Monday, 13 January 2020

December 2019: Sad Ending to the year

The end of the year 2019 is upon us. Unfortunately, this year turned out to be quite a sad year. There were stories of trips that had to be cut short because of vehicle failure but the end of the year was nothing that I had dreamt of.
After a short illness and some dubious treatment by the doctors, my mother passed away in the month of December. I went to Bhopal and was there with my mother on her last day. After the funeral, I decided to return with a plan to come back for the rest of the rituals to be completed.
The earlier trip plan was completely abandoned and it was primarily to drive around and make sure all the rituals were done on time.

3:30 PM Left after the end of school.
6:30 PM Crossed Ananthpur
7:03 PM Arrived at Cafe Coffee Day in Ramrajupalle.
9:50 PM Stopped at Food Pyramid after Kurnool.
12:10 AM Arrived at Oakwood Kapil in Hyderabad for the night.

9:00 AM Checked out of the hotel and quickly we were on our way toward Nagpur on Outer Ring Road.
3:30 PM Arrived in The Breakfast Story for Lunch.
7:58 PM Stopped for a fuel refill.
9:25 PM Stopped at Studio Park near Hoshangabad for dinner.
12:30 AM Reached home.

18-December-2019 to 24-December-2019
Stayed at home in Bhopal for ceremonies.

07:00 AM Left home. The destination for the day was Noida.
08:55 AM Stopped at a Dhaba after joining Mumbai - Agra highway.
12:30 PM Stopped at Barista Gwalior for Coffee.
5:45 PM Stopped at the food court on Yamuna Expressway.
8:00 PM Reached Noida

26-December-2019 to 28-December-2019
Stayed at home in Noida.

I decided to get an early start by reaching Agra on the night itself.
07:30 PM Left Noida
09:10 PM Stopped at the food court on Yamuna Expressway.
10:45 PM Reached Agra.

We had decided to start early, but the tiredness, cold and fog made sure we started very late.
09:11 AM Started from Agra
10:34 AM Got stuck at Mehra Toll plaza for 10 minutes
10:55 AM Stopped at Barista Gwalior for Coffee but unfortunately, it was closed.
12:04 PM Fueled up the car.
01:50 PM Found a new restaurant called Gravity Family Restaurant and Bar on the highway in Lalitpur.
7:05 PM Stopped at Dhaba for Tea
10:47 PM Refueled the car
11:00 PM Reached Le Meridien Hotel

Again, like the previous day, we had planned on starting early but got late.
10:50 PM Started from Nagpur
2:34 PM Stopped at Amruthpur for a small break. Had some biryani and tea.
4:15 PM Stopped at Coffee Day at Nagulapally
5:30 PM Entered the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad.
6:15 PM Exited ORR
7:00 PM Stopped at M Food Court at Mahbubnagar
9:00 PM Stopped at Hangout just after Kurnool.
12:00 AM Crossed over into the new year near KIA factory in Ananthpur.

2:42 AM Arrived home.

The total distance covered was approximately 4300 kilometers. As we wrapped up the new year, it was not the best of the years of life. Hoping the next year turns out to be better with better road trips and general happiness.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Dussera 2019: The trip that ended under unfortunate circumstances

The original plan was to complete Char Dham Yatra, or more appropriately Chota Char Dham Yatra during Dussera vacations in 2019.

The trip had to be abandoned under unfortunate circumstances due to two tires failing near Nagpur. To add insult to injury, BMW did not have any tires available and these had to be imported from Germany. For the duration of the complete trip, the car was pretty much lying in the workshop in Nagpur. Here is the story of this trip.

Finally, the trip was complete with a total distance of 2816 kilometers, much less than what was planned. There were segments of the trip which were completed using flights just to somehow salvage some of the vacations. Overall this was one road trip that I would rather forget about.
The FasTag toll situation has dramatically improved. Except for the  Pandharkawada, all other tools were processed through FasTag. Total toll amount was Rs. 3255/-
Around 330 litres of Petrol was consumed during the trip.

Day 14 & 15 -- Back to Bengaluru with an overnight stop at Hyderabad

05:25 AM Started from Bhopal. The goal at the end of the day was to reach Hyderabad. Cattle and all other types of domesticated animals are becoming a serious problem for driving in MP. Earlier it was restricted to only UP.

