So we finally got into the heart of Agra and started roaming around the Taj Mahal’s vicinity to find accommodation for the night. I noticed a board in Bengali which read ‘Ek matra Bangaali restaurant’. We all felt nostalgic looking at the pictures of Bong delicacies that adorned the hoarding. We decided to have our dinner there. The name of the place was funny though – ‘Eating Meeting’. When we got down, an aged person (Uncle) spoke to us in Bengali and asked where we were staying. When we told him that we are yet to find an accommodation, he offered to take us to a lodge where he can bargain a deal for us. Abbas and Bhaiyya went out with him and we ordered some food. We were fultoo excited to hog on some home food. (At times like these, I actually doubt my Konkani origins when Bong cuisine can pump the adrenaline in my system to a high) We ordered plain rice, dal, Alu Bhaja. I asked the waiter, how many pieces would be served in a plate of Begun Bhaja (Brinjal Fry) to which he answered 12. I insisted on ordering it. When food was served, we laughed too hard looking at the food on the table. Alu Bhaja was a meager number of French fries and Begun Bhaja had precisely 12 pieces but they were too thin that a fine mandolin could be put to shame compared to the skills of the person who cut those pieces.
Abbas and Bhaiyya came back by that time. They had found 2 double bed rooms in some Hotel Sagar. They looked at the food we were nibbling and said – “Are you ladies crazy? Why are you eating vegetarian food here too?” As expected they ordered Fish Fry and Fish curries. We didn’t like the food at all there. Although it was not that bad, our high expectations had turned the experience sour.
When we reached Hotel Sagar, we didn’t like the rooms AT ALL. But the men weren’t left with much option anyway. All we had to do was to spend 6-8 hours there. In the morning, we couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Later on, we got to know that the Bengali Uncle had actually hyped the actual price of the rooms and made it all appear as if it was an act of kindness. Well, only food could make us feel better. LOL. We hit a restaurant opposite our hotel. It was ‘Munna Lal Mithai Wale’. The sight of hot hot puris, kachoris and jalebis being fried right in front of our eyes and their TRP booster slogan – “Everything made of desi ghee” attracted us like a magnet. We had yummilicious breakfast of Puri, Halwa, Lauki ki Sabzi, Raita, Kachori and Gulab Jamuns. Everything smelled of Pure Ghee undeniably. From there we started off to see Taj Mahal.
We had to park Tulu far away. While we were cribbing about the long walk, an autowala(AW) come into view. He offered to drop us at the Main Entrance Gate for 50 bucks. Surprisingly, the entire family squeezed into the auto. It was a 5 min ride. There was a small market where we got dropped. The AW warned us not to buy anything from there as they were going to cheat us. He said he could take us to the famous ‘Meena Bazaar’ when we returned. We bought his idea with gratitude and noted down his number. I had seen Taj Mahal as a child but this time it appeared yellow to my bare eyes. Although in the pics, it appears to be white, what we witnessed in person was yellow tinted.
We spent a lot of time there clicking pics and we visited Mumtaz’s mausoleum. Apparently, as heard from a guide, the original coffin is placed somewhere underground and the one displayed was fake. But we were not sure about the authenticity of the statement. We were tired by the time we left and had almost decided not to enter the Agra Fort. Meena Bazaar was echoing in my head and I couldn’t wait to go there. On the way back, I was tempted to enter the market that the AW had forbidden us from. On top glance, the goods there were appealing and prices were dirt cheap too. But the enticement of getting them at further cheaper rates at Meena Bazaar took over and we hopped into the same auto yet again.
The guy stopped us at a Handicrafts Emporium and claimed it to be Meena Bazaar. I could’ve banged his head then. Were we so naïve that people cheated us so easily? Abbas and Bhaiyya bought some Agra famous Petha from an adjacent sweat meet shop and that was it. No shopping done in Agra. Grrrr….
We took a round of Agra Fort and saw it’s exteriors. We were in no mood to enter it as a lot of walking needed to be done. We set off to get back home. We saw a huge Jain Temple on the way. Tulu stopped next only at a highway Dhaba for lunch. We had some tongue tingling fare there. Paneer Butter Masala. Dum Aloo, Gobi Masala, Kulcha and Butter Naan. Both Mantam did potty there in between the meals. Abbas got up first for Tammu and by the time he came back I had to go with Mannu. We ended it with hot Ginger Tea made on special request. Bhabi drove Tulu from there for a long time.
When we finally reached Gurgaon, we stopped by a humongous fish market in Sikandarpur area. We picked up crabs on special request by Ummi, Seer fish and some Katla. We reached home at around 9 PM. Bhaiyya mopped the house while Abbas freshened kids up. Bhabi and I took charge of the kitchen. We made Rice, Dal, Alu Bharta and Fish Fry. Ah! With satisfied tummies, we retired for the day!
Travel tales completed at this point. But I will have one more post to cover rest of our stay there. Will post it on Monday! Leaving you all with numerous pics…