I had never been far from the metropolitan city of Mumbai when I had visited India, so traveling to North India, or Uttar Bharat, was the first time I would see different parts of India. North India is quite different from Mumbai. Mumbai, a coastal city, is humid, while North India is dry. The North is dull, with deserts and mountains, so people there wear bright, neon colors, while Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures, so Mumbaikars wear simpler colors. My family was going to visit all of the famous sites in North India, such as the Taj Mahal, and Udaipur’s Lake Palace. I knew from the start, that our trip was going to be memorable.
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We started our North Indian adventure by taking a train from Mumbai, where we were staying, to Delhi, India’s capital. In comparison to Mumbai, congested and busy, Delhi was well planned and proper. We went sightseeing the day after we arrived, seeing most of the tourist spots: the Qutb Minar, the Baha’I House of Worship, and the Red Fort. We ate dinner at a Mughal eatery called Karim’s, located in an alleyway outside the Jama Masjid. There was a long line to enter, but our wait was rewarded with some of the best food I have ever eaten. Two days later, we went to Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal. Seeing the Taj Mahal with your own eyes really puts the building into perspective; the mausoleum is enormous.
The next day, after seeing Agra Fort, we left Agra for Jaipur, Rajasthan. My late grandfather had always said that my family had come from Rajasthan a long time ago. One of the reasons we could infer this was because a North Indian sweet called ghewar was supposed to be present at weddings of my sub-caste. Now that we were going to visit Rajasthan, we wanted to try and find ghewar. After visiting some of Jaipur’s Rajput forts, we visited a mithaiwala, or sweetshop where we saw the famous ghewar. According to my uncle, seeing the sweet almost verified that we came from Rajasthan, as there would be no other reason that my sub-caste would require it to be at weddings unless there was some heritage involved.
We left Jaipur for Ajmer, a picturesque city nestled in the mountains famed for the only Hindu Temple in the world that is devoted to Brahma along with its Dargah Sharif, the shrine of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishty. The next day, we visited Chittorgarh Fort, the largest fort in India, before going on to our last stop, Udaipur. In Udaipur, after a harrowing journey up a mountain road filled with switchbacks and hairpin turns, we visited an old monsoon palace from the late 1800’s that was featured in the James Bond film Octopussy. After an equally harrowing journey down the mountain, we visited Udaipur’s famous City Palace. After taking a tour, a golf cart sped past us towards the palace. We didn’t even realize who the driver was until we asked our guide, who told us it was the Prince of Udaipur. If only I had kept my camera ready.
We went to the airport that night to catch our flight back to Mumbai. As I sat in the plane looking out the window, down at the landscape, I thought about our trip. I had come to North India expecting just sightseeing. But in reality, there was more to the trip. Looking out the window, I was looking down on the land of my ancestors. I felt that it was a truly fitting end to our journey.
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