Taj Mahal and the pats of past

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Although I visited Taj Mahal when I was too young to understand what I was beholding, I was awestruck by the enormity of the tomb. I carried the image of the huge, almost white dome, the intricate designs and the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal with me. I somehow knew at that time that I will go there again someday; go there to absorb the city, to walk alongside the ghosts of the Mughal Emperors.

Almost 15 years later, I was back in Agra, this time with Geet – all romantic and ready to gaze at Taj Mahal turning pale orange while the Sun bow to the night. The first thing that struck me about Agra was how much the city has changed. I remembered it as a disorganized city, sprouting with rickshaws and horse carts, beggars and tour guides, Petha (an Agra delicacy) and souvenir shops. It was less disorganized. Urbanization has touched it.

We checked-in in a hotel which was at a walking distance from the eastern gate of Taj Mahal. In the hotel the water was salty and Dal Makhni was conspicuous by its absence but that is another post. There was an Agra tourism building right next to the hotel from where you could buy tickets for Taj Mahal. It was a clean building with foreign exchange counters, a restaurant/bar and numerous souvenir shops. There were battery operated cars, horse carts, camel carts and rickshaws to take you to the eastern gate. We got a guide from the tourism building and he introduced us to a photographer who was to take our pictures as we circle the white mausoleum.

A tip – It is a good idea to take a photographer with you and the quality of the pictures is great. Make sure you ask him the rate of each photo and then let him know the number of pictures you want him to take. Otherwise you will end up with a big album and a big dent in your pocket.

Needless to say that Taj is a beauty. You will end up staring at the magnificence for a long time. An image of it on television or a postcard can not come close to the experience of seeing it with your own eyes. It’s breathtaking. There is a legend that Shah Jahan wanted to build a black marble replica on the other side of Yamuna with a silver bridge connecting the two. What a sight it would have been.

Fatehpur Sikri was our first stop the next day. It is a city which was built by Akbar and have courts, royal palaces, private quarters etc all carved in red stone. It contains famous structures like Jodha Bai’s palace, Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Salim Chisti, Diwan-i-khas and Panch Mahal. As you move through these structures, you get an incredible feeling of moving back in time. Remind yourself that this was the place where Birbal made everyone laugh with his humor, Tansen sang his spell binding ragas, Jodha Bai and Akbar lived together and Faizi wrote his poems and you will get Goosebumps as you walk through the city.

A tip – Fatehpur Sikri is located around 50 kms from Agra and can be reached by a cab (~1400 Rs for a round trip). Guides, hawkers and small children will run after you all the time but try to avoid them if you know how to read. Learn to say “No” 100 times in 60 seconds.

Agra Fort was our next stop in the evening. The Fort was primarily used by Shah Jahan as his court. He was finally imprisoned and kept there by his son Aurangzeb and died there looking at the Taj Mahal from the southern walls of the fort. There is a sound and light show in the evening which is worth watching. By the time it will be over, you will never forget the bloodline of the Mughal Emperors or the fact that Babur gifted the Kohinoor to Humayun or Noor Jahan invented perfumes.

Next day, we took an autorikshaw from our hotel and reached Sikandra, location of the Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is a beautiful structure and the entrance is carved with beautiful, colorful patterns. On seeing the long, cold tunnel that takes you to the grave, I realized that I have been to this place earlier. It’s strange how I do not remember anything about the beautiful mausoleum but only that I was scared crazy while passing though that dark tunnel into an equally dark dome with a tomb in the center. We roamed on the pathway surrounding the tomb watching herds of deer laze in the gardens and then moved on to our next destination – Itmad-ud-daulah, which is the tomb of Noor Jahan’s father Mirza Ghiyas Beg and is one of the most intricately crafted mausoleums in Agra. With its geometrical decorations on the outside and fruits and flowers encrusted white marble inside, it is a beautifully created building. It might have been peaceful outside the mausoleum earlier, but now it is cramped with shops and blaring music. It’s a shame.

We were back to Taj in the evening, to have a look at it a last time as the sun fades away.

A tip– Try taking an autorikshaw to roam around in Agra if the weather is good. They are cheaper and we found the drivers very polite, even helpful. Day 3 cost us Rs 300 for the whole trip from East gate of Taj Mahal to Sikandra to Itmad-ud-daulah and back.

A recurring pattern which was disturbing was that many mausoleums require some urgent restoration. I really wish they are restored before they end up as irrevocable ruins. There were patched on the domes and walls which were missing. Elaborate craftsmanship lost forever.

