It is said whatever you do on the first day of the new year is what you do the rest of the year. Its a defining moment. Fortunately for me, I travelled. With people I love and drove an SUV, thanks to my brother. But I have run ahead.
So to hit off the new year my cousin and his family decided to go to Agra. They had lived there once and would often go for day trips. Since I had spent quite a bit of time there in my childhood years, I decided to tag along. I was intrigued that they felt we could go and return in one day. After all who is able to do that? Especially with the traffic on highway’s being what they are. But my brother was confident.
1 January 2014 dawned bright and clear and sunny. A perfect omen for a road trip. Despite sleeping late we were packed and ready to leave by 11. I thought it might be a bit late but turned out to be wrong. The new Yamuna Expressway that connects Greater Noida and beyond, is truly a joy to drive on. We did not take much time in reaching from Gurgaon to Noida, it being a holiday and then hit the Expressway. There are moments on the road when you actually feel that you are driving in another country. The toll plazas are very well maintained and there are roadstops at regular intervals, clean and well maintained.
Within 2 hours we had hit Agra. It was unbelievable. This was truly the power of connectivity. My brother first stopped at Itmat-uda-daullah tomb. Though the city is very dirty, the monument itself was beautiful. I had seen it earlier as a kid and was almost seeing it for the very first time. Sometimes compared to the Taj, it is known as the baby Taj. The beautiful main building is made from white marble from Rajasthan and is set admist what once would have been a beautiful garden. There are pathways and watercourses (now dried up) that criss cross the base as well as connect with some of the outbuildings. The main building itself is beautiful with delicate jali screens which threw light into the interiors. One can also see carvings on the walls where there would once have been semi precious stones. The outbuildings are also well preserved and overlook the river Yamuna. Though now dried up and dirty it would once have been a beautiful sight.
The ASI stone outside gave the history of the place.
It seemed even more intricate and beautiful than the Taj Mahal, but that one is a legend on its own. After spending some time there we finally bade good bye.
Well there were two other reasons why we had made this trip. The second was the food. We parked our car outside the walls of the imposing Agra Fort. Seeing the glimpse of majestic red walls peeping through the meagre greenry was tempting enough. But that would have to be another trip.
We crossed over across the old Railway Station seeing the Jama Masjid on our way. Living in Delhi all these years it seems strange to find so much history together in one place. After crossing over a flithy side street we were in the old Sadar Baazar. It reminded me of the lanes of Chandni Chowk. A narrow street surrounded by old shops and thelas (hand carts). We stopped at one and tasted the famous Agra Gajak. The season was still on and we had our fill for the latest. After walking around a bit and buying all versions of the same. We turned towards our next stop the Sadar.
On our way we crossed the Taj Mahal. What once used to be a narrow walk towards the gate and then a monument, had now been fortified. All major hotels could be seen walking distance from the monument. Reminded me of “All roads lead to Taj”.
Apart from all the history Agra is also known for shoes and chaat. Yes, the roadside chaat is brilliant as ever, if you can ignore the dirt underneath. After hogging to our hearts content, on a masterchef certified cook’s thela as well, mind you. We headed to our final destination: the shoe shops.
The city is known for its shoe factories and imagine my surprise when I saw branded and other shoes, of good quality leather and boots to boot!
Well, a day well spent and though this is an old post, the year was fabulous with me travelling to many cities in India and going to one of my favourite cities: Tokyo.
It does come true doesn’t it? Here’s to more travel.