>Chronicles from a Road Trip

>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!
  • Moi

  • 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!

View of the Taj Mahal from the hotel

  • 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!
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23 responses »

  1. >Wanderlust Sigh! How lucky to have travelled and enjoyed it. Love the post. The hotel looks luxurious indeed. And I agree with everything you say about fake sadhus, ostentaious pujas, faith and positivity and poor care of our heritage as well as architecture.May you travel more and have fun.

  2. >Quite a traveller you are being this year D.About feeling the positivity in a place of worship, is something I can so relate to. I have been to some churches and temples, which are clean and nice, but there are no calming vibes, and yet the most populated, crowded ones at times, fill me with such a sense of calm and positivity. It really is a great feeling.I love the first photo. Are they light rings, or did you get some special settings in place?

  3. >That view of the Taj Mahal reminds me of the view from our room at The Taj hotel. Though it was quite foggy since we went in winter. So the view used to be unclear in the mornings. I wish they took care of the Taj Mahal a lot more. It was so poorly maintained when I had visited the place.

  4. >@Monika: Totally! Even the minor trips have been so memorable.@Chrysalis: Amen to that!@J: Yes, it always is. And I hope against hope that this month I get to fly out of India. *Sigh* Enough of Bharat darshan!@Goofy: I used a filter for that pic.@Solilo: Thank you!@Miss M: I did not get time to visit the Taj Mahal but the last time when I did, it was pretty well maintained. But that was long, long ago. I wouldn't be surprised if they could let something as great as that also fall to neglect!

  5. >Road trips are awesome fun. Haven't gone on one with my parents, and this does sound like a good idea.Where you headed to this month? Does the shutterbug put up pics elsewhere for our viewing pleasure? πŸ™‚

  6. >wow… 6 trips in seven months.. thats super.. I can totally relate to what you said about Banke bihari temple in Vrindavan.. I actually had tears in my eyes once I was inside that temple. I was so over-whelmed there. I forgot all those dirty by-lanes which we had to pass to reach the temple. And as for Taj Mahal, no amount of words can do justice to it.. Its pure love.

  7. >Wow !! Looks like you had a great time. Make me want to take a road trip next time I am in India. It's been along time I went to that part of India now.Enjoy your trip

  8. >@Narcotic: I will be putting them on my design blog every Wednesday.@Soulmate: I was in tears myself and so did my parents, I think. We all tried hard to conceal them.@Goofy: My camera has filter settings. I chose one of those. And I'm not studying photography, but definitely trying to learn.@DewdropDream: Thank you, thank you, thank you :)@Dil se: I'm not one for road trips either, but the highway from Lucknow to Agra is super smooth. Time flew.

  9. >Enjoyed reading this post, although the cyclist accident was scary… I think you were wise to escape I have heard of how badly such mobs can react…they forget that the accident victim needs their help not their violent anger. The pictures are great, loved yours in the mirror!

  10. >awesome!!! I am sooo jealous!! I havent been anywhere this whole year 😦 😦 Yes Agra is a nice place to visit and Mughal Shereton is equally awesome!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ The accident was quite scary..thank god none of you got hurt!!

  11. >@IHM: Yes, the cyclist incident was scary. But all's well that ends well.@saima: Oh no! You must take off for some place. How do you survive without a break?

  12. >D, you lucky thang! always wanted to do a roadtrip with parents but kept putting it off, now it's too late. but i am definitely going to agra. the impresion i had of the city was from my last visit (circa 1995 A.D)and the guide would not let us see the real agra – of posh hotels and delightful sunsets – but took us to crowded markets and traffic jams. showed us a dingy backpacker-type dwelling (all phorens come here, saar) and in agra we had the delhi-belly. so, looking forward to more accounts of trips. lucky escape for you guys – in delhi i saw a middle-aged CEO looking man being slapped by an auto driver for merely bumping against the auto. what is wrong with indians? they collect a crowd for the slightest thing. once we were bargaining with our guide (they appear from nowhere!) and within moments, there was a big crowd and they kept yelling at us (god knows what!)so, you did the correct thing. i can't imagine all this happening back home.

  13. >Sad to know about the mishap. But glad that it was resolved for good :-)Road trips are liberating. It is always nice to travel with near dear ones. Also at times,a solo trip does good. But somehow I don't cherish my last years solo bike ride from Delhi to Lucknow. NH24 wasn't great and there wasn't much to stop and admire too. Nice pictures those!!

  14. >sorry abt the accident but the rest of the trip sounds fantastic. There is nothing like some alone time with parents. Love the pics u took. & Happy Birthday to your mom πŸ™‚

  15. >@ms: The 'real' part of any city is usually what its underbelly is referred to, which is only partially true because that's just one side of the coin. As for road rage, well that's another long story and I don't know which part of the world you call home but I don't think it's peculiar to India alone.@Sangfroid: I can quite imagine. Biking through UP is not like biking through Punjab, Himachal or J&K – there aren't any mountains on the way nor pretty green fields to make the ride interesting.@Monika, Ansh: Thanks Monika! And you're right – nothing quite like alone time with parents πŸ™‚

  16. >wow!! awesome pics and what a fabulous trip, inspite of a bad start. Its good that you guys didnt stop to help the cyclist. Sometimes an angry mob can be vicious to unrealistic degrees. Glad you guys had a wonderful trip.Belated happy bday to your MOm.

  17. >The cyclist bit was unfortunate, and you were wise to get out of there. There is so much chaos on Indian highways, with people driving at high speeds on the wrong side – "baap ka sadak hain". And it's never their fault.I did drive from Delhi to Mathura a few years ago, and the pandas and the guides just wouldn't let me be. Got into a fight with them at the temple gate, because I said I didn't need a guide. They threatened me, with some very filmy dialogues, but I stood my ground, and they let me be after a while. I was lucky – if they had acted on their threats, there was nothing I could have done. Unfortunately, that's the dominant memory of that particular trip.Nice pics.Cheers,Quirky Indian

  18. >@Piper: Thank you for the wishes. And yes, everybody said that it was a wise thing to have moved on.@Quirky Indian: I know those pandas can be such leeches! It helped that our driver wouldn't stop for any of them because he knew exactly what they were up to. But despite all that, the experience in the Banke Bihari temple was almost transcendental.

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