I lived in Delhi for almost a decade. About six years back, I bid a bitter-sweet farewell to the city that I had known to call home and which had taught me the ways of the world that I, a small-town girl, was quite unaware of. I came to Delhi as a naïve dump of clay, and over ten years, it slowly transformed me to who I was to become.
A few months before I left Delhi, I went on a road trip to Ajmer with my friends, a trip that I had been planning for all the years I was there. They say only when He calls, shall it happen. Maybe there is a truth in that! I discovered over that one day that freedom of the soul is primary for peaceful survival. I discovered that in me was the strength to do and all I needed was a little faith in myself. And that He would take care of the rest.
A tale from about seven years back
After a gruelling and long week at work, waking up at three in the morning on a Saturday is quite a detestable idea to me. But on that particular Saturday morning, my friends and I stuffed our car with eatables and were on the National Highway 8 at four, driving into the daylight – towards God.
With all the repair work and widening of the roads, the Delhi-Jaipur highway has become quite a tireless drive. To add to this, the entire stretch is dotted with infinite little dhabas(roadside eating joints) for the adventurous as well as air conditioned eating joints and coffee houses for the elite. A little out of the city, we stopped at one such dhabaand watched the sun rise, sipping camel-milk coffee with buttered aloo paranthas. As we passed the countryside, we watched the world waking up to another day with sleepy eyes and determined dreams.
Around nine o’clock, just before Jaipur city, we turned right onto the Ajmer road to be amazed by the landscape that followed. The mighty Aravallis now travelled beside us. With negligible traffic and no honking cars, this stretch actually gives one a feeling of approaching godliness. Open roads and meadows, with the occasional rustic Rajasthani shepherd in dhoti,kundal,colourful turban and twirling moustache, continued to amaze us till we reached the outskirts of Ajmer in less than an hour.
As we drove into the city, the overt willingness of the local people to help us reach the Dargah stupefied our ‘big city’ sensibilities. Parking can be a problem sometimes if one wants to alight right outside the Dargah, but otherwise there is ample space for everyone. We covered our heads and began walking alongside the multitudinous believers, each with hope in the heart and a prayer on the lips.
A noble man from the shop where we bought a chadar and flowers and slipped out of our shoes accompanied us inside the Dargah. Probably every place of worship depicts faith, but here it encompasses all. A physically disabled baby in a pram or a mentally challenged boy tugging at his father’s shirt, everyone patiently awaits their turn to the inner sanctum.
The dargah is a very noisy place. Yet, how does one find peace? I cared not for the answer because I found my peace. We followed the kind man and entered the main shrine (Muslim women do not enter the inner sanctum), and we soaked in the surging positive energy and divinity in the midst of all the chanting.
Ajmer offers an old-world charm and places that bring history alive, but most believers like to directly head back home from the Dargah; the reason still unknown. We did the same. The touristy experiences were meant for some other time, and we mutually agreed.
It was well past mid-day, the sun was shining bright above us, and now with enough time to ourselves, we lounged in the meadows, shot some colourful Rajasthani men and had a relaxed lunch at an offbeat McDonald’s on the way. With the sun inching towards the west, we drove back to the city of Delhi.
On that Saturday, we drove more than 800 kilometres in less than 15 hours, stopping only for four hours in between. For the first time of a lifetime of road trips, not one bone of our bodies pleaded rest. In the hot month of June, coming back home, the only thing that we revelled in was ‘faith’.
Driving is the best way to reach Ajmer. The road is in perfect condition and is a smooth drive but the experience is one you will cherish always. The fields, shepherds in their colourful turbans and dhabasdotting almost the entire stretch guarantee not a single dull moment. If you leave before sunrise (which is actually the best time to leave the city), you can watch the spectacular sunrise while driving into daylight.
Dhabas! Try authentic food, especially the paranthas, lassi, and tea.
For The Eyes
On a day trip to Ajmer, visit the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Spend some time roaming the streets and market and enjoy a good meal (small roadside is the best) before heading back.
You can also plan a longer stay and visit Pushkar. Pushkar is a beautiful city only 15 kilometres from Ajmer and houses the famous Pushkar Lake, many temples and ghats. Do not forget to stop by at the only Brahma temple in the world.
There is a lot to see in Ajmer too. Spend an evening by the Ana Sagar Lake. Ajmer is an ancient town and the ruins are worth every traveller’s list. Interesting places worth going to include Akbar’s Palace, Adhai Din Ka Jhopda Mosque, and Clock Tower. Shopping is a blissful experience here and so is the food.
A version of this article is also published on Tripoto.