Friday, June 26, 2009

Special Thanks

No, I am not suffering from Spiti mania. But I would not be doing justice to this wonderful trip I made if I fail to acknowledge a few things, which made it all the more exciting. I can go to the point of saying that these were a bunch, which helped make this journey happen.

1) The Book: Quite literally, this one was the source. Its so comprehensively written and so easy to understand that I could visualize places and roads just by reading stuff from it.
“Ready Reckoner for Baspa Kinnaur Spiti and Lahaul Valleys: Motorist and Trekkers Guide with Map” by Nest & Wings is according to me a must have if one plans a trip to these places.

Sandy and I used to spend hours going through the map and details about places we had to visit the next day, every evening. Especially the map. It’s a neat road map of Himachal with distances, altitudes and treks marked. Again, a must have for the trip.

2) The BRO / HPPWD: Commendable, unmatched and at some places almost impossible. That is the story of the roads we traveled on. Border Roads Organization should have been featured on ‘Megastructures’ long back. Though having a road here is a national necessity owing to the fact that this place is strikingly close to parts of china, but still one cannot help but applaud the work that these guys do. The road is impeccable, its one of the best-maintained roads in the country in a remote rural setting. After branching off from the legendary ‘Hindustan Tibet marg’, we went to ride on the state highway 30. HPPWD is not far behind, they have done a great job despite of the fact that they are not ‘BRO’.
Thanks to both the organizations, it was such a pleasure riding a two-wheeler at + 10000 ft for 7 days.

3) The Pulsars: I have heard “real bikers ride the Enfield”. May be I am not a real biker but I love my Pulsar. And frankly I can’t ride an Enfield, the last time I tried; I almost killed myself, that too in front of a bunch of girls. I think Pulsars are much better suited for this kind of a trip. Although they are low on power compared to the big 350 cc beast, the handling and superb maneuverability makes up for that loss. I was very clear that if I was doing this trip, it had to be a self-drive one, not like all those pseudo enthusiasts who sleep in the comforts of a cab till they reach a destination and take their cameras out. Bikes added an almost adventurous ingredient to the process. And, by God, did the Pulsars behave?? Oh, yeah!! They very well did, 1600 kms, 2 high passes, almost 100 kms of very bad to no roads and no punctures. Not even a small hiccup. And to top all that, I just spent a paltry sum of Rs 1300 on fuel. Pulsars Rock.

4) The Drawers: Yes, you read it right. Special thanks also go to the ‘old fashioned’ rather medieval men’s underwear. For?? For saving us all those painful hours on the hard motorbike seat. We did not realize the importance of this almost forgotten accessory until our butts were so sore from that little elastic which the ‘modern’ versions have, that we could not even walk properly. For 3 days riding the bike over bouncy roads made us make frequent stops ‘to adjust’ that elastic much like the manner Sachin Tendulkar does while batting. The problem was, even in Spiti, where the life style of people conspicuously reminds one of medieval ages, finding the old fashioned drawers was a pain (though much more bearable than the one we were already experiencing). So in Kaza we finally found them, in a dark hole-in-the-wall kind of a shop. It was funny wearing them, but the comfort was oh so satisfying. Rest of the trip was just a song,
Highly recommended for all bikers.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Journey through Himalayas

"I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list"

The Journey:‘The circuit’ as it is called amongst the initiated, links Shimla and Manali through one of the most treacherously beautiful landscapes. Stretching from Apple orchards in Shimla hills to barren mountains in Spiti. Crossing well washed river valleys and two high mountain passes. The journey initiated at Shimla, went into Kinnaur, traversed the length of Spiti Valley and culminated in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.

The Bikers: Two friends of over 8 years now, shared a room for every day they spent in UG hostel at the HPKV in Palampur. Have been partners in crime, partners in good deeds and partners at the TT Table in the hostel. Gelling well and complementing each other on this demanding trip came easy.


