Days Before The Trip
My discreet dream and goal had became a reality.When my colleague, Megha who is from India invited my colleagues and myself for her wedding, the first thing that popped out in my mind is ‘Wow Awesome!Witnessing an Indian marriage, and in India? Isn’t that cool and something different.’
We merrily discussed everything about Megha’s wedding in the office for days to weeks with everyone in the office which then ended up with a somewhat a decision between my colleague cum India travel partner, Hans to go for it! Yeahhh yeahh!! After waiting for my final confirmation (to tell our boss about it,hah it took nearly 1 week for me to do that due to many reasons), we finally booked our flights and bus ticket.
While waiting for the time to tick till the actual day, we were blanketed with anxiousness, wondering what to do, how to travel from the airport to the wedding locations and everything about our trip. Not to mention including assuring Hans who seemed worried with the updates from one of colleagues,Neha that India was having a 7 deg Celsius season. Despite the crazily interesting doubts, we became comfortable whenever Megha (who was already back to India by then), called us few times to ensure that she had arranged everything for us even though she might have been busy with her wedding preparations at that time.
Probably, our anxiousness was so obvious especially when our boss (who is from Nth India too) found out that the wedding location will not be in Delhi but at Bareilly. He told me to re-arrange the flight at the company’s cost so that we could go together with his friend cum Megha’s boss, Mr G(how sweet is that). He wanted to make sure that we would be safe with someone who knows the place. Anyway, if not, we need to travel by train at night from Delhi and reach Bareily around 2am. Hmmm…sounds adventurous isn’t it?? Like it!! ;))
While waiting for the day, our colleagues whom most of them are from India gladly shared with us all about India, the food, the people and what we should be concern of when we are there. Sweet thanks to our dearest Neha, Suresh,Bala and Solomon. We took the opportunity too to make sure our colleague, Leo who is a Filipino would be as jealous as possible (he could not join us as he need to celebrate xmas with his family).
Everyday went very smoothly until the day ticked to 23rd Dec. Still anxious and certainly more excited.
23rd Dec 2010-Thursday: The Day Has Come
We started our journey traveled by bus from Golden Mile,Singapore to Bkt Jalil in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia which took us around 5-6hours. We set off to LCCT-KL by a pre-booked cab that took around 40mins before reaching LCCT airport at about 2pm. Had our lunch and met Mr G at LCCT McD before we board an AirAsia flight direct to New Delhi. The journey took about 5 hours after about 30-45mins delay due to the heavy rain. Reached Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport around 10pm (India Time), that is around 12.30am (Singapore time).
We were expecting the night to be 7 deg Celsius, however we were well welcomed only by the mild nite chill of about 17 deg Celsius. Discreetly, I was hoping a 7 deg Celcius as I want to feel the thrill of the cold night.
Anyway, there was something else more interesting. Have you heard a guy who screamed, and when I said screamed it meant screeching scream? Well for the first time I heard and saw it. That nite Hans suddenly screamed while we crossed the road where I was only a few steps ahead. I looked back. A car was driving towards him. He halted! He screamed! I looked! I laughed! Dragged him out of the scene! I know it was dangerous but when reflect back, it seems more hilarious.
Please expect heavy traffic in India. Like you cross the roads in your own country, do also cross safely there. If you are not confident to cross, hmmm..my suggestion is you just need to wait at the side of the road till you are confident. Pffttt…
Our thoughtful Megha had arranged a driver to fetch three of us to her place in Noidar, which was about an hour journey from the airport. And well since India is huge, do also expect that local drivers could also lost themselves on the road. We were lost for 1 hour until the driver U-turned back towards the airport and drove to the opposite direction. We reached our final destination after about 40 mins. So make sure, do get someone local who could arrange to fetch you if are not confident to venture India alone or it is your first time.
Sitting in a car for nearly 2 hours without stopping is a test especially if you are staying in a country which you can reach from east to west within 30 mins. What I am trying to say is that, my country is decently small. Just cute.
Anyway, I remembered well that my tiredness and sleepiness due to the 2.5hrs lag time difference and traveling since early morning completely diminished right after we reached Megha’s house. The warmth welcome by her family members had divert our attention to Megha whose hands and legs were tattooed with henna. They were beautifully tattooed with grace and perfection. Oh yes, I had mine done too. A beautiful and simple one (I prefer simple) on my palm that were tattooed to my pointing finger. Beautifully designed by the sweet and affable Shilpa (Megha’s 2nd sis).
Oh yes before that, should not miss telling this. We were served with our first originally Indian meal by Shilpa and accompanied by her husband,Pranab. While enjoying our dinner, both of them shared with us supported by Mr G about food in India. In fact, the meal were deliciously cooked. The potatoes and Paneer (cheese) were prepared and cooked differently from what I had tried in Singapore. What they had served were made of specific original spices. And the prata which for me looked somewhat like chappati was deliciously made. Awesome warm dinner in a cold weather like that, what can I say.Perfectly appetizing!
My night ended around 4am (S’pore time), after the cutie pie-Manika (Shilpa and Pranab’s daughter) dabbed a mixture of lemon juice and sugar on the drying henna on my palm. If I remember correctly, it is to make the colour of the henna appeal nicer and the colour would stay longer on the palm.
