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Showing posts from December, 2010

DAY 91 – In Srinagar

Friends, Waking up just after 6 am I surveyed the scene outside my bedroom through the windows. It had snowed through the night and was continuing its makeover of the landscape. I was ecstatic about the snow on the trees, the roofs of houses, the ground and everywhere else. It continued to snow without any let up. This is my first experience with continuous snowfall. The predominant concern was that I would not be able to journey back to Jammu tomorrow, especially if it continues to snow the way it is. The other concern was to get down to the car and see if it will start up in this cold and snowy weather. The final concern was that as I am not equipped for the snowy weather I will have to spend the entire day within the Guest House. I had planned to visit the Dal Lake, the Mughal Gardens, etc. I was resigned to sitting in the GH and clicking away all that comes into my sight. I took it to be a Heaven sent opportunity to improve my photography skills. The day did not pan out like that f…

DAY 90 – Jammu to Srinagar

Friends, Having hit the sack only an hour after midnight I targeted a 7 am start. The excitement was too much to sleep over. I was ready to leave by 6, but hit the Highway by a half past. The city roads are very good, but the problem was inadequate road directions to get to the NH44. Once I got to it the NH was a beauty right up to Srinagar, with minor exceptions at landslide locations. The 300 km stretch can be done in about 6 hours of driving time. The excellent views of the valleys, the mountains and the many attractions along the route call for as many stops as you can afford. Winter may not be the time for a visit to Srinagar as the mountains are bare as are the trees, which are ready for the next phase of winter, namely, snow. The mercury has dipped below freezing point beyond Banihal and the strong breeze adds to the biting chill. I stopped for breakfast of boiled eggs and tea at a small wayside eatery after the Banihal market. After adding to the flow of the stream behind the ea…

DAY 89 – Palampur to Jammu

Friends, Despite a wake up alarm I overslept and the departure from Palampur was delayed by nearly an hour. When I passed through Himachal Pradesh on my trip from Dehra Dun to Chandigarh I was concerned about the state of roads in the State, particularly since tourism is its mainstay. My subsequent experience in Himachal corrected this concern; what I experienced then was an aberration. The roads in Himachal are well maintained and even the village roads are surfaced well. The Palampur to Jammu leg can be done in 4 hours behind the wheel. I stopped for a cup of tea at Pathankot and was lost for some time in a reverie, on how my paternal grandfather would have reacted to the ‘modern’ Pathankot. He was posted to the Army station after WWII during peace time, when it was not a family station. At the Lakhanpur CP, the entry to J&K, I was asked to produce the documents of the car and the DL.I could not remember where I had placed the documents and had to search for nearly 10 minutes befo…

DAY 88 – In Palampur

Friends, 88 is always ‘Two Fat Ladies’ in Tambola. This fat man was a bit impatient to open his account of the 88th day by getting some fascinating views of the Dhauladhar Range. Adequately dressed to be out in the cold early in the day I waited for the first rays of the sun to wake up the mountains. Even the bare mountains have something to offer when the sun moves over it. I was a bit apprehensive about getting the washed clothes dried in the cold weather. Nevertheless, I went ahead and hung them out in the open as the sun was out strong and hot. In less than two hours the deed was done. That’s how hot it becomes during the day. I had ventured out in the morning with four layers of clothing, to snoop around a bit and nothing much to do, and went on de-layering as the day wore on. Last evening when I was in the railways station a constable of the RPF told me that the Sobha Singh Gallery and the Neugal Café are worth a look in. The elaborate directions I had noted from him took me to th…

DAY 87 – Shimla to Palampur

Friends, I delayed the start from Shimla to experience the magic of the morning sky. It was nothing like what I had experienced yesterday. It is quite something to watch the mountains transforming from being clothed in the darkness of the night to being bathed in warm and glorious sunshine. The variety that Mother Nature can display is stunning. The clear sky made for a very cold morning following the night temperature of 3oC. A hot cup of tea is what I wanted to get the ‘frozen’ fingers moving over the steering wheel. The caretaker of the ORH obliged and I shifted gears by 7.15 am. I took NH88 to Bilaspur (HP), which is also the route to Manali. Himachal Pradesh is a State with a large number of hydro-electric projects. The River Beas that meanders through Bilaspur is one of the projects. There has been a lot of debate about the pristine cultures and habitats being compromised in the wake of these large hydro-electric projects, even though they are one of the cleanest sources of energy…

