Category Archives: India Travelogue

india travelogue

Dry Fruit Sellers of Old Delhi

19th March Satish took me to parts of Old Delhi where I hadn’t gone during my two-year stay in the city. We had gone to the area looking for the shop where we had found best lassi in Delhi in 2010. I liked the effort they have put to decorate these dry fruit shops and the orderly manner in which items were on display. Shopkeepers were surprisingly peaceful and calm (at least looked so) despite the street atmosphere being so chaotic.

Parthasarathy Rocks (and Flowers of JNU)

Dinesh Wagle at Parthasarathy Rocks in JNU. December 2008.

Dinesh Wagle at Parthasarathy Rocks in JNU. December 2008.

17th and 20th March 2013 When I was living in Delhi as a correspondent for Kantipur, PSR was my favorite place in the city. That, according to me, is also the most beautiful place in the whole of Delhi. I would spend hours at the Parthasarathy Rocks, located inside the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus chatting with friends and, when with Satish, strangers. The dhabas in the Uni during late evenings are great place to be. But nothing beats the experience of sitting over one of the main two rocks at PSR in late afternoon and watch planes fly and, if lucky, peacocks dance in the jungle that surrounds the rocks. I went there this time as well to spent a couple of hours along with Satish and Ishwari. Beautiful flowers of JNU campus deserve a separate entry- but for now I’ll limit myself to posting photos only.

One year into my stay in Delhi in 2009 I was full of praise for PSR and the “PSR experience”:

Back in Delhi, I am a grown up man with a responsibility to fulfill. It’s a blessing to me that my work not just involves sitting in front of computer with browsers open but also traveling and meeting new people. Listening to disheartening stories of poor, unfortunate and deprived Nepalis in Delhi is one of the darkest experiences.

Exploring the city, having dahi valla in Chandni Chowk and standing at the Parthasarathi Rocks of JNU have been some of the most fulfilling experiences. I would say being at the top of PSR, seeing peacocks singing and dancing and airplanes flying, is the best thing I have experienced in this city this year. That particular moment when I was photographed (by a camera!) at PSR was the best of all. I cherish that moment.

From  A Year in Delhi, India (6 Nov 2009)

Previous articles/entries on JNU:
1. Happy Holi India! (and JNU Chaat Festival)
2. Winter Flagbearers: Delhi Cold and JNU Food Festival
3. India, Universities and World Ambitions

Migrant Workers: Nepali (Rolpali) Porters of Shimla

भागी ती भागीका छोरा पिलेन घुइक्याउदा छन्
अभागी गरिवका छोरा भारी चुइक्याउदा छन्

मसुरी डाँडोमा भारतभरीका र संसारकै मान्छे पुग्छन् । तिनीहरु कुन देश या भारतीय राज्यका हुन् खुट्टयाउन हत्तपत्त सकिन्न । तर खुम्चिएको ढाका टोपी लगाएका, काँधमा नाम्लो भिरेका र यहाँका साघुरा गल्लीमा भारी बोकेर या त्यसै भौतारिइरहेका जुनै पनि मलिन अनुहारलाई सहजै चिन्न सकिन्छ । परिचय विनाकै पहिलो प्रश्न (‘कताबाट हो दाजू ?’) ले तत्कालै उत्तर पाइ हाल्छ– ‘कालिकोट’ ।

एक हिसावले पुरै मसुरी शहर कालिकोटेहरुको थाप्लामा अडिएको छ ।

केही मिनेट असिना बर्सिएपछि चिसिएको हालैको एक साँझ एक हुल कालीकोटेहरु मसुरीको केन्द्रमा रहेको घन्टाघर नजिकै सडक किनारमा आगो तापिरहेका थिए । दिउसो एकपटकमा डेढ क्विन्टलसम्म बोक्दाको थकान मेटाउन केहीले मदिराको सहयोग लिएका थिए जो गफमा प्रष्ट झल्किन्थ्यो ।

‘लौ लेख्नुस्, हामी कालिकोटका,’ ५९ बर्षे धनु विकले लरबरिएको लवजमा भने– ‘आफ्नो देशमा काम नपाएर अर्काकोमा कुकुरको जिन्दगी विताइरहेका छौं । यही हो हाम्रो खवर ।’

थाप्लोमा मसुरी (फेब्रुअरी २००९) बाँकी यहाँ छ .

Nepali porters of Mussoorie, India. Photo taken in 2009.

