Monday, April 9, 2018

Northern Sojourn Day III: NewDelhi - The National Capital

Finally, I am in Delhi - India's most powerful city. A city from where British directly or indirectly ruled Abu Dhabi (then part of Trucial Sheikhdoms) in Middle-East to Singapore (then part of Straits settlements) in East Asia; Himalayas in north to Indian Ocean in South. I wanted to be there for a long time, to see traces of old kingdoms; to see remnants of Sultanates, to see legacy of Mughal empire, to see glory of British era and to see post independent NewDelhi. After postponing multiple times; finally, I was in Delhi.

Plan was to spend a day and see couple of places. One day is not enough to see the metropolis, but I will come again during my future trips to further north.

After getting down at ‘Hazarath Nizzamuddin’ station, I checked Google Maps to see any place of interest nearby. The closest one I could locate was tomb of 'Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana' (one of Navaratnas in Akbar's court); I started walking towards the tomb. In that early morning, there were hardly anyone inside. Renovation was going on there. There was hardly anyone inside. I went in, saw the tomb and came back; all the time thinking about Abdul Rahim sitting at Akbar's court. 

Next prominent place in map was Humayun tomb

Humayun Tomb

Tomb complex was open for visitors very early in the morning. Apart from Humayum’s tomb, this complex has many other tombs and darwazas. First one on the way is tomb of ‘Isa Khan Niyazi'. He was an Afghan noble and member of 'Sher Sha Suri's' court. Other prominent buildings in the complex are 'Bu Halima's Tomb', 'Arab Sarai', 'Afsarwala Tomb and mosque' etc. 

Humayun's tomb was commissioned by his first wife empress Bega Begam. Designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, this tomb was built using red sandstone. Currently this complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from Humayun's grave, main complex also has graves of Bega Begum (Wife of Humayun), Hamida Begum, Dara Shikoh (Son of Shah Jahan), Jahandar Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Rafi Ul-Darjat, Rafi Ud-Daulat, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh, Alamgir II etc. 

After entering main complex, I climbed steps to reach tomb’s elevated platform, took a round and went inside through a door on right side. At centre lays the tomb of Humayun - second Mughal emperor and son of Babur. While standing on the complex one can’t escape from imagining the days of Humayun as emperor ruling vast expanse of northern India. After a while, I walked towards the exit.

Purana Quila (Old Fort)
On maps next place of considerable interest was Purana Quila. I started walking towards Quila. On that cold morning 3km walk felt more than what it was. By the time I reached Quila, I was very hungry and thirsty. There were some eateries located in front of Delhi Zoological Park (which is close to Purana Quila). After having some snacks and tea, I bought tickets for Quila and museum.

Like many other forts in India here also outside walls and gates are in good shape. Rest of the complex was long gone. Even outside walls were probably reconstructed by ASI (Archeological Survey of India).

First, I went to museum, which holds a small collection from Mauraya, Gupta, Rajput and Harappan times. Delhi’s history is neatly described in museum walls - both in English and in Hindi. After leaving museum I walked around the fort from one end to other. There was hardly anything interesting. 

After reaching Talaqi Darwarsa at one end I started walking towards the opposite end. In fact, I almost reached Humayun Darwarsa. Suddenly, I saw an excavation site on my left side. I went down, to see what it was. I looked back after hearing some noises from behind. It was a security guard asking me to come back. I had to come back and walk to other side to see the site closely. ASI conducted both horizontal and vertical excavations here. I stood there looking at the site for some time, thinking about the civilizations that dwell over this place; their houses, dreams and their end...

After reaching Humayun Darwaza I walked back and sat in a nearby lawn. Green grass of lawn was dotted with numerous young couples for whom this historical location provided a safe, economical and clean place to talk and share their emotions. Some looked happy and talking; others were quiet.

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA)

Next destination was India Gate. I took Sher Sha Soori road and accidentally ran into National Gallery of Modern Art(NGMA). Fee was 20 for Indians and 200 for foreigners!!! I don't know from where India government got the idea that it's ok to implement different rates for Indians and foreigners (basically overcharge foreigners). All people who travel are not from developed countries; all those who come (even if they are from developed countries) are not rich. This kind of differential rates are nothing but day light robbery perpetuated by government. Just Imagine, all these counties are charging 10 times price from Indians compared to locals for everything.

NGMA was in my plan, but I was not actively searching for the building when I saw it. There were some renovations going on. After paying for entry ticket, I went in.

An exhibition named, 'A Journey from Physical to Spiritual' was going on there. Sponsored by 
Ministry of Culture this exhibition was to celebrate 100th birth anniversary of famous sculptor ‘Dhanraj Bhagat’. His works using various materials like - pencil, plaster of Paris, iron, bronze, steel etc. - were on display. Some of the notable ones are Mahakal, Shiv Thandav, Birds giving food to others, Burden, Cosmic man and Spirit of work.

NGMA's new building hosted another theme - 'Quest for freedom'. It was indeed thrilling to see rare pictures from our independence movement. Pictures by Nandalal on Haripura Congress session; pages from Constitution of India; M.R.Achereker's pictures of Sanyasi, Pikes rebellions; Kattabomman's and Velu Thambi's rebellions were indeed great.

Other notable pictures on ‘Quest For Freedom’ were, Kulwant Roy’s pictures of M.K.Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Babu Rajendra Prasad; multiple pictures of M.K Gandhi along with Khan Abdul Gafar Khan at Khan's village, refugee meetings; pictures from 1965 war etc.

Works from many other notable artists were displayed under a different theme called - 'Seeds of Time'. Works from prominent artists like Thomas Danielli, Tilly Kettle, Marcel Kextion; portraits from other paintings from Company time; Raja Ravi Varma, M.S.Pithawala, Pastonji Bommanji Eruchshaw, Kalight Paintings, Chitragara Krishnappa Venkatappa, Abnindranath Tagore, Omar Kayyam of Kalimpong, Mar Chugthai, Heman Majumdar, Mukul Dey, Asit Kumar Haldar, Sunayani Devi, Madhav Menon, Gopal Ghosh, M.V.Duradhar, Antonio Xavior Trandade, Frank Brooks, Nicolas Roerick, L.N.Tuskar, Rabindranath Tagore, Amrita Sergill, Jamini Roy, Binod Bihari Mukherjee, Ram Kinker Baij, jamini Prakash Ganguli, D.P.Roy Chowdhury, Zainil Abedin, F.n.Souza, K.H.Ara, M.F.Hussain, H.A.Gade, Tyib Mehta, Satish Gujral, Shanti Dhave Nareena Nath, Anil Karanjia, Lakshman Pai, Surya Praksh, Birenn De, K.C.S.Paniker, Subodh Gupta, Bikash Battachajee, Mrinalimi Mukherjee, Jagadesh Chander, Probler Guta, Jayashree Chakraborty etc are also displayed there.

Numerous abstract paintings are also on display in an adjacent building. One day is not enough to enjoy and understand it.

Time was half past two and I was very hungry. At a corner inside Jaipur Bhavan Complex there was a cafeteria. Other than Samosa and cool drinks hardly anything else was available. I bought a plate samosa, it was good.

I was too tired to walk, but there was hardly much time left. I need to leave Delhi within some hours. Hence, I continued walking towards India Gate.

India Gate
After couple of turns I finally reached India Gate – one of India’s most iconic building. It was indeed an honor to see India Gate in person. I experienced an adrenaline rush of nationalism and patriotism every moment I stood there.

Designed by Edwin Lutyens, India Gate is a memorial built by Raj to commemorate 70,000 soldiers of British Indian Army who fought and died for British Empire during World War I (in France, Belgium and other European theatres of war, Middle-East, Persia, East Africa, Turkey etc) and 3rd Anglo-Afghan War. 13,300 soldier’s names - both British and Indian -are inscribed on the gate.
I stood there silently looking at the majestic structure and reading some of the names.

Located at the bottom of India Gate is the famous ‘Amar Javan Jyoti’ (Flame of Immortal Soldier). This was constructed in the memory of fallen and unknown soldiers of 1971 war for liberation of Bangladesh. Amar Javan Jyoti consists of a L1A1 self-loading rifle standing on its barrel with a helmet of an unknown soldier on top. Four urns are located at four siders of the memorial, one of which have continuously burning flame.

