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Saturday, 28 January 2012

8. DELHI-DWARKA-DELHI BY CAR : UDAIPUR (TRAVELOGUE)

DELHI-JAIPUR- AJMER-CHITTOR-UDAIPUR -AHMEDABAD-DWARKA-AHMEDABAD-MOUNT ABU-JAIPUR-DELHI
Day 04 : UDAIPUR

Day 04 and we woke up in Udaipur, the City of Lakes. The Guest House was beautifully perched on a hill-top overlooking Fateh Sagar Lake. The view was awesome and the breakfast sumptuous. Having experienced the maze of roads the previous evening and in view of the time factor, we decided to hire a cab instead of venturing out all over the place on our own. I hate the idea of lowering the window glass every now and then and calling out every second pedestrian or rickshaw-puller, “Bhaiyya ji…xxx ka rasta kidhar hai?”



Pichhola Lake as seen from the Guest House
The cabbie was punctual and as planned, we started our local tour at 9.30 am sharp. Well, by tourism standards, it is pretty late. Isn’t it? Anyway, having already feasted our eyes on the Pichhola Lake the previous evening, we headed off straight to Rana Pratap Memorial.




Rana Pratap on Chetak
RANA PRATAP MEMORIAL:
Built in the memory of Rana Pratap, it is an unusually neat and clean memorial and the bronze statue of Rana Pratap riding his favourite horse Chetak is quite imposing. 
Born on 5th May, 1540, Rana Pratap succeeded the throne of Mewar on 28th Feb, 1572 even before he was 32 years old. Having lived a life of strife and struggle, he sadly died quite early on 19th Jan, 1597 when he was barely 37 years old. From the large size of his dresses and the size and weight of his sword(s) displayed in the local museum, it appears that he was quite a tall and strong man who could carry such heavy swords in each of his arms while fighting.





We as a Rajasthani couple
Incidentally, while walking towards  the memorial, I spotted some tourists dressing up in Rajasthani dress and getting themselves  photographed.  I could not resist the temptation of getting ourselves photographed too in Rajasthani attire. At first, it was tough to make hubby agree but I managed to succeed in persuading him. And there I was!!.. getting dressed up in ghaghra, choli, jhoomar, choora and what not. And he looked so different in a Rajasthani attire. By the time, we returned after seeing the Pratap Memorial, the photograph was ready. Cool!!... and oh boy!! … did I look Rajasthani? You decide for yourself.







SAHELION KI BARISoon we were at Saheliyon ki Bari, an old beautiful garden maintained so meticulously even today. As the name indicates, it is a garden where the royal ladies used to come with their female friends for a graceful stroll. 




GULAB BAGH:
My grandfather Rai Sahab 
Shobha Ram Bhulyan, 
FRSH (London)
It was now time to visit Gulab Bagh and my heart started beating fast. Will I or won’t I be able to locate my grandfather’s house there. It was my birthday and I was in the city where my mother had spent all her pre-marriage life with her parents and I very much wanted to see the house where she lived She had told me so many tales about that house that I had framed a picture of it in my mind. Will the picture match the reality, I wondered?  




As we walked and walked asking strangers whether there was an old building there, nobody was able to direct us to the house as it had now been converted into the office of the Senior Supdt of Gardens. We were told that there is a zoo here and nothing else. We also sighted a toy train chugging away. Quite disappointed, we were about to return when suddenly behind some old trees we sighted this big yellow building. It appeared almost out of the blue when I had started feeling depressed thinking that I will never find it. 
Yippee, we had found it at last.

In front of the building where my grandfather lived 60 years ago




The huge yellow house covered by blooming bougainvillaeas stood there in its full glory. As I was about to walk in, somebody stopped me, “This is an office.” 
“Yes, I know,” I responded with a feeling of belonging and tone of authority, “This is the place where my Nana used to live 60 years ago and I have come to visit the place (as if I had come to visit my Nana in his house)". The inner feeling was that of satisfaction on finally finding something  that was amiss.  It was like a religious place for me which I had been waiting for years to visit. 


