Delhi, Jim Corbett and a big fat North Indian wedding

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September 7th 2017
Published: October 4th 2017
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The Groom
Amit was finally getting married. He had spent sleepless nights thinking about marriage and had even made this his ultimate goal a few months back. So, when a colleague achieves his topmost goal and invites you to attend his marriage 1800 km from your location, what do you do ? Accept the mission and be ready to travel, party, dance, eat and explore.

It was a sudden revelation for most of the people (my ex-team is notorious for that) when Amit dropped us an email saying that he was engaged along with the invitation for his marriage. A few of us decided to attend his marriage and started thinking of the arrangements. Amit was extremely excited that we had decided to join him on his momentous occasion and made a host of arrangements to ensure we do not face any issues once we reach there. The marriage was to be held at Dhampur (he even sent a Bing search result link of his hometown for details) in Uttar Pradesh. Amit had booked the Goyal Galaxy hotel for our stay and the taxi to reach Dhampur from Delhi. Amey, Mayank, Shashank 1 (Rai) & 2 (Rajput), Sushil, Vijay and I caught the flight to Delhi early morning on the 4th of Feb 2016 from Hyderabad. The cabs were booked by Amit from the airport itself and after picking up Abhishek Verma (who had moved to Delhi a few months back), we headed to Dhampur. There were the usual stops for breakfast and lunch in between and we made good time getting there by 4 pm. We reached just in time for the Tilak ceremony. This is a pre-wedding ceremony generally held at the groom's house where a member of the bride's family applies tilak (red vermillion) on the groom's forehead to mark the acceptance of the marriage by the bridegroom. Post that was the walk to the temple. Amit sat on a horse while the rest of us walked or danced along with him slowly to the Kuladevata mandir (Kula - family, devata - god or goddess). By the time we reached the temple Rai was sweating his shirt off and looked like he had taken a dip in a pond. After seeking the blessings of their deity, all of us headed back to our lodge. The rest of the ceremonies were supposed to start by 9 pm and we started
The folks next in lineThe folks next in lineThe folks next in line

Update: One is already married, other about to be and we suspect the 3rd will announce soon enough :P
getting ready for them. All the next-in-line for marriage guys wore suits and were ready sweep all the girls off their feet. Rajput, Sushil, Vijay and I wore formals. We had a quick photo session since the suits wanted new dps' on Facebook and the rest wanted some memories.

Baraat time! This is a ceremony where the groom sits on a chariot pulled by horses and everyone dances along from his place to the marriage hall. The groom getting onto the chariot is called chadat. Since it was pretty cold, the procession distance was shortened and starting point was about 200 - 300m from the marriage hall. The band played retro music and all of us danced with full enthusiasm. I had unfortunately wounded my toe and Rai and a few other overzealous folks kept stepping on it to make it worse. So, I decided to pull out of the dance circle midway. The band took their own sweet time moving inch by inch towards the hall. The bride's family were waiting near the entrance of the marriage hall. Here there was more dancing with a few more customs being followed to welcome the bridegroom. As we entered into the marriage grounds, a feast was laid out for the guests towards the right. I was pretty surprised seeing so much food. Being my first North Indian wedding, this was totally new to me and I felt that that dinner could easily fill the whole town's folk. The variety was staggering starting from fruit salads, chats (4-5 varieties), 5+ curries, different breads, 5-6 types of sweets and so on. By the time we were all finished with the dinner, I felt that I had gained at least 2 kgs that day. At around 12 am, the bride arrived and the Var Mala ceremony started. Here the bride and the groom exchange garlands. The fun part is that as the bride tries to put the garland around the groom's neck, people lift the groom so as to tease the bride. Unfortunately in our case Rai (again being overzealous) couldn't support Amit properly and almost dropped him. This had ironically been what Amit was worried about marriage before and had even sent a few videos to everyone to make sure everyone is careful. Nothing's always perfect and everyone laughed it off and showered their blessings on the couple. There were a few more ceremonies scheduled post this which would go on till the morning but we needed some rest. It was 1 am by then and we decided to take leave since we were also supposed to get up early and head out to Jim Corbett National park the next morning.

