I had planned to leave by 7 am to beat the morning rush on the NH8. As it turned out the fog was heavy and Ashok suggested that I postpone the departure by a half hour. I took the outer ring of Connaught Circus by 7.30 am and hit the road to Gurgaon. The development of transportation infrastructure for the CWG has indeed been terrific such as the metro rail and the roads. I got to the NH8 without a sweat, but the humungous truck traffic held up movement in many places thereafter. Coupled with the fog it considerably slowed down movement. Most of the holdups happened near truck parking yards and intersections, where flyovers have still not been done. The journey to Jaipur, a distance of about 250 kms, should not have taken more than 4 hours as the condition of the road is, by and large, quite good. Given the traffic snarls and the heavy fog I was lucky to reach Jaipur by a quarter to 2 in the afternoon. I did not have to stop for breakfast as the hold ups ensured enough ‘free time’ to partake of the paneer parathas and pickle that Suman and Ashok had so considerately packed for the intermission en route.
I was to have turned off at Dharu Hera for Alwer to meet up with Sudhir Pratap Singh, who was my roommate during our days of probation in the Railway Staff College, Vadodara. He joined the Indian Police Service in 1983 (Rajasthan cadre) but has remained a bosom buddy over the years. Sudhir was fond of parrots and wanted its company in the room that we stayed in the RSC. I would have none of it in the room and we agreed on the small balcony to keep the bird cage. One afternoon, when I returned to the room, I found that Sudhir had let the parrot free inside the room to help it ‘stretch its legs’, as he put it. The mess it had done seemed to have been designed to teach me a lesson, for the parrot had specially focused on my part of the room. Livid was what I was when I completed the survey of the disaster. Before Sudhir came back to the room the parrot was free to explore the outside world on its own wings. When I visited him in Alwer on 26th January 1996, to see him taking the Republic Day salute (he is one of the handsomest police officers in uniform I have met), I was happy to see that he was taking care of a host of parrots in his lovely house.
I am not likely to forget the Xmas day mass in Vadodara in 1982. Sudhir came with me for the mass. We sat next to each other and he followed what I was doing during the service - standing, kneeling and sitting as the occasion warranted. When it was time for Communion I told him to wait in his seat and explained that this part of the Service was meant only for Christians. He nodded his head, which I understood to be his acceptance of what I had told him. When I came back to the seat I found Sudhir missing. I thought he had stepped outside to do his bit of ‘ogling’. As I was taking my seat I found all eyes in the Church riveted at someone walking down the aisle. I looked up to see Sudhir, his hands folded, chewing on the Communion he had received and making his way to the seat next to me. I was aghast. The Xmas mass was over for both of us. Without any further delay and brooking no further stares we beat the hastiest retreat we could. When asked why he did what he did, he said he was bored waiting for me!
That is Sudhir for you. He is an extremely committed officer and has held various sensitive positions in the State and in Central deputations. The encomiums showered on him by the police constabulary during my visit to Rajasthan in 2008 showed how he addressed social concerns with a human face in a force that is generally harsh on its staff. I had agreed to meet with him in Alwer, where he operated an NGO to look after destitutes. I could not do so due to the traffic and the fog.
On reaching Jaipur and ‘checking in’ to the ORH I called up Ashok Pavadia (AKP), my batch mate, who is posted as Chief Safety Officer in the North Western Railway HQ. He had not known of my program to Jaipur as I wanted it to be a surprise. The new General Manager of NWR had taken over the previous day and most officers were in office to greet and brief him about the functioning of their Departments. AKP sent me his car to visit the NWR HQ. The building looks magnificent and it is well laid out. Besides AKP, Deepak Dave (Chief Operations Manager) and GL Meena (Chief Commercial Manager, Passenger Services) are the other two batch mates in the NWR HQ. Deepak invited me to attend the farewell lunch being hosted tomorrow for Vinay Mittal, who has been transferred to SER as GM. He felt that it would be a good forum to meet up with other Traffic officers and HoDs.
AKP offered the choices of Hotel Ashok or a revolving restaurant for dinner. My obvious selection was the revolving restaurant and AKP ‘warned’ that the restaurant serves only veggie food. I reassured him that I could set aside my cannibalistic taste buds for a day and get bovine! We reached the Hotel OM Towers in time to see most of the seats either occupied or reserved. We were made comfortable in a four seater by the courteous restaurant staff. It did not take me long to choose what I wanted to feast on. It was a Rajasthani Thali for me. AKP chose to be ‘less adventurous’, as he called it and plumbed for rotis and a paneer dish. While waiting for the food we enjoyed the fabulous revolving night views from the 14th floor, where the restaurant is located. At times I lost my orientation as the movement was quite palpable and I thought that the ball bearings of the revolving mechanism requires a bit of greasing and attention!
The Rajasthani Thali was a ‘synopsis’ of the traditional food – Dal Bhatti, Ghatta, Missi and Kharta rotis, kair sangri, dahi bada, green salad, mix vegetable curry and Choorma. Dal Bhatti was the first to receive my attention. The kair sagri, ghatti and two helpings of rice entwined with the enzymes next. The rotis with the mix veg and the rest in the Thali vanished in quick time. Choorma was the final item ‘gulletised’. Through the meal we yapped and yapped and savored the live music, mostly ghazals. A couple of my requests were also honored. It was a fabulous setting and a great experience of local cuisine.