DAY 86 – in Shimla

Friends, I could not have chosen a better place to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. The effect of the rising sun on the sky and the clouds and its ever changing hues made for a magical morning. The numbing cold did not deter me from capturing some of the transient moods on camera. Watching the changing moods I understood another reason why we address Nature as ‘Mother’. It is probably because of the changes that she rings around her in such a short while. When I was leaving the ORH for the Ridge and the Mall I met the Station Superintendent, Mr Rajput, and another resident of the ORH, who had been to Shimla several times before. They waxed eloquent about the superior administration of the State and the goodness of the people of Himachal. The SS even mentioned that one could find the Chief Minister moving around the Mall Road mixing freely with the people. I took this with a pinch of salt. But I saw this with my own eyes and a ‘Doubting Joseph’ was converted. After handing over clothes …

DAY 85 – Chandigarh to Shimla

Friends, I had settled the ORH charges yesterday evening knowing that the cold will keep people under the quilt than usual. The promised bed tea also did not arrive. Regardless, I started at 7 am since there was no hint of fog. Chandigarh is one city from where I did not have to seek directions to exit it. The major destinations are prominently signposted and I could beat my path towards Shimla as I had already noted the major intersections en route. When I passed Pinjore and the Yadavindra Gardens my mind went back to the good soul in the Tourism Info Counter at the Chandigarh railway station who wanted me to visit it late evening to appreciate the ‘lightning’. The traffic on the road did not indicate peak season. This was confirmed by Ravi, the owner of the wayside eatery called ‘Shimla View’ (one can get a distant view of the Hill Station from here and which is further up from Solan), where I had a wholesome breakfast of Aaloo Paratha with mixed pickle and Omlette. Ravi said that bu…

DAY 84 – In Chandigarh

Friends, The Chandigarh railway station exhibits some Nek Chand Art at the entrance. I called on the Station Superintendent to seek a testimonial of my visit to Chandigarh, the capital city of both Punjab and Haryana. Having covered Chandigarh I have another 7 State Capitals left – or is it 8 with J&K having separate summer and winter capitals? I went to the Chandigarh Tourist Information Office at the Station to check if they have some brochures to help me decide on places to visit today. The Sardar manning the counter is the ‘type’ you should have in every such counter across the country. He handed me a few brochures with a flourish, but with finesse. He suggested a half day tour in a hop-on-hop-off bus. When I told him that I have been around some since the last evening he was crestfallen. And when I told him that I am travelling ‘alone’ he genuinely sympathized with me and ‘almost’ mentioned that there is no place to go or anything to be enjoyed alone in Chandigarh! When I aske…

DAY 83 – Dehra Dun to Chandigarh

Friends, Giving due credit to the fog that hung low in the morning I left the Dehra Dun ORH close to 8 am only. I was told that the drive to Chandigarh would take about four hours and that is what it took. As you set out for the first milestone of Paonta Sahib from Dehra Dun you pass the sprawling campus of the Forest Research Institute, built in the 1920s, and the majestic Indian Military Academy. Paonta Sahib, the place where Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru, spent his younger days is barely an hour from Dehra Dun. The Gurudwara is on the banks of the Yamuna and is just beyond the Uttarakhand border. The road from the border, right through the Himachal Pradesh territory can rattle the sturdiest bones. It is a wonder how the same NH72, which in the Uttarakhand State was extremely well maintained, deteriorates immediately after the border into Himachal. One would expect the roads in Himachal to be super for it lays so much stress on tourism. I was disappointed. After Narain Garh, …

DAY 82 – In Dehra Dun

Friends, All through the beautiful drive to Mussoorie my mind was in a playback mode; the overwhelming flood of nostalgia is difficult to stop when you have strong association with people, places or situations. It is in Mussoorie that I spent three of the most glorious months of my life and I discovered many aspects of my own self that I had not previously known. I stopped at Bhatta and had a cup of tea as that is where, I think, the buses from the Dehra Dun railway station stopped for the probationers to unwind for a while before the rest of the journey to the LBSNAA. I wonder if they do that anymore. When I reached Library Point I thought of the lovely walks I enjoyed from the LBSNAA to the Mall whenever I could tear myself away from the Courts. Those days my friends and I swaggered around as if we owned the place. Being a clear day the views of the Himalayan Range were spectacular on the road from the Library to the LBSNAA. Every bend in the road looked so familiar. Along the way I s…

DAY 81 – Corbett NP to Dehra Dun

Friends, No one can leave the National Park without a valid authorisation from the KMVN authorities. After a couple of cups of hot tea I presented myself at the Reception to complete the check out formalities and collect the gate pass. Visitors can leave the complex only after 6.30 am. Arshad, who had stayed overnight with one of the staff, was waiting to take me back to the Forest GH in Ramnagar. Since I had told him that I would like to leave Ramnagar by 9, he ignored the speed restriction of 20 kmph inside the Park. By 8.30 I reached the Forest GH and made the payment for the Gypsy. The stay and transport to the National Park cost me about Rs 6000, but was worth it. Travelling with a companion to these places will halve the cost as the accommodation and transport costs can be shared. Arshad is a good contact for visiting the Jim Corbett National Park. He can be contacted on 09927160387. He will complete all the bookings and paperwork prior to picking you up from the appointed place …

