Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The Great Indian Journey 3
BOMBAY TO BIHAR - A ROAD LESS TAKEN
DAY 3 – Picturesque Rajasthan
A needle and a thread
By Manuwant Choudhary
We had to cover at least 800 kilometres that day so we had a proper breakfast and left early for New Delhi, via Udaipur and Jaipur. Every Indian state has its own beauty but when one is living in todays India where every second all you hear on television, both Indian and foreign, India’s growth story, one is struck by the quiet in India’s countryside.
You can drive for hours and all you can hear is the hum of your own car - look into the horizon, roll down your windows and breathe easy. Occasionally, you see a man near his hut and you wonder what India means to him.
Old forts atop hills, ancient gates on highways and as one drives past yellow mustard fields and arid rocky landscape, it’s a treat.
Soon Shankar says we’ve arrived at Udaipur. I had been to Udaipur many years ago but I still wanted to have tea near the Lake Palace Hotel. So we drove to the HRH Group of Hotels for a cup of tea. Cost Rs.180 per cup! But overlooking the Udaipur Lake it was still worth it.
We noticed a few foreign tourists finishing breakfast but what caught my attention was a rather largish man in white kurta-pyjama (traditional Indian dress) and a traditional cap, eating cornflakes under a white garden umbrella.
I’m not sure what he saw but as I went to the freshroom I noticed he was talking to my driver. When I came back he introduced himself as a Mr.M.M. Gupta from Mumbai. We got talking. A Rajasthani youth came and touched his feet. Mr. Gupta said, “Udaipur is where I originally come from but now I’m here for charity. Udaipur has a centre for polio victims.”
Mr. Gupta is a Marwari and in India Marwari’s have played a vital role in trading and charity works. If you dig deep, every Marwari is a growth story.
Most Marwari’s left their homes in Rajasthan with nothing and wherever they went one thing they knew was how to do business. A close-knit society they helped one another but at a larger level they were religiously charitable.
Mr. Gupta asked me where I was going.
I told him I was going from Bombay to Bihar.
He said, “Like Gandhiji”.
I said, “Not quite, I am travelling in an air-conditioned car.”
He replied, “Few would do so these days.”
“Did you visit the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad?”
I replied, “Yes.”
Mr. Gupta, “IS GANDHI DEAD OR ALIVE?”
I said Gandhiji was shot dead in 1948 but if you ask me whether he is alive through his principles I would say he is still alive.
“Did you find Gandhi at the Gandhi Ashram?”
I said, “ No.”
A smile, “Exactly, you must have seen those old Gandhians lying around the place. I tell them they do not know Gandhi’s true worth.”
Then to me, “There is only one organization which understood the true worth of Gandhi. Do you know which one?
I said, “No, I couldn’t guess.”
Then with a broad smile on his face he says, “It’s the Reserve Bank of India. See this Rs.500 note it has Gandhi on it and a billion people do everything you can imagine chasing Gandhi and (folding the currency and putting it into his kurta’s upper pocket) see they even keep Gandhi close to their heart.”
A hearty laugh. Mr. Gupta has many sides to his personality. He is also a poet. For 15 minutes he recited a politically loaded poem on a needle and a thread and what it has done to India.
As we shook hands, exchanged cards and took photos, he invited me to Bombay, “Tumhein Gandhi Chahiye?” (You want Gandhi?) ☺
I drove from Udaipur to Jaipur and took a shorter picturesque route rather than the highway.
And lunch at a Rajasthani dhaba . Aah! the smell of desi ghee with hot chapatees was amazingly appetizing. But the dal and curry were so red that at first we thought it may be too spicy for our liking but they were not as spicy as they looked, just some Rajasthani colour. And yes, the tomatoes in the salad had just been plucked from a farm minutes ago and they were so tasty that I would prefer them to any supermarket vegetables available in Europe.
It’s a pleasure driving in Rajasthan, except for the trucks carrying large unfastened marble boulders that could just roll over onto your car! At the roadside, we could see hundreds of shops selling marble and stone.
I wonder what they do to our mountains.