Haji Ali Dargah. Our destination next after Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghaat.
Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque and a tomb to Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a rich merchant who gave up his worldly possession before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Haji Ali Dargah was located on the islet off the coast of Worli in the Southern Mumbai.
He feared he had hurt the earth after jabbing his finger into the soil, and then he asked his followers to cast the coffin carrying his body in the Arabean sea. After he died, the followers did as instructed. Surviving the gale of wind and ferocious waves, the casket got stuck in the rocky islets of Worli. It was only then the Dargah was constructed.
The Dargah stands relevant to the Indian national today as at least 40,000 pilgrims irrespective of faith and religion, visit the dargah to get the blessing of the legendary saint.
To reach the dargah, one needs to walk for approximately one kilometre along the causeway as the dargah sits in the water of Arabian Sea. Fret not, if the heat dries up your throat, there are plenty stalls selling water at the causeway. There are also few musicians; some are disabled playing instruments at the causeway, an act which is not in line with Islamic teaching. If you are not prepared to donate some money, do not snap the musicians’ pictures unless consented.
It was here that I witnessed the drowning of a man who was brave enough to swim in the water.
During high tide, the causeway leading to the dargah tends to be underwater. So you will either be disappointed of not being able to go to the dargah or be stranded!
Don’t miss out Haji Ali Dargah of Mumbai.
As seen in many travel and photography magazines, I knew I could not miss visiting Dhobi Ghaat when I was in Mumbai. Insisted to kick off our second day in Mumbai by experiencing an open air laundry, my friends gave in to my demand. We hailed two taxis at the corner of Shahid Bhagat Singh Road and cut a deal of Rs90 for each taxi.
The taxi drivers unmannerly stopped us one kilometre away from the dhobi ghaat and had us asking for direction to the Dhobi Ghaat from the locals.
Not long after, we spotted another tourists coming up from a staircase and underneath the over head bridge connected with the staircase, there was a huge compound full of clothes; scattered, piled, washed, dyed and hanged. Unique, seeing a place like the dhobi ghaat was as if my life was paused for few seconds just to absorb the uniqueness of the place with my five senses. Pungent urine smell was enough to bring me back to the reality.
Camera gear was on full standby mode to capture the best moment in the open air laundry. When we walked in, we were stopped by one of the washers who asked us to wait for the head of the washers. We were then informed that tourists were charged an entrance fee of Rs50 and Rs100, if entrance with a camera. We were told the money will be allocated to the washers’ fund. Apparently there are 10,000 washers in Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghaat. The place was huge! We saw men and women doing all the work related to laundry.
Although there were washing machines, the washers still pounded the clothes with stones. By then I had seen riverside laundry in Hampi, India and how an old man stood still holding a piece of clothes under the scorching sun to dry up the clothes.
Common sights were small-built men with obvious tighten muscles.
The washers were very friendly. They called me to take their photographs and in fact, asked me to go to the opposite side.
Seeing how hard their jobs were, a thought struck my mind at once. I was then at the verge of ever wanting to quit my air-conditioned-but-demanding-legalwork, complaining about my job at every single juncture. How would I be more grateful for my job if not because of the hardship and labour suffered by the washers just to bring food home.
While a sense of pitiness grew rapidly in me, I spotted never ending laughter and hearty smiles from the washers.
Now, how is money relative to the happiness scale?
The white clothes were whiter. The bright coloured clothes did not fade away. There must be a hidden secret behind the method employed by the washers to wash the clothes. Clothes were tagged to prevent loss of clothes. They are also classed according to colours and materials. Jeans would be washed together with other jeans. Sarees with sarees.
We were given a limited time to explore the open air laundry. Even that, it left huge impacts on me. A definite must visit place in India.
On my last day in New Delhi, a friend’s friend chartered a car for me to visit the other New Delhi’s site I had not visited inclusive of one monument that had me mesmerized, Qutb Minar which was known as the highest tower in India, slimmest I would add. It was in a form of red and buff sandstone at the height of 72.5 m with its diameter approximately 14.32m at the base and 2.75m on top.
