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Aha! Plans to visit the exotic Jammu and Kashmir have been finalized, at last. Rishi and Jassi would be joining me at Jammu. Leaving tomorrow.
Busy day. Last minute ‘suggestions’ in the PPT by the Big Boss irked me to no end. Endless calls to the travel agent (one slimy guy!), and harried ‘discussion’ about confirmed seats and finally the final printouts of tickets, exhausted me. Phone calls to the Tiffin Centre, Milkman, and a 2 minute chat with Aunty (Landlady… to brief about my absence), lasted for 39 minutes. Gosh! she talks a lot!! Finally, all done and I am bushed!
Got up pretty late. And am refreshed and looking forward to my holiday. Meticulously packed for the trip. Chatted with R & J and discussed some route plans and stay arrangements. They meet me at Jammu on 6th. Wish we were travelling together, but business ‘exigencies’ prevent them for doing so!
Not an issue, it’s just a day without them. Jammu, here I come. The train is at 8.30 pm.
A very irritating start of the day. At the ungodly hour of 5.30 AM, the train reached Jammu. I was rudely woken up by the attendant. In a sleepy daze, I gathered all my stuff and got down the train. Looked right, then looked left, and then stood on tiptoes, craned my neck to look for the gentlemen in red. And can you beat it, none was to be seen. I looked at my luggage. Cursed myself for packing so much stuff. But woolens are needed too, here (in Kashmir). Thank God for small mercies, that I didn’t pack the raincoat (I didn’t had one, in the first place!), though the travel agent had strongly advised. While I was in self-cribbing mode, one porter miraculously was walking towards me. I smiled and was about to beckon him. And he detoured towards a big family with luggage which could fill the entire space of my Wagon R. The rational mind understood his business sense, but the irrational me, cribbed and cursed some more. And don’t ask, how I carried the 2 loaded, heavy beasts of burden!
Found an auto to take me to the hotel. And he charged an exorbitant Rs 150 for hardly 4 kilometers!
A neat and clean hotel (yeah, for a guy, cleanliness features in my dictionary!) and a sumptuous breakfast of paranthas and curd soothed my ruffled feathers of the morning. It’s time to explore Jammu.
8: 50 pm
Fascinating city. My first visit was to the famous Raghunath Temple. Nah, I am not too religious, but this was in close proximity to my hotel. Yeah, this is the same temple which was attacked by the militants twice in 2002, killing many devotees. And since then, there is heavy security in and around the temple premises. Apart from money (for obvious reasons), they do not let you take anything inside the temple. Mobile, camera, wallet or anything else has to be deposited in the cloak room.
Normally, in all temples or Gurudwaras, either there is a no fee or a nominal fee of Rs 5 or 10 for safekeeping of the shoes. But here the attendants were saying, “Give whatever you desire”. Why can’t there be a system instead of this sophisticated extortion??
Now, this temple has separate rooms for the various Gods, with a priest each. And all urge you to donate money (of course in the name of God), everywhere. Now, I am a god fearing person, and I did ‘donate’ at all the places, but somehow, it left a bad taste. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a miser!
Food is an important part of a balanced diet!
I passed a vegetable shop and was I amazed. There were so many vegetables which I was seeing for the first time. There was Kadamb (pronounced as Ka-Dumb); Nandroo, Haak-Saag, Kasrod. I was told about Guchhi (not Gucci) which is a morel and costs upto Rs 2000 per kg!! Ooh la la…a mushroom costing sooo much!!
Saw a stall which was selling Kaladi, a patty of fried sour cheese. Oh, that would be too fatty!
The sight of veges and street food made me hungry. So, took a turn to J&K TDC Wazwan & Vegetarian Restaurant for some authentic Wazwan. Wazwan is a grand feast, characterized by 36 different kinds of meals, out of which fifteen to thirty dishes are the varieties of meat!! I ordered what the Chef recommended… Rista (mutton made in a saffron gravy) and Gushtaba (mutton made from pounded meat in a curd gravy, no, it’s not keema) and needless to say, it was a lip-smacking treat. R would freak out at such non-veg dishes; though J would cringe (he is a vegetarian!).
Chatting with the hotel manager reaffirmed some thoughts. Most of the people think that Jammu and Kashmir has pleasant/cold weather the whole year through. It’s a misconception. Jammu is like any other city of the north and has the weather similar to Delhi/Jaipur/Lucknow… with hot summers and cold winters. It’s the Kashmir Valley which has cold to cool weather the whole year through, which is my next destination with R & J.
11: 10 am
Got up early to visit the Bahu Fort. It’s an impressive and magnificent fort with a majestic garden, an aquarium and Bawey Wali Mata Temple. Was in time for the morning aarti. In Jammu, Goddess Durga and her various forms are beacon of faith and fulfillment to millions of devotees from all over the world.
By the way, Jammu is the City of Temples!!
Breakfast was at Hotel Hari Niwas Palace, a majestic palace by the banks of river Tawi which overlooks the city and has a panoramic view of the Trikuta hills. A museum which ends even before it starts, left me with a funny smile.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
Of course, we will come back to Jammu in a week’s time for the Vaishno Devi Mata darshan!
Jai Mata Di!
To read posts by other members of The Wordsworth Legion in the Super 4 Round, click here: Hitesh, Kshitij, Lazy Pineapple, Parth, Smitha and Tavish.