Right after that. I was sent off by Anuj,Pranab and Manika back to the guesthouse for a good night sleep. Deep House is located at Noidar. I would recommend the place for stay if one could not find a hotel nearby. It is extremely clean and well maintained.Highly recommended if one needs a comfortable night sleep at Noidar.
24th Dec 2010-Friday: The Amazing Race and The Survivor Series
Megha had pre-arranged for us to go to Agra for Taj Mahal.We departed at 7.30am. Stopped by near to Anuj’s house which was five minutes away from Megha’s. Anuj instructed the driver where to bring us and by what time to fetch us to Bareily, we proceed with our journey to Agra in the foggy chill morning. Taj Mahal, here I come!
The road to Agra without doubt was safe. Although no one followed the traffic light signals, it seemed that all vehicles were very well in control. They knew when to stop, when to block others’ way and when to horn (there were no restriction to horn whoever you like there.I am already immune to it by now).
After we stopped by for a McD bfast at Mathura, we travelled another 2.5 hours more to reach Agra. Agra was definitely beyond my expectations. I thought that it is a serene calm city. However, it seems not. The roads were jam-packed (without bread and butter) with people and vehicles. Businesses were running hectically busy on that day. Therefore, it took us a further 20-30 mins drive to reach the road to Taj Mahal.
Once we reached the vicinity, we had to engage a trickshaw so that we could enter the Taj Mahal compound. According to Anuj, it was to ensure that the place will not be polluted by motor vehicles. Something like Clean and Green environment.
The few factors one should take note before heading to Taj Mahal.
1) Please do not go there on Fridays as they are close for the whole day due to friday prayers/namaz.
2) Please also ask how much it is to engage the trickshaw from Taj Mahal to Agra Fort or wherever destination near that place before engaging any of them.
Well, as for us, we did..no we did not do all of the above. :]
Due to that, we were only able to see Taj Mahal from the East Gate which is the back part of the Taj. There was a boat service which can bring us to the other side of the land opposite the Taj which we could see the entire Taj.However, we did not try it out. Looking at the massive river, my imagination started to go bing bong.
Anyway,at that time I was like Urghh..extremely frustrated. Why would anyone close a tourist attraction at this period of time? Or if it should, why didn’t they announce it to the whole world!!
After about less than five minutes, I can say that the frustrations vanished when one of Megha’s bro in law suggested us to go to Agra Fort instead. Until now, I have no idea whether Anuj or Pranab was the one who talked to me on the phone at that time. hehehee…Oh yes, before that I still continue negotiating with the trickshaw man, this and that so that I can at least peeped to see Taj Mahal. Results: Haha..unsuccessful. Cannot make it. And so without further consideration, we head to Agra Fort. We caught a glimpse at another different experience during the journey from Taj to Agra fort. We passed through small roads where there were small convenience stalls and roadside businesses. The roads were narrow and packed with people who were mainly busy running their errands, in addition to vehicles obstructing the traffic at the junctions among other road users. It was a bliss!
At Agra Fort:
A pinch of history about Agra Fort. This classic designed building is where the great Mugals, Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb lived. Its massive building structure are decorated with carved columns. To enter, we had to purchase a ticket each of Rp250 or Rp300 per entry, cannot remember exactly.
It took us an estimated about 30-50 mins to walk around the 94 acre fort. It was a massively huge place with beautiful gardens and colossal entrances to enter into each of the building compounds. One could also engage a guide to explain on all the historical aspects of the structure, design and locations. As for us, we did not.
Right after that, we head back to the Taj Mahal parking lot. Another factor to share which we did not do at that time was to ask the cost before the ride to Agra Fort. Due to that, we almost had an argument with the trickshaw man. The trickshaw man was trying to charge us Rp1000 for the journey which we found out from Anuj that it should only cost us Rp300+. The man disagreed and demanded us to pay Rp650. We intended to close the deal at Rp300 but unfortunately we did not have any small change. In the end, we paid Rp500 which he accepted initially. Closed the deal,thanked him even though he was not happy and off we went to our driver who was waiting for us at the car.
However, when we were already in our car, he approached us fumely dissatisfied saying that it was a long journey for him to bring us there and back. Personally, I can’t deny that. But later I found out that Taj Mahal is quite near to Agra Fort by car, and in fact cars are allowed to enter the vicinity.
Anyway, since at that time I have no choice, I had to defend ourselves that he agreed to close the deal at Rp500. We are lucky enough that his friends stopped him and advised him to just take whatever we had given him. Without further delay, I instantly instructed the driver to make a move at once. It was really a risky encounter. You see, if the dissatisfaction turns to a heated argument, we will be crushed…I do not own a karate belt. I am not sure abt Hans. But I guess Levi’s belt is suffice for him. Peace!
