Our Agra Trip together was long overdue; tried twice in 2011 but it couldn’t get through…2012 it had to be! Bandita hadn’t been to Agra & Taj Mahal ever and I was there last in 1998 – faint memories of that trip so off we went to Agra for a 1-day trip on Wednesday 7-November-2012; chose a weekday to avoid the mad weekend rush to the Taj.
Took all the available information on Agra from my comrade – Adit Sharda as he had been on a similar trip some weeks back including the route, places to visit for sure, the ones to avoid and also some food places!
I wanted my parents and Bhai’s family to accompany me and to make it a faun-family trip but then it wasn’t to be…Bhabhi had a slip-disk recently & she could not travel in a car for so long, it was a weekday so my nieces couldn’t join us and my parents ditched us a day before the trip! So it ended being a “couple” trip!
The other reason for my excitement was that it was supposed to be my first long-drive trip on the Blazing Red Machine! The Ford Fiesta Classic which I gifted to my parents in May 2011 but never got a chance to take it for a long spin…I have heard great stories about this car’s skills & performance and this trip was going to be my first bout with this machine! To make matters more enjoyable and comfortable The long-awaited & planned Taj Yamuna Expressway had also recently opened & a lot of my friends had zipped on that road so off we went…….
We started real early – exactly at 4:45 AM in the morning to avoid the early morning office traffic with a light fog and chill being our company till the Sun broke out! Crossed the Greater Noida Expressway enroute and made our first stop at the first Toll Plazaat 6 AM for a round of Tea and Sandwiches which we were carrying with us! Perfect way to start the day…the weather was super-awesome too…not too cold and not too foggy either! But the Toll Plaza was disappointing – the restaurant was yet to open and there were males encroaching in the Females Toilet and then we say “Atithi Devo Bhavah”! Luckil the place was very clean and there was a sweeper cleaning the place meticulously! And yeah 5-6 crows were helping him out too 😉 so much for Man-Animal/Bird Friendship!
The next Toll Plazahad the same story…no real services to speak of but the Facility was quite clean…full marks for that! We made a quick stop and started the final drive towards Agra without further adieu!
We reached the Taj Premises at 8:15 AM; the traffic hadn’t built up by then and it was relatively empty too! Did some Shopping too – bought the world famous Agra Razaai (quilt) and some Marble Artefacts for our home and as gifts for friends back in Kuwait from a UP Handicrafts store. Bought our entry tickets and entered the grand world of Taj Mahal!
The words mesmerizing, beautiful & magnanimous take an all-together different meaning after you take that first look at the Taj Mahal! Awestruck as we were but we didn’t lose our mind though & tried to soak in the moments…the weather wasn’t very clear but just about not-too-misty ensuring a decent view of Taj from a distance…wore those Shoe Covers and entered the precincts of the Taj after clicking endless number of pics trying to capture and add to the unlimited counts of pics to India’s most-photographed monument and the one which earns us maximum revenue as well! I am sure every given day atleast a million photographs are taken at the Taj…atleast I say!
Due to it being a weekday the crowd was quite manageable and allowed us many moments of silence as well while we were busy admiring the intricate carvings on the pristine white marble walls! After finishing one round we sat down on the very-cold Marble Floor providing ample chill to our “you-know-what”! The Yamuna behind us was slowly limping to life with a solitary boatman rowing towards the other shore ready to start a long day ahead of him…the misty weather gave it a surreal look! Though I rued the fact that it wasn’t sunny as it would have looked far more beautiful bathed in Sunlight!
We got ourselves clicked the routine Taj Poses – and yeah not those trick photography ones as I hate each one of them! There was a huge group of tourists from Prudential, Philippines who were visiting Taj as they had won some sales competition and they were not missing any chance to ruin the peaceful atmosphere – boisterous as ever & trying to click pics in all weird poses possible! One of such Filipino took our pics and was quite visibly-excited to do the same! I guess she had had enough of clicking her countrymen and women and wanted a break which we provided without even her asking for it!
While going out we were pleasantly surprised to see a South-Indian movie shooting with the choreographer teaching the heroine some real awesome Pelvic & Bust thrusts! Soon a big crowd built up and she obviously got embarrassed and moved away from the public glare robbing us some filmy dance pose preparation moments! So much for the over-enthusiasm of the lecherous crowd which had gathered…
Had my customary dump – (yes how I could miss that?) and surprisingly the Washroom was spotless-clean and odour-free as well; high five for the Taj Authorities especially for this! Another memorable dump moment adds up to the long & illustrious list!
We left the Taj Premises at 11:00 AM and as we had lots of time left decided to head towards Fatehpur Sikri – not the best decision we took but still had some fun moments there!
Reached there at 11:30 AM and hired a guide who had a peculiar name – Gabbar Ahmed but fortunately he wasn’t dressed as the legendary Gabbar nor sounded like him! Rather he had quite a shrill voice!
This was the first time both of us were visiting FS and were quite obviously excited – surprisingly I had no idea about the history of this popular monument so it was going to be one educative visit!
First up was the Buland Darwaza – the magnificent and dominating entrance gate of the FS which is 40 metres high and 50 metres from the ground and looked quite impressive! Akbar built it to commemorate his victory over Gujarat in 1601 A.D.
