The Orchard

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I wake up abruptly. The cool winds and the peace of the orchard make me want to sleep some more. But the string cot is uncomfortable. I open my eye’s and look up at the mango tree under which I am lying.

The mangoes are still raw. It would take another couple of months for them to turn into sweet juicy goodness. I see two birds on this tree. They seem to be fighting. I turn my head and see the litchi trees around me. The worker’s are picking up the fruit that we need to take back home with us. I’v had my share of litchi’s today. Climbing up trees all day had left my legs sore.

I close my eye’s again but sleep deceives me. I get up and start walking around. The orchard belong to my grandfather. There are litchi and mango trees. We are here after nearly a decade. It’s been so long but the tree’s are still the same. Nothing has changed here. It’s like time has stood still.

The chief of the worker’s that we have employed at the orchard is still here. He’s supervising the work. Making sure that the fruit is not harmed while picking it from the tree’s and is packed correctly. Litchi is a delicate fruit. He know’s it can go bad in no time.

I look at him working away. He has aged a lot. But his voice still has the same booming quality that was there 10 year’s ago. That hasn’t changed.

We have to go back today. I feel sad about leaving. The peace of this place make’s me want to stay here for some more days.

It had rained yesterday. That is the reason the worker’s are here working overtime. Rain’s are not good for the fruit at this time.

But the heat has been wiped away with the onset of the monsoon. I take off my flip flops and walk bare feet on the wet grass.

My family is at the other end of the orchard. They are putting the boxes full of litchi in our car.

It’s time to go. I look around one last time and take in the serenity of the place, promising myself to not wait for another decade to come back here.

 

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Christmas In Western India

I’ve reached the beautiful state of Gujarat this morning spending Christmas Eve in a train.

I personally love train journey’s. But air travel being so convenient and affordable, train travel has become a luxury for me. Any body who has ever been to India and has travelled by the Indian railways would agree with me that it is an experience in itself.

Our booking was in the sleeper class in a what we call the 2nd AC. It means that there would be two parallel berths one above the other and you can travel comfortably and sleep. Though we had booked our tickets two months in advance, we were stuck in the waiting list.

The Indian railways makes a chart two hours before the departure of the train and that is when you come two know of your fate in the train. We were given just two berths. The meals would be provided for all four of us, but the berths were just two. We were pretty bummed out after we saw the list but we were assured by everyone around us that we would get the other two berths if we just try and convince the ticket checker.

Yes, the ticket checker is god Indian railways.

So we went to the railway station and got into the train. We were served soup before the ticket checker arrived. My dad convinced him to give us one more berth. So four people, three berths.

The next thing we did was to convince somebody in our compartment to see if they could adjust somehow. And that is when a group of college students came forward and offered us one of their berth because they did’nt plan to sleep all night.

We were just lucky to get that extra berth. Believe me, people guard their berths as if their lives depended on them. And getting that one berth is like winning a lottery.

With our suitcases locked and secured we tried to get comfortable in our berths. I repeat, we tried.

Why you ask?

Because we got corridor berths and they are smaller and narrower that the normal berths. So my dad, who is larger than an average person found it really difficult to fit comfortably into it. My mom and sister slept peacefully all night.
I on the other hand was up nearly all night. I can never sleep in trains. I’m always too excited to get any sleep. Also there was a baby in the adjacent berth who swore to cry every time I fell asleep. I really pity his mom. The poor woman kept trying to get him to sleep. And to say nothing of the stations that kept coming and the people that kept boarding and de boarding the train. To say that they were loud is an understatement.

So all. I could do was to get out my headphones and listen to my favourite music all night. I did managed some eye shut period in between.

The train stewards woke up everyone at 6 in the morning with bed tea before we reached a major station. Two hours later after I had hogged down the breakfast I finally fell asleep for like 40 minutes before the speaker in the train loudly announced in three languages that we had reached Ahmedabad. And my journey to one of the most colourful states of India began.

Race Against Time- Part 2

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You can read Part 1 of this post here

We were standing on the platform at 5 in the evening thinking we would catch the train.

If only I could explain to how the look uncle and my dad gave me and Mj. It was neither angry nor amused. I just couldn’t put a finger on what kind of expression it was.  And all this was because we had booked these tickets two months back and did not notice this huge  error.

After these two grown ups cribbed about “how the kids these days can do no job correctly” and ”it is a mistake to leave any job for us”, dad suggested that we catch the next bus that leaves for New Delhi. So we headed toward the inter state bus terminal. On the way we also tried our luck at finding any air tickets but all were sold out.

Me and Mj just quietly listened all the cribbing and vowed never to book another train ticket in our life. Well this vow was actually taken by Mj because according to uncle this was the third time he had made such an error. And the worst part is, dad and uncle had almost cancelled this trip so just me and Mj were supposed to come here. I just could not imagine what would have been their reaction to this blunder if it would have been just the two of us here.

We reached the bus terminal and booked our tickets for the bus that left Amritsar at 9:30 pm. Uncle and dad glared at us saying that we would have crossed more than half our journey by that time if we had not missed the train.

But now, there was nothing for us to do but wait around for another 4 hours before we boarded the bus. And the things that popped in my mind on hearing that were Pictures of the Gurudwara at night, Punjabi Jutti’s, and Amritsari fish fry.

Yeah sure I was upset and all about the train thing but the excitement of being able to spend another 4 hours in Amritsar was way more overpowering

So we took a rickshaw and headed back to the gurudwara where me n Mj happily clicked away for another one hour, and this time without being hurried along.

