India Chronicles: 2011 Edition [caption id="attachment_323" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Landed and prepped for city!"][/caption]
I apologize in the delay in updating my blog - I couldn't really update it as I wasn't in the country!
It had been three years since I last visited my motherland, India. I decided I had to take time out this summer and give the country a visit. My visit was planned around the vacation of my friends in India, so everything was booked and I decided to fly out across the world, by myself, for the very first time to India. I know some of you guys do this often, but this was a fantastic first time experience. I hit up YYZ and went thru a rigorous security process and soon boarded my Jet Airways flight to BOM, India. The flight was as usual pleasant. After almost a day of being in transit I finally arrived Mumbai, and cleared customs without a hiccup.
[caption id="attachment_335" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Foursquare check-ins at the Airports on the way there!"][/caption]
As soon as I stepped outside the warm Mumbai breeze hit me reminding me instantly of my first 15 years of my life there. I was welcome by my Chaddi Buddy (literal translation - diaper buddy) and my cousin brother. Took a quick drive around the city and got home around midnight. Man, had the city changed. Instead of optimizing the area, these guys went overboard and decided to erect towers and malls in EVERY SINGLE CORNER OF THE CITY. Let’s not forget the construction of Metro which has essentially created a clusterfuck there, for simple every day commute. Canadians bitching about 404/401 clusterfuck need to see this and realize, major intersections is Mumbai is where the term applies appropriately.
[caption id="attachment_324" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Monsoons!"][/caption]
After catching up with my friends and family, I passed out and decided to explore the city in the evening. Varun and I decided to hop onto his Royal Enfield and tour the city when we were informed that three sequential blasts had rocked the city. Un-fucking-believable. Long story short - the city was shockingly back to normal less than 24 hours later. At this point in time, my stay in Mumbai had come to an end and I moved up north to Baroda, Gujarat to meet up with my grand parents and cousins. This was essentially my ‘downtime’ period. Of course, I didn't realize that till I began my trip to Vaishnoo Devi. This place is considered to be very holy by Hindus and is quite a pilgrimage itself.
[caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The view from almost the top by Vaishnoo Devi"][/caption]
For our pilgrimage we decided to take the chopper ride up to the Temple, which would then be only 3km walk instead of a total of 10 km walk one way. We booked the chopper and accidentally picked Pawan Hans and not Global Vectra. The difference? Pawan Hans is government owned, while Global Vectra is privately owned. The service is significantly slower for Pawans Hans, and this essentially led to next part of my pilgrimage to Vaishnoo Devi. We visited the Bhawan, and walked back 3km to the helipad only to see fog come in and halt the service completely.
[caption id="attachment_329" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Approximately 12km of this winding path. Thats what I walked."][/caption]
We had no choice but to walk back down the entire way to the town of Katra, from an altitude of about 7000ft, and cover a distance of 10km. My parents decided halfway to hop on the horses and get a ride back - but my adrenaline and ego kicked in and I talked myself in to speed walking down the steps all the way thru. I accomplished the feat in just over an hour of non-stop decent and felt pumped at the end of my walk. I however realized that I was incapable of walking for the next day due to my knee’s completely giving up on me. Moral of the story: Book Global Vectra, get up to the Bhawan fast, and get down fast and hope you don't face any inclement weather.
[caption id="attachment_330" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Moments before our helipad was covered in fog"][/caption]
While I was staying in Udhampur in the Indian Army’s officer’s mess - I had the privilege of visiting their indoor firing range and testing out some of the weapons used in the Olympics as well. I supposedly had phenomenal accuracy...at a distance of 10m.
[caption id="attachment_332" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="At the indoor firing range."][/caption]
I call that an accomplishment. Once my stay was over there, we then flew to Lucknow, to stay at my Mama’s (Mom’s elder brother) house, and the experience there was just as phenomenal. We decided to visit my mom’s childhood home in Kanpur, and what an emotional experience that was. My mom literally broke out crying during the entire visit there and it was heart wrenching to vicariously live the life thru her stories during the entire trip there, looking at her neighborhood, and her school and the temple she visited every friday her entire life till she relocated to Bombay. And now, it was time to move back to Bombay.
[caption id="attachment_339" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Mom, just before being overwhelmed by emotions."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_333" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="We had a Police AND Military escort in Kanpur."][/caption]
This time I had decided to experience all of the private airline companies in India. I flew via JetAirways from Bombay to Baroda, and from Baroda to Delhi with Indigo Air. From Delhi to Jammu in SpiceJet, back from Jammu to Delhi in Kingfisher which followed thru till Lucknow and then from there to Bombay. To be honest - the private airlines in India were phenomenal. Competition truly breeds exceptional service, and that's true in this industry here! I highly recommend travelling by either of the Airlines - good service, especially Jet Airways (which seems to rock International and Domestic flights).
I reached Bombay on the 24th itself, and decided to pig out on the best street delicacies of the city. I also had the opportunity to meet up with a few close friends including a friend I hadn't met in almost 10 years and it was a pleasant surprise! I had the opportunity to meet up with a few folks on more than one occasion and I’m glad I got to spend quality time with all of these very busy individuals!
[caption id="attachment_328" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pigging out a Mainland China - Arsty shot courtesy of Sachin"][/caption]
Sadly, the trip ended very quickly and I was once again, back at the Airport, back to Canada.
[caption id="attachment_340" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Foursquare check-ins at the Airports on the way back!"][/caption]
Let me tell you one thing that every one traveling to that part of the world would agree with - life back here seems WAY TO CALM when you are back from India. No honking, traffic noise, pollution - things that are second nature to us here is something sort of a surreal moment there.
I’ve finally been able to completely process the entire trip - which is why I decided to share it with you folks! I am not going to put up the 1000 odd pics I took because that'll take too much time!
PS: I picked Vodafone as my carrier in India - phenomenal service in Mumbai, as soon as I stepped outside the phone was useless. Stick to AirTel. They seem to have better coverage!
But if you have any questions, or comments please let me know!