India Tour, a dream of our 4 year time in the Computer Science and Engineering department of Dhaka University came true when our Chairman permitted us to go on the trip, we could see that finally our dream was a reality. Months of planning had gone into this tour, arranging the sponsors, printing magazine, getting our passport and visa, and above all shopping for India!!At the end after much anticipation we were all ready for the trip, our tickets were ready and we left our homes and families behind for the trip of our dreams.
Our trip started from Kolkata, the city of Rabindranath Tagore, Shamaresh, Sunil. We reached Kolkata at 5:30 pm by bus and checked into our hotel and lugged our luggage all the way to the top floor. The first night was all about the STD/ISD booth and calling back home to our families. In India the thing that our eyes looked out for the time was the "STD/ISD booth" and "Money Exchange". We had “panipuri" in the first night in India, after watching all those hindi movies and serials we thought that it would be very hotter and spicier than our very own fuchka , but our fuchka is so much better than its Indian version "panipuri". Oh in India everywhere cheap fruit juice is available, and you can easily get grapes or mango juice at a very low cost. Some of us ran to the bookstore for the original print of their favorite books, some went to the New Market to check out the buzz and some tried the TANGA ride!! The second day morning was busy; we went to Science City-which was pretty interesting, Nicco Park- which is like our Fantasy Kingdom, Metro, Racecourse-where you can still find hundreds of horses, and Victoria Memorial-which looked awesome in the evening. I read about these places in many books of Shamaresh, Sunil so it felt great when I went there myself. Above all the city was clean and the roads were very wide, the trams were interesting and may remind you of old Bangla films. The best thing about Kolkata was the street foods, chowmein (very tasty, they'll prepare this in front of you, so health conscious people out there can check it out), egg roll(which is not the actual roll , kind of paratha), chicken roll, paaprichaat , bhelpuri , panipuri etc , we had all these as much as our stomachs could hold.
Hawra station, the biggest and crowdiest rail station I've ever seen. People are sitting, sleeping everywhere and it was really hard to find our platform, carrying our luggage (which was also huge and which got a little fat after shopping from Kolkata, by the way it got fatter every time, we left a city).At last we found our compartment in the train, which was not up to the mark, but I think with friends even hell is heaven. We had a long 20 hours train journey to Agra. This journey was very long for many of us , but I am sure of one thing that our guys won't forget this for all the troubles they had gone through for the "HIJRA" , they got onto train at every stoppage and asked for money from them , it was a painful and frightful experience for all our friends .
Another thing that we noticed in this journey, in India if you are a vegetarian then you get water with your lunch otherwise you have to share it with your friends, because they don't provide water with non vegetarian lunch set .Another frightful experience that we had to face was "keeping seats under control" , otherwise you will be shocked finding yourself lying beside a stranger. I think without all these troubles the train journey would have been completely boring.
We couldn't get the actual view of Agra in the dark when we reached there. Our cook joined us in Agra. Without a cook I would have died in India as I don't like the spicy Indian food that much .Its better if you go to a restaurant like Sajna and try out few Indian dishes , but its not the same when you have to take that food all the time. The pure desi food of our cook saved my life. The fresh chilling air of Agra welcomed us to the city of Mughal Empire. We first went to Agra fort, the great monument of red sandstone dominating a bend in the river Jamuna, northwest of Taj Mahal , constructed by the Emperor Akbar who laid the foundation of this majestic citadel in 1565. The crescent shaped fort includes different buildings for different purposes like, Jahangiri Mahal the first notable building as we entered through the Amar Singh Gate was built by Akbar for his son Jahangir , Khas Mahal the private palace built completely by marble, Diwani Khas , Sheesh Mahal , which attracted all of us by its glass-mosaic decoration(its similar to the glass mosaic shown in the film Mughal E-Azam, haven't you heard of it?) , which was used by the royal lady as their dressing room, DiwanE-Aam , which was the public hall made of red sandstone , the impressive structure remind us of the days when the emperor met officials and commoners and listened to the petitioners in that hall sitting on the famous Peacock Throne .
After this interesting mixture of Hindu and Muslim architecture of Agra fort we went to Tajmahal, the finest Mughal structure, a mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Visiting this Tajmahal, one of the most beautiful masterpieces of architecture in the world could be the lifetime dream of any love birds. It's not just a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones. We could hardly stop ourselves from taking pictures everywhere. Not only us we found people around us taking pictures in every possible posture over there, as if everyone was a dual combination of photographer and model. We were there till evening to enjoy the evening view of Tajmahal.But the bitter cold did not let us sit there for long and enjoy the monument for enduring love. From the premises of Taj none of us forgot to buy Taj in different shapes and size .I think this is the most common gift that anyone brings from Agra, actually visiting Agra without buying a single Taj is absurd!
After that we just hung around in the Agra city, which was clean and nice. The shops were filled with beautiful handicrafts with heavy embroidery .We didn't forget to check out the pizza hut over there as we heard its very! CHEAP! in India , but the price in Rs was a bit higher than the price in Tk in our country !!!The most important thing that we learnt from Agra was, if someone wants to pay Rs 30(for desi people) instead of Rs700 (for foreigner) as the entrance fee to Taj then s/he must know Hindi. It's same for Agra fort. Actually sometimes being a thief is challenging and interesting, and we didn't let this chance go.
