Sunday, September 17, 2017

Khajuraho - An Incredible Experience

The train U P Sampark Kranti from Delhi pulled into the Khajuraho railway station by 7.30am, about  an hour late from it's  scheduled time. P and I got down and as expected someone already asked " Auto Chahiye? 100 Rs. lagenge dropping ki liye" ( do you need an auto? Rs. 100 to drop at the market." We stepped out of the station only to be hounded by more men asking the same thing. We chose a random auto and sat.
Once out of the small station, it is a long straight road till the main area where the Western Group of temples are located. About 7 kms.  We crossed the Airport and our hotel Ramada on the way. P and I had already decided that we would do a recce sort of a walk around these temples on the day we arrive. Then we would decide what to do and how.
Khajuraho Railway Station

August is still " not the season". There were sporadic rains too. But that had made the whole temple premise lush green. As we crossed the security gates and entered the garden area, it was love at first sight for us. We were impressed with the way the whole premise was maintained; even during this " off period".

We started with the Chitragupta temple and then walked around the Kandariya Mahadev and Devi Jagdamba Temples. There were very hardly about  5 - 6 tourists inside and we were the only Indians. P and I already knew that we would need a guided tour for sure to learn more about these exquisite structures. Sometimes rather than reading or googling, the magic that a local guide can weave with his words makes the place more fascinating. We spent about an hour and came out to have breakfast right in front of these monuments; at Raja Cafe. This one features in almost all the travel guides and you cannot miss this. Sitting in their rooftop area under a huge neem tree overlooking the temples, we enjoyed a sumptuous English breakfast.
Kandariya Mahadev Temple
As we came out to get an auto to our hotel finally by 11.00am ; we found the same Auto driver, Dipak, who took us from station. This time we asked him about his charges to show us around. Dipak brought out a whole rate chart. Whenever I and P travel somewhere like this on weekend breaks, we completely take things slow. We do everything in our own pace the way we like and that not necessarily mean going everywhere "recommended". Both P and I could not sleep well in the train. So we  planned to take some rest before heading out. We asked him to come pick us from the hotel by 4 pm and show us the Eastern group and Southern group of temples.

Dipak came exactly at 4pm. The weather was gloomy with an  overcast sky. He took us to Chaturbhuj Temple first.There were the guard, 2 women cutting the grass around the temple and 2 tourists besides us. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and this is the only temple, among all Khajuraho group of temples, that do not have a single erotic sculpture. From there we went to the Duladeo temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Again here except for the security guard, we were the only visitors. This temple is located just next to Khodar river. But we were told that this year it still had not rained properly. Hence there was less water in the river. The overcast was growing stronger by then and we knew it would rain any moment. P and I were really keen on the Sound and Light show at the Western group. But weather was sure to play a spoilsport.

Jain Temples

The Jain temples are in the Eastern part of Khajuraho. By the time we reached the Jain temples, the sky opened up. It was pouring heavily. We sat inside the temple premises till the time the rain stopped. After about 20 minutes the rain got lighter and we continued our "sight seeing"to the Vamana temple. This temple dedicated to the Vaman incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Again we were the only ones along with the security guard. Seeing our interest, he started describing the sculptures on the walls. There is a sculpture of Varaha another of Lord Vishnu's incarnation. It was already getting dark and was the time to officially close the gates. So we left hoping against hope the Sound and Light show will be on for the evening. But alas! It was just not our evening. We sat at Raja Cafe and munched something before heading back to our hotel.

Varaha Statue
Next day our train was only at 6.20pm and we were hoping for a late check out. But the hotel was completely full on Saturday because of some conference and we had to change our plan a bit. We had a leisurely breakfast and packed all our stuff and left for the Western group of temples by 11am. This time we wanted a detailed tour with a guide. We met Mr. Narendra Jain near the gates and fixed on a charge of Rs. 800 for a detailed tour of the Western group of temples. Mr. Jain kept his word and showed us around thoroughly. He said that the erotic sculptures make for only 3% in the whole lot of sculptures. That's strange considering how Khajuraho is known for the erotica mainly. The walls of the main temples Kandariya Mahadev, Lakshmana temple , Devi Jagadamba temple etc are adorned with exquisite sculptures depicting regular life during those days and of course the very famous erotic sculptures. There is a huge Varaha statue in a small temple in front of the main and most intricate temple of them all - Lakshmana temple. The statue is made of stone and there are some intricate sculptures cut in the whole body. That was surely one impressive sculpture.