The minaret was inspired by Minaret of Jam, Pakistan. Spot the similarity.
The first Muslim ruler of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, commenced the construction of the Qutb Minar but could only finish off the basement i.e the first tier. His successor added four more. The architecture comprised of the carving of Quranic verses at the surface of the building. Their flambouyant skills were evident in the minaret.
In the compound of Qutb Minar, there is a mosque built by the Delhi Sultans to the northeast of the minaret. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns.There was also an Iron Pillar in the courtyard set up to Vishnudhvaja in the memory of a mighty king named Chandra. Oh, now it becomes Indo-Islamic.
Part of the building was damaged due to earthquakes and lightnings on many occasions. With reinstatement and renovation, the beauty of the Qutb Minar is well preserved.
Public transport: Delhi Metro
Entrance Fee: (Local: Rs10) (Foreigner: Rs250)
12.02.2011| I ventured Old Delhi by myself. It was after I shopped for spices and nuts to bring home, that I finally walked to Jama Masjid. I sought for direction from the officer standing near the Fatehpuri Mosque and upon his advice, I hailed a cycle rickshaw to Jama Masjid area. The Old Delhi main road was crowded and I could not help but to notice armed police officers guarding the area. The cycle rickshaw had to stop after 5 minutes because of the road closure. I asked why and received an answer in Hindi, and I dared not ask further. Thereon, I started to walk.
Looking absolute lost, I followed the flow of crowd, most of them clad in black dresses and shirts as if they were going for a funeral. To be honest, I thought someone had passed away. I took as many shots as I could for whatever that was happening in New Delhi that day, I could google it afterwards. A man with a hailer chanting mixture of Indian and Arabic words. Young men were striking their chest so hardly I wondered if it caused pain to the chest. The crowd ranged from children to old men. There was a van who distributed packaged food for the street people.
Later I saw a bunting – Hussaini Mission. A man realizing I was documenting the ceremony marched forward and started to explain the basis of the whole thing in thick Indian accent. He wanted me to go back to my home country and disseminate about the event.
It was a procession during Festival of Muharram for Shias. The event commemorates the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a shia imam was killed by the forces of the second Umayad caliph Yazid I. The assination of Hussain took place on the tenth day of Muharram and known as Ashura day. This is why Islam is divided into Shias and Sunnis.
In Malaysia, we do not commemorate Ashurah day like the Shias do. The whole event I witnessed that day was a remarkable experience. But frankly, I was worried as hell of my safety. I was pushed right, left and centre.
The area became even more crowded as time passed. I did not even visit the Jama Masjid as by that time, they were about to finish Friday prayer. There were atleast 10,000 people performing Friday prayer.
Ashura day – though I doubt it was really Ashura day happening in February 2011, I can now say I sort of have seen how Shias celebrate Ashura day.
This was one of the highlights during the trip.
By my third day in New Delhi, I was transferred to a new guesthouse, LIC India Company Guesthouse, Near Plaza Cinema, Connaught Place, Delhi. Rising to the sunshine and in a guesthouse alone, it was time to venture the Old Delhi. I came down with a bag full of Maharaja McDonald meal I bought the night before. I could not stomach the weird spicy Indian-styled burger. To waste it into the wastepaper basket, my mind flashed the images of the poor people begging for food across the streets of India I had come across for the last 12 days. I quickly placed the bag beside a lady who was breastfeeding her baby not far from the place I stayed in.
To be honest, to hail an autorickshaw in Delhi was really a challenge. They were rude, demanding and hard to haggle with. The moment I tried to bargain my deal, off they went leaving me speechless. After three autorickshaws left, it didn’t take long before I decided to walk to Old Delhi from Connaught Place. Not having a map with me, I started to stop the local for directions.
I met a young man who suggested me to take the Metro which was a walk away from Connaught Place. The Metro Station was a world different from the outside world. People were more civilised. One incident occurred to me in the Metro. I paid double the train ride. It so happened that the side of the ticket counter had a route and fare map all written in Hindi. I asked the counter-man how much was the fare and he told me a figure which was double the fare. It was a straight forward case of cheating right in the face.