Standing there and watching the house, memories of all that my mother had shared with me about the house flooded my mind. This is where she used to live, could not go to a regular school due to conservative place and had to study privately  (about that later), learnt music, learnt swimming from her personal maid Bhoori Bai. This is the place where 63 years ago, she got married to my father.…the jharokha (window) from where she saw her groom for the first time, the place where my father had gone as a 23 years old bridegroom wearing khadi clothes due to tremendous influence of Mahatma Gandhi on him, which my grandfather (Nana), highly influenced by the British had taken as offence and where my father had refused to ride a horse as a bride-groom because he did not know horse-riding and did not want to hand over the control of his horse to someone else. Nana, full of his status and sense of righteousness, must have been fretting and fuming and Papa, strong-headed as he was, must have been emboldened by the fact that he was the bridegroom. Imagine what a conflict of ideologies, it must have been! Sinking and floating in the depths of my own emotions, I was satisfied that at last my pilgrimage was complete today.


The City Palace
THE  CITY PALACE: The next destination was the City Palace. The cabbie dropped us at the gate of the palace and took the car away for parking. What a rush for purchasing entry tickets! Good that we did not have to look around for a parking place for the car.  The walk being long and the Palace sprawling, I thought one has

The City Palace
to be reasonably fit physically and should not don any fancy footwear. Once inside the palace, we had to take a quick look at various museums as we had a time-bound schedule for today. However, as we moved in to see the palace, we soon realised that it was one-way traffic and one could not go back even if one wanted to. “Keep walking, keep walking,” we were being goaded time and again by the security personnel there…perhaps because of the tourist rush in the winter season. Most of the stairs were narrow and steep and almost all were without any support. I was wondering how a comparatively elderly or handicapped tourist would manage. It is rightly said that India is not friendly to handicapped or elderly people. But the panoramic view of the Lake Palace located in the blue waters of Lake Pichhola from top of the Palace was simply magnificent.  



JAGDISH TEMPLEThis shrine is stated to have been built in the 16th century with a black marble statue of Lord Vishnu. The sculpture looked impressive from outside, but we were short of time, hence decided to give it a go.



Sunset on the way to Ahmedabad
It was now lunch time and soon we were back in the Guest House for our frugal meals and ready for the next leg of the journey… from Udaipur to Ahmedabad or Amdavad as they call it now.  


TODAY'S LEARNINGS

1.     For local sight-seeing, it is a good idea to hire a local cab who can take you around with the driver usually doubling up as a guide too.

2.    Eating frugal meals at the Guest House keeps your health in order.


For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

7. DELHI-DWARKA-DELHI BY CAR : CHITTOR (TRAVELOGUE)

DELHI -JAIPUR- AJMER-CHITTOR-UDAIPUR - AHMEDABAD-DWARKA-AHMEDABAD-MOUNT ABU-JAIPUR-DELHI
Day 03 : CHITTOR

The driver and the navigator reach Vijaystambh

Day 03 journey was expected to be a bit long as we intended to cover a distance of over 305 kms and reach Udaipur via Chittor after seeing Chittorgarh Fort, Rani Padmini’s Jauhar Kund, Vijay Stambh etc on way. We decided to leave the Guest House at Ajmer at 8 am sharp…. a shift from our usual leisurely 9 o’clock departures.

We woke up early at 6 am and rang up the caretaker for a cup of tea. Trng..trng … trng..trng …….trng..trng… .. no response. All the guys in the kitchen were probably nicely tucked in bed on a cold December morning. No problem, I took out my tea/coffee kit and prepared tea and we were ready to leave by 8am. The cook was awake by this time and insisted that we have our breakfast before leaving. We agreed but our departure got delayed by an hour and we left at 9 am, one hour behind schedule.

Flowers in Pratap Palace, Chittor
The distance of 190 kms from Ajmer to Chittor was planned to be completed in 2 hours but man proposes and God disposes. As we headed off towards Nasirabad, my phone started ringing. It was the caretaker of the Guest House calling, “Madam, have you taken away with you the keys of the room?”…”No…”, was my spontaneous reaction but checking my coat pockets simultaneously, I cursed myself, “ Oh my God!! What did you do silly woman” and admitted that the keys were in my pocket and that we are coming back to return them. I looked sheepishly at my husband and requested for a drive back avoiding to look at his irritated face.

