Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ray of hope

When I was a child I used to like “Republic Day” parade more than the “Independence Day” parade. What attracted me most were the arm force displays of modern warfare and the colorful presentation of different states. It made me feel powerful and I used to think that with this much ammunition no country would be dared to fight against us.

After many years of adolescent, right after Independence Day parade, I again witnessed, probably the most significant power of our country, right in the heart of the capital i.e. “we the people of India”.

The “Ramlila Maidan” that hosted the 12 days long fast of Gandhian Anna Hazare and witnessed the most significant non violent movement of independent India was indeed the grand exhibition of our great culture, our aspiration, our anger and most importantly our rise against our own negligence.

It looks like one of the rarest occasion when “India” stood side-by-side with “Bharat” for the same cause. However many people in ground were not aware about the root causes that why they were there? For school children it was more like school bunking, many hooligans were there for TV cameras which were present in its full form, and for few it was a grand exhibition to express them creatively as there were so many captive audience to listen. Everybody had its own reason, few were angry due to unemployment, few were from corruption, but undeniably it was a common belief that, here they will get answers to their all problems.

The real display of this power made everybody excited more than the sleepy, monotonous “Independence Day” speech which is more like a ritual now. It may not be possible to end corruption with one law but at-least a hope has been emerged among all that, we can stood again and again till it’s required.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Me Anna Aahe

This was something which I have never done before. A typical middle class mentality to not come out of my comfort zone, pseudo intellectualism that gets excited in drawing room discussion only, and blaming everyone besides self to our problems, considering rallies, agitation etc for those who actually participate in voting during elections and dreams that one day this country will change forever.

First non-political mass moment after independence

Self motivated, disciplined mass

Anger from the core of the heart

I use to say that “nothing can be happen with this country”. And I had strong reason to believe that. Every political party is deeply drawn in corruption and a political class has been evolved, that want to protect their legacy for them and for their future generations forever. Since 1947, the world has changed a lot and even India started changing after 1991, but how to catalyze this whole process of positive change?  Who is out there to listen? Answer was clear, nobody!

Gandhian Anna Hazare

New mantras to nation
System can be improved only if we all willing to follow the rules and there must be strict regulation and a strong monitoring agency to make sure that nobody, who deceive it, will be spared.

Kiran Bedi taking "Anna ki Pathshala"

Anna ke Arjun: Arvind Kezriwal

Walking towards Ramlila ground that too on Sunday and more surprisingly it was my third visit, to rebuild my faith towards my own nation; I was full of pride and anger with those who are still weighing their options for a safe exit due to their long time faith that public memory lives for a short duration.

Among several incidents where I forced to pay bribe the most irritating one is with my postman. Whether it is my job confirmation letter or an innocent rakhi from my sister every time he used to ask some money. I had paid for my driving license, and to one, who came for my passport verification, the list is endless and there was no hope to get out of this.

Volunteers at their best

The movement caught the attention of entire world

But suddenly this miracle happens and a 73 year old modern Gandhi came to save us. A remarkable team or say crusaders against corruption started in a way that entire nation mobilized in disciplined manner which is quite unique for a movement which primarily aims to bring change. It’s the moral authority of Anna Ji that self-motivated nation is now impatient to get its long term due.

Biggest festival in the history of independent India

Age no bar
I request to all, who are still in Manmohan Singh mode (synonym for silent mode), just come out and support this movement in every way they can, because this is now or never.

Arjun Award winners in support of Anna Ji

Taj Mahal: A promise turned to marvel

The most loved monument of world is outcome of someone’s passionate love for his beloved. With all of its hypnotic and magnetic power, Taj is simply irresistible.  After my last trip to Bharatpur I decided to go further this time on the same route and the obvious choice was Taj and later Fatehpur Sikri was also included in the list. Here we took a smart decision that since Taj is undoubtedly best among all so let’s see it in last otherwise it’ll be difficult to enjoy any other place.

We started little late, around 8 in the morning and covered the distance of some 190 km in 3 hours, from there the sign board indicating right turn to Fatehpur just few km before Agra. It was around 35 km from there to Fatehpur Sikri. The entire stretch is nicely built and drive is pretty smooth. Just after crossing the last Tole point, few local people will try to stop you for a receipt of municipality development fee, don’t bother to stop and drive through extreme right as they are simply hooligans.

Entry to Fatehpur Sikri is through ‘Agra gate’ and just at entry point there is a right cut to VIP entry which we used to save our time. I had my press card with me otherwise a little confidence would do the trick. Just before main palace area there s again a slight right cut which will lead you to Birbal Palace. This is open architecture and one can go upstairs to see the view.