Everyone was qeueing for the train. I went in the wrong coach at first. After realizing I was the only female in the coach, I came out the coach at an instance and ran to the ladies coach. Lucky, I saved myself from the cold stares and possible harrassment.
My stopover was Chadni Chowk. Again I was lost. I followed the flow of the people traffic and ended up in sweet restaurant. Not a very bad place to get lost since I had not taken my breakfast yet! In Delhi, most restaurants were equipped with an area for fast eater, meaning to say, a place for a person to hurry in, grab the food (of course pay for it), eat it in few minutes without having to settle in a seat and leave the next moment.
Chadni Chowk a.k.a the “Moonlit Square” is the main street of Old Delhi built by Mughal King Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter as a thoroughfare from their palace (Red Fort) to their place of worship (Jama Masjid ). It used to be one of the grandiest market in India and still is, at least, to my eyes. Along the walled city, I found myself in the amidst of hustle bustle of Old Delhi street. Man, you would want to consider avoiding Old Delhi on Friday. Crowded and packed!
Old Delhi retains its unique, vibrance and asiatic sensation though I am not sure of its congestion. It was hard to maintain my pace for I either stepped onto others’ feet or my feet was stepped on. A five feet walkway caused me at least 4-5 minutes to cross over, that was how busy Chadni Chowk was. A cycle-rickshaw swiftly weaved to avoid the pedestrians who seemed to be as powerful as the cycle and auto rickshaws.
I went into Kinari Bazaar and Katra Neel’s blocks and man, I was lost between the sections of the walled old building. Sarees and accessories were cheap and I could not assure they were of good quality. I followed the locals’ paths to exit the building. It was not after 2-3 misdirections I could finally breathe the polluted air again. I walked further up and ah, found the final destination, the Khari Baoli; the biggest spice market in Asia selling all kind of spices, nuts and herbs. And tea too.
I noticed less tourists at this side of Delhi. I was an alien subjected to sharp long stares which were one the skills found in many Indian men. Spices of all sort made me practised the bargaining skill once more. I almost forgot that I didn’t cook back home. I ended up buying for my mother, my aunty and my other aunty! You could now imagine me packing the spices inside my backpack. This was the only place that I didn’t buy local tea for I had a good collection of tea from different countries (not the one packed and sold in the supermarket).
-To be continued
Photos will be inserted later..
Apart from the old Delhi and the new Delhi, you can also make a day trip to Chandigarh, some 238 kilometers from Delhi. Chandigarh, the Fort of Chandi, is the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana. Often known as the Beautiful City as it was planned by French architects. Having visited the typical India states, I could not help but to wonder how the Beautiful city looked like.
I took the morning train Shatabdi Express Kalka-Delhi which had been booked for me by my friend earlier. The two hour train ride somehow left so much impression to my journey through India. I was given the window seat and sat beside an Indian teenager. Time after time we were served breakfast that came in three course. So there was I, enjoying the sunrise and the scenic plantation area over delicious Indian breakfast.
Prior to my departure to Chandigarh, I had made some contact with fellow Cser from Chandigarh. When I arrived in Chandigarh, Gaurav Gupta, a descent businessman fetched me at the train station and we first went to the Rock Garden.
Rock Garden was designed by Nek Chand, a humble transport officer, who was distraught with the abundance of waste product as a result of daily consumption. He began clearing off a patch of jungle to make himself a small garden. He set stones around the clearing and he sculpted a few figures from recycled materials he had found. Gradually the garden took on a bigger scale which was hid from the knowledge of the government.
Later, when the government learned about the existence of the garden, they decided to grant Nek Chand a salary and gave more labourers to work on the garden.
The park is open daily from April to September from 9a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. and for month of October and March, it is open from 9a.m. and 2 to 6p.m.
Don’t be deceived by the outer look for it was just another Indian wall you might have seen in other states. When I passed by the entrance, I could never guess how vast the place was. We had to pass by the tunnel, tall person had to lower down their head to pass through.
