Monday, 31 May 2010

In Helsinki

Next morning I woke up to the noise from Olga and dishes being put out on the table. I met Minna and was offered some breakfast while chatting about this and that. After breakfast we went out for a walk to see the surroundings, the house is in an secluded area with a lot of forest and greenery around. Olga had just learned to pedal her bicycle without supports so she shot off like a rocket ahead of us while we walked and I admired the spring flowers emerging after the long winter. Although it according to the calendar it should have been full summer it was still quite chilly with something of 16 degrees in the air. The beginning of the summer can always be a bit iffy.

Next morning in front of the house
After visiting 2 lakes nearby and having walked back tot the house it was time for lunch. I called my brother in Helsinki and confirmed to him that I was soon coming there, then Minna gave me a lift to the Espoo local railway station and I thanked her for the food & lodging and off I went towards Helsinki.

Olga at Harajärvi lake

 Once I arrived Töölö station I got off and sat down to wait for my brother Niklas. Soon enough he came and we continued our journey towards Kallio in the local tram. In Kallio we had to lug my bags 3 floors up and we had arrived my brothers bachelor box. A one room apartment with a kitchenette. As it was only tomorrow I needed to do official business at the Indian embassy we started the afternoon with Finnish beer, Sandels, ahhhhh. I also met Niklas girl friend, Elina. 

Minna & Olga

As it happened we discovered it was dinner time and soon it was time for smoked Gös fish, new potatoes (from Sweden) and Danish Aquavit shots. The evening continued with making the world a better place accompanied with Sandels beer, Dalmore 12yrs and our on the spot devised shot: 50/50 Swedish punsch and Dutch jenever (in the absence of the requisite, Finnish Jaloviina). 

Taru & Elina

To my surprise Niklas had arranged my old childhood friend Taru to join the festivities and evening went on. About midnight Niklas decided that the world had been cured of it's ills and it was time to hit the sack. Taru & Elina withdrew to their homes and I was given the Masters bed. I can't deny that I slept well.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

In Espoo

My friend Jari I have known back when we used to work in Bore Lines as deckhands both on Bore Queen. Some years later he worked as 1st Officer for me on Columbus Caravelle in Singapore and Malaysia. 
m/s Bore Queen

Since then Jari has moved out of Turku and settled down in Espoo, Haralahti with his long time wife Minna and their 5 year old daughter Olga in his own designed and built house, the typical Finnish high light of private life.
After stopping by the mall to get some food for the evening we sat down to exchange some highlights of life and recent happenings while enjoying Swedish beer, Lappland Gold. Then we started preparing the sauna and "palju" for heating up. Sauna is of course the Finnish must in a get together, but the "palju" is a new trend. Palju is a 2000 liter wooden cistern that has attached a wooden heating element. The wood is heat treated so it won't expand or shrink in atmospheric changes. Jari told me that he even uses it during winter, one only needs to wear a woollen cap to prevent the head from freezing over.
Same time Jari's daughter Olga was proving herself quite a chatterbox with opinions and stories for nearly everything. As the evening went on we stripped down and entered the palju, it was nearly 37 degrees and very comfortable. The cistern was designed in the shape of an octagon and had a bench all around inside of it so one could sit and chat while enjoying the warmth. After awhile we had to try out the sauna as well but the palju proved much more appealing in the end. I could say that one of the options is sufficient for bathing.
In the "palju"

Then it was bed time for Olga and I was designated to read the night time story for her. Soon enough she got tired of my droning and fell asleep.
I offered Jari a taste of Company wares in the form of Dalmore 12yrs old. Close to midnight Minna came from from work and it was also time for me to get some shuteye after being on the road for 24 hrs from India.

Vacation in Finland

Having seen the troubles in Bangkok I suggested that I will go to Finland to sort out my Indian visa and vacation. The office agreed to it and on a short notice I arranged tickets and guarantee letters to get my visa sorted out.

On the 28th I disembarked and spent the evening in Saini's flat where we had some farewell Kingfisher and a late dinner. On 29th when my visa expired I went by taxi to the airport at abt 2am as my flight was leaving at 5am via Istanbul to Helsinki.

