goa’ on the net and started to study more on it.  The more educated I was becoming, the more did I yearn to buy myself a trip there.

A few weeks later my mother told me about my cousin’s trip to Bombay and Goa. How jealous I was! But without wasting a moment, I rang her up to inquire details about the places she’d been to. After an hour full of gossips and awing, I was determined to finalize my trip. That night I couldn’t go to sleep with so many things going on my mind. But when I did, I had this dream, which turned a new leaf in my life… I was lying on a deserted  beach with a small shack nearby. A mild Portuguese music could be heard afar and I could see a group of hippies dancing to the rhythm cheerfully. Life couldn’t be more beautiful or more peaceful with the sun set and crying of the sea gulls at the backdrop. The waves hit the rocks and sprayed the water on the cooling sand. There I was, amid heaven, a sudden calm possessed me, made me realize, who I was…

My 19th birthday was on the way, and I had made up my mind to convince my parents to leave me for a trip (which I was availing, to complete my assignment on Travel and Tourism, was to be said) as a birthday gift. After a lot of convincing and nagging, requesting and more nagging, explaining and even more nagging, I finally managed to get their consent! No time was spared and there I was, preparing myself for this huge treat. My father helped me with the flight ticket and hotel room bookings. A lot of time was spent on studying about the place, it’s history, cuisine, people, culture, language and of course, the popular places.

There was a chill, marrying the excitement  in the air, for, the journey was yet to begin the next day. I was done packing a backpack and other luggage. With a relief I finally zipped the bag and exclaimed, “Goa, here I come!”

Goa, Visited

My morning flight landed at the Dabolim Airport and I smelled fresh air, that very air I was craving for, back in my hometown. A billboard flashed brightly, ‘WELCOME TO GOA’.  I could feel goosebumps on my skin due to excitement but I had to control. I calmed myself and decided to first look for a conveyance that would head me to Calangute, ‘the queen of beaches!’. While searching, I met a group of tourists from Iraq, who were going to stay at a hotel in Calangute as well. One of those friendly Iranians proposed to share their blue caravan with them and I agreed! Little did I expect to make friends so quickly, but more than anything I was happy! A little girl named Ara started singing gleefully and very soon everybody chorused in. I was giggling all the way because of Sam’s hilarious jokes. With the little time that was left, I glanced outside the window to see small woods at both the sides and a few mines around. We reached after two long hours’ journey and I checked into my room. When I found the plush room with a warm welcoming bed, stuffed with royal pillows , I gave in. I woke up after sometime and decided to gear up, starting with my balcony first. The porch overlooked the magnificent evening beach with all the water-sports and fun-filled activities going on. Dressed up in my comfortable cotton jumpsuit, I grabbed my handy-cam and started my long awaited expedition. The lobby at the hotel was decorated with lovely lavenders and wild flowers in orange, hanging from the ceiling . I parked myself at the wooden lounge, with the view of the golden sand and the sun-kissed sea. Soft breeze tingled my hair and I made myself cozy on a couch at a corner. Famished as I was, I ordered for a club sandwich, cranberry shake and the famous ‘Babinka’ which was one of Goanese specialties.

And while I sat there, sorting my trip into many halves, my eyes caught a sight of a man sitting a few tables away from me. Dressed in a white shirt and the usual blue denims, the robust physique was highly complimented! Beneath the tinted glasses I could feel his gaze following me. I quickly looked away and decided not to think much about it. Post my heavy supper, I hopped onto the beach. It was completed with shacks and stalls shadowed by tall palm trees, selling everything from fried prawns and beer to seasoned scallops and martini shots. 

I walked for quite sometime and finally found a shack playing some Old Bob Marley tracks, so I occupied one of their bamboo chairs to enjoy the cheer with a pint of ‘Voodoo’. While returning to my hotel, after an hour, I stumbled into the guy-in-a-white-shirt. He had by then removed his glasses to reveal a pair of hazel brown eyes. He smiled at me and apologized (I gave a sheepishly awestruck beam from ear to ear in return) and walked away. I could smell his Hugo Boss that lingered for a while. With a sigh I gathered myself and went to my room to call it a night.

The next day I had to wake up early for I was supposed to take a trip to North Goa with the Iranian friends I had made. We set off in our rusted blue caravan towards the capital, Panaji. We visited the Corjeum Fort, Arvalam waterfall and then took a steamboat to the Coco Island to catch a glimpse of the vivacious dolphins. Ara wouldn’t let my hands go off hers as she became very fond of me. The two of us along with the rest of her family took lovely snapshots and I got busy filming the vitals. The hectic day came to an end.

I had found my favorite place at the shack down the beach where I had sheltered the other day,  only to see a man showing a few tricks with fire and bottles. The little boy at the shack introduced himself as Asif and noted my order and then I had a little chat about him and his whereabouts. I was enjoying my drink when the guy-in-a-white-shirt came up to me and started talking. We introduced ourselves. His name was Vedant. In an hours’ time we started enjoying each others’ company. He offered me a walk down the beach and I agreed. After a few hours we both decided to get back to our hotels and I promised to meet him the next evening, at the shack! I was too tired to be excited that night and dozed off to sleep. My third day was Scheduled for sight-seeing at south Goa. I joined my Iranian mates at the old blue caravan. We had so much fun while visiting St. Francis Xavier’s Church, St. Cathedral Church, Kapileshwari temple and Dona Paula. Finally they stopped the caravan at Vagator beach where we took a nice supper. I, Ara, Sam and Farooq went berserk seeing so many ‘Fanush’ dotting the dusky sky. We sat on the beach and enjoyed the splendid view for a while. I couldn’t wait to go back to Calangute for I was dying to meet Vedant, who by then, had become a huge crush of mine! As soon as I reached hotel, I freshened up and selected a lovely summer dress that would compliment my lightly tanned skin. In sometime, I was down at the shack to see him dressed in an orange shirt. Was he actually radiating heat and aura or was I loosing my mind? I was completely dazzled and by his expressions, so was he, seeing me! I was overwhelmed when he offered me to go to a cruise with him at 8 o’clock. We reached the dock on time to board our cruise, ‘Santa Monica’. The hosts had arranged a wonderful performance followed by a dance.

Vedant asked me for dance and so there we were, hand in hand, eyes in eyes, moving to the soft instrumental music at the background. We didn’t realize how time flew for it all seemed like a fairy-tale. After the dance followed by a grand dinner, the cruise came to an end at 10pm. Vedant dropped me at my hotel in a dreamy state, as I was bedazzled by the night’s affairs. I woke up with a start the next morning, thinking about last night.  I checked my phone to see a text from Vedant, asking me to join him for a sun bath at the beach. I called up Ara’s mum to ask them to leave for their sight-seeing without me that day. With super speed I got ready in my black bikini (which I was really excited to wear for the first time!), wrapped a stole around and literally ran to the beach with my Louis Vuitton shades on. I found him lying on the sun-bed wearing his wayfarers, reading a magazine. I was agape. His oomph factor killed me. He called me beside him and told me how beautiful I was looking. We agreed to take a dive into the sea and enjoy the water sports out there. First came para-gliding! I was thrilled at the same time anxious. We belted ourselves and took all the necessary precautions. I felt our parachute rising eventually and shortly we were higher and higher. I dared not to look below! Vedant was screaming his lungs out and laughing. He persuaded me to look down. With ample courage I peeped below and Woah! What a sight it was! The huge sea below, wrapped in green trees and golden sands dotted with anything and everything. My lungs filled with fresh air and eyes started watering.. i started screaming with ecstasy . It was simply out of the world. We got down and instantly we both started laughing, we laughed like never before, we laughed like children until we got tired. And then after a bit of water-biking we came back on the sands. Vedant wasn’t done yet.

He told me how he always wanted to try scuba-diving but as we both were amateurs, we needed assistance. We enrolled ourselves to take a dive into the vast green ocean and explore the underwater beauty. All the measures were taken, we were provided costumes and oxygen pipes were attached to the suits. As we ventured into the depths, my heart started beating louder than the drums. I clutched Vedant’s hands tightly, scared of drowning. They gave us professional advises and instructions which we followed and midway I could see a wonderland. I was in doubt if all this is true or merely some dream. There were weeds around with brilliant plants, mosses on the wet rocks, and blimey! the small fishes in orange, blue, silver, golden and unknown water animals were moving about, some hiding behind the plants. I could not believe my eyes. Life felt beautiful and serene for the first time. When we surfaced, and were on our way back, we didn’t speak a word. I just hugged him tight and cried. silence prevailed until it was interrupted by the buzzing from the beach. We laid ourselves on the shore and played with the waves that broke on our shoulders, enjoying a drink. We spent hours like that talking about this and that. He proposed to hire a scooty and go to the rest of the beaches nearby. I went to my room, freshened up after a short snooze and was out in the evening, waiting for Vedant at the lounge. We biked down to Anjuna beach, took photos and made a move to Arambol beach. When we reached the place, we witnessed the sun set behind the cliffs, cherished the moments with some chicken vindaloo (goanese food) and breezer. Our final destination for the day was Baga beach and I had plans to do some street shopping. Baga was really crowded with street vendors and hawkers and tourists. We met Asif, who invited us to a barbecue party at his friend’s shack. After spending an hour there, we moved out into the streets. I was busy eyeing every stall that were stacked with beautiful curiosities and trinkets made of sea shells being sold by the locals, handmade feather hats, lovely Goanese dresses, Tee shirts advertising Goa tourism, beaded necklaces and other accessories, sling bags made of jute, and the list was endless! Opposite those stalls were some tattoo parlors. I was done loading four bags with anything and everything I found with a touch of the place. As I was leaving the next morning for Palolem, Vedant decided to hang out at a local pub with me. We took a beer and danced to the beat of Samba, old rock and roll and what not! I was glad to make such a great friend like Vedant. He told me that he will go to Mumbai the next day. I was saddened by the thought of never meeting again, but we promised to e-mail each other very frequently. We ended the night on a bitter-sweet note, I hugged and bade him goodbye and he planted a kiss on my cheek. I returned to my hotel and laid flat on the bed. After finishing packing my backpack for the departure, I called Ara’s mum and told her that I’d be going to Palolem early morning and that I’d be back after a day.