Gabbar then took us inside the monument while constantly blurting out his routine text to us while we were trying to digest all the information being thrown at us & trying our best to slow him down but then his body is perfectly conditioned for the regular flow so our efforts were a complete waste!
The most prominent feature is the white marble Tomb of the Sufi saint, Salim Chishti and it is so beautifully made…the white colour of the marble providing the perfect break from the monotony of the red sandstone all around! It was constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, who foretold the birth of his son, who was named Prince Salim after him and later succeeded Akbar to the throne of the Mughal Empire, as Jahangir. The intricate “Jali” work is beautifully carved and provides a surreal view of the monuments outside – no wonder it is famed as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India! We also offered a Chadar at the Dargah and tied threads wishing for the well-being and good health of our family!
We also visited the Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam and Mariam-uz-Zamani’s Palace while Gabbar was moving on with his recorded speech! We also bought some hand-made Marble Candle Stands which had brilliant carvings after a longish bargaining session! Left FS at 1 PM and then the ordeal started!
There was a huge traffic pile-up as we were approaching the Taj and the 39 kms long journey took us 2 arduous hours to finish! All this while I was busy trying my best to find a way through the traffic…finally we entered the Agra City and the conditions were no different – definitely one of the worst cities – Traffic Sanity wise! Almost all-possible means of transport are trying to hustle & jostle their way through…as I had no knowledge of the way to get out of the city I decided to follow a Delhi Number Indigo with a Tourist Number plate hoping it would leave us to the main highway leading to Delhibut it was the biggest blunder I made! It went through some crowded (well that’s such an understatement) by-lanes of a locality called Jagdishpur…we encountered quite many animal species as well who were part of the mad traffic – the regular ones though – Cows, Buffaloes, Sheeps, Goats and yeah even some monkeys! Brushed my car twice, finally got out of that mess and reached the main road after spending a gruelling 60 minutes of mayhem! Things weren’t quite rosy there as well – the traffic was bad as ever & it took us another 45-odd minutes to finally meet the Taj Expressway! I thanked God and my luck to have finally touched that road!
Now about the Expressway:
The road is real nice and quote a pleasure to drive on even though I don’t know why it is made up of concrete and not of the normal Tar; concrete makes it a bit bumpy but not that much. Plus the EW is very-very boring to drive on, atleast it was for me! as there are literally no cars to overtake and not many in the rearview either! so you are just driving in a straight-line! Plus the views on the left-right are very monotonous…endless stretch of Fields – and half of them you can’t even see properly!And I must say that the speed guns (even though I couldn’t spot even one of them) are damn efficient – the maximum allowed speed is 100 kmph for light vehicles! on my way to Agra I sped up once till 130 kmph as it was becoming impossible to control and when I reached the 2nd toll-gate it showed up and the attendant said “Sir, fine lagega”; I requested him”Yaar, subah ki baat hai, aage nahin karunga” and luckily he let me go! Up next I once went up to 110 kmph and it showed up again – this time the attendant didn’t point it out as 10 kmph isn’t much! Pretty efficient system I must say! though very boring for the speed-bred drivers of Kuwait like me who has done 230+ kmph speeds here ;)But then the smart & cunning me found a way out! while coming back I thought of a way to speed up and still not get caught! I passed the last toll-gate and then zipped! as I knew there were no more toll-gates ahead! 152 kmph was the highest I reached and then I got a bit scared and slowed down! and I constantly drove at 120 kmph types! and Bingo…no fines and full thrill! TRY THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK…please don’t quote me!!!
So full marks to the Expressway! even though the toll-fee is a bit steep (600 INR for a return journey) but then it provides a literally zero-traffic way of a Delhi-Agra-Delhi trip and I didn’t mind paying that money for saving me the pain of all those overtakings, traffic jams and encountering all sorts of vehicles on a normal highway!
After that the drive was incident & trouble free till we reached New Delhi! Both of us were really hungry as thanks to the Agra Traffic Madness we had to skip lunch – I couldn’t take the risk of finding a parking place and then having our lunch there! We stopped infront of the South Extension McDonalds & Bandita went to get our meal packed; within couple of minutes a Traffic Cop stood right next to me, knocked on my window and said those terrifying words “Sir Jee, No parking hai yeh spot, Challan hoga”…and then I tried all possible tricks to avert that dreaded Challan Slip but all my efforts were futile as that cop was in no mood to listen – finally I had to pay a fine of 600 INR; Bandita came back and we had a late-evening snack meal worth 760 INR! The Traffic Cop was quite evil too – he told me that just a few days back the fine for No Parking at this spot was 100 INR and it had been increased to 600 INR just 2 days prior to my mis-adventure as the Diwali season was coming up! Talk about “rubbing it in”! But I must say that that spot was quite well policed as while we were enjoying our expensive McD Burgers 2 Traffic Cops came knocking – and all I did was proudly flashing my Challan Slip which gave us the immunity 😉
Drove through the manic & office-traffic Delhi-Gurgaon roads and reached our home finally at 8 PM…then there was the routine enthusiastic show of all the shopping we did while my parents were busy watching their daily Soaps! Had our dinner and then dozed off after a wonderful & eventful day spent in Agra…memories forever and another destination visited together! The Big BoP Anniversary Ride to Mandawa was coming up and I was getting all-excited for that! So till the time we meet again……..
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…