We instantly head to Bareilly where we were supposed to be there for Megha’s engagement party.Out from Agra at round 2pm, and expected to reach Bareily six hours later. Unexpectedly, our adventure began after we were two hours on the road and found out that we were still in Agra. We went through small villages at the third hour, innocently assuming that we had taken the correct routes until we realized the distance (km) to reach our destination started to increase instead of decreasing. My mind were discreetly boggling and wondering where we were as there were no sign boards in English since the routes were mostly throughout villages. I tried to decipher smartly the stones at the side of the roads which we in Hindi or probably their states dialects. My brain’s google translation dictionary did not have internet access. So, I decided to digress. What I knew was that we passed-by Haryana state. Thanks to the welcome SMS from Vodafone,India telcom.
The first test started when our car’s tyre got punctured on a countrified road along a vast rice plantation. I was silently hoping that there is at least a spare tyre. We were lucky enough. While waiting for the driver to fix it, Hans had advised me to stay in the car when I was already about to alight.
You see, I remembered a specific tips when someone is fixing tires. To reduce the car load, no one should be in the car. That was the reason I decided to alight earlier. Hahaha..anyway it was so sweet of him to instruct me not to as I completely had forgotten the importance of safety for girls. After mending it, the driver stopped at the nearest small village where we waited for the punctured tyre to be fixed in which this took an additional hour.
Darkness started to shroud around 5pm. I started to shut my eyes hoping nothing bad will happen again especially when the car crossed a bridge over a river, and at any points of the journey where there were only plantations. Another thing for sure that will not work for the journey was my travel partner’s GPRS. It was actually lame for us to rely on it but well most of the time miracle could happen.I guessed if we were to really lost here, for sure even our friends will not be able to give directions through the phone. India’s immense land and states are undefined. Throughout the journey, the driver went on solely relying from the directions by the helpful nice locals. Well, for sure I prayed hard that we only encountered those decently nice people only.
We went through numerous villages, confusing road junctions, crossed railways tracks, came across massive huge trucks right infront of my eyes and extreme darkness of the night. Both of us kept silent throughout our journey.
At around 10.30 to 11pm, we finally reached the town of Bareilly. I was in fact so relieved while we were on our way to the engagement hall.
We reached around 12am. All guests had already left the hall except for Megha’s family members (Shilpa,Pranab,Anuj,Mr Gandhi,Anuj’s parents). My whole body was subtly cramped. Guessed my blood was not flowing to my whole body as I did not even go out of the car throughout the journey.
We were served with warm dinner under the extremely shivering cold weather of Bareily. I remembered how I exhaustively shivered due to the cold and hunger for not eating throughout the journey apart from having the McD breakfast. We were really dead beat nevertheless relieved that we had finally reached our destination. I could not deny that I truly enjoyed the journey and experience. It was fun to be lost somewhere (as long as it is out of harm’s way). Even though language could be a barrier, but I believed if we know how to communicate our thoughts, barriers will be as beautiful as the reefs in Great Barrier Reefs. ;p.
Right after that, Anuj brought us to meet up with Megha at the wedding hall. The wedding banquet hall was meant for the next day’s event which was located about 10 mins drive including waiting for the train to cross. Since the wedding was located at the groom’s state, the bride’s family members had to travel to the state in Bareilly. Relatives were accommodated in the rooms available in the second floor of the banquet hall. The banquet halls are designed in such a way that relatives who will be from different states in the country could stay the nights before the wedding. As for ours, they had arranged our accommodation at the nearest guesthouse in one of the reputable Institute of Veterinary in Bareilly. After we met Megha who still had the time to care about us (how sweet), we head to our accommodation for a good night rest. It was a very serene quiet area and cooler than in Delhi the night before. A terrific night to sleep comfortably after the long journey.
> 25th Dec 2010-Saturday: The Wedding Day
The special day for our Megha is finally here.
Once we reached the banquet hall and chatted happily ever after with Shilpa, Pranab, Tinu and Neha, we both went to meet Megha in her room. We chatted and asked her lots of things until Megha’s mummy told me to change to a saree. Yipeee… Even though I brought my own saree which I bought from Little India in Singapore, she gave a beautifully gorgeous red saree with combination of green which was actually bought by Megha’s elder sister, Priyanka. Later I found out that it is a gift from her and her mum.
Megha’s aunt, Masi (Aunt in Hindi) Manju had helped me draped the saree beautifully. I was so excitedly thrilled wearing saree for the first time. In fact, initially I told Neha my colleague that I will be embarrassed to wear the saree as it will show my stomach which till now I still cannot see any stomach packs after intense trainings since last 15 years. I did not felt so much awkward then probably because most of the ladies were wearing saree too. Hahaha… As for Hans, Megha’s bro in law, Pranab had given him a nice dark blue stripe Kurta to wear it during the day.
After we had prepared ourselves to join all of them for the rituals, bride’s parent has to welcome the family members through certain rituals. Subsequently, family members gave their blessings, performed prayers and carried out marriage rituals for the bride with the presence of a priest.
The most memorable ritual was when we were invited to participate in offering good blessing to Megha by patting the four elements of the earth on the bride’s main chakras (feet,palm,shoulder and head) for seven times. This ritual was done by family members and friends, in which this ritual was considered to shower purity and blessings to the bride. Frankly, it was a remarkably unforgettable experience!
