Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 5:

Today I visited Sonar Kella. Today I did something that I was dying to do ever since I was eight. But guess what? I'M NOT HAPPY! Jaisalmer is a small town. Built around the fortress. But it was unknown to the world before Satyajit Ray's film Sonar Kella. And now 80% population of this town is made of the tourists. Tourism is the major source of income to the people living here. Therefore it is quite obvious that the people here almost worship Satyajit Ray. Most of the visitors are Bengalis and the people here are pretty fluent in Bengali. The effect of the film is so much that the original name of the fort has been obliterated. Its now called Sonar Kella, and while I was walking past a shop selling yellow sandstone bowls, the shopkeeper called me and asked me, "sonar pathor bati nibe?"

So as you can see, Sonar Kella owes its popularity to Satyajit Ray and the people here owe there living to the tourists attracted by the film. And they blatantly own this fact. The Bengalis have a different sentiment attached to this place. Therefore, its not wrong to say that the Sonar Kella is as much our as Jaisalmer's. Yet, what do you see when you enter the fort? Let me tell you. You see vendors selling all kinds of artefacts everywhere, the walls of the fort donned by colourful dresses, shoes, you see people thronging everywhere, you see the walls defaced by writing, paan spits, you see hotels and restaurants eveywhere(!), you see people residing in the houses everywhere, people washing clothes, hanging them, people cleaning the floors, you see A.C's, you here the noise of washing machines, you here the sounds of the radios, televisions, you get sprinkled by soap water (like me!), and you spend most of your time by avoiding getting pushed by dirty, smelly cows! And mind you, you find all these inside our very own Sonar Kella. There is a whole lot of people still living there, although it has been declared a national property, who exist there only to turn our beautiful Sonar Kella to a dirty, crowded place from inside. As a result, while inside the fort, if you are a fervent Feluda reader like me, you feel like throwing yourself from one of the high battlements of the fort (like me!) and end this agony! I dont want to talk about the experience anymore. I dont want to dwell upon the memory!

Next we went to Patwanji ki Haveli. A well maintained structure. Atleast better than Sonar Kella, successfully reflecting the once prosoerous living that it witnessed. It is from a shop here that I bought my sonar pathor bati! After this, we went to see a beautiful lake, called the Gadisar Lake. Its really refreshing to see such a beautiful amidst the arid desert! A desert oasis. Then we went to Akal Wood Fossil Park, 15 kilometres from Jaisalmer. Here we saw the fossils of trees which existed in the lower Jurassic Era, and when there was a rainforest in Rajasthan! After this, our hunt for cheap sandstone artefacts begun. We went to a factory in their search. But we failed to secure them at a lower price. Afterwards, we went through the various alleyways of the town in search of them but we failed. Ultimately we had to back to the previous shop to do the rest of my shopping. Then it was time to return to the hotel. After a tiring day, we retired to our room with heavy hearts. Our Sonar Kella is lost. And we seriously need to give it back its original beauty. Its our responsibility as Indians.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 4:
Today was the most fabulous day so far. Seriously, if you are eager to visit Rajasthan, make sure you visit Jaisalmer. It is the only place where you can have the complete desert experience. And I have'nt yet seen Sonar Kella! I mean I have seen it, but from outside.

Today we started early. At eight o'clock we were on the road headed for Jaisalmer from Bikaner. On the way we halted at Ramdeora and went past Pokhran. A few kilometres from Pokharan we stopped to have our lunch in a roadside dhaba. We were still about a hundred kilometres away from Jaisalmer. A few kilometres from Jaisalmer I had my first glimpse of Sonar Kella. Words can't describe my excitement at the sight of it! It is a huge fortress with an entire village inside it! But the real surprise was to come later. When we reached our hotel, it took me a lot of effort to tear off my sight from the Sonar Kella to look at the hotel. It's just opposite to the fortress! There is a wonderful view of the fortress from the hotel terrace. And I didn't miss the opportunity to take pictures of it!

Afterwards at around five o'clock in the evening we started for Sam, 45 kilometres from Jaisalmer. It is the point from where the Thar Desert starts. Near this point there are many resorts where you can stay in tents. We chose rather not to. In the desert the cold is unbearable after nightfall. But we did have some experience. I rode on a camel for two kilometres! It was fabulous! And while others were riding two on one I rode alone! I'm so very proud of myself! After this we saw sunset in the desert. I tried to stay for long after sun down but sadly that's not allowed so we came back to the resort where we saw live performance of Rajasthani folk music and dance. While sitting there we were served tea, coffee and snacks. Some of my favourite Rajasthani folk songs were performed by the singers like Kesariya Balam, Nimbooda, Dhol Baaje. But the cold was too much. My hands were growing stiff. Atlast we decided to take our dinner and go back to Jaisalmer. The dinner was a complete Rajasthani one. I tasted the famous dal bati churma for the first time, although I didn't like it much. Then we made our way through the desert and the night to Jaisalmer. That drive was out of the world! Starry night sky, desert and moon. What else do you want? I, of course, wanted my boyfriend there! Missed him a lot. But you cant have all things at once. I mean, life's good at times, but it's never perfect!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 3:

Today was not much eventful. We started our day at about 10 o'clock in the morning and first went to see the Junagarh Fort of Bikaner. The experience was wonderful! Took as many pictures as I could. Didn't want to miss out on anything! The immensity and the beauty of it was out of the world. Sometimes I feel so jealous of the kings and queens who actually lived in those palaces. The city of Bikaner was founded by Bikaji Rao in the 1400s and this fort was built by his successors. The foundation of the fort was laid in the 15oos and slowly it was completed by various kings after 35o years! Later, during the early years of the 20th century the ruling king left the fort and moved to the Lalgarh Palace, a few kilometres away, built by him in imitation of the fort. From that day to this day, the Royal Family resides in this palace, although a huge part of it is now occupied by a hotel.

After this we went to have lunch. Tasted Rajasthani Gatta Curry. It was delicious! Then we went to the Karni Mata Temple, a few kilometres from Bikaner. The specialty of this temple is that it is filled with..... mice! Yes, dirty, little, scurrying relatives of our sweet Stuart Little, who are not at all good-looking and civilised as him, and who show no inhibition in running over your feet! It was a horrible experience. It is said that among the innumerable brown mice if you catch a glimpse of the white mouse, you get lucky. My father was the lucky one but he is yet to see the effect!

Our next destination was the Lalgarh Fort. There is a museum inside it dedicated to the rulers of Bikaner to this day. It was good but not that interesting. We came back to the hotel in the evening. No more going out today. Tomorrow it'll be an early start. Destination Jaisalmer. Sonar Kella calling!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 2:
The trip to Bikaner was a long one. We started at 9 o’clock in the morning and reached at 7:30 in the evening! Of course we made a lot of detours. First we went to see a temple which is called the Baabrik Temple. I don’t much like temples. I always find them over-crowded and dirty. But there was something funny about this one. It had three air-conditioners in it! The next stop, sadly for me, was also a temple, the Balaji Temple at Salesar on the way to Bikaner. This temple was also special in a way. The outer temple was built of silver and the inner main one was of gold! But I couldn’t get a photograph of it. Camera was not aloud inside. After this, we decided to have lunch. Menu was simple. Butter naan, Dal Tadka, Paneer Pudina Masala and Raita (note, no non-veg), but the paneer preparation was exceptionally tasty! Later we went to a deer park. But before that we went to a place where peacocks were abundant. This was inside a school complex. A very hospitable man welcomed us inside and offered us chairs to sit in the garden and cool water. And later when we bid him goodbye, he gave us peacock feathers! It was very nice of him.
The deer park experience was pretty good. Made a lot of them run away from me whenever I tried to approach them. But wonder why they ran! I was not smiling or showing my teeth, I’m sure of that! But then it was time for the camels. Camels are so common in Rajasthan that you get used to them very easily. I think I made one pee out of fear while I was standing beside it. After it moved away there was a puddle of water on the road where it stood! Then it was a long drive. Had tea twice on road. And dal pakora. It was from a roadside stall, but very tasty. Afterwards, after sun down, we went to another temple. And even this one was special in a way. It was a replica of the Vaishno Devi Temple in Katra. Then we went directly to Bikaner. The hotel here is very good. It’s inside the Lalgarh Palace Complex. The restaurant area is fabulous with live Rajasthani dance and music. Tomorrow its time for the Bikaner fort and I’m eagerly looking forward to it. It’ll be my first fort experience in Rajasthan.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Day 1:
Needless to say, it was a very active day, and the result is that I’m completely exhausted! Woke up at three o’clock in the morning to get ready to catch the flight to Mumbai at six in the morning! In fact I was so excited that I really couldn’t get a proper sleep. Airport looked very busy as always. I was really dumbstruck to see so many people up and about at a time which I normally spend sleeping and snoring! Anyway, the journey to Mumbai was quite pathetic. Unfortunately we were among the last passengers to report and as a result I got the seat next to the toilet! And guess what? It was never empty for a minute at a stretch! Moreover I had an empty stomach and until breakfast my entire body felt like my ear--- senseless and empty. But the best part of the torture was the fact that the television in front of me was playing Kambakht Ishq!
We reached Mumbai at nine o’clock and our flight to Jaipur was scheduled to leave at 2:30 in the afternoon. So here was the big challenge--- how to spend five and a half hours in waiting? The idea of sitting opposite to each other and looking at each other seemed alright for the first few minutes but not more than that. Hence we decided to kill time by visiting Juhu Beach. This idea seemed brilliant till its execution. I’ve never seen such a boring beach ever in my life! The sea was boring with no waves at all. The beach was comparatively empty. It was so hot that I was reminded of summer in Kolkata, the sun was unbearable, and the beach was DIRTY! We couldn’t spend more than ten minutes there. After that our autowallah took us to see Jalsa, Amitabh Bachchan’s house. (You must be wondering why Jalsa and why not Mannat?). Well, the answer is simple. Mannat is in Bandra, miles away from the airport and Jalsa was on the way back to the airport from Juhu. Well, I didn’t find anything mentionable in Jalsa, in fact, I didn’t even see it properly! Well, all this little adventures or misadventures didn’t even last an hour. And we came back to the airport by 11:30. But this single hour cost us Rs 225! (It is Mumbai, meri jaan!) Then we decided to have a little food. Refreshment coupons were provided by our airline. But people, don’t get your hopes high by the mere mention of ‘food’. It is Mumbai and the food is vegetarian. And let me also mention that Rajasthan is no better! I have already checked the menu card of our hotel and there is not a single non-veg dish! Poor me! Anyway, after a boring cheese and corn sandwich lunch, I attempted to sleep in the waiting area, but it was of no avail because the seats were uncomfortable and the other passengers were very loud.
At one o’clock in the afternoon, we decided to go for checking. It was a short business and afterwards we again waited for an hour. Then ultimately we were allowed to board the plane. Happy news, this time I got a decent window seat and this time the film was Love Aajkal! But I decided to concentrate more on the window and the views it provided until the clouds covered all. But this time again, the food was vegetarian! Anyway, this journey was short and within one and a half hour we reached Jaipur. Here the weather is pretty cool, the dominant colour is pink. No wonder it is called the ‘pink’ city. But it is as yet unexplored to me because after reaching the hotel we didn’t bother to go out. We plan to get a good rest tonight so that we can start early tomorrow. Tomorrow, it is destination Bikaner!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I don’t know whether death is truly the end that it is meant to be. I don’t know whether death is just a purgatory leading to a new life. All I know is that to me, death is harmless. Just like true love, it is one of those few processes of nature which exist to meet the very ends that they repeatedly fail to meet every time they occur. Death is definitely not the end of an existence. The death of a creator is definitely not the end of his creations. The death of a propagator is certainly not the end of his thoughts. The death of a philosopher is never the death of his visions. The death of a man is not the death of his hopes and his dreams. The death of a life is not the end of its existence. Men die, we die, only to become immortal through the legacy that we leave behind. We leave our children, our creations, our words, our promises, our hopes, our dreams, our deeds, our possessions and all those nearest and dearest objects which complete us, make us what we are. Through which, for which and by which we live our life. The objects, the people, the ideas that death totally fails to wipe out from the face of the earth. Then in what way are we taken away from this world by death? If all those things that made us whole and all those things that made us live, outlive us, then how do we die? How do we end? We often use the phrase, ‘the circle of life’… but is there a beginning or an end to a circle? No. There is only continuity. It is a continuous journey without an end. True, the physicality of life is not strong enough to meet the requirements of eternity. True, the creation of God is not up to the mark to last the eternity. But the creation of man is indestructible, invincible. The creation of man, his ideas, his values, his hopes, dreams and his legacy are there forever, and through them he lives forever. Just close your eyes and try to remember all those ‘dead’ people who mattered to you. Do you see them in your mind? If yes, then how are they dead? They live in our love, they live in our hatred. They live through us. They are never dead, because we are never dead, and we are never dead because we outlive the parents who create us from their own elements and we walk the path prepared for us by our predecessors. We continue the journey of life that has no end.