As we approached the Guest House, Hubby suddenly swerved the car and we were badly  shaken with a  strong jerk bringing the car to a screeching halt. Were  we shocked? Were we stunned? Phew, we had just averted an accident....thanks to Hubby's alertness and quick reaction!!!!  A speeding car with Haryana registration number was trying to overtake us from the wrong side. And all this happened not on the highway but in the middle of the city where there was hardly any traffic... . Looking back, I wonder how we managed to keep our cool and did not let the incident affect our mood and spirit at all.


Keys returned, the journey started again at 10 am singing, "Nikal pade hain khuli sadak pe apna seena taane..". However, the road to Chittor was not only picturesque, it was wide and smooth too and without much traffic on the Sunday morning. The distance of ~200 kms was covered in only 2.5 hours and we reached Chittor via Nasirabad and Bhilwara  by 12.30 pm after paying toll of Rs 50 and Rs 40 at two Toll Plazas on way. How I wish, they levy toll at all roads and make them as good as roads in Rajasthan and Gujarat.


Loved the architecture and the colour of
Hotel Pratap Palace in Chittorgarh 
As we were not sure of the availability of a decent eating joint at Chittorgarh Fort, we decided to have an early lunch at Chittor city only. Later we discovered that there was a RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) restaurant up there too. 
Not taking any chance, we stopped at Pratap Palace, a haveli like restaurant with exteriors painted in haldi yellow colour. 


A child feeding a turtle in the restaurant
We were ushered into the backyard with a beautiful lawn where a lot of foreigners were seated enjoying their lunch on a sunny afternoon. The service was relaxed, ambience cool and the food good. By 1.30pm, it was time to leave for Cittorgarh Fort.



CHITTORGARH FORT
it is located a few kilometres away from the city on a hill-top  and spread in more than 700 acres. It is stated to be the largest fort in Rajasthan and is considered the "Pride of Rajasthan". It is believed to have been made by the Mauryas in the 7th Century and was taken over by Bappa Rawal from them in the 8th Century. Once there, it was a wise decision to hire the services of a guide for Rs. 100 for 4 hours who showed us around all the important places and also doubled up as a photographer.


VIJAYSTAMBH (VICTORY TOWER)

It was built by Rana Kumbha in the the year 1440 to celebrate his victory. It is 120m tall and has 9 storeys. The carvings are beautiful. For me the importance of Victory Tower is even more as my parents had gone there  together on their first visit outside Udaipur  and that too alone, way back in 1948. I still have a photograph of a young self-conscious couple at Vijay Stambh who  later brought me in this world. I had, therefore, been wanting to visit this place ever since I was a kid. My desire got fulfilled after so many decades.
  

Queen Padmini's Palace
PADMINI PALACE
 It is said that three factors, ie, Zan (Woman), Zamin (Land) and Zar (Money) are at the root of every fight/crime. Rani Padmini was extremely beautiful. Her fame spread so much that Ala-uddin Khilji  approached the King Rana Rattan Singh for letting him see the queen. As he had agreed to go back after getting a glimpse of her, he was allowed to see her reflection in the water. But one glimpse of hers and he went bonkers. He attacked Chittor to possess her but Padmini committed “Jauhar” (self-immolation) by jumping in the fire cauldron to save her honour. The palace and the pond are still there, a standing tribute to the most beautiful woman of that time.  

Kirti Stambh (The Tower of Fame)
KIRTI STAMBH (THE TOWER OF FAME)
This too is a magnificent tower with fantastic carvings though not as high as Vijay Stambh. Standing at ~22m, Kirti Stambh which was built in the 12th century was dedicated to Jainism.


MEERABAI'S TEMPLE: Wonder whether Meera Bai actually lived here.. "Pad ghunghru baandh Meera nachi re..." Meera Bai was one of the top three religious poets of Bhakti Kaal, the other two being Surdas and Tulsidas. Who has not read Meera ke pad in class VII and VIII?

Bheem Laat (orTaal?)

BHIM LAAT (or TAAL??) This lake is stated to have come into existence when Bhim hit the ground with his foot in disgust. Must be some powerful leg ;-)

The Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh
A beautiful gate leads to Trinity Temple

Yet another temple
The field where battles were fought

Soon we realised, we were getting late for our onwards journey. So we said good-bye to our guide who turned out to be a student of nursing. He had just completed his BSc(Nursing) and this was his Sunday pre-occupation for earning an extra buck!

