Saturday, July 8, 2017

C/O Indian Railways.

The next day was the BLS workshop that was conducted by members of the AHA. The Profs were intelligent, interactive with a sparkling sense of humour and even good dramatic skills. It gave a sneak peek into what the teacher student relationship might be out there and I enjoyed every bit of it. We even had written and practical tests to clear before we would be certified as Basic Life Support Providers.

After we explained our predicament of an early train to Agra, the organizers agreed to hasten the examination process for the 10 of us and we got out in time, rushed to the hostels, packed our bags and made our way to Nizamuddin Railway station about 20 minutes away.

Laymos that we were, we should have sorta chilled because trains never really arrive on time (atleast in the North). This train journey was definitely memorable because a vast part of it was solely dedicated to my leg pulling and subsequent amputation (with a fishmouth incision -_-'). What with cute uterus and Philips tubelight jokes, I still crack up at all the shit we spoke. Later on, we began playing dumb charades and antakshari much to the amusement of the co passengers.

When in Agra, you will be fleeced. Just remember that. There will be people right from the moment you step out of the grubby station who will pounce on you with offers that seem like a good deal but with hidden agendas of their own.

Our hostel (Bedweiser (hihihi) was at quite a distance from the station so we (25 of us) took 4 taxis and reached our destination; famished and fatigued. We struck up a deal with the same taxiwallas for the next day that would involve Agra Fort, Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri and back to the railway station by 4.30 and after much negotation we settled for an amount. After this we headed to the nearest (and only open) restaurant and wolfed down a few morsels before crashing into our bunkbeds by midnight.

We woke up after a few hours (4am), refreshed and then headed towards the much awaited mausoleum of love; Taj Mahal. I must admit, it felt so much more appealing in the pristine coolness of the morning; devoid of the thronging crowd and appreciated at a slight distance. We spent an hour or so, admiring the monument and enjoying the relative solitude that it offered.

After this, our cunning drivers took us to a desolate dhaba on the highway (no doubt that he had an agreement with the owner) who served the driest parathas and watery lassis after the longest wait. Our next destination was Fatehpur Sikri and we began our tour guided by a local even as the sun glared down mercilessly.

A few dargahs and many tombs later, we were walking through the palace of JodhaBai and it was indeed an awe inspiring moment; to imagine the royalty who lived in these royal palaces, a princess educated in art and culture, the menfolk upon their horses in all their armoury, the sound of horses racing back after a battle and the opulence in architechture and lifestyle.. another era indeed. :')

After this BP and I headed to Domi for lunch (bliss of something appreciable to the tummi), got back to Bedweiser to pack up (25 guys and girls in about 6 rooms) and then we rushed to the railway station to catch our 4.30 train.

Did I mention that we never learnt our lesson? Our amazing train arrived a good 4 hours late! Exhausted though we were, sleep was scanty. The next morning is one that I will remember. I woke up around 6am to the sight of the green fields of Punjab, cool and pleasant weather and I added some music for good measure.
We passed through Ambala, Chandigarh and Ludhiana but the beauty of the morning persisted. Somewhere in the middle of this long and endless journey, I found my moment of peace.

We reached by noon and the 4 of us took a rickshaw to Wow Backpackers (in some gully of Namak Mandi) while the others deposited their suitcases in the cloak rooms of Amritsar Railway station. We rushed, changed and after some confusion and angry Hindi yelling at the owner for not arranging a cab (by meehehehehe), got an autowalla to take us to Attari Wagah border and then drop us Back at Golden Temple for an agreed sum. While we skipped lunch (after having skipped an organized dinner and breakfast the following day), the rest of the group had lunch and directly proceeded to Attari without checking into the hostel.

The scene at Attari cannot be described; it must be felt. Thousands of people thronging into the arena, from little ones feeding from their mothers to age old couples holding hands to resist the rush of the crowds. Cheeks painted with the tricolor, patriotic songs blaring in the background to outdo any sounds from the opposite sides and young ones running across with the national flag in hand and sheer pride on their face.

But the real prizewinner is the display of military power by our soldiers in the Beating Retreat. The majesty and grace of their moves, the strength in their stride and the grim determination etched upon their faces after years of rigorous training are a sight to behold!

After this, we egged our driver to go faster and made it to Golden Temple. Glowing and resplendent against the backdrop of the starry sky, this place is a lesson in humility and service. We were lucky enough to be served at the Langar. It is indeed a sobering moment as you hold out your hands to receive the sofest roti you have known in days by the volunteers here.

With our batteries down, we depended on the kindness of the localites to help us find our way back to the hostel; pack up and once again rush to the railway station. The train was thankfully not too late and thus began the penultimate leg of our journey. May I take a moment to explain how damn amazingly well I can yell at pushy women who dare to push me and my friend while boarding the train; in chaste and pure Hindi until they finally (decided I was a raving lunatic) let us pass without much scuffle.

The next morning we refreshed, took the direct metro to the airport and feasted for a while before we boarded the flight back to Namma Bengaluru. After two more hours in the Vayu Vajra, it was finally time to sink into the cushions of my own bed, the comfort of my parents home and the efforts of my father's cooking.