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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Delhi-Agra trip of 2012

Another New Year has dawned, and it’s business as usual for me again. But let me reminisce for a bit over how I spent the last days of the dying year. It was a perfect vacation…

I took my last classes on Friday, December 21st. My wife and daughter had left for Kolkata the day before, and I took off on the 22nd morning. Lovely Volvo ride along the NH2 (I am addicted!), and soon I was in our city flat. Kolkata was unusually cold. Basked lazily in the sun the whole afternoon, then Sayan and Rashmi came over: we had a long, lovely chat. Sunday was spent housecleaning, chatting with Abhirup and then an old friend of mine, Subhasis, whom I was seeing after more than a quarter century! Biryani from Shiraz did not agree with me. Monday morning we moved to my in-laws’ place, and then off to catch the Rajdhani Express from Sealdah station. Got caught in a traffic jam on the way; would have missed the train but for my over-cautious habit of setting out early. Thanks to dense fog all over Uttar Pradesh, we were eight hours late. Poor Arundhati, Aakash, Saikat and Subhadip had to cool their heels at New Delhi station waiting for us, but we got a cheery welcome. Off to Aakash’s flat, and we decided it would be too risky to drive down the deserted road to Agra that night, so we dined and slept there: Aakash and his wife Arundhati, whom we were meeting for the first time, proved to be the perfect hosts. My apologies to Arundhati for the trouble we gave her; I hope she didn’t mind too much!

Early on the morning of the 26th we set off along with Saikat for Agra in a hired car. The eight lane superhighway, opened only months ago, was a driver’s dream. We stopped off at Itimad-ud-daulah’s tomb (‘baby Taj’) before arriving at Sai Homestay, where we had booked a suite online. The owner, Mr. Rajiv Sethi, made our stay very pleasant, as much by the impeccable service as by his affability. In the afternoon we visited the Taj. It was horribly crowded – poor Pupu, she was seeing it for the first time. Agra Fort was somewhat better. But alas, thanks to excessive vandalism by ill-mannered tourists, more and more interesting things are being put out of bounds: the Sheesh Mahal, for instance, and the room where Shah Jahan was imprisoned during his last years. Very soon, we shall be able to see all our top attractions only on TV and DVD, and that will serve us right. Fatehpur Sikri was a dream, but it was foggy all the way, and bitterly cold: I hadn’t felt so chilled to the bone in Shillong at this time last year, though we were more than 5,000 feet above sea level then! Dined at Pinch of Spice on the second night. It was nice, though a tad over-priced.

We visited Sikandra on our way back to Delhi, and also Mathura, but gave the birth-place of Krishna a miss: it being too crowded, and too over-zealously guarded by swarms of gun-toting guards. What a country we have made, really. Checked into a very nice hotel in Paharganj, a five-minute walk from the railway station: my old boys, themselves living in Delhi, were surprised that such a good hotel room at so reasonable a price could be found anywhere in the capital. The weekend was spent travelling all over the city, especially the parts my wife and daughter had not seen during their last visits: Purana Quila, Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi Haat, Mirza Ghalib’s den at Balli Maran, Gurdwara Shishganj, the Baha'i Temple, the ruins of Tughlaqabad Fort. Also, stopping off at various eateries on the way (the nahari at Karim’s off the Jama Masjid and the mirchi bhajji at Green Park Market were superb), as well as markets (naturally, with so many women present – Arani and Dipanwita had joined us on Sunday). There was Aakash’s car, alongwith a rented MUV to ferry us around. Driving around was not a problem, despite several approach roads to India Gate being closed off. I marvelled for the umpteenth time at Delhi’s wonderful roads and wealth of well-tended greenery. My daughter’s sixteenth birthday was celebrated with books from Spell and Bound at SDA Market, a pair of boots she had set her heart on, and red wine, besides assorted gifts. Sunday evening was spent chatting in our hotel room and the rooftop restaurant (Fire and Ice) over many cups of coffee before they all bade goodnight.

Monday went by at a leisurely pace, packing up, bathing and dining. We left for the railway station, and – after ten continuous days! – the Rajdhani was bang on time. Arani, Saikat, Subhadip and Subhanjan came to see us off. A quiet, swift ride, and we were back at home by 8:30 a.m. on New Year’s day.

