Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Faithful readers of Chetan Bhagat, on reading the title, will undoubtedly be reminded of his latest bestseller. They will therefore be wondering how Lefty managed to get involved with not one, but at least 17 members of the fairer sex to have attempted this post. Rest assured, the post is not about my romantic escapades, or their lack thereof. Similarly, readers with a scientific bent of mind might be wondering whether I have done what mankind can only dream of, and moved far beyond ionized gas in the search for new states of matter. Worry not, for I shall most certainly ask a girl out before discovering a new state of matter. Political commentators will by now have counted all new-state movements, even including those that have yet to reach infancy, and realized that the number still doesn't reach 18. But most importantly, all you normal folks out there would now be mentally shouting at me to stop cracking my demented jokes and get to the point. Which I will. In the para after the next.
Having completed my first, and to many the most difficult year of a management programme, I decided to take a well-deserved break, along with 5 other of my friends. We chose our destination as Sikkim- publicized as the Ultimate Tourism Destination. Uncharacteristically, the Sikkim tourism people are dead on target with their tagline. Sikkim's beauty is beyond description. Unlike many other hill-stations in India, it is still relatively untouched. Gangtok might be like any other big hill-city, but as you go further north, the raw beauty of Sikkim hits you. There are snow covered peaks which glance over powerful rugged terrain, barely tamed by man. Yet nestled right between these brutal mountains are the most serene of lakes. It is said that not even a leaf is able to cause a ripple in these calm waters. Lachung, in the lesser Himalayas, is called by the locals as a second Switzerland. If you're lucky, you can even catch a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Even Gangtok, despite being a city, has one amazing market street. Boasting of a quaint cobbled road, it is closed to traffic and offers all material pleasures that man can dream of at 10,000 feet. All in all, a very big reason of why India is Incredible India.
As we were nearing the check post that separates Sikkim from West Bengal, I started a mental count of the number of states in India that I had visited. As of 2.00 am, 24th March 2010, the count stands at 18 out of 28. Of course, a new state might be formed by the time this post is published, in which case the count would be suitably modified. At this point, I must clarify what a visit constitutes. Mere passing through a state by train or road does not make a visit. However, visiting at least one town/city and staying there for at least a night does. That being clear, let me list out the lucky (or unlucky?) 18, in the order of first visited.
1. Bihar, 1987: On 21st July, Lefty was born and Bihar was the state that obliged. From her, I've inherited my remarkable intelligence, and to quote the citation that I received from my school, my "ready smile and witty repartee". Thank you.
2. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, 1989: Union Bank of India is easily the best bank in the world. It has an LTC system that allows my family to visit all kind of awesome places, within India as well as abroad. The great South India trip was when the 4 of us availed it first. Naturally, I remember nothing of the great trip, but my parent's tales and the ample photographs have made it very dear to me. 19 years later, in late 2008, I would visit Chennai and thus TN once more.
5. Uttar Pradesh, 1991: I'll have to confirm this with my mother, but I think we visited Allahabad in 1991. My Mausi, who later would become famous as The Mausi, was posted there. A visit to the Sangam is something that I recall. Otherwise, there are always photographs. Incidentally, UP is also the state which now holds my permanent address and in which I've visited the maximum number of towns/cities.
6. Jharkhand, 1992: To be fair, Jharkhand was not really a state then. But we did go to Jamshedpur to visit Chacha. Fun time with cousins.
7. West Bengal, 1992: First of many fond visits to Calcutta. Sadly, we did not go to Tangra then. But I do remember the fluffy double omelet's that the cook at Mama's used to make. Read- The quest endeth for vivid descriptions of later sojourns. And keep visiting this page once in a while for even more anecdotes from the City of Joy.
8. Rajasthan and Gujarat, 1993: Second LTC. Unlike the first, this trip is well-remembered. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ajmer, Pushkar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer- we covered them all. There were forts and palaces galore. There was also the ship of the desert and the Palace on Wheels. Gujarat boasted of the Gir Forest and the lions there. We also visited Porbandar, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, apart from making a trip to Diu. 17 years later, I would return to Gujarat for a fun weekend of catching up with old friends, eating gujju food and some amazing quizzing.
10. Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, 1997: Third LTC. This trip saw us visiting Jaggannath Puri, Konark, Cuttack, Nandankanan sanctuary and the Chilka Lake in Orissa and Hyderabad and its near bouts in Andhra. The Salar-Jung museum and the Hyderabadi Biryani were what particularly stood out there.
12. Haryana, 2001: Cousin's wedding in Delhi. We were put up at Surajkand, and what a wonderful 3 days they were. Madcap times with cousins and a wonderful wedding to boot. Little did we know then, that less than 3 months from then, we would have been transferred to Delhi, and a new chapter in our lives was going to begin.
13. Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, 2001: Family trip to Kasauli. Via Chandigarh, Pinjore gardens etc. Trip famous for Ramit's- When will we reach Kasauti Zindagi Ki (Pardon the single K's)? Later, Punjab (Amritsar and Wagah Border) was also the destination of choice for our famous Elder's trip.
15. Uttarakhand, 2002: Summer holidays at Mussourie. Sadly, we'd chosen the peak season to go, so the beauty of Mussourie was not really discovered. Ramit's "hero bhi darpok se darta hai" made this particular trip immortal. And of course, I was to later spend 4 of the best years of my life at Roorkee sweet Roorkee.
16. Maharashtra, 2006: My first visit to the other big city in India. Short but eminently sweet 1-day trip. In the 4 years that have followed, I have visited Bombay 3 more times, and it can be said that each trip has been better than the last. Aamby Valley and Nihilanth are some of the fondest memories that I have of the city, apart from the good times with cousins, and I have a feeling there are many more to follow.
17. Goa, 2009: The English language is yet to come up with a word that can describe a Goa trip with the best of friends.
18. Sikkim, 2010: If I were singing, the appropriate line would be, which brings us back to Do-o-o.
As of now, the 7 sisters remain, along with the central 2- MP and Chattisgarh and J&K. I'm hoping to cover all 28 before I turn 28. That should be a fair deadline. In the event of more states being created, the deadline will be extended accordingly.
With each visit to each new state, I've come to appreciate the vastness, beauty and the cliched diversity that is India. There have been enthralling new customs, captivating stories that form the local folklore and examples of development driven by both intelligence and diligence. With each new visit, I've caught snippets of new languages, tried new food, been awed by new sights and more often than not, touched by the kindness of new people. And with each new visit, the immense pride that I have in being an Indian has only multiplied manifold.
That's all I had to state.
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]