Vijay and Abhishek had to head back so he left much earlier than us the next morning. Amit's brother helped us getting a cab and we went to Amit's house to bid him and his family farewell. He was tired after a full night of celebrations but was very happy. After thanking us again, he gave us each a huge box of namkeen and sweets. We then left to Ramnagar which is just 1 km from the Jim Corbett National Park. We had booked the Corbett View resort there and as we were nearing the resort another Baraat procession halted our progress for a while. Once that cleared we reached a beautiful lodge right in the outskirts of the jungle. I fell in love with the place immediately and started capturing photos of a few birds which were sitting near our jeep. We were allotted our rooms and after taking some rest we headed out to our first safari. We took a jeep to one of the entrances where after a security check, we were provided a guide for the tour (kind of forced to take the guide). There were a lot of folks trying to rent us binoculars but since I had a 250 mm lens we just declined it. Our safari started out with us seeing the standard deer which were pretty common. As we progressed further we were shown a set of footprints and told that it was the tiger's footprints. This gave us hope though I guess that's generally what they tell most of the folks. We also saw a number of birds which included shrikes, red wattled lapwing, jungle fowl and so on. Apart from that we were not fortunate enough to catch anything else. The guide took us to a view point where he said we had a very good change of spotting a tiger. But all we saw were peacocks and elephants. We reached the Corbett View resort by evening again in time for the dinner. There was a huge space with a spread of green grass near our cottages where the resort management helped set up a bonfire. It was a fine night and most of us enjoyed our time talking for a while with tea being served to us there. Unsure of what to do next, we switched on the TV to find Mastizaade playing on the cable channel there. We knew the movie would be horrible but enjoyed it with the company teasing each other throughout the movie (with a few Mayankisms involved. Unfortunately I do not remember the exact dialogs from Mayank).

Jim Corbett also has the Canter safari ride which we had booked for the next morning. We reached the Ramnagar bus stand at around 5 am since the safari was supposed to start by 6. It was pretty cold and I was shivering since I had not carried warm clothes. Here they take for a ride in a 20+ seater which goes deeper into the forest. As we started going into the forest, before sunrise, it was extremely foggy and damp. As the sun came out, the weather became more pleasant. We stopped for breakfast in a small area with few building within the forest. There were a lot of monkeys there which were so used to packed food that one of the monkeys stole a lays packet, neatly tore the cover and ate the chips. Again we saw a number of deer, shrikes, elephants along the way. At one point, the guide stopped the vehicle and showed us a spot where there were supposed to be crocodiles. It was pretty far off but even with my lens initially I couldn't see any crocodiles. But slowly as we started to analyze a shot, we saw two crocodiles one of which was of normal build while the other was huge and had been camouflaged as it was the same colour as the rocks. Further ahead were pristine grasslands with deer enjoying their mornings. This view was really spectacular since it looked exactly like the Nat Geo videos which I had grown up watching on TV. As we moved on we saw a Himlayan Bulbul and another huge crocodile which was napping near a stream. The guide again spotted the crocodile though it was pretty far. But in the end we did not get the tiger again and ended our safari with sighting of a Nilgai.