Nepali porters in Mussoorie, India. February 2009.

22/23 March 2013 For the first time in a long time I was traveling as a tourist with no possible story ideas storming at the back of my mind. This was a strange feeling and also a relief. I didn’t have to do a story when I was seeing one in front of me. I didn’t have to approach and talk to people the way a reporter in me normally would have. I didn’t have to organize the voices in a structured story. I was just a tourist, not a reporter looking for stories. Not that I hated doing all that but this time I was not a reporter, I was just a tourist.

Approaching people, talking to them and composing a story- that all takes effort. Words have to reflect, as accurately as possible, feeling of the people involved in the story. They have to portray pictures of people in such a way that this portrayal properly supplements the photos of the same people that are often printed alongside the story. Continue reading

And the Monkey Stole My Glasses in Shimla

A fearless and agressive monkey ready to fight with a humanShimla’s monkeys are agressive and audacious. They don’t seem to miss an opportunity to intimidate, attack and assault humans. A huge Hanuman statue standing atop the Jakhu hill (of whose base the town Shimla is located, sort of) could be the source of their arrogance. That’s my assumption. Hanuman’s statue, way bigger than the Gandhi’s at the base of the hill, must have made them feel that they are superior to humans. Again, assumption. I noticed several ‘be aware of monkeys’ notices in the town.

I have seen monkeys in many places- in the village where I was born and grew up, in many other villages of Nepal that I have visited, and in jungles where my trail passed through. Have seen them in cities as well- many places of Kathmandu and Delhi (Have written an entire column about the unfriendly monkeys of Delhi that sneaked into my apartment to steal things- Humans and monkeys struggle for space in the Indian capital). But I’ll put the monkeys of Shimla at the top of the list of the most agressive monkeys that I have ever seen. Continue reading

A Quick trip to Shimla

Dinesh Wagle in Shimla

No prize for spotting me. Pic by Gokul Dahal

Shimla is a town of Monkeys who behave like Monkeys. But I will keep this album free of monkeys. I present here the atmosphere of the town- crowds and buildings- as I saw it.

During my two-year stay in Delhi as a reporter I traveled to most of the famous ‘hill stations’ in north India. Here’s the list: Darjeeling, Shillong, Mussoorie, Manali and Gangtok. Somehow I hadn’t found time to go to Shimla. I had imagined the place to be not drastically different from other hilly Indian towns. But some descriptions that I had come across (can’t remember the exact one at the moment) had put this place slightly ahead of others in the beauty contest of ‘queens of hills’. May be some political events (like the Shimla Agreement) provided some importance (and glamour) to the place. I also wanted to experience the toy train of Shimla (and wanted to compared it with similar one in Darjeeling). Continue reading

Hello from Hyderabad, India

A quick note. Have been traveling to east,central & south AND west India. First leg was in Puri and Konark of Odisha state. Today arrived in Hyderabad. Had boarded into the train, which we almost missed as the Sun temple in Konark demanded more time from us, in Bhubaneswar last year- last day of 2010. Some kids in the train woke us with their Happy New Year screams. The train, on schedule, was moving somewhere in Andhra Pradesh. Here are a few mobile pics from today.





First day in Hyderabad:

1. Bangles on sale in Lad Bazaar, very near to the landmark Charminar.

2: Kids enjoying themselves in, ahem, LUMBINI Park!

3/4: Giant standing Buddha statues in Hussain Sagar, not very far from Lumbini park.

Inside the Tirupati Balaji Temple Complex

Venkateswara Temple Complext, Tirupati india

...I spent the rest of the night leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. (This pic was taken before I moved in to the hall.)

It was 1 am when I reached Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh.  Tired of the long journey from Mahabalipuram via Kanchipuram I was planning to get off the bus and head toward the nearest hotel. God had different plans. I was surprised to see bustling crowds of devotees at that hour of night and shocked to learn that no room was available in the whole of the temple town. I spent the rest of the night along with my co-traveler leaning against a concrete staircase inside a huge hall full of hundreds of people trying to get some sleep. When the day broke we moved towards the temple hoping to get inside for darshan.