Apart from the bride, her sisters and brothers in laws need to participate in other religious rituals. The last few parts of the rituals were accompanied by the energetically full of life dances with the beat of the Indian traditional drums, Dholak and Bhangra Dhol. Megha’s siblings and cousins participated in the dances … that include the both of us. ;))
At around 3pm we went back to our accommodation to take a rest. I did not manage to take a sleep at all. My brain was in the excitement and happie mode. So, I digress to a more exciting activity. Wake up, shower and get dressed!! Yeay!! …. Eeeppsss..wait…after nearly half an hour, I was still unable to drape my saree even though it was a readymade one. Arghh.. No one is there to help. I can’t just go to the wedding without wearing it properly. And I bet everyone will be busy to have the time to help me out. Ask Hans for help? Hmmm .. teeeett wrong person.
Yes!! I remembered something. I saw an Indian lady earlier when I was on the way to Hans’ room. Aha! We did exchanged smiles. That made me felt more confident…to knock and ask for help. The lady was with her roommate watching TV when I knocked on their door. They welcomed me in. I felt so much relieved that they were very much willing to help me out. My heart was thumping excitedly. What a day! Glad that I met with awesome people again.
The lady whom I met earlier comes from Chennai while her roommate, Ruheena is from Northeast of India. They were at the institute to perform some research works for their studies. I then recalled, that night was actually not the first time I met them. If I am not mistaken, did bump into them at the dining hall during breakfast that morning. Both of them at different time. The best thing is, I was there at the right time when they were not out yet for dinner.
After thanking them wholeheartedly with extreme excitement, I waited for Hans and Mr G. to get ready to head to the wedding hall. I met with the two sweet ladies again at the lobby while waiting for our driver to fetch us. They came to me and check out whether my saree was still in the right place. Did minor adjustments and without wasting the opportunity, we exchanged contacts and I had invited them to visit my country. Hehehe…I have no idea whether they have heard of my country. But definitely, Singapore is not in Hong Kong. We bid goodbye to one another and then I made a move to the wedding hall. Whatever it is, the pleasantly lovely Ruheena and the lady did fantastic till Anuj thought that I drape the saree on my own. The credits go to them!! Aha!
“Ruheena, message me when coincidentally you have to do research work here in Singapore. Or you can recommend to your university to send you here for few days. We have a few research institutes here such as Biopolis etc. Just give them those excuses so you can come down here right away!! I will bring you to other places instead!! :]] ..”
The guests started to be in the hall at around 9pm. While we were moving towards the location, the groom was about 500m away from the hall accompanied by his family members and performers.
Meanwhile, Megha was already beautifully dressed and jewellerized ready for the wedding functions and to perform other rituals for that night.
As for Hans, Pranab had actually bought for him a charming beige kurta with white kurta pants. It was a very good looking piece which suited Hans very well. Anyway, Hans being a Chinese with fair skin will look dashing on that type of colour suit. However, during the trip, he simply declared himself as a Korean+Japanese pop star ever since we had confirmed the air stewardess for our flight to Delhi was a Korean and, the stewardess for our flight back was a Japanese…pfftt…
Let us get back to the wedding story – while waiting for the groom to reach the entrance of the hall, we managed to take the opportunity to try the snacks served at the garden. There were fresh fruits juices prepared on the spot, delicious potato cutlet soaked in tomato ketchup, syrup in a puree, fried noodles and fiery hotty fried dried chillis. I tried a fried dried chilli, when Mr G suggested to me to try abit of the piece. It was great! Nothing happened. I could taste the interesting weird explosion on my tongue. Due to my at times [i]’want to try more and see what happen'[/i] attitude, I tried the whole piece of it. Pfftt…thanks to that, I had diarrhea after that. I felt better after Mr G told me to eat a dish which was made in yogurt. According to him, yogurt could actually helped to soothe and cool the stomach. Fuuhhh..problem solved.
Both Hans and myself were merrily enjoying ourselves at the garden. Try this and that with Mr G. While we were there, quite a number of people approached us and asked us many questions like where we were from, who we were and all. Probably, we might be looking a little bit different. They were beautifully pleasant and amicable people. How could I ever forget all those moments..never.
Nearly 15 mins later, the groom finally arrived accompanied by dances and melody of the Dholak, Bhangra Dhol, and trumpet. Not to forget, there was a series of blasting colourful fireworks. I was already afloat in the sky at that moment!
The groom was greeted by the bride who threw something at him and she then walked off. Right after he received blessing from the bride’s mum, he proceeded to perform a ritual with the priest. Then, the bride and groom were accompanied by their respective family members to a small stage which it would start turning once they put on flowers garlands onto each other.
Photo taking sessions took place after that, accompanied by colorful and vivacious dances by the family members and friends. The family members of both sides were served food and sweets by the couple’s dad and eldest male cousin. The dinner lasted around one hour before the bride had to change herself while the groom waited for the last few rituals. We were informed that the vows had to start anytime after 2 am and must be before 3.30am. These decisions were normally based on the horoscope. So, it took quite sometime for both the bride and groom, and the remaining family members to stay till the final ceremony.
