The North Indian Diary

22nd Jun 2016

Hello guys, I would like to share with you about my recent trip to Rishikesh with my beloved friends Nivesh Bandi and Pooja Jain

It was one of the most remarkable trips which I had in my recent times

Day 1

So talking about our journey, we took a direct flight from Mumbai to Delhi, we were lucky enough to get free breakfast at the airport lounge.

Excited for the trip

Photo of Domestic Airport Terminal 1-B, Vile Parle East, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Malhar Lakdawala

From the airport we took self driven Myles car Toyota Etios, which was our companion for next 5 days. The unlimited kilometers feature gave us the independence to plan on the go.

We visited India Gate and Qutub Minar in Delhi, we were lucky enough to visit this place during the day, as there was less crowd, but yeah the sun above was draining us. By noon, we started our drive towards Haridwar.

We were able to cover 200kms distance to Haridwar by evening we reached the “Har Ki Pauri” ghat where the evening arti takes place.

Ganga Arti

Photo of Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We were welcomed by mammoth of a crowd who was waiting there for the arti to start. People were offering diyas in the Ganga river, families taking dips in the river to wash off their sins, the volunteers were energizing the ground by the constant chanting of river Ganga. As soon as the arti started, the crowd became very excited and everyone was keen to take the darshan. The arti lasted for 15 mins with a mix of chaotic and peaceful moments.

We found a still place on the banks of the river, where we settled ourselves. The calm river flowing in the front, the dim light in the atmosphere and the slow music played in the background gave a feeling that the time is running very slow. We lost our pace of time and got very late while reaching Rishikesh.

At 10 pm we checked in. The manager suggested having dinner at a newly opened Pure Soul Café. It was an Organic Café, with a splendid view of the valley and a beautiful swimming pool. Light breeze, cool atmosphere, and great ambiance created a very warm atmosphere.

We ordered Chef’s special Himalayan rice and club Sandwich. The garnishing was mundane, but as soon as we had the first bite of it, we went crazy, we were able to experience the depth of flavors. Each bite was mouthwatering, and it craved for more. We called the chefs and appreciated the delicious food they had prepared. By the time, we ended our meal, Bandi was so happy that he came up with a business plan to open a similar café in Mumbai with the help of these chefs (He kept on pestering me for next 2 days to open this café in Mumbai). I don't know when was the last time I had such a good appetizing food.

Day 2

Next day we went on to experience one of the most adventurous activities of our lifetime, “The Bungee Jump”. After the 1 hour drive from the city, we reached the site, Jumpin Heights. After the documentation procedure and the safety briefing, we went on to the bridge.

I'll tell you my part of the story, untill this moment I was very calm and relaxed. I felt there is nothing to worry, it is just another activity which has to be completed. So I went on the bridge, harnessed myself, asked Pooja and Bandi to jump first, cheered them.. untill this point no issue. no problem at all.

But when the moment came when I had to actually walk to the edge and lean over the bridge, My God, I lost it.

I don't know how to say, but I had no control over myself. One can see the mountains, one can see the valleys, but dare not see the ground, which is 83m below.

There were goosebumps all over my body, I became blank for a moment, the instructor was giving instructions on how to jump, etc but I was not able to even able to focus. "You should keep your feet together, knees should not bend, etc".. but I was not even able to absorb it.

The moment came in, the instructor asked me to jump on the count of 3, and there it was "3… 2…. Bungggeeee" lol.. I was not able to jump. Pooja and Bandi kept on encouraging me for the jump, but I was not getting the pulse of it. I calmed myself down, closed my eyes, took deep breaths, leaned forward one more time, just allowed my body for a free fall..... and done that was it.

Somehow I managed to jump. The freefall was amazing, you go down, then get pulled up due to elasticity, again down again up for few iterations. Though this activity is for a short duration of time, but standing on the edge to prepare oneself seems ages. That moment is fresh even today.

I am glad that the video did not capture the audio, else I would not have been in a position to post it over here ;-) Bandi and Pooja were waiting for me, and three of us were so happy after the jump. It was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara moment for us. Though technically my jump was not proper, still I was happy that I did it, will work on the technicalities later.

Afternoon, returning back it felt like we have conquered the Baap of all adventure sports, somehow other activities viz. Rock Climbing, River Crossing seemed cakewalk (No.. they are not).

Post the Jump, we went for India’s most popular White water river rafting activity, in the River Ganga. The water was very chilled, it was ice cold. We inched ourselves in it, step-by-step. Somehow we managed to go through the water and enter our raft. After the safety briefing, we were taken directly into Class-5 rapid. It was definitely amazing but risky.

Hits & bumps from here and there, water coming continuously in the raft and the joy of eating hot Maggi near the banks of the river when we were completely drenched was amazing.

We also jumped into the river and swam along with it. Technically our sins are washed off too.

