Tuesday, November 7, 2017

From History to Arts - A Unique beginning to 2017!

January-1 has always been special, neither because the day before is a party day, nor because it is holiday time throughout the world but because it provides another chance to every human every year to start afresh. Whatever positive or negative habits, hobbies one has got into previous year, this day lets everyone believe that this day is a renaissance day leaving everything of past aside.  I agree that most of the new year resolutions are created to be broken with-in a day but the enthusiasm it provides to human psychology to correct themselves on their own is worth savouring and most exciting to me. 

Just like I have been doing from past 2 years (will write a separate blog on 2016's beginning), I thought of starting this year differently. This time the beginning meant a celebration of our loving hobby - cycling which we have begun to spread in the little world around us.  Yeah, our brainchild "The Btwin Diaries" thought of adding one more chapter with a New Year Ride - A ride from History to Arts by the Engineers :). The ride was relatively small one-approx 25 km in cold wintery morning of Delhi from IIT Delhi to Purana Qila ( or Old Fort) and the nearby Crafts Museum with a meal at one of the finest restaurants in Delhi - Cafe Lota who specially care to open at 8 am even in these North Indian winters. 

After much deliberation of how much late we can start in winters, the four of us Rajesh, Prathmesh, Sakshi and myself confirmed to begin the pedalling start to a new year on January-1, 2017 at 6.45 pm from Mother Dairy gate. Laced with gloves, caps and 2-3 layer of clothes, we began following the most familiar route. Passing the Hauz Khas Metro Station, we turned towards Siri-Fort Road. The roads were relatively empty with very little traffic through out the route. Passing the Shahpur Jat village, Decathlon Khelgaon, JLN stadium we kept heading straight till we reached the Lodi Road. Taking a right turn at Lodi Road towards Nizammuddin, we headed to Mathura Road passing the DPS Mathura Road to reach our destination - Purana Qila or Old Fort. It is situated at a distance of 2 km from India Gate and share the same entrance from road with Delhi Zoo. We parked our cycles at the parking of Delhi Zoo.

Purana Qila is one of the oldest forts of Delhi built by Sher Shah Suri in 16th century. The walls of fort marking its periphery are around 20 metre high with a lake situated near by where people enjoy boating in afternoon. Although not greatly restored by ASI - Archaeological Survey of India as other monuments like Humayun's tomb, this majestic fort looks good even in its old glory.  The interesting aspect of Purana Qila is that you get to witness a number of old structures at one place from Bada Darwaza to Baolis to Hamams each with its own technical details and stories attached.

One of the stories goes by this -Humayun, the son of Babar and father of Akbar had used one of these buildings as his reading room. As the story tells, on hearing prayer bells, he hurriedly descended from this reading room and fell from stairs, succumbing to injuries three days later. The story tells that even though one is an emperor, when death knocks, it makes its entry from the unexpected quarters.

We entered the fort from the West Gate and roamed the fort starting from the left wall. The periphery wall of the fort was magnificent with multiple layers.  After stopping at a few photograph spots,  we headed towards the backside wall of the fort. This is the most adventurous part of journey though a bit risky.  We keep walking on the 20 metre high wall all on the back side, to find that it was at one point only less than 2 feet thin, it was dangerous and hence adventurous to cross through that small hurdle. We carefully headed one at a time crossing that treacherous stretch on the boundary wall. After that there was a beautiful spot waiting for us . 

After roaming in the fort for some more time, the gourmets in us told us that this is enough of history, time for some food. Infact, a few of us have strong motivation for cycle trips is to try out different breakfasts in Delhi and around. This time we headed to one of the unique places in Delhi which offers a perfect blend of fusion food from India and west with each item unique in its preparation. Cafe Lota is situated with-in the premises of Crafts and Art Museum, Pragati Maidan. Zomato rates it above 4 and it matches our expectations. With special Mini-Idli , Poha, Banana Pan cakes , they have 8-9 different breakfast items with each item very different from its normal preparation. The ambience is a beautiful and it could be one of awesome places for a breakfast date as well as a business meeting . 

After having breakfast and satiating our stomachs, we thought of taking a look in arts and crafts museum. It presents a strong culture of paintings, arts and crafts through out India with each state offering a unique style of paintings and arts works. 
From Madhubani paintings of Odisha to unique pashmina shawls of Kashmir, this place is another way to pass through the fabric of diversity in each form which our country intertwines in a single culture. It has always been difficult to appreciate art for most of the engineers but this place has something for everyone which you will enjoy. 

At the same time, conversing with artists from all these varied locations was an altogether different experience. Rajesh belonging to Orissa started conversing in the local language with the artists from there which not only added an extra smile on artists from there but gave an extra enthusiasm in our queries.  I have always felt in spite of knowing English or Hindi as a common platform, the extra synergy is restored only from our local ethos, culture and language.  

