Sunday, January 23, 2005

Mussoorie - Truly lording it over the plains

Outlook Traveller's Weekend Breaks from Delhi has a caption below the word 'Mussoorie' - 'Lording it over the plains'. That it truly does. Home to Ruskin Bond, Mussoorie is one of the more picturesque hill-stations I have come across. I stopped at the locally revered Shiva temple on the winding road uphill from Dehradun, which has a steady stream of devotees. I'm sure there are those who go there for the free hot tea and sweets (given as 'prasad') and for the magnificent view as well. As you proceed towards Mussoorie, the change in the temperature is noticeable - a much cooler breeze hits your face as the road curves upwards. But I couldn't have asked for a better day - the contrast of lush green hills against an azure blue sky with cotton clouds floating above is really poetic and will inspire even the most barren heart.

Snowfall the previous day had brought down temperatures and a proposed visit to the nearby Kempty Falls had to be shelved because at a certain point, there were a few well-intentioned men who took upon themselves the responsibility of warning approaching ignorants that if they proceeded any further by vehicle, they would slip and slide. So I got off and started walking, but after slipping and sliding considerably on the snow and ice-covered road, I beat a hasty retreat. Some brave people tried to overcome nature (2 groups in cars and 2 on motorcycles) but they met with an even worse experience. It was even amusing, the way these vehicles would stubbornly go the opposite direction the steering wheel was trying to get them to move in!

Mumbai Marathon 2005

Over 25,000 people - elite and everyday runners from all over the world, and this included Bollywood stars, differently abled people and the man on the street - ran the Mumbai Marathon on the 16th of January. They had their pick of the 7 km 'Dream Run', the 21 k Half-Marathon or the 42 k Full Marathon. The Kenyan athletes took the lion's share of places in the Half and Full Marathons - I think its something in their blood. I ran the Dream Run and did pretty well, if I say so myself - came second out of 21 Nike India employees that participated. Of course it wasn't an easy task - so for those of you who scoff at the achievement, run it first and then come to me to talk :-) 16,000 people pushed, walked, jogged and ran their way through the route. I caught glimpses of Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar (eat your hearts out, cricket fans!), Kapil Dev, Vinod Khanna and Salman Khan prior to the race. I found myself running alongside Javed Jafri (who was also huffing and puffing like me) at certain points. The energy of the place was amazing, the weather however, scorching. In my opinion, a marathon is more a test of mental strength than physical fitness. If you train reasonably well, running will be second nature. But the mental get-up is upto you to pull off.

An event I will always remember.

Carlos Moya in Chennai

Tennis champ Carlos Moya was in Chennai for the Chennai Open in the first week of January, and Nike India got him to hit a few balls with some young tennis enthusiasts. I got to shake hands with him :-) . He's quite an obliging person (though I found his manager's constant looming presence a bit disconcerting), pretty tall and very Spanish.

Jaipur - An Everlasting Memory of Times Bygone

I would recommend that everyone visit Jaipur at least once in their lifetime - the splendour of the past has been captured and packaged in a way that makes you cherish your experience forever. It helped that I stayed at the Bissau Palace, once home to nobility, now partly a heritage hotel, where 'comfort curls like a cat around your feet'.

What the authors of a piece on Jaipur have to say sums up best the reason why Jaipur is so special - 'Apathy is a logocal impossibility in Sawai Jai Singh's capital'. Popularly known as India's Pink City, the story goes that in the 1970's, the ruling king had all the buildings painted pink in honour of a visit by the Prince of Wales. The Old City houses some specimens of architectural wonder, like the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal. But the main reason anyone should visit Jaipur is to see the forts - the Amber Fort ('Amber' in English, 'Amer' in local language) and the Jaigarh and Nahargarh Forts. Regally constructed atop a hill, the Amber Fort was home to the kings and queens of Amber. It is huge, rambling, dark and mysterious in some parts, open and horticulturally happy in others. The Jaigarh Fort was built primarily as a defence structure, and houses the country's (can't remember if it is also the world's) largest cannon. The Nahargarh Fort was built by a king for his nine wives, and has nine identical sections. Both provide awe-inspiring views of the Aravallis and the surrounding countryside.

Johori Bazar has streets lined with shops where you can get practically everything you would want to in Jaipur. I'd recommend the traditional Rajasthani 'bandhej' sarees.

After one quick visit, I feel I could go back for more. The city is full of tourists, primarily from France, the UK, Belgium and America, who wander happily around, and I'm sure they feel the same way.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


I can see the mountains in the far distance from my hotel window. On the train journey here, I saw a bubbling brook which brought an unbidden smile to my lips.

Known for the Indian Military Academy and some of the country's most famous schools (The Doon School and Welham's), Dehradun is a hill-station that is slowly losing its calm due to the bane of the modern world - commercialisation. But 10 minutes away from the commercial artery of Rajpur Road, the true spirit of Dehradun can be felt. A Tibetan temple and monastery and a Sai Baba temple sit peacefully next to each other in Rajpur, and the verdant greenery lining the hills opposite provide a serenity that has to be experienced to be believed.