Saturday, February 6, 2010

New Year Trip to Haridwar

Alright, I am back. I did not blog for over three months (my god!) and little did I hear from people that they missed me writing. So I felt that it's time to pack my books, take charge of the keyboard and knock my words down your throats once again ... hence here am I whizzing my cursor across the screen.

The past months have been quite eventful and it will need me to open anther account to pen all the reminiscences. I got busier with research - learned some scanning electron microscopy which is used to write structures as small as my patience with yet another 'bharatvasi' referring to avatar as ewat-(-as-in-tomato)-aar, cryogenics to keep the dilution refrigerators as cold as the feelings of Raj Thackeray towards the rest of India outside Mumbai, and some pulse engineering used to engineer microwave pulses as sharp and precise as shahrukh's comments regarding the current feud about non-inclusion of Pakistani players in IPL teams. What a list!

Amidst all this business I did something heavenly - traveled back home and visited Kerala for the first time besides revisiting our favorite family vacation spot Haridwar. I thought a good way to start my blog in this new year is to share these experiences with you.

So let's talk about haridwar first (Kerala trip deserves to be a separate blog). Our short but memorable trip began on a foggy Friday morning, with clouds racing against our car and emerging clear winners. On the pretext of waiting for the struggling sun to emerge, and in reality propelled by the mouth-watering billboards of roadside dhabas we stopped at a small little hotel for a break and breakfast. The walls scrawled with an assortment of ads about 'pepsi cola' in bright red blue and orange colors greeted us in the modest setting. We ordered a generous serving of various kind of stuffed paranthas with tea and coffee (didn't know that starbucks has arrived in the indian dhaba culture too). The results were exotic and everyone overate without exception. We topped our overstuffed bodies with black-forest cake which we were carrying as it was one of our friend's birthday.

We continued our journey with aching stomachs and smiling faces interspersed with a few leg stretching breaks for the welfare of 6 feet talls cribbing constantly on being crammed in a place half their length (dont give too much attention in case you encounter similar phenomena while traveling- in fact it is a useful tactic to keep people awake and hence keep the boredom away till you get hoarse singing antakshari songs/ threatened to be dropped off from the car by others with aching heads). Our next stop was for lunch in a much seedier shop where we feasted on dal roti and an assortment of indian vegetables.

It took us another two hours to reach the Jairam ashram in Haridwar which was our abode for the next two days. It is one of the oldest and the best in its league. I would strongly recommend staying at one of the beautiful ashrams lining the banks of ganga near har ki paudi as a must-have experience. And given the facilities they cost just as much as a hearty meal at McDonald's for a day, making them quite a deal! We booked four rooms for our contingent - each of which had an austere but functional furnishing with cold beds (dat made us request them for 8 extra blankets which were arranged promptly). After relaxing for a few hours we went down the ghats and strolled in the market with my mother buying a beautiful shawl for herself and wrapping herself right away to beat the cold - the chill there had taken us by surprise but the energy and the warmth typical of any indian religious destination remained undiluted. We had a reasonable dinner at the famous chotiwala's - there are so many of them these days each proclaiming themselves as the 'pracheen aur mashhoor' (meaning ancient and popular) chotiwala that it is impossible to tell one from the other. While coming back I saw many sweet shops with piles of laddoos, rabri and all those sinful indian delicacies one can never get enough of, and made a solemn promise to myself of coming back the next day.

I started my day early the next day, listening to the temple bells of morning prayers and the fantastic tea made by the chaiwala at the ashram. This was followed by a walk around the ashram which was spent appreciating the artistic murals adorning its various corners and depicting some or the other story from indian scriptures. Post this we energized (I did not want to use the word stuff for the third time) ourselves with more paranthas, makkhan and even more cups of chai accompanying them (on the last count I had at least 5 cups of that amazing tea that morning) at the ashram bhojnalaya and set off for our next destination - Rajaji National Park, famous for wild asian elephants. It is spread over an area of 820.42 sq. km and is a home to 23 species of mammals, along with 315 species of birds, like the Asian elephants, tigers, king Cobra, panther, bear, chital, sambar, wild boar, kakar, python, monitor Lizard etc. etc. So much from the website - we did spot a few of the above in the nondangerous variety and some sweet little birds but the jeep safari itself is too much fun even if you are like me and start scanning the ground when someone yells 'hey look at that bird!'. And if you do not spot an elephant which really depends on their mood (which I am sure will be tricky to guess), there is provision for elephant rides just outside the park where you can pretend that you really are sitting on a wild elephant just tamed into submission by your infinite bravery. I resisted the temptation as I was not entirely sure of the mood of even that tamed huge fellow.

After lunch we had a welcome card-playing break in which I was introduced to a new card game - I managed to make a respectable comeback after a torturous start. In the evening we went to the world-famous har ki pauri well ahead of time for ganga arti and hence were able to get vantage seats unlike the last evening. We stationed ourselves on the opposite bank from where the artiis are performed every evening. It is a breathtaking view really - if there is one thing you should not miss on traveling to India, this is it. The infinite number of colorful heads which dot the banks of ganges amidst the chants of 'har har gange' and the big flames which are swung rhythmically in a synchronous fashion by the priests is a rare spectacle. After this ethereal experience, we went ahead for fulfilling more mundane concerns like hunger and gulped down samosas and rabri in the adjoining bazaar. I also gave in to my poorly-concealed temptation and ended up buying a set of red and green bangles from one of the numerous glittering shops.

After shoving the elders in rickshaws the rest of us had a lazy walk back to the ashram, where we spent our last night of this amazing trip in the now-warm beds.

Wish some things never change...

P.S.: Promised: I am not sure if blogspot allows pics to be uploaded - if it does, I have some beautiful shots which will find their way in this article in not so distant future ! .. Delivered :)


  1. thats an amazing piece of blog bulbasaur.there couldn't be a better description of our trip.i really didn't kno u'd five cups of tea on that single morning.wat stuff r u made of??incredible!!!!

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  3. Suggest going to Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi temples atop hills (ropeways are available to reach there) whenever you next visit Haridwar.