The next morning we started for Jaipur. On the way to Jaipur we visited Fatehpur Sikri , which was the political capital of Mughal empire under Akbar's reign. We didn't forget to take pictures under the largest gate of the world "Buland Darwaza" as our guide said . Fatehpur Sikri also has different buildings for different purposes like Diwan E-Aam , Diwan-E-Khas (we got that its common part of any fort!!), Jodhabai's palace, who was the wife of Akbar the great. Across these buildings stands the Anup Taloa, with a central stage with four paths leading to it, this is where Tansen sat and performed many of the beautiful ragas for Emperor Akbar , said our guide. We tried to capture the actual Tansen pose in our camera sitting over there. We also visited the artistically designed mausoleum of Salim Chisty who is reputed to have prayed for a son of Akbar leading to the birth of Salim Jahangir (Haven't you heard of Salim-Anarkali?).Our guide also gave us a huge lecture for buying "Compact DHAGA pack". Its like if you want then you can buy this pack (there are 20Rs, 50Rs,60Rs,100Rs pack available , I don't know how can this be of different prices ) and tie DHAAGA in the mausoleum. On the way to Jaipur from Agra with the changing color of the soil and the climate we found that the dress of the commoners was changing, in Jaipur girls mainly wear ghagra choli and guys wear short kurti. We reached Jaipur at night.
Jaipur the pink city journey started with Birla mandir, which is made of white marble similar to Tajmahal. Birla mandir is well decorated by its garden. We didn't have much time so in a hurry we visited Albert Palace, Hawa mahal , Jal mahal. If you want to be treated like the royalty of yesteryear then you can take an elephant ride to the intriguing Amber Palace. The palace complex which stands to this date was built under the reign of Raja Man Singh, Commander in Chief of Akbar's army and a member of the Emperor's inner circle of nine courtiers in 1592 and brother of Jodhabai.
The massive structure was like a hide and seek place for us, if you are lost anywhere then it'll be tough to get back to right place. This palace also had Diwan E-am, Diwan-E Khas as usual. But the most spectacular was the 'Seesh Mahal', hall of Mirrors known for its craftsmanship in mirrors, thousands of mirror pieces adorn the walls and the ceiling that, any streak of light makes them sparkle and illuminates the entire room. It was a pleasant view. We found some intrinsic gold design still decorating the hallway. On the way from Amber palace we had to pass through pink city which was really PINK!! Have you ever seen hundreds of buildings in pink standing side by side? It's obviously an interesting sight for all of us, the pink city gate was also pink .In the evening we went for shopping. For all shopping lovers I guess Jaipur could be a great catch. Traditional wall mats, bedcovers, dress, and ornaments anything you want you can get there at cheap rate. Some of us bought some semiprecious and precious stone ornaments for their loved ones .To check out the largest cinema hall in south Asia we went to Rajmandir at night .We thought that we could enjoy thrilling "DHOOM 2" ,but we were greeted with the huge poster of 'Vivaah' in front of the cinema hall to break our hearts. Some of us did go on to enjoy the cinema hall ! And we kept exploring roads of Jaipur on foot, which was really a cool experience.
After Jaipur we came to Delhi, capital of India. The clean wide road of Delhi and Metro was very surprising to our eyes. Palika Bazaar is a must for all guys and Delhi shopping malls are must for all girls out there. First we went to Delhi fort / Red fort which was Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's new capital which was quite similar to Agra fort .Our guide took us to Qutub Minar next, the tallest brick minaret in the world, and an important example of Indo-Islamic Architecture built by Qutb-u'd-Din Aibak. Then our bus moved to Lotus Temple, Rajghaat, India gate and many other important places of Delhi and our guide continued his monotonous description of every single thing on the road and lulled us to sleep in the bus. In the evening we were free for shopping, huff Delhi shopping made our luggage weigh 5-10 KGs more.
We took a lengthy and what seemed to us to be a risky bus journey from Delhi to Manali. The hilly roads were so narrow that we felt that the bus would go off roads and crash into ravines below , but the beauty of this hilly area is undeniable .It was so cold over there that in bed we could not move from one side to the other, in spite of having a room heater. Manali would be a memorable place for most of us, as many of us saw snow for the first time over there. People got crazy in the snow, and all of us looked like small bears in the furry overcoat that we hired from the local store. We were all busy in making snow balls and throwing it to another person and jumping on the huge bed of snow. People bought shawls from the Manali Mall road, where you could also find nice Nepali handicrafts. At night we had a BBQ party which was also great.
Another risky journey brought us to Shimla, which was a nice clean city on the hill top like crown on the hill. The amazing thing that we found when we reached there was, there wasn't any transport in Shimla, everyone was walking through the hilly narrow roads, maybe for that it was so clean and the air was so fresh. On the way to Shimla from Manali the lovely Bipasha (not the film actress!) river moved us !!Oh another interesting thing that we found was, Monkeys!! I guess there were more monkeys than people out there. In Shimla we went to a place called Kufri to see snow fall and apple trees. The snow fall without snow and bare branched apple trees really amazed us. But we didn't forget to take the pictures of the apple tree to show others that we had seen such “beautiful apple trees”!
From Shimla we went to Ambala to catch the train to Kolkata. Ohh our journey came to an end, this thought made all of us sad .