Delhi – Gurgaon Metro

Dhalta Sooraj

“Kahin bhi baith sakte hain kya?”, a guy asked me as soon as I had taken a seat in the almost empty Metro from Qutab Minar to Gurgaon. He was a middle aged person – a laborer who was confused and was feeling out of place with his old torn air bag amongst the suave, urban crowd most of who seemed like on a picnic in the metro.
“Pehli baar Metro mein aaya hun”, he explained, probably as confused as one of the kids who was asking his father the reasons for putting the hanging handles on the roof. But he was equally ecstatic too – after all he may not get to travel everyday on a 5 star AC train which according to another kid was “moving in the sky”.
“Gurgaon ka konsa station hai?”, he again asked leaving me confused as well.
“Aapne kahan jaana hai?”, I asked.
“Gurgaon bus stand se apne gaon ki bus pakadni hai”.
I told him to get off at Iffco Chowk station, which I later realised was quite a bit away from the actual Iffco Chowk. After all this was my first journey on Gurgon Metro Line too. Till now I had only travelled on the underground sections in North Delhi. The underground part has its own charm. While travelling you cannot see anything around, the sense of direction has any meaning only if you look at the map on top of the doors. Overhead Metro on the other hand was scenic. And the journey from Quatab to Gurgaon is filled with diversity. You start with Quatab Minar behind you and a vast expanse of greenery around. The trees fall short as you ‘move in the sky’. The way is occasionally dotted with different farmhouses, their privacy destroyed by giving the public a bird’s eye view of the palatial bungalows. The distinct Chattarpur temple then looms large over to the left. Gradually the human intrusion starts surfacing as the green gives way to the brown and then eventually a jungle of a different kind – the skyline of the millenium city. And within half an hour, you have successfully made the transition from the history to the future.
Gurgaon Skyline
As I sat there clicking photos and watching excited toddlers having different views of the changing views outside, it was tough not to notice the laborer. He had not looked outside the window even once and sat there looking at the floor all the time. The only time he looked around with expectation was when a station came. Obviously he will have some different kind of experiences to tell to his family.

Rainy Ride

How often, while stuck in a busy city road with rain lashing down hard, has a wish escaped the trapped body – a wish that you are on a highway – free, open, greenery around, dark skies with the car tires making a squeezy sound as they pass on the wet roads on a high speed.
To live that wish, I realised is an exhilarating experience.
The state of Punjab ensured the greenery all around, the monsoon season ensured the lovely weather and the government ensured a good straight highway. Good, though, I must say is a relative thing. There were the usual slow moving trucks on the extreme right, fast moving vehicles snaking through, some daredevil on a bike braving the rain right in the middle of highway or an unsure slow moving car moving right and suddenly moving towards left when you try to overtake it from the wrong side. But all this is quite OK and in India, it feels strange if the mind does not pop up with “What the hell??” Morever, compared to city traffic, it was heaven.
Dark clouds had started racing me as I started the journey from the small town Mandi Gobindgarh, also known as the steel city. I accepted the challenge and with Coldplay giving me company, stretched the car exploring its limits – 130 kmph was the max that it could go. But challenging the nature is obviously not a good thing and soon the pitter patter was heard on the roof. Though it was sunny, but the wipers were sweeping the windshield. When we were kids, we used to attribute this rare rain and sun combination to “Geedar and Geedari”(Jackals) getting married. Soon the sun was out and the dark clouds, though heavy with the water overtook the speeding car. I was happy to lose the race. The green of earth meeting the blue of sky is an amazing sight. But may be the black of sky meeting the green of earth exceeds in awesomeness. May be it has that cocktail of a sense of laziness, pinch of romance, a hint of solitude and a tendency to go in the past.

Soon the laden clouds had dumped off their weight. Some of them turned white, other simply vanished leaving behind a beautiful rainbow with its arc directly on top of the highway.

Delhi-6

A visit to Chandni Chowk is an out of Delhi experience – the Delhi that is experienced in a normal routine with flyovers after flyovers, broad (but still jammed) roads, duplicate malls where once inside its tough to tell which part of the country you are in. That is the New Delhi.
Chandni Chowk is different. Its Old Delhi.