The next morning I woke up early, and set off in my rented scooty for Palolem, located at the Southern most tip of Goa, a crescent shaped island of pure beauty. After a long and tedious journey of almost two hours, I reached the place, so often mistook as paradise. From my earlier research, I had decided to put up at a cheap hotel for a night in Palolem. When I entered the beach, I found a few shacks where I parked my scooty and asked the locals if they can help me go to the small island at a distance. As per their guidance, I hired a small wooden boat. I wasn’t too sure about the stability of the boat, plus they didn’t have life-jackets but i was left with no other options. So I crossing my fingers I consoled myself that it was a calm sea with a small distance to cover, and moreover I have faced the horrors of para-gliding and scuba-diving. What could be worse? My fate smiled at me, maybe. For that was one hell of a journey I can never forget! As we were moving into the sea, away from the shores, the calm started to disappear, being replaced by a typical movement of the waves. There were three other foreign tourists with me in the boat so I avoided panicking. But there was a weird sense of excitement within I was unaware of. As if I could smell some adventure! As our little wooden boat oared through the sea, towards the cliffs, the waves became stronger and very soon I realized that none of us were safe out there. The boat was moving furiously as if it’s going to be crushed into bits. The mid-aged man behind me started to shout at the boater. Everyone was hysterical but somehow I was enjoying the peril out there. Water sprayed and splashed on us and I could feel the boat moving up and down continuously. Glancing sideways I could not believe my eyes. A group of penguins were plunging into the water and playing merrily. What a sight it was! The boater told me that it was a very rare sight, even for them. After a while we could see the island closely and holy Christ! It was Heaven! There were hardly any people out there for it was a deserted island with bounties of nature, love and beauty. A deep emotion stirred me. I got off the boat and sauntered into the placid place. There was one little round counter-type shack made of hays and bamboo and I found similar looking small huts surrounding the cliff. For the first few minutes I just kept breathing and staring into the space.

After sometime I gathered myself and arranged one of those huts for my stay. The walk down the beach was enthralling as there were hundred thousands of tiny orange-grey crabs moving about in groups. The silver sand touched my feet and when I stepped into the crystal clear water, there was a strong urge to swim. Without wasting a moment I changed into my swimsuit and swam for hours at a stretch. I floated on the water to see the vast blue sky with a few sea gulls and the territory of the island being bound by tall palm trees. After a while I tied a hammock round two trees in the shade, treated myself with tuna salad and coconut drink from the shack and just kept watching. Two of my companions at the boat were happily kayaking and a few were swimming, taking pictures. I took my camera and clicked away pictures of every possible thing my eyes couldn’t skip.

“…….Life couldn’t be more beautiful or more peaceful with the sun set and crying of the sea gulls at the backdrop. The waves hit the rocks and sprayed the water on the cooling sand. There I was, amid heaven, a sudden calm possessed me, made me realize, who I was……..”

It was getting dark as the sun was setting, so I decided to go back to my hut. The hut was roughly floored with a small bathroom and two windows beside a couch-bed. It was small and cozy. The local people helped me with a room heater and there I was comfortably settled in the couch with a book. Later that night I had dinner with the locals. One of them named Ravi, helped me to find woods for the bonfire and treated me like a guest. I felt warm and love midst that lonely island, so far away from my hometown. The next morning I woke up at 5am to see the sunrise. A sunrise at the sea was something I always wanted to experience. Thanks to this trip, I witnessed all possible heavenly scenes one could see in a life. At the age of nineteen, I felt complete. After a heavy breakfast I climbed the cliffs and explored into the mysterious corners of the island. It definitely reminded me of Famous Five, on their expedition to Kirrin Island! I took a small stone and etched my name on a huge rock beside my hut. In the afternoon I had to leave for Calangute. With high hopes of returning here after few years, I left the serene paradise. On my way back I took a shorter way and reached early. I wondered if Vedant was still there but alas! I came to know that he had left long back. I invited my Iranian friends to dinner at the shack and we spent the night playing twenty questions. It was my last night in Goa, I was supposed to leave the next evening after a trip to the spice garden. I was lost in my pensive mood with the splashes of the waves behind. Thankfully Ara kept the ambiance cheerful with her nonstop babbling. At night, I ordered for some food and drink and plopped into my regular corner couch at the hotel’s lounge. I thought to myself about returning to the same old monotonous life with all the mundane activities and it saddened me further.

As soon as I woke up the next morning, I left for the spice garden with my Iranian friends in the rusty blue caravan. The spice garden was canopied by soothening green hue with different kinds of trees, shrubs, herbs, flowers  and the incense sticks produced a beautiful aroma around the place.  We were welcomed with a garland of flowers and an exotic cinnamon drink. Our guide Anita took us round the place and introduced all the plants, gave us a few to taste. I bought some tins of aloe vera paste and vanilla branches for mum. And as we walked further, we clinched to take a bath from the Elephant. Changing into bathsuits we climbed the back of the huge friendly elephant, who carried gallons of water in it’s trunk and splashed it behind on us. How fun it was! I didn’t want it to end at all, but everything was timed so we had to leave. We went to a nearby restaurant at the beach and enjoyed some delicious sea food. I ordered some poached prawns, seasoned scallops, baked fish with garlic sauce and Martini with pomegranate. Once we reached Calangute, I asked them to meet me in the evening before I head for the airport. After all the packing I was ready to leave.

For one last time I took a nice look at my room and the balcony, heaved a sigh and closed the door behind. At the lobby I found Ara, Sam, Farooq and the rest of them waiting for me. Previously I had bought gifts for each of them as a token of thanks for everything they had done for me throughout the trip. I presented them the gifts, hugged each of them and bade our final goodbyes, promising to write to each other. I took a cab and left for the airport with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes…

Goa, Revisited

Driving my way back home from office I was stuck in traffic. I had to go home and pack for the trip the next day. With new projects and meetings, I could hardly get time to rejoice about our trip to Goa. I remember, the last time I went there things were so different. So many things have changed between these thirteen years! Now, I’m a thirty-two years old editor at a daily newspaper, married to Satyajit Chatterjee, a businessman. We have a blooming daughter of six years, and we affectionately call her Aankhi. The biggest change of all being my Age.

When I reached home, I found that Aankhi had got the whole house on top of her head being unable to hold all her excitement. Her grandparents were busy pampering her with new dresses and toys, as if she was going away forever! After freshening up, I started packing and sometime later, Satya (Satyajit) joined me for the packing. Together, we completed the task in three long hours filled with arguments and comments. Satya wanted to go to this trip with me since a long time from when he had heard about my last trip’s experience. He thought I’m like those hep hippies who love to travel along with adventure. Due to the pressure of work and other commitments we couldn’t make it happen earlier. But finally we made it this year, after Aankhi’s exams got over.

The following morning, as soon as I woke up, my marathon started, with all the preparations for leaving. Thanks to my mother-in-law, who gave me a hand in the chores, for which I was successful in getting the other two (Satya and Aankhi) inside the car on time. Finally! It was actually happening. I was really going to Goa, again, after so many years. There was a feeling of skepticism within, whether things had changed from then, if yes, then how much? Will this trip be as good as my last one, or will I be disappointed? Will I miss my long lost Iranian friends, a holiday romance, and the other people I had met, or will these memories be buried by the present one? However, I was absolutely thrilled to visit a place so close to my heart with my family. When we reached the airport, Aankhi was celebrating and I could see a spark in her eyes. The same spark that I had found in my eyes, before starting that trip, being unaware of the future experiences, beginning a journey unknown. This time, Satya had done a homework on the schedules of our trip, so I was much relaxed. I needed this break from work for a long time! We reached Dabolim airport in the afternoon and were waiting for our reserved car. A Mercedes C 200 in red stopped in front of us. Satya, along with the chauffeur started loading the rear of the car with our luggage. I was excited to know that these hot wheels were going to be our companion for the rest of the trip! While going to our hotel through the same old roads I felt a sudden pang of nostalgia. This place hadn’t changed a bit. Only that this time the old blue rusty caravan was replaced by a red hot Mercedes Benz, the nineteen years old impish girl replaced by a thirty-two years old working mum, accompanied by a husband and a daughter, instead of a group of Iranian tourists.

We reached The Leela resort at Mobor beach shortly. Satya had booked a lagoon suite for us. We walked into our suite and both my and Aankhi’s expressions were the same: astonished! I never knew my husband had such luxurious plans for this trip. First the merc, and now this suite. I guess he was trying to make up for cancelling so many of our trips before. While we were making ourselves comfortable in our bedroom, Aankhi came running and pulled us to the open terrace which overlooked the lagoon. Once she was done exclaiming about it, she rushed to the living space to show us the grand setting and the large television screen. I smiled and exchanged looks with Satya. Our daughter was highly impressed by her daddy cool! Later that evening we went down to the riverside restaurant and had a grand meal of mashed potato, grilled chicken with barbecue sauce, baked fish with white sauce and prawn pasta. Being so full, we decided to stay at the hotel and maybe take a round of everything available.

Quite surprisingly the late risers were the ones to wake me up first, the next morning. The father and his daughter pulled me out of the bed at seven in the morning so that we can start the journey early. We decided to go for the sight-seeings on the first two days, so that we can laze around the rest of our trip. Hence, we started with North Goa. We visited the towns of Panaji and Mapusa. And as soon as I got a chance, I burnt huge holes in Satya’s pockets by shopping from Mapusa market. Later, we went to the caves and waterfalls of Arvalem, followed by a visit to Anjuna beach that dug a deeper hole into the pockets and loaded heavier bags in the car. One by one we went to the Arambol, Vagator, Dona Paula and Miramar beaches and I felt a pining for those younger days. Lastly, when we reached Calangute, I had mixed emotions of nostalgia and excitement. I took them to the hotel where I had stayed. The lobby  and the corridors remained the same or maybe more modified over the years but the sitting arrangement at the lounge was totally different. My favorite corner was now occupied by a plasma TV, and the furniture had a more newfangled look. I told them how I used to sit there with a book and a drink and later hop down to the once-upon-a-time-little-shack which was now a popular food joint. Suddenly I remembered about that guy I had befriended from the shack. With some effort I recalled his name. Asif it was! We went to the shack for a light supper and I asked the waiter if he knows Asif. After some twenty minutes, a grown up tall boy with sharp features came to our table with a curious look. I became jumpy and asked him if he remembers me. After an awkward pause, he just smiled and waved a friendly hello but from his looks it was evident that I was long forgotten. Not that I’d expected him to remember, but the thought that I’ve left everything behind, saddened me. Satya and Aankhi cheered me up and we headed for our resort. After a short rest, I and Satya decided to go for a spa. Aankhi was busy watching cartoon so we went to the spa and salon to avail our complimentary ‘Ayurvedic’ spa. It was so soothing after the hectic day. I felt a lot more fresh and happy. Later that night, we had a nice dinner at our suite itself, ordering all the favorite dishes of our dear little princess.