During the commencement of the rituals and recites by the priest which took nearly two hours, sweets and hot chai(tea) were served to the guests. I remembered one of the kids gave me a small grey sweet in which according to Tinu it is a pomegranate seed. It was coated with grey layer which I had no idea what it was. It tasted normal at first, however, once it reached the second layer, it turned out to be peculiarly piquant. While waiting for my mind to process how come pomegranate tasted different, I did not reject the second offer from the kid. Well, due to that my stomach dysfunction again and had ended up paying visits to the toilet again and again that night till I told myself to drink the chai with milk. I tried to assume that the milk will act like the yogurt and soothe my stomach since yogurt is milk.So they must have connections. Well, tell me about that, it worked..abit at least. Maybe it is all about tricking the mind. Wakakaaa…
At around 5am (already a Sunday), finally the bride and the groom took one of the most important rituals in hindu marriage, that is the seven rounds or sapta padi taken together, around the sacred fire. While the bride and groom performed the rounds, the priest read the seven vows or promises while the couple performed the rounds. During that time, we were supposed to keep silent. Then we could throw flowers as a sign of blessings for the couple. I was waiting for that moment, actually. Hehee…’Boom Boom Boom even brighter than the moon moon moon…’
Right after that,family members and friends gave their final goodbye blessings to the bride and groom by giving a packet money. As for both of us, we had given Megha a gift instead of packet money. We had asked our colleague, Neha (one of our main sources of information anything about the wedding), her opinion before we decided to give Megha a gift instead of money. Just in case, to make sure we were in the right track following their culture and practice. She said “..it doesn’t matter if you would like to give gifts instead of money. It is okay. There are no limitations to give what you want for an Indian wedding” Thank you Neha!! Luvy you!
At round 6am, Sunday, it was the most emotional moment of the day. The bride took leave from her parents and family members and took her first step to her husband’s house. There is where she will lead a new life with her husband. That was the moment we last saw our friend Megha and bid goodbye, wordlessly by heart wishing her the best for her future and newly married life. The emotive departure ended the whole event in the nippy windy morning.
26th Dec 2010-Sunday: After The Wedding
Family members started to pack up their belongings to hit the road back to New Delhi at anytime before 8am. Both of us went back to our guesthouse with Mr G to pack our things. We had no chance to sleep but I remembered well we were still in high spirit probably, still blissful with the experience.
After we took our shower and we joined a group of tenants from the guesthouse for a game of badminton (they invited us for the reason that we had been observing them for quite sometime). Right after the short game, we were served with a hot warm breakfast of green chilli chappati and hot chai. It was very filling that I skipped my lunch on that day.
Around 9am, we departed to Delhi. I slept in the car all the way to Delhi, awake only when we were one hour away from our destination. The weather was quite chilly and a little bit warm once we reached Delhi due to the midday sun. I could imagine how scorching hot it will be during summer in Delhi. The sun seemed nearer to the earth in Delhi.
We reached the Deep Guesthouse at around 3-4pm after about 6 hours journey from Bareily. We had our rest and sleep before Pranab fetch us to their family house. The house was so much quieter than the first day we came since most of the relatives had went back home to their respective houses which were away from Delhi by trains. We only got the chance to bid goodbye to the family of Megha’s eldest cousin’s.
We had dinner there again entertained by the sweet Shilpa and Pranab together with Anuj who shared with us about various issues related to India, the people and the wedding. Meanwhile, Anuj had arranged for us the next day’s plan before we depart back to Singapore. He had arranged for his driver to bring both of us to Delhi city and the places of attractions. And after we had talked and discussed together with Pranab and Shilpa, Anuj brought us to his house which was located few houses away. We need to say goodbye to Priyanka and for sure I did not want to miss that.
We were warmly welcome by Priyanka and Tinu. They comfortably brought us around the well-built house and I can say that the house was well-designed and spaced astutely. We had a short chat before we bid goodbye to one another. Anuj sent us back to the guesthouse through the same route where there was a Sunday night market. The market was actually running without approval from the government however it had been there since years. It was quite crowded with customers but that did not jam packed the main road like in Agra. Once we reached the guesthouse, I just knew that I had a good night sleep in the peace and quiet city of Noidar.
27th Dec 2010-Monday: The Day in New Delhi
That morning, Anuj had arranged his driver,Pramod to bring Hans and me around in Delhi. After we had sent Anuj to his office at British Commission located near Connaught Place, we head to have breakfast in McD. Tried their vege burger and it was deliciously nyummy. We don’t have that kind of burger in Singapore nor in Malaysia which Hans is from. After the three of us had bfast, we made our first stop to India Gate. It is a massive gate soaring high, not like our normal house gate or school gate of course. India Gate is the national monument of India which commemorates the soldiers of British Indian Army who fights for the British Indian Empire. The gate appealed classically of granite and red sand stone.
We had a quick snapshots at the India Gate compound, before heading to the Humayun,Isa Khan and Bu Halima’s Tombs. On our way we passed by the parliament house and office. I noticed that at this area, the traffic was much more in line and everyone followed the traffic regulations. It was totally different from other part of Delhi.