Again back to main entry, and first we had encountered with a large area which used to have a Taksal (a place where currency and other luxurious items were manufactured). This place doesn’t come under main complex so completely ill managed.

Now it was time to visit main complex which is truly magnificent. Just imagine how it would have been in those times with royal families living around and ruling such a big nation from here.

Akbar shifted his residence and court from Agra to Sikri, for a period of 13 years, to honor the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti. Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals.

The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri has a versatile Indo-Muslim composite style. All the buildings here are made of the red stone.

Jodhabai Palace

Interestingly the capital from Fatehpur Sikri was shifted to Lahore before moving back to Agra just after completing its massive structure. It was mainly due to paucity of water and also due to increasing turmoil with Rajputana areas.

Buland Darwaja
Shekh Salim Chisti ki Dargah
Courtyard of Buland Darwaja
We were there around 4 hours and then started to Agra. Here our first step was Sikandara. The Tomb of Akbar the Great is a true masterpiece of Mughal architectural.

Akbar the great's tomb
We paid our homage to the greatest king. I was surprised to see that there were lots of dears, without any kind of barriers, playing within the premises. It was drizzling and peacocks were also in full mood.

Then we moved towards Tajmahal as we wanted a nearby hotel so that we can catch an early possible glimpse of Taj. There is a hotel Jannat, with plenty of rooms and good facilities. We got AC room for 900 Rs had dinner and slept early to avoid morning rush.

Next day we got up by 5 and by 6 we were there at Taj. The common entry is from west gate and a parking is also there. The good thing about parking is that you pay 50 Rs for car and there is no time limit, so one can spend his/her time in Taj without worrying about hourly parking charges.

West gate entry of Tajmahal
From here onwards it was time to witness the splendid architecture of Mughal empire and to recollect the life of “King of the world”, Shah Jahan.  Within the walls of the royal palace in Agra, the prince met an extraordinary beautiful girl ‘Arjumand Banu’, at the age of fifteen. For both, it was love at first sight. Five years would pass before the auspicious day chosen for their wedding on 10 May 1612, and from that moment, they became inseparable companions. After their wedding celebrations, king gave the title of 'Mumtaz Mahal' Begum (Chosen One of the Palace) to her princess.

First possible glimpse of the Taj
Getting close

Almost revealed
Here it is..Wah Taj

Although Mumtaz Mahal was his third wife, but she remains his only love interest. Mumtaz Mahal had a very deep and loving marriage with Shah Jahan. She was Shah Jahan's trusted companion, travelling with him all over the Mughal Empire.

Taj is used to shower frequently with such a display of love
Shah Jahan is considered to be one of the greatest Mughals and his period is also described as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Mughal Empire. He also believed to have the most refined tastes in arts and architecture. He constructed many splendid monuments like ‘Taj Mahal’ and the ‘Pearl Mosque’ in Agra, the ‘Red Fort’ and the ‘Jama Masjid’ mosque in Delhi, mosques in Lahore, extensions to ‘Lahore Fort’ and ‘Agra Fort’. In the Red Fort Complex in Delhi, the famous ‘Takht-e-Taus’ and the ‘Diwan-e-aam’ and ‘Diwan-e-Khas’ suggests his distinguish taste. He was also the founder of the new imperial capital called Shahjahanabad, now known as Old Delhi.

In June 1631, Shah Jahan set out for Burhanpur with his armies to counter a rebellion. Even though Mumtaz Mahal was in the ninth month of a pregnancy, she accompanied with him. The queen gave birth to their fourteenth child, but soon afterwards suffered complications and couldn’t hold her breath. According to legend, with her dying breath, she secured a promise from her husband on the strength of their love: to build for her a mausoleum more beautiful than any the world had ever seen before. Her body was temporarily buried at Burhanpur before it was disinterred in December 1631 and transported in a golden casket back to Agra. There it was interred in a small building on the bank of the Yamuna River.

In the memory of his beloved wife Shah Jahan started the construction of Tajmahal around 1632 and was completed around 1653. Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and put under house arrest at Agra Fort. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the mausoleum next to his wife.

The Taj Mahal immortalizes one man's love for his wife and the splendor of an era.

After visiting Taj we were so spell bound that none of us had burning desired to see anything else and we decide to start back to Delhi after spending good three hours at Taj premises. Till that time it was started raining heavily, so somehow we missed ‘Itmad-ud-Daula's Tomb’ that was too in our list.

CNG Tip: We covered the entire trip on my CNG fitted i10, which costs us merely 600 Rs., since CNG is easily available in Agra at three points presently, and one is about to start. The most convenient one is at Transport Nagar, en-route to Taj Mahal.