The following morning we set off for studying all the churches, buildings and Portuguese architecture and finally returned, after Aankhi was satisfied seeing the dolphins at the coco island. The three of us got a kick out of the loud music in the car and sang tunelessly all the way until we were out of energy. We were just in time to catch the famous sunset at Mobor-Cavelossim beach. It was a treat to the eyes. We sat on the soft sands, stretched our legs and eased off with a drink. Our little Aankhi got busy playing with a few French kids beside. And again, I felt the same old completeness. But this time, it was different altogether. At night, when Aankhi fell asleep Satya and I slipped down to the pool bar to grab drinks. We chattered for quite a while with pints of champagne followed by bloody mary and scotch. The night just passed away like that. Snuggling in each other’s arms, we went back to the suite to call it a night.

The day next, none of us except Aankhi had the energy to wake up early. So with a lot of lag, we ate our breakfast and went to the beach, dressed up in our swimsuits. The Mobor beach was simply a haven for adventure lovers for it was famous for all the adventure sports. Satya was an expert in surfing, so he took a wind-surfer and sailed off like a hero. I was playing with Aankhi at the beach and I was amused by my little girl, seeing how wonderfully she has learnt to enjoy herself on her first trip ever! When Satya returned, I was dying to try out the ‘banana bumpy ride’ that I had missed the last time. I found out that you’re given life jackets and in the midway you will be thrown off the thin small boat and you will have to struggle back to the boat and this will continue throughout the ride. It sounded like some real adventure, being thrown off the boat into the Arabian sea. But it wasn’t possible for us because Aankhi was with us and she was too young to try such things. So we had to skip that idea. But together, we decided to try the speed-boat rides which were fine for children. Gladly Aankhi darling enjoyed a lot, and had showed a lot more courage than expected. Seeing people on parachutes, this six year old kid wanted to try that, Unbelievable, isn’t she?!

Satya had never been to an ocean-cruise before so I had bought ourselves a grand cruise that night. The theme for the cruise was ‘Pirates Aboard’ and hilariously, we had to dress up like pirates! It sounded like some fun. Satya already had a white baggy shirt with a deep slit near the chest which gave an almost-pirate look, and I made Aankhi dress into khakhee shorts and a black top which looked perfect! Now the real problem was with me. I had NO dress that could make me look like a pirate. But finally, I went with denim shorts, torn at the edges giving it a rough look, and a white old tee. I tied a knot above my tummy, revealing ample skin of my stomach. To add more to it, I wore my pair of brown boots. Now I was okay. So, after a fashion-emergency, we three were finally ready. The cruise crew provided us with those one-eyed black masks and we took some funny pictures with funny poses. The ship was given a wooden grandeur, and there was a handsome lad, dressed up like Johnny Depp, executing the whole program. We all danced to the the cheerful rhythm of Goanese music, circling around the hall. Moreover it was quite different from my last cruise, but honestly, much more fun!

The next day, I woke up really early and walked into the terrace. It was a pure bliss! The green lagoon and it’s tranquil milieu was a joy to watch. Quietly I woke Satya up and we had our morning tea there at the terrace. Later, we arranged for a bubble bath at the palatial tub and nested into it for hours at a stretch. After the relaxing bath, I woke Aankhi up to get ready for the day. I took out the floral printed clothes for the three of us that I had bought from Anjuna beach the other day and left for the beach safari. We stopped over at all the beaches nearby, Betul and Cavelossim to enjoy their allurements. Furthermore, we couched at Varca beach for our late-lunch. A group of youngsters were playing beach ball, and Aankhi joined them uninvited. And then they asked us to join as well. Without further ado we agreed and started enjoying the fun! Satya loved those young people and arranged for a small dinner party at Mobor’s shack and invited them.

We talked to the staffs at the shack and they helped us arranging a dinner party for twenty at one corner of the beach. Lighting a bonfire at the center, they played some Bob Dylan and Eric Claptons, followed by crazy numbers of the year. It was fun interacting with these young people who had come for a trip together from Bangalore. They reminded me of my younger days… We danced and partied hard. It was our last night at Mobor. We returned to our suite, dog tired and exhausted. I pulled the two out of their laze and forced them to help me with the packing.
The next day we left for Palolem (as planned by me) after a pool bath and heavy breakfast. Before leaving, Ankhi was really upset. But we managed to excite her about the forthcoming tour. I took a nice look in and around our beautiful suite one last time. On our way, we stopped at a restro to collect food and resumed the journey. Satya had never been to this particular beach before, so I had to bring him here! I wanted them to experience the same stupefaction like I did. So there we were, on ‘Mission Palolem’. We wanted to cut down our expenses a bit, so we chose to stay at the Papillion huts. Once we reached, I heaved a sigh! Here I was, back, as promised. I kept my word. With a sudden enthusiasm, I grabbed Aankhi’s hands, and we ran towards the beach. We barely touched the waters of the sea, when a wave hit us playfully. Aankhi giggled and Satya came rushing to capture that moment in our digital camera. We went to the Papillions’ and the friendly owner Heaven gave us a deluxe room at a cheap rate. It was a decent looking wooden hut with a cushy bed. I found it small and cute,  just perfect for us! The staffs were extremely helpful and friendly so we settled really fast. Without further delay, we went to the beach, to go to my dream island, I used to sing about always. I found out that now they have steamboats available for the safety of tourists and moreover we had Aankhi with us, so couldn’t risk by taking small boats. This time we sailed through the sea with speed and the breeze blew hard against us. My sight traveled as far as it could towards the horizon. I hugged my baby girl and just stared into the space, laughing to myself about my last experience. By the sudden exclamation of Satya I looked, and found the coast near us. Aankhi screamed in ecstasy. Once we voyaged to the coast, I ran down the boat, to absolute nothingness. It was still that beautiful, completely unscathed. The golden sands skirted the blue-green Arabian sea. The round little shack was there as it was. My husband and my daughter were stupefied and awestruck! Their reactions were exactly how I had expected, in fact even more. Satya came to me and hugged me tight. I couldn’t be happier than this. I took them to the hut where I had stayed. Sadly, nobody took much care of it and it was nearly in ruins. All of a sudden my eyes caught a rock nearby. It had my name written in bold letters! I jumped up in surprise and remembered how I myself had etched that very name, some thirteen goddamn years back. With an emotional joy I felt those carved letters etched on the rough surface. It was an inexplicable feeling altogether. I had goosebumps on my skin. Satya brought me a pint of vodka on rocks, which I enjoyed while dipping my feet on the sea, sitting at the edge of a boulder. The waves touched my feet gently and again washed away. Aankhi was busy building a sand-castle happily. After taking series of images, Satya rested beside me. I felt his strong arms around me, and suddenly he bent over, and kissed me. I blushed like I was nineteen again! It was getting late, so we had to get back to the main island. Aankhi begged to stay there. I felt for this girl’s yearning as I could relate. But finally ‘daddy cool’ was successful in taking his princess back to the Papillions’, promising to come back the next day. We returned shortly and had a platter of sea food. Later that night we played UNO and Aankhi cheered for us.

The final day of our trip had arrived. I woke up early and finished some major parts of packing. After freshening up, I nested at the balcony to watch the locals working at the beach, some tourists enjoying their morning walk and the staffs opening the shacks. The only thing that didn’t rest was the constant sound of the water hitting the shores. From my past experience I could tell that this particular sound would follow me for the next few days even back in Calcutta ,while I’ll lie on my sofa with a book, at night. After breakfast, we three musketeers repeated the last day’s routine. We sailed back to our favorite little spot once again! I prepared a hammock for us at a shade under the palm trees and went looking for the locals. I asked them about Ravi, who along with his family had helped me so much back then. I returned to my hammock and sunk in the sun rays. It was splendid! Satya became the photographer, and I was his model. Shortly, we got bored and thought of taking a bath in the clear blue water. After a while, an old man with grey hair came beaming at us. I was overwhelmed when he introduced himself as Ravi and told that he had remembered me. We had lunch with his family and Ravi’s wife gave Aankhi a little handmade trinket as a token of love. The time was ticking by, we laid back on the sand for a while.

“…….Life couldn’t be more beautiful or more peaceful with the sun set and crying of the sea gulls at the backdrop. The waves hit the rocks and sprayed the water on the cooling sand. There I was, amid heaven, a sudden calm possessed me, made me realize, who I was……..”

As it was getting darker, we decided to move on. Another promise was made, to return, sooner this time. Just when we were about to leave, Satya went back, took a stone and etched his and Aankhi’s name on the same rock, below my name, dating it 2014. With a heavy heart, we reached Papillions’ huts. In a short time, we were ready to leave for the airport. Heaven and his boys bade us goodbyes. I never liked this part of the journey. I hated departure and goodbyes. But then, the joy of returning doubles up, for this very goodbye. One last glimpse of the beach, and we took off for Dabolim airport. Aankhi fell asleep on the way. Satya played John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ while we drove, away from Goa, Mesmerizing Goa.

Both my journeys cannot be compared, for each of them holds a significance in my life. My transition from a carefree teenager, to a responsible wife, and mother was more realized when I drove back the memory lane. Sometimes revisiting old places can help one to realize how life has changed, always for the greater good. Till date, I have traveled around many places within the country and abroad, fell in love with countless places. But even today, Goa is the secret little weakness in my heart. I am sure, the next time or the times after, I visit this place, it will create newer memories, special and breathtaking just like the previous ones.

Uploaded By: Amit Manna
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Break Time

GET UP , BRUSH TEETH , TAKE BATH , DRESS UP , EAT , GO TO WORK, COME HOME AND SLEEP.

Well this has been my routine for a long time. Have you ever had the feeling of working for a long time with no break ?  If so you might know how i feel.  when we work on an unstoppable  schedule  each and everyday our mind get so weak and tired . So sometimes we have to take a break. This is what happened when I took one such break.

It was a Saturday morning and I was covered in my blanket  in my bed. I was half awake and thinking of sleeping an extra hour . Then suddenly I heard my mobile ringing in a louder noise. God I hate it when that happens. With my eyes half closed I was searching for my mobile and I found it.

I answered the call and just kept my mobile near my ear and said nothing. ” Hello ” said the person calling. His voice sounded like he was riding the bike or car and trying to speak at the same time. I said ” Yeah , Who is this ? ” .

” Its me Shiva . Are you ready or not ? “.

I was really confused and don’t  know what he is talking about.

” Hey are you there” asked Shiva. I took a moment to recollect what he was talking about.

“Yes I forgot”. We had planned a trip for trekking in the hills of Nagalapuram. But I thought it was just a drunken talk.” Ya Shiva , I will be ready in an hour ” I replied.

” Cool , pack your bags soon “, saying that he hung up. For me its now or never, so i packed my bag and was ready to go.

We and 6 others started our journey to trekking by bike. Myself , Shiva , Prabhu , Jerome and Jerald were friends for a long time except for Runcie . The trekking spot was a hill near  Andhra border. I was sitting pillion in Shiva’s Thunder Bird bike. There was a relaxed feeling sitting behind the bike riding pillion. Watching all the greenish trees passing through with a hushed  sound of the wind blowing  in the face , you could only imagine how small you are in such a huge competitive world , and also realizing what all things you can achieve.