Humayun tomb is the first garden tomb. I can say that my jaw dropped when we entered the entrance that lead to the garden and then the main building. It was there, remarkably a spectacular piece which looked exactly like Taj Mahal . The architectural design is in actual fact similar to Taj Mahal but the only difference is it is made of red sandstone instead of marble. That was one of the lovely architectures I have ever seen. It was so much inexpressible in words. I fell in love with it for the first time. I just could not take my eyes out of it.
We spent quite sometime there as the land area was quite huge, with lots of beautiful spots to pose. We took pictures of ourselves here and there, wherever there were peculiar walls, distinctive pillars and exceptionally steep staircases. I did not want to miss those chances definitely. Classic!
Right after that, we hit the road to Rajghath. Rajgath is a memorial built for Mahatma Gandhi. Personally, I admired the structure of the place itself. There are slopes where visitors could walk up and had a glimpse of the building from above. In the middle of the lower level compound, there is where a black marble platform was placed. There were flowers and wreaths on the platform and lit up candles especially for prayer meant for visitors to pay respect.
We had to take off our footwears before entering the main compound. I remembered asking how much it cost, but the man just stared at me not replying at all probably not understanding what I was talking about. A sweet comely girl who was there told me something in Hindi, ‘eke rupee’ a few times but I just don’t get it. I stared at her then at Hans who was busy checking his coins. Well, I knew what rupee is, but ‘eke’? I thought she was asking me the same thing which I asked them, ‘how much rupee’? After awhile, she replied in English. The cost of it is one rupee. Anyway, I just figured out while typing this write-up that eke rupee means one rupee. Spelled like this ēka (pronounced as ‘egg’).
Hans made the payments since he had a lot of ēka rupee in his pocket, including paying for the girl who had already vanished in the thin cold air. Anyway, it was quite chilly and windy that day.
I had no idea why, but the guard at Rajgath was nice enough to personally bring us into the memorial at the black marble platform and helped took picture without us requesting. Tell me, how sweet was that?
We were there only for less than ten minutes. Took snapshots and left the area. We met the same girl again at the entrance where she thanked us for paying for her the ēka rupee. After that, we introduced ourselves.
She is from London and Divya is her name. She was in Delhi for a holiday, and if I am not mistaken she were there to visit her friend, I guessed maybe. We chatted for awhile, took a picture together, got her contact details and not to mention inviting her to my country. Heheee…I have no idea why I kept inviting people to come to my country though I am still wondering whether they are aware of my country’s existence in the world map. Geographical info: Singapore is just beside Malaysia.
Anyway, Divya must have heard about Singapore.
“Hey babe, remember to inform us if you plan to come to Singapore for your next holiday trip! There might not be lots of things here to do but with me still in this small island, for sure you will find some fun here! We can bring you to…hmmm..hhmm… (thinking now)”
We bid goodbye to the lovely Divya, and then made a move to Jama Mosque. The road to Jama Mosque was the extremely crowded road I have seen in Delhi. It was jam-packed with cars, rickshaws and bikes. It took us nearly 30 mins stuck on the small road leading to the mosque.
Once we reached, we need to walk up the steep steps towards the entrance. And guess what? We could not enter the mosque!! It was closed! Not again. The mosque was closed for midday prayers. We came at the wrong time. So as not to waste our trip, we decided to snap the different angles of the mosque from outside the entrance.
Jama Mosque is the principle mosque in Delhi and was commissioned by the builder of Taj Mahal, Emperor Shah Jahan. Can you believe it that its massiveness with a large courtyard could house 25,000 worshippers? I noticed that the architectural designs by Shah Jahan are mainly impressively stunning. The use of redstones to build the structure reflects the building authenticity and distinctiveness even after decades. I admired the way he normally structured the flight of stairs that are mostly designed steep and exceptionally high, which I guessed was meant to protect the building from enemies. Apart from that the carvings on the pillars augment the antiquity of his designs to appeal with pride for decades.
Then off we went to somewhere we totally had no idea.I guessed that Pramod wanted to bring us somewhere to do some shopping which Anuj had suggested to him. Hans would like to buy Dairy chocolate which our Neha had requested him to buy in India. According to her, that chocolate is found in India only. Hmmm…
On the way, we had passed by Chandni Chowk. Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and hectic market in Delhi. On the way there we passed by Red Fort and took picture of the enormous structure from inside our car. Thanks to Pramod who had made sure we had the nicest view of it.
Pramod asked us whether we wanted to drop by Chandni Chowk. Straight away without much thinking, we replied ‘Yes,can can can!’.
We planned to buy something for Megha’s family. Neha had told us earlier to check out Chandni Chowk where they sell beautiful and not expensive sarees. However, on that day, we did not have ample time to shop for ourselves. We bought everything in a hurry in less than an hour with the help of Pramod translating for us. We did not want to make Pranab wait for us longer at somewhere for lunch. He had re-arranged his lunchtime from 12pm to 2pm just to take us out for a Chinese lunch. And tell me, how pleasingly sweet is that again?
