A trip to the other side of nowhere

To get there, we take a national highway to Sonipat and drive through its narrow, crowded markets. Coming out of there, we take the ‘main road’ to Gohana and then turn off into a road-cum-dirt track-cum-paved path, to reach our destination. When the main road is blocked, we take a diversion through three small villages, till we can see the main road again.

The tarmac on these roads hides under layers of dust and bullcrap, turning itself a dull grey-brown in its attempts to blend into its surroundings. It doesn’t succeed, though – the dominant colour in this landscape is green. The shiny bright green of well-watered fields, the yellow-green of ripening corn, the deep black-green of clusters of jamun trees. We turn a corner and cross a culvert over a tank full of blue-gray-brown water, but here the road is just dust.

I look up when I hear our horn tooted impatiently the bullock cart in front of us with its load of a black bicycle lying on top of a few armfuls of hay. It maneouvres out of the way, and we pass it slowly, taking care not to get stuck in the ditches that separate the road from the fields.  There’s a motorcycle on the other side of this ditch, a bright red Rajdoot. A man stands on it, trying to get a footing in the large tree under which it stands.

As if in counterpoint, a group of brightly coloured polyester dupatta covered heads appear in the middle of the next field. An old lady stares at us from her charpai in the porch of the largest pukka house in the village. We slow down to pass a Maruti 800 on the narrow road; the driver, lips pursed in concentration, lifts her ghungated head and smiles at me.

Worldviews need relocation, sometimes.

What goes around…

…comes around. Only, I didn’t think it would so soon! Thanks to @, I’m the victim of my own tag. Now I have to write about another city.

I considered Delhi, and I considered Bangalore, but decided on the little English town where I spent a year studying. Just to be fancy. So here goes:

  1. Summer Sunday mornings on Parker’s Piece, with a book, looking up to watch the closest match – cricket or footer – whenever you feel like it.
  2. Guy Fawkes’ Day on Midsummer Common – all evening and well into the night.
  3. Baked Potatoes from the vendor in Market Square, holding the paper tray close on a winter afternoon, and sitting on Kings’ Parade to eat before it gets cold.
  4. Second-hand books and music – not at the stalls in the market, but in a tiny overcrowded bookshop in a little lane that leads nowhere, while an old gentleman (or maybe his wife, the old lady) looks in on you while you browse for hours to your heart’s content.
  5. Formal Hall at one of the older colleges – Trinity, maybe – and walking on the grass afterward, slightly tipsy, out of sight of the snooty porters.

Should I find more people to tag? Let’s see – people I wanted to tag earlier but didn’t. Baudolino, Dilettante (who I suspect has been lurking here, just as I have been lurking there), The Corinthian, Rekha, DivSu. So, people, five things to do in your city – not touristy stuff, but what you love to do! Enjoy!

Hyderabad

I was commenting on this post, and realised there was a full post in there, not just a comment! So here’s my own list of five things-to-do in Hyderabad – apart from the ones Kunal’s already suggested!

  1. Visit Birla Mandir as the sun is setting. Sit on the marble steps eating the pieces of coconut they hand out, and watch the lights in the city.
  2. Climb up the Charminar and try and identify the buildings you can see – the Mecca Masjid, the Chowmahalla Palace, the Unani Hospital…
  3. Tank Bund – walk up and down eating ice cream and roasted corn on the cob. Watch people, or the lights in the city, or just the water beside you.
  4. Eat button idly and pesarattu upma at Taj Mahal Hotel in Nampally – not the new ‘Wah Taj!‘ cafe, but the old Taj Mahal Hotel.
  5. Chaat at the (no longer) little place in front of the Balaji Grand Bazaar (I hope I have that name right) in Basheerbagh.

I could make a tag of this, couldn’t I? Ok, then – @, Amateur Blogger, Mr. Nair, Chinmayi, Shreya – name five things to do in your respective cities (not typical touristy stuff!), tag five people and leave them a comment to know they’ve been tagged!

A little trip

We left on the evening of the 6th – P and me. A bus to Dharamshala where we’d booked a hotel. A Volvo bus, as FM insisted. Since we booked at the last minute, we had seats in the last row of the bus – the centre one and the one next to it. FM takes one look and says, “How can you sit there, there isn’t even a seat belt! You’ll fall off if he hits the brakes!” We convince him it’s ok, and finally we’re off. We have cute neighbours, at least!

Dinner stop, the parathas I made at home are too salty and the ones at the dhaba are too hard, so we get back on to the bus half-hungry. Turns out the cute neighbours are friends who happen to be between/before jobs at the same time and are holidaying together. One of them’s been to Dharamshala before, and tells us we should really stay at Dharamkot, where they’re staying… ahem!

Worst part about cute neighbours? Won’t shut up! I want to sleep! Finally they fade away, only to start snoring… and then the ghat road begins. And the driver seems to be a maniac. I look out of the window to take my mind off my churning stomach, and see those hills… they’re appearing as if out of nowhere, as the sky lightens, more and more of them in all shades of blue and purple and gray…it’s beautiful! Suddenly, we turn a corner and the colours change – the sky is orange and gold and the hills are a greenish blue! So my first sight of the Himalayas is an hour-and-half long dawn…

Of course, by the time we reach the hotel, I’m dead tired, but smiling happily at the man at the desk, till he tells me the room’s not empty yet and we’ll have to wait! We finally get a room, find the drains don’t work and get changed into the Room with the Spectacular View… which is worth all of it!

A quick bath and we’re off too take a taxi to see the local ‘sights’, finish that and get dropped off in McLeodganj, where we spend some time admiring the Tibetan market, till we’re too tired to do any more. Our taxi driver’s wonderful, though – tall, handsome hillman of indeterminate age, beams at us when we tell him the Himalayas are beautiful. He’s also our tour guide – tells us what to look for and where to take photographs from at the ‘Tibetan temple’ and the Bhagsu ‘falls’.

The temptation to compare Dharamshala to Bailakuppe is strong, but that’s another story!

Having decided that we just want to walk in the mountains the next day, we choose the trek from Dharamkot to Triund as one we can manage, and leave by 6 30. At Dharamkot, the taxi driver says the road is motorable till the Galu temple, and that he’ll take us there. It’s too scary to do by road, though, and we send him off halfway up and walk the rest of the way. Milky chai and buttery toast at the tea shop there sets us on the course to Triund. We start walking, come to a spot that requires rock climbing, which we definitely aren’t prepared for, decide to try and find an alternate path, scramble around for a couple of hours among breathtaking views, and decide we can’t make Triund anyway, so we might as well walk back down. On the way back, we realize we’d taken the wrong path at the very first fork, but decide not to do anything about it… just sit and enjoy the view.

The trek downhill to McLeodganj brings us there at 12ish, feeling nice and hungry. So lunch at the monastery café for me and at a posh looking Indian joint with crap food for P, a little bargaining over silver jewellery, and we’re back in Dharamshala by 2. Take another hotel room for the afternoon, sleep a little, chai and ‘snacks’ and we’re waiting for the bus. We almost miss it, not realizing that the dilapidated metal heap we’re looking at is the Super Deluxe Volvo Semi-Sleeper.

Medication keeps me from puking all over the place on the way down, but poor P’s not so lucky. On top of that, the bus breaks down halfway down a hill and we wait beside it for an hour. What a moon – and the stars are closer here than they can ever be in the city. But at least, now we can sleep. Advantage of blocked nose – can sleep in seat that’s been recently puked over.

Back in Delhi, the next day back to Hyderabad – and a first hour class today.