The city left us in a flux of emotions. Although there are pockets of Agra which are underdeveloped and poor (You will encounter them while going to Fatehpur Sikri and Sikandra), urbanization and the remains of the Mughal era stand side by side as a reminder of how times have changed. In that way, the city is very similar to Delhi. It was the city of kings and looking at those proud structures made me wonder if we have an equally powerful legacy of our own times to leave behind.

[all the pictures are taken by me]

Facebook photos uploading etiquettes

A lot of people go on holidays so that they could upload pictures on Facebook for various reasons. Enjoying with their family is the last thing on their mind. The reasons for uploading photos might vary from –

  • Making their friends jealous (Hey! Look at me! I am hanging in the air upside down! Stare Stare!)
  • Making their relatives jealous (Hey loser! dream on!)
  • Making their colleagues jealous (Work smart party hard suckers!)
  • Marinate in the comments (Lovely couple!! Beautiful Background!! Where did you go? I am sooo jealous of you guys! Blah!)
  • Collecting likes (A dislike button is the need of the hour)
  • To achieve inner satisfaction because people are jealous because they are happy.
  • Sharing them with their family and friends (Didn’t I tell you that this is the last thing on their mind?)

Now, We are not against all the photo uploading sho-sha but there should be a level of decency to be maintained. You really don’t have to behave like Mount Etna and erupt your trip lava on our wall. So, here is a list of tips which might help people actually go through your pictures instead of hurriedly liking them and putting bland comments and be done with it. Here goes:

1) We understand you like mountains and lakes and deserts and trees but can you please not click the same bloody mountain from all the sides and dump it on Facebook? Also, standing and giving different poses with the same tree makes you a retard. Mountain, mountain, mountain-man, mountain-sheep, mountain-cloud, mountain, mountain. Seriously?!?

2) We know you love your partner. You are madly in love. No one, and that means no one, can love each other as much as you two. But can you please not drip all of us in your honey scooped butter scotch love? We don’t like to see couples entangled with each other like two grasshoppers where you cannot differentiate where one starts and the other ends. And we don’t like to see people slurping each other like dogs.

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That poor thing is going to drown!

3) Your dog and cat are great! They must be really unique but for us, they are just an animal. So, it gets a bit amusing to see your dog’s photo shoot in all its glory. We are sure that they could give more expressions than a lot of our Bollywood stars but that is no reason for them to pose nude on our wall.

4) Oh! You had a kid! That’s so adorable! The poor thing can’t even open his eyes yet, but you have already thrust a camera on his face scaring him out of his wits and forced him to make all those take-this-thing-off-me faces while you click him. Your kid is beautiful but try not to put a picture on Facebook of his diaper changing activities. That’s Gross. And also, try not to put those pictures of that white cereal paste hanging out of his mouth. That’s equally gross.

5) Sunrise and Sunsets! There are already millions of pictures of our only star popping in and out of the Earth, so please don’t bore us with another of those pictures unless you have taken them from a space shuttle on a mission to re-fuel the Sun. Ditto for flowers, birds and insects unless you have unearthed a new species.

6) We are sure you love adventure sports. So you went to this cool destination and enjoyed paragliding but can you please not upload twenty pictures of you flying over mountains? Honestly, we can barely make you out in those photos. You might have just googled them and posted them on Facebook just to make people jealous.

Skydiving

Are you sure you are in there?

7) We hate blurred and shaky pictures. It’s hard to understand the psyche of a person who uploads a photo of his left hand or his girlfriend’s breast or his kid’s foot. We understand you clicked such pictures accidentally and we give you a benefit of doubt that you uploaded them accidentally but there is ALWAYS a delete button. It’s not a nuke which you have deployed accidentally and can’t retrieve back. If you don’t have time to check your photos before uploading or after uploading them, then don’t fuc*ing upload them.

8) You went to a disc and had a lot of drinks and enjoyed with your friends. Great! Try not to dump all your evening on our wall. We really don’t like to see people getting drunk, dancing as if controlled by a random number generator, taking off their clothes one by one and puking on their friend’s face. You are not making us jealous. You are making us groan.

9) Pictures of Gods and weird Independence day and Republic day pictures also make us dizzy. “Jai Mata Di” is great but first make your life straight. And if you are uploading a “Proud to be an Indian” picture then stop bloody wasting your time on Facebook and do something worthy of being proud of. And those “Happy Diwali!!!” pics on our wall make us very dizzy. Our whole wall seems to be on fire.

