Wednesday, June 26, 2013

“Delhi @ 47 degree” : Odyssey to Paradise on Earth (Part 1)

“Sir, there is no electricity. The AC won’t be working for another 10 minutes” said the front office person, after giving the keys of our room. This wouldn’t have been a problem in normal circumstances. But, what if the temperature is touching 47 degree Celsius. It was the first “jolt” for us. 

New Delhi got the maximum recorded temperature this year, exactly on the day we landed. We means my wife, son, daughter and myself. The rooms were booked in Hotel Walnut Castle at Karol Bagh as advised by a travel agent back in Thiruvananthapuram, who sounded quite knowledgeable then. 

Once we stepped into the room we got second “jolt”. A mint sized room, sufficient for a single person occupancy is allotted for a family of four. We even had paid for an extra bed and the only place extra bed could be placed was in the bathroom. 

Made a call to the agent who booked this for us and after spending some time on phone,
understood that he is not able to make a change and we were taken for a ride. 10 minutes of no electricity was extended to 30 minutes. Still no sign of electricity and kids began to grow restless. They are not used to this kind of temperature. 

The only thing of interest in this hotel seem to be huge chandelier hung in its portico.

Our plan for the day was to visit Qutab Minar, Red Fort, Lotus Temple, Raj Ghat, India Gate, Jama Mosque etc and had booked a taxi Indica for the same. To get some much needed AC, called up the driver and he promptly turned up. 

Stepped into the taxi cab, which seemed to be taken from a pile of garbage a short while ago. It was an AC cab, but once it is switched on, found that simply blowing out air also can be called as an AC cab. Jolt number three for us !! 

Called up the travel agency in Delhi who arranged this taxi and soon found out that talking with him only eats up the roaming mobile charge and nothing else is possible. We were in need of finding a place where it is cool, atleast a temperature of 36 degrees. Our skins were getting that burning sensation. No humidity means we were not sweating too. If we were sweating, at least that would have given us some relief. 

Our much anticipated vacation had started on a negative note. 

The kids wanted to go much far away than the usual places which we visit in Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. Hence we arranged for this trip to the northern most state of India Kashmir. Our stay in Delhi was for one day as we couldn’t get tickets for Srinagar on the same day. 
Also thought, we could visit some places in Delhi too, which figured in my son’s social studies text book last year.

“Driver ji aap zara kisi achi hotel mein rukhiey, jaham AC chaalu hey”, I requested using all my Hindi knowledge. He nodded but the same process (my request and his nod) looped atleast 5 times and consumed another 30 minutes before he finally stopped near a restaurant – Red Onion. 

Finally we got into a place where AC is up and soon we felt like we found heaven. Spent an hour or so eating out even though the bill read a whopping Rs. 1600. This is for having two plates of rice items, roti, one vegetarian dish and one non vegetarian dish. 

Are Delhi hotels this expensive or are the travellers charged differently? 

But we were not complaining because of the solace it provided us from the scorching heat. 

Off to our first location – “The Qutab Minar” the magnificent and tallest minaret in India, built by mughal rulers Qutub ud din Aibak and Iltutmish. Stepped out of the car and my son was literally pleading to go back to the hotel as the heat was becoming unbearable. Somehow convinced him to take a look around the complex and the beautifully maintained park. 

The minaret was standing majestically.

The other medieval buildings in the complex were also beautifully maintained.

The lawns were green in color. The heat was not making us enjoy the scenes though.

If it was in December or January this place would have looked wonderful.

It was a wonderful sight to see Aeroplanes flying past the minaret kissing its top.

The pillars of the building around had beautiful carvings and it read aloud the mastery of the men who built it.

I visited this place 15 years back and this place is still maintained pristinely. Back then we had spent half a day here. Today we left this place within half an hour. 

Once inside the car we requested the driver to take us back to the hotel. Now the driver had done some repair work in the car and the AC was working. It was not chilling but nevertheless it was much better than earlier. This made us rethink our plan to go back to the hotel. 

We decided to go to a place where we can sit in shade. This made us come straight to the lotus temple. But once we stepped inside the gate, found that we had to walk atleast 1 km to reach its entrance in scorching heat. There was beautiful garden around but the walk was horrific.

Put on whatever material we had to cover up our heads and slowly treaded towards the temple amidst pleas from the kids to go back. The lotus temple is an architectural marvel.

Eventhough temperature was this high there was no reduction in the number of tourists. After the melee to keep the shoes in a store, stepped inside the huge hall which is meant for silent prayer. On the way in,there is a pool, which looked beautiful.

This place is cool naturally without any AC, thanks to the magnanimous structure with perfect airflow. Sat there for an hour or so trying to keep aside our already perplexed mind set because of the jolts we were getting. And believe me it really helped. 
We were ready to take everything in our stride as we stepped out of the temple for we had another 6 days of vacation. If the jolts take us to a negative mindset this whole vacation will prove futile. 

Once we stepped in the taxi we unanimously asked the driver to take us back to our hotel. He promptly agreed. 
But the taxi came to a halt in front of what looked like a commercial complex and the driver announced 
“This is a government of India enterprise and you get quality blankets, carpets, shawls, sarees etc at a best price. Just take a look and come back”. 

At the entrance itself stood a smiling person who invited us inside and told us to have a look at their products. We told him that we have no intention of buying. He was more than courteous and told us that there is no need to buy anything. Some beautiful blankets were thrown open in our front, the salesman was blah blahing about its advantages, sarees were shown, shawls were shown prices of all seemed to touch the sky. Eventhough we told that we do not use blankets back home the salesman was trying to convince us to buy something. It seemed like we were not affirmative enough and he was making us of the situation. Finally he somehow conviced us to buy to two sarees, cost of which came to around Rs. 4000. 

Keeping the sarees there we went to take a look at their art emporium. Meanwhile the guy who greeted came along and began to blah blah about the advantages and the cost effectiveness of buying from Government of India Enterprise. Since he was again and again telling about Govt of India, I asked whether he is a regular employee of the centre and he said yes. So I requested his Identity card, for if this is a Government of India Enterprise then his identity card would say so. 
His mood changed and he began telling that they are not given identity cards. I smelt something fishy here and immediately wanted to leave this place. The guys face changed he started to threaten that we have to take the saree, which we already kept aside. This threatening awakened me and I affirmatively told him that even if we liked the saree we are not taking just because he lied and walked away. 

Once inside the car, the driver went inside the shop and came back with a depression in his face. It was quite clear that he went inside to get his commission which he didn’t get. I could see that all the travellers in their taxis are being brought there and the same lies are again being said. Some might fall and some might not. 

Back at hotel the AC was working, they somehow squeezed an extra bed in the room. Gave two thali meals for a family of four. Had to request them twice to get us an extra meal and finally the first day of our tour ended with bitter memories. Next day morning we had to fly to Srinagar !! 

It was one of the worst starts for a much anticipated tour, but still "expectations galore" since Srinagar is said to be a wholly different world - "A PARADISE ON EARTH". 


Justin said...

Interesting reading.......I always enjoy your articles.
Justin Kerala

Anonymous said...

waiting to read the Kashmir story

Anonymous said...

Very eventful journey indeed :D

Summers are harsh in Delhi and your bad luck added to the woes. But Delhi has much more to offer, some 1300 odd protected monuments to start with!

And the taxi driver did really con you with both restaurant & the shopping choices, there are better places.

Next time, do feel free to connect for any help here :)

Beautiful clicks!

shivangi kapoor said...

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Anonymous said...

so sad..a person like u missed tajmahal in Delhi


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