It was a great ride and finally we reached a village. It was deserted in a peculiar way . There were few people . When we rode there everyone started to gaze at us like ” OH  THESE PEOPLE  AGAIN “.

I asked Shiva confusingly ” Why are the starring at us like that ”

” They are not used to see people like us regularly Thats Why ” he replied .

” Didn’t you say it was a regular place people used to visit ? ” I asked. I remembered the conversation when he said it was an awesome place and lots of people used to visit.

But you know about Shiva , he has been in that trekking for a long time than any of us in our group . He knows every plant and trees , stones and rocks , sand and clay , good or bad … He is like Tarzan of our team. We totally trust him.

He simply replied ” Just wait for some time and you will forget about who is watching you “.

We continued driving to the hills . It was a moment you realize how modernized our life is now and how we totally forgot how we were when we were children’s . We  were innocent when we were kids but lately knowledge and virtue  seems to have covered our innocence.  The  village people looking at us made me different and unique, but I really wanted to see what’s so good in their place. That’s what i have come for .

At last we entered a place that seems to be a road that leads to the hills . I can clearly see that because it was vast and no people around . Only a couple of trees for a few meters and a lot of bushes . The sunlight was sparkling into my eyes and i knew it was the entrance to the trekking spot.

Suddenly a guy stopped us and asked ” how many bikes and cars ? ” and Shiva told ” 4 bikes only and no cars ” .

It seems he is the man who is responsible for taking care of the vehicles . I figured we will be in forest for two days with no contact to outside world . Even there would be no signal in mobile phones. So its better to leave the bikes in his response. And of all the persons Shiva told he knows him. Who else can i trust !!..

We parked our bikes and stared to walk .

” THE TREKKING  STARTS ”

Shorts Tee’s and a backpack is what i am in . We started walking. Believe me we have came nearly 200 km from our home but the walking part is the most difficult for me and many of us. We 8 of us are together now. We drank little water and started. Shiva said it will take more than an hour to reach the spot which is the 1 st pool as they say it. We decide trekking  for a long time without fun is nonsense. So we began chatting while we walk.

” Its a forest and no people are around for kilometres  , What would any one of you do if a Tiger came in our way ? ”  Jerald asked.

We all were trying to answer but imagining a tiger coming in our way in that place is terrifying . We cant do anything than run. But it would not last even minute.  But Runcie  broke his question by replying ” If a tiger would come our way we should all be together and not be separate. So that the tiger will think of us as a group and might leave without gaining on  us ” .

Well for a practical answer it would be right. But when we really think of us in that position it would be nerve wrecking . For a brief period of time we were mostly silent and a lot afraid. Thinking would a tiger really come in our way. Most of the time we were looking around and making sure nothing is behind us. But it all lasted only for  a few minutes. We got used to it.

And finally after an hour and twenty minutes of trekking we reached the starting point of the forest. ” phew , that’s it I cant walk any further…” I said.

“Its not far from here just take 5 min rest and we will continue ” said Shiva.

” You guys carry on , I will come behind you . ”

” Are you crazy . We all are tired only . If we reach there soon we can take a bath in the stream and it will chill us off. Just gather some energy so we can continue. ” Runcie told in a angry yet convincing way.

I was too tired . My body was very hot and there was hot air around my head like i was boiling in hot water. My breath started to feel warm. I started to dislike this trip already .

” Here , let me take your backpack .” Jerald offered his help. I was feeling a bit better after losing some weight.

We were walking through a path . The path was dense and only a feet is there for walking . The sides are all covered fully with bushes and small plants and trees. Branches are hanging on the way making it difficult to walk. I got scratched all over my leg as i was wearing a shorts  so was for everyone.

And after a brief amount of time I started to hear the sound of running water. But i could not see river anywhere because of the dense bushes. ” Are we there yet ? ” asked jerald  in a frustrated tone. And Shiva replied ” Yeah we came , just a few meters !”..

And then we walked along for a little bit and Shiva suddenly cut through a bulk of bush as though he was clearing the way for us. But actually that’s the actual spot. We all went through it and seriously I could not believe what I just saw.

It was a really awesome spot . Filled with running waters through a stream, and rocky yet a comfortable place to rest. And it was surrounded by two mountain tops. The place was surrounded by mist and a cold breeze. We all settled down.

” Anyone coming for a swim ?” asked Shiva.

” In this cold… ?” Runcie questioned .

” Yeah ! ”

” I am not coming , maybe after some time ”

” I will come , wait ” I said. Before I could finish my sentence Shiva started to dip.

I slowly sat down on the rocks nearby the stream cause it was slippery . And I slowly dipped my legs in the water. It was really cold . ” It will be like that in the start but you will get used to it ” Shiva told watching me getting in slowly.

I went in fully and i could feel my body shaking . But Shiva insisted me to come near the flowing stream. It was a small area in the stream where the waters are flowing from a height of 5 feet above my head. Shiva said it relaxes me.  And the water was so pure it even had an magical aroma .

I went under the flowing stream and  I have to say those water really had a sense of healing in them.

All the worries , commitments and issues got out of my mind within seconds . I could feel my body rejuvenating . I was getting lighter and lighter . And at that time I thought it was a nice decision on taking this trip. It could be a tough ride and walk here but who knows that all the pain would end up with such a great result.

We finished the trip and came back with a sense of fulfillment. I would personally never forget that trip. I came back home and rested for a while and slept with joy . Because I know I enjoyed very much so I wanted to keep the momentum . And I know  it going to be GET UP , BRUSH TEETH , TAKE BATH , DRESS UP , EAT , GO TO WORK, COME HOME AND SLEEP again.

Uploaded By: ANGEL Murshid
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Kali Ghat

As soon as the exam of my grandson and granddaughter was over, they expressed their desire to see some worth seeing places of Kolkata. I was too tired to move anywhere. They did not listen to me and emphasized to visit at least three important places – Kali Ghat – Kali Temple, Victoria Memorial and Birla Planetarium. They persuaded their grandmother who telephoned me immediately and asked me to take them and show them some of the worth seeing places of Kolkata as I had no urgent work in hand to execute. Now I had no reason for refusal to my wife.

We came to Metro Station at Esplanade and bought four tickets for Kali Ghat.Within a few minutes the train arrived at and we boarded in it. It was so crowded that we did not get seats, we remained standing. Even then we were happy as it was fully air conditioned. And not only we but many ladies and gentlemen were travelling like us also. We felt relaxed all along our journey. At every station the door was automatically opened and closed within one or two minutes. The passengers had to get down and get into very quickly.

We got down at Kali Ghat Metro Station and hired an auto. We reached the temple area and through a narrow passage reached in front of the temple. There was a long queue in which men, women and children were standing in raw and turn by turn seeing the goddess Kali, praying, worshiping and coming out . We also stood up in the queue and after waiting for an hour or so our turn came. We had red flowers ( java flowers which Goddess Kali likes most ) and prasad in our hands. We prayed for happiness and peace in life. We worshipped too. We sat down at a prominent place from where the Kali Temple could be clearly visible.

With our folded hands we prayed , “ Sarve sukhinah bhavantu, sarve santu niramya ” ( All should be happy , all should be free from disease )

Shubham and Monika wanted to know about the history of Kali Ghat Kali Mandir ( Temple ). I briefed them that the temple is about two hundred years old. It is one of the 51 Shakti Piths of the country. It is the center of faith and belief of the Hindu. Many people come here every day to see Goddess Kali. It is said whosoever worships Her with true devotion and dedication , his or her desire is fulfilled. Most of the devotees are Bengalis who have immense faith in Her . Every year a grand Kali Puja is celebrated with enthusiasm. A large number of devotees come from all parts of the country during the period of different festivals like Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Lakhi Puja and so on.

Nanaji ! we don’t see any ghat , even then it is popularly known as Kalki Ghat.

You are right. With the pace of time and change in course ( direction ) of the Hooghly river the Ghat does not exist now. This temple was situated at the bank of river Hooghly nearly two hundred years back. In course of time the Hooghly river changed its course ( path ) too far away from the temple. But the name remained the same as Kali Ghat. Now it is popularly known as Kali Ghat Kali Mandir ( temple ) as known earlier at ancient time.

The history of Kali Ghat Kali Mandir ( temple ) is very old. It was situated in a dense forest in a small hut. At that time Kolkata was a big center of trade and commerce. Traders & businessmen used to come to Kolkata and its adjacent trade centers through the Bay of Bengal ( whereinto the Ganges fall ) to the Hooghly river and at its Ghat they stayed , bathed and worshiped Goddess Kali in the belief/faith that they would get what they had thought of with the blessing of Ma Kali ( Goddess Kali ). It was the result of their sheer faith and belief that in most of the occasions their desires / wishes were fulfilled due to which the traders and businessmen halted at the Ghats , took holy baths and worshipped Goddess Kali before going to their destination for trade and business. With the increase in population and development of the areas we find changes in many things but the place is the same even today where Kali Mandir ( temple ) was situated in ancient period.

Though the Ghat is not visible , yet it is popularly known as Kali Ghat even today. It is situated in southern part of Kolkata and all necessary transport facilities are always available from Howrah, Sealdah , Kolkata , Shalimar Rly. Stations and bus stands. Metro rails, trams, taxies and autoes are readily available round the clock to go to Kali Ghat from within and outside the city. Kali Ghat Kali Mandir ( temple ) is one of the most important religious places of Kolkata in West Bengal . It is an iconic symbol of faith and belief of the Hindu.

“ Nanaji ! when did you visit and see Kali Ghat Kali Mandir for the first time ? ” – Monika asked.

So far as I remember it was 1982 nearly 32 years back.

“ Please tell us about anything you still remember . ”- Shubham added.

Your grand naniji and your naniji were inside the mandir ( temple ) waiting for their turn for worship but I came out quickly after prayer. I sat beside a saint and started talking to him. He looked quite differently from all other sadhus ( Saints ). He was very strong and stout. He had a big head with long hair lats as if never combed for a long time. He had a dhoti like dress from his waist in geruwa ( saffron ) color. His whole body was naked. He had big eyes sparkling with some super power.

“ Are you very tired ? “ – he asked peeping into my eyes.

Yes, baba.

He kept his hands on my head and uttered something and told , “ Now your tiredness disappeared, will feel energetic henceforth, can take your family enthusiastically wherever you like.

I felt so energetic that I ran to thelawala, brought a dozen of bananas and offered him. Immediately he returned back half of the bunch and asked to take. Since my family came out of the temple, I wanted to depart with him. He kept his hands on my head once again chanting a shloka which I got by heart. I touched his feet wholeheartedly and left for. Whenever I looked behind I realized as if he were all along with me.