10) Stop tagging us in every picture of yours even when we are nowhere in the pic. We are not your dog’s tail or your best friend’s ass. Spare us the embarrassment of moving our mouse on your sorry torso to find out which body part of yours is named after us.

I hope you understand the mental trauma we undergo while we browse through your photos and will try to make honest corrections.

Thanks,

Your fellow good for nothing Facebook addicts.

p.s. We must admit that we ourselves indulge in a lot of the above mentioned activities. So, don’t take the post seriously. Keep *groan* uploading.

The funny(?!?) flowers are here

I was going to write a serious post this week, but then I got up early on Sunday morning and thought of taking a walk in the garden which surrounds my apartment. I saw a few species of flowers which I have never seen in my life before and thought of taking some pictures and that is why the serious post will have to wait for a few more days! 🙂

There were so may colours around that I went crazy clicking. Have a look and you’ll know what I mean! And, oh, before I leave you with the pictures, I would like to thank Archie for giving me the Treasured Blogger Award! Thank you Archie and here are a few flowers for you! 🙂

Flowers

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The blue flowers are like a ready made bouquet. They are blooming all over the city right now.

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These are leaves, not flowers, as you can see. They were green once, but then they started turning white from the boundaries(as you can see the ones in the background) and then completely white. What happens next? Will they turn Red? Orange? Or fall dead just like that? Kya Hoga! Jaldi hi dekhenge! Hum Log! Railgaadi! Railgaadi! Ahem! Sorry, got carried away!

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Rose! Thank God! One familiar flower! The Roses here are quite huge. They are infact humongous. If you are walking down a road and feel tired, you can just sit in one of them and take some rest. No kidding! And, by the way, all that water is dew drops, in case you are thinking that I spat on them to add the effect! 😛

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The bouquet again! This time in Pink! Just what you need for an angry girlfriend! 😉

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I know! This is a leaf! This was the lone red one in a huge green bunch. The outcast! Maybe the bohemian.

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I call them the red bulbs! They are the first one I see every morning because they are growing in bunches just outside by bedroom window.

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Dewdrops again. No! I did not pee on the plant! You guys are disgusting! How can you even think like that?

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Ok! This plant reminded me of Independence day. Not our independence day! 😐 The movie! The big blue ones are the large mother ships which stayed above the Earth’s atmosphere and the small blue ones are the small alien ships which were sent to fight our aircrafts! 😀 Do you think I am watching too many movies? Oh! And do you see the green leaves below? That is the Earth! Right now the alien ships are all cuddled together and having some sort of a conference as to which city to attack first.

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Do you see the small yellow insect? Well, that is the new micro robot I am working on right now. Its not perfect yet. It can’t fly(although it doesn’t need to but I am trying to add that functionality). The project was funded by Vicks Vaporub. They want a new product where this micro robot will come loaded with an advanced form of Vicks fumes. You just have to leave it into you nose and it will travel inside your body and by morning, there won’t be any trace of cold and cough.

Are you thinking where this machine will end up finally? In your commode, ofcourse!

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Capillary action at work I guess! No, I did not inject it with blue ink!

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Again not flowers! But look at all that spit dewdrops!

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Hope you liked the show! Now go and do something meaningful! 😛

Lake District

72 hours seemed to be a very long time to stare continuously at my laptop screen so a three day long bank holiday looming at the horizon spanked me into instant action last week. Discussions, Google maps, suggestions from the natives and an exhaustive search on the Internet helped me to create a rough sketch of what I wanted to see in the Lake district. Although I must confess that “Lake District” does not require such detailed Internet surfing but I like to have the details before I start. 😉

Lake District(also known as LakeLand) is an area in North West England famous for is natural beauty and its 20+ lakes and natural reservoirs. It is a very popular tourist destination and has unsurpassed and untouched natural beauty. Its a place where many poems of William Wordsworth were born and where he was finally buried.

We got up early, made some Subway style chicken sandwiches and picked up our car from the Airport and set out to explore the “real” Europe, as SRK famously said in DDLJ. I was sure that our path would keep us on the highway most of the time but we were in for a big surprise.

Our first destination was WastWater, which is the deepest lake in the district and stretches to 4.6 km. We were initially on the highway, but suddenly our path turned towards small two way roads on the hills. For an hour, we were not even sure that we were going in the right direction and blindly followed the GPS. It was thrilling and the weather added to the effect by being misty. Finally, when we reached WastWater after driving through the lush green hills, the first thing which hit us was the “untouched” natural beauty. No human intervention except for the road.

