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Sin Free Haridwar

Haridwar where Tikku's Travelthon Started

sunny 31 °C
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Religious hubs such as Hardwar should be on the must-see list of foreign tourists who want to experience the “real” India. Crowds of devotees streaming to the ghats are hypnotic. The single-minded quest to wash away one’s sins by taking a dip in the holy waters of the Ganga and the worship of the pantheon of gods and goddesses brings a semblance of peace.
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I wanted to try and wash away the guilt hanging heavy on my soul and self, participate in this spiritual activity, lose myself in the madness of meaningfulness, and depersonalize my body by merging with the crowds of devotees. I headed for the nearest destination which could provide me with solace and succour. Hardwar was in my sights.
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A taxi ride from New Delhi to Hardwar involved covering over 200 km in close to six hours. The highway seemed to have been paved in a hurry but the sight of green fields on either side made up for the potholes. The colorful hoardings along the way made interested reading. Finally I reached my destination.
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It is not easy to describe Hardwar. What does one start with? The colorful temples, the purificatory Ganga, the salvation-seeking devotees, the commercial-minded pundits or priests, the black-faced grey langurs, the ochre-clad sadhus? So many factors omnipresent make a choice difficult. So I will start with the one and only Mother Ganges or “Ganga Maiyya.”
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The waters at the ghat, popularly known as Har-ki-Pauri, are welcoming, look refreshing and promise a better world beyond the one I inhabit at present. Originating from the icy slopes of the Himalayas, the fast-flowing waters are bone-chilling. I submerge myself in the icy flow thrice. My skin tingles, my senses freeze, my thoughts are focused on “Oh God.”

Hardwar is a different side of India. I was thrilled to be in this city. The panditji seated on the steps of the ghat anointed my forehead with a red tilak and chanted some shlokas in exchange for some money. My spiritual upliftment, the atonement of my sins, the blessings of my ancestors were showered on me. It was now time to fill my growling stomach.

The bazaar was within walking distance of Har-ki-Pauri. My countrymen were dominant, fumbling through the knick-knacks on sale. Bottles containIng Ganga water were a popular item on offer. There was a scattering of foreigners in the crowded market and they were invariably being trailed by sadhus, their hair matted, foreheads covered with grey ash, clutching a bowl in one hand and a trishul in the other.

I located a halwai shop where pooris were being served with steaming hot aloo ki subzi. The shop was packed with families, all talking, laughing and devouring the contents of their plates with a passion. I managed to find a corner of a bench empty and slid into it. I started guessing the regions from where the different families had come from. Dress and language were my two major clues. All the North Indian states and a few from other regions were represented and I was the solitary Kashmiri delegate, or so I presumed.

Millions of pilgrims and tourists visit the Har-ki-Pauri to seek the gift of salvation from “Ganga Maiyya.” From dawn to dusk men, women and children take the holy dip religiously. In the evening as darkness covers the sky, the ghats resound to the echoing sounds of the “aarti” and the waters are lit up by the twinkling of lighted “diyas” flowing along with the current of the Ganga. While Hardwar sleeps peacefully at night, the Ganga continues to flow, not tiring of washing away the sins of its over 1 billion children.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 11:46 Archived in India Tagged river ganges Comments (0)

