Shimla – after years!!

Shimla – the queen of hills. No matter how commercial it gets or how crowded it gets, it still holds a special place for some of us friends. On a recent ‘official’ tour there, I tried hard to remember when I was there the last time. It was on a new year’s eve when we were there to inaugurate 2007. There are plenty of good memories before that of course – cricket with a fractured hand, ‘Naldhera’, the super expensive ice cream which was priced at an exorbitant Rs 30 but was compulsory on a cold night, experiencing the snow fall for the first time and sitting beside a warm fireplace at Vishesh’s home on Dec 31st, 2006.

Shimla essentially remains the same – the mall road, the ridge, the church and the famous Gandhi statue. But this time some things stood out. One is a huge statue of lord Hanuman on the top of a hill just behind the church. So if you click the church from certain angles, you will get the orange statue in the background.

Another notable difference was the absence of Barista on mall road. During college days, Barista was an aspirational place and we had hoped to be able to come to the Mall road barista café one day. Sadly, it was not to be. One another expensive eating joint used to be the Baljees, again on the mall road. But when I went there this time, it seemed as one of the cheapest. Times change. Things change. Shimla.. well the same.

Church with Hanuman statue in the background

Maldives

Maldives – a country of islands which are an extension of the Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian Sea. We had a chance to primarily be on one of them and it was undoubtedly beautiful.

At Male, it seems you are landing on the water itself. From the inside (or even outside) it is not a very attractive airport – certainly no match for the beauty of the rest of the place. As you get out of the airport, the first thing that strikes is the clarity of the water. It is almost as clear as in a swimming pool and you can see the bottom of the ocean floor.

A speed boat took us to our island. It was my first ride on a really fast speed boat and as it floated over the waves, it gave that funny feeling in the stomach – the same as you get on a roller coaster.

The island we went to (for the honeymoon) was more famously called the Paradise Island. The waters close to the island were greenish and not deep. Far away you could see it distinctly change to dark blue – indicating a sudden fall in the ocean floor. There were beach cottages along the circumference of the island and the water villas which were right in the middle of the water.

The whole island has been converted into a resort with a wide range of facilities and activities to do. You could take a ride on one of those planes which land on the water (I had seen them in the movies only), go fishing at night, have a private beach barbecue or play a wide range of games at the island itself.

But more than this man-made fun, it was the nature which was at its best. Strolling on the beach with a bright moon light, cool breeze and sounds of the waves was one such experience where the nature brings it all together to make it a perfect moment. Or maybe sitting on the beach restaurant – candle light, staring out at the vast dark expanse in front of you with an absolutely blank mind. During the day you could snorkel for hours together and be close to a range of variety of fish and pick up an assortment of sea shells – right from the sea bed.

Everything was excellent but in hospitality industry often the physical beauty alone is not quite enough to give you an ‘experience’. You need the accompanying service. And that was one downside at this specific island.

The rooms were big and comfortable but there were no soaps in the bathroom. And though only a limited people watch TV while in Maldives, but still the condition of the TV was pathetic – the remote control broken. A bottle of water ordered at the room took hours to come (and not just once). The behavior seemed ‘taught’ and may be did not come from inside.

Well, some of these glitches apart, the place (a one hour flight from Sri Lanka) is worth a visit – especially considering that it is feared that these islands may be under water in few years.

Adham Khan’s Tomb

Adham Khan is a character from history whom many people would now know. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, then he was one of the villains in the movie – Jodha Akbar. He was son of Maham Anga (Illa Arun) and killed Atgha Khan (played by Raza Murad).  Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) then defeated him in a fight and threw him down from his fort. When he was not killed, Hrithik had ordered his servants to bring him up and throw him down again.

The scene depicted is actually true. Maham Anga was Akbar’s wet nurse who used to feed him as an infant (According to customs, the mother who was the queen did not use to do it but a trusted nurse was appointed). Adham Khan, hence became the ‘milk-brother’ of Akbar.

When he was an infant, Akbar was force-ably taken by his uncle (chacha) and kept captive (to be used as a shield in case Humayun attacked). Maham Anga had voluntarily gone along with her own son to take care of Akbar. All three remained captive for nearly 12 months.

Years later, when Akbar appointed Ataga Khan as Prime Minister, it enraged Adham Khan (obviously he was expecting the job) and he went on a rampage killing Ataga Khan in the process. As a result, Akbar threw him down the ramparts of his fort in Agra. Few days later, Maham Anga also died of grief.

Akbar, who had deep sense of gratitude for them, decided to make Adham Khan a tomb. Maham Anga was also later buried along her son.

The tomb lies dilapidated in the midst of the Mehrauli market just behind Qutub Minar.

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