The airport was busy even-though it was the early morning. The security was tight and boarding pass and passport had to be shown at many check points. Everybody was scanned and patted down for dangerous objects. Immigration was efficient as I was leaving, bam-bam and I was done.

I was flying Turkish Airlines. I had flown this airline before and I can say they take you from A to B but don't expect much more than that. As a perk you get a complimentary pair of socks & eye covers. I must admit that the in-flight food was quite edible considering the difficulties in getting something to taste good 10km up in the air for hundreds of people. The service was very robotic, everything went on rote. The in flight entertainment system was broken at my seat an when I asked a stewardess, she replied "there is a problem". Yes, I could see that. Fortunately I had a book to entertain me until I fell into a short slumber.

Apparently the holiday season in Turkey is not attracting many Indians and as the rain season in India discouraged Turkish tourists I think as result the airplane was only half full so I could spread out comfortably not needing to worry about elbowing my neighbor. We arrived Istanbul a bit late after the 5 odd hours flight and I had to hurry to catch my connection to Helsinki. In Istanbul there was of course another security check (sic!) where laptops had to be ripped out of the bag, belts removed etc.

Once arrived in Helsinki after the 3 hours flight I noticed in the immigration queue that there was actually more people in the non-EU line than the EU citizen line. Oh well, the guy hardly looked at my passport and I was back home in Finland after a 6 years interval. Then it was the usual waiting for the baggage, which eventually arrived quite quickly. After that I headed for the Custom green line, all I saw was an Officer with a drug sniffing dog and that was all, finally I had passed the last hurdle in entering Finland.

I was met by Jari, my long time friend some 24years back. He lived in Espoo, close to Helsinki, where I was going to do my Indian visa so I had agreed to crash at his place until then. The weather was at 15 deg centigrade and, not surprisingly, I was feeling very cold.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Captain's blog May 2010

So, May went at anchorage in front of Gateway to India. By the time of writing this the skies have cleared and the swell has started to roll in the port area. It seems the monsoon rains are imminent.

1st of May I completed two years employment onboard Kalizma. Wow, times run fast the older you get.

The noise of the IPL scandal has since then died down and nothing is being heard of Modi either - yesterdays news...

4th May I signed a years contract to continue on Kalizma as Captain as well as to assist in relief work on other yachts and maintaining the local fleet.

On the 7th I met Avnish and Eddy Powis Jr from Phuket at the Mumbai yacht club. We had a nice dinner at Aashim's flat. His daughters were entertaining us with Bollywood dancing.

The Mumbai yacht club

Next Sunday went having Biryani lunch in Alibaug at Avnish & Bijoya's pad. The weather was fine but the humidity was really killing this weekend.

Otherwise working days went chasing up quotes and prices as well as doing routine maintenance. Sunil has been busy trying to find a fitter to come and assist him in engineering works. Saini is on leave. I also had some meetings with RINA regarding our commercial certification issues. I believe this will come to an end when I return from my leave in July.

Richard is applying for his UK visa as he is due to become a castle guardian in Scotland. He'll enjoy the single malt in the cold winters there.

Sunil is again getting his visas to go to UK and complete his Y3 and Y4 certifications as well as a short visit to France to get familiarized with pre- & post- maintenance of an offshore Cigarette boat that does 90 knots.

24th I do a short visit to Crawford market with Sunil and fit 2 kurtas for me, Sunil fitted one. There was no bargaining involved as all shopkeepers had started with fixed prices. Hardly could we negotiate 70 Rs down. I also shopped for some souvenirs for my family as I was going to Finland for vacation. Thailand and The Red Shirt demonstrators are at the moment a bit too restless for my taste. So, I'll go to my home country for the first time since 2004.

Sunil & me in our new kurta's

26th I join Cmde Mongia to do a recce up to Borivali to check out berthing for the smaller yachts in Mumbai. We pass the CST container terminal, Elephanta Island, the oil terminals and the unfinished Reliance bridge. There is some land claims taking place and I believe a small marina in the making.

