As I said in my last post, we had no fixed agenda for our return to Delhi from Rishikesh. As we were entering the town of Haridwar, we saw a cheerful looking Ginger hotel beckoning us. So Ginger hotel Haridwar it was for us that night. This is a no-frills line of hotels from the Tata group that works on the concept of self-service at reasonable rates. They haven’t started the self check-in facility yet.
We ushered ourselves into our room which was done up in orange and yellow—very modern and basic. The hotel is wi-fi enabled and the rooms have a wall-mounted flat screen TV, a fridge, and the usual water, tea and coffee. Among the interesting tea flavours on offer was, of course, ginger. There’s no room service, but one can order food from outside. Or, one can go down to the Café Coffee Day outlet downstairs and order their usual fare or sample the buffet. Must say—the buffet was pretty good.
Though we were tired with our day’s travel up to Devprayag and back, we decided to check out the town. Of course, I knew what was on Mintu’s agenda…for some strange reason, of late he has been suffering from ‘beadaria’. He wears six of these necklaces around his neck and 2-3 on his wrist. All he has to do is wear saffron robes and he could easily pass off for a hermit!
There’s no dearth of shops selling all kinds of religious stuff in Haridwar and as expected, 2-3 tulsi bead necklaces were added to the swelling collection.
Since the next day was the holy day of Sankranti, there were restrictions on certain routes so we went back to the highway and stopped there for a while to admire the twinkling lights on the bank at Har-ki-pauri being reflected on the dark fast-flowing waters of the Ganga. Neither of us is overtly religious really, but standing there gazing at the river and the lights did give us a feeling of being close to that mysterious power we call God. Still get goose bumps when I recall that sight.
And on our side of the river bank, standing like a silent sentinel in the night, Giant Shiv statue at Haridwar was a huge statue of Shiva adding to the surreal atmosphere. In daylight it doesn’t look half as dramatic.
We returned to the hotel for dinner.
One of the good things about the hotel was that every floor has a space where drinking water is available and there are facilities for ironing clothes should you need to.
A sumptuous breakfast later, it was check-out time. Back to Har-ki-pauri. We had to park our car on this side of the river and cross over across a bridge to the other side. We were a little apprehensive about being caught in a mass of humanity, auspicious day as it was. But surprisingly, much to our relief it wasn’t that bad. The inevitable hordes were present of course but we didn’t really need to elbow our way through.
Mintu bought a plastic jar to take back some of the holy water with us. We were lucky enough to receive the full attention of the priest at the ancient temple who took our offerings and graciously gave us some prasad.
Once outside, we were surrounded by men pleading us to donate ostensibly for some ‘community lunch’ for the poor. Well, whether our money went towards some community lunch or a personal one, we’ll never know.
The next thing to do was to fill the jar with some Ganga.
So down the steps went Mintu, close to the chain railing.
As he was about to bend with the jar, an onlooker gently rebuked him saying that his sandals were dirtying the pure waters of the river! It’s best not to argue at such times. I had the urge to point towards the numerous people who were immersed in the water cleansing their ‘sins’ even as we spoke. But I decided otherwise.
As we were crossing the bridge back to the car, we heard a commotion on the other bank.
Someone’s bag had fallen into the water and a young boy had jumped in to rescue it. It didn’t seem as if he would make it as the current is pretty strong, but he did. Back we went towards the car with our bit of Ganga in a jar.
It’s amusing to see little signboards advertising clean toilets and deluxe ones too! Wonder what those are like?
We hit the highway once again towards Roorkee and passed quite a few interesting places on the way, one of them being Baba Ramdev’s yoga ashram just outside Haridwar called Patanjali.
Back on the highway and back to the same frustrating scenario of tractors and bullock carts blocking your way. They appear out of nowhere—blissfully and unashamedly unconcerned about holding up the traffic.
We crossed many vehicles on the way taking their portions of the holy water back home with them.
Our next stop was to be the Cheetal Grand resort—a haven on the Delhi-Haridwar-Dehradun highway. It’s always such a pleasure to visit that place. Its well-kept garden and restaurant and exotic birds in cages make you want to tarry a wee bit longer.
I just love some of their signs like the one below.
From the Cheetal Grand, it’s another 2-3 hours drive to Delhi and to my relief it was a relatively smooth drive.
Of course, whenever I’m at the wheel, Mintu, like all husbands, seems a bundle of nerves. Why is it that men seem to think that cars were made for them alone?