After grabbing the gifts, we head to Connaught Place where Pranab brought us to a Chinese restaurant. There were two Chinese restaurants at that place. Three of us agreed to choose the comfortably quiet restaurant instead of the crowded popular one. Pranab said that the food here tasted better, but we could freely choose whichever we want. Instantly, I told him to just go for the quiet but delicious one. Frankly, the food was nyummyly delicious and one of the dishes was quite enjoyably spicy. We had rice with vegetables, soup, chicken and fish cooked in Chinese styled. It was groovy to enjoy a Chinese lunch in a country where there are minimal Chinese people. Well, I can say it was a little bit of a different feeling.
Right after lunch, we bid goodbye once again with Pranab with heartfelt touched! We then rushed to our final destination as there was not much time left before our flight that evening.
Qutab Minar was our last destination in Delhi. It is another historical edifice that is made of red and buff sandstone with a prominent highest tower in India. It was constructed nearly a thousand years ago by Qutb-ud-din Aibak who had won Delhi from Prithviraj. The architectural structure was built based on the indo-Islamic architecture which stand prominently with other ancient structure and ruins around the complex. Although the pillars appeared ruined due to age, the carvings of Quranic verses on the pillars still lay intact. These marked the historical aspect of the designer’s artistic ingenuity.
We were there about 15-20mins snapping pictures at most angles in the complex area when our handphone rang. Its ANUJ!! We thought that he had already flew off to Chennai for his business trip but hang on, his flight was delayed due to the extremely foggy weather in Delhi. And at that time, he was in the midst of taking another flight. Due to that we were advised to make a move immediately to the airport in case of traffic jam etc. And so off we went from there to Delhi Indra Gandhi International Airport. I had no idea how far it was from Qutb Minar to the airport. From the time when we start our journey, we were busy calling Megha,Priyanka,Shilpa,Pranab,and Tinu to thank and bid goodbye.
By the time we reached the airport it was already dark even though it was only 6++pm. After we bid goodbye and thanked Pramod for his time and making sure we were not lost in Delhi, both us checked in and had our dinner before boarding the plane. And man, I started to consciously notice that my feet ached due to the too much chalte chalte (walking walking).
At about 8.30 pm, we board the plane. Left behind were the memories in India. The people whom I had met throughout my stay there made me felt more attached to the country.
I looked at Hans who seemed to be enjoying himself looking at the view out of the window (even though the plane had not take off yet). Purposely spoiling his dream mode, I made a bet with nothing in exchange except that if I win, he has to call me the smarty!
“Letz make a bet..the person who will be sitting beside me will be someone from India, and will be a lady.”
“What makes you think so?” the Korean pop-star doubted me.
“Don’t ask how I know. It is just based on my feeling.” Juhi replied with confidence.
“Okay fine. We will see!” With that kind of look he showed me, I knew well enuff he did not believe me. Anyway, I have nothing to lose if I really lose. Probably, just trust.
Few minutes later, a girl with baby pink sweater approached the seat beside me. Both of us greeted her with a ‘hi’ which she replied sweetly. I could not control my smile of course, but I managed to try. Hans tried but at a split second, he nearly asked the girl whether she is really from India. Luckily, I managed to hush him.
“Weeii..wait. Not now! Crazy ah u.” I whispered to him, loudly. 😉 And he started to laugh…a loud laugh.pfftft…
Well, there are other methods to ask isn’t it. And I did it my way. Thanks to the air stewardess who were asking whether we need any white card for Malaysia immigration. I need it! Not Hans of course. Hmph! Okay to write a white card, one needs a passport isn’t it? I opened my passport, write and after that I offered Hans’ pen to the girl. Tadaa…
“Do you need a pen?”
“Should I write this white card? I will be changing flight later to Phuket,” asked the girl.
“Oh, where are you from? If you are not a Malaysian, you need to write it.” Juhi started to asked.
“I am from India. So, you are from Singapore?” (As reflected in the passport, yes of course).
Yeay!! I guess, Hans must be proud to have a smarty with him.
We talked for awhile and introduced one another. Jyoti is from Delhi and is currently studying filming in Mumbai. The first thing I asked her was India’s film industry, Bollywood. Well, I knew India through their movies. And I felt relieved that she asked me actors whom I know, like Shah Rukh Khan and all. I added Juhi and Kajol, precisely. Both of us chatted for quite sometime while Hans moved to another seat as his seat had problem reclining at the angle he preferred.
Jyoti shared about her film studies and was curious about my country’s film industry. Hmmm..I had nothing much to talk about it as it is not comparable at all with any other country’s. Our country did not consistently produced films like it used to and like most countries did. Only recently there were a number of filmmakers who managed to hit the cinema locally again. I am not quite sure whether the films did well, but I am aware that the stars featured were all quite reputable and engaging in the local entertainment industry.
“Jyoti, give me a call when you drop by Singapore. Will bring you to places here related to film making (which I have no idea whether there is any.[:o] But I can bring you to watch movies here and you can observe the consumer behavior instead :})”
Apart from that. we also had the opportunity to share the difference eyelids of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Topic started because one of the air-stewardesses was a Japanese. We continued our discussion and ended it when I became uncomfortable. My head started to spin. I felt that the pressure in the flight was a little bit uncomfortable that nite. My nose started to bleed and I shivered till we reached Kuala Lumpur LCCT. I could not really sleep well which had caused me to fall ill for the next one week.
