Meeting Manu! :)

YAY, now we really met Manu! :D Everyone, this handsome guy is Manu Sharma (the left one is Manu, if you still can’t recognize Az :P), born and raised in Punjab, India, and happened to be my penpal during younger days. So to speak, he was the very FIRST penpal that I met in real life (!!!), forget the fact that we had left the snailmail letter-writing for many years already. Who could have thought I would be meeting a penpal – whom used to be thought too far away to be possible. We had lost contact for a few years (since we have grown up and thought writing letters aint cool anymore) but I accidentally managed to find Manu again somehow on his Flickr, and later on FB. He was the first of my friends whom I told that I was going to India (of course!) and since then he had been helping me ALOT for India trip plans. Now Manu Sharma is right before our eyes.

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Train to Amritsar

 Rickshaw from South Extension 2 to New Delhi train station: Rs 90

Train Delhi – Amritsar:
Swarna Shtbdi # 12029
Class: AC Chair Car (CC) 
Fares/pax: Rs 631 (with meal :D)
Depart 07:20  New Delhi (NDLS)
Arrive 13:25  Amritsar Jn (ASR)
Distance: 448 km Duration: 6h, 5min

Our very first Indian train. We chose seat because it’s a fast morning train recommended by Manu if we want to stop in Amritsar for a quick half day visit before continuing our way to Jammu. I didnt know much about Amritsar apart from Golden Temple whose postcard I used to receive from Manu back then (long story about Manu, I’ll talk about him in separate post later :P) Apparently Amritsar is conveniently located on the same route heading North to Kashmir, so right when I knew it is near to Manu’s hometown, I just thought I had to meet him! Although there was a contemplation at first, as when had I checked earlier, return direct flight Delhi – Srinagar was somewhat cheaper than combined train Delhi – Amritsar, Amritsar + Jammu and flight Jammu – Srinagar and way back (even if we take direct flight Srinagar – Delhi on way back, it was NOT cheap for one way fare).  And return flight can save alot of time!

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Thanks Mr Bashir, until we meet again!

After our dinner on third night in Delhi (2D 3N since arrival night) we managed to take pictures with Mr Bashir’s family. Seen here from left: Mubashir, Showkat, Az, Ilyani, Ammi (Mr Bashir’s sister who is staying in the US and was currently back home for wedding) and his niece. They are Kashmiri family but the men live here in New Delhi running their business, and go back to Kashmir regularly to see their wife and kids. It was fun to talk to them especially when we were heading to Kashmir after this, so we got to get alot of help and info regarding Kashmir from them.

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Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya

Image is Googled. It’s located in Nizamuddin area, the same area with Nizamuddin Tabligh markaz we ended up visiting earlier today after meeting the Tabligh man we met in Qutub minar. Yet, we recall Mr Bashir’s nephew Mubashir told us there are two significant religious places in Nizamuddin, and the one Mr Bashir goes is the ‘Sufi’ one. Either way, we didnt have any image in our mind what those two places look like, until today. Since the tabligh markaz was nothing like the images of photos I had googled on Nizamuddin before, so it became the “other” Nizamuddin place. Now we’re visiting the Nizamuddin Dargah with Mr Bashir, which is perfectly the complement of our Nizamuddin places-to-see.

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Nizamuddin Markaz

How to get there: easiest way would be take auto-rickshaw. Cant tell how much because we had a friend paid for us (from Qutub Minar)
Auto-rickshaw from Nizamuddin to South Extension II: Rs. 20
McDonalds at South Extension II: Filet o Fish Rs.150, Sundae Rs.40, Veggie burger Rs.70

At the small mosque in Qutub Minar, where we went to separate sections to perform prayers, I finished earlier and waited for Az outside. He took longer than he should, and when I realized, he came out talking with a few men dressing in long kurta. They are Tabligh people who are currently stationed at this mosque. Az told them that he too was planning to visit Nizamuddin Markaz in New Delhi, which he heard from a friend in KL. Suddenly those men became too excited knowing that we knew their markaz and were interested in visiting, and in such a hurry, they offered to bring us all the way to there. We know that it was not near, and taking rickshaw all the way would be expensive when we ourselves took Metro and walked to come to Qutub Minar. One of the men, whom we recklessly forgot his name but his face is well remembered, offered to accompany us. In between curious yet feeling bad, we followed him. He didnt speak English but only using his mix of South Indian language, sign language and facial expression, he managed to communicated with us efficiently and instantly became a friend.

We watched him bargaining hard with one rickshaw driver, and while we didnt understand any word spoken between them, we noticed that the driver refused to give discount (maybe the Tabligh guy bargained too cheap? Not sure either) but we still took that rickshaw and moved towards Nizamuddin. On our way, the Tabligh guy tried to speak something and crack jokes to soothe the driver and maybe consider his bargain price, but the driver remained bitter-faced and didnt say a word. He got the most scary-unfriendly face we ever seen of a rickshaw driver.

Az keep talking to the tabligh guy regardless not knowing if he understand English or not, but the guy smiled as if he reckoned what Az said, so it seems OK. Until the moment Az brought up the talk regarding Cricket World Cup, suddenly – miracle happened – it did break the ice and brought smile and laugh to the unfriendly driver! It’s so true if they say, do talk about cricket in India and everyone will be your friend :) Indeed.

So all of us enjoyed talking about Cricket and laughed in the rickshaw, and Az whispers ‘it seems now possible to bargain from the driver :P’ But it was not. Arriving Nizamuddin Markaz, although the driver is by now happier and smiling because of Cricket talk, he still refused to give discount. Haih. But the Tabligh guy paid the rickshaw and immediately brought us inside the markaz area.

Probably the place was so different than other places we have been earlier, and in between surprised and overwhelmed, we totally forgot to take any photos of the markaz area! :( But since I dont want you to be left clueless, I googled this image (credit) of  Tabligh Markaz in Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, which Az simply refers as Nizamuddin Markaz. It’s like a center of  Tabligh activity here in India, and in fact, people from other countries do come to stay here to participate in their missionary. I dont know much except Az has got a friend who’s active in it.

The guy brought us inside a building which we thought a mosque but has several floors, and I was lead to another separate section to women area while Az was brought to him to male area. I was scared at first but upon opening the door, there are groups of women gather inside the spacious room. They’re in a number of groups and someone approached me. When I said I’m from Malaysia, she brought me to a group of Malaysian women reading some religious books. Other groups are Indonesian, Thais, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi and some from African countries. I felt so awkward although they greeted me so friendly as if I came here to join them. Most of them came with their husbands for the missionary. They are going to Kolkata afterwards. I was being nice and introduced myself that I came to India for honeymoon trip and was just passing by here so thought of stopping. Anyhow, I was given a space and telekung for prayers, and after I’m done, they invited me to read the books with them. I managed to read one page (and others were listening) before I asked permission to leave, telling that I didnt have time and had to go back early because we’re going to some other place with Mr Bashir tonight.

Az, apparently, was having tea with the Malaysian guys at the center (and one of them was husband of the young lady I met inside the room) and after saying goodbye to the Tabligh South Indian guy we had met earlier and thanked him for bringing us here, we took rickshaw directly back to hotel. We have plan with Mr Bashir to visit Nizamuddin Dargah tonight. We had not known there are two different significant centers called Nizamuddin in here, until we literally visited both.