“Today also?”- asked Shubham.

Of course !When I sat at the same place, I realized as if he were sitting beside me and wanted to say something to me.

No sooner did I lie down to touch his feet than he had disappeared. I was so disappointed that I started chanting the shloka in order to pacify the burning desire to see and talk to him once again.

“ Nanaji ! could you tell us the shloka ? ” – requested Monika.

Why not ? but there is a condition.

What is that ? we agree to abide by in Toto.

You must get it by heart and henceforth every day after getting up and before going to bed you must repeat it five times regularly.

It is as follows :
“काली काली महाकाली कालिके परमेश्वरी,
सर्वानंद करे देवी , नारायणी नमस्तुते ||”

Thank you , Nanaji ! – Shubham and Monika said to me. After taking tea and snacks we left for Maidan Metro Station by the same metro rail.

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Victoria Memorial Hall , KOLKATA

From Kali Ghat Kali Mandir ( temple ) we came back to metro rail station . We bought four tickets for Maidan – a stoppage near Victoria Memorial Hall. We had to walk nearly half kilometer to reach the place. It was about 3.30 P.M. We purchased tickets for entry. The moment we entered, Shubham and Monika exclaimed with surprise and remarked , “ What a beautiful monument it is ! amazing too ! Nanaji ! we stayed with you for more than two years but you never took us to Kolkata. So many beautiful things are here – worth seeing and unique of its kind – related to our ancient history. Please tell us when, how and why it was built – in whose memory and by whom? ”

Don’t be impatient. I will tell you everything about it one by one. Let us have a round and see it from all angles and points of view. We stood up in front of the statue of Queen Victoria. Though it was installed long back, it looked glamorous. We stared at the Victoria Memorial from a very close distance. The total construction is made up of white marbles.

The history of Victoria Memorial Hall , Kolkata is about a hundred years old. In the year 1901 when Queen Victoria breathed her last, the then Vice Roy of India Lord Curzon thought of building such a monument parallel to Taj Mahal of Agra. That was why marbles were brought from Makrana of Rajasthan from whereof the same quality of marbles were carried for building one of the most wonderful structure in the memory of Mumtaj Begam , wife of Shahjahan, the then Moghal emperor of India.

At that time in India M/S Martin & Co. was a very reputed and well equipped civil contractor. As such the job was awarded to them.

“Nanaji ! when was it started and when completed?” – Monika said to me.

It was started in 1906 and completed in 1920. It took 14 years in its completion in all respect.

“ Who designed its marvelous construction?” – Shubham asked .

He was Sir William Emerson.

“How much money was incurred in its construction?” – asked Monika.

I cannot say the exact money spent over it but as per the record it is around one crore and five lac rupees.
The construction of this memorial hall could be possible mostly with the fund made available wholeheartedly by the then landlords & princes of the different states and regions of the country under the British Rule.

“We notice it is spreading in the heart of the city in a very large area. Please throw light upon it.”- Added Shubham.

Yes,what you say is correct. The whole area is spreading in 64 acres of free land in which the main hall of Victoria Memorial, gardens and grassy lawns, green spots, trees and plans, tanks and springs, nurseries ,footpaths for the pedestrians, proper arrangement for siting places all around for the visitors and so on. Inside no shops, no thelawala, khomchawala, hawkers are allowed to sell anything. The very purpose is to avoid nuisance, dust, dirt, packages, ports, bags etc. Every effort is made by the management and its officials & workers to keep the whole area quite neat and clean free from any type of pollution.

Outside of it all types of shops are available where one can take breakfast, lunch, sweets, namkeen, golgappa, fruit juice, roasted groundnuts etc. Baghis ( Horsecarts ) beautifully decorated are readily available on rent to go merry round the maidan. Particularly for children play parks are also seen where kids enjoy playing as they want.

Beside visitors from the different parts of the country of different cast, creed and blood in a large number, we find young boys and girls sitting and walking in pairs talking together in jolly mood as if … ? – Monika pointed it out.

In fact they are friends – good friends. All of you are major, so I do not hesitate to say that they are lovers. This place is also a “ Lovers’ Point “ as it is situated in a calm & quit place in a large area far from the din & bustle of the city life.

“O, I see !” – exclaimed Monika nodding her head in …

“Who manages the whole things so nicely?” – wanted to know Shubham.

It is the duty & responsibility of the West Bengal Govt. to manage it properly. Its officials and particularly its workers look after it wholeheartedly.

One more important thing you should know whosoever comes to Kolkata does visit this Victoria Memorial Hall. Anyone can come from Howrah, Sealdah, Kolkata and Shalimar Rly. Stations by bus, taxies, cars etc.

There is nominal entry fee to enter the campus of the Victoria Memorial Hall. It is now Rs. 10 per head.
Victoria Memorial Hall is situated in “ Maidan ( Ground ) ” where Metro Rail Station is also located and wherefrom it is on a walk able distance and clearly visible too from here. The Hall is normally opened for public from 10 A.M. to 4.30 P.M. The most suitable period to visit here is from October to March. It is open for public for all days of the week except Monday. Monday is the week holiday for the official and workers for rest. There is a worth seeing museum also inside the hall.

The moment one enters the Victoria Memorial Hall, the statue of Queen Victoria sitting on a chair is noticed. It is an iconic symbol of British regime. Since she was the supreme authority of British Authority, in order to commemorate her for the years to come, this Hall was constructed uniquely and her statue was installed superbly.

“Nanaji ! we are very proud of being here with you and learning a lot about Victoria Memorial today. Now we are very tired of walking this large area. We are feeling hungry too.”- Monika said to me.

Well ! let us go out and take some food and drink outside.

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Dalhousie and Khajjiar Trip

It was mid- September when we reached Dalhousie. Dalhousie being a hill station was cold and moist at that part of the year but lush and green. We could clearly make out why it was nicknamed the Switzerland of East. This small town set in the lush green Himachal mountains had a colonial past, for it may have reminded the English of their own land which was full of lush green hill stations like this and unlike in the rest of India they experienced at home.

Well I am not here to discuss what the English must have experienced of this small town, I am here to discuss my own experience of staying in this haven of lush green flora.

We were on a tour from school. We reached Switzerland, sorry Dalhousie by bus after travelling 8 hours from Amritsar. We could feel the transition in the surroundings as well as the weather. The mustard farms which are a landmark of Punjab (and also a setting for many films) had gradually risen in height and slowly- slowly (even without our noticing it) we were treading on a spiralling mountainous path from a straight, wide road. From fields the terrace farms came into picture. The weather had become colder and the mirage in Amritsar had been replaced by fog. We climbed the mountain by encircling it and every circle enabled us with a better view. As they say that the view is better on the top of the hill we were experiencing it practically. The population had also reduced. We could now see less of people and more of trees.

The surroundings fascinated us. We were literally hanging out of the windows to click pictures wherein we could store the part of our newly visited to heaven, of which we could be reminded of (and even brag about) later. We were screaming like 1 year olds who would have first learned that flowing water from the mountains is called waterfall and what terrace farming is. We could see practical things of our fifth class social studies. What hills were, what were waterfalls, what were pine trees- known to us only in text became known to our eyes.

We discovered why our childhood short story writer Ruskin Bond loved hills so much. Strong old trees came in the vicinity of our window with the scenery of a river gushing in the valley on one side and small streams of waterfall flowing down from the mountains on the other. We were dangling insanely from one side to the other nervously (and struck with awe of the beauty bestowed on our eyes by the scenery) for we wanted to capture the whole of our eyes view to stay with us for the remainder of our lives. People there were tall, fair and had a strong physique. These traits were necessary to survive (and explore) the place they were living in. It was a long journey of eight hours but we did not feel any tiredness then, for the whole scenery had refreshed our minds and souls. In all the ten directions we could see nothing but scenic beauty. As they say ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever’ became true for us.

Reached Dalhousie-

Then we reached the hotel. Hotel Dalhousie Heights. It had everything a 3 star hotel could have- spacious rooms, grand banquet and tasty food. Moreover it had a thing which Amritsar one could not offer- great view of the hills. Although we did not feel tired through the journey but the comfortable cot made us sleepy. Amritsar had scorching heat so the coolness of the weather in Dalhousie was a breather. We went shopping in the local Tibetan market after having our tea and snacks. It was a walk on the mountainous tracks to which we Jaipur students weren’t accustomed to. We reached panting to the market after covering what I would describe as a thousand miles journey. But yes the beautiful view and the company of friends, reduced the labor to a minimal fraction.

The marketplace was very serene unlike what we found in the cities like ours. We could see many clearly laid out stalls and in our warm woollens, we began exploring the shops. We bought many things from there for ourselves as well as for our near and dear ones. We saw the big fat red Himachal apples selling there. In spite of the warm clothes we were shivering to which a shopkeeper there said “you should come in December to see what cold is when all the hills are covered by snow and the temperature goes below 0.” I shivered by imagining the hills we were seeing at a distance blanketed by snow and the prospect of the path on which I was walking covered with snow made me feel even colder. I suddenly remembered my visit to the snow park and how I got fever for a couple of days after visiting.

We returned to the hotel singing merrily songs on nature, walking together and friendship. We came back to our room and showed to each other our shopping. Then we had our dinner. After playing games and clicking photos we went to sleep for there was a great day ahead.

To Khajjiar-

Next morning after a sound sleep, I woke up before everybody and pushed the curtains. The window glass was covered by dew. I wiped the dew (the glass was really cold) and saw the beautiful hills with big grey clouds in the background. Then we all got ready to go on for a new expedition. Some seven eight Armadas had been arranged for us to go to Khajjiar. It was to accommodate 7 students and one teacher each. Our group which consisted exactly 7 members claimed one Armada and we started off.

We sang songs on our way on the top of our voice. Even the girl in our group known to be very soft spoken sang on the top of her voice. In spite of our loud serenading we did not miss the scenic view on our way. We captured our moments in the heaven and of our melodious rocking out session. We stopped in the way from where a very distant view could be seen. We even saw snow clad mountains glistening in the sun, at a very large distance from there, where only our eyes could reach but not our feet. We took many memories from there and carried on for our destination.

Khajjiar was a beautiful place. It was a meadow set in between mountains and bordered by strong pine tree forest. It had a hut in between and it set out distinctly but beautifully in the scene. It reminded me of the hut and mountain scenery we used to make in 1st grade. We could do many things there. There were horses for horse riding, amusements to play with and yes a track for those who just wanted to admire the bordering pine forest. We could see parachutes in the air, they were used for paragliding from the top of the hill and drop into the green meadow of Khajjiar. However we could not gather as much courage to go for it and satisfied ourselves with horse riding. We walked and we played on amusements and squeezed as much fun we could. The birds view could be many multicolored dots moving on a green expanse.