Wast Water

Someone just forgot to commercialize this beautiful lake and I was thankful. The lake was surrounded by high mountains covered in mist(this line is getting repetitive. Isn’t it?? 😐 ) with small streams of water running into it from the mountains. There were hardly any people around and we savored the quietness.

A stone bridge at WastWater, Lake District

We walked around the lake, took deep breaths and some nice shots and moved to our next destination – Grasmere.

While snaking through the hills towards Grasmere, we passed through a few small villages where we couldn’t see a single soul but a lot of animals and through pathways covered with dense trees blooming with flowers which at times swirled down as the car passed through them. Believe me, you would love to get lost in such a place. And yes, just for fun, we terrified a goat sheep too!

Shocked Goat

Grasmere is a village(the most beautiful one you can ever see) which has a lake by the same name. It became famous because of its connection with the Lake Poets and because of William Wordsworth, who lived here for 14 years and was finally buried here at the St Oswald’s Church. By the time we reached Grasmere, we were dead hungry and so after parking the car, we were searching for a place to have our lunch when my eyes fell on a perfect place to eat.

The restaurant where we had our lunch

Ducks and Grasmere

It was a small restaurant with a stream running besides it. On the other side of the stream was THE Church. I found the spot incredibly romantic. 🙂 Here is another shot.

Grasmere, where we had our lunch

We roamed around in the church after having our lunch and saw the graves of the Wordsworth family. I even bought a small handbook of poems by the famous poet.

The graves of William Wordsworth and family

We ambled around the village for sometime and the lake(where I found my dream house)…

Views around Grasmere Lake

…before moving towards our final destination – Windermere, the most commercialized lake in Lake District and England’s longest lake. Frankly speaking, I was not expecting much because I like places when they are untouched. But surprisingly, the place was not that bad. I liked it for exactly the opposite reason for which I liked Wastwater. It was crowded, with people, yachts, lakeside restaurants, ducks and boats all around. It was almost 5.30 when we reached there and there was no boat tour to Ambleside for the day, but there was a lake tour on 6.30. We took that tour and I must say that this lake has the most picturesque surrounding you can ever imagine. Check out the pictures if you don’t believe me!

Looks very romantic

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Wishful Thinking

The plants are taking over!

Old fashoined wooden boats

We finally had a quick bite before moving back to Manchester at around 8. The best part is that now a day, there is daylight till 9.30-10.00 pm and you can utilize the whole day. It was a day filled with incredible beauty and all of us loved every second of it.

p.s. I am sorry for armageddon-ing you with so many photos, but I really couldn’t make up my mind about which ones should I remove. 🙂 Oh! There is one more! 😛

Birds Inline

Over and Out!

The flowers are here!

Ever since winters have gone on a break here, Manchester has been on a color riot. I have never seen such a mind-boggling variety of flowers before and that too within a radius of a kilometer of my house. So, a brand new camera and a plethora of colours to experiment upon was reason enough for me to get started on my expedition.

Right now, the city is covered with innumerable varieties of flowers, a few of which are already been shed on the roads and parks in the form of innumerable petals. Believe me, the beauty of thousands of petals whirling on roads as the buses rush past OR the beauty of parks covered under a heavy blanket of petals with is something hard to pen down. So, here goes.

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The city has an overdose of the pink flowered trees. Don’t ask me the names because I don’t have the slightest clue. During the months of April/May, the trees will be filled with such pink coloured flowers which would later fall and adorn the streets and parks. More photographs later.

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Tulips are another favourite here. You will find them in the gardens of numerable houses.

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These Lotus shaped flowers are also abundant. These are also the first ones to fall. The trees look really beautiful completely covered with them.

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The grass all around the city is covered with these very tiny yellow flowers. 

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When I saw these blue flowers, I thought, they should be called Bluebells. And voila! That was their name.

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Well, this is what I was talking about. The pink flowered trees. This is a park near Rusholme. I got down from the bus to take a stroll and was awestruck by the beauty. And can you see the petals strewn over the ground?

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No? Have a closer look!!

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Well, that was it. Before going, I would also like to add two of my favourite photos from my collection. They are nowhere related to the topic of the post but are worth sharing. The first one is that of a cemetery near my house. Somehow it reminds me of a huge dormitory where all the children are sleeping. 🙂

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The second one is that of the Manchester Eye. I love the clouds at the backdrop!

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That is all gents and ladies. Over and out.

p.s. If you want any of these photos, just let me know.