Monday, 18 April 2011

The Golden Triangle, from my Angle

What better way to celebrate your parents’ Golden
Wedding anniversary than to take them, and your
two tweenage children, on a road trip of India’s
Golden Triangle.
Yes, what a thoughtful daughter I am. I imagined us
puffing through the Indian landscape on a
magnificent old train, sipping sweet lime and
garlanded with marigolds and roses. When I
mentioned the word ‘train’ to the travel agent, she

almost choked on her chai and asked if Mum was a

good runner. Well, she has just had a new hip.

“We can’t have your 72-year-old mummy running
along the platform, goodness gracious no, better to
book an Innova.”
A quick calculation…driver in front with my husband
(Mick), Mum and Dad in the middle seats and me
wedged in between son and daughter in the back.
The plan was to fly to Delhi, have a couple of days
sight-seeing and then drive to Agra to see some old
Mausoleum there and then on to Jaipur for the City
Palace and Amber Fort. Then fly back to Mumbai.

We set off on a Tuesday morning, Dad insisting we
leave three hours before the flight which led me to
panic and leave my make-up bag behind. We arrived
at the domestic airport precisely two hours and forty
minutes early with me in a right old strop.
“It’s not like a proper airport with a nice Lancome
counter where I could buy more make-up, is it?” I
complained. Aah, family holidays have to start like

this, it’s tradition.
Arriving in Delhi early afternoon, we met Ali, our
driver and his (v.old) Innova and transferred to the
Sheraton Hotel. Squashed as I was in the back, I had
 a good feeling about this trip and relaxed into it
especially when Mick told me the Sheraton was next
 to a giant mall. He always stays here on business so
 had arranged a special package for us.
Mum and Dad were delighted to get the preferred
customer treatment, flowers, finger-food etc. In fact,
 such was everybody’s delight in the hotel (the kids
had a quick swim) there wasn’t that much
enthusiasm to go sight-seeing. But sight-seeing was
what were here for so at 3pm we dutifully returned
to the car and Ali promised us a magical mystery
First stop, the Baha’i Temple, built in the shape of a
blossoming lotus. The petals are clad with white
marble and, in contrast, red sandstone is used for
the walkways and stairs. Around the blooming petals
there are nine pools of water, the idea is to create
the illusion of a floating lotus. And I have to say, the
 organization of getting people in and out was
fantastic. Shoes off, a quick introduction in English
 and in you go, no waiting. Total silence is demanded
once you enter and I must admit, the atmosphere
was kinda spiritual. It is a spectacular 20th century
structure in a major city, made all the more alluring,
in Dad’s eyes, because it was free to get in. Unlike
the Qutb Minar which was the next stop.
Green parrots flew overhead as the sun set
illuminating the red sandstone of this magnificent
heritage site. Built in 119, the tower was used to call
the faithful to prayer. It measures more than 72
meters and, with 379 steps, is hard work for even
 the fittest muezzin to climb. At 5pm, it was time to
 think about dinner. Friends from Delhi had given us
 a list of fabulous eateries in the Defense Colony but
 Mum was tired and wanted to go local and anyway
“she doesn’t like spicy food” so it was with heavy
heart, encouraged by the kids and , believe it or not,
 the oldies, that we stepped into The Hard Rock Café.
 I will say no more other than the kids loved it and
their grandparents, funnily enough, complained
about the racket. Plus Mum’s Marguerite was too
salty, oh, and the chips were cold.
Day Two, everyone up for breakfast bright and
breezy despite Mick and I  propping up the bar the
night before. Ali drove us up the Janpath, to
Connaught Place, past India Gate and up to Chandni
Chowk where we took bicycle rickshaws through the
 narrow, busy lanes. What with the new hip and
everything, I didn’t think Mum would go for it, but
blow me down, she did! And Dad, a retired electrical
 engineer, was in his element marveling at the
spaghetti-like wiring and telegraph poles. As we
stopped to take a family photo, an English gentleman
 whom we instantly recognized as Robert Plant out of
Led Zeppelin, walked past with his missus. Big
Highlight for me!
And so to the Raj Ghat where we had lunch in a park
 café for less than 80/- (Well, mum only had the
coffee) We were studied closely by the other clientele
 who then wanted to take photos with us (a recurring
 theme of this holiday)
The afternoon was spent at Humayun’s Tomb,
another spectacular site which warmed us up for the
Big One in Agra but by this time, culture fatigue had
set in and everybody wanted to go back to the hotel
and swim.
This night the dining experience was worse. There
are hundreds of places to eat out in Delhi and there
 is no need ever to go to TGI Fridays unless you are
 accompanied by children who like to eat while their
 ears bleed and/or old people who do not like spicy
Day Three. We head off to Agra, me in the back
between Tom and Jerry, listening to Led Zep on the
ipod and freezing cold as the air con bypasses a
certain old woman who insists on racking it right up
so that I can no longer feel my nose. We stopped
somewhere in Uttar Pradesh for lunch where we
couldn’t get out of the car for dancing monkeys on
leads. Dressed up in frilly dresses and, bizarrely,
wearing full make up, blue eye shadow and lipstick
smeared all over their little monkey mouths as if they
 were taunting me for having no makeup of my own.

“Dance little monkey, dance!” the handlers cried as I
tried to look as disdainful as possible. All the while
my Dad was whooping and laughing and generally
showing encouragement. Thankfully my little
daughter, Polly was as disgusted as me.
“Poor little monkey, she said “And it’s dress isn’t
even fashionable!” We entered the barn-like café
cum niknak emporium and ordered omlettes and
coffee in total darkness as the electricity cut out.
When, eventually the lights came back on again, our
12-year-old son, Hugh, had gone missing.
“We’ll probably come back in years to come and find
him dancing in an ugly dress for money” Polly
But he had just gone to watch a snake charmer out
by the toilets and came back looking for small
Now entering Agra, this is the India I had imagined
as a child, ambling camels, car stereos blasting
Kishore Kumar songs, colours and dust. We arrived
at the Taj View in Agra, had a quick wash, and
minutes later met the tour guide who would take us
to the Taj Mahal. Let the magic begin! Yes it is jaw-
dropping and does appear to float, this vision which
 adorns biscuit tins around the world, is something
you should see before you die, most definitely. We

were photographed ‘holding’ it in our fingertips and

Mum sat on the ‘Lady Di’ bench for the camera. A

wonderful day in all. That night we went to see ‘The
 Show’ which told the story of the great love Emperor

Shah Jehan had for his bride, Mumtaz. It wasn’t

exactly West End, but very colourful and entertaining

all the same.
And so for the final leg of the journey, Jaipur. Here is
where I left my heart.  (We did stop at Fatepur Sikri
on the way, fabulous, what more can I say, I’m
running out of space)
Our day in Jaipur began with a

ride on a painted elephant up

the ramparts of the Amber Fort

in blistering sun. We had driven

though the Pink City on the way

and I had to be physically

restrained from leaping out of the Innova and into

the handicraft shops. We walked around the City

Palace with our jaws hanging open at the beauty and

craftsmanship. I managed to get a picture of one or

other of my family in each of the four ornate

doorways. Frankly, I was blown away by the sheer

splendor of the place. As we drove away, elephants

and camels mingled with the traffic. Dad thought it

would be a good idea to get to the airport a few

hours early, no time for shopping. My business in

Jaipur is not finished. I’ll be back, alone if necessary.

 Happy 50th Anniversary Mum and Dad!

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