The Temple Garden
The walls of the temples and with the description by Mr. Jain, it dawned upon us that those days women had such a strong role in the society. They were educated, strong,into sports, not afraid of their carnal desires. There were many sculptures of women with a scorpion over their thighs and in Mr. Jain's words " Scorpion or bichchu is the symbol of sexual desire. Remember the song "Daiya re Daiya re Chadh gaya paapi bichchua"." Suddenly the song from "Madhumati" had a whole new meaning for us. P and I were most amused. After a complete tour, we came out thoroughly content.

The Bichchu / Scorpion



Apart from the temples, one can go to nearby water falls too like Raneh and Pandav. We thought of going to Raneh; but then we were so overwhelmed by what we just learnt that we wanted to sit and enjoy lunch rather than again going somewhere. This time we went to Indiana for lunch. Since Khajuraho is frequented by foreigners, most of the cafes offer international cuisine and really good dishes. We had pasta for lunch. Even after lunch we still had time; we had to decide between 2 museums ; Archaeological museum or the Tribal art museum. We zeroed upon the Tribal art museum. There was no one in the Tribal Art Museum. The lone person / security guard / care taker opened the doors and switched on the lights and fans when he saw us coming. It was free entry and we wanted to click some photos. But the care taker said there was a fine since the entry fee was removed. There were some interesting tribal arts were on display. we covered the exhibits in about half an hour. I strongly recommend one should visit this small museum to get a glimpse of the different tribes of Madhya Pradesh.

As the train pulled out of the Khajuraho station exactly at 6.20pm that evening; it carried in it 2 very impressed travelers. We enjoyed this short trip to Khajuraho, a UNESCO World heritage site. Both of us would love to be back for the famous Khajuraho Dance Festival.

The Royal Emblem of the Chandelas


Sunday, September 3, 2017

A train ride to remember


WOW post

"It is the same train going back. So no pantry. Better we get something packed" - We were taking the overnight train from Khajuraho to Hazrat Nizamuddin , Delhi. This train comes from Delhi as U P Sampark Kranti and reaches Khajuraho in the morning 6.30 am. The same train goes back in the evening 6.20 pm. P and I got chicken sandwiches and some tetra packs of juices for dinner.

We had the side lower berth and one upper berth. From Khajuraho there were not many people. The train started right on time. This train stops at Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh and from there it gets connected to a bigger train and then continues the journey to Nizamuddin. While coming we knew what to expect in this train. Everyone around had opened tiffins of Puri and Aloo ki sabji with aromatic achars for dinner. We had taken the train after having an early dinner at the ever reliable Comesum at Hazrat Nizamuddin station. So we were not hungry. But somethings are done because they form a part of the whole experience.

As the train pulled into Mahoba, I told P to go find some "Indian" dinner. He came back with the "oh so typical" Rail Janta ahar from the canteen. All for Rs. 15, 7 small puris , one katori aloo ki sabji and a packet of Nilon's achar.  The compartment was full in Mahoba. As the train pulled out slowly everyone started opening their dinner boxes. They all were carrying the same thing. This time we also had that. It may not have tasted the same as those home cooked dinners, but it was the experience of having that spicy aloo sabji with the puris with everyone else was fun.
Our train journey was complete. After that we ate the cold sandwich and drank the juice too. We were happy.

It had been a while that P and I travelled by train. This trip to Khajuraho made it possible. Even though we have not travelled in one for a long time, both of us firmly believe that to experience real India, Indian Railway is the best. One train carries a whole world within. For us this time it was just an overnight journey. We still have fond memories of longer journeys of 2 -3 days where the co passengers become your family. Everyone shares not only the space for those days, but also their food and loads of stories. Until then we are content with this one.





This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’ 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Monsoon Potluck



“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” 
― Mark Twain


Meeting friends for a potluck during monsoon or Bihu or any special occasion has become a ritual since last few years now. This year was no exception; but this year we decided to get surprised items but surely "not desi"  but try to keep it as Asian as possible. 
Of course we decided on who was getting starters or main course or dessert. The result and the spread was simply super. 
Bonding over good food with varied conversation with good company make all the difference. 
Here are the photos of what we ate..

Starters : 

We had Devilled Eggs with a Mayo and Tuna twist.
Noodles with stir fried vegetables and chicken in orange juice.
Grilled Chicken with Kaffir Lime
Garlic and Orange Mint prawns with Avocado and Wasabi Guacamole.

Starters
My plate of Starters
























Main Course :

Main Course
Chicken Rendang
Nasi Lemak
Malaysian Sambal
Roasted peanuts, salads and boiled egg.

















Dessert :

No bake cake with Icecream and Mascarpone Cheese
Coconut Macaroons


Dessert




















Every dish was simply delectable and the love that had gone behind preparing and presenting shone through each one. 

One Confession : Both the starters; Grilled chicken and Prawn with Guacamole were prepared by my better in kitchen half. I just ate. 




Sunday, June 18, 2017

Being an Assamese outside North East India


The other day someone told me that she thought I was from the same family who owns Choi Kim. Choi Kim is a Chinese Restaurant in the neighbourhood and it is run by a family whose ancestral origins can be traced to China! So you can imagine what she was referring to. I look different. No I wasn't offended. I am too used to this now and I just laughed it off saying  " No I am completely Desi".

You see I come from Assam which is in the North East of India. People in these 7 sisters of North East India, actually 8 including Sikkim, look little different. For rest of the country we look like Chinese, Japanese, Nepali but NOT Indian. Can someone please tell me How does an Indian look?

Little Bihu Dancers


This HUGE country with so many regions distinctly divided geographically and culturally how can one have a common Indian look? Who came up with that idea of "typically Indian look" in the first place? What is typically Indian? I donot have any problem with any part of the country. I am as much as an Indian as the girl in Lakshadweep or the boy in the last village of Ladakh.

Since I do not fall into the "typical Indian looking" category, there are certain things that I get to hear too often. While some are hilarious, there are some which are plain stupid and sure make me go " HUH!"

1. When I say I am from Guwahati, Assam they ask "It's somewhere in North India right?" What can I do if you did not study Geography properly at school. At times I so want to ask " What do you think about that part of India hanging at the Eastern most side?" "What do you think that state /s is/are called?"

2. There are those who say " Your accent say you are Bengali but you look like a Nepali." Well can't even blame them. They never realised there is India beyond West Bengal and there "Indians" look different and speak different languages. 

3. Do you have malls in Guwahati? Dudes it is the biggest city of North East India. ALL the domestic airlines fly there. And if one judges a place by the number of malls and showrooms, Guwahati will appear in "top 5 tier 2 cities suddenly got big" for sure.

4. Then there are some who say "Assam is totally hilly area. The weather all year round must be so good." No it is not and no to both.

5. "Is it safe to go to Assam?" a big resounding YES to this one. Come once and see for yourself. Like every other place, Assam and whole of North East also have seasons and off seasons. Come during Spring or Winter and you will understand.  

Noh Kalikai Fall, Meghalaya




Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Quote I live by


WOW Post May 7 2017

I have never really given a thought on what is the “One Quote that I live by”. But thanks to the WOW (Write Over The Weekend) prompt I am here sitting down and trying to figure out that one special quote that I live my life by and the realization is quite an eye opener for me too.



At different stage of my life I have been inspired by different ideologies and thus must have tried to live my life that way. Why “must have”? Because I am also not quite sure. While trying to be the good daughter, good student, good sister my life revolved around just being that – “Good”. Yes in my teens I rebelled too. Wrong move. But that’s one learning phase of life.

Now finally I can say I have found the “One quote” for me and this is it.


I have come to believe in that. While I cannot claim to be extremely non materialistic; however I am trying to be a reasonable one. In life it’s all about finding the balance, isn’t it?

I have to admit my other half has a very important role in it. Being an extremely non materialistic person, some of his traits have also rubbed off to me. There was a time when the word “Sale” would excite me. Now I shrug it off. Not every sale I have to land in the nearest super store or mall. I don’t mind people seeing me over and over again in same clothes. I don’t care if I do not have the latest phone or any gizmo for that matter. I now look forward to spending time with the people I love in the cozy warmth of someone’s or my home rather than partying in some loud over crowded place. I love it when people share their stories ; talk and laugh. I cherish the moments I spend with my other half.
I now know where to draw the line in my professional front too. Once upon a time I was too engrossed in my work and did not realize that I was giving it more attention than needed. Now I am out of that zone. After all you only need “this much” to be happy and I am glad I have realized that at the right time. “This much” may vary from person to person and I have found my “this much”.


We have started to print photographs rather than posting on Instagram or Facebook. Sometimes we sit and look at those albums. Unknowingly I find myself smiling as I flip through the pages of our photo albums. This is one thing we have stopped doing completely till few years ago. Digital cameras smart phones social media – who prints photographs anymore! We do; now.


This is what I have come to live by and I hope to do so for the rest of my life. 

 This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’