So we saw a lot of sights, dined well, stayed in good hotels, and moved about a great deal. But for me at least (my daughter will write about her own experience, and I’m sure she’ll tell it differently), the real – and indescribably heartwarming – pleasure lay in meeting and going around and chatting with so many beloved and loving old boys. I could have sat in a hotel room and done just that and never felt that I was missing anything. Saikat has become almost a family member now. Subhadip Biswas, God bless him, is still happy and ‘excited’ to be my trusty point-man in Delhi, and assures me that much that I taught is still of use to him. Aakash, in his own quiet way, kept amazing me with his minute and glad recollections from his days with me in school. He went to a great deal of expense and trouble for my sake: it fills me with a deep sense of gratitude that he made it apparent he was enjoying every minute of it. Arani and Dipanwita, dog tired after having travelled all over the country, made it equally apparent that they were happy to meet up and go around with us nevertheless. I look forward to many more delightful encounters with them, and they have my best wishes for everything. Subhanjan was tied up with work, yet somehow made time to come to see us off at the railway station; my grateful thanks to him, too.

Bijit Mukherjee broke my heart five years ago. Something was lost there that will never come back, of course, and yet, these boys (I still call them boys!) have tried magnificently to make up for it. One of them was gracious enough to tell me that those pupils who never made the effort to know me well, or those who dropped off after a while don’t know what they have missed. So I can’t help feeling that despite everything, I have been truly blessed as a teacher. These young people had been telling me for years to come over and enjoy myself with them, and by God, I did. All that remains to be seen is how their tribe increases as the years roll by…

[here is a link to fifty selected photographs, in case you are interested] 


Debarshi Saha said...

Respected Sir,

Warm regards.Wonderful photos indeed-very beautiful ones!The 'Anup Talao' photo thrilled me to no end,as I try to think of the pleasant breeze wafting around the Emperor while being treated to some wonderful soul-stirring music!And,I must mention-all the photos have been taken with an aesthetic sense indeed!

It has been a pleasure to view these photos.

With best wishes,

Arghya Chatterjee said...

Nice trip sir. Will wait eagerly for the next set of pictures.
Wish you and your family a very happy new year.

Arghya Kamal Chatterjee

Sayan Datta said...

Dear Suvro Sir,

I am so glad that Pupu, boudi and you had such a wonderful trip. The pictures almost make me wish to visit Delhi.

Lately Rashmi and I have been talking about what a lovely family you have...touch wood to that - boudi style!

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

It was great to meet and chat with you after so many years. that was quite a vacation, I would be needing a break after that :) Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you, your family and the huge blog community. Happy Birthday to Pupu- is she almost your height?

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

You were going to the capital of everything Mughlai- couldn't you hold your Biryani urge for a couple of days? But I understand, Biryani is such a thing that just a whiff (and a Shiraz whiff at that) turns one into an addict so desperate for a fix that the brain keeps saying 'if you don't have it right now, you'll drop dead from withdrawals'. I think I saw this place at Ajaynagar while taking the auto to your flat. It's Shiraz, so can't go wrong. The reviews, though mostly excellent, do mention that quality is inconsistent and they do have their off days. Also, the grease in the Biryani is great for the taste and flavour but is a bit dodgy given that for an item like Biryani, Shiraz is in the budget price range. There's also a small roadside joint there across the street from Shiraz (must be Shiraz's B team) which also serves (and continuously cooks in the open) Biryani, Chaap, T Chicken, Kebabs and a few other Mughlai delicacies- they contribute immensely to the maddening smell factor and the whole area has this aroma.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I don't like blaming others as a rule, but it really wasn't my fault. I don't much like biryani myself, Shiraz or otherwise, I was simply told to get it. If you call Shiraz reasonably priced, I suppose you dine at the Taj Bengal as a rule? And yes, I noticed the stall across the street, too. If I have to get a stomach upset, I'd prefer to do it on a modest budget anyway!

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

I have been expectantly waiting for this travelogue. I am glad to know that you had such a good and heartwarming holiday. Thank you for putting up the lovely pictures.

Thanks to you, I have finished ‘Cuckold’ and among other things have taken a renewed interest in the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal dynasty because of it. So, it was very nice to go through all the photos you posted which have so beautifully captured the intricacy and delicacy of the architecture of the Afghan and Moghul rulers.

May you have many other such holidays and may God bless you and your family this new year and always.

Warm regards

Subhanjan said...

Dear Sir,

First of all I would confess that in spite of being here in Delhi for the past four years, I have not yet visited half of what you have visited within two days in Delhi.

Secondly, it was a real pleasure to see you. If you remember, I was not talking much. When it comes to emotions, I am not that expressive. I was tired as I was not able to grab time to eat anything since morning on that day. So when I managed to reach the station, I was not talking much (if you remember), but looking at you a lot. I was feeling quite content and happy inside my heart on seeing you.

