>Last weekend, I took a road trip from Lucknow to Agra en route to Vrindavan with my parents. The trip was planned to celebrate my mom’s birthday and it was Dad’s suggestion that this year we celebrate her birthday in Vrindavan. As some of you may already know, I’ve begun to love the experience of travelling and though The Guy could not go because of work engagements, I was ready on Friday afternoon to take off with my parents.
- As a child, I did not travel often with my parents because my parents travelled rarely. But going on a holiday with your parents is such a liberating experience because even though they know you’re an adult capable of taking care of yourself, they do take it upon themselves to take care of you. Is there anything that compares better to that?
- The road trip from Lucknow to Agra takes about 6 hours. About a 110 km before Agra, we met with an accident. As is not uncommon on Indian highways, a cyclist appeared on the middle of the road from nowhere and a split second before our car could screech to a halt, his bicycle had been hit by our car. The cyclist fell some distance away and my father, who was in the driver’s seat, stopped to check on the fellow. But before we could get over the shock of the accident, a horde of men appeared (also from nowhere, it seemed) and started hurling stones on our car. In a mad scramble to save our skin, we fled the spot with a sinking feeling of guilt and fear. But our survival instinct got the better of us and though we regretted not having been given the chance to help the injured cyclist, we were thankful for not having stayed back and waited to be lynched by the mob. We did do our bit by informing the police and hoping that they’d do what we couldn’t.
- The view of the summer sun in the sky on the highway from Lucknow to Agra
- But there were better things to look forward to. We were staying at the Mughal Sheraton in Agra and if there’s anything required to heal a stressed out soul, it’s luxury! I lapped it up, every shred of it, and indulged in the good things of life. The service was impeccable, the pillows perfect, the gurgling water at the fountains, the lavish buffets and the eye-candy of a spa distinctly opulent. Luxury does make comforts seem inadequate.
My room at the hotel
- Day 2 we took off for Vrindavan which is some 55 kms away from Agra. On the way, we took a detour to Goverdhan in Mathura. And I was sorely disappointed to see the temple languishing in such utter neglect. The fake sadhus and greedy pandits latched on to us without the slightest provocation from our side and I abhorred it. We are devout Hindus but we don’t believe in ritualism and couldn’t care less for the ostentatious pujas. Even though we were on what looks like a religious trip, we were there for the sake of our faith, our belief in that part of our religious history which many may call a myth. But we were not there as gullible pilgrims.
- The experience at the Banke Bihari temple at Vrindavan was mixed. We Indians are not just bad at taking care of buildings of great architectural and historical value, we’re also bad at taking care of our heritage. The temple is situated in the middle of a maze of narrow by-lanes, all of which are filthy and over-crowded and do not make it a wee bit easy to think of divinity or some such. However, once inside the precincts of the temple, a feeling of such relief and positivity washed over me that it became easy for me to forget even those dirty by-lanes. The thing about temples or any other place of religious worship is that they are infused with the feeling of faith and positivity that devotees bring with them. While there, the feeling seems to become a tangible force to reckon with. I had gone with a long list of prayers but forget all of them there. All that remained with me was a sense of being truly blessed.
After the darshan in the evening, we returned to our hotel in Agra. But not before ambling aimlessly in the Agra markets looking for what the city is famous for – leather products. Mom picked up a leather handbag and I picked up (another!) pair of shoes while Dad tried very hard to find something suitable for himself. Sad as it is, shopping is made primarily for women and he did return empty-handed!
- On another note, I have finally learnt to enjoy a little bit of solitude. My parents gently fussed over not letting me sleep alone in my hotel room and I fought off all the fuss with my love for solitude, whatever little I have of it. And won! I thoroughly enjoyed laying back in bed all by myself and reading a book, waking up early to explore the jogging track in the hotel, clicking pictures of the Taj Mahal from the hotel observatory and soaking in the green of the gardens. Did I miss The Guy? Yes, because I love him. But did I miss him so much that I wouldn’t enjoy the moments by myself? Certainly, no!
- This trip to Agra marked my sixth out-of-town trip in the seven months this year. Just in case you’ve forgotten, I’ll recount: January, we spent a weekend at our ancestral home in a lesser-known town near Lucknow, February, we explored a bit of Goa, March, I made my maiden visit to Mumbai, April to Benaras, May, we skipped, June, we headed to the cooler climes of Nainital and July was for Agra and Vrinadavan. Technically speaking, I could say I went to Agra in July (the last day of the month) and to Vrindavan in August (the first day). But I’m hoping this month will take me to yet another place and that I will not have to resort to technicalities to indulge the traveller in me!