Found a Reliance petrol station just after Hoshangabad. Decided to fill up the car there.
Stopped at a Dhaba midway near the border. The place was not really great. I just had a paratha and tea and continued on.
12:30 PM Tried to take ring road for crossing Nagpur for skipping all metro construction, was not of much use. I still ended up taking 40 minutes to cross Nagpur.
2:30 PM Crossed Hinghanghat
3:30 PM Crossed Pandharkawada
4:15 PM Crossed Adilabad
5:05 PM Crossed Nirmal
5:50 PM Crossed Nizamabad
7:55 PM Entered Hyderabad ORR
8:50 PM Reached my hotel in Hyderabad.


04:30 AM Started from my hotel back towards Bengaluru. I took ORR and got on exit towards Bengaluru.
05:30 AM Exited ORR
07:30 AM Had horrible breakfast at a roadside Dhaba after Pullur toll.
09:30 AM Entered Ananthpur.

11:30 AM Arrived at Bengaluru Airport. I had to pick up family here. So had lunch here, picked them up and then left for home.
1:30 PM Arrived at Home.

Day 12 -- Back to Nagpur, Pickup the car

Finally got the call from BMW  Munich Motors Nagpur. The tires had arrived, the car was ready. I took a morning flight from Delhi to Nagpur. Reached the service station. Finally it was great to see car with new tires.

1:45 PM Left the service center, got on to Nagpur ring road towards Betul.
4:30 PM Crossed Betul, the good highway was over. Stopped at Hotel Meghna and Restaurant for belated Lunch.
The roads near Budni, Itarsi, Hoshangabad are a bittersweet story, there are portions of four laning that are complete and at the same time, some of the roads have developed large potholes.
09:45 PM Reached home in Bhopal.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Day 11 -- Rail Museum

One of the places that I always wanted to visit since the early 1990s is the National Rail Museum in Delhi. Finally, the time had come to visit the place.
It is a comprehensive museum about the development of Rails in India. It can take a good part of a day to see everything properly. There is an indoor museum that has models and other displays and an outdoor museum where old actual equipment is stationed.

The galley contains display for all the stamps that have been issued by India Posts on railway achievements.

There are a couple of simulators in the indoor museum. I did not really like them but it is a good place to get a feel of what is going on. There is a toy train that kids like. You can also take a ride in that.
The outdoors museum is more interesting. There are actual coaches and engines from the bygone era. It is impossible to enumerate all of them but I am listing a few of those here.
The Meter Gauge composite First Class (8 passengers) and Third Class (44 passengers) wooden coach used on the Nilgiris Mountain Railway in Southern India was manufactured in 1919 by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. with frame supplied by Leeds Forge Co. Ltd. It is fitted with a double pinion on one axle. The teeth of the pinion matches with the rack placed on the center of the track to increase adhesion to tackle the steep gradients of this railway said to be the steepest in Asia. The bogies are provided with coil springs in the primary suspension and laminated bearing leaf springs in the secondary suspension. Canvas curtains were provided for the protection of the passengers against the elements. The cost of the import was Rs. 7742.
F-734 has the distinction of being the first locomotive to be built in India. Manufactured in 1895 by the Ajmer workshop of North Western Railway, it set the ball rolling for future locomotive manufacture in the country. Prior to it, locomotives were assembled at Jamalpur workshop from spare parts supplied by the original manufacturers. The 38.25 ton 0-6-0 wheel arrangement locomotive is equipped with Stephenson valve gear and inside connecting rods. It was used on the Rajputana Malwa Railway also known as Rajputana State Railway before 1882. It ran from Delhi to Indore and up to Ahmedabad and later on B.B & C.I railway for mixed traffic (passengers and goods). The manufacturing cost of the locomotive was Rs. 15369.
This saloon was part of a special three coach train used by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore
and his family. The other two coaches of this train namely the Maharani's coach and a dining cum kitchen car bearing number CR-7342 and CR-7345 are now preserved at the rail museum Mysore. This particular exhibit is a wooden-bodied eight-wheeler having steel underframe and has a provision for vestibule to enable it to be connected with the rest of the train. A special feature of this carriage was that it could be run on both broad gauge as well as meter gauge by changing bogies during the journey without disturbing the royal occupants. Original furnishings, beautiful floral patterns painted on the ceilings and the brass fenced verandah is still retained as part of the original design. Built-in the year 1899, its cost was Rs. 29500.