At 4.45 pm, we set off for the next lag of our journey to Udaipur, a distance of app. 115 km. Was there any fatigue? If it was there, it was not felt.


TODAY’S LEARNINGS
1. One must carry total arrangement for making tea/coffee.  I love to have my tea as per my taste and hubby loves his coffee his way and that too at our own time.  A ruck-sack containing a small electric kettle, tea bags, coffee powder, Nestle Dairy whitener, 2 spoons and our favourite large coffee mugs, a box of paper tissues, Marie Biscuits to accompany our morning cuppa is an essential gear on our car drives. Good that we had it with us.




2. Never get hassled at the time of departure. Always keep your cool. Pick up your luggage, check the room for any left-over stuff, hand over the keys, sign off the registers, pay the dues and tips properly, check petrol, check air-pressure in the tyres including the stepney and leave for the next destination.





Reached Udaipur safe & sound by dusk time.

3. Be extra cautious while driving especially when   the road is empty. You have to factor in for other people’s recklessness and mistakes too. A road accident is the worst thing that can happen and has to be avoided at any cost. Remain alert and one important factor for remaining alert is proper and restful sleep on the prevous night. Don't ever compromise on the sleeping time.







For more Travelogues, pl visit my dedicated travel blog  http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in                    

Friday, 13 January 2012

6. DELHI-DWARKA-DELHI BY CAR : AJMER (TRAVELOGUE)

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The impressive Clock Tower in Ajmer
Day 02 : AJMER

Day 02 of our Rajasthan- Gujarat sojourn was meant for travelling from Jaipur to Ajmer and visiting the Dargah of Khwaja Saleem Chishti in the forenoon and Pushkar Temple in the afternoon as the Temple opens only at 3.30pm.

We left the Guest House at Jaipur at 9.10 am after gorging on aloo parathas and curd to cover a distance of 130 km to Ajmer.

The first Toll Plaza came after 20 kms at 9.40 am where we dished out Rs 80. But one didn’t mind paying as the road ahead was absolutely smooth and we were going at 120 kms per hour in our Hyundai i20 without feeling any rattling whatsoever. Fantastic!!!  Just 35 kms before Ajmer, there was another Toll Plaza but we were surprised that there were no charges. We only had to produce the previous receipt and no further payment!!

As we approached Kishangarh at about 10.50 am, we missed the bypass to Ajmer and entered Kishangarh instead.  As the roads are still under construction at many places, the road indicators/signages are not always perfect… are even missing at times. Anyway that added a little extra time to our drive and availability of time not being a constraint we did not mind it.

Soon we were back on the highway and saw the big M of McDonalds, the Country Inn, Swad-Ri-Dhani (an ethnic village resort) and many more hotels and restaurants before we were greeted by a big hoarding welcoming us to “ Ajmer the City of Prithvi Raj Chauhan”  . 

Ajmer is a unique blend of history and civilisation. The name has been derived from  "Ajay Meru" a range of Aravali hills which surrounds the area. It is an interesting place which attracts people of all religions. The Dargah of Saleem Chishti is a big attraction for all, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan was born here. For Hindus, the Pushkar is supposed to be the only temple of Brahma. Swami Dayanand Saraswati breathed his last here. There are a number of churches here. There are also Digambar Jain temples in the area with Sidhkut Chaitalaya  being a prominent one which was constructed in the year 1865. Ajmer is also recognised as a centre of education as the British developed it as an academic centre. Mayo College, Ajmer was established by the British in the year 1875 and it continues to be a centre of excellence even today. I also liked the design and build of the Clock Tower adorning the city.  

VISIT TO DARGAH OF KHWAJA MOINUDDIN CHISHTI

Shirky Darwaza (Gate# 4) of Dargah
The Dargah, which has given Ajmer a lot of importance dates back to the 13th century. It houses the grave of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a Sufi saint who  was stated to be a descendant of Prophet Mohammed and had received this land from Prithvi Raj Chauhan. It was interesting to know that the Dargah is considered next only to Mecca and Madina by the Muslims.. It is strongly believed that whatever one prays here is granted to him as a boon. 

