Its been a year and three months since we have been locked at home in Ahmedabad, except for our brief escape to the Polo Forest (see 5 posts on this blog here). So escaping to Jaipur by air and then by road from Jaipur to Agra was a great adventure. Here I record life on the highway enroute to Agra! The major part of the journey was within the state of Rajasthan covering the districts of Jaipur, Dausa and Bharatpur before entering Agra district in Uttar Pradesh. Everything in the countryside looked fresh and new. It was indeed refreshing and a treat to see open field where the crop had just been harvested. It was also the harvest festival of Holi.
We stopped only once to have tea in a highway dabha/restaurant. Hotels and trade in the informal sector was clearly flourishing. This point was called Balaji ka Mod, meaning the turn to the Balaji Temple, in Dausa district. The Balaji temple was dedicated to Lord Hanuman, known in this region as Balaji. The temple had gained prominence as a place where persons with mental illness, possessed by evil spirits in the local terminology, or suffering from depression, were cured. We were told that it was a scary place. It is said that once you visit this deity you do not turn back, even though you may hear people calling out your name. You look straight ahead and proceed straight home!
At this Balaji ka Mod, people were drinking tea, eating snacks and gossiping. There was a large earthen stove using wood and charcoal as fuel. A number of fried snacks were available. We restricted ourselves to drinking hot tea as that was safe and refreshing.
Here is a short video of the Bollywood music blaring from the Dabha. The atmosphere was festive as it was the Festival of Colours: Holi. We celebrated the festival of Holika Dahan, the holy bonfire, celebration of the victory of good over evil, the next day on return to Jaipur. See post
The next district we entered was Bharatpur, which is famous for the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. We did not have time to visit the sanctuary and it also was not the season for the migratory birds, which generally visit in the winter months of December-January. What I noted was a flourishing informal Brick Kiln industry. There were many chimneys of the kilns from which smoke was emitting. The kilns dotted the area for miles along the highway.
As we entered Agra district in the state of Uttar Pradesh the driver stopped to pay tax, road tax I believe. Again this was an informal arrangement with a wayside shop. We waited while the payment was made and the receipt was received on the drivers phone. In the meantime we observed a little boy in his father’s snack shop talking to his friend a dog. There was quite an animated dialogue going on between the boy and the pet dog. We were too far to capture on video, so here is a shot of the scene!
And then we entered the crowded streets of Agra. The streets were narrow and every conceivable kind of vehicle was operating there, buses, cars, jeeps, unwieldy three wheelers whose center of gravity was a concern, carrying both goods and passengers. And amidst all this the informal vending sector was active too, with even a large waste collection center. And to add to the fun was another vehicle of transport, the beast of burden, a pair of donkeys carrying load. It was a hard days work for them too.
And in the midst of all this confusion there was a statue of Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar, who inspired the Dalit Bhuddhist movement in India. He was the Chairperson of Drafting Committee that prepared a draft of the Constitution of India. It was indeed inspiring.
Our mission in Agra was personal, a function organized for the first death anniversary of our maternal aunt. It was organised in a large temple campus, Ambaji and Sai Baba Temple, Halwai ki Bagichi, Kailashpuri, Loha Mandi, Agra. The original temple in the complex was the Ambaji Devima Temple. Next to it was a very large Sai Baba temple. The complex had a huge banyan tree, a Hanuman Temple and a Shiva Temple.
The most interesting part of the function was planting of trees in the name of our Aunt, Santosh. So as a family each of us planted a sapling and we created Santosh Vatika, a garden in the name of Aunt Santosh.
And dusk fell as we started out on our journey back to Jaipur. We stopped again midway for a cup of tea at another Dabha and enjoyed the scenic beauty of the dusk over the brick kiln! A day well spent indeed!