Sarjit Kaur | Roti for the Soul | 7 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
A journey of a lifetime ventured by eight siblings connecting to their roots and paying tribute to their Motherland. They ate, prayed, healed and loved. This is the second and the last part of their incredible adventure to Amritsar, Delhi and Agra. See here for Part 1.
The waft of aloo parothas with ghee guided my senses to the hotel kitchen. As I walked up the steps to the rooftop, Punjabi folk songs filled the air. A Sardarji in a white singlet was preparing our breakfast. This extraordinary music was coming out from his petite radio. I felt like I was going back in time. From our IPod era to the radio era.
We stayed in a strategic place called – Good Palace Hotel located in the heart of Karol Barg, Delhi. It was close to the shopping hub, Metro train station and eateries namely Punjab Sweet Corner, McDonalds, Subway and Raffles Indian Restaurant. Every morning over breakfast, we would meet and strategize on our itinerary and next steps. Just like in the military camp, thanks to two veteran officers on board .
We ladies had a whale of a time shopping for vibrant and colourful Punjabi suits, materials, kurtis and sarees at Karol Barg, Lajpat Nagar and Rajouri Garden. The shopping experience was simply therapeutic. March is also the time where India holds her grand summer sale, so timing is perfect for shopaholics! Our shopping therapy is never complete without a cup of piping hot cha, compliments from the shop owner. The sugar, I must say, kept us going.
Our saree acquisition experience was awesome. Sales staff would expertly tie the saree on us, for an appreciation of the fabric, fall, colour and design. Wearing is believing! The creative work of some of the top Indian designers like Manish Malhotra, Tarun Tahiliani and Satya Paul is simply stunning. You view your reflection in the long mirror. Adorned in those fine pieces and tied exquisitely to an hour glass silhouette; you can’t help but feel like a million bucks!
What I like about merchants here is – they are so positive. All missions are possible. “Teekha Madam,” they would say. Of course the result – be it alteration of your clothes, journey to a destination, Kung Fu noodles cooking style etc. may sometimes be something else. You get upset for a while, but then you move on. Because everyone is doing their best, based on their standards.
“It took 22 years to build this monument and involved US$41 million in tax payers money. Back in the 17th century, this was big dollars!” said our tour guide. The visit to the majestic Taj Mahal in Agra was another high point in our itinerary. We were taken around by a knowledgeable tour guide who studied History in the University of Agra. He narrated the history of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor of India and the tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal with passion and patriotism, as we explored Taj and the Agra fort.
The mural painting and embedded gem stones behind each marble piece was crafted by almost 20,000 architects. With geometrical precision and finesse. He flashed his torch in the dark and the glitter of the stones sparkled. “Fingers of workers saw erosion when carving the gemstones over the years. They were not cut as purported. It was done out of their love for their Emperor,” he explained. Outside the Taj Museum, we watched a man weaving gemstones into carved pieces. His thumb bled from the grind. We understand now…
The Black Taj for Shah Jahan’s purported tomb, to be located exactly opposite the White Taj did not materialise. His son did not want public funds to be used for a purpose which did not serve the people at large. Hence Shah Jahan’s palace arrest in the Agra Fort till he departed. The sacred Yamuna River that flows between Taj and the Fort consumed much sad stories within the Fort. If only it could speak…
Taj is a sight to behold, one of the Wonders of the World. Yet, being there gave us a whole new perspective and meaning to Taj, beyond the most talked about version of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife. We comprehend now, why history turned out the way it did. Being there was believing!
For seasoned travellers to India; the standard operating procedure is to bring huge India-like empty suitcases for shopping merchandise, plastic bag filled with medication especially for diarrhoea, US currency to exchange in Rupees and most importantly super high spirits. Pack a suitcase within your suitcase, experts will advise you.
At the Indian airport, while it seems obvious, specify for air-conditioned taxis to your hotel. Taxis without air-cond will drain you in the heat of the weather! Bags are draped and tied above taxis. Occasionally, the string gets loosened and you watch horrifically, as your bag dangles beside you at the side window. But have no fear, the driver will assure you…
India is undoubtedly a culinary haven! The 6 Ayurveda tastes are always present. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy and astringent. Just like the flavour of life’s ups and downs. Our favourite dishes were chicken tandoori oven-baked, chicken curry, dhall makhani, aloo gobi and saag paneer, eaten with naan or basmati rice. Chana bhaturas and vegetarian thalis were also hot on our list. They were simply amazing! We engaged in joyful conversations around this delectable ambience, at every starry, starry night .
Corn kheer, rasmalai and kala khan were our all-time favourite desserts. We avoided cold juices, salads and exposed food and kept to freshly prepared and steaming hot food and drinks. However, despite our care and compliance, two of our siblings were hit by diarrhoea. The mini medical kit came in handy. They insisted that our travel plans go on, while they recuperated in the hotel room. Only towards the end of our trip, did we experiment ‘kulfi’ ice cream and chat varieties.
Once you know what to expect in India and condition yourself, be it safe-food intake, hard water that hits your body, frequent vehicle honks, occasional joy rides when travelling, getting short-changed etc; then you are good. Come what may, you can accept every episode and adventure with a smile. Just like the roller coaster paths in our lives. They are all here to teach us.
It’s been four months post our India trip. We have been experiencing changes in our lives. For the better. Some specific, some holistic. Each one healing in their own ways. Little did we realise, the far-reaching effect this journey would have on our souls. We are so grateful to God.
We ate, prayed, healed and loved. It was a journey of a lifetime. We connected to our roots and paid tribute to our Motherland. India is truly, truly incredible!
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
Roti for the Soul is a column on life and its quirks. Sarjit Kaur is a wife, mother and an official at the Malaysian stock exchange.
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