We reached KL LCCT at about 5.30am on 28th Dec-Tues, and departed to Singapore by AirAsia flight at around 11am.
In the midst of my Conclusion..
The trip was unbelievably over my expectation. It had left amazingly wonderful memories for me personally. I can say that India is more than just what I normally heard people said (hot, high crime rate, this and that). I believed wherever in this world, even in our own country, anything negative can happen. It is just how we perceived it. The most impt factor is to always be careful anywhere we are.
Without doubt, I personally fall in luv with Megha’s family and with the people whom I met and talked to throughout the journey. Most of them are amiable, approachable and graciously pleasant. It was so much comfortable to be in a place if the people are welcoming.
I will definitely miss India, the environment, the weather (luv it when it was cold), the unexpected wonderful moments, the people whom I met in the journey, and the warmth hospitality of Megha and her family members.
Notes of Love
• Megha. “Infinite thanks for inviting us, and arranged everything even though you were busy with your wedding preparations. Really touched with your concerns when we were lost at other states, and making sure we were alright and enjoying our Delhi trip even though you might be busy at your husband’s place. Thank you for everything you had for us on the days we were there. Wish you have an exuberance married life with your amiable husband, Gaurav.”
• Thanks so much to Megha’s mum and dad for the hospitality, the food, the sweets and the saree gift.
• Megha’s eldest sister,Priyanka. “I luv the saree so much. Thank you for the warmth welcome when we visited your house that night. You were kind enuff to bring us to look around your whole house. You have an unbelievable huge collection of novels!! Itz awesome!! We enjoyed the snacks you had prepared for us for the next day. Lots of thank you & misses!Will miss your rusky voice!”
• Megha’s second sister, Shilpa. “You made us comfortable during our dinner on our first and last day in Delhi. You continuously shared with us on many topics even though you had no voice during our dinner at your mum’s place the night we bid goodbye. I luv the henna you did for me! A simple but stunningly beautiful, which personally I preferred something like that. I could not stop myself from looking at it since then. Loads of thank you and will definitely miss your smile!”
• Megha’s first brother-in-law,Anuj. “You had kindly arranged for all our trips here and there with the drivers. Making sure we were at the right places at the right time. Entertained our doubts when we were shooting our Amazing Race and The Survivor episodes. And not to miss this, you had also explained to us on the rituals significance. What more can I say. Just billions and loads of thank you! Do give us a call when you and Priyanka are in Singapore! We will hit the road to…hmmmm…wherever you have not been yet here.”
• Megha’s second brother-in-law,Pranab. “You had made us totally comfortable since our first day in Delhi. You conversed comfortably with us while we were having our dinner and shared numerous topics. You went somewhere which till now we have no idea, to buy Kurta for Hans for the wedding and ensure he wore one also for the rituals ceremony. You specifically re-arranged your office lunchtime hour just to take us out for lunch on our last day in India. And of course, you made sure we were informed on the rituals significance and helping us found out what it all meant. Heaps of thank you to you!! Remember to call us when you, Shilpa and Manika are coming to Singapore!! We can go for bungee jumping..haha..u can’t find one here. We can go to the … hmmm…Universal studio! hahaa… Manika might like it.There is Donald Duck!”
• Megha’s family friend-Tinu. “Hey gal! My hair is in the midst of becoming silky like yours with the yogurt. Psstt.. for your info I have been admiring your hair since the first day. Anyway, did Megha’s hair turned out to be more silky after the ritual?
This will be an official thank you note. Thank you to you for constantly being with us all along from the start of the rituals till it ended. You explained to us clearly the significance of all the rituals and went to the extent of asking others for us whenever you were not sure what some of it meant. It felt so much comfortable. Do give me a call when you are in Singapore for work! I guessed you might have gone to lots of places here. So, we will just go chill out somewhere!!”
• Megha’s cousins:
– The two cute smiley gals, I can’t remember their names but I remembered them asking whether I know the High School Musical. I replied that I know, but I know Hannah Montana better.wakakaka…They were very engaging and lively!
– Sonnu and Neha. “We did not converse much with each other. But I believed we did communicate by heart and smiles. So, remember to Keep in touch forever and ever!!”
• And not to forget to Mr G aka Mr Gandhi for being with us on the first day and making sure we see all the rituals without missing it, and clearing all our doubts and questions about the event.
• Not to forget of course, to Hans, my crazy colleague cum India travel partner whom at times would be in hibernation mode. “You were such a wonderful partner. You did not complained (I can’t stand complaints) when there were problems on our journey, and you knew when was the right time to discuss with me on issues we encountered throughout the journey. Most of the time, we seemed to think the same way and that made our journey so much easier, fun and comfortable. You did not leave me behind like you used to when we are in Singapore (at least you listened to Neha’s advise not to leave me alone. So sorry if I was the one who left you behind instead. hahaha…). You rockz like a firework!!”
Lots of kisses and loves from me
@ Juhi Chaula
All Rights Reserved including Pictures © Siti Sulianah/S.Sulianah
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