The Heritage Toy Train Journey - Childhood Memoir

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I wonder if it is natural to be nostalgic! Or is it due to the mental and emotional exhaustion invoked in us due to Covid -19 and its consequences? Do you also feel nostalgic at times! If yes, kindly share your moments of nostalgia in the comment box. One such nostalgic moment evoked by Ruskin Bond's book 'The Great Train journey' inspired me to write this blog. You must be wondering how! To explain this, let me take you to my childhood memories. I was born and brought up in the same small town Kalka which Ruskin Bond has beautifully mentioned in his book. Not only this, he also talked about the Toy Train, which happened to be the first train that I also ever saw.  Still confused! Let me explain further.  It was nostalgic because I also saw the train for the first time on the narrow gauge of the Kalka Shimla track that happens to pass just behind my house. I got excited every time the train blew its whistle. Waving to the passengers sitting at the window seat was a routine

Indore - India's Cleanest City!

In April 2017, I along with my family visited Indore. My husband was on a business trip for 3 days. We never wanted to miss the chance of visiting the beautiful city so we decided to accompany him. So we extended  the trip for three more days.

Before I narrate our travel tale to Indore, let me bring in quick information about the city.


Indreshwar Temple, Indore


Indore is a beautiful city in Madhya Pradesh, the heart of India. The city is a perfect blend of history, culture and modernity. It is also the educational hub of the state. The city got its name from Indreshwar Temple where Lord Indra is the presiding deity. Indore is the cleanest city of India in Swachh Sarvekshan Surveys.


The city is also known for its seven-storey Rajwada Palace and the Lal Bagh Palace. Both date back to the 19th century Holkar Dynasty.


Day 1

Our journey started at 5:30 am on 20th April 2018 when we boarded Shatabdi Express from Beas to Delhi. The money spent on the train was worth every penny. As soon as we settled, they served tea with biscuits. After some time they served cutlets, bread, butter, juice and tea. For non-vegetarians, the breakfast consisted of the omelette in place of cutlets. A mineral water bottle and newspaper were also given to each passenger. We were in Delhi in 6 hrs. And the journey was very comfortable.

 

Our flight from Delhi to Indore was at 7:30 pm. We decided to visit one of our family friends in Vasant Kunj, which is near the airport. Their hospitality added to our excitement for the journey.

 

On reaching the airport we learnt that the flight was late by 2 hrs. So we decided to explore the shops at the airport. We also relished South Indian cuisines at Vango.


Delhi Airport


Finally, we boarded the plane at 9:30 pm and it landed at Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport, Indore in 2 hrs. We reached our pre-booked homestay – Gokul Homestay. We have always preferred a homestay over a hotel as one receives a more personal approach and home cooked food. Gokul Homestay is in Vijay Nagar –which is the prime locality of Indore.

Gokul Home-stay, Indore

Vijay Nagar is a calm, quiet, clean and safe township. The famous malls and market places are five minutes drive away. On reaching the home-stay we learnt that the lady of the house had met with an accident. So we could not get dinner at the home-stay. They guided us to ‘KARNAVAT’ an eating joint at the walking distance from the home-stay. The food at KARNAVAT was sumptuous and to our surprise, the place was busy at midnight too. The clean and wide roads of the city amazed us. We could make out why the city has won first place on the list of cleanest cities. The weather was very hot, so we realized that April is not the right month for the tourists to visit Indore. Due to exhaustion, we slept till late in the morning.


Day 2

Our next day started with delicious Poha served at the Home-stay. My hubby was to attend a meeting in the morning, so we decided to take some rest in our room. On his return, we hired a taxi for the rest of the day. Before going for the sight-seeing we decided to stop at VRINDAVAN - a pure veg family restaurant. It is a multi-cuisine restaurant and serves a wide range of sweets, namkeens, juices, poha, jalebi and full meals. A huge idol of Lord Krishna, at the entrance of the restaurant, gives a welcoming look and brings peace to your mind.


Vrindavan, Indore


The Lal Bagh Palace

The Lal Bagh Palace and Garden spread over 71 acres of land is an architectural wonder. It was developed during the reigns of the Holkar Tukoji Rao II (1844-86 AD), Shivji Rao (1886-1903 AD) and Tukoji Rao III (1903-1926 AD). Even after his abdication (1926 AD), Tukoji Rao III lived at Lal Bagh till his death in 1978. The property was then known by the name 'The Princess Usha Raje Trust'. It was later converted into 'The Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Educational Trust' till 1987. The State Government acquired it on 14th Nov 1998, and handed it over for protection to the State Directorate of Archaeology and Museum. The then Chief Minister Shri Arjun Singh inaugurated Nehru Centre. The palace is a blend of Renaissance, Palladian and Baroque elements in architecture.

 

The cameras were not allowed in the palace. So we could not click the photographs of the beautifully carved and painted walls and ceilings of the palace. The palace has huge western and traditional dining halls, wooden dance floor, a billiard room, several dressing rooms and bedrooms. Huge stuffed tigers in the gallery of the palace manifest that the people were well versed with the art of Taxidermy. The lavishly ornate building was a treat to eyes.