An Astrologers day at Ankor Wat

Siam Reap Cambodia

sunny 30 °C
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The Cambodia Angkor Air flight landed at Siem Reap airport around midnight from Manila. The airport, 7 km from the city, was small but well maintained. I availed of the Visa on Arrival facility and walked over to the immigration officer.
  “This visa permits me to stay for only 15 days but I might like to stay longer. Couldn’t you extend my visa to one month?” I said making the unmistakable sign that I was ready to pay, whatever the so-called “fee.” It was a quick bargain and both parties parted happily. Lightfooted, I bounced out of the airport to the tuk tuk stand to head for my next destination, a hotel, to catch up on my sleep.
 The tuk tuks are motorcycle-rickshaws, the main mode of transport in Cambodia. A good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, a walk around the former Frecnh colonial oupost and I was prepared to hire a tuk tuk to visit Angkor Wat. Originally a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman in the early 12th century. Later converted into a Buddhist monastery, it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors and is significantly and symbolically portrayed on the country’s national flag.
 The inner walls of the temple depict carvings from battle scenes of the Ramayana and the samudra manthan. Large statues of the snake-god Shesh Nag and the Apsaras are positioned at various ends of the temple. There were some unusual sights too, such as statutes of the Buddha meditating under the hood of Shesh Nag. Prospering from the 9th to the 15th centuries, this was a remarkable medley of Hinduis amd Buddhism.
 A UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat is 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap which is about 300 km from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat, or "City of Temples" in Khmer, was ordered by Lord Indira for his son Precha Ket Mealea. According to the 13th century Chinese traveller Daguan Zhou, it was believed that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect. Angkor Wat';s rising series of five towers culminates in an impressive central tower that symbolizes mythical Mount Meru. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carving depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
 The temple complex is so huge that it takes at least three days to see the entire complex. Outside the complex compound flock the usual hordes of tour guides, hawkers selling books on the history of Angkor Wat, picture postcards, T-shirts, handicrafts, soft drinks, snacks and anything a visitor might want to take home as a souvenir.
 I was not interested in purchasing any knickknacks as a memory of my visit. I sat outside the complex, shooing away the occasional hawker who came to pester me. The heat of the day was making me feel thirsty. I planned to return to my hotel for a quick shower and a stroll down to the nearest pub for a chilled beer. Then I saw, sitting on the ground in the shade of a nearby tree, a man in a white sarong and an orange-coloured vest. He was ruffling a bunch of pages and humming to himself.
 “Why isn’t he hassling the tourists? Why does he look so content?” I asked myself. To get a reply, I ambled across to where he was sitting. He looked up at me. “Sir, I am an astrologer and I can read your future from this collection of ancient Pali scriptures.” He told me to pick up one of the pages before him. I followed his command and handed the page back. “Sir, you have a great future, and for the next five years will keep on travelling and seeing the world.” He revealed some more facts that made me feel content. I dived into my pocket and pulled out a bunch of Cambodian riel notes and handed them over. I no longer needed the chilled beer for now I was a cool, content guy.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 11:41 Archived in Cambodia Tagged temple Comments (0)

Searching for Love in Boracay

Island of Boracay

sunny 28 °C
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It was late in the evening and I had seen all that I had to see in the pristine and utopian Philippines island of Boracay. I had done hours of jet skiing and taken water scooter rides in the sea. The whole day I had the company of Lucilla, my local guide on the island.

She took me island hopping in the morning. We took a boat from one island to the other. She video-filmed me while I took a 30 metre dive into the light blue sea. Lucilla was a darling, short in stature and dark in complexion. She made up for her ordinary looks by her enthusiasm for work and zest for making her guests happy at the island.

”I have to fend for my mother and family that is way I work from morning to noon. I have a boat in which I take my guests island hopping and then I make sure they have enjoyed themselves thoroughly,” said my guide, dressed in a short skirt and brief top.

We ate a spicy meal of chicken and chilly squid at one of the island and then I jumped from the boat into the sea to do some snorkeling. For the first time I was exposed to the world under the sea. It was like being in Wonderland, with the colourful fish, corals, vegetation, rocks. All colour and so much of it.

In the evening I told Lucilla ”I had a great time, saw the great pearls and jewels of the sea, ate the best food on the island, drank the best rum and shopped for a snakebone necklace. But I still feel empty inside. I need the touch and warmth of a woman. I need love on the island. I need a woman.”

Lucilla was taken aback. Then, reconciled, she said ”It is not my job. But I will get you a woman as Boracay is full of ladies of the night.” I sat on her scooter and we went off, looking for love.

We visited one bar, then another, haggling with the ladies of the night. Some quoted 4000 peso for the night some 5000 peso for four hours. The rates varied according to the looks and availability. I kept rejecting the women, all of whom were disappointing.

Lucilla was a bit frustrated as we moved from high class bars to the dingy alleys of Boracay. “I know how you feel Anzu. “ That was how she pronounced my name. ” But these are all whores and if you are looking for love then that is not possible as this is not the right time or place.” I said OK let’s return to the hotel. I realized that one cannot find love. It had to find you. Lucilla was right.

The moment I stop looking for it, it will happen to me. “Thank you Lucilla. You are a good friend. I will go to sleep alone today but, trust me, one day I will find true love.” And we parted ways.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 11:36 Archived in Philippines Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches Comments (0)

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