Land filling at Reliance bridge

Lifting smaller yachts for rain season storage

I could see numerous barges being loaded to the hatch coaming with riversand and discharging it for the landfill. At the same time Aashim was already lifting up yachts for rain season storage on the rented field. I also met Bob Pinto who was also checking out the area for storing is own yacht.

The "mini-marina"

We met the small marina manager, the son of Ganesh Naik, MLA and had a chat with him. They are planning to build a clubhouse soon and dredge the pier for some more docking space. It will be a nice smallboat marina if this takes place.

On the way back we stopped by the Princess dock and I could see that landfill preparations were underway but had not yet started. The pier was loaded with big cement blocks just waiting to be dumped into the sea. Custom house was still berthing their launches inside Princess docks. The seawall was occupied by various wrecks, we had actually a pending application for their berth. The Cross Island islet seemed to have lost all its vegetation and some elevation as I believe it'll be leveled for land reclamation.

Princess docks entrance & cement blocks

Our berthing issue has yet to be resolved as the Mumbai Port Trust is dragging their legs and refusing to grant anything for the yacht Owners (not only us). The MPT has this very low intelligence plan to convert the Victoria and Princess docks to a container terminal.

I see it as a money racket to milk the central government of subsidies. For years to come. One opinion I heard was that the area would be covered and made into a container terminal and when the protests about the container trucks clogging up the city would rise to unbearable levels they would justify more land claims at the seawall and then develop it into housing area (meanwhile pumping money out of the central government by the bucket load).

The CST container terminal

If MPT would have any sense of honesty and integrity I think they should start developing the housing project straight away and forego their plans of graft. There is already a big container terminal (CST) on the other side of the Bay handling the incoming cargo to Mumbai. Writing about issues like this is easy but having scratched the surface a bit about the complexity of Indian democracy and politics, I also realize that nothing is easy in India and certainly not on issues where money is involved (is it anywhere?). Everyone has an opinion and a voice to contribute. E.g. the sealink project in Bandra easing the Mumbai traffic north has taken the government 14 years to complete.

A local "yachtsman"

Today the MPT decision makers are at station and hopefully we will have a positive reply in the next few days. Saini will though have to make the transit as I will be enjoying my vacation. Also congratulations for his promotion as officiating Master on Kalizma during my absence.

Fishing vessels leaving for Gujarat upon end of season

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Cdr Dilip Donde arrives Mumbai

S/y Mhadei

Yesterday while I was doing some office work in my cabin I wondered what sort of close quarters situations the pilots of Mumbai are getting into today as I heard frequently loud whistle blowing. As it did not concern me I did not give it any second thought and continued my work.

Navy frigate, Helicopter, Mhadei & Offshore vessel

Today I was called by Dubey to come out and watch the escort of Indian Navy Commander Dilip Donde as he was arriving from his solo circumnavigation of the world, voyage distance abt 42000km. The first Indian to ever accomplish this feat.

The civilian local sailors join the escort

And what an escort he had, one big frigate, helicopters and 2 offshore vessels with their fire fighting cannons going on full spray while all vessels were sounding their horns. At the Sunk Rock a big fleet of the local sailing boats were waiting and while the Mhadei was passing they all joined the cavalcade. The procession went past us and continued into the Navy base by the Ballard estate. Commander Donde's almost one year voyage had come to an end. Well done!

Almost passing Middle Ground

Now the Indians have gone around the world, next stop is the moon?

The escort and horn blowing for s/y Mhadei

Those who want to read more about Cdr Donde's voyage can go here

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lawrence Watch Co

Lawrence watch Co

While on the way to RINA offices I was chatting away with Mishra and Bob in the car and suddenly Mishras attention turned to Bob's wrist watch. It was an Indian HMT Bhavan Janata clock. A very simple watch that shows the time but according to my friends a very accurate timepiece. 

Bob explained that he had repaired his old Rolex but it did not have more spare parts manufactured in Switzerland so the watch smith had recommended to keep the watch nicely in the drawer. So then Bob was forced to find himself a new watch and he had gone to this shop at the Fort. He had quickly spotted the Indian watch. It is also not spoiled with price, 550Rs for one with a leather strap. Bob said that a metal strap would have cost more than the watch itself. 