And then came the jutti’s. I went bonkers with all the designs and colours. (Tip- If you ever visit Amritsar, make sure you buy a pretty pair of embroidered jutti. They are beautiful. Oh! and for all those who don’t know this, Jutti’s are the Indian version of ballerina’s)

I would have spent a lot more time browsing through the various designs had I not been accompanied by three men who kept pointing to me that all looked same and I should hurry up and buy whichever I liked.

So I bought a beautiful pink pair and then we rushed to the supposedly best restaurant which served some great fish fry. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. Iv had way much better fish fry in Delhi. We kept complaining about the fish only to discover that we were again late for the bus. And this time there was no rickshaw to take us to the terminal.

We could not spot a single rickshaw, and uncle suggested that we start walking towards the terminal and look for the rickshaw in the way. He said we should walk but believe me we ran. And we ran like people possessed. I bless my stars that we found a rickshaw within 3 minutes of running or else we would have to leave my dad behind because he really is not the running kind of person.

We reached the bus terminal in good time, found our bus and crashed into the reclining seats , hoping and praying that nobody sits behind us so that we can recline the seats as far as possible and  sleep all the way.

We could not. Because the bus was full and me n Mj just could not go to sleep, so we chatted all the way and fell asleep for like just two hours. We reached Delhi at 5 in the morning. And from the bus terminal we took an auto rickshaw to the railway station where we had parked our car and finally went back home. I don’t remember much after that cause I reached home, kept my bag on the side table and knocked out on my bed for the next 12 hours.

Race Against Time- Part 1

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I’m sorry for being off the radar for a few days. I’v been juggling college, office and a quick trip to Amritsar these days. Needless to say now I’m exhausted.

This trip to Amritsar was planned 2 months back. It was supposed to be a quick one with us leaving early morning and coming back at night the same day on Sunday. But I had no idea what was in store for me.

We were four people travelling together. Me, my dad, our family friend and his son MJ. So we reached the railway station early and got settled in the train for the 6 hour journey. Now, I’m usually very exited to travel in trains but the moment I settle in I start feeling extremely sleepy. I had planned to click a lot of pictures on the way but I just ended up being really really drowsy all the way. No amount of crosswords, Ludo, and chamomile tea could help me stay up.

The only pictures I managed to click were of the railway stations and that too because of a bunch of overexcited British tourists who used to bring out their camera’s the moment we stopped at any station. It is thanks to them that I too got motivated to move my butt and bring out my camera. 

We reached Amritsar exactly on time. Now, MJ’s dad is  REALLY particular about time.  And since we literally had just three and a half hours in Amritsar, he made us dash out of the train to catch an auto rickshaw for the Golden Temple. We were actually running after him. And to say nothing of the poor driver who he kept prompting to drive fast. 

When we reached the Golden Temple we raced to get off our shoes, deposit our bags, get out our camera’s and lenses, and just ran inside. The Golden Temple is usually crowded on Sunday’s because people form the nearby cities and villages come there for ‘Darshan’.

MJ and I had planned this as a photo trip. We wanted to capture as many pictures as possible of the city and the Golden Temple. But we had no idea we would be just running to get in to the line to get inside the temple. We did manage to click some pictures. It was a bright sunny November morning so the pictures did turn out pretty decent. 

It took us one and a half hours in the line to get inside the temple. We said a quick prayer, gave our offerings to the priest and moved on. It was so crowded we could hardly say inside for 15 minutes.

When we checked our clocks, we realised we just didn’t have any time for ‘Langar’. So we came out of the Temple and decided to have lunch at ‘Kesar Da Dhaba’. It is a really famous place in Amritsar which serves authentic ‘Dal Makhni’ which is cooked in a traditional way on the tandoor. It takes 12 hours for this dal to ready. 

We didn’t have time to walk to that place so we took a battery operated rickshaw. Now Mj’s dad instructed that driver to drive as fast as he could because we had to catch a train soon after lunch. And that chap drove like a crazy possessed man. Amritsar is a really old city with narrow lanes and this chap drove at such a high speed that we just hung on to our dear lives and hoped and prayed that we don’t smash into someone. 

Me and MJ enjoyed this ride but my dad, who is not fond of high speeds especially in such narrow lane kept screaming at the driver to slow down, but that just made him drive more fast much to the horror of my dad!

We reached the Dhaba in a record 4 minutes. MJ’s dad gave us clear instruction to eat as fast as possible and then rush towards the railway station to catch our train. He actually made us gobble down our food so that we are not late. The dal was delicious and despite the fact that we were late,(According to uncle. According to us we had a good buffer time to reach the station safely) we follwed the dal with some equally delicious Phirni (A Kashmiri rice pudding). 

The journey to the station was equally fun for us and torturous for my dad because uncle made the driver go as fast as the poor rickshaw could go. We reached the railway station and ran towards the platform. The train was already there and people were scrambling to check the confirmation lists. We had a confirmed ticket so me and MJ just got into the train, found our seats and just crashed into them because we were so tired of running. We were just about to keep our bags on the overhead racks when uncle came in telling us that our name is not on the confirmation list. At that very moment a family of four came and said that the sets on which we were sitting were theirs and they too had a confirmed ticket. Confused, we got off the train to look for a ticket checker. 

When we found one, we showed him our tickets. He gave them a look, smiled and told us that we were late for our train. When we gave him a weird look he explained that we had the tickets for the train that left Amritsar at 5 am that morning. And we were standing on the platform at 5 in the evening thinking we would catch the train.