Over these many trips, Cycling has opened a new pandora box to explore the rich history of Delhi Sultanate and North India. This trip brought us closer to another dimension from which a lot many of us are quite far, Arts. Though I in particular could not appreciate the much finer details of art but this new hobby is bringing us closer to many dimensions of life and opening up new possibilities for other pastimes if not for us but for our near and dear ones. Adios till our next travelogue for our cycling sojourns.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Biking, Beauty and Birds: A Trail Towards Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

Every travelogue has an interesting story to tell but this one is really special for us since this is our longest journey at least till the time when this blog was being written. It is an adventure into the wilderness of nature away from the city life of Delhi and Gurgaon, towards the villages of Haryana which are so near yet so far from the MNC culture. It is not only an adventure but a mark of triumph for a few of us into a cycling world of our own which we have begun to create.  Yes, after a few 30-40 km trips, we planned to take this challenge of visiting the Sultanpur National Park or Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary as it is more known for.

Giving an introduction to place, Sultanpur is only known as a metro station to most of the Gurgaonkars, but folks, there is a more beautiful national park just situated at a mere 15 km from your Millenium city or Gurugram! The maps say it is 40 km from Dhaula Kuan and 46 km from our abode IIT Delhi. Since the sun reaches over the head as it touches noon, we started this trip as early as we can start at 4.15-4.30 am from IIT. It is still before dawn. We had looked that there are two-three routes which can take us there but we started from the main route towards the IGI airport side. This is the trip we went mostly planned, purchased helmets, flashing indicators for cycles and mobile holder to help us in navigation. We also carried puncture kit though we didn't have any idea how to use it.

The ride began passing through urban South Delhi area passing near Vasant Kunj and we were clear of our route till we went near the airport. But as you say, the real world is not deterministic and one of us made a wrong turn towards Dwarka or terminal -1 and as soon as we turned, we realized we are on a road not to be taken. One of our "unsaid" cycling rules is not to turn back but find a way through the path you are on. Rerouting on google map told us there is a way through that part as well though much rural arena, but as we normally do, we followed our unsaid rule.  We keep on going and as you would read, that part turned out as a blessing in disguise for us. We went up the Dwarka flyover at around 5.30 ish -6.00 types and took a left turn towards Dwarka Mod Sector-1. The ride through part was also good as there was zero traffic in morning and roads are well built. As we come out of Dwarka, the most interesting and beautiful part of our journey began. There is a small road near the Najafgarh drain and since it was foggy a bit, it was beautiful to navigate through sharp turns of that. We had never imagined encountering such sort of terrain in NCR  and icing on the cake was we three were alone cyclists on that stretch. We went on and on without having hands on cycling handle and absorbing the fresh breeze within.

We joined the main road when we were 15 Kms from our destination at a village and by that time, we have passed most of Gurgaon and are in the countryside of Haryana. Many a rat were jumping in our stomach by then and what is the best way to insatiate your hunger than the sumptuous breakfast of roadside dhabas where butter is dancing on the Hot Tandoori Parathas. True to state's tagline, we were in "Desan ma des Haryana, Jahan doodh makhan ka khana" meaning the land of Haryana has food of milk and butter signifying the dairy and farm prosperity of the state.   We took a break at one of these dhabas to have a couple of parathas each and began the last stretch of 10 km. The last 10 km stretch was pretty easy and by 8.30 am we were at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary.The bird sanctuary was better than what he had expected.  It was pretty well managed by authorities with a lot of bird lovers around. The three of us looked least prepared for visiting a bird sanctuary without a Tripod, Binoculars, and a telescopic camera.  One thing which caught my attention was the billboards with some awesome quotes like the one shown here.

Nevertheless, we entered the bird sanctuary taking a nominal ticket.  Over the age, I have started to enjoy bird sanctuaries and national parks but have started hating the concept of zoological parks which in itself kills the concept of freedom and the dominance of one species over another. We enjoyed watching different types of sparrows, pigeons. But this place holds a special mention for water birds particularly found in swamps, which catch the sight of many an ornithologist. The problem with watching water birds like swans and other numerous species is that you have to watch those only from a distance and without a binocular or a good camera, you will definitely miss the core of this place which we did :(. We sat for a while in that area and the sitting was so soothing that it is very difficult to avoid a siesta especially after a long 50 km ride.

Another beautiful aspect of visiting a bird sanctuary is you realize the importance of silence. Silence is what lets you invade the territory of many a bird very closely and capture a sight which is not easy to get from a distance. Many a chatterbox like myself mutes themselves at such places. After having a round of first part, we were returning back and then we realized that we have missed one part of this sanctuary. Though we were dead tired, we thought of taking a stroll in that part. True, as they say, a lot of men are likely to give up when they are close to something beautiful, in this part, we get to witness some beautiful owls from the very close vicinity.  (See if you can see spot one of these in the pictures below).

After spending an hour and a half in the sanctuary, we started back the sojourn which is only half done. The clock was ticking around 10.30 by the time we started. We met a few lads from Gurgaon on bullets outside the bird sanctuary and they were surprised to hear we have cycled all the way from IIT here. These Gurgaonkars told us that they get tired on bikes even and commended and increase our enthusiasm for the remaining half journey.  After riding back for 5-7 km, I was feeling drained out and suggesting to these guys, we should stop by some place for juice or so. We stopped at a village side sugarcane juice stall for recharging our discharge batteries. We ordered the biggest glass which was of 30 Rs but when this guy handed us the juice, we all were looking at each other. This was a big-big glass which looked approximately of 1 liter. But juice was so refreshing that somehow we all finished it and proceeded further. This juice was worth the calories we have drained out and to prepare us for our destination which was still 42 km ahead and the Sun God would also be coming into play to make it farther from what it actually was.