There was a terracota wall.
Gaurav then drove me around Punjab University and he showed me the law faculty of Punjab University.
After having a cafe at Cafe Coffee Day, we took a stroll down the Sukhna Lake. Discussing the world from two different views. I don’t know why I feel as if I have been granted to freedom of speak to discuss religion for it was the most discussed topic for me when I was in India. In Malaysia, I dare not ask my Indian friends such a sensitive topic as that.
I had major hunt for sweets here in Chandigarh but I could not settle for one for fear of contamination. I had to preserve the food for days before my departure to Kuala Lumpur.
Gaurav sent me back to the train station. Till we meet again, Gaurav!
When my friends and I arrived in Delhi Train Station, Mr. Arjun, my Indian friend’s driver waited for us patiently amidst the hustle bustle of the train station. It was hard to communicate with each other over the phone at first and lucky, I saw him holding a placard with my name on it; albeit the spelling mistake. Mr. Arjun was among the few honest Indians I met throughout the journey.
Mr. Arjun works for my friend from Human Rights Commission in New Delhi. On my arrival, my friend was away in Bangladesh for a regional meeting. I was informed that his driver driving an ambassador car would be waiting for me to take me to the hostel that was booked for me.
After sending my friends off to their hotel, I was sent to United India Insurance Co. Guesthouse which was situated in Khelgoan. It was a double storey terraced house turned a guesthouse; a lavish guesthouse. I was greeted with a cup of masala chai and there was a sony bravia tv in my room with satelite channels.
It turned out to be Rs106.00 for 2 nights inclusive with the meals I had ordered. I was like, ‘get real’? That was dirt cheap and I even gave the boy tips which was more than the room charges. I was left with aplenty money by my friends who had left for Malaysia two days earlier than me, for fear that I might run out of money just by paying the room charges.
Let’s get back to the morning before my friends boarded the plane to Malaysia. As we were equipped with local simcards, we arranged to meet at the Humayoun’s tomb. I withdrawn some cash and off I went from Khelgoan to Humayoun’s tomb.
We went to Dili Haat for shopping. Again we were bought by the sweet talks of the salesmen. It was really an experience as we were asked to sit on the sofa opposite to the cabinets wherein saree clothes were neatly folded. They came in different colours and quality. Most importantly, they were priced way cheaper than those we bought in Jaipur and Agra. We were brought to every section in the shop.
We had lunch at Pindi Restaurant. Damn expensive.
Later, it was time for my friends to leave for the airport. I followed them to the airport and bid goodbye. It was as if I would be staying for couple of years in Delhi. I came back to Khelgoan Guesthouse, sunk in the fluffy matress and it was then that loneliness struck me.
COMING SOON: CHANDIGARH DAY TRIP
I left Sunder Place Guesthouse as early as 6.30a.m. for the bus was due to leave the Pink City at 7.00a.m. I wandered around at the wee hour looking for my bus and found 2 tourists (1 German 1 China) looking as lost as moi. We found the bus and decided to sit close to one another. The funny part was we were seated one row after another, all with window seats.
I arrived at Agra at noon and shared an autorickshaw with the guy from China. I went straight to Hotel Sidharta Western Gate Agra for my friends who took the train had arrived much earlier. Hungry, I was. I put down my backpack and joined the others for lunch. If you happen to be in Hotel Sidharta Western Gate, do not forget to try its home made fries. Awesomest.
I decided to skip Fatehpur Sikri as my financial did not permit. Syakir backed off too and we embarked on a little journey through the scam city of Agra. When I said scam, everything was scam-related activity. I wanted to go to the backyard of Taj Mahal and so we did not – after we had few scam series along the way.
We took cyclerickshaw and boy, my heart went out for the skinny bone rickshaw cycler for having to take both of us around Agra. He told us he could give discounted price for the ride if we were agreeable to spend at least 20 minutes in a souvenir shop. Agreed and we started to time for 20 minutes. Only later that we learned that uncle was paid a commission for bringing us there.