Don’t mess with him if you think he has made his mind up. The guy won’t mince words if he has to call you a ‘A@#hole’. Very determined, street smart and blessed with a hyperactive metabolism, he is a bundle of energy. Like always, let me take up the leader position while riding. He says he rides faster if he is ahead, but I know, he understands that I hate to follow. He could have chosen any profession he pleased but chose to be a banker so that he could be where he belongs.


Won’t say much about myself (people who would read this, know me already). This journey was my very old dream, found a cohort in sandy and took off. One of the most satisfying experiences of my life. ‘Been there done that’.

The Machines:

Pulsars, a machine countless love and many more ride. Fell in love with this the moment I saw the prototype, somewhere in late 1990s. Bajaj redefined motor biking in India, the day it was launched in 2001.
150 Classic: 8 years old, but still packs a punch. Have been with me all these years and have traveled half the country with me. From Palampur to Pune to Delhi. Around 60000 kms and still with the original spark plug, awesome piece of engineering. Has never ditched me and knows my habit of saying “Don’t ditch me bro”, when I am scared of a puncture.
180 DTSFi: Sandy’s new beast. The power packed variant. Packs all the newey gizmos that my bike lacks. Have used it quite a lot in recent times, on all my trips to Palampur. Gives me confused times on my bike after I ride it, because to the gear shift patterns. We used this one every time we were using a single bike for an excursion, for the sheer power and handling it provides.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 1, 12th June 2009: Shimla – Sarahan

"Ride easy, Ride long"

I reached Shimla at 1 PM from Delhi and Sandy reached half an hour before me from Palampur. We were on time. Met Dholta, who was supposed to be our 3rd companion on the trip, but dude had some urgent stuff to settle at Delhi and thus he bowed out. After having lunch and discussing the plan for the day, we started from Shimla at 3:30 PM.
The weather was great and the greenery around and cool breeze from the hills, charged us up. Reached Narkanda and it started raining heavily. Shit !! I thought, the plans would have to be changed first day onwards. Not to be... after 3 rounds of tea at the local sweet shop, the rain subsided and we started towards Rampur, a good 66 kms from there. Its was very cold and we did not have the required clothing, decided will stop for the night in Rampur. As soon as we reached Kumarsain, downwards from Narkanda, the weather changed and we were again in our t-shirts. Reached Rampur at 7 PM. The road is the best you can get in HP.

The road from Shimla to Rampur

It was still sunny so continued towards Sarahan, reached there at around 08:30 PM after another round of tea, this time at Jeori.
Checked the Bhimakali temple guesthouse, it was full. So checked into Bushahar Guest house right outside the Temple, It was 350 for the night. Nice cozy place. We were the only ones staying. Had dinner, retired for the night after a hot bath.

At the Bhimakali temple

Bhimakali temple - Sarahan

Day 2, 13th June 2009: Sarahan – Sangla – Kalpa

"The map is not the territory"

Only after getting up and going out of my room did I realize how beautiful this place was. It was already dark when we came. It was sunny and we were on the top of a hill, with the beautiful Bhimakali temple at the centre of this setting. Went to the temple and could not help but be surprised at the great architecture of the place. Had breakfast in the canteen and started for Sangla.
The road was in good shape and had these huge rock cut outcrops that scare you sometime.

Road to Kinnaur

And unlike the Kullu valley, which is flat, this valley of the river Sutlej is very deep and we came across nauseatingly deep gorges on our way. About 10 kms of the road is in bad shape because of the Baspa 2 project, from Wangtu till Karchham. Went to Powari first to fill up and then came back and started for Sangla. The view was mesmerizing.

Sangla Valley

We made up our mind that we would stay the night at Sangla rather than going to Kalpa, so beautiful was the place. After booking a room at the HPKV’s MAREC (Mountain Agriculture Research and Extension Center) at Sangla we continued to Chitkul, the last Village of India here, before the china border.


The views were some of the best of this trip with running streams of water, lush green alpine surroundings and snow covered mountains.