I asked for the address and on the way back and Bob actually pointed it out for me near the VT station. The next day I was out provisioning with Richard at Crawford Market so I decided to visit the watch shop. 

I walked along the road opposite the Victoria train station to Empire building and found the Lawrence Watch Co shop, a small standard shop you find all over Asia. It was small but packed with watches as one usually sees. I greeted the staff and asked for the Indian wind up watches and was showed to a variety of HMT watches. 

The Sona and Janata models

Without not too much hesitation I chose a Janata and Sona model for purchasing. The Janata was 550Rs and the Sona 1200Rs. The Sona is a bit snazzier as it is gold plated with a metal strap but basically same machinery as the Janata model. As both models are wind up watches it means they will work without batteries and even after an electro magnetic pulse (as might occur in an atomic explosion). 

The famous Victoria station with its Gothic trimmings

As the staff was filling up guarantee cards and writing out the invoice I chatted with the shopkeeper about his services. The shop had been founded in 1942 and they serviced and repaired all kind of clocks, even ship chronometers. Always nice to come across professional people. A shop I can recommend.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Vardenchi motorcycles

After having gone to our meeting at RINA offices with Mr. Mishra, Mr Devadas and Bob Pinto re: our commercial yacht certification for Kalizma. Bob asked if I would be interested to do a small detour before going back to Gateway. He promised it would make both me and Mishra to feel young again. I replied "why not" and off we went towards Jogeshwar.

Batman inspired bike

At Jogeshwar we were met by Mr. Akshai Varde who is the CEO for the Vardenchi brand motorbikes. He is building custom made Royal Enfields out of 350cc or 500cc brand new motorbikes. Mostly it is 350cc as the waiting time for the bigger engine is about 2 mths. For customizing the Enfield, Vardenchi takes abt 2 mths depending how much special features are wanted.

Bob Pinto contemplating riding down Marine Drive

The bike comes registered as an Enfield and is good for 15yrs on Indian roads and licensed in 3 states. Those wondering what a Royal Enfield is can see more here.

Mr. Akshai Varde and his Stealth model

Mr. Akshai said he has up to date exported one motorbike to France and is looking forward to more customers  from abroad. Currently he has capacity to comfortably build 50 bikes per annum.

Enjoy the sound of the Vardenchi Stealth cycle

When I saw the workshop I came to think about the TV series about the eccentric Bangladeshi, Mr. Lipu and his UK mechanic who are building custom cars in Bangladesh but in the end, only the word "custom" is common here.

The workshop is small but efficient and the way Mr. Akshai presents his ideas gives a very positive outlook on this growing enterprise. He is already planning for the future with further ideas.

Those interested can see more here

Monday, 17 May 2010

Mumbai - New Delhi - Mumbai by train

As we were stationary and due to move into the docks for the rainseason I planned to go and visit Saini on his vacation in Hariyana during the weekend. I bought the train ticket easily as a foreigner but had to pay hard foreign currency, one way it became abt 1500 INR, not bad for a 16h train journey on 3rd tier A/C.

Mumbai train station

Then a few days later I was escorted by Sunil to tthe Mumbai Central train station, a big building as anything to do with trains in India are. There were only 5-6 platforms but they were impressively long. People were lying or sitting about in the waiting area on various strips of carton or mats eating snacks. I spent half an hour sitting in local McDonalds waiting for my train to appear on the platform and started walking to my coach. It was a long walk. FInally at the coach I found my seat being taken by another guy with same seat reservations as I had, after comparing tickets we found out that he was on the train one day too early, so he had to get off and spend one more night in Mumbai.

Hariyana roads 

As the coach was a 3 tier A/C it meant there was 3 persons sleepin on top of each other in a 6 person open compartment. My traveling companions were Indian too and after listening to their chatter I realized they were speaking French with an unknown accent. I could not resist so I asked where they came from and the reply came from Mauritius. It was a young couple with two elderly chaperones that had come to India to buy the materials needed for the young couples wedding. As per them it was cheaper to come to India to get all the dresses and paraphernalia. I also learned they were 5th generation Mauritians and still they had retained the Hindi language of ther origin.

Punjab Pan Bandar

Shortly after departure the train attendants divided out water bottles for eberyone, then came a tray with a light snack consisting of a cheese sandwich and a accompanied with a small juice carton. After that tea or coffee kits were given and hot water thermoses. After that a coupleof hours later the train attendants came with a tray of soup and breadsticks and finally at abt 2200hrs a dinner was served. It was a dhal, paneer dish, rice and some rotis. The Mauritians were so friendly they gave me another set of rotis having watched me eating my paneer with roti first. As the "piece the resistance" we got vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Bathing buffaloes

After this stuffing I was absolutely full and it was time to sleep. I made my bed, or actually the Mauritians did and plopped between the sheets to be awaken a few hours later to a child screaming like a stuck pig intermittently punctuated by slaps from the parent. Obviously the disciplining did not have any effect, the decibels only increased. It lasted for an hour or so and then the kid was taken elsewhere to scream. I then woke up later when the sun was up at abt 6am when the train attendants started banging cupboard doors in preparation of breakfast. I got up and washed my teeth and did a quick "Liverpoolian". The arid coutryside was bone dry and brown from lack of water, dry paddy fields stretched out into the hazy distance and was only broken by the odd tree growing in between the farmed fields.

Yarn transport 

Breakfast was first started with tea or coffee and then later we got a tray with two slices of bread and and a two odd looking vegetable patties accompanied with jam, butter and a pack of juice. Then all I could do was to wait for the train to arrive New Delhi, I was watching the zhopadpatti that lined the rail tracks and the suburbs that became denser and denser. The train attendants were collecting thermos cans and towels and bed linen and once all was clear an attendant appeared with a tray with some masala and a hundred rupee note on it. Saini had warned me of this saying that the usual ti is 20 Rs only, the 100Rs note is put there by the attendant in hope of somebody giving better tips. Finally we arrived and the train came to a full stop. I bid the Mauritians best of luck in their marriage and said goodbye.

Elephant on the road

Once on the platform I saw Saini and we headed out of the train station. The outside looked worse than Mumbai, piles of garbage and bricks reminded me of Beirut after a party between Hezbollah and the Israeli army. Hmm, maybe a bit exaggerated but still I'd thought that the Indian Capital would look neater and more orderly. Outside the station was the usual throng of touts and peddlers one offering services or goods. We singled out a taxi driver and negotiated a price for driving around us in Delhi for the day in an A/C car, it came to 1400 Rs. The A/C was necessary as the sun was driving up the mercury at rapid speed. The heat was palpable but the same as in Mumbai, here it was dry and hot. The dust that seemed pervasive all over the city did not make it any better.

View over Sonepat

So, once the program was set with the driver we set off to Jantar Mantar, from there to Qutb Minar. Then the Lotus temple and the Humayuns tomb. After that it was time for lunch and we had some delicious veg buffet at a local restaurant. Once tanked up on fluids again we headed for India Gate, after that it was Red Fort and finally the Akshardam temple. By this time both mine and Saini's heads were exploding of cultural overload and the day was full anyway. The driver dropped us off at the bus station where we were lucky to catch the bus immediately and we set off towards Rohtak.

Holy cow

 The bus was not airconditioned. It was packed full. The benches were 2 + 3persons with a row in between. The warm air coming in from the windows did not help much and te dust was everywhere. After awhile my face felt like I had a layer of powder on it, which I probably had. The journey to Rohtak took us 2 hours and we arrived in darkness. Saini's brother-in-law picked us up and soon enough we arrived to Saini's in-laws house. The father came and welcomed me and soon retired for the night. We showered and changed clothes. Me and Saini enjoyed a few pegs of local hooch that tasted more like rum to me. Then it was time for a lat dinner and sleep. There was no A/C but a cooler contraption that is a modern adaptation of the Greek/ Roman invention of using water as cooling media as they used thousand of years ago in their buildings (Wealthy ancient Romans circulated aqueduct water through walls to cool their luxurious houses). Saini explained to me that the dryness of air do not work well with A/C so these coolers are much more widely used in this part of the country.

