Wednesday, April 25, 2007

To Vaishno Devi

Last weekend I decided to drive down all the way to Vaishno Devi Temple right from Delhi. This drive turned out to be a new experience, new lessons and new self promises for me. I was travelling with my family in a car. Friday evening, I left for Kurukshetra after office. Left Kurukshetra Saturday morning by 8-15, here I Faulted, I miscalculated the distance as 400 kms. but had to drive 500 kms. to Katra, near Jammu, the base for the climb. It was 7-15 PM when we reached Katra but the sight of Trikuta mountain fills any one with fresh blood. Parked the car in a private hotel parking, they charge 50/- per day, and immediately started the climb. We did not take any help, carried our every thing along with a three year old, weather was perfect, reached the destination at 2-30 AM. Had our Darshans and hired ponies for Bhairon Ghati and down up to Adhkuanri and reached there 7-00 AM. From here we walked up to Ban Ganga and then a auto rickshaw for 30/- upto the parking.
Here I decided not to sit idle for the day sleeping but to drive back immediately, I was awake whole night after driving 500 kms for a whole day on the dusty 'work in progress' roads. I had hardly reached kahmir highway that involuntary actions of the body started showing up. I slept when the driver of a following bus woke me up by blowing horn furiously, he even warned me after overtaking by hurling a few abuses. Now I decided to try a new thing I slept five times on my way back, when ever I felt like sleeping. I tried every thing, in car, with AC on/off, on a dhaba charpoy, on a table, kids playing in the Dhaba Complex and in the middle of a car full of family members awake. Any how I managed to raech safely taking 3-4 Hrs. extra.
This time I have finally decided not to test my driving abilities against sleep.
Also I forgot to mention that I for the first time, saw the train track being laid in this valley, train will soon reach Katra from Udhampur.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is DeLHi rEaLly UnSAfe?

Another news story about the rape of a woman.
They are saying that Delhi is unsafe for women. Every news paper and TV channel display terrifying visuals after each incident where a woman is a victim. The way these incidents are projected chills the bones of all women across India. I have not seen one place labelled as safe for women. I come from a small town and a village but I personally did not find anything of special concern, as far as the safety of women is concerned, in Delhi. If two university students are roaming at midnight on a 200 feet wide high speed road and are encountered by four drunkards with criminal bent of mind, what has a city and the police do with this. It is not that the criminals roam in Delhi only but it is very much a fact that single girls generally do not venture out at 2-00 AM on such roads, at any other place. Had it been any other plalce, it would have been the same end result of abduction and rape. What are the parameters for safety of women?
All I want to say is that if Delhi is unsafe for women, so are Dallas and Dispur and also that all the big cities are totally unsafe for all "men and women, children and adults, young and age-old" alike. Further this un(?)safety is not due to vulnerability to criminal acts alone but also to health, psychiatric and social problems.
This label of "UNSAFE FOR WOMEN" gives me a bad taste.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

One day of Hitch-Hiking in Jaisalmer

It all happened when I was on my solo trip to Jaialmer. I reached Sam, famous for the sand dunes, a little late and decided to return after spending an hour or so but no transport was available for Jaisalmer and I wanted to go to “Kuldhara”, a national heritage site. Suddenly a Jeep appeared from nowhere, but the driver told that he will only go to some village only 5-6 kms. Down, towards Jaisalmer. I asked for a lift and suddenly a sub-Inspector of Rajasthan Police came and obliging the officer the driver agreed to take us further down to some 30 kms. from where we were likely to get transport for Jaisalmer. From here the driver changed his plan and decided to go to Jaisalmer. Now I asked the driver to drop me at the Kuldhara road, as I was to go to Kuldhara in each and every case today itself. I told them that I am a tourist and will go to Kuldhara, they were surprised (the driver and the SI). The officer gave me a lecture that this was not the way to go places in Jaisalmer as I was not supposed to find a transport for Kuldhara from the highway and further back to Jaisalmer. He advised me to got Jaisalmer and hire a Taxi for this visit, a good discussion ensued about Hitch-Hiking. I simply gave two arguments, one that I don’t have enough money to hire a taxi and second that if you don’t have money and want to explore places; you have every right to try all tricks. Any way they dropped me at the turn and when I asked the driver about the fare he simply waived his head and "not from you buddy".
I took a deep sigh and looked at Milestone reading “Kuldhara 9 KM”.
Started walking towards the heritage site. I had hardly covered 1-2 kms that sound of a jeep filled me with anxiety (?). I tried for a lift but the jeep did not stop and went past me. I took a long breath and watched the jeep speeding, 100-200-500 meters, brakes, the jeep stopped and back-gear lights came on I ran towards the jeep and stood speechless by the driver window. They enquired all sort of things from me even doubted that I am a tourist and that too alone. Any how they buzzed and obliged. Some how I found some space to hang on to the outer frame of the jeep as a family with dozens of ghoonghat wallah (veiled) women was traveling in this jeep. Again the discussion repeated itself. The driver again said "not from you buddy". This driver was friendlier and even asked me to come back on the road within one hour as he was to return to Jaisalmer via same route and I was not likely to find anything back to Jaisalmer after that.

I entered Kuldhara and got lost in its charm, visited every corner of the village, all the water wells, streets and temple also talked to a local Bheel for some time to get info about the locals. First one hour and then one more passed, I realized that I have missed my lift. Suddenly a maruti car with a Gujrat no. entered this heritage site and the couple in the car went around the village quickly. I waited for them at the exit gate, again found some space on the back seat. They were very excited to learn the adventures of hitch-hiking. They dropped me on the highway and went away towards Sam. It was already six and Jaisalmer was still around 20+ Kms. away From here. The Jeepwallahs were all right I was all alone and did not see a soul for the next half an hour. And suddenly I heard the faint engine sounds of a Rajdoot Motorcycle, again excitement. The sound seemed to be coming towards me from the other direction and after 5 minutes a man with a Kasmiri topi, riding a khatara appeared. I waived my hands and he stopped. He was going to Jaisalmer. He gave me 100 advices (he was a teacher) but dropped me right on the gate of my hotel. The experience was really very adventurous.