Chitkul village

Spent about and hour and half at chitkul, went to the local deity’s temple and roamed around a bit. Saw the famous ‘Hindustan ka Akhri Dhaba’ which was sadly closed and came back.

The small downpour made weather much more beautiful, retired for the night at the newly built guest house. We were the only ones staying.

Our Rest house at MAREC

Day 3, 14th June 2009: Sangla – Tabo

"Maggi, Kazigs and Chandigarh"

After a good night’s sleep and resting the tired body I wake up to these enchanting views from my window. I and sandy discussed as to why people shoot movies in foreign locales, these scenes were as good as any.

The view from my window - Sangla

Had a quick breakfast, clicked some pics and started for Peo, our first stop. Peo was important because we had to search for a memory card for our camera. We ended up having just a 256MB card in our camera by mistake. Which meant just 70 pics before we had to find a computer to transfer pics? That was a screw up and we didn’t know whom to blame. Reached Peo and realized its Sunday. Still some guys there helped us to a shop and we got our hands on a 1 GB card (thank god). Started for Pooh, agreed upon as major stop on our way for lunch. But decided will stop for each and every good photo opp. The road is as good as any despite some landslide damages here and there. Crossed major villages of Akpa, Moorang and Spillo. Spillo had a International Police check post, got our bikes entered in the records.

Inner line starts here and foreign national are required to travel with a permit. We were already hungry when we reached Pooh, but since the village is a 4 kms detour from the NH, we decided to continue.

By now the scenery had dramatically changed from lush green to barren rocks.
Had lunch of Maggi at a small village of Dubling which had a dhaba.

Maggi masala

Continued to Khab, it had a small Bailey Bridge which runs above the confluence of Spiti river and Sutlej, which comes to India from Pare chhu lake in Tibet. After Khab the road amazed us, the loopy ‘Kazigs’ were amazing.

We gained about 5000 ft of altitude in just 20 kms. Felt a heavy breath for the first time, even after walking a few paces. We were now continuously riding on top of the mountains, everything seemed dwarfed and we could look into the eyes of high mountain summits next to us. It had a surreal feel to it. Visited the Nako Lake which is just a Kilometer of detour from the NH, the lake and the meadow though not very beautiful is still not worth a miss. In typical himachali fashion the village had a restaurant catering to Israeli visitors.

Nako village

Continued towards Sumdo and then to Tabo. Crossed the Notorious Malling Nullah on the way, which thankfully was behaving ok. Passed the Orchard rich village of Chango and reached Sumdo. Sumdo marks the end of NH 22, the Hindustan Tibet Marg, and also of district Kinnaur. The village also has a Police check post for passing vehicles, being a border area. NH continues to Kaurik, 17 kms from here. We started towards Tabo, entering Spiti Valley on SH 30, and following river Spiti from now on.
The first village in Spiti, Hurling scared me. The tea at a shop there was awful, seemed to have been made by anything but cow’s milk. Sandy jokingly asked the shop owner if it was Yak’s milk, but the guy insisted its Cow’s and I kept praying that the tea after this one in Spiti is bearable and also that people of the region don’t feed their cows with Tibetan delicacies.
Reached the darkish town of Tabo at 7 PM after passing orchard village of Lari. Tabo was dark because it was the second day of no electricity there. The caretaker at the HPPWD rest house, where we stayed, was so cool about it. Took a walk through the Tabo village and monastery, now closed, clicked some pictures, played some cricket with the Lama kids playing on the Helipad and retired for the day early. Still we were the only occupants of this rest house.

What?? Chandigarh

Tabo Village

Cricket with the little monks

Day 4, 15th June 2009: Tabo – Dhankar – Kaza

"When in doubt, ask the Lama"

Early in the morning after breakfast of Aalu Parathas, we went to see the 1100 year old Tabo Monastery. The famous monastery and cultural center of the medieval times, an important post of Indo- Tibetan trade ties in the past and host to a vast treasure of some of the Buddhism’s most famous, most revered and least understood art and manuscript collection. Tabo always made me curious. The mud structures made some 1100 years ago under the supervision of ‘The great translator’ Rin Chen Tzangpo, are intact, very less to no rains in this area have made sure the structures are not damaged. There are 7 temples in all in the complex and not all are open to visitors. We saw the Temple of Enlightened Gods and Boddhisatva Maitreya temple as well as the main assembly hall. Old structure and poor lighting made it a bit intimidating experience. The temples has beautiful murals and idols, some of them 1500 years old. After this enriching experience we left Tabo for Dhankar, Batteries of our phones and camera drained.