Photo of River Rafting in Rishikesh, Mayur Vihar, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Malhar Lakdawala

After One hour ride, we finally reached the shore.

For dinner, we were looking for a quirky place where we usually would not have dined, if we were in Mumbai. Somebody suggested “Freedom Café”. So we started searching for this place. It was around 10.30 pm, the walk to the cafe through Laxman Jhoola was a bit of a scary experience. The lane towards the restaurant was very narrow and seemed creepy, but the recommendations given by others gave us some courage. The restaurant had an Indian style sitting, on the banks of the river. The view of the river from the restaurant was very pleasant. The place was conquered by hippies who were engrossed in playing and singing Bollywood Retros on the Guitar. It was an amusing experience to enjoy the music on the banks of the river. The crowd joined in for the music too, well, who would miss on Sayonee and Maaeri.

Day 3

Next day we started our drive towards Mussoorie the roads were very beautiful. The drive was more enjoyable as the weather was cloudy. We took a halt at Dehradun and saw a signboard stating Guchhupani 3kms inside, with a shady photo on it. Pooja insisted that we should go and check out this place. I and Bandi were quite skeptical on this. Never heard of this place, nobody ever mentioned this, should we go inside or no was the question. Due to Pooja’s insistence, we went inside. It was a 3km narrow road drive to reach to a place captured by families. I murmured “this is a family picnic spot, we seem to be out of place”, the insistence was collaborative now, "let's go inside since we have come untill this point". The place proved our apprehensions very wrong. It was a river cave, which had been formed due to a crack in the mountains. One feels excited while walking in the river and going through the mountain passage. The passage is small and narrow and two huge mountains on both sides makes it ok for 4 people to pass through at a time. It was like a mini Grand Canyon which one can explore through. One would be sad to have missed it. Later on, my friend Poojan pinged, did you happen to see the robbers cave I said Indeed. PS - Later we realized it was #1 Things to do Place in Dehradun. Sometimes accidents are pleasant too.

Photo of Robber's Cave, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Mussoorie’s ghat is one of the most challenging ghats, I have driven. it's around 25 kilometers long ghat but its fun to drive. The challenge with this ghat is, though you are a good driver but people over here are nasty; they will not Honk on blind turns, they will overtake you on the risky roads and to top it all they will abuse you for driving slow. I was like what the hell :-|

If you want a more challenging road then one must take the route via HaathiPaao. This seemed to be a newly built road, without any traffic, without any barricades, without any signboards, absolutely nothing except sharp and risky turns. Pooja and Bandi turned off the music, were mum and just hoping to move out as soon as possible. The beauty of this road was epic; mountain peaks covered with clouds, roads foggy, and mist in the air. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

We reached Kempty Falls by evening 6 o'clock, as expected it was quite crowded. The area seemed a good outing for families staying nearby. They have also set up a rope-way, which takes you to the bottom of the fall, where one can enjoy more. Though overall things seemed bit commercialized.

Photo of Kempty Falls, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Though we didn’t spend much time over there as it was getting dark. We came back to the city and visited Company Garden. This garden was full of flowers, the size of each flower was more than the size of a full open hand, and hundred’s of such flowers were seen in this park. We were in awe of seeing such flower-full park, this reminded me of Shalimar Baug at Srinagar.

Photo of Company Bagh, The Mall Road, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Since it was Friday night Mussoorie was jam packed; my friend Shubham Sanghal was generous enough to host us in his beautiful property, Hotel Shiva Continental. It was very near from the Mall road, busiest street of Mussorie, and had a very hospitable staff. The view from the windows was one of the terrific scenes of mountains covered by clouds, and the apparent mist which had covered the overall area.

View from Hotel Shiva Continental, Mussorie

Photo of Shiva Continental, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala
Day 4

Next morning we started our journey towards Chandigarh, took a halt at the Gurudwara at Paonta Sahib. This Gurudwara Paonta Sahib has linkages to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh leader Banda Bahadur. Its original name was Paontika. "Paon" in Hindi means feet and "tika" in Hindi means became stable. Gurudwara was huge and quiet peaceful with a divine atmosphere. The food provided at the Langar was also very tasty. Bandi who was planning to skip lunch ended up eating the most.

We reached Chandigarh by evening. We had heard about Chandigarh being a beautifully planned city, Also it has been awarded as the cleanest city in India, and indeed it was. The city is very very spacious, as a person who stays in the congested city, Mumbai, felt Chandigarh be a Ghost City. Along the 6 lanes 100 ft main road, there is 25 ft of pathway consisting of 5 ft of cycling track, and then 50 ft of parking space, before the residential complex starts. The entire city is geometric in space divided into rectangular shaped sectors. You can reach anywhere in the city by taking 90-degree Left-Right turns. This reminded Bandi of Harappa Civilization, the level of planning Chandigarh administration has done is commendable.