Our contact person at Ajmer had arranged for a Khadim from the Dargah to escort us to the place and I am glad that he was arranged because without his pushing us probably we would not have been able to enter the Dargah’s sanctum sanctorum on our own. He asked us to leave our car and come with him in the 3 wheeler which he had brought with him. The ride in the 3 wheeler was a memorable event, clutching the side rods tightly to  avoid a fall during the extremely bumpy ride (and that is an understatement)  on way to the Dargah,  unoblivious of any rumble strips, speed-breakers or pot-holes, not to mention the narrow approach to the Dargah  with hoardes of people falling on each other. I am surprised how we did not meet any accident or even scratched anyone… (except the aching bicep and fore-arm of my right hand which was clutching the rod)… Allah ki meher hai, bhai !! 
 
The author after coming out of Dargah
Once  inside, amidst teeming crowds, we purchased a Chadar and a Flower Basket for offering at the Dargah not realising at that moment how tough it is going to be for us to reach the Dargah and do Kadambosi (kissing the feet) of the peer. At many stages, I almost gave up anticipating a stampede or the fear of getting my ribs crushed. But thanks to the Khadim who kept pushing us exhorting us to move on until we did the kadambosi. On coming out, I realised that I had not been able to pray at all there, my only concern at that moment  being my survival. The immense feeling of relief post-kadambosi was our major reward.

We profusely thanked the Khadim, paid his charges of Rs 500 and came back in the same 3-wheeler back to our camp having a feeling of great achievement.

VISIT TO PUSHKAR TEMPLE AKA PUSHKAR TEERTH AKA BRAHMA TEMPLE
The afternoon was reserved for the visit to Pushkar Temple. The hilly drive to Pushkar with langoors sitting on the road-sides was exhilarating. The bliss did not last too long and  soon we were pestered by the guides and one of them started chasing us on his bike until we said 'yes' to his advances. His charges being extremely nominal at Rs 100, we decided to add to the gross national income of the country and hired his services.

A Hanuman Temple within the complex
A Shiva Temple within the premises
Once inside the temple, we were surrounded by the pandas for the pooja for our ancestors. One thing I have not been able to understand till date and that is if one has not looked after the parents when they were alive, what is the idea of performing various poojas for them and filling the coffers of the pandas. Anyway, that is my personal opinion without any offence to the believers. Soon, a panda was after us and offered to do some pooja without any charges and insited on doing it. As we succumbed to his pressure, he sent me for an errand and started persuading my hubby to undertake various types of rituals which he withstood with high degree of nonchalance. The next step was interesting as he asked us to pay him his charges. When confronted with his own earlier statement that he will not charge anything for the pooja, he said pointing towards the ghat, “ Yes I said that but it was at that place and at that time. I am asking for my dues now at this place.”  It was irritating as well as hilarious and we asked him to get lost irrespective of any curses that he might have hurled at us like Rishi Durvasa.

The holy cow
The place was like any religious place, dirty, filthy, manipulative with greedy and corrupt people around. An interesting site was a whole lot of foreign tourists taking ride on camels. Many of them waved at my hubby. Did they think he too was a firang?
Disillusioned with the religious places of both the faiths, it was time to go back to our local pad now. We had no time to visit Adhai Din ka Jhopda, a mosque which was built from the remains of a Temple in a Sanskrit College, destroyed by Mohammed Ghauri in the year 1193. He ordered the mosque to be built in 2.5 days so that he could read his namaz there.



THREE LEARNINGS OF THE DAY

1. Don’t throw away the Toll Plaza receipts. At many places, the previous ones have to be shown for moving along without paying any additional charges at the next Toll Plaza.
The picturesque road to Pushkar

2. Don’t rely totally on your eyes while reading signages.  In case of doubt, DO stop and ask the locals for the direction.

