TRAVELLER’S DIARY. Alhambra. Spain.

Best viewed on a large screen of a PC or a laptop. Enjoy the photos. I am very happy that they came out the way they did…

Fifty Shades of Random Ramblings

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FOREWORD

(Picssaweb did me in…. Thousands upon thousands of my priceless photos were lost forever because of the decision by Google to shut down the service before I could arrange for alternative accommodation.

But fear not, dear reader,  I was able to recover them and place them here for your viewing pleasure.  Photo gallery. ALHAMBRA  https://photos.app.goo.gl/RMA5urYPzYW34qii8

Hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as I did shooting them. )

THE MAIN STORY

We set out from Seville after a sumptuous breakfast, as usual, for a straight two hundred kilometers run to the Alhambra Palace, en route to our hotel. The tickets for the Alhambra had already been procured and the guide was supposed to meet us exactly at two O’ clock in the afternoon.
These timings were extremely important. We were travelling through this part of Spain during the Easter weekend…

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AFTER ALL THIS IS OVER

We are eternal optimists.

Check out our To Do list – after all this is over :-

  1. We must visit Phoenix mall one day – after all this is over.
  2. You must have dinner with us one day – after all this is over
  3. We must visit them one day – after all this is over
  4. We must buy a dishwasher – after all this is over
  5. We must get our AC machines serviced – after all this is over
  6. Must get a proper haircut – after all this is over
  7. We must invite our friends over for dinner one day – after all this is over
  8. Must have a detailed medical check up – after all this is over
  9. Must get the car serviced – after all this is over
  10. Must visit that exotic city – after all this is over
  11. Must get the house painted – after all this is over.

IMAGINE REMIX (With apologies to the Great John Lennon )

The original song by John Lennon https://youtu.be/VOgFZfRVaww

THE ORIGINAL LYRICS OF IMAGINE 

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, youYou may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

MY REMIX VERSION OF THE SONG IMAGINE 


Imagine there’s no Covid/ I know it’s hard to do/ No lockdown for weeks on/  And no curfew too/.  Imagine there’s no virus/.  Multiplying like mad/.. You hoo, ooo

Imagine there’s no migrants/. Trudging down the streets/.  Walking to their hometowns/.  Thousands of miles away/.  Imagine there’s no Covid/.  Turning lives upside down/.. You hoo, ooo

You may say that I know nothing/.  But you’re not the only one/.  Everyone sends me lectures/. To improve my Covid-gyan/ 

Imagine there’s no TV/.  Telecasting endlessly/.  How many more detected/.  How many died today/.  Imagine there’s no anchor/.  Saying “India wants to know”/.. You hoo, ooo

You may say that I’m a rambler/.  But I’m not the only one/.  I hope some day Covid will die out/ . And we shall be normal again/.. 

Travel in a Morris Minor

( This is just a story involving an old car which happened to be a Morris Minor. This is not meant to be a reflection on the overall quality of all Morris Minor cars which I hold in very high esteem. My next episode could well be based on my experiences with an old Standard Herald which I owned at some point of time.)
Assam was having its usual spell of hot and humid summer that year. It was mid or late July. The rains had not yet come in full torrents. The humidity was near a hundred percent and if you happened to be away from an electric fan for more than a minute you got soaked to the skin in your own perspiration. I was at home in the tea gardens at Napuk Tea Estate which lies on the road that connects the district town of Sibsagar with Delih Ghat via Nazira, Simaluguri, Sonari and Sapekhati. Napuk T.E lay a little over forty kilometers from Sibsagar and five kilometers before Sonari.

My father was then working as a Group Engineer in charge of four tea garden factories and our bungalow was a short walking distance from the Napuk tea garden’s factory.
Singlo Tea Company, a part of the Empire Plantations group, managed by Gillanders Arbuthnot and Co of Kolkata, had four tea gardens in the area. They were Mathurapur (pronounced Muttrapore, British style), Suffrai, Napuk and Jaboka. My family lived in Napuk. My brothers and I were staying in hostels in different cities and we usually met up at Napuk during our holidays. Our social life while at home was generally restricted to the twelve or so families of people who ran the four tea gardens of Singlo Tea Company. Except when we met similar planter families from the other neighboring gardens at the Sonari Club where they showed an English movie with a 16 mm projector on Saturdays. In winter we also met up at various other planters’clubs like Moran Club, or Jorhat Club for tennis parties or Christmas parties. By definition all my father’s colleagues were our Uncles and their wives were Aunties.
Most of these Uncles were jolly and gregarious folks and it was fun to watch their antics and hear their drunken jokes at the club. Some were really nice and asked me about my activities and my friends in college and took an active interest in my career. Dilip Uncle was one such. He was jolly, full of jokes and he really treated me like an adult. He also dropped in at our place in Napuk on many evenings for a cup of tea and a chat. In short, we were very friendly.