We rode the return part on the same road occasionally stopping for a picture of green fields and countryside. After traveling the major part of our journey, we make a diversion from our forward journey where we rode along the wall which is very close to the runway of IGI and the sight of a plane landing very closely to us was worth this diversion. After riding 26 km, we were again feeling thirsty and this time we stopped for coconut water on the roadside. The malai-wala (creamy) coconut is quite healthy drink known throughout the country. After having the coconut water, we proceeded along the busy National Highway which was scarier to drive at noon hour with cars speeding at 100 km per hour. After crossing that part carefully with much caution, we rode back to the campus. As per our estimates, we should have covered 92kms, so one of us Prathmesh does not want to be short of the century and hence, he decided he will make two rounds on campus to touch the ton mark while Suvam and I proceeded to Hostels.

We were dead tired after this sojourn but a sense of achievement of this milestone had taken away all the fatigue and as happens in life, the immediate thing crossed my mind was- What should be next for our BTwin Diaries :)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Prologue - the first pedal !

Passions and Love are never created to be pushed in someone, those are somehow born. As a child, I cycled a lot but it never occurred to me that cycling will become a lovable thing someday. I never imagined, It will give a new look at a city which is known for traffic jams and pollution and last thing one imagine is to be on road but that is how stories are woven. The first pedal of bTwin Diaries was nothing but a chance event. While one of us was still saddened about his old bike which was stolen a few months ago while  the other was thinking on spending a penny  extra on a not so useful thing called bike. But the wheel of time was moving in some other direction, the two of us were on verge of a new passion which we ourselves didn't realize.

 After much deliberation, I thought of moving from my liftetime brand of Hero (all bikes till date before this one were Hero) which somehow was marketed as a actor of Indian biking industry to a foreign very much recommended Brand of Decathlon Sports "The Btwin". After finding out that only store in Delhi was in Noida from where they can deliver but i made up my mind considering my past sojourns in Bangalore Biking that i can somehow bike from Gautam Buddha Nagar( Yes, that is true name of this North Okhla Industrial Hub) to the academic greens of IIT Delhi at least one way a day. The wait was still not over since the next issue was availability in store. Many would have given up by this time and bought some thing else but the universe conspires when something beautiful is going to happen.

Somehow the day came, when i and Prathmesh, checked the availability and planned to buy this thing which is going to change our internal energies for some months atleast. We went at around 6 or 7 in evening thinking if not possible , we will stay at a friends place and will come back biking our way back in morning. But the store changed the outlook and our mindset, we were thrilled to see the competence, technical know-how and passion of our sales person at Decathlon Noida. The way they showed us different products and accessories, was one sort of unique experiences which you would find at very few Indian stores. To me, it was clear this sort of marketing can;t be taught at B-Schools but which enthuse itself from passion. We purchased some bare minimum accessories and after having a light meal at McDonalds, we decided to way back home at IIT Delhi from Sector 18 Noida at around 9.00 pm.

With amazing weather around us and a smooth ride which was never imagined before, Prathmesh's joy was beyond limits and i had to somehow control myself and himself to be careful on these scary Noida-Delhi roads. Asking the route back from friends and Google Maps on, we started with the mind free from all worldly affairs, just with our rides and us. We had started just 2 kms back when we realized all answers are not on google and with friends, we are riding on DND where bikes are not allowed and we got to know google maps in India does not have any clue for cycling routes. Somehow, we diverted to a different route and with battery off, we had only one option to talk to people and follow some road signs. A parallel fear in my mind was that Noida is at all safe in night and first goal is to enter the border of our national capital somehow. With being diverted time and again by different people, a beautiful turn was waiting in the story. We reached the India Gate and rode near India Gate at 11 in night, followed to Rashtrapati Bhawan through Rajpath. The reverberations of Pathshala from Rang De Basanti was vibrating in ears and after 20 km journey, this break recharged our batteries again.

After having a brief stay there, eventually we moved through Lutyens Delhi crossing the race course to INA where each spot has a modern history associated with it to reach our beautiful campus.  After crossing the traffic, the first pedal you make in campus is so relaxing that you feel this is the only heaven which is calm serene and has no whereabouts of what is happening on a road nearby. We observed and felt that this joy has only one reason, no correlations and that is due to the bike we selected "the My White Bike". On reaching the lab, people were not ready to believe that we cycled from Noida to here but when we checked the route it was not only 20 km which they were thinking, it was 30-32 kms. Everyone present in lab took a ride and felt jealous, happy, joyful and thinking craziness for these two madful bikesters. But many of them were not knowing they will eventually end up joining us on atleast one of trips and be part of the stories which will become Btwin Diaries !