3. Religious places are all the same and one should not expect much there unless you have blind faith in the rituals.


For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels
http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in


*****

Thursday, 12 January 2012

5. DELHI-DWARKA-DELHI BY CAR: JAIPUR (TRAVELOGUE)

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DAY 01: DELHI TO JAIPUR

Why do these trees look so funny? 
One fine morning, my hubby and I were suddenly bitten by the travel bug …we must explore India by road was the thought. Both agreed spontaneously, decided to undertake the venture and started the spade-work for the Rajasthan-Gujarat stretch which was covered by us in 16 days at an absolutely relaxed and leisurely pace. The decision was quick and it was followed by unending hours on internet Googling for all the details.

I must admit that we were too lazy to go to the Tourism Deptt offices at Chandralok Building at Janpath which definitely is an easier option for collecting information. Neither did we want to take the help of any tour operator. The idea was to go on our own, by our own car, at our own will and at our own pace singing, “Nikal pade hain khuli sadak pe apna seena tane…kahan ki manzil kahan hai jana, ooper wala jaane..”

We drove from New Delhi to Dwarka(Gujarat) and back, a distance of app 3000 km in 16 days, on a shoe string budget…. thanks to the Guest House facility given to our Bank’s officers even after retirement. Compliments to my chauffeur…ooops…my shauhar (hubby) who proved his driving skills and endurance beyond doubt at the ripe old age of XX (censored). I, of course, acted as a navigator all through.

On day one, we travelled from New Delhi to Jaipur covering a distance of 238 km leaving our residence at 9.10am. The morning was foggy, Delhi-Gurgaon Road had peak traffic at that time as expected and the cars were virtually crawling. But who was worried? Let it take as much time as it does. We were enjoying every moment of it. We were accompanied by my hubby’s elder brother and sis-in-law and catching up with all the family gossip chattering non-stop.

The first stop was at CafĂ©’ Coffee Day after 85 km at 11am. A much-needed bio-break followed by big glasses of Cappuccino coffee and cheese sandwiches which I had carried from home and which we enjoyed sitting in the warmth of our car was quite refreshing. We were on the road again at 11.25am.

At the Farmers' Retreat Restaurant
just before Jaipur
The next break was for lunch at the Farmers’ Retreat before Jaipur at 2.20 pm. We chose to sit in open with nice bright sun shining on the lush green grass. What a change from the cold and foggy Delhi! Soon we found a gunman walking towards us and I could not help asking, “Are you going to shoot us down?” He was highly embarrassed and quickly shook his head from left to right and said hurriedly, “No Ma’am, this is for your safety. There are too many monkeys around and they may attack you.”

Amer Fort, Jaipur

Lunch soon over, we decided to visit Amer Fort before heading over to the Guest house. A good guide at the rate of Rs. 150 for over 4 hours was quite helpful in seeing the Fort quickly with proper focus.



Inside Amer Fort
After the visit to the Fort, the guide insisted that we must visit the Rajasthan Handicrafts Emporium which we did only to realise that they wanted to sell various items to us at exorbitant prices. We escaped that bid and came out unhurt and reached the Bank’s Guest house by 9 pm. As we had already rung up the caretaker for keeping the dinner ready, we had our hot and healthy homely dinner.



SIX LEARNINGS OF THE DAY

1. Keep your favourite music handy. I had ripped my music CDs and transferred all my favourite songs on MP3 format on an 8 GB pen drive which I put into the USB port of my i20 car. It is not a great idea to carry loads of CDs especially when space is limited in the glove cabin.

2. Keep sufficient change ready in your wallet for paying up at innumerable Toll Plazas on the way. We paid Rs 21 before Gurgaon, Rs 27 at 34th km, Rs 98 at Shahjahanabad Toll Plaza at 108th km and Rs 47 at 205th km just before Jaipur. You certainly would not like to be searching all your pockets for change at every such plaza.

3. In winters, wear layers of clothes and keep taking them off as the temperature rises in the car. Don’t ever get stuck with a thermal underneath. It can indeed make you miserable.

4. Shoes are an important part of the outfit.... a comfortable pair which one can wear the whole day without feeling the need to take them off and walk endlessly in case the programme changes suddenly.

5. Keep extra camera batteries with you. The batteries in the camera have a unique tendency to drain 
off when you need them the most.

6. Feed the necessary phone numbers and address of Guest House in your mobile in advance. Who wants to search around a paper and read it in the dimly lit interiors of the car at night?



For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels
http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in