The 18 seater eight-wheeled, wooden-bodied milky white dining car was manufactured at Ajmer
workshops of BB&CI Railway and was a part of the Viceregal train containing five coaches used by Viceroy of India during his journeys. This carriage is well decorated with beautiful wooden carvings and is fitted with a water filter, hot cases, and an almirah for keeping all the crockery and utensils, etc. in a separate portion. The light and fans are still in working order. Originally fitted with plain bearings, this car was retrofitted with roller bearings at a later stage. The entry to the dining car is from the platform on both ends of the coach. Arrangements for the simple vestibule system to connect with other coaches of the train exist on it. The coach is fitted with vacuum brakes and provides a place for four armed guards.
Madras to Tambaram was the first meter gauge section on the Indian railways to be electrified in
1930. This 43 ton 1500 volt DC locomotive was amongst the first to be used on this section. Four of these locomotives were imported from Hawthorn, Leslie & Co. with electrical equipment supplied by English Electric Co. The two bogies are connected by a link and the 4 axle hung motors were connected in two groups of 2 motors each permanently in series and started with all in series connection. The locomotive is provided with a transition system to change the motor circuits from series to parallel arrangement at high speeds. This 640 HP locomotive had a maximum speed of 65 kph. Locomotive YCG1/21901 is preserved in front of Tambaram station. Its import cost was Rs. 89928.
This tiny locomotive was imported from John Fowler & Co., Leeds, and was originally used to work
light passenger trains in the areas of Gondal and Saurashtra state. Later it was used as a shunting locomotive in Ajmer Workshops of Western Railway. Diesel traction got off to a very early start in the arid regions of Saurashtra in Gujarat, on account of perennial water shortage, and the subsequent no-availability of sufficient water supplies for steam locomotives. This diminutive diesel engine was one of the first to run in that area.; indeed one of the first diesel to run on Indian soil. She was retired in 1970. It has a four-stroke, four-cylinder 150 BHP diesel engine with mechanical transmission. Its maker number was 4200031, Saurashtra Railway No.  203, Western Railway No. 1004. It was imported at the cost of Rs. 5936.

When I visited the place, there was a Gandhi exhibition going on. Here are some of the pictures.

Here are some more pictures.

As I mentioned earlier, it is an interesting place to visit and comparatively not crowded. One can learn a lot about trains here.

Day 10 -- Humayun's Tomb, Indian Gate and walk around Connaught Place.

I had been thinking about visiting Humayun's Tomb for quite some time. So decided to visit that place.
 As you reach Humayun's Tomb complex, the first tomb is the Isa Khan's Tomb.
Isa Khan's Tomb
Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble in the court of Sher Shah Suri. The enclosure for his tomb was built during his own lifetime. The tomb is octagonal and predates Humayun's tomb by 20 years. It has striking ornamentation in the form of canopies, glazed tiles, and lattice screens.
Isa Khan's tomb pre-dates Humayun's Tomb by two decades and is the culmination of an architectural style used for royal tombs in Delhi during the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties from the early 15th to the early 16th centuries. It is the only surviving octagonal enclosed tomb complex with walls, mosque, and gateway intact.
Isa Khan's Tomb

Conservation works at the site commenced in January 2011 following extensive documentation, including 3D high-definition surveying, condition assessment, archival research and a peer review of the conservation plan.
An enormous amount of work was required to remove some 325,000 cubic feet of earth from the site in order to restore the landscape to its original level while being careful not to destroy any archaeology. Conservation and Landscape works are carried out with due care of the authenticity of material and building tradition and have restored the integrity of the Humayun's tomb World
Heritage Site.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture with co-funding of World Monuments Fund and in partnership with
the Archaeological Survey of India undertook the conservation of Isa Khan's Garden - Tomb, Mosque and Gateway during 2011-13. Tilework on the canopies and facade was restored in 2014.

