On life…and learning

Archive for March 2012

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Pushkar…

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For a true Royal Enfield enthusiast, a long ride is always a pleasure, and last weekend was one such gratifying ride. I was meaning to drive to Ajmer for a good while now. Last weekend, Nitin, my younger brother and a recently-christened biking-enthusiast, encouraged the idea and we geared up for a good 750km ride – Gurgaon-Pushkar-Ajmer-Gurgaon. Since it was a spur of a moment decision, we started pretty late on Saturday, at about 1pm from Gurgaon. Clear, bright sky and pleasant weather were inviting, and we filled our tanks to their fullest limits.

Gurgaon-Jaipur highway has always been a great drive. Even with massive construction going on the NH-8, we navigated easily. After Manesar, city traffic paved way to an easier highway passage and we drove with considerable effortlessness. First three hours were really energizing and with a couple of water-breaks in between, we drove non-stop and took our first rest at the 153rd milestone. Thanks to the Café Coffee Day, at the A-1 Plaza just before Chandwazi, we relaxed for 30-minutes, treating ourselves to some cold coffee and chocolate brownies!

Voila! The road after A-1 Plaza was a sheer delight, and we easily cruised at about 70-90KM an hour. Turning right from the Jaipur bypass, we took the Jaipur-Ajmer highway. Some road that is, my friends – absolutely fantastic! I have driven on hundreds on roads all over India, however, this turned out to one of the best of all. Other than a 10KM under-construction stretch near Jaipur, this highway is a true biker’s fantasy. Setting sun and cool breeze on our faces and very disciplined traffic – we charged up again, and started another leg of 170KMs towards Pushkar.

I would offer one caution to the bikers riding on this road. While the road is generally great and traffic is orderly, one should drive with great alertness during the first 25KM stretch after entering the Jaipur-Ajmer bypass – continual patches of this road are not properly tar-coaled and thus, pose a grave danger of bike slipping badly. We experienced this hurdle even while returning from Ajmer. All credit to my Royal Enfield’s great balance and superb ground-control, we passed this stretch and next 100KMs were real fun. In fact, Nitin enjoyed this part the most. After all, he has driven all his life in heavily congested roads of Lucknow and Delhi and this was his first such experience.

We took our next break at the Gujarati Dhaba, about 70KMs from Ajmer, at around 7:30pm. Grime & dirt all over us, tea came as a refreshing breather. We were amazed to note that neither of us was exhausted as yet, despite riding for about six hours and covering nearly 260KMs. My single-seater Enfield drew a lot of attention here from a group of Gujarati bus-travelers, who gave the bike and me envious looks! After all, nearly all the Indian men have secretly harboured a wish to own one!

Last 20KMs towards Ajmer are under construction – the Kishangarh-Hanumangarh highway. One should drive carefully here; traffic can go as slow as 20KM per hour. Also, vigilantly watch out for a small diversion from under an under-construction flyover, which bears a signboard towards Ajmer/Pushkar that will take you to a village road leading towards Ajmer. Another 8KMs on this road, you should take a right turn from under the railway bridge. Here you’d note a huge signboard stating ‘Pushkar 22KM’. This one too is through villages, albeit very well built state-highway. It was around 8:30pm and last 20KMs to Pushkar were as enjoyable as the first 350KMs!

We reached Pushkar at around 9:20pm. Another surprise! Gulab Niwas Palace – our night-halt destination, was an old Rajputana Haveli! Standing tall over a hillock, it was a marvel. We met Shakti, the proud owner, who greeted us as we entered. I must give credit to my friend Yudhisthir Singh for organizing this lovely place for us. Highly recommend for the splendid view it offers of the town of Pushkar!

Guys! After reaching there is when we realized how badly we needed a scrub & bath – grunge, soil and tiredness – writ all over our faces! Treating ourselves to a hot-water bath and sumptuous vegetarian meal, we slept like tired horses!

