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Paint me Red!

Though a Delhite it had never occurred to me to explore Old Delhi, having heard of it as only being ‘dirty and crowded’. And it was not until my work as a travel writer pulled me with a great fascination to any place new or unknown, that I grew excited and impatient about the idea of wanting the see and experience Purani dilli.

A most appealing opportunity came when work took me there. No need to fish out time, wait for weekends or holidays to visit it now! We got a project with the Archaeological Survey of India to publish a guidebook on Red Fort.

After mounds of research and a rough draft with all information collated, we got ready to make trips to the fort, to photograph and experience it for our self. Armed with cameras and any/every permission required, we went about capturing the fort, inside-out.

The imposing Lahori Gate

The imposing Lahori Gate

 

The red walls of the fort

The red walls of the fort

There is a lot more to Red Fort than meets the eye. It took me at least seven (if not more) visits to the fort to be able to experience and capture it in its entirety – a general walk around the complex on day one, and thereafter a close look at all the palaces, museums, gardens and the adjoining Salimgarh fort.

Diwan-i-khas and Khas Mahal

Diwan-i-khas and Khas Mahal

 

Walking through Rang Mahal

Walking through Rang Mahal

 

The marble pavillion in front of Shah-Burj. The Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'stream of paradise' that flowed through all the palaces started from the beautifully carved alcove set in the wall.

The marble pavillion in front of Shah-Burj. The Nahr-i-Bihisht or the 'stream of paradise' that flowed through all the palaces started from the beautifully carved alcove set in the wall.

Peeking into every corner otherwise out-of-bounds for visitors, climbing on to the ramparts and exploring it by the inch, we fell in love with the fort. The romance and grandeur of the fort undoubtedly came alive with all its tales and legends that we had gathered.

Scanning through their pictures

 

Lace-like jaali screens in Khas Mahal

Lace-like jaali screens in Khas Mahal

 

Taking a tea break sitting outside Naubat Khana

Us, taking a tea break sitting outside Naubat Khana

 

The eastern wall with the palace complex seen through Muthamman Burj

 

Gilded rich ceiling of Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience

Gilded rich ceiling of Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of private audience

 

Diwan-i-Am

Diwan-i-Am with its multiple arches

 

End of it, I had visited the fort at all times of the day possible – shooting it in the early morning light, exploring the indoor spaces when the sun was overhead, walking through the gardens in the evening breeze, and seeing the little shops in Chhatta-Chowk aglow in the dark.

The domed Muthamman Burj where the emperor came out to give a public appearance every day

 

Ceiling in Sheesh Mahal

Ceiling in Sheesh Mahal

 

The colour and tinsel of shops in Chhatta-Chowk

 

Chhatta-chowk in the evening light

And needless to say, once we were done with our work, all visits to the fort would be accompanied by exploring some part of old Delhi! Visit to Jama Masjid, eating at Karim or Al Jawahar… shopping for silver at Dariba Kalan…rickshaw ride through the galis – the crowded, jostling Chawri bazaar, the tinsel Kinari bazaar, and Nayi sadak with its rows of stationers and bookshops…eating at Paranthewali gali and having a lassi in khullar with rose essence sprinkled on top from Kinari bazaar… aah what life!

Sisganj gurdwara

Sisganj gurdwara

 

 

The Red Fort project was thrilling not just because of the visits to old Delhi, but because it was to be my first design project! The first Goodearth guide that I design! And looking back I’d say designing the book wasn’t as much a task as it was to make a selection of the pictures, from the zillion we’d all ended up taking! So much for our zeal and enthusiasm!

Here is a glimpse of the pages.

 

 

 

The guide is available with the Archaeological Survey of India at their Janpath office. For any one remotely interested in the monument, I’d suggest you grab it, for you’d surely feel the fort coming alive for you once you’ve immersed yourself in the legends and history surrounding it!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2009 in goodearth guides

 

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Ramzan in Delhi

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Posted by on September 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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To the hills!

Twenty eight kilometres from Nainital, Ramgarh Bungalows (a Neemrana property) in Kumaon hills are as detached from the hustle-bustle of city life and busy hill-stations as possible!

Naini lake

Naini lake

 

cluster of hotels/cottages at Nainital

Cluster of hotels/cottages at Nainital

As we drove down, after crossing Bhowali (11 kms from Nainital), the city sounds began to diminish gradually, until they finally faded away… The air became chilly, and soon the only sound we could hear was a regular SWISH of our car tires at each turn. It seemed like we’d entered the whistling woods! We sat up eagerly trying to spot the bungalows in the distance.

Like the other Neemrana properties, Ramgarh Bungalows offer a distinct setting – spacious bungalows are sprawled on a huge area, giving each a sort of quietude and privacy. A perfect getaway for anyone looking for peace and rest; it is, as the brochure says, ‘a place to relax, to read and do nothing if you so choose’…

 

 

 

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Each of the bungalows has a study, complete with a desk and chair – for it seems just the kind of place where authors, writers might come for creative inspiration. Many of the bungalows, seem to have been heritage bungalows, redone for hotel accommodation, and thus have an old-world charm about them.

The Cliff House, where we stayed, stood at the edge of the hill, giving astounding views of the hills in front and the valley below. Well-tended flowers and fruit trees bloomed around. To our delight we discovered a pair of beautiful birds making their nest in our balcony..and with stones! no twigs or hay! And colour co-ordinated at that!