Bu-halima Gateway
Aligned in axis with the western gate of Humayun's Tomb enclosure and Subz burj, the 16th Century gateway to Bu Halima Garden Tomb stands on the eastern side of the enclosure. The upper arched opening has sandstone jarokha with beautiful lattice parapet which is supported on decorative sandstone brackets. Remains of the original tilework decoration are still existing on the parapet.
On the lower level, alterations to the plinth had been carried out in the past to enable the use of the space as a ticket counter. On the basis of a careful study, the additional concrete layers will be removed.
Conservation works are now been undertaken and addressing the serious issues of deteriorations by carefully removing all the cement and other modern plastered portions, on the facade and the interior
spaces. All the cement lattice screens that are presently fixed to the arched openings will be replaced with handmade sandstone lattice screens.
Arab Ki Sarai
The 14 meter high gateway leads to walled enclosure which housed the Persian craftsmen who came here for the building of Humayun's Tomb.
Red sandstone and white marble inlay work adds a striking touch to the gateway mostly built of Delhi quartzite stone.

Humayun's Tomb
Hamida Banu Begum, the grieving widow of the emperor, built the mausoleum. A precursor to the Taj Mahal, it stands of a platform of 12000 square meter area and reaches a height of 47 meters. The earliest example of persian influence in Indian architecture, the tomb has within it over 100 graves earning the name, Dormitory of the Mughals. Built of rubble masonry, the structure is the first to use red sandstone and white marble in such great quantities. The small canopies on the terrace were originally covered in glazed blue tiles and brass finial over the white marble dome is itself 6 meters high.

From here we went to Khan Market for Lunch and a walk. Then it was time to go to India Gate. India Gate is generally very crowded because there is no entry fee. We reached here as sun was setting.

Names of soldiers

As night falls, the monument is lit up
Amar Jawan Jyoti

National War Memorial
The National War Memorial symbolizes the Nation's gratitude for the personnel of the Armed Forces who have made the supreme sacrifice in the defense of the country since independence.
The National War Memorial was dedicated to the Armed Forces on behalf of the Nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The design of the memorial symbolizes the immortality of the spirit of the soldier and celebrates his indomitable courage. The concept of the National War Memorial is based on four concentric circles, which characterize the journey of a soldier from birth to martyrdom.

Amar Chakra
Circle of Immortality
The obelisk with eternal flame symbolizes the immortality of the spirit of a soldier with an assurance that the Nation will never forget their sacrifices.
Veerta Chakra
Circle of Bravery
A covered gallery that exhibits the valiant acts of our Armed Forces during operations represented through bronze murals
Tyag Chakra
Circle of Sacrifice
Names of soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice, inscribed in golden letters on granite tablets arranged in a circular pattern which symbolizes the ancient war formation Chakravyuh
Rakshak Chakra
Circle of Protection
Rows of dense trees in the Rakshak Chakra is a reassurance to the citizens of the country about their safety against any threat with each tree representing many soldiers who guard territorial integrity of the Nation round the Clock
Either Slain thou Shalt Go to Heaven
or Victorious thou shalt enjoy the earth