All that I have learnt from you, have been my guide ever since the first moral science class in St. Xavier's back in 2000. I have always believed that those countless hours of interactions with you comprised the prime learning phase of my life. Those who had failed to realize the value of your teachings are at a loss that they will never understand.

Thanks and Regards,

Sunup said...

A very happy and prosperous new year to you Sir and your dear ones! God Bless! I simply love your travelogues -- feels as if I was there with you. The photos too are real good, and reminded me of my Delhi trip made back in 2010.


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

Glad to know you had such a good vacation. Lovely photographs. I will be interested to know the story behind the "shayari" !!

Loads of love and good wishes to Pupu on her birthday.


Rajdeep said...

Wish you, Boudi and Pupu a very Happy New Year 2013!

Your pictures have really come out well!
I wish I could have been there on the trip too with all of you!

May the new year keep you all in good health.

Unknown said...

Dear Sir,

We enjoyed your visit as much as you did! We've been waiting for you since the Chakrata trip.

Arundhati has been hearing about you from Arani, Dipanwita, and me for some time now. After she met you, she said, 'Why didn't we have anyone like him at our school?' She has grown quite fond of Boudi and Pupu. And she looks forward to a trip to Durgapur.

I enjoyed the walk around Chandni Chowk a lot. And we missed Arani during the nahari breakfast. It was like reliving those history classes, and we quite wished we could have accomepanied you to Agra. We also hope Pupu enjoyed the trip to Purana Qila and Humayun's tomb on her birthday.

It was wonderful knowing Saikat, and catching up with Subhodeep. Pity I missed Shubhanjan. And I'm sure we'll keep meeting up and also wait for your next trip!

Wishing all of you a wonderful year ahead,


Nishant said...

Dear Sir,

Good to know that you had a very nice, relaxed vacation and met so many of your old students. The Taj Mahal seemed extremely crowded. I had visited there in May and though it was really hot, it was bearable due to the dryness and there were way lesser people. The Taj is a magnificent sight when one sees it for real. It's too bad they are closing off places for tourists but then, as you mentioned, it probably serves us right.

The bit about setting early to catch the train made me grin wryly. Being a bit cautious never hurts!


Abhik Chatterjee said...

Dear Sir,
In our school days we used to hear this travelogue very attentively from you. While reading I had a feeling that I was sitting in class. Wish I get a second chance to live my school days.
Happy New Year.
Abhik Chatterjee

Navin said...

Dear Sir,

Wish you a very very happy new year. You look glorious in these pics. Great to see a smile in every one of these pics. If after living 50 odd years of ones life, one can still manage to be always smiling, I think that is worth a toast.

with my best regards,


aranibanerjee said...

I had lost all hope of catching up with you this time around. Tired or otherwise, I planned a return from central India on a Shatabdi to ensure that the meeting happened. My wife and I were the first surveyors of Hari Piorko. Sceptical of Pahargunj and insistent on a Connaught Place address for you, we did eat humble bajji, once the rooms were thrown open to us for inspection.
The trip to Green Park Market for coffee, SDA market for Vodka, tea and parantha, and the Tughlaqabad fort for sights and water were all worth the time we spent.
A few regrets:I am indeed sore at missing out on the Nahari walk and I really think we could have made it to Al Kauser on Malcha Marg for dinner on Sunday evening.
The chill has gone up ever since you left. But, we are happy that this time there was no waiting at the station for hours. Next time around, we'll be better hosts--I promise. Many thanks for visiting.
Warm regards,

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,

Let me start with a heartfelt thanks for everything. Although I had visited Agra twice before, I knew this trip would be different and it turned out to be a memorable one. I am really fortunate to get the chance to accompany you for the whole vacation.It was nice to have long chats with you after many months and catch up with Boudi and Pupu.Travelling the whole day followed by idle walks in the evening and pure 'adda' over hearty meals...it was a time well spent. Thanks for the drinks too and my sincere apologies if I have vexed you in any way.

It was great to meet Subhadip da, Subhanjan da and Arani da again and nice to know Arundhati di and Dipanwita di. And Aakash da was so warm and cordial that I never felt I was meeting him for the first time.

Sir, many thanks for visiting and I hope we can have more reunions like this in future. Wishing everybody a very happy new year.

With regards,

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

What lovely photographs and what a lovely write up! My favourite snap is the one of the Blackbuck. I have been to Delhi just once Sir, but your post makes me long to visit again!