It took ages to reach the old Agra city and we opted for autorickshaw to go to the backyard of Taj Mahal. We wanted to see Agra in many different colors often seen in the postcards. Having spent good 45 minutes at the backyard, we learned that it was the magic of photoshop after all. Sunset was beautiful and in great depth.
Agra was where I bought the book of Maharani of Jaipur, the Autobiography.
Next morning started early as we had to queue to buy our entrance ticket to Taj Mahal. Great, it was only 5 minutes walk from the hotel but the queue took more than 30 minutes. First, it was the ticketing counter. Second, it was security check that we had to go through. My safety whistle was confiscated and I am still clueless as to the harm I could make.
By the time we were inside the garden near the grand entrance that leads to the symbol of lasting love, the sunrise was gone. Sprinkled with sunshine and morning dew, I wrapped myself to the saree I bought in Jaipur. I was taken by an awe when I first saw her standing to her glorified-self. She was still covered from haze, half awaken from the chilling night. But there she was, as beautiful as ever told.
The grand entrance was a bit crowded as tourists who were mesmerized by the beauty of the Taj Mahal would stop there to enjoy the view. It was like a dream comes true. I was by then quite knowledgeable on the history of Taj Mahal and the implications she had bestowed on India.
The Mughal empiror, Shah Jahan was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal died during the birth of their 14th child. He built the principal mausoleum and the surrounding buildings and garden to symbolize his greatest love towards Mumtaz. Little was said about the striking favouritism as against Shah Jahan’s other wives and children.
Aurangzeb, his third son seized the throne by killing his siblings and putting Shah Jahan on a house arrest. It was said that the head of Shah Jahan’s favourite child was chopped off and sent to Shah Jahan with a note that said he had not been forgotten by Aurangzeb.
Ok, I should not be saddened you with the tragic end of the remarkable Mughal empire.
Some 1202 kilometers from Mumbai, Jaipur is located. I flew in from Mumbai via Indigo Air and landed down at 10.45p.m. The guesthouse that was booked earlier had already made an arrangement for a taxi to fetch my friends and I from the airport. Sunder Guesthouse is a bungalow house turned boutique guesthouse with immense refurbishments and a rooftop garden restaurant. The room was clean and the food was good, whatelse would a backpacker ask for?
Early in the morning, we negotiated for two autorickshaws to bring us around Jaipur. We first went to the train station where my friends booked train tickets to Agra using Tatkal quota. I did not fancy a train ride using Tatkal quota for its higher than normal price. I was more than happy to take the bus from Jaipur to Agra.
We were brought to Hawa Mahal, the profound feature of the elementary pink city. The azure clouds in contrast to the colour of the 1799 building of the Palace of Wind made it picture-perfect for a photography outing. Hawa Mahal was once a palace where the royal ladies, for which I mean the wives of Maharaja with their servants, lived and the windows were used to observe the everyday life of their subjects without being seen.
About 11km from Jaipur, we visited a massive fort-palace complex that was the royal palace of the Kachawahas from c. 1600 to 1727. The fort is named after the town of Amber. Venturing through an old palace like Amber Fort is truly meant for people who is seeking knowledge on the monarch system in India. I shall now state here that there were thousand princely families in India.
Before returning to the guest house, we dropped by a souvenir shop and we were lured to buy almost everything in the shop. No one was excluded, our pockets were ripped off as if there was no tomorrow.
We went back to the hotel and my friends left early in the morning to catch the train while I enjoyed few hours of sleep before travelling alone via bus to Agra.
Before I conclude jaipur post, I have to say my interests are drawn to the beautiful Maharani of Jaipur, Maharani Gayatri Devi, whose pictures were hanged in many places in Jaipur and are still vivid to my mind. It was later in Agra that I bought a biography of Maharani Gayatri Devi and learned the tragic end to the monarchy system in India. My interests and concerns deserve a long winded write up on nothing but that.
Tribute to Jaipur; which much thoughts from Desa Pandan,