My immediate younger brother who studied in a school in Kolkata was also present at home during this particular vacation. I had finished my final exams in college and had reached home a month previously, after a rather dramatic bus trip from Shillong. I had missed my bus at Nowgong during trans-shipment and had chased the errant bus by taxi for almost forty kilometers before I caught up with it again. I had also lost my gold ring in the process as I had no money to pay the taxi driver and had had to barter the ring for it.

Now almost after a month my final results were due to be announced soon and I had to return to Shillong for a few days to collect my mark-sheet. We were in the process of discussing among ourselves whether to take a train from Bhojo or Simaluguri to Guwahati and catch a bus from there or to drive forty five kilometers to Sibsagar and catch the Super Express Bus direct to Shillong from there.

Dilip Uncle dropped in at our place one evening in the middle of this discussion. He arrived in his newly purchased Morris Minor which he had bought just the previous week. The Morris Minor had actually stopped production many years ago. This car that Dilip Uncle drove was a vintage 2-door 1949 model which he had bought cheaply for six thousand rupees from the “Kanyan”- the resident grocery store owner cum unofficial money lender in his tea garden. This little beetle like car was fairly popular in India at one time in our childhood. In fact a copy of this car was also manufactured for a while by Hindustan Motors in 1950 under the name of Baby Hindustan. But in comparison with our heavy Ambassador where my brother and I had learnt to drive, this car was like a toy.

Anyway Dilip Uncle asked me whether I could drive and I said yes, because I had received my license the previous year. He gave me his keys and said to go ahead and drive it in the lawn of our bungalow. I jumped at the chance and drove his baby round and round in our lawn for some time. It handled like a beauty. I was very pleased and said so. Dilip Uncle was pleased too. But for a different reason. He had an elder brother, also a planter, who worked in Nagrakata or thereabouts in North Bengal, some nine hundred kilometers away. Dilip Uncle was planning to drive to Nagrakata to visit him in a few days. He wanted a companion and a reliving driver and I had seemed to be a good choice. As it happened, I had to return to Shillong soon for my mark-sheet, and my brother too had to return to Kolkata in a few days. I already had a driving license and some experience of cross country driving. My brother could also drive, more or less, without actually hitting anything. It would be ideal if I drove a part of the way to Guwahati and my brother went along with him all the way to Nagrakata in North Bengal. Dilip Uncle said he would put by brother in a train bound for Kolkata from New Mal junction which was not far from Nagrakata. And so it was decided and finalized by all concerned.
Dilip Uncle picked us up from Napuk at five in the morning , (Garden Time) on the appointed day. I took the wheel. The early morning air was cool, and my brother was playing his mouth organ.

I had some experience of cross country driving already. Every year my father went on his annual leave and he almost always drove down with his family in tow. During these annual road trips we would take turns to drive for four to five hours at a stretch. I knew pretty well that one needed to drive completely differently on a cross country trip, as compared to a local trip. One needed to maintain a steady speed of 70-80 kilometers per hour on the highways and on empty stretches. Else it can take ages for you to reach your destination. I tried to put this thought into practice with the Morris Minor. But the car would have none of it, probably because of its age. It was already on the wrong side of twenty four.

The speedometer, calibrated in miles, showed 30 mph up to which point the car ran really smoothly. Anything above that speed caused it to sort of shudder a little and sway from side to side. Dilip Uncle was mildly apologetic. He said we should go a bit slowly. That way we could enjoy the country side much better he said. I groaned and grunted mentally and eased the pressure on the accelerator. We passed Suffrai, Cherraido Parbat and reached the Simaluguri tin-ali. Then the puncture happened. The car slewed a bit to the left without warning and I stopped and stepped out to take a look. The onside rear tyre had a flat. I had been trained by my father to replace flat tyres even before I had been allowed to drive independently. That knowledge came in handy and I couldn’t wait to impress Dilip Uncle. I put a block of stone in front of the front wheel. Got out the bridge jack from the boot and raised the car. But the wheel spanner could not grip the bolt well enough to turn it. All the tyre bolts had lost their hexagonal edges and had become nearly round headed after over twenty four years of use. It took me half an hour’s struggle to get all four wheel bolts off and to replace the flat tyre with the spare from the boot. There was no tyre repair shop nearby, so we moved on to Sibsagar where we spent another half an hour or a bit more to get a shop opened that early in the morning and the puncture repaired. More than two hours had passed since our start from Napuk and we were already one hour behind time.

We stopped again in Jorhat where Dilip uncle treated us to Channa Batura for breakfast at a Punjabi joint in Gar Ali. The restaurant had just opened their doors and we were the first customers. It took over forty five minutes for the food to be prepared and served, and it was almost ten in the morning when we started from Jorhat. Both my brother and I were slightly upset by all these delays but my brother started playing his mouth organ again after we crossed the city limits of Jorhat and so it was OK.