Drying cowpats in Sonepat

The cooler is a square metal box with grills on all vertical sides. The side facing the room is plain and has a fan in it, the other 3 sides have dried grass (or it looked like that) in a metal mesh and once the fan was started water was being pumped over these meshes (the bottom was a water tray). So, in effect the fan was sucking air through these water soaked meshes and like this the room cooled approximately 4deg C from the temperature outside as the water is evaporating. 

Drying straw "huts"

Next morning I woke up to the sunshine and went for breakfast and we planned to visit Chandigarh, the capital of Hariyana. A driver was summoned and the car was Saini's brother-in-laws. Soon enough we were on our way and I was admiring the country side. It either farmed land or small hamlets or villages we passed through. The farmed land was same as seen from the train, dry and dusty. The heat was immense and the cars A/C was not coping with it. At time I saw brown piles that at forst I thought were termite nests but soon realized they were man made. It was dried out cowpats. Every household used them as fuel for their hearths to cook food on. The other feature often seen was straw being dried up in hut like constructs, I was told the straw is chaffed into small smal pieces and then covered up with longer straw to protect it from the rains. I also saw many brick factories as well, seems the soil of Hariyana makes excellent bricks. At some time as usually happens I nodded off and woke up just when we were entering Chandigarh.

The wide & straight avenues of Chandigarh

Chandigarh is actually the first planned city in India, it has wide straight roads, big lots for houses and an artificial lake, Sukhna. The designer was at first 2 Americans but one of them died and then the ther resigned, after that a Swiss man came into the picture and Chandigarh is the fruit of his planning. The lake itself was pretty dry, people could rent pedal boats and scurry around but understandably I was not looking doing that. Then we went for lunch at a local Dhaba and had a delicious veg meal. After this we went to the Nek Chand rock garden. It was actually first built illegally for years and then declared as an amusement park. Once we had wandered through the maze we realized time is drawing nigh and headed for Kurukshetra.

Brick factory

Kurukshetra is a very significant town in Hinduism as there is a water tank supposedly made by Ram and a tree where Krishna delivered his Bagavad Ghita. It took us some hours to get to there and by the time we arrived the sun was setting fast. We saw what we could and then again headed off towards Sonepat, Saini's hometown. I had also noticed that many businesses were named Saini and I was told that Sani is a very common surname in Haryana. I bet if I would shout Saini in the bazaar 80% of the heads would turn. I guess that is the reason why they maintain the gotra's in these parts of the country so as to prevent mixing up same bloodlines.

Rohtak market, old cast steel building

Night driving in India is an insane undertaking for those who are used to orderly traffic manners and driving styles. Most vehicles on the road were all using high beams, all the time. Our driver bent the mirros on the side so he would not continuously be blinded by cars behind us. About 3/4 of the journey back done we stopped at a restaurant called Haveli for a kulfi falooda, a sweet dessert that was made of ice cream and noodles. The restaurant had a Punjab theme and outside there was a troupe dancing to bhangra and inside was not only the restaurant but also many souvenir shops. We ate our snack while watching a magician performing some great tricks and then we were on the road again.

On the road

The day was almost finsihed but finally we arrived Sonepat 2300hrs where we were greeted by Saini's father and his sister. We sat down for a small chat, showered and settled down for a late dinner. Once finished we called it a day and crashed for the night with the cooler and fan running.
Next day was as hot as usual and after having had our breakfast done we bid the household godbye and headed for Rohtak to get some lunch and then Delhi to catch my train back to Mumbai. In Rohtak I went out to the market where I bought a dhoti and lungi for myself. Saini's father-in-law was the only one who could demonstrate how the dhoti was donned and we had some good laughs me trying to wear it. As time was up we got into the car and drove off towards the closest metro station some 45min away.
We got onto the metro and changed trains twice before reaching New Delhi station. The metro was apparently brand new as the carriages and stations looked very fresh and the people had not yet learned how to queue into the train like I've seen in Bangkok, Hong Kong and SIngapore. Here peope just tried to cram in or out of the train at the same time. I guess they'll learn soon enough, I have seen same hapening in Bangkok when the sky train was opened there.