Cliff House - our cottage at Ramgarh Bungalows

Cliff House - our cottage at Ramgarh Bungalows

 

 

The two birdies in our balcony

The two birdies in our balcony

 

the nest

Their nest, made of stones

 

Pink lilies

Pink lilies

 

Initially I thought the cows here ‘moooo…ed’ a lot… far more than their counterparts in the city. But then I realised that its just that such nature sounds get drowned in the city noise. Needless to say, Ramgarh bungalows were quiet..really quiet.. with all nature sounds heightened..and lots of nature inside your bungalow (read: spiders, big and small!). The only other such place that comes to my mind is Bhoramdeo, which I visited on work. Located in Chhattisgarh, it is a magical place, surrounded by hills and dense forests.

 

 

snoozing

snoozing

 

‘…However, if you care to be more energetic, there are many local walks and excursions further afield’. Its true, if you like activity, you can enjoy this quiet-prettiness only to a point. Sitting in the bungalow, my dad said he felt like we were participants on Big Boss, stuck in one house! Lol. So after a satisfying breakfast the next morning, we decided to take a trek and go down to the riverbed in Malla Ramgarh.

We chose this particular trek not just because the idea of wading in the cool waters seemed inviting but also because of all the recommended treks, this one was the shortest! This 2.5 km stretch usually took about 45 mins, the brochure  said.

However, the steep, narrow, rocky path down, took us nearly two hours! Apart from the balancing required, we paused every few steps admiring the view, looking at the flowers and fruits, collecting fallen chestnuts from the ground, and trying to identify birds.

 

Pomogrenates

Pomogrenates

 

wild mushrooms

Wild mushrooms

 

Trekking down

Trekking down

 

Fruit orchard

Fruit orchard

The little village in the foothills below, in Malla Ramgarh, was very charming – complete with shops, a small temple, school and an ashram. Many of the villagers seemed to be making a living out of selling fruits that grew here..packing and sending them to Haldwani or far-off places like the Azadpur fruit market in Delhi. There were orchards of plum, apricot, pears and walnuts!

Village in the foothills - Malla Ramgarh

Village in the foothills - Malla Ramgarh

 

Armed with umbrellas

Armed with umbrellas

 

 

Sitting in his courtyard, he was packing fruits to send off to the Azad market in Delhi

Sitting in his courtyard, he was packing fruits to send off to the Azadpur market in Delhi

 

Our driver doing some monkey antics, trying to pluck ripe apricots for us

Our driver doing some monkey antics, trying to pluck ripe apricots for us

 

Back from the trek in the evening, we sat resting our legs, gazing up at the star-speckled skies, completely awed…and thinking this is it!

 

A view of Bhimtal from a distance

A view of Bhimtal from a distance. We visited the two lakes, Bhimtal and Naukuchiyatal, about an hour's drive from Ramgarh Bungalows.

 

Boys diving in the Bhimtal lake

Boys diving in the Bhimtal lake

 

Feeding ducks by the lake

Feeding ducks by the lake

 

The sluice gates of Bhimtal

The sluice gates of Bhimtal

 

Boats lined at Naukuchiyatal

Boats lined at Naukuchiyatal

 

Umbrellas galore! at Nainital mall road

Umbrellas galore! at Nainital mall road

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2009 in holiday accounts, travel

 

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Pachmarhi Ahoy!

Last month, work took me to perhaps the prettiest place I have visited in a long time – Pachmarhi. Our clients, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Developement Board had commissioned a string of books and Pachmarhi is a part of it (Check with your nearest book-shop for our travel guides on Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Indore, Mandu and Orccha).

Where I dared!

This is your typical Pachmarhi landscape with tall, rocky mountains, plunging ravines and in this case, two feet from where I am standing, a thousand-feet drop. What you see in the pic is the insignificance and helplessness of man vis-s-vis nature. What you don’t see, however, is the effort it required on my part to keep a straight face.

God made it that way!

Another of Pachmarhi’s marvels. The rock, as big as three buses put together, rests as it does between two rock faces. Below it is a pond which is considered holy by the local people. I wonder how big the splash would be if one day, the rock decides to take the plunge!

For him, the bell tolls!

I finally manage to reach to top of the Chauragarh Hill, after 3.4 kms of uphill treks and negotiating 1,380 stairs. The view from the top made me forget hunger, fatigue,  sunburn, thirst … pretty much everything I was afflicted with at the moment. Now I know what Led Zeppelin were thinking when they wrote ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Him!

Pachmarhi is a land full of legends related to Lord Shiva. My guide, conspicuous with a bright vermillion tilak on his forehead, explained how this is where He stays when He is not in His penthouse atop Mount Kailash. On the way to Chauragarh, I stopped to rest in a cave and there He was! He did not speak to me though.

trishul!

More signs of his Presence!

Mother!

With the coming of the British, came a different deity – Jesus of Nazareth. A different god demands a different temple, so churches were built. Different people worship differently, hence there was built a Catholic Church and  a Protestant one as well! They are however, closed to the general public. Same tree, different wood.

Bee Falls

The Bee Falls is one of the busiest places in Pachmarhi and also the source of the town’s potable water. For the latest trend in waterfall-wear, consult the bathers at the bottom of the falls!

Pachmarhi can be visited throughout the year! If you are coming from Delhi, like I did, catch the Delhi Jabalpur Sridham Express which will drop you off at Pipariya at 0400 hrs. Right outside the station, from in front of the Strate Bank of India ATM, you can get a bus or share a taxi to Pachmarhi, 54 kms away. Dont sleep on the journey, you dont know what you will miss!

For more information, please buy our Pachmarhi Travel Guide…hang on..we’re still working on it. It should be out by the first week of September.

Till then…

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in goodearth guides, travel

 

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