Monday, November 28, 2005

Travels in North India -- Phase I

Ok, here's the dope on my travels in North India. I know this is a well-overdue post but I was feeling too lazy to do this earlier. Humble apologies and all that, I'm sure, gentle reader, but for now, read on...

Phase I: Ab Dilli Duur Nahin

I was supposed to leave for Delhi on the last Friday of October, catching the Rajdhani Express from the Chennai Central Station. So much for the best-laid plans. It poured the day before I was due to leave, flooding Chennai. We had no power all day and couldn't go out because of all the water (not to mention the incessant rain) but all that was an adventure until I was informed that Central was flooded and therefore all trains were cancelled till noon the next day, including mine of course. Then it became a calamity to which I reponded with my usual, mature sulks and disbelieving rants against an unsympathetic cosmos.

Baba managed to get me a ticket on an IA flight the next night. (I am not spoiled. It was a cheap one from his Frequent Flyer points). The flight was scheduled to leave at 2000 hrs, so it came as no surprise to hear at something after 1700 that there had been bomb blasts all over Delhi and the place was consequently under red alert. Amidst much dire prediction and flutter in the (extended) familial dovecote, I was finally allowed to catch the plane by grim-faced parents. I reached Delhi around midnight and was picked up after a short wait by Chhotokaku and gang. I spent the night at his place and this uncle of mine, the youngest of Baba's cousins (in India), showed me around the Gurgaon malls the next day. I contacted Sonali who as it turned out was returning to Nal/Bikaner that very evening, so after a spot of deft driving Chhotokaku and his family saw me off from Delhi within less than 24 hours of entry.

Nal is where Sonali’s husband Akhilesh is posted at the moment, and I spent about four days there. Enjoyed life in the Air Force base. Played teen patti on Chhoti Diwali and helped put out the diyas on Diwali itself. Saw Akhilesh fly an MIG-21… quite an experience, being up close to combat aircraft. They look nowhere close to being as sturdy as one would wish. Oh, and Sonali and I also spent a night in Jaipur, with some of Akhilesh’s friends, en route Nal. He met us there and drove us down to the base in their new Scorpio, which was quite an enjoyable ride through the desert. Four days of perfect peace, before I took the train back to Delhi.

Before I end this post, I’ll add a note on the way the Western Railways con their passengers. I’d booked a seat on the AC chair-car coach on the train back to Delhi, but when I went to the Bikaner station I found that the bogey had not been attached to the train. Us AC chair-car people were forced to travel in the non-AC first-class (an enjoyable experience, I admit) or settle for the ordinary 3-tier. The problem I have with this scheme of things is that after boarding the train I was asked to pay an additional Rs. 200 as extra fare for the upgraded reservation. What price Laloo’s promise of free upgrades?

Later phases will be written up in future posts. Watch this space. And if there are any Pepes, please breathe. It’ll be a day or two before my next post, busy creature that I am.

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