20th December 2010 - Khushroo Kiash, A Tribute

Friends, Khushroo Kiash is no more. He died yesterday morning in a motorcycle accident near Mumbai. He was riding his favorite bike and doing what he liked to do. I came to know Khushroo when DPW acquired P&O Ports in 2006. He was Director Engineering Services and was fabulously good at what he did. His greatest strength was team building; he has left behind one of the strongest teams in DPW, a legacy that will do his memory proud. Khush, as he was called by everyone – it suited him for he made all around him happy, as he himself was – and I were the only two in the Sub-continent Region of DPW who looked like senior citizens and that made for a special relationship. The great thing about Khush was that he made everyone feel special. So I felt, in his company, that I was special to him. A few instances stand out in support of this strong premise. At a get together in Ganesh Raj’s house in Mumbai I paid handsome compliments to the Pathani suit he was wearing. He asked me for my size a…

DAY 80 – Ramnagar to Corbett NP

Friends, After waking up early I loaded into the car the bags I would not be taking to the Park. When I was doing this I met an Officer of the Forest Service who had halted in the GH and was headed to Dhikala to meet his boss. Since he is familiar with the entire State I requested him for the best route to go to Dehra Dun tomorrow. He suggested a shorter route which should take me to Dehra Dun in 5 hours. It is extremely cold in Ramnagar. The Forest GH where I stayed is an open area with no tree cover at all and the cold ‘bites and grips’. On account of this, I decided against a bath and started out for the Corbett National Park like a KTP (keen type probationer) before 6.30 am when the booking counter was full of people availing permits and making reservations. As I had done my reservation and approvals last evening I was headed directly to the Park. I left the car with my bags in the Forest GH in Ramnagar. A Maruti Gypsy had been arranged for me and young Arshad was my driver cum atte…

DAY 79 – Lucknow to Ramnagar

Friends, Dr Jacob Thomas IAS was the Chairman of the Cochin Port Trust for five years till July 2005. He had demitted office and moved over as Project Officer of the LNG project in the Puthuvype SEZ in Cochin when I joined DP World in Cochin. I had come to know him when I was heading CONCOR in Chennai. In the first instance itself he came across as an honest, well meaning and hard working professional with an abundance of humaneness and goodness of heart. As a new business proposition in CONCOR we worked at handling ‘Less than Container Load’ consignments at the Cochin Port, for which we need allotment of space in the Container Freight Station. The enthusiasm with which he pursued the proposal and made it happen was very unlike the normal ‘government’ response. Upon my repatriation to the Railways in 2003, after the stint in CONCOR, I lost touch with Dr Jacob Thomas. On 30th March 2005, while working as Chief Freight Transportation Manager in Hubli, I chanced upon a short newspaper repo…

DAY 78 – In Lucknow

Friends, Lucknow is not what you mentally visualize it to be after you have been to Varanasi and Allahabad. It’s a city that has been transformed over the past few years, if local residents are to be believed. The roads have been widened, water and power supplies have been revamped and improved, the trans-Gomti area has been developed, et al. New Lucknow across the River Gomti transports you into another world. A drive through this area in the night gives you a feel of driving through a city in some other country. The newspaper this morning has reported a review of development works in various cities by the CM and her angst at the delay in execution. The CM is also quoted as having said that there is no shortage of funds and that the errant will face dire consequences. So, it looks as if the other cities will also see better times in the near future. Lucknow is a City of Parks; there are countless of them and they are literally just a stone’s throw away from wherever you are. The Reside…

DAY 77 – Allahabad to Lucknow

Friends, I struggled for sleep the whole night in the ORH in Allahabad. The ORH is beside the Allahabad railway station and the Parcel Office. It is noisy through the day and night. Add to that the incessant blowing of horns and sleep deserted me. By 4 am I decided not to try anymore and got ready for the trip to Lucknow. At ten to five I was well on my way. The road was more than free; there were just a few trucks on the NH24B. The distance was about 210 kms and the surfacing was adequate to maintain 60km+ speed. Except for some fog and the fact that one could not appreciate the country side, the early morning start was ideal to get a full day in Lucknow. A steady drive deposited me in the Officers’ Rest House of the Indian Railways Institute of Transport Management by 8.30 am. The arrangement for stay at the IRITM was done by Gopal Mohanty from Calcutta. He has been a solid support to organise the logistics of the journey in the East and now in the North. Often I feel that his enthusi…