Then it was time for us to return. We returned to our Armada and started to return back to our hotel. On the way we could see, clouds that seemed lower than usual. We saw big clouds entering the Dalhousie Public School. It was so beautiful! We joked that the students must be having problems like’ a cloud entered the classroom, we can’t see miss!’ We returned to our hotel room after singing and admiring the clouds, the mountains and the view.

Party-

Later that night we had a disco party in the hotel. We took all pains and dressed up to rock the party. It was a great party. All the latest songs were played. We all danced to our hearts’ content. It was dark and we could barely see each other but we knew that each of us was dancing and really enjoying it. (the photos we clicked in the dark came out to have random and usually strange expressions on our faces.) Multicolored lights filled the room. We wanted to party more but the coming day was to be a long day as we had to travel back to Amritsar.

Good bye hills-

The coming day we left the hills and came back to Amritsar. Every moment we spent in the Switzerland of the East came to my mind like water sprinkling from a fountain. We had to leave early and we were going back to the hot Amritsar. We faced mixed emotions. We were awaiting a great new adventure ahead and pining for the beautiful hills we were leaving.

The hills remain etched in my mind. Today whenever I feel low I revisit the time in the hills and a smile comes across my face. This thing of beauty will remain a joy forever for me!

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Amarnath Yatra Ki Kahani

It is said that once you do the holy pilgrim of amarnath you don’t have another birth they say it’s a door to moksh. But if you ask me the journey itself is a heavenly journey and once you reach the cave and see the shivling by your eyes after some 3 days climb in the cold weather and mountains you are undoubtedly gonna get emotional and cry for your achievement.

I am a person who believes in enjoying life in all situations and that’s why I have also gone ahead and made a wish list of things I wana do before I die. That list has lots of places to visit and one of the top places included amarnath yatra and kailash mansarovar. One of my close friend gautam has been visiting amarnath since 9 yrs now and I had heard loads of things about the same from him on various of our our meets at babulnath temple in Mumbai which is again a shiv ji’s famous temple. He fueled my wish all the more to visit amarnath and in my heart I always wanted to go there with him. Finally I told him to book the tickets this time but was still not sure if I would be able to go due to number of reasons.

Only when I boarded the train on 8th july was I sure that finally I am going there.

Coming straight to the point where we started our yatra. It is a place called chandanwadi where we reach from pehelgham (the most beautiful place in india) from chandanwadi the 3 km to pissu top which is thrilling as its narrow and its tiring as well. The climb once done gives a view of the same river that flows in pehelgham it’s a breath taking view (hold your breath as all the journey till the cave is breath taking). Later from pissu top the next destination joji baal where the climb is ok you could enjoy the view around there later from jojibaal the next spot is directly shesnag where you have to hault for a night.

The spot is named sheshnaag because there is an immensely beautiful lake named sheshnaag there and its because of the same lake that we freeze with cold even after taking 2 to 3 warm blankets at night in the tents. But the lake is no less beautiful then any coral reeve beaches you see abroad. A thing worth mentioning is the efforts all the people who put up their BHANDARA’s and TENT’s put in your service. The bhandhara’s serve the yummiest kheer and rajma chaval (or may be I find them yummy as they are my favourites) and the tent guys also help.

NOTE – please don’t expect 5 star facilities in terms of toilets because your in the mountains not some holiday destination abroad. Mentioning this as heard many people crib on my way.

Next day the 1st spot from sheshnaag is bawaltop and then is ganeshtop. They both are tedious climb but the destinations are near to each other so you can comfort urself saying “bus aa gaya”( hehehe). Also ganeshtop is the highest place in this yatra.

From ganeshtop there is major climb down for posh patri which is no less then 5 star hotel as you get almost every variety of food there from pizza to aloo chat to barbeque. After poshpatri is panch tarni where was our 2nd night hault that place is called panch tarni as at that point 5 rivers meet and submerge in the ganga.

The 3rd day I was very excited as it was the final 6 kms to the cave to get the darshan of the shiv ling the last 6 kms is a mix of climb and normal walk but the mere excitement of getting the darshan would make you climb it quickly or easily. After reaching a point 1 km away from the cave one of my friend was not well so we hired a tent there and decided to spend the night there and take the darshan early morning. Finally D DAY came and I reached the cave after a queue of 1 hour.

A few moments before I entered the cave I saw a pair of pigeons (there’s a very old story behind the 2 pigeons also in the history of the cave), that moment onwards I started feeling the aura of the whole place, its really not easy to put it in words but its still heavenly and when you see the shivling after a long wait and a 4 day journey you will undoubtedly get emotional and cry. The place really does give you the belief the MAHADEV has taken you under his shelter and that you have passed his test of all the hardships and strivings and finally he is here to take care of you. The Shivling on the day of my darshan was 12feet tall and it’s a sad thing that we can’t touch it anymore because of the precautionary measures taken by the government but none the less it is still worth all the pain and hardships people take to reach the cave.

On my way heard a lot of people saying “mahadev kahan chup ke baith gaye” due to tiredness but some how I feel that if you think about it positively mahadev himself will give you the strength to reach the cave. The sense of reaching the cave all by myself without any help is something only possible with the blessings of “baba barfani” (another name of amarnath shivling).

JAI BHOLE!

Uploaded By: Rakshitha
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A Trip to Vaishno Devi

Vaishno Devi is one of the very popular religious places of Hindus in North India. And every North Indian Hindu wants to visit it. I also wanted to visit that place from my childhood but could manage time to visit only after many years, after attaining 25 years milestone in my life. In fact it’s not time I should blame — staying near around Delhi for four years I never visited ‘Tajmahal’ and ‘Qutubminar’. I think some time we are lazy and careless enough to not seriously take places and people “near” to us.

During September 2007, I was working in Bangalore for an IT company. One day I received a call from my friend from Delhi that one of our common friends is coming from USA next week and they had a plan to go to ‘Vaishno Devi’. Bell rang in my mind to let me avail such golden opportunity and join them for this long awaited trip — I would not only meet with my friends but also visit Vaishno Devi.


I knew that sick leaves are meant for such abrupt plans in IT companies (pun intended), but I tried to be honest and asked for two days (Thursday and Friday) leaves from my manager, so that I can club it with weekend to get enough days for the journey. As usual project, I was working, was in Red and in very critical stage. In such situation even if you don’t have any pending work you have to be with the team for moral support. Obviously my leaves were denied.

I pressed-hard my manager and finally on Wednesday evening I got leave for only one day (Friday). Thanks to Air Deccan I could able to book my flight tickets in my limited budget in such short time. I reached Friday Night to Noida and same day late night both of my friends arrived with rented Toyota Innova — we need a big and strong Car for 600KM+ Journey on Indian Road. I was not worried about the budget etc since our NRI friend was there with us :-)

We started late night around 11 PM, and our driver wanted to cover as much distance as possible during non peak traffic hours. We stopped around 6 AM in the morning at a lodge and took 3 hours of short nap freshen up and started our journey again. In USA you find Walmart, and in India we saw Walia Mart. We followed Noida – Delhi – Sonepat – Panipat – Karnal – Kurukshtra – Ambala – Ludhiana – Jalandhar – Pathankot – Jammu route.

We reached Katra early afternoon and started walking for Vaishno Devi temple. We had to cover around 14 Km of journey. Whole place was very calm and clean, every 1KM there is small rest area where you can take rest. Music legend Gulsan Kumar had really done wonderful job to develop that place.

In route we met with a group few people coming back from the Temple. They gave us ticket for “Ardhkuwari temple” because they were in hurry and could not wait for the time allotted. This temple is in very small cave so there is always time slot given to visit mainly to avoid rush. We were lucky – we had not to wait. We reached on time and got chance to visit “Ardhkuwari temple”.

It took around 4-5 hrs for us to reach Vaishno Devi Temple. We kept our valuable in free lockers available. Like every temple in India there were lot of Monkey present near around temple, but they were not creating any problem for the visitors. Temple was managed very well – no Pujari (Priest) was pushing any one for special or different type of Pooja. Long queue was managed very professionally. Temple was not crowded during that part of year and we could able to complete the Darshan in one hour.

After some time we started our journey back to Katra. While coming back we realized why people say you should start yatra (walking) in the evening. Lot of people was coming in the groups chanting “Jai Mata Di”. Under light whole route was looking so beautiful and the atmosphere was very spectacular.

While coming back I was almost dragging my legs but I was very satisfied that one of my long waiting wish got fulfilled on such a short notice. People in north India use to say when Devi Mata will call you, you will always find the way to reach her, and it seems very true for me. Jai Mata Di

Uploaded By: Bapi Datta
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My Patience Played The Game

I was a captain for a cruise ship which was destined to sail for a period of six days, our distance was in miles and we have to reach our destination by the seventh day. My friend robot was a captain of another cruise, which was set to depart along with my ship and our routes are same and our destinations as well.

Both of our ships consisted about 700 people on each board. After having a dinner at the port, we were ready to sail, everything was set, anchors were pulled up and the tow boats were towing our ships to the line. People on the board were waving good bye to their beloveds, some were happy and some were sad but all together made the fare well atmosphere on both the ships.

Just before we departed I had a small conversation with the Robert, he was in an active mood because it was his 50th sail and he shared his happy moments with me and I was glad. Both the ships were on sail, my crew was doing their work pretty well and as a captain I was doing mine. The both ships had intercom connected so we could communicate with each other all through the travel.

One day passed and everything was going good. Robert’s ship was just 200 meters away from us, the season we were on sail was a rainy one so, we had to keep monitoring the climate reports. It was around 12:40 am in the morning, I was reading my Bible and praying to my God and as soon I completed my prayer, my crew member came running and said – “Captain! we have a storm coming towards us and its massive, we better halt our journey for a while.”

I calmed him down and went aboard, looked at the situation and took the decision to slow down our ship. I’ve communicated with Robert and he agreed with my decision.

The storm was in deed heavy, all of a sudden the sea atmosphere changed, the waves were heavy and hitting our ship but I was sure that our ship can handle even worse than this. We anchored our ships and waited till the climate to settle and suitable for the sail. We announced a message to our passengers with the comforting words that everything is in control.  It was 10 hours past, the storm and the climate was the same, I didn’t wanted to take risk so I decided not to move even a knot until everything calms down. While I was on the deck and watching the climate conditions with my telescope, I was surprised to see Robert’s ship, which was on sail and moving forward. I immediately went down and took the radio and communicated with him, asked him- “what are you doing?

and he replied- well friend! we have seen and faced many storms even more worse than this, time is money and the passengers are angry which is not good, so see you on the shore.”

I tried to stop him but he didn’t listen so I wished him a good journey.