Lunch at Ramnagar was pretty delicious and economical near bus stand. We caught the volvo bus to Delhi in the afternoon and reach Delhi by 7 pm in the evening. I had booked the Hotel Tara Palace at Chandni Chowk in Delhi. As we got down from the bus at a metro station in Delhi, Rajput went on his way to his house in Delhi while we took the metro to Chandini Chowk. From the station, we walked to Kakke Di Hatti as per Sushil's suggestion. He told us that he used to visit this every time he came to Delhi with his family as the taste was unparalleled. If you have been to Chandini Chowk you would know the small gullies filled with people and automobiles both moving at the same snail's pace. It was no different to us and to make it worse there was no place near the Kakke Di Hatti to even wait for a while. You generally feel at most of the famous food locations in Chandini Chowk that they are the most unhygienic places to have food. But miraculously people do devour the food and come back to have more regularly (including me). Finally we got a seat in the 1st floor where we had to cram ourselves with the luggage. Amey was feeling a bit feverish and decided he would not have much to eat. Chole Batura was extremely delicious as advertised and we finished our dinner with lip smearing lassi. From there our stay was just about a km and we took a tonga ride to get there. One would not expect much of the hotel after witnessing the state of Chandini Chowk. But again defying our expectations, the hotel though in the interior of a gully, was pretty neat. There were a few foreigners also staying there. The rooms were clean and well maintained. Amey decided that he would call it a day to rest while Mayank, Sushil and I decided to head out to roam around. I had never visited the India Gate before and all of us decided to head out there to get a glimpse of it. The view was good though it was a tad bit foggy for our liking. As it was getting late, the police started weeding out the folks near the Gate. Next stop, we decided that we would visit Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. As we walked towards Rajiv Chowk (it was a pretty long walk but we didn't have anything else to do anyway), I called my friend Akshay whom I was hoping to meet. He was fortunately there at Rajiv Chowk at a restaurant at the time and I left Mayank and Sushil to reach the restaurant. I also met Guruaj there and we made small talk for a while. I then reached the Gurudwara which was pretty close. Gurudwaras are the places of worship for the Sikhs though they allow people of all faiths to enter. I personally respect their religion a lot since they are ready to serve everyone irrespective of their faiths by serving free food for the needy in the Langars of Gurudwaras. As I entered the complex, I noticed that the lighting was beautiful and proceeded towards the Darbar Sahib where the holy scripture (and Guru) of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib is placed. This was my first time there and thankfully, before I entered the main hall, one of the folks there told me that I had to cover my head before going in. I took one of the headbands which they had kept at the entrance and went in. The d├ęcor inside was stunning with golden and
Humayun's TombHumayun's TombHumayun's Tomb

This is what Taj Mahal is based on too
silver colours filling the hall. I again met Mayank and Sushil outside and we decided to head back to our hotel. At night the Chandini Chowk side roads were eerily silent but we made it back to our rooms safely.

The plan for next day was to visit Humayun's tomb and Qutub Minar. Amey still was not feeling well and told us that he would prefer taking rest. So the trio of us started from our hotel in the morning to catch the metro. Humayan's tomb is the tomb of Humayun, the 2nd Mughal emperor of India. He was the son of Babar and his son was the famed Akbar. The Humayun's tomb is what inspired the construction of Taj Mahal a century later. It has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole complex encloses the tombs of a number of other people with the buildings built using red sandstone. We went through the rest of the buildings quickly and reached the main tomb of Humayun. That is visually very similar to the Taj Mahal except that the main building is built using red sandstone instead of the white marble. We could see a number of black kites hovering around it and I tried to capture a few closeups. The main tomb is a visual treat with a platform like construction at the bottom above which the main tomb is raised with the dome topping it. After examining it from all angles we enjoyed the beauty of the garden before setting off to Qutub Minar. We again caught a metro to the Qutub Minar stop and took an auto to the site. Qutub Minar is a minaret in the Qutub Complex which is another UNESCO World heritage site. Its construction was started by Qutub Ud-Din-Aibak. It is a 73 m tall tapering tower made of red sandstone and marble. As we viewed it from the bottom, it was pretty imposing. Near the tower also lies the old and famous Iron Pillar of Delhi. The popularity is because of the rust resistant composition of metals used in its construction. We took a few photos here and there and decided to wrap up our sight seeing tour. We reached the hotel by evening, checked out and caught our flight back to Hyderabad.

Anyone who has not attended a North Indian wedding is missing a treat. Do catch your North Indian friend and pester him to get married at least for the experience once :P It is a grand affair with lots of partying and fanfare. My first one did not disappoint at all and I enjoyed it thoroughly. To top it off, I even got to visit Jim Corbett National park which is a great wildlife reservoir with a plethora of flora and fauna. Though we did not see a tiger which the park is famous for, the grasslands were spectacular. I would probably like to visit the place for a longer timeframe some time later. And so another fun journey ends.

Additional photos below
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4th October 2017

Awesome blog. Really liked the part where you described Amit's wedding whole-heartedly.
5th October 2017

Thanks :)
Yours would be next ;-)

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