On Day two of traveling I arrived at Nagpur City at 2.20 am – the airline staff neglected to give me an immigration form so that was the first thing I had to do. The airport was small but it didn’t take to long to get through or wouldn’t have done if there were not some curious things about my passport which I won’t cover here. But this is unusual and I would envisage no issues normally. Customs were very friendly but as I mentioned in part one, wanted to know about and examined ALL my kit.
When I got through to the other side there was a driver from the hotel with my name on a card plus the city guide and driver. They explained that as I might have been worried at just meeting a driver from the hotel, for added security they were there with official identities / paperwork. Wow – that was the first inkling that the attention to detail already displayed by Audley Travel stretched right down to their subcontractors.
I was quickly driven to the Tuli Hotel – described as a boutique hotel and it was. Furnished with hardwood furniture and sumptuous fabrics it was as you would imagine a palace to be furnished. The bathroom was big with a drench shower and roll top bath. Plus the hotel had a rooftop swimming pool. Once checked in the City Guide suggested a collection time for part one of the city tour (11am) and I eventually crashed out with the alarm on for 9am. Breakfast was a mix of European and Indian food with plenty of fruit – but best of all was the newspaper – the Nagpur Times waiting in a holder outside my room. A great way to start getting to grips with India.
The City Guide and Driver arrived on time and we set off through the traffic to the first stop – the Deeksha Bhoomi. This commemorates Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s return to Buddhism, his horror of the Caste Systems and his resulting construction of the Indian Constitution in 1956. The temple is also a Monks Seminary. The Temple was clean and calm but incongruously had CCTV over the alter with a laptop behind showing people at prayer.
Here, I was asked to remove my shoes and leave them at a small kiosk, but I could leave my socks on. Cameras are not to be used inside the temple. This was were I was introduced to the selfie craze – everyone wanted a selfie with me – it was no hassle to take part but I did wonder about how it would be explained on social media. And this was just the start of the very OTT selfie regime that I exerienced all through my trip ( I reciprocated with family pictures / portraits which seemed to fullfill my part of the process.
Next on the tour was the Zero Mile Stone which marks the geographical centre of colonial India. The stone has distances to other towns marked on it and has four carved horses to the side. This is on a small patch of land in the middle of a busy traffic system – a short lense is best -not the long one I had unpacked in error.
The final stops for the morning were two Hindu temples where I removed shoes and then washed my hands and feet. Again – the shoes were left with an attendant in a kiosk – take a small flannel to dry your feet when you reverse the process to leave! These two temples were overflowing with friendliness – I was given so much food from people who had very little. (I redistributed it outside the temple gates to people the guide advised were genuinely in need). I wasn’t able to photograph the interior but it was beautiful with plenty of flowers and colour for each God and everyone was smiling. I also saw new vehicles coming to be blessed (all decorated with marigold garlands). In a previous existence I watched the Indian Ambassador decorate the nose of a Harrier Jump Jet with a similar garland when India took delivery at the BAE factory
After this I was given the option of lunch at a hotel or back to my own – the vision of the roof top pool and very large circular loungers guided this decision – easy. It was a wrench to go and get changed for the afternoon tour but it was worth it with a visit to two Mosques where the culture was entirely different.
Shoes off and left with an attendant or just outside for the second poorer Mosque. The first Mosque ( Bohra Masjid Mosque) was surrounded by a large market selling food and some household stuff – again very colourful and atmospheric. The food smells were entrancing but with a 6 hours drive ahead of me the next day I took no chances with hygiene. It was very busy and is used as a community centre – there were goats and people seling things as well as praying. There were also seperate queues for men and women – here my large scarf was usefull as a cover up to respect local culture .
The second was mosque was just over 100 years old and being rebuilt so it was a bit chaotic. Similar queues for men and women but it did seem a bit more personal. On the way back to the hotel we saw a Buddhist Wedding procession – identified by the guide – everyone in white and with a white horse. An interesting day and a great introduction to the different facets of India – I was back as it got dark , in time for dinner and an early night