The richest temple of the world, formally known as Venkateswara temple, is hidden from the devotees until they pass some barriers. A glimpse of the roof of the temple could be seen from a small hilltop. Devotees wishing to go inside the temple have to pay Indian Rs. 300 so that they could stand in a queue that is supposed to have less people. But that priority queue appeared to be a couple of kilometres long, forget about the regular one that I guessed could have extended several kilometres more. We decided not to go for darshan. Continue reading

mahabalipuram india stone carving monolith temples (15)

Rocks and Monolithic Temples of Mahabalipuram, India

mahabalipuram india stone carving monolith temples (15)

A woman at the top of a rock in Mahabalipuram's World Heritage Site

Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram) is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in India in the past two years. The combination of beach and rocks AND the awesome monolithic structures makes the place so special that, by the end of the day, you will realized that a day is simply not enough to explore this historical site. It’s a small town, peaceful and touristy, where centuries old monolithic stone temples and carvings are scattered in walking distance from the beach. It’s barely an hour from Chennai, on way to Pondicherry (two hours from here).

The Shore Temple is a top destination because of its location, right on the shore as its name suggests. The rocky beach in front of the temple saves it from being hit directly by the water but that doesn’t mean the occasional wrath of the sea doesn’t harm it always. Over the centuries parts of temple have been washed away by the water, a book on town says.

The huge complex of rocks and carvings on the other side of the road is where we spent most of the day. The book Mahabalipuram- a journey through a magical land by Srinivaas and J Prabhakar that we had bought in Chennai came very handy while exploring the carvings and rocks. The writers could have done without their occasional ‘witty’ observations about the arts and carvings. The reader is interested in the structure and its historical significance, not the jokes and moral lessons that the writers prefer to draw from them. The research that they have done to prepare the book is commendable. I have used writers’ descriptions of structures and carvings alongside the relevant photos posted below. Continue reading

Matrimandir, Auroville, Pondicherry

The Banyan Tree of Auroville

The Banyan Tree of Auroville

Aerial prop roots have grown into thick woody trunks supporting the banyan tree as it extends laterally. Click on the photo for more info.

I always thought बर (Banyan) was the husband of पीपल (Peepal). It’s not because the word बर also means husband in Nepali :). It’s probably because I have always seen these trees together on चौतारीहरु (chautaris) in villages- mostly on the opposing sides of a chautari. On certain days people go to chautaris or whereever Banyan and Peepal are and “marry” them. They garland both trees- single garland- amidst a ceremony. This should explain the significance that Banyan (बर) along with Peepal holds in Nepali society. Peepal is considered more religous and sacred than Banyan, I believe. Both of these trees are deeply rooted in our culture too. A lot of songs talk about them.

खोला वारी खोला पारी पीपल र बर
हावा चल्यो पात हल्यो माया वर वर

[Thanks to my significant half who told me about the existence of this particular song.]


Tourists and Matrimandir

Tourists in front of Matrimandir, Auroville

I remember hanging and swinging on the aerial prop roots of Banyan tree in my childhood. But I had never seen a Banyan tree with APR fully developed into woody trunks before I visited Auroville in Pondicherry last month. An hour ago I also knew that Banyan is the national tree of India. I was completely awed by the sight of this giant banyan tree near Matrimandir. All Indian tourists who were traveling with us and other Westerners we saw at Matrimandir completely ignored the tree and kept walking ahead. We branded them fools for not stopping by the tree and admiring its shape, size and beauty. Continue reading


A trip to Pondicherry, India

green garden

Pondicherry has one of the oldest (1828) botanical gardens of India.

The British once ruled the Indian subcontinent (except Nepal, of course) that included present day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But they were not the only foreign powers to rule India. The Portuguese and the French controlled Goa and Pondicherry, located on two opposing coasts of India. Having visited Goa (west coast) twice I always wanted to go to Pondicherry (or Puducherry)- sometimes described as “the French Riviera of the East“.

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I haven’t been to the French Riviera but didn’t find Puducherry the town up to my (and my co-traveler’s) expectation. We had expected the place to be very calm, without much traffic, touristy, romantic and better than Goa. It is not entirely so. But the rocky beach where French and British once killed each other for the control of Puducherry looked nice- far better than Marina. We spent couple of hours there in the evening after returning from Auroville where golden metallic Matrimandir is the center of attraction. But we found a huge banyan tree nearby far more grander and mesmerizing then the man-made structure. (More about the banyan tree and photos later). The botanical garden near the railway station is a nice place to be for a while though it’s not exactly a garden. It’s kind of an orderly jungle with trees of various kinds. Unfortunately no nameplate could be found attached on all of them. Continue reading