Summer Trip of 2006

OUR SUMMER 2006 TRIP TO INDIA By Kuhu Ray
This summer we decided to do some sightseeing in India, apart from our regular visit to our families. Our trip started in Mumbai with a sightseeing bus tour of the city. It was a very hot and humid day. There were no air conditioned bus available on that day , so we took our tour in a regular non AC sightseeing bus, sweating profusely. Strangely our two American born sons did not mind the discomfort that much, since they were very busy savouring the sights of Mumbai. All the complaints came from us, their Indian born parents, who could not bear the heat and humidity. Our first stop was the majestic 'Gateway of India'. The Gateway of India is the main attraction of Mumbai city. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Opposite to the 'Gateway of India' is Mumbai's first five star hotel, 'The Taj Mahal Hotel'. The bus then took us to the 'Taraporwala aquarium' via the famous Marine Drive.
mumbai 1 Gateway of India
mumbai 2 The Taj Mahal Hotel
Marine Drive
Old Women's Shoe
  Marine drive is a very scenic shaped drive along the Arabian Sea, in the heart of Mumbai. Marine drive is also called as the 'Queens necklace' due to all twinkling lights surrounding it. A stroll down the Marine Drive is the best way to discover Mumbai. This winding stretch of road with tall buildings on one side and sea on the other extends from Nariman Point to Malabar Hills. In the gardens next to the Taraporwala aquarium (and facing the Marine Drive), we sat on a bench and had idlis and coconut chutney, the lunch my sister had packed for us. The bus then took us to the 'Hanging Gardens' and the 'Kamala Nehru Park'. Kamla Nehru park is located at the top of Malabar Hills. Overlooking the Marine Drive, the park houses the "Old Woman's Shoe". The park also provides a spectacular view of the city and the sunset. Our sons had fun running around and exploring the inside of the ' Old Women's Shoe'. Next we visited the 'Mahalakshmi temple'. Our final destination was Juhu beach. All along the way, our tour guide was pointing out the houses of the famous singers and bollywood stars. We saw the houses of Lata Mangeshkar, Sharukh Khan, Rekha, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachhan. We could not see much since all the houses had very high walls. Our next destination in India was Bhilai. My sister, nephew, niece and my father joined us on this trip. Why visit 'Bhilai' of all places you may ask ? Well, Bhilai is a place where I spent some years of my childhood, since my father was posted there as the finance head of Bhilai Steel plant. Later on he moved to Bangalore and then to Delhi from where he retired as the Director of Finance of the 'Steel Authority of India Limited(SAIL)'. Bhilai held many nostalgic special memories for me, my sister and my father. Memories of our mother who passed away in 1989, were very strong in Bhilai. Our two sons, my nephew and niece (my sisters children) had heard so much about Bhilai that they were also very keen to see their mothers' childhood town, home and school. For the first time, our children rode an Indian train to go from Mumbai to Bhilai (overnight journey).
Relaxing with dadu in the train
They were very excited to sleep in the bunks, eat the train snacks like chicken and paneer cutlets, play card games with their cousins, mashi and dadu. We reached Bhilai in the afternoon and recieved a grand reception there with three cars and personnel from the Bhilai steel Plant to welcome us. From the station we went straight to the Bhilai hotel, where we would spend the next four days of our trip.
 
The next morning we took a tour of the Bhilai Steel Plant. Picklu, Nandan, along with our nephew and niece, thoroughly enjoyed this educative tour wherein they learnt how steel plates and rails were made. The Bhilai Steel Plant - a public sector undertaking run by the Steel Authority of India - was built with Soviet co-operation and technology, and began production in 1959. It is a seven - time winner of Prime Minister’s Trophy for best Integrated Steel Plant in the country, Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) is India’s sole producer of rails and heavy steel plates and major producer of structural. The plant is the sole supplier of the country's longest rail tracks of 260 metres. Given below are some pictures of the Bhilai Steel Plant.
The next few days in Bhilai were spent in visiting our childhood home, school and neighbourhood. We also caught up with our childhood school friends who were still in Bhilai. While, this was a trip down the memory lane for myself, my sister and my father , the children were very curious and excited as well to finally see the places that they had heard so much about. The pictures below are of our childhood home and school in Bhilai.
Childhood home
My sister in front of our school
Finally, it was time to say good bye to Bhilai and my sister's family (they returned back to Mumbai) and move on to our next destination, Kolkata. In Kolkata, in between visiting relatives and eating all our favourite 'mach', ' chop', 'Muglai paratha'. 'Radha bhallavi' and those delicious bengali 'misthi's', we went to see the 'Victoria Memorial' and the 'Marble Palace'.