Vaishno Devi Temple

It is an excellent replica of the main Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra, Jammu. Walking through the artificial narrow cave, with good lighting, air conditioning and CCTV cameras, is very exciting. One can see the light which is brought from the main temple of Jammu.



Bada Ganpati

Bada Ganpati was built in 1875. The temple is named Bada Ganpati due to the size of Lord Ganesha’s idol. It is about 25 ft. from crown to foot and is one of the largest idols in the world. Ganpati is the bringer of happiness and prosperity. People worship Lord Ganesha at the beginning of any new event.

The idol is made of a mixture of limestone, jaggery, bricks, sacred soil and water brought from seven holy sites across the north Indian cities of Mathura, Ayodhya, Kanchi, Maya, Avantika, Kashi & Dwarka.


Bada Ganpati, Indore


The metallic frame that surrounds the idol is carved into an amalgam of gold, silver, copper, brass and iron. To make the idol strong, mud from the stables of elephants, horses and cows were added to the mixture. A sacred powder known as Panchratna was also used in the mixture of material that formed the building material.


Khajrana Ganesh Temple

Rani Ahilyabai constructed Khajrana Ganesh Temple in 1735. It has now been taken over by the government. It is located in the heart of Indore. It is believed that to safeguard the idol from Aurangzeb, the idol was hidden in the well and in 1735 it was taken out from the well and a temple was established. The well from where the idol has been removed is in front of the temple. Praying here fulfills all your wishes. We saw a large number of newlywed couples. They had come to the temple to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha before starting their married life. Wednesday, Sunday and festival days are popular days for devotees to visit the temple.

The visit to these temples filled our minds with the calmness and positivity.


Khajarana Ganesh Temple

Day 3

KAMLA NEHRU PRANI SANGRAHALAYA

After having a complimentary breakfast at -The Gokul Homestay, we called for a taxi and decided to visit the Kamla Nehru Prani Sangrahalaya popularly known as Indore Zoo. It is one of the 180 recognised zoos in India. It is situated in Navlakha Square, Indore. Established in 1974 it is spread over 51 acres. It is being maintained by Municipal Corporation, Indore. It is clean and green and has about 54 species of animals and birds. The first surprise came to us when we inquired about the rates of the entry ticket. It is just Rs 10 per person. The ticket for the still camera is Rs 30 and for the movie camera is Rs 50. The zoo remains closed on Monday for maintenance. We found a visitor's shed after every 100 m, the toilets were clean and water was also available. Wheelchair facility for old or differently-abled can also be availed. Ducks, python, emu, turkey, a large variety of owls, gharials, deer, crocodiles, hippo, tigers, lions, bears, elephants, vultures etc. amused us. We were also surprised to notice that each species was in huge colonies. Some cages looked like breeding grounds. On inquiring from the caretakers, we came to know that this zoo is well known for the conservation and breeding of various animals like tigers, gharials and foxes. After walking for miles with the variety of animals, birds and reptiles, we reached the exit, totally refreshed.

 

Pictures of Indore Zoo


INDORE CENTRAL MUSEUM

Indore Central Museum is next to the Indore Zoo. So, after a rejuvenating walk in nature, we entered a building which took us deep into history. Indore museum has two galleries. The artifacts range from prehistoric to the modern era. Indore museum was established in 1928. As we entered the first gallery, we saw photographs of cave paintings of the Historical and Mesolithic period. Painting of Dr V.S. Wakankar who discovered the famous Bhimbetka site in 1957, can also be seen in the museum. Antiquities and model of the Great Bath from MohenJo Daro and Indus Valley Civilization; microlith- the tools of Upper Stone Age and Mesolithic period; copper plates with inscriptions, coins, weights of Holkar Kings; coins of Delhi Sultanate; models of Sanchi Stupa, Elliptical Temple Besanagar, Shiv Temple of District Dhar etc. can be seen on the ground floor of the first gallery. On the first floor we saw paintings of 10th century A.D.; Italian sculptures and Weapons of kings. We also saw inscribed canons that were used by Mughal rulers and were acquired by Malhar Rao Holkar in the Battle of Sikandra.


Gallery of Central Museum, Indore


In the second gallery, we found the sculptors of the Hindu Mythological Gods.

 

We were elated to take a tour of history.

 

After visiting two enriching sites, we decided to return to the homestay for some rest before visiting Sarafa Bazar at night.


SARAFA BAZAR

If you are visiting Indore, Sarafa Bazar can't be missed.

Sarafa Bazar is a jewellery market in the centre of Indore which comes alive as a street food market after 9 pm. One can enjoy Indian as well as Western cuisines here. Some flavoursome foods are Vijay ki kachori, Joshi Ji ka Dahi vada, Saawariya ki sabudana Khichdi. One must try pav bhaji, dosa, noodles, jaleba, malpua, rabdi, falooda, poha jalebi, mawa baati, dal bafla, Bhutte Ka Kiss, Gajak etc. I heard the names of many cuisines for the first time. Many stalls were selling cold drinks, mineral water and fresh juices. There is no parking available, so we walked through the whole length of the crowded market and tasted several dishes. Each delicacy is worth tasting. In drinks, my recommendation to all the tourists is the ‘Coconut Crush’, which is a wholesome drink. To relish all the cuisines, one must visit Sarafa Bazar every night during his stay at Indore. The bright lights and colourful dresses of food-loving people made the market very lively.

