Waiting at Bikaner House, Delhi

Guest article by Tushar Shukla.

Day 23 (V) ~ #BlogchatterA2Z

All artwork is done by Seema Misra, Copyright Lonely Canopy.

#BlogchatterA2Z posts:

A , B , C , D , E , F , G , H , I , J , K , L , M , N , O , P , Q , R , S , T , U , V , W , X , Y , Z

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As a kid of 10 years, I have faint memories of Bikaner House. We used to hear these words often- Sarai Kaley Khan, ISBT Kashmiri Gate, Dhaula Kuan when we used to go to Delhi by a “Semi deluxe” bus from Jaipur. Back in the 90s, going to Delhi was quite the in thing to do for us. The whole experience was well anticipated and planned. Reaching the Jaipur Sindhi Camp bus stand, leisurely watching the travelers from the seats outside close to the ticket counter, walking up to the water cooler, buying an apple juice or comic books (Chacha Chaudhary, Raj Comics) from the magazine vendor stalls. Then as our bus would get ready for boarding, we would load up our baggage in the rear compartment, and proudly board the bus. For the rest of the night, we would be on this magic ride to the city of India Gate & Lal Killa- Dilli!

One stop we eagerly looked forward to was the midway stop at Behror. I would get down sleepy eyed around 1:30 or 2 AM at the stop and run to the cafeteria there to find the ultimate object of desire, a hot piping bowl of Sambhar Vada. This was the north Indian version of sambhar with lots of coriander spice with a larger than life vada dunked carelessly in it, but for us, it was the stuff that dreams are made of. The goal was to finish it within 10 mins before the bus started again. In the odd chance of the driver being kind to us and waiting a little longer, we would even buy an espresso coffee and check out the savvy shops around, selling magazines, chocolates and cassette tapes of English music.

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A few hours later, we would enter Delhi through Gurgaon. Delhi had this foggy smoky air, and in those times, it used to feel like we have really arrived at someplace transformative. The broad roads, a line of trees, fast moving vehicles, people who sported a look of menace and smoldering indifference, distinct neighborhoods and suburbs with quirky names. We would get down at Dhaula Kuan most of the times, and catch an auto from the impossible hordes of auto drivers fighting over us at this wee morning hour.

After we were done exploring Delhi, we would head to Bikaner House to catch the return bus. Bikaner House was automatically a hallowed place, as it was within the viewing distance of India Gate. Pandara Road was the name of the street. Our auto would get us there through the perfectly geometrical and concentric street patterns of Lutyens’ Delhi with beautiful monuments, buildings and statues, lots of them. Roads were emptier with fewer shops. In those days, seeing “Nayi Dilli” scribbled over shops used to fill my stomach with all kinds of butterflies.

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Bikaner House was a posh bus stand, that never looked like a bus stand. It was an administrative building surrounded by many other administrative buildings. The waiting room had an AC, quite a feat back then, and even a water cooler. Much later they, installed a TV as well. We bought the ticket at the counter, and then did what we were destined to do – wait. Waiting at Bikaner House was a luxury, listening to the Walkman, reading a magazine, checking out other travelers with the judgmental eyes of a pre-teen, it was all that I ever wanted in a trip. I never wanted the bus to arrive but it did, and we would board it and bid farewell to Bikaner House, with a promise to see it again soon.

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While reading up on this building, which has had a storied past, I was happy to find out that the recent restoration taken up by the Rajasthan government. Much of the damage caused by the neglect and abuse it suffered due to the bus boarding activity has been addressed. The house has been restored to the glory it enjoyed as the residence of the maharajah of Bikaner. Now, a hep cultural center, its Facebook page boasts of the high-society events.

Before it goes through any more changes, I would love to revisit Pandara Road, and sit at Bikaner House, and just wait….

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45 thoughts on “Waiting at Bikaner House, Delhi

  1. Loved the way you have described Lutyen’s Delhi. Belonging to old Delhi, my Delhi outings were limited to the central (Chandni Chowk, Connaught Place, India Gate for the ice cream and picnics, Old Delhi Rly Station, Karol Bagh) and north Delhi (Model Town, north campus, etc). Though I have seen ISBT and Kashmiri Gate, I have not explored these areas.

    1. Thanks. Those were the days. 🙂
      We have had a mixed bag of memories, from living in the Haryana highway type Rohtak Road/Paschim Vihar and the relatively posh Vasant Vihar down south to roaming in the typical daily sightseeing tours(Lotus Temple, Pragati Maidan, the museums, the ghats). Then visiting relatives in Shahdara and NOIDA(much later), and seeing the other side of Yamuna. Then the shopping side of Delhi- Palika, Karol Bagh, Sarojini, Kamla Nagar, Nehru Place. And how can I forget having the tastiest alu chats in Connaught Place, and the milk shakes of Keventers…

        1. Nirulas! The place where I ever had a pizza for the first time. It used to feel so posh and dreamy back then. Saravanan Bhavan I guess I hadn’t been specifically in Delhi but remember falling in love with a Rava dosa at Udupi restaurant in Nehru Place.

    1. Thanks, for dropping by. I’ve stayed for about 8 months in Delhi. However, I haven’t been to Bikaner house. These are my husband’s experiences; Just illustrated them 😀

      I’ll check out your post for W 🙂

  2. Seema, your post is so nostalgic. I was a regular at Bikaner House once. I just loved the vibe and those dreamy Volvo buses, But now its been ages I travelled to Jaipur by bus. Haven’t been to Bikaner House since years. I was told by my brother that a lot has changed now. Beautiful artwork.

    1. Wow … nice to know. There’s always something magical about railway stations, interstate bus depos, and airports – the anticipation of new things I guess.

      I haven’t seen Bikaner house … just illustrated based on my husband’s experiences.

    2. Yes, at one time Volvo buses used to feel so special. Now I travel everyday to work in it and see the traffic jams from a small elevation. I haven’t done the Jaipur-Delhi bus thing in ages too. I think last I went must have been 8-10 yrs ago. In those days 6 hrs overnight travel used to be a big thing, we used to plan for it like we are going on a pilgrimage. The one item I used to be most excited about was my walkman.

      1. Yah … walkman and later the cd version of it. I remember listening to Norah Jones while travelling from Bangalore to Bhubaneswar in train.

        The longest bus journeys have been the ones I made to and from Bombay. Doubt my body can stand that torture now!!

  3. I have never been to bikaner house. But your description is so clear and artwork is so nice. I can visualise the bus stand, the magazines, and everything!

  4. Wow, this is why I love blogging and seeing posts from people all over the world. Love the nