In October 2014, I got an opportunity to go on a long drive to the cities of Ajmer and Pushkar. We also planned to visit “Bhangarh”, which is considered as the most haunted place in Asia. Along with my family, consisting of my wife and my son, I started around 3.45 pm on a Friday afternoon from Delhi with the idea of spending the night at Jaipur and proceeding for Ajmer next day. The distance from Delhi to Jaipur is 250 kilometers, which is normally covered in 5 hours.
Since, Jaipur is positioned to the west of Delhi, the sun-rays from the afternoon sun directly was falling directly on the windscreen of the car, which occasionally created blind spots in driving. But, it was also a pleasure to watch hues and colours of a setting sun on a national highway. For us, the sun set happened at Dharuhera, after two hours of driving.
Behror is considered as the mid-point of the Delhi – Jaipur route at about 125 Kilometers from both sides. We crossed Behror after two and half hours of driving passing by Gurgaon, Manesar, Dharuhera, Neemrana on the way. Manesar and Neemrana are the two very fast growing industrial cities in this route. We saw an entirely Japanese township at Neemrana. Even some of the restaurants and hotels provide Japanese cuisine here.
Soon dusk started giving way to the darkness of the night. The National Highway 11C, which branches off the NH 8 towards Jaipur was really deserted. I wanted to speed up, but decided against it for avoiding the mishap in the event any animal suddenly wished to cross the road. The city of Jaipur welcomed us at about 09.30 pm. We had taken about 6 hours to reach. But we had no complaints as the journey was so far quite good. I had never seen the illumination of the Amer Fort at night in my earlier trips to Jaipur. So, I didn’t want to miss the chance this time. The road leading to the fort was deserted. The market adjoining this fort was closed.
But the fort was dazzling in full glory conveying the stories of the Kings and Queens. Since there were no onlookers, no vendors, no traffic, we got ample time to admire the beauty of the fort at night. The night was dark as ever and the sky was looking as if it was covered by thick black blanket. The Maota lake was quite still and a cool breeze was flowing. The glorious fort had cast its glance on me. It was a beauty to behold. The reflections on the water were as vivid as the fort itself. It was very difficult for me to get away from the mesmerizing glance of this fort. Alas! We had to move ahead.
We moved a little ahead and found another jewel of the Jaipur city. The glittering Jal Mahal was shining like a yellow pukhraz in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. Whenever I see this Jal Mahal standing in the middle of a lake full of fish, I feel lonely about it. When I saw it again today, the loneliness of this Palace echoed in my heart. In the darkness of the night, the echo was greater. It said to me ..”O Traveller!….everybody loves me, but nobody comes to me. Days by days, years after years, generation by generation I stand alone.” I replied in my mind.. “O worthy Palace…I came to you till the point permissible. The ocean of water prevents me to come… but someone sometime will come to you definitely. Your wait will not go unanswered.”
So, we moved ahead and found the third jewel of this marvelous city, i.e., Hawa Mahal. Standing tall and illuminated, this Mahal had seen off the day of crowded markets and polluted vehicles. The Hawa Mahal told me… “O Traveller! I was built for providing cool air and shelter. My structure was befitting the queens. Pollution is that I am smoking everyday and night, days after days, years after years and generations after generations.” I consoled him in my mind and said “O worthy Palace! Soils made you and soils you would become….The respect you get is the respect you deserve. Stand tall till your strength permits”.
After meeting with the three jewels of this great city, we drove ahead towards the new township. The Janpath of Jaipur leads to the mighty building of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, the seat of power in democracy. It was almost 11 pm and we had to take rest for the journey next day. Still, I stopped in the middle of the Janpath. The building was trying to say something. It told me… “O Travellor! I am the power today. Don’t you agree? Or, dare not disagree.” I smiled in my mind and replied “O worthy building! Come to me after 150 years. I will see you with pride and anoint you with my tears, if your power still remained intact”.
So, after driving for more than seven hours, we reached the EPF guest house, where we had to spend the night. Ohh! What a day it was. Hectic activities at office.. coming home.. then driving for 250 kilometers. Remembering the events of the day, we retired for the night. Yet my mind was fresh and rejoicing.
Next morning, we started early and crossed the Amar Jawan Jyoti which has been erected in memory of soldier and martyrs of Jaipur. At dawn, the building was looking at me silently. When it did not say anything, I tried to break the ice and said in my mind “O brave soldier! Whenever there is nothing left, we have no option but to march on and on. Hope still exists till we have strength to march on.”
Half an hour later, we left the city of the Jaipur and reached the National Highway 8 again. That was my first drive on the Jaipur-Ajmer expressway. In next 15 minutes after crossing the Thikaria Toll Plaza, the real Highway began. The distance between Jaipur to Ajmer is about 140 kilometers via Dudu and Kishangarh. Jaipur-Ajmer Highway is beautiful. When the sun started shining on the countryside, it was time for us to come out for some time and enjoy the natural beauty of the vast openness.
Emperor Akbar’s Kos Minarets have a special part on these highways. I had seen such Minarets while driving to Agra and also while driving on Karnal-Chandigarh route. But that Kos Minaret, which we saw in the Jaipur-Ajmer expressway, was special. It was situated on the middle divider of the expressway. There was only one way I could capture its picture. I had to park the vehicle on the left sideline, cross the road and to climb on the divider. But I did not let it go because the moment I saw it, the minaret told me… “O traveller! For centuries, I have stood and did the job assigned to me. Come and sit with me by my side for sometime before you carry on.” I smiled in my mind and said “O Minaret! Mile by mile, Kilometer by Kilometer, Kos by Kos we travel. I promise that whenever I see you, will smile at you and praise you for what you have done.”
Highways also have emergencies. But on this highway, we observed that an emergency phone booth exists at every 2 kilometers. One has to press the button and wait for the voice of the operator. I wanted to test it. But, then I do not like giving hoax calls. So, I proceeded ahead.
The highways are also considered as the best way to understand the local climate and culture through various local practices and facilities available there. The bus stops on this highway were remarkable in their uniform colour coding and structure. Well. I really wonder when we can do this in one highway, why can’t it be repeated elsewhere.
It was 08.30 am on Saturday morning. Jaipur-Ajmer Highways was coming to life. I was anticipating the hordes of cattle. But cattle were not to be seen. Was it that had entered entering somewhat deeper into Rajasthan? Suddenly, on the left side, we found the traditional fight between two goats. Do they fight for right or do they play? Whatever that might be, they were looking beautiful in their group. The proud owner of this horde was wearing a bright orange turban and was carrying a stick. He was amused to see a car stopping by and photographs taken by some citywallah. I also wanted to click his bright orange turban on a jet black and rugged face. But I could not muster the courage to do so. One day, I will let this self-ego go, then it would be easy to converse with strangers.
The highways have their own market. For example, Petrol/diesel, air, tools, repairs, food etc. for catering to different needs of the travellers and their vehicles. But God has also given all of us a sense and the need for beautification. We often admire a truck in its full decoration travelling on a highway for its unique attire. Decorating a truck is altogether a different art. And, as usual, it describes the tastes and skills of the owner of that truck. So, the highways markets do provide for such needs. Many such shops were situated in the highway.
Marbles are the lifeline for the people of this area. After crossing Dudu, we saw big trucks carrying big boulders of marble. Makrana marbles are world famous. At Kishangarh, we saw the storage godowns of big exporters of marbles. It seemed that the entire city does only trade in marbles. The shops selling marble craft were lined up on both side of the expressway. I wanted to go to the marbles markets and godowns, but then left the idea as being too expensive.
At 9 am, we were at a little distance from Ajmer. We were near Kishangarh city, which is also famous for a painting called “Bani thani”. I wanted to see these paintings and learn how they are made. But I had to again kill this desire and convince myself to continue with the present journey. In the meantime, it was quite visible that the trees had given way to shrubs. The land would gradually become more barren, if we go beyond Ajmer on this highway. When we reached at the Ajmer toll booth, we found that it was not operational. No fee was being charged from any vehicle. It was one of those happy moments when you go near a dragon and he does not eat you!
Soon we saw the signboard welcoming the visitors in the city of Ajmer. When I saw this board, I could not take away my eyes from the caption that “the city of Prithvi Raj Chavan” welcomes you. I really get amused when I see a city being dedicated to its original ruler. It’s like chronicles of Narnia. Are we waiting for the old rulers to rise up again to fight against the ills of the present day society? It will be really cool to see the incidents, if Prithvi Raj Chavan really comes and puts his claim in present times.
Soon, we were in the world famous city of Ajmer. From the Highways, we were now travelling on the city roads and trying to cover as many points as possible in one day which was available with us.