Next morning, the royal beast started with a loud thump; no sign of fatigue it showed! That’s the power of this machine.

Some notes on Pushkar: it is a town in the Ajmer district in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is one of the five sacred Dhams (pilgrimage site) for devout Hindus, and has in recent years become a popular destination for foreign tourists. One of the oldest cities of India, it lies on the shore of Pushkar Lake. The date of its actual origin is not known, but legend associates Lord Brahma with its creation. It is mentioned that Brahma performed penance here for 60,000 years to have a glimpse of Lord Vishnu. You should visit this temple and the lake, if you may. Pushkar is also famous for its annual camel fair, which takes place in November and continues for five days and these five days are a period of relaxation and merry-making for the villagers. This fair time is the busiest time for them, as this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the country. Animals, including over 50,000 camels, are brought from miles around to be traded and sold. One of the greatest attractions!

We didn’t spend much time at Pushkar, as our destination was the Dargah at Ajmer, a place I have been meaning to visit for over a decade now. Ride to Ajmer is about 17KMs and a hilly one, albeit very well maintained road makes it a pleasant drive for a biker.

Some notes on Ajmer: fifth largest city of Rajasthan, Ajmer is surrounded by the Aravalli mountain range. It is famous for the Dargah Sharif or Ajmer Sharif, which is a shrine of the revered Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, also known as Garib Nawaj. The Dargah, which is visited by Muslim pilgrims as well as Hindus and that of several other religions and faiths, is a symbol of inter-communal harmony and attracts devotees from all over the world. History has it that Emperor Akbar and his queen used to come here by foot on pilgrimage from Agra every year in observance of a vow he had made when praying for a son. The large pillars called ‘Kose (mile) Minar’, erected at intervals of 3 kms (2-miles) the whole way between Agra and Ajmer, marking the daily halting places of the royal pilgrim, are still extant. Road-travellers will see them all through the sides of Delhi-Agra and Jaipur-Ajmer highways.

Again, courtesy Yudhisthir’s contacts, we met Bharat Yadav, owner of the Surya Tours & Travels, Ajmer. He helped us park our bikes safely with the luggage and sail though the Dilli Gate, leading to the main entrance of the Dargah, the Nizam Gate, following which is the Shahjahani Gate, which was erected by Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. It is followed by the Buland Darwaza. The disarray of the crowd increased as we inched inside the Dargah. Once inside, we were introduced to Khadim Mustafa Bhai, who gave us a guided tour of a very heavily crowded Dargah. Bharat shared that Khadims are the ancestors of Sufi saint. A man of heavy clout, Mustafa Bhai ensured we glided through the hordes of devotees, thronging the Dargah.

As we walked in, we observed the marvelous Mughal architecture; built by Emperor Akbar and his descendants. I must share; there is something serene about this place, much more than being sacred. There is a strong sense of peace, a rare calm amidst the entire crowd, all the chaos. One has to visit this monument and feel it; I would find it very difficult to find words befitting the feeling.

We started our journey back to Gurgaon at around 12pm and drove very comfortably, soaking the cheerful sun. Water-breaks every 50-60KM kept us amply hydrated and we drove to our first break near the Toll-Plaza offices near Jaipur, about 170KM from Ajmer. Interestingly, it took us only three hours to cover this distance; such was the highway! Our second break came soon, at another 60KM, at a Café Coffee Day on NH-8, where we treated ourselves to another round of cold coffee with loads of ice cream! May Khwajaji bless CCD for opening so many outlets on the highways; they bring much needed energy to the bikers’ bodies and the rest to the bikes.

I would recommend bikers drive carefully after this place, especially around the edges of the road, as the on-going massive construction has led to sand getting deposited at the roadsides, making them really slippery. Nitin in fact slipped near Bahror, causing damage to his bike’s handlebar. This accident caused an unwanted break in our journey and marred rest of the drive, limiting the speed to sub-50KM/hour.

We reached Gurgaon at about 9pm, covering exactly 738KMs in two days. Surprisingly, we weren’t really as exhausted as we had imagined! Best was, my Royal Enfield gave no sign of any trouble and the thump has even got better since this ride. This was my first major ride on this new machine and it didn’t let me down. I would recommend this trip to all Royal Enfield enthusiasts. You must take this tour!

Till the next trip, good bye and happy riding…


You can read this travelog, and many more, also at Ghumakkar.com – Inspiring Travel Experiences

The Wall. Retires…

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Rahul Dravid retires from international cricket…a glorious, incomparable career comes to an end.

As I was hearing this news since yesterday; thoughts of another sports legend kept coming back to me – Pete Sampras. He and Rahul are very similar, in more than one ways. Their grit, the way they mastered the games they played, the way they are adulated, the glorious run they had and in the way they both will go down the memory lane as two of the most revered of all those who played their game. However, I am reminded of Pete because like Rahul, he was a true gentleman of the game he played.

A keen follower of tennis that I am, I recall reading this piece on Sampras very long ago; it left a strong impression on my mind and helped shape my formative years. Today, I am reminded of it as a befitting similarity it has with that of Rahul’s persona…

“Pete Sampras doesn’t want to destroy the Establishment. He doesn’t scream obscenities, grab his privates, tricolour his hair or date groupies. What he does is smack a tennis ball harder and more accurately than perhaps anyone in the world. “I was always taught to concentrate on the ball, nothing else,” he says, “I know I’m not showy or flamboyant. But this works for me. I am not changing.”

 At the 1992 US Open, Sampras was practicing one day when Martina Navratilova walked up. “Hello, Mr. Summer,” Navratilova said, alluding to Sampras’ winning streak of two tournaments and ultimately 16 matches that summer.

“Uh…no, Ms. Navratilova,” the young, shy man said, “My name is Sampras.”

That is how Dravid played his game, all these years. As an enduringly successful professional, success came to him as an outcome of perseverance, self-discipline and hard work and it did not lead to any unruly or ungentlemanly behaviour. Even when the jury was all out for him to retire several years ago itself, he never retorted via words. Failure did not push him to show his frustrations, either on or off the field. Only gritty knocks followed the rough, trying phases. He demonstrated how one has to deal with challenges more internal than external; take failures in stride and never give in.

In ‘Success Built To Last’, the best-selling and very well-researched book on defining the traits of the successful people, Porras, Emery and Thompson state, ‘Enduringly successful people have found that the answer to their life’s purpose is buried not in the passionate love or pain alone, but in the struggle over both together, working in strange harmony.’ To our Jammy too, greatness came at the intersection of pain and passion.

Today, while announcing his retirement, Rahul, as always, was his calmest best and spoke measured words. What struck me the most was when he said in the press conference, “…it is the time for me to make the way for the younger players…”

Tomorrow, the newspapers will be full of the farewell scripts, accolades and opinions, et al for Rahul. No matter what, no one will be short of praise. However, it will matter whether we indeed remember him through our own conducts, specially the younger generation. Whether we would imbibe what he taught us, from his actions on & off the field. Many of us shall reminisce Rahul as a true professional, a gritty sportsman; as a man of strong character. If character is what you do when no one is watching, then perhaps sportsmanship is conduct with everybody watching! Frankly, the cricket industry would probably survive without sportsmanship. It is so large and so well financed. However, in the much critically acclaimed IPL era of the young and brash, it would be refreshing if more players realized that there is a room to win with flair and style and even get rich and still keep the values that first brought us to the game, just the way Dravid did all these years…

I sincerely do hope Virat Kohli is listening…

Thank you, Jammy. For all that you did for the Indian cricket, for the game of cricket. The sport’s fan, all over the world, shall always remember you ever as one who left the game better that he found it.


Photo-credit 1: coloringinthedark.wordpress.com

Photo-credit 2: art.com

Written by RRGwrites

March 9, 2012 at 1:56 PM

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