At New Delhi station we emerged into the searing sunshine and ambled our way into the train station. I bid Saini goodbye and headed for my platform to wait for my train as I still had 1h to kill. While walking on the platform overpass I came upon a group of people that were frantically running and almost ran over me trying to get wherever they were going. I managed to get through that mass of people and eventually came to my platform that was behind a considerable walk. 

Suddenly I got a call from Saini asking if I was OK as he had heard there had been a people stampede in the trainstation and 2 people had been reported dead. As it turned out the station had shuffled some trains around in the last minute and people had rushed for their platform n order to secure a seat. In the scuffle a mother and her daughter had gotten trampled. I guess I came across the vanguard of that stampede earlier and was lucky not getting run over.

The train came to the platform 30min before departure and I clambered onboard and was reiieved by the weak A/C in the carriage, even weak A/C is better than no A/C. After awhile my travel companions arrived and it turned out it was a Punjabi entourage of some 15 persons, grandfaters, daughters, sons, wives husbands, kids, grandchildren, all were there. Many wanted to shake my hand and make friends and not surprisingly they all had the surname Singh. They were all very friendly and it turned out that they were on the way from Delhi to Mumbai for a short vacation.

The train trip was following the same routine as when coming, same food and all. This time I had the top bunk and it was not next to the pantry so I got a good rest. I got up at sunrise again and same mornign ritual followed our arival to Mumbai. I was met at the train station by Dubey and I got onboard just on time to start work. So, how was your weekend?

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sights in Hariyana

Next day I was in Hariyana, a bustling state between Delhi and Punjab. This time very brown and dry as the rains had not yet started but almost everywhere we went there was cultivation taking place.

Rohtak side roads 

Rohtak was having very good roads and a very active city. According to Saini a few years back it had been a very sleepy backwater town but now the one Minister in the parliament was from Rohtak so he was channeling a lot of business to his hometown transforming the roads and infrastructure. The market of Rohtak was quite huge going in a ziggurat of narrow roads with the hustle and bustle of small shops lining each other.

Dilapitated cast iron building at the Market district

Tailor where I bought a dhoti

Sonepat was very much alike Rohtak, just a tad less busy and developed than Rohtak, apparently they did not have their man in parliament. Nevertheless it was acity in its own right and was flanked by paddies in all directions. Holy cows could be seen roaming th streets as well as some houses had the usual cowpat drying going on their rooftops.
Drying cowpats

Holy cow

Chandigarh was he first planned city of India and was started by 2 Americans. One of them died unexoectedly and so the remaining chap resigned. Their place was taken by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. He has planned a very orderly city on a square grid with wide boulevards and big housing compounds. Actually quite pleasing to the eye considering the crammed roads of Mumbai and elsewhere. At the northern side of the city there is an artificial lake, Sukhna Lake, where people go for their leisure. One could rent paddle boats there but I did not find that appealing. They also had a small sailing club established but I think the sailing was off as the Lake seemd quite dried out before the rains.

Chandigarh boulevards

 More on Chandigarh
Next we went to see the Nek Chand Rock Garden that was actually built illegally on a nature reserve but once discovered declared as an recreation Park for the public. It was a quite huge maze of walkways and I think we spent a well over 2 hours waking around. The garden is nice but at many places unkept, mainetnance lacking. In our opinion it could have the potential for much more if some effort was applied to it.
Rock Garden

Rock Garden

More on Nek Chand
The time was drawing nigh again and we headed for Kurukshetra. We arrived there just a bit before sunset and I saw the tank that was supposedly made by Ram. There was aso a big brass chariot depicting Krishna driving the four horse chariot for Emperor Arjun. Around the tank were many "baba's", some of them I suppose real, some of them not better than any common beggar.

Art at temple
At another place was a temple where it was said that Krishna delivered his Bagavad Ghita under a banyan tree. The tree had a shrine and surrounding it were speakers that blared out the Krishna mantra of "hare krishna, hare om...". When the sun set a sound and light show started in Hindi telling the story of Arjun and Krishna. I was not so impressed as compared to the one I had seen in Andaman Islands at the Cellular Prison.

The water tank

Arjun and Krishna

"The" banyan tree

 Actually Kurukshetra has so many sights that it would warrant a full days roaming around. 

More info here