By the way, we often say Allied powers won world wars. What people often forget is the contribution of British India towards British success in WWI and WWII. Nearly a million Indian soldiers participated in WW1. British Indian army fought against German Empire in German East Africa, Europe and Mediterranean; fought against Ottoman empire in Egypt, Middle-East, Turkey etc. Approximately 7,00,000 soldiers from British India fought against Ottoman Empire. More than 74,000 Indian soldiers died during war.

During WWII, more than two and half million Indian soldiers fought for British Empire against Germany and Italy in Europe and Africa (North, East Africa and Desert campaigns); against Japan in South Asia and South-East Asia. Over 87,000 soldiers of Raj died during war.

It is unfortunate that, Independent India which fought four wars with Pakistan and one war with China failed to come up with something similar and majestic compared to that of what British Raj did for their soldiers.

Rajpath, Sansad Sadan, North-South Blocks and Rashtrapati Bhavan

I felt somewhat different while walking through Rajpath (earlier known as Kingsway); India's most iconic road. Rashtrapati Bhavan - house of president of India - is located at another end of Rajpath. One side of Rajpath is occupied by South Block (which has offices of Ministry of Defence - MoD) and next to that Prime Minister's office. Opposite to South Block is 'North Block' which houses - Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Finance (MoF). India's most powerful building - Sansad Sadan (which houses both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha - is also located at one side of Rajpath; Central Secretariat is also here.

Delhi Metro

After roaming around for a while, I sat for some time in lawn. At other end of lawn, a couple was trying different type of kisses :)

Day light slowly started fading away. It was time to go.

For going back to Hazrat Nizzamuddian station, I thought of taking a Metro Train. Delhi Secretariat station (underground) of Delhi Metro was nearby. I went inside and looked-for ticket counters. Unfortunately, there were no counters, only automatic ticket wending machines. A long queue was formed in front of those machines. Couple of machines stopped working in between. Some guys in charge of those machines came (ACME was written on backside of their shirt) and restarted it. People became impatient and one guy started shouting at mechanic. He shouted back, which created a small scenario. Just before it become violent, machine guy called police and they took the traveler somewhere.

Delhi Metro should do something for their ticket counters. Those who don't use Metro frequently - for people like me - there is no need to buy cards. It will be beneficial, if they at least have a one manually operated counter as well at least till the vending machines operates smoothly.

After waiting for some more time also got my tickets. It took a while to figure out the lines, stations and platforms. I decided to go to Jaganpure Metro station (which is located on Violet line) and from an Uber to Hazrat Nizamuddin. I reached the station well before time and had a good dinner from IRCTC food plaza.

After dinner I thought it was time to take rest but no... railways had something else in mind for me. 

My next destination was Amritsar and I had a confirm sleeper ticket in Panchvalley express. Problem was, neither train number nor its name was listed anywhere in display boards. I was not even able to see the train on NTES (National Train Enquiry System). At first, I thought train name will be displayed soon. But no, nothing. So, I went to enquiry. There in a small white board my train's number was written. Both, Chattishgarh Express and Panchvalley Express would come to platform one at same time. Then it struck me, my Panchvalley express is part of Chattisgarh Express.

Train was more than three hours late; by the time it arrived it was almost mid night. I searched from one end to other end of train, there was no sign of Panchvalley express. I tried once again, no sign at all. My next attempt was to see TTE. Finally, I found him and asked about Panchvally. He asked me to go to the end. Well, I went there and saw a boggie which looked more like an old bogie used to transport cattle. But, there wasn’t any name or number on that bogie. So, I came back to TTE for checking it once again. He told, that single unwanted bogie is Panchvalley express.

I went back and searched for my seat. Someone was sleeping there. I had to woke him up to claim my seat. There were too many people in that bogie. Entire floor was covered by remains of snacks items. Floors of three out of four toilet was covered in human waste. Fourth one was somewhat ok. I traveled in numerous trains, many of them had unclean compartments; but Panchvalley express on that day was worst of all.

Climate was very cool on that final days of December night in Delhi. Cold wind was creeping in through the cracks and openings. Around mid-night I had to woke up and rub my naked toe to keep the senses alive. 


PS: British Raj: Mainly composed of present day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

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