Victoria memorial

Marble Palace

  Victoria Memorial is splendid architectural structure in white marble, modeled on the Taj Mahal, was built in the early 20th century in memory of Queen Victoria . It was opened in 1921. It is also a museum where people could see before them pictures and statues of men who played a prominent part in the history of India and develop a pride in their past especially in relation to the history of Calcutta . Our sons learnt a lot about our Bengal history by visting the Victoria Memorial. Marble Palace is a private mansion was built in 1835 by a Bengali zamindar. The palace houses an incongruous collection of curious standing alongside significant statues and paintings From Kolkata, we took a short two day trip to Bishnupur by road. On our way to Bishnupur we had an unique experience. We had stopped to have coffee and snacks under a clump of 'taal' trees by the roadside. We were wondering what it would be like to have fresh 'taal kheer' from the paka taals hanging from the trees, when suddenly lo and behold a couple of big taals fell from the trees and landed with a thud near our feet. Our younger son, Nandan, ran excitedly to collect these taals and put them in the trunk of our car. On our return to Kolkata, we had heavenly 'taal bara's' and 'taal kheer' made from these gifts from God. Bishnupur, a town of terracotta temples and man-made lakes, echoes with the history of the Malla rulers who made it their 16th century capital. Besides temples, Bishnupur is known for its pottery, especially the lovable terracotta horse called Bankura who is the mascot of Bankura handicraft. Baluchari and tussar silk sarees are also Bishnupur's speciality.The terracotta temples of Bishnupur are very beautiful and exotic and depict the scenes from Hindu epics. We would highly recommend you to go and see these, if you already haven't. We also visited a baluchari sari weaver's house and saw the whole process of how the baluchari sari was made from start to finish. It was an amazing experience to see the amount of expertise and hardwork required to make a single baluchari sari. Each sari took about a month to finish. The weaver's worked under difficult conditions of cramped space, low light, mosquito bites and low wages. I purchased a beautiful purple Baluchari sari from the weaver and paid less than half of what you would pay in a regular sari shop in Kolkata Given below are some pictures from Bishnupur.
Terrecotta temple
Terrecotta temple
Terrecotta temple
Purchasing a baluchari sari from the weaver
  Our last destination was Delhi, the capital city of India. In Delhi, we enjoyed the delicious roadside chaats and panipuri's (and managed not to fall sick). We took a bus tour of the city. This time we were lucky to get an air conditioned deluxe bus (unlike our Mumbai bus) for our tour. The city has two distinct parts, Old Delhi & New Delhi. Old Delhi is centered on the Red Fort built by Emperor Shajahan.The streets of Old Delhi are narrow & bustling. New Delhi is tree-lined & spacious. We saw Qutab Minar, the highest stone tower in India which was by Qutbuddin Aibak, the viceroy of Mohammed Ghori in 1192. It was built to celebrate Ghori's victory over the Rajputs.Our sons were disappointed in not being allowed to climb the Qutab Minar. The Indian Goverment has prohibited this now. I remember climbing the stairs when I was young. It was exciting and scary at the same time, since the stairs were dark, narrow and steep. After Qutab Minar, we proceeded to see the India Gate and Rastrapathi Bhavan. India Gate, was built in memory of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died in World War I. It was built in 1931, designed by Lutyens, and was originally called the All India War Memorial. The names of the soldiers are inscribed on the walls of the arc of the gate. Later in 1971, an eternal flame was lit here in memory of the unknown soldiers who died in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. Beyond the India Gate is the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan which houses the President of India. Our next stop was the Teen Murti Bhavan which housed the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. On his death, the house was converted into a national memorial comprising a library and a museum. After seeing this, we proceeded to Rajghat and Santiban. Mahatma Gandhi last rites were performed in Rajghat and Jawaharlal Nehru's last rites were performed in Santiban.We then crossed Chandini Chowk (Delhi's most crowded bazaar, known for its authentic Indian food, sweets of more than 1000 kinds and saris with chikan and zari work))and then went to see the Red Fort.The Red Fort was the palace for Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's new capital, Shahjahanabad, the seventh Muslim city in the Delhi site. It gets its name from the massive wall of red sandstone that defines its eight sides. The fort lies along the Yamuna River, which fed the moats that surround most of the wall.
India Gate

India Gate

Qutab Minar

Rashtrapathi Bhavan

Teen Murti house

Rajghat

Red Fort

Chandini Chowk

This completed our 2006 India trip. Our India sightseeing tours gave us an opportunity not only to bond with our children but also to learn and experience together, as a family, the rich heritage and culture of india.