In a mean while our  intercom failed to connect due to stormy weather, the climate was still the same so I decided to wait for tonight, it was evening and few travellers came and asked me about our sail and I said them that – we will be moving as soon the storm calms down.

They were a bit in anger because as per the time they were aware  that Robert’s ship might have almost a quarter far away from the destination. It was morning and the climate was still the same and I decided to wait until evening so I made an announcement about our delayed sail, soon after the announcement many passengers came and started yelling but I said – “We will sail! only when I say Yes and at this moment I say No”.

I know its almost 2 days delay, all are messed up with this delay but I didn’t wanted to risk their lives. I hoped that Robert might be very near to the destiny.

It was 3 pm and the climate was calmed down. We lifted the anchors and made our sail with the maximum speed we can, People on the board were very angry by the way I was but I never cared. It was the fastest sail I ever made, and as promised I made the reach on time that is we reached on exact day of destination but just 2 hours delay. All people who were getting down the ship were grumbling their teeth starring at me and I just neglected. I got down the ship and looked for Robert’s ship but was surprised to see that, it was not yet reached so I went to the control room and inquired about Robert, they said we have no information but the last update we had from him was on the fourth day. No body was worried because they believed in his capability and qualification, so did I.

It was the next morning, I had to sail back to where I have came from. So, I got up early had my breakfast and was reading the news and I was just shocked to read the news which stated “Storms struck the ship to sink, no survivors found” .

I was broke, remembering my friend Robert I just tore into tears,I was not able to digest the news. I just prayed to God to give rest to his soul. With the painful heart I was ready to sail back, then few people came by and stood beside me and said – apologies, I asked them the reason for it and they replied -

“If you had listened to our words or made a decision like the captain of the other ship, then we might have never made aboard nor met our beloveds, thank you so much, you are a great captain, God bless you”.

Listening this all, I was not proud nor pleased but all I was just thanking God because He taught me to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” and I am joyful of the hope I had and the patience I showed having faith. My patience played the game safe and sound.

My child I have been so far from you but never so far in heart.  I write this letter so that you may learn to be Patient because Patience is what it requires to stand firm, So, when ever you are going through tough times don’t ever rush but be patient, think wise, act wise and live wise, I will be seeing you soon

-with love, your Dad,

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Exciting trip to Agra!

It was the winter time, December was the month and year was about to end, I was just back from Jaipur after attending a friend’s marriage. And my best buddy Sanjeev said we are going to Agra next month. It was our exam time and I seriously never wanted to go. Sanjeev had some property related work there and he was like “I’m taking my car and you just have to come along so what is the problem?” I couldn’t say no, so I decided to take a few more friends with us, and I knew I just had to tell them the plan and they’d be ready instantly, same did happen; 7 more friends were ready! Bharat, Shashank, Rajat, Deepak, Rohit, Sunmit and Harshal.

So we decided to leave on the day of our last exam that had to take place on 4th January. Plan was that we’ll leave after the exam that will be over by 1.30, and we’ll reach by the evening. Sanjeev will wrap up his work the next day and if we’ll get time we will visit Taj Mahal the same day. The next day was to visit Fatehpur Sikri and we had to come back the same day. This trip was meant to be very short one, but this didn’t happen, it turned out to be a nightmare trip for all of us!

So how it started – It was decided that Sanjeev and Bharat will their cars and we had to bring our bag packs to the college and leave from there only. I was very excited and was not able to concentrate on the exam at all. After our exam was over every one of us rushed towards the parking where our cars were parked. Both Sanjeev and Bharat had brought their Swifts with them. Everything said and done, we were ready to leave but one thing was something missing which was “booze”. We knew that alcohol is costly in U.P. as compared to Delhi and since we were 9 in number we had to keep our stock so we went towards wine and beer shop and took 24 bottles of beer and 6 bottles of Blender’s Pride with us. We knew that it was winter but Beer is something that everyone of us just can’t resist.

I wish Yamuna Expressway had been constructed in 2009 only, at least we would not have faced such situation at that time. We decided to take NH – 2, time was around 4 PM and Sanjeev was driving and I was next to him, we were enjoying, drinking and having fun and suddenly there was a big noise. We were trying to figure out what just happened and Sanjeev said “tyre punctured”. Sh*t man, everything was going nicely and this had to happen . We opened the boot and what I saw was no jack, completely bald spare tyre and a broken rod. Then we thought to take these tools from Bharat’s car but to our surprise there was not even that rod or spare tyre there, only one jack was there. It was enough for that time; we somehow managed to use that jack and broken rod to  fix the puncture. Then again our journey started, I had to have beer to come back in the mood. After 150 kms we thought to stop and have some food.

We stopped at a Dhabha on the highway and I randomly thought of checking the nuts of the tyre we had just replaced. I was shocked to see that every nut was so loose that if we had travelled just 2-3 Kms more, that tyre could have come out of the car and we would’ve face a serious accident. We again tightened those nuts. After having food Shashank took over Sanjeev’s car to drive so I asked him to keep the car steady and asked Bharat maintain his speed with him. It was already dark, fog was getting dense and we can’t afford to face any problem again. I shifted in Bharat’s car as he was driving for quite some time now, I asked him if wanted to take rest and in the mean while I could drive but he said “I am fine”. Time was around 10 PM, we were driving at the speed of 40 Km/h and Agra was around 50 kilometers now, I was also feeling sleepy now, my eyes were getting closed but I was trying hard to wake up suddenly I realized that our car was slightly moving towards right divider, before I could judge what was happening I was shocked to see that Bharat was sleeping! I slapped him to wake him up; he applied brakes all of a sudden, we all woke up because of the sudden jerk caused by those brakes. I got out of the car to see if we have hit something or not and we were shocked to see that we have just stopped inches from a giant truck that was broken down and was not visible due to fog. If we would have hit that truck, we definitely would have died. We all were scared as hell. I decided to drive the car further.

We entered Agra late at night; it was around 11 PM in the night. Journey of 4 hours turned out to be of 7 hours, moreover, we were not able to find any hotel in the city, all the hotels were already closed and others were fully booked. Still we carried on our search because we had a whole night to spend. We found a small hotel near a Banquet Hall which was just wrapping off a marriage. Hotel was fine and we took 2 rooms, one room was having one bed and in the other room there were two beds, Harshal gave his driving license as ID proof to book the rooms, every one of us hungry was but unfortunately we had nothing to eat neither did the Hotel. So we decided to sleep as were very tired but I still wanted to have something so I came out of the hotel, took Bharat and Vijaywith me and started searching. We found nothing and it was getting cold, I was literally shivering. Only last option was to try that Banquet hall; we reached there and saw that bride and groom were having dinner. So we took one of the waiters with us and gave him some money; he was ready to give us the food prepared for the wedding.

We packed some food for ours friends who were in the in hotel, time was around 1.30 AM, while we were coming back towards the hotel, we saw a Radio Taxi which stopped in front of our hotel and 3 beautiful girls with an ugly guy stepped out from that car. We ran towards the hotel and followed them and to our surprise they were staying on the same floor where we were staying.

When we told this news to our friends it became the main topic of discussion, 3 girls and 1 guy in the same room! But then after 2-3 pegs down eventually that topic changed and everyone got involved in playing “teen patti”.

Shashank and Rajat were good boys among us as they didn’t drink, so they decided to go to the other room which was on the same floor to sleep. In this room environment was a bit different, we were playing “teen patti” till 5 AM in the morning and then I didn’t remember when I slept. The next thing that I remember was Bharat waking me up at 7.30 AM, I wanted to sleep more but then I realized that we only have today’s day to wrap up Sanjeev’s work and visit Taj Mahal as well.

So, I woke up and woke everyone else also. Then I went to the other room to wake up Shashank and Rajat as well, while I was returning back I saw one of those girls again, she was talking on the phone roaming in the corridor, her hair was wet and she was looking very beautiful, as I was just thinking talking to her there came that ugly faced guy, he was easily 6 foot in height and 100 plus in weight, my mind dropped that thought and I quickly entered our room. We were ready to leave at around 9 AM. We locked the rooms and while we were coming downstairs the other two girls were coming upstairs, everyone of us were continuously watching them. While we were leaving in our cars all three girls were standing in their balcony watching us, and again, the main topic of discussion was those girls.

We had our breakfast in a local restaurant and then we left for Sanjeev’s work, he has to take property documents and some amount as a payment from a local property dealer.

Around 12 PM we reached Taj Mahal. ‘The Taj’ is one amongst the World’s Wonders! Regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, it is something that one has to witness to really understand the perfection in the architecture. After visiting Taj we went to see the Agra Fort and we left at around 5 PM from there.

Then we came back to the hotel, I switched on the television and India vs. South Africa cricket match was on, everyone gathered and started watching that match, only one thing was required – “beer”. After India’s batting was over we felt hungry and instead of going to a restaurant we had something else in our minds. There was a marriage going on in the Banquet hall next to the hotel. We decided to have our dinner in that marriage. Since we were 9 in number, the plan was that we will go in 3 groups of 3 persons each.

We all dressed up and left for that marriage, entering that marriage though we were maintaining distance from each other but still we were catching everyone’s attention, the reason was that the marriage was very small budgeted one and we were dressed like we are going to some farm house in Delhi, everyone was staring us and we easily understood that they are aware that we are outsiders, but it was the beer that gave us strength to stay there. We had our food then we went to the ice cream corner and according to the plan left in our groups. After leaving that banquet hall we finally had a sigh of relief but the experience was truly amazing. We were very happy and Deepak told us that they even danced on the floor on the song “Jhalak Dikhla Jaa”. They even clicked their pics with the Bride and the Groom.

It was around 11 PM, in the hotel it was our last night, so we were still drinking. Harshal was down and out. Me, Sunmit and Vijaywere sitting on the balcony and again the Radio Taxi came at around 1.30 AM. Sunmit became very excited and said “I will go and talk to them”, we tried to stop him as he was drunk but he was not ready to listen us.

The girls entered their room, Sunmit stopped one of the girls and started to talk to him, we were not able to listen anything, we were sneaking from the door what was happening, and after some time that girl called that ugly faced guy and the argument started heating up, we thought of going there but all of us were drunk, the situation could have turned worse so we decided to stay there only. After sometime Sunmit came back and we asked him what he was talking with that girl.

He was so drunk that he couldn’t speak properly; we understood that something is wrong that’s why that guy came out. We still were trying to ask Sunmit what happened suddenly someone started beating our door. We were frightened because it seemed as there were 4-5 guys outside the door who were shouting to open the door and were saying open the door or we’ll break it. It was not Delhi and no one knew us, anything could have happened that night. I asked Sunmit to sleep but he was not ready to listen us, we forcibly made him sleep so that he would not make that situation worse. Seriously speaking I was very scared to open the door. Me, Sanjeev and Deepak were normal so we decided to open the door, we were ready to get the beating from those guys.