Circle of Bravery has murals representing many important battles from the history of armed forces.
Battle of Longewala
The Battle of Longewala was one of the major decisive battles fought on the western sector during the India - Pakistan war of 1971. Pakistan forces comprising 4000 soldiers, T-59 & Sharman tanks, and a medium artillery battery attacked Longewala border post held by 23 Punjab. In spite of being outnumbered, Indian soldiers gallantly held the post and requisitioned the support of IAF. At the dawn of 05-December-1971, the hunter aircraft based at Jaisalmer wreaked havoc on Pakistani troops with their devastating firepower. The hunters of 122 squadrons flew 18 sorties and destroyed 36 enemy tanks, 100 vehicles and killed 200 Pakistani soldiers in a very short span of time thwarting the advance of the Pakistani army in its tracks which tilted the Battle of Longewala in favor of India.
Battle of Gangasagar
The battle of Ganga Sagar was one of the most fiercely fought battles in east Pakistan during the
India - Pakistan war of 1971. 14 GUARDS was given the task of capturing heavily fortified Pakistani military positions in village Gangasagar. With meticulous planning, Indian troops commenced their offensive at 0200 hours on 03 December 1971 and continued their advance towards the objective by clearing bunker after bunker against intense and close enemy shelling. Very close to the objective, Pakistani soldiers opened medium machine gunfire from a two-story fortified building inflicting heavy casualties. This, however, did not deter the Indian soldiers who displayed unparalleled courage and determination during the operation and finally secured the objective after a pitched battle for two days. An impossible mission was accomplished and bravery of Indian soldiers was at its best display that turned the battle in their favor.
Battle of Tithwal
The battle of Tithwal was one of the fiercest and longest battles fought during the India - Pakistan conflict in 1947-48. During the initial stages, the Pashtun tribal militia had crossed the border and occupied the strategically important village of Tithwal on the Indian side which was fought over and claimed by both sides on a number of occasions. Attackers' primary aim was to capture the Richmar Gali located south of Tithwal and Nastachun Pass. East of Tithwal which was held by the Indian Army, a massive attack was launched by the Pakistani Army on 13 October 1948 hoping to capture the posts held by Indian troops bu failed miserably with heavy casualties due to undaunting courage and valor displayed by Indian troops. The indomitable spirit and determination of the Indian Army helped India retaining the post of Tithwal. Soldiers of 6 Rajputana Rifles, Indian Army can be seen charging on the enemy in a hand to hand combat.

Battle of Rezangla
Battle of Rezangla was a pitched battle fought during the India - China border conflict of 1962 at one of the highest mountainous battlefields at 18000 ft. Occupation of the mountain pass Rezangla in J & K Ladakh region by Chinese forces would have cut off the only road link of Chushul garrison to Leh. On 18 November 1962, Chinese troops launched a silent attack over Indian defenses at Rezangla from two directions. As Indian troops were very vigilant, they inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. Chinese forces launched multiple attacks and cut off all communication lines of Indian troops. In spite of being completely isolated and outnumbered, soldiers of 13 Kumaon under the leadership of the company commander fought till last man last round. Troops of the Indian army displayed unparalleled courage and determination during the operation.

Operation Meghdoot

Operation Meghdoot was an operation along our northwestern border region in high altitude area of Siachen Glacier. The enemy post, Quid-e-Azam at an altitude of 21153 ft. with 1500 ft. steep ice wall was so well positioned that it dominated the Indian posts all year round. To capture this strategically located position, the Indian Army launched its offensive on 23 June 1987. After three days and three nights of grueling operation under the most difficult and adverse weather conditions with temperature going down to -50 degree celsius and intense snow blizzards, 8 Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry accomplished the mission on 26 June 1987. It is considered a feat unparalleled in the history of high altitude warfare. Later, the post was renamed to Bana Top taking its name from our of the valiant soldiers who participated in the operation.

Operation Trident
On the night of 04/05 December 1971, Indian Naval ships Kiltan, Katchall, Nipat, and Nirghat
carried out their first missile attack on Karachi harbor. When the Indian fleet reached 70 nautical miles south of Karachi around 10:30PM, one of the officers on the INS Nipat observed a blip on the radar indicating an approaching enemy ship and fired a number of missiles to sink it. It was later identified as PNS Khaibar, a Pakistani destroyer. ON approaching harbor, INS Veer fired missiles on the PNS Muhafiz, a Pakistani coastal minesweeper, to sink it along with its crew.  In its maiden missile boat operation after Independence, the Indian Navy destroyed four Pakistani ships and damaged the other two. The Pakistani fuel reserves and harbor were also destroyed. In the fiercest battle, Indian Navy ships bombarded Karachi harbor with devastating firepower inflicting huge losses on to the adversary.
 Tyag Chakra

There are some good views of Indian Gate from the War Memorial as well.

There is an AWWA run souvenir shop on the premises where you can buy mementos. 

With the memorial drawing to a close, we went to Connaught Place for dinner and found Farzi Cafe there.

As we finished our dinner, it started raining heavily. We somehow found our way to the metro station and we back to our place.