Chandni Chowk

The Moonlight Market

And if the makers of movie Delhi-6 felt that their portrayal would help us get a glimpse of the experience of Chandni Chowk, they were completely wrong. You have to be here to really experience it. In a movie you can only see a part of it. You are not able to feel the people & rickshaws grazing you, smell that unmatchable aroma of kababs, see kilometeres of wires intertwined beyond comprehension such that no one even attempts to touch them, taste the original mughlai dishes at Kareem’s and hear the rickshaw walas continuously shouting in an attempt to clear the way which even one person is sufficient to block.
My Delhi-6 experience started in company of Amit when we got off near the Old delhi railway Station Opposite the massive Red Fort.
We walked, trying to find way towards Chandni Chowk area and utlimately the final destination – Kareems. A turn and after walking some distance we found ourselves facing Sheesh Ganj Gurudwara. I remembered it from childhood when once I had been to this gurudwara where Guru Teg Bahadur had finally fallen after carrying his decapitated head in his hands from Red Fort.
We randomly walked soaking in the feel of the famous Chandni Chowk. Chandni Chowk was developed by Jahanara Begumm – daughter of Shah Jahan when he moved his court from Agra to Delhi after his wife’s death. It is essentially a street – the principal avenue of the Old City. Something like Shahjanabad’s ‘Brigade Road’- a boulevard with shops on either side.
It may have been the attraction of the town in its hey days but now it is a definition of chaos. I tried to find some method to the madness but could find none.

Chaos at Chandni Chowk

No Method in Madness

Though the place still has the archaic feel to it but there are islands of modernity. There are ‘Outlaw’ brands interspersed between the traditional ‘Asharfian’ and several other ‘cloth houses’. Among the many Burqa clad women, sometimes you spot young girls with bright clothes & i-pod in ears. A shining clean, vegetarian Haldirams stands among the numerous dirty roadside, completely non-vegeterian shops.

No method in Madness

Entering the Alleys – The Footwear market

We turned left in a small gali which had endless shops of footwear shops. But the space for footwear was only on walls of the shops. On road, 2 rickshaws grazed by if they had to cross each other. The rickshawallahs repeatedly called out to people walking in front to make their way. It was them or us or may be us on them!!
we carried on through the small alleys. There was some apprehension to go on when the alley suddenly turned dark. But it was an interesting decision to go on. The setting remained the same but the name, owners and the contents at the shops changed completely. The turbaned heads were in prominence near Sheesh Ganj, then people in white, embordieried skull caps appeared manning their leather footwear. And now suddenly out of no where we could see a ‘Sri Ganga Temple’ and shops named Laxmi, Saraswati, Durga – all selling wedding cards.

Dark Alleys

Darkness acting as a divide between religions

By now tired, having no idea where we were headed and Ovi Maps failing in these labyrinths we took a rickshaw and gave him responsibility to make our hungry tummys reach their destination – Kareems – the famous Time Magazine featured ‘dhaba’. As we neared the end of the narrow alley we found a truck attempting to enter it – a truck in a place where rickshaws were barely able to make their way. We defintely believe in the statement ‘impossible is nothing’ as far as driving is concerned.
Soon the massive Jama Masjid came into view. A big bazar with only resturants stood adjoining it. And between the hanging chicken – raw and roasted and smell of kababs sat Kareems – the neatly organised and overflowing with people struggling, waiting and cajoling the waiters to get their seats. Ancestors of the owners worked as chefs in the royal kitchens of Mughal Emperors. The present owner’s great grandfather Haji Karimuddin, who served in the kitchen of Bahadur Shah Zafar, then decided to bring the royal delicacies to the masses after the Mughals era ended. Seeing the menu there you know that why these Mughal rajas were like tall, broad shouldered, meaty hunks or you may call them  ‘Hulks’.

Kareem

Kareem Hotel – well not exactly a Hotel!

We had to share table with couple of other people but it was all worth the wait and the walk. Seekh Kabab was nice and juicy, mutton was the best I have ever had. The chicken, though immersed in oil was good, the roti very very heavy and the kheer was tasted after long time.
After the chandni chowk walk and a heavy dinner, nothing except sleep was on mind! ShahJahan would have retired to his Bedroom at the Fort across the road but we had to take a long journey back where Delhi suddenly turned new as soon as we crossed the Delhi Gate. Its tough to find this  inconspicuous gate on a map.  The Mughal era map of Old Delhi shows this gate to the south of walled city which once  was a passage out of the city. Now, though it seems like an obstruction between the passages.
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