As we opened the door, there were 4 guys with the hotel receptionist who dragged us and took us downstairs. Harshal, Vijayand Sunmit were sleeping and Shashank and Rajat were in other room, so it was Me, Sanjeev, Bharat and Deepak who were taken outside the hotel, it was around 2.30 AM and we were in shorts and not even wearing slippers. Temperature was easily 5 degree celsius, we were shivering in cold and I saw that there was 1 Jeep and 2 Scorpios standing. Around 8 people were ready to give us the beating of our life and some were watching us from those cars so that we can’t run. We had no idea what Sunmit has said to that girl but one guy was shouting on us saying that one of our friend has misbehaved with that girl and he is her boyfriend.

She has called her and told him everything. He was very furious on Sunmit and was asking where he is? We were trying to calm him down and were asking sorry for whatever happened. But he was not ready to listen to us. One of the guy brought a hockey stick, I said why are you beating us, we are innocent. He said then tell me where is that guy then, we were just trying to explain him what happened and suddenly there came a PCR Gypsy. Seeing that gypsy those guys ran away from there, I was thankful to God that we are safe now. Seeing something happening on the road that PCR came and stopped in front of us. Police office stepped out of the vehicle and “asked what was happening there”?

We started explaining everything to Police Officer, and he was convinced but he was very angry of this thing that Sunmit misbehaved with that girl. That Police Officer wanted to meet Sunmit. We told him that he is frightened by seeing all this that is why he is in the room only. It was hard to convince that Police officer but he understood everything eventually. We requested that Police Officer to stay there until we leave that hotel because we knew that guy will be back.

We rushed back into the hotel and woke up everyone else and quickly started packing our stuff. Shashank and Rajat had no idea what happened as they were sleeping in other room. We woke Harshal and Sunmit who were down and out. We just wanted to leave that hotel and that city as quickly as possible. We took our bag packs and returned keys to the reception. The receptionist guy was talking to the Police Officer, I was wondering what is happening but Bharat pushed me from behin and said “ Jadli kar yar, nikalna hai yaha se”.

We quickly left and just after 2-3 kilometers Harshal realized that he had given his license as ID proof in the reception and he had not taken back from there. We were furious on him but then it was nothing as compared to what Sunmit had done. We returned towards the hotel.

As we reached the hotel we saw there was Same Scorpio Car was standing. Police Officer was not present there. We stopped the car few meters before the hotel. We decided that only Harshal and Sunmit will go and collect that license and all of us will wait in the car.  Harshal and Sunmit were scared to go but they had do this.

After few minutes later Harshal and Sunmit were running towards us and that Scorpio and Jeep was chasing them. Bharat started the car and we were ready to run. I knew this was going to happen. Both of jumped in the car through the window and we ran from there. They were following us in their cars. We were randomly taking turns here and there as we didn’t know anything about the city. Our situation was like snake in the maze. We can’t stop to ask anyone about the direction. We were just trying to get rid of those guys.

I quickly turned on the GPS in my mobile. We finally found the direction and rushed towards the highway. Both Sanjeev and Bharat were good drivers, after all no one can match a delhiite in driving.

We left them behind in the highway and all of us had a big sigh of relief. We reached Delhi in just 3 hours and we were lucky that this time we didn’t have to face any car problem.

The next day we were back in our college and were laughing on the incident. We were laughing by just imagining the consequences. Everyone was asking how the trip was and we could only say that – “It was a wild trip that will remain in our memory for a long time or maybe forever.”

Uploaded By: aswin
Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak
Manali- The Wonderful Place Of India

I was on a tour to a hill-station named manali, a nature’s extreme, enjoying my vacation. It was a cold morning. I woke up from deep sleep at 6 o’ clock in the morning, went to the hotel’s balcony, joined my both hands together and stretched it upward with inhaling deeply. It was dark but I could feel freshness of morning. It was foggy everywhere around me when I decided to go for a morning walk.

With waiting for dawn, I started walking along left of leh-manali highway in the dark. One of the main torrent of bias river was roaring besides me. Nearly after walking down a kilometer, I saw a bicycle rider coming along the way. From far, it was seen that it wasn’t ordinay bicycle I usually use at my home. It was a mountain adventure bicycle with power brakes and gear system. Since childhood, cycling is one of my hobbies.

“wow, what a bicycle..!” I thought.

I felt strong urge to ask that guy to give me a short ride. But I thought that it isn’t courteous enough to ask a stranger for a ride. So I approached him in a different way when he came nearer to me.

“Excuse me my friend.”, I said.

He pulled the breaks and rear wheel swiftly dragged over the road making black stripes.

“cool..”

He stopped.

“Yes, please”, he replied.

“From where have you hired this bicycle?” I asked looking over the bicycle eagerly.

“Sorry,but haven’t hired it, it’s mine” he answered gently.

“Do you have any idea about where the bicycle like this could be available here on rent?”

“I would like to welcome my first customer of the day.” he said.

“Oh.. that means you have….”

“Exactly, I have my own bicycle shop located at a distance of 2 km from here. You can hire it from there. Shop will open at 9 o’ clock” he said.

I was glad to hear it.

“Okay, see you at the shop. Bye”

And we both continued to our destinations. I returned to the hotel quickly. I decided to cancel all of my other plans and go for a long drive on bicycle. On reaching to my room I asked my friends.

“Hey friends, would anyone like to accompany me on a long bicycle ride?”

No one replied me. Each of them denied my offer, as all have had their own plans and no one were ready to change it. As per my perception, the reason to reject for ride might be, no one would dare to do so. Within a moment I deduced that I will have to go alone.

I packed my bag with water bottle, glucose biscuits, glucose powder, fruits, camera, cell phone…. and some other things which might be required. I took my breakfast and got ready quickly. At 9 o’ clock sharp, I reached the bicycle shop. It was just opened.

“Welcome, sir”. Just the man that met me early morning, greeted me.

As I didn’t wanted to waste time of that precious day, I said to him hurriedly.

“I would like to hire that green one”

“Sure, sir”

He gave me some papers to sign, and explained their conditions of policy.
I signed the papers and made a payment. Then quickly, I rode the bicycle.

At the beginning of the journey, it was a bit difficult to judge which direction should I go, because all around I found the beauty of nature.

“Okay, lets go kullu.” I thought.

By road, Kullu was 45 kilometers away from where I began my journey.I started for it. Slope was such that it didn’t required paddling. Instead, it required breaks to slow down the accelerated speed. I stopped after cycling about 2 km downward. Then I thought,

“It is easy to reach kullu in such a downward slope, but what will happen when it comes to return journey up the slope..! Oh… Not possible at all.”

I recalled shop owner’s instruction.

“Sir, please return our bicycle on or before 6 o’ clock in the evening”

I denied to go to kullu and returned back to the starting point.

During climbing that inclination of mountains, I realized within 2 km that cycling was not quite as easy as I had supposed. Then I continued to manali-leh highway,enjoying the scenery around. It was about 10:30 am when I stopped for a rest for first time. I had habit of cycling 10 kilometer a day easily but the way I was on was not that flat ground which I habituated of. I took some photographs of myself by setting self timer in camera. I then removed the cap of my water bottle, added the required amount of glucose into it and then shook it and finally drank few sips. I believed that glucose would recover my dissipated calories. I also had glucose biscuits with me, but I didn’t use it and saved it for further use. I resumed cycling. Then I was feeling a bit tired.Gradually I started to take rests over shorter distances. I continued traveling along the way and completed 7 kilometers, but that felt as if I had completed 15 kilometers on ordinary flat road.

It was noon, time for lunch. I was hungry but, there was no lunch available. I saw a vegetable shop at left of the road. I stopped there and purchased 4 bananas. I was too hungry, so I ate all of them. I was behaving like a monkey with those bananas. I had not eaten 4 bananas at a time anytime before. My hunger was satisfied partially with it. I poked myself to think that it was my lunch. Then I continued again. I saw a road ahead with extreme slope and having a zig-zag pattern. I was not going to give up easily. I kept my cycle to lowest gear and started to climb it. That slope was the true test of my physical strength. My heart began to beat more faster and I was breathing deeper. I stopped after every 50 meters. In between, I drank my previously made glucose water two times. Finally I won against that extreme slope and felt proud to myself.

It wasn’t the end of slope there but it has just slow down its greatness. I stopped for a while and ate a fruit named as “Japani fruit” which I had purchased from manali market. I refilled my water bottle with ice melted water. Then I thought within “It will be damn easy to return from wherever I could reach, because I’ll only have to roll over the road without paddling”.

That thought motivated me on not to give up and go further. I continued again on the way towards Palchan keeping in mind that Palchan would be my final destination. On the way I snapped few photos. To capture my own photo, I had only one option, to set self timer. I did it. I thought that what a great experience my friends having missed by not accompanying me. I was alone but I was delightful. As I reached Palchan, I saw a milestone with written over
“Solang 3 km”.

I was excited to see that. Solang is adventure hub of manali, the place where I did paragliding, just the day before. Paragliding was one of my memorable experience. All the memories of yesterday were recalled and flashed over my eyes. That milestone stimulated my potential and I made my mind to drove up to Solang. My will was demanding to go solang and my legs ignoring it.I was in dilemma. Finally I started for Solang when it was 4 o’ clock in the afternoon.
Now I could see tourists flying over the sky with parachute and enjoying paragliding. I stepped up the gear and accelerated the speed. It was hard to speed up but somehow, I managed to do so. I reached Solang when it was quarter to five. There I found a few couples who came for their honeymoon. They belonged to my native state (Gujarat). We helped each other to capture some photographs. They were astonished when they were told that I came from Manali on a bicycle. We shook hands and returned to our own ways.

Now I was on my way back to hotel. I was enjoying riding down the slopes. ” Few moments before, how hard they were to climb.” I thought. I was frequently applying brakes to slow down speed. But again and again it got accelerated.

When I pulled only the front brake, smoothly the rear wheel lifted up from the road and when I released front brake, it came to their original position. “wow… cool.” I said. I was excited by this unexpected stunt. “Let’s do it again” I thought. As I implemented it. By mistake I pulled front brake a bit harder and suddenly I was hit on the ground. My jeans was torn from left leg’s knee and my left hand’s palm started to bleed due to dragging over rough road. But thank god, that I was not injured much.

Then I stopped doing such stunts and returned to the bicycle shop without any halt. It took only 45 minutes to return down the hill on the same road which had taken 6 hours to climb up the hill. I returned the magnificent bicycle to its owner and rushed towards the hotel.

From that day onwards I changed my mindset: “Brain is not always braver than muscles”. That day my muscles supported me a lot. Thinking that, I laid over the bed and I do not remember when I got slept…..

Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak Hansimazak
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