 

On our way back to the homestay, we discovered Indorians love for food as we found many eating joints open at midnight too and to our amazement, all were equally crowded. We also fell in love with the food of Indore.

Delicacies at Sarafa Bazaar


DAY 4

A trip cannot be complete without shopping. We decided to keep the day for shopping only, but before that, we went to Chhappan Dukan for breakfast.

 

CHHAPPAN DUKAN

Chhappan Dukan (56 shops) is again a market famous for a variety of street foods. The place got its name from 56 shops that existed here originally. Poha-Indore’s principle dietary food is served here from 6 am till late in the evenings. Besides Poha, you also get a huge variety of namkeens, kachoris, chaat, sweets, shakes etc. Khopra, cheese and matar patties at Vijay Chaat House are quite famous. The snacks available here are healthy and reasonable, so the market is a must-visit for food lovers.

 

MT Cloth Market, Sitlamata Bazar, Heritage Market are famous markets. The city of Indore is world-famous for Handloom, Handicraft, Sarees and Namkeens. But we are not very good at bargaining, so we decided to shop at the famous malls of Indore instead of the local market. We went to C21 mall and the Treasure Island Mall.

 

Chhappan Bazaar, Indore


C 21

C21 is a huge mall in Vijay Nagar. It has a modern architecture and glamorous ambience. It has outlets of national and international brands. It also has several food courts and entertainment zones.

 

TREASURE ISLAND

Treasure Island is Indore’s first mall. It also provides a great experience of branded shopping. It also has PVR cinema and several restaurants.

 

After shopping to our heart’s content, we decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants in the mall.

 

DAY 5

On the fifth day, we visited two famous tourist places of Indore- Rajwada Palace and Digamber Jain Kaanch Mandir.

 

RAJWADA PALACE

Rajwada Palace built by Holkars about two centuries ago is a seven-storey structure. The entrance in the shape of an arc looks beautiful. The wooden gate with iron studs reminds us of the historical movies. To our disappointment, we could only see the small museum on the first floor, as the rest of the palace was under renovation. The museum had portraits of all the rulers of the Holkar Dynasty. Weapons and coins of the kingdom are also displayed.




Rajwada Palace, Indore


DIGAMBER JAIN KAANCH MANDIR

As the name depicts, Digamber Jain Kaanch Mandir is made up of mirrors. The floor, the walls and the ceilings are all made of colourful glasses. Its construction began in 1903. The Garbhagriha has the idols of the Tirthankaras and the stories of Jain tradition are depicted through murals. Lord Mahavira is the presiding deity in the temple. We saw people offering water, sandalwood and uncooked rice. The temple is very well maintained and worth seeing.

 

On our way back to the homestay, we stopped at Mrignayani showroom and Tribes of India. Both the showrooms are adjoining each other and are Madhya Pradesh government’s exclusive handicraft stores. One can buy handcrafted jewelry, dress materials, saris, handbags, toys and decorative items. We picked up some souvenirs for friends and relatives. Our taxi driver suggested us a shop famous for Ghamndi Lassi. We all tried ice-cream lassi which was something new for us. After a hectic day, we returned to the homestay.


DAY 6

Our flight was at 7 pm but we checked out from the homestay at around noon as we had a plan to visit two more places on our way to the airport- Gomatgiri and Bijasana temple.

 

GOMATGIRI

Gomatgiri is also a Jain Temple. It has 24 marble temples dedicated to 24 Tirthankaras. There is a 12 feet tall statue of Bhagwan Mahavira in the centre of the temple. Foot-marks of several Jain monks are also placed there. The temple is on a hillock near to the airport. The place is very well maintained and peaceful.

 

Gomatgiri, Indo


BIJASANA

Bijasana temple dedicated to goddess Durga is named so because here Maa Durga is seated on demon Rakta Beej. This temple is also situated on a hillock adjoining Gomatgiri and was built in 1920.

 

After paying obeisance at both the temples we headed towards Devi Ahilyabai Holkar airport. It is a small airport with limited flights. After a phenomenal trip, we reached home on 26th April. It was an indelible and rejuvenating trip.


Some tips for your visit to Indore:

1. Best time to travel - October to March

2. Hotels are many but if you prefer home-stays then the recommended home-stays are - Gokul home-stay Vijaynagar , Shrivardhan home-stay Vijaynagar and Astha Laxmi home-stay Nanda Nagar.

3. Best place for breakfast - Chhappan Dukan

4. Miss your dinner if you plan to visit Sarafa Bazaar to explore the delicacies available there.

5. Don't forget to taste Ghamndi Lassi.


Where are you planning to go for your next vacation once this pandemic is over? Comment Below!

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