Some five kilometers later white smoke started emanating from under the bonnet. We got down to investigate. This turned out to be an overheated radiator. So we halted by the roadside with the bonnet open, waiting for the engine to cool off. Fifteen minutes later Dilip Uncle opened the still hot radiator cap, holding it with a piece of dirty cloth. There was hardly any water inside the radiator. Dilip Uncle took out a five litre tin can from the boot and asked me to fetch water.

But from where do I fetch it? I asked. There was no tap by the roadside. We were in the middle of nowhere. There were only paddy fields on either side of us. Gingerly I walked into the half grown paddy in search of a puddle somewhere, at the same time being wary of a cobra or two. Eventually a small puddle was found and I fetched some dirty water in the can which he poured into the dry radiator.

We set off again. At a stately and steady speed of thirty mph, allowing all other vehicles, barring only bullock carts, to overtake us.

Nothing happened for the next half an hour and then the smoke poured out once again. This time there was a village of sorts visible in the distance through the paddy fields and I walked to it and found an old lady in the first house. She gave me a toothless smile and some clean water from a well. By the time we reached Bokakhat white smoke was once again pouring out from the radiator. I was driving very slowly and looking for a suitable place from where I could fill some water. At this point there was a loud metallic cracking sound from somewhere under the car and something started rattling immediately. It was well past mid day by this time.

We stopped at one of the motor repair shops by the roadside where they discovered that a rear leaf spring had broken. The car was put on two jacks and they took off the offending set of springs for electric welding. Someone took out the dead water pump for repairs. Someone else took off the radiator and took it to another shop for repairs to its leaks. Dilip Uncle proposed that since we had already lost a lot of time, let us have lunch somewhere. So we strolled off to a roadside place for a plate of puri, probably fried in diesel, and a sabji containing some indeterminate vegetables. We topped it up with lots of peda, for which Bokakhat is famous.
The car was finally ready by about three thirty in the afternoon. We set off once again towards Guwahati, many hours behind time. Dilip Uncle at the wheel was grumbling about the cost of all the repairs and how he was going broke in the process.

What I wanted to tell him, but held my tongue out of politeness, was that he should never have taken out an ancient vehicle for a cross country run without first giving it a thorough going over. He had known this car for only a little over a week. It was too short a period to get to know any car, old or new. To take it out an unknown car on a long journey over an unknown route was not only adventurous, it was downright foolhardy. But by that time we were already far away from home and the advice would have been pointless.

Just as our bad luck would have it, there was another loud metallic cracking sound from under the car soon after we had crossed the limits of Bokakhat town. This was followed by a loud rattle just the same as before. Dilip Uncle turned the car around and drove back to the same garage from where we had just come. The springs were taken out once again. The main leaf spring was found to have cracked at another place, six inches from the site of the most recent welding.

It was after four thirty in the afternoon when we left Bokakhat for the second time. The Sun was already in the setting mode. Dilip Uncle was totally unsettled by the developments of the day. He also didn’t see well enough to drive at night, he told us. Basically, he was terrified at more misfortune befalling us if we continued the journey through the dark highway. Guwahati was still over two hundred kilometers away.

“Lets go and stay in Kaziranga forest bungalow”, he said. This was the only proper accommodation available for many miles around, in those days. Fine, we said. And so we turned left through the Reserve Forest gate and went past the Hatikhuli tea gardens and drove uphill to the Government Tourist Lodge inside the reserve forest area. By a stroke of luck we found two rooms for ourselves. They couldn’t however give us any food.
We were dry, thirsty, dusty, tired and thoroughly shaken by the experiences of the day. So we decided to have a bath, an early dinner and a long sleep before facing what adventures lay in wait for us in the next morning.

So it happened that after the bath and a beer, so generously provided by Dilip Uncle, I drove down back to the highway in the Morris Minor to a nearby ‘dhaba‘, a roadside eatery, and fetched some chicken curry and rice for our dinner.

The next morning saw us on the road by seven o clock and within half an hour of the start, and long before we could even reach Nowgong, we had developed a case of a burnt out wheel bearing of the front right wheel. We limped along somehow and had the faulty bearing replaced in Nowgong town while we ate our breakfast by the roadside somewhere. Then we were off again, travelling at a majestic 30 miles per hour. My memory is kind of hazy about this segment of the trip but overall I am happy to report that no untoward incident happened during this part of our journey, except one flat tyre somewhere beyond Jorabat.

The Morris Minor entered greater Guwahati and chugged along sedately through the dense traffic, passed Dispur and finally came to a halt at the Paltan Bazar traffic light around four thirty in the afternoon, with Dilip Uncle at the wheel.
I was out of the car in a flash as soon as it stopped, and moved off very fast towards the Paltan Bazar bus stand for my bus to Shillong.

I wanted to put some good distance between me and the accursed Morris Minor before it got me into any more trouble. The last thing I remember was my brother’s face peering out of the rear window of the car pleading with his eyes for me to stay back with him. But I was made of sterner stuff.