The Geometric City

Photo of Chandigarh, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We visited Sukhna Lake and Rock garden, both were typical tourist destination spots. Sukhna Lake has a promenade where people can sit along and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake. There is a 3 kms walk one can take along the lake to enjoy the beauty. One can just sit over there and experience timelessness.

Rock Garden was a newly build unique concept which was built by Nek Chand, a government official who started the garden secretly. It is completely built of industrial and home waste and thrown-away items. Though we found it difficult to absorb the concept.

Rock Garden, Chandigarh

Photo of Rock Garden, Chandigarh, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We drove for around 30 kms inside the city, and not once did we encounter any traffic anywhere, given the fact that it was Saturday night. Later we visited Sector 17, the heart of the city’s youth. Sector 17 is a house of nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, apparel brands where the youth can assemble to enjoy the nightlife of the city.

Times Square of Chandigarh it is!

Day 5

Next day we started at 4 a.m. from Chandigarh to reach Delhi, if one has enjoyed driving on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, then Chandigarh-Delhi is nowhere to miss. With wide roads and flat surface, it is definitely a drive one can't miss. Unlike Mumbai-Pune expressway, on this route you’ll get ample of food options at Dhabas coming up at regular intervals, a majority of them being named as Haveli We covered 250 kms distance in 3 hours.

Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President Estate, is the official residence of President of India. This property is covered in 320 acres which consist of 340 rooms, offices, Mughal Gardens, the residence of Office bearers. In terms of area, it is the second largest residence of a head of state in the world.

After the security checks, as soon as we entered the main complex, the feeling was ecstatic. It was an amazing feeling to be at the forecourt, the place where PM Modi took the oath 2 years ago. Seeing the Designation of office bearers, entire history and civics chapters started to reflect.

We were given a tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan. First, we were taken to Durbar Hall, Leaders of India gathered at 8.30 am on 15 August 1947 to witness in the Durbar Hall the swearing-in ceremony of the new government, headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, by the Governor-General of the newly declared Dominion of India, Lord Mountbatten. This also happens to be a place where PadmaShri and PadmaBhushan winners are felicitated. This hall is beneath the main dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Durbar Hall - Rashtrapati Bhavan (Image is taken from the internet, as cameras not allowed inside)

Photo of Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We were then taken to the North Drawing Room. This is the most popular hall, as several meetings with the foreign delegation takes place over here, and media is prompt enough to capture the moments. The recent meetings with Sundar Pichhai, Barack Obama, Sheikh of UAE were held in this hall and the joint statement being issued from this place.

North Drawing Room (Image is taken from the internet, as cameras not allowed inside)

Photo of The North Indian Diary by Malhar Lakdawala

Later we were taken to Ashoka Hall, also known as Jewelry Box of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, it being the most beautiful hall of the estate. From ceiling to the floor, each square feet was beautifully crafted. This hall is generally away from media’s sight and is used for showcasing ceremonial functions to Heads of State. Then we were taken to the Library, where the original script of Constitution of India is placed with several of the books.

Ashoka Hall - Rashtrapati Bhavan (Image is taken from the internet, as cameras not allowed inside)

Photo of The North Indian Diary by Malhar Lakdawala

Apart from these, we were taken to the library, ballroom, Dinning room and explained in detail how the ceremonial proceedings take place for each occasion. I was very happy and proud of how the grand reception is given to people who have achieved for the country. For a moment I felt so low, that people have done so many things in their life and achieved so much for the country and here we are still struggling to find our way out. It was an awe-inspiring moment to witness the royalties so closely, patriotism in me got one level higher after the visit.

All-in-all it was an amazing experience to visit this place.

Rashtrapati Bhawan is a replica of the Queen's Palace in the UK. Rashtrapati Bhavan is a cultural showcase of the country. So whenever any Heads of State of foreign delegations visits India, they are definitely welcomed to Rashtrapati Bhavan as it is a symbol of Indian culture which is portrayed all over the place. It is an awe-inspiring place and should be on you visit list when you are in Delhi next time.

69 Years of Indian Independence in One Frame

Photo of The North Indian Diary by Malhar Lakdawala

Forecourt - Rashtrapati Bhavan

Photo of The North Indian Diary by Malhar Lakdawala

Overall it was a wonderful trip which I had with my friends. This was one of the most unique and flexible trips which I have ever had. The planning just didn’t match the execution, and plans were made on the go and it got updated every hour ;-) . The credit definitely needs to be given to the limited number of people travelling and the camaraderie we shared between us. We enjoyed being with each other every moment it would have been great if the trip would have been extended for few more days. Definitely, it was a much-needed break for each one of us.

We traversed a journey of 1100 kilometers, 7 States, 5 beautiful destinations which ended wonderfully.

Photo of The North Indian Diary by Malhar Lakdawala
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