The 1100 years old Monastery complex

Dhankar is set on a hillock away from the main Tabo – Kaza highway. The approach to the village is beautiful, one can see the Dhankar fort and monastery complex from each corner and the anticipation makes the experience more fulfilling. Had to walk to the fort after parking our bikes and the thin air and low oxygen made it excruciating. The fort is very old, Dhankar used to be the capital of old Spiti kingdom. Also had a small Chapel with a Maitreya idol, took some pics here and continued to Lahlung, as suggested by the caretaker at Tabo rest house.

Dhankar fort and village

The road to Lahlung from Dhankar is not for the weak hearted. There is a link road from the main highway as well but we thought of doing some daredevilry. It’s a unmetteled road, as close to a Mule path as it could get. Splattered with stones and just for a single file. On each corner I could gaze into a 1000 + feet deep gorge below. Somehow we joined the link road and reached Lahlung. It’s a small village of just 110 souls, though one of the biggest villages in Spiti area wise. The village features a small Buddhist temple made in the same night as Tabo. We moved around and as we were asking for directions, the Headmaster of the local school (yes there is a school there) asked us in. The guy was from Kangra and it was his 6th year here, obviously he had no other time pass that day but to offer us black tea and chat up. The school is till 8th class and has 12 students. According to the teachers, the village folks are rich owing to the fact that they have a bumper pea crop every year. After saying our thanks and goodbye to the school staff we moved back on the same road towards Kaza.

Road to Lahlung from Dhankar

Lahlung Chapel

Lahlung Village

We joined the main State highway at Lingti and continued to Kaza. Reached there by lunch time. After parking ourselves in the plush Circuit House, we moved to see Kibber village and Kye monastery, not very far from Kaza. Kibber is the highest village in the world at 14000 ft. A fairly large village with 227 residents, a small market and a senior secondary school. Roamed around the village and the surrounding meadows a bit and continued downhill to Kye Monastery, Kye is a wonderful monument, perched upon a hillock, it served more of a fortress for Spiti than a center of Socio-religious importance. We clicked some amazing pics here since the whole greater Spiti valley is visible from its roof. The Lama there gave us a great guided tour of the monastery and answered many of my questions about Buddhism and its sects.

Gateway into Kaza

Kibber village

From the Kye Monastery rooftop

Lama at kye

We came back to Kaza early and since there was no electricity, Sandy had to use his SBI links to get into the bank so that we could charge our camera battery and also phones (they still would not be in use for 2 more days though). Roamed around the modest market and went back to the circuit house. While having dinner, lights came on, happy times, had first hot shower in 2 days and slept peacefully.

Day 5, 16th June 2009: Kaza – Chandratal lake via Kunzam pass

"Never trust the mountains"

Started early from Kaza, after a round in the market for food provisions and stuff we could need while camping in the Chandratal meadows. The roads towards Kunzam was good, we could see the Kye monastery from the road till a good while. The snowy mountains were coming nearer and nearer.

Riding towards Losar

Road to Losar

We decided to buy some woolens from Losar, last village in Spiti from this side and our stop for lunch. Reached Losar at around 12 mid day and by now had seen snow on the road atleast twice. We thought we would freeze at Kunzam, its over 600 m taller than Rohtang. Bought a woolen muffler each from Losar and had lunch of Rajma rice. Got our bikes entered in the police checkpost registered for the 3rd time in the trip. Bought some more stuff for the night and continued.

From Losar to Kunzam Pass

The road from here on is unmettled, but okay to ride, Kunzam about 19 km from Losar was reached in less than an hour. It was bright and sunny at the top, very less snow and beautiful. The part of the itinerary we were so scared off, was done with effortless comfort.

Temple at the summit

Everything seemed to fall in place, we took the customary round of the Kunzam Devi temple on the summit on our bikes and then continued downhill towards the road that branches off to Chandratal. After coming down a few Kilometers I saw the road branching off, we hit it. Though not a smooth ride, it was ok, till things started to get bad, there was a landslide on the way and hence we had to park our bikes and continue on foot. 10 meters of landslide screwed us for 8 long kilometers. We walked and walked, the weather by now had taken an unexpected turn for the worse. I could see some snow flakes on my black colored warmer.

Sign of a bad weather

By the time we reached Chandratal, the light snow shower had turned into a full-fledged blizzard. We found it extremely hard to install our tent in the on going snowstorm. Somehow we managed it and by that time everything including our bags were fully wet. We realized that we could not survive the night here in this snowstorm and extreme cold with just a tent and 2 thin sleeping bags. After about an hour or so when it became dark outside and the snow still continued in full flow, we started regretting the decision to continue on foot to this place. We were trapped, we surely could not survive here nor can we go back, the bikes were 8 kms away. Visibility outside was negligible. By the time I almost lost hope and was praying for a miracle that seemed very improbable, we heard someone whistling outside. Luckily this time we were not the only ones staying here. It was a guy from the DMAS (Directorate of Mountaineering & Allied Sports) in Manali, who were taking a trek to Baralacha, we found that they had camped right next to us. We were saved. The guy helped us with our tent and we had piping hot coffee in their mess tent. The guys were so reassuring they made us almost forget the fact that if it was not for them, we could have just frozen by morning. They guided us to, surprise surprise, a makeshift dhaba that comes up in Chandratal every June till September. The Dhaba wala was very friendly and very helpful, we sat in his tent for couple of hours, shared stories of mountains and legends of the lake, over tea, Old Monk and chips. The guys there helped us with mattresses and blankets and we could not stop thanking them. Very important lessons learnt “Never trust the mountain weather” and “In the mountains, money doesn’t matter, people do”.

Snowfall continues

Day 6, 17th June 2009: Chandratal – Kullu via Manali

"What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger"

Thankfully came the morning, though after getting all those blankets and confidence boosting assurances we didn’t worry at all. Clicked some pics of the mighty Chandratal and the surroundings, now covered with snow.

Our tent at Chandratal

The Moon Lake

Chandratal from a Distance

Heartily thanked God for saving us. After a cup of hot tea at the Dhaba wala’s tent, we set off on the 8 km walk back to the place we parked our bikes. It had snowed for the first time in 10 years in June at Chandratal, we were contemplating whether to call ourselves lucky or otherwise. The Dhaba wala did not charge us for anything, that made us even more thankful of his efforts. After thanking him profusely we left.
We reached the bikes, after a good one and a half hour of walk, mind you, one cannot walk fast there, its almost 4300 meters and the air is very thin.
Set off for Battal, 4 kms away, the place that has just 2 dhabas and no settlement. Had a breakfast of Paranthas, which tasted like heaven especially after last nights endeavors. The snowy mountains started getting more closer to us and the wind more chilly. The road now turned to worse, actually there was no road, we were riding on gravel and through gushing streams of water. Gramphoo was planned as the next stop, where we expected the road to be better and where we enter the civilization again. It was a good 51 kms from Battal and the growing wind velocity and traces of dark clouds on the sky didn’t help.

Road towards Rohtang

We kept going and going, managing just 10 kms or so per hour. About 5 kms before Gramphoo, the downpour started, we reached there and parked ourselves in a roadside tea shop, waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t for about 2 hours. Rohtang pass is just 15 kms from here and we hear the chatter from some folks that it has just been closed. Freak, our luck was not getting any better. After 3 rounds of tea and a hot maggi, the weather smiled a bit on us, and so did the BRO. Rohtang was open and we didn’t waste anytime getting on our bikes. The sheer horror of having to spend another night this side of the pass was enough to get us going. The road was the baddest I had ever encountered. Running streams, deep puddles of icy, muddy water, 2 feet snow on both sides and heavy traffic coming towards you, it took us 90 minutes to do the 15 km stretch. We were the only ones who crossed Rohtang into Manali that day, it was shut down for 15 hours after we crossed, it had snowed there in June after 11 years. We were extremely lucky to get through. It was hellishly cold and heavy wind blowing, the idea of getting some pics clicked on the summit never even occurred to us. We kept going towards Manali, encountered countless landslides and it took us another 90 minutes to do the 15 kms to Marhi. After 2 rain stops and 2 hours we reached Manali. It was still raining but we decided to continue to Kullu, which was dry. Reached Kullu at 08:30 in the night, after a long and tiring ride. Had a big home cooked dinner, a long hot bath and crashed.

Day 7, 18th June: Kullu – Home

"East or West …………"

Started from Kullu late, after a good night’s sleep and a heavy breakfast. It was hot unlike the rest of the trip. The gradient in temperature as well as elevation was huge within 24 hours of last day. Went to see a temple on our way back at Nau, a small village about 8 kms from the National highway enroute Mandi.
Me and Sandy said good bye at Mandi, he continued to Palampur and I towards home for Bilaspur.
Reached home in the evening after a brief stop at Sundernagar.
3 days of rejuvenation and catching up on sleep follow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Buddhism question

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
- Buddha

One big question I always ask myself is - Who was I in my previous life?? (Non-believers please ignore)
Why am I so smitten with and so attracted to Buddhism??
Why do I spend countless hours reading translated Buddhist scripts and about Monks??
Why is the Tibetan freedom thing so close to my heart??
Why the idea of tourism for me is a place having monasteries that I can visit??

Let me try to answer some of these myself.

When I was a kid and a very well behaved at that, one Baba ji once told my mom that your son was a Sadhu (sage) in his previous life and that explains him being so well behaved, even-tempered and detached. May be, just may be I was not a Hindu sage but a Buddhist one, who knows.

My trip to Spiti is happening because, apart from being a place of exceptional beauty, Spiti is home to Buddhism in Himachal. With 1000-year-old monasteries to the most exquisite Buddhist wall paintings, the place is dotted with places of rich Buddhist history. Almost all of such places are on my Itinerary.

Since the day I started going around with my Girlfriend, most of out getaways and weekend trips happened to be to nearby monasteries, where we would sit and chat for hours.

Can someone guide me towards an enlightenment, can someone tell me why all this?
Why Buddhism, why not the religion I was born with?
I have huge respect for everything that’s Hindu, but still draw immense joy reading Buddhism. The picture of Buddha, the peaceful figurine provide something of an inner charm to me, I can’t help but keep looking at that face, like something I remember from some other lifetime. I try to emulate the mannerism of the monks going about their business in monastic setting.

Apart from researching about and documenting each and every temple in Himachal with a ‘Devta’ story attached, one thing I would like to do is visiting and documenting each and every Buddhist Monastery that exist in my state.
I don’t know why I would like to do this but it feels like my Life’s purpose.

I hope sooner or later I would find at least some of my questions answered. Till then I am looking for hints (and sometimes pulling them out of thin air, lol)
May be I have too much time at hand.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Big Chill (really)

Sunday was a gastronome’s field day. After a late morning breakfast of Aalu ka Parathas (what else on a Sunday), headed to Eatopia at the IHC, for some good lunch. The place was buzzing as always, seems people in this part of Delhi do not usually cook on Sundays as the place is always packed and finding a place to sit is difficult.
I had my order decided well in advance, Kadi – Chawal, Rajma – Chawal. Tinki and Kanav complied. Order was placed and we started checking the people out (watching people eat is the world’s best known appetizer and we surely had huge portions).
Food was amazingly spicy as always and I loved it, the round was complete with a Chocolate Tiramisu.
I dragged myself out of the place (literally) and was unable to walk straight, my belly protruding and the belt on my jeans protesting. Drove for another 1 hour or so, before heading to our next destination, again to have something to eat.

Café Big Chill is located in the Posh, Expat frequented Khan Market. It was my first time to the area and Man, was I impressed?
The place was a welcome breather from the general hoopla of the city Malls and thankfully the number of pretty faces around was statistically more significant. Big Chill was located in a quaint gully, and looked quite unassuming, only from the outside.
The place was as happening from the inside as the legend said it would be, the walls were covered with posters of yesteryear’s Hollywood blockbusters with special emphasis on Audrey Hepburn.
The most spoken about thick shakes were ordered in every variety, whose name sounded yummy, and yummy they were. Shakes were slurped off in matter of minutes before we smelled and the café guy confirmed that they also contained raw eggs. The damage had already been done. We moved on to other stuff on the huge menu card before the guilt had set in. The Lebanese mini mezze was great, a good healthy alternative to anything else on the menu card. Big chill impressed me, especially the kind of crowd there, would surely return (and would make sure I don’t eat before I head there).
Took a complete round of the Khan market after that and spotted vehicles of every luxury and sports make that I had every heard off. More embarrassing was the fact that the parking guy had to move atleast 5 luxury cars (3 of them in the 50 lakh plus bracket), so that I could move my 3 year old Indica out of there.

Would come back soon, preferably at Rush hour time ;)


Monday, June 8, 2009

Fakey City..

Delhi is a city of whatever superlatives are there for the word big. You can easily travel 50-60 kms of non-metro routes in any part of India in the time that you take to cover 15 kms in Delhi.
And, last weekend I traveled almost 200 kms, within city limits, now try calculating the time I spent behind the wheel.
Saturday was spent in the by-lanes of Karol Bagh. I took my bike there for an overhaul, having heard that the place is a Mecca for auto spares. No doubt the work done on my bike for 4 hours by that experienced hand (who after every split second was showering the shop owner with choicest desi gaalis) was speaking for itself, the bike felt almost new.
But, the one thing that took me by surprise was the fact that Karol bagh had a fake substitute for each and every product I asked for, even mineral water. Every auto part, mobile phone or accessory, branded clothes, sun glasses, Iphones, DVDs, VCDs, bags, shoes, TVs and even plastic versions of Ipods were available and a fake product for each price point. Interesting stuff is that the business is booming, the markets are full and people love the Fake alternatives.
I had to check and recheck the authenticity of each spare part and according to the criticality of the stuff I was asking for, my order would be either ‘Original’ or ‘local chalega’.

I was thinking about the strange but lucrative business of Fake products when my next stop happened, and by coincidence it was the Notorious, Palika Bazaar, the home of Indian fake product industry. You cant help but be amazed by the stuff you see there, Generally a popular stop for fake DVDs and electronics, the place also boast of some amazing variety in clothing. I was flabbergasted looking at clothes, with tags from companies, which are yet to open shop in India. I bought myself Hollister shorts, for 300 bucks (initial price quoted, 750). Almost the same design that Beckham was wearing in one of his pics, and Hollister is yet to open a shop here. So is the story with Levis, and Wrangler and many designer labels (you could easily spot, bags and clothing with labels like D&G, Prada, Gucci, Versace and Tommy).
But the reality is no one is complaining, in fact the place is so full on weekends that you start feeling claustrophobic. And, then there are the touts and over zealous sales persons, don’t even dare to look them in the eye while walking, or they would chase you down the corridor, yelling the USP of their products and every time you say no, the price would start going down 30%. The guy at one electronic store did all he could to convince me that the Rs 100 “original” ipod earphones are great and that “if you open the ipod case, the packing inside is the same”, phew.

I just wonder how big is the ‘must be thriving’ fake products industry here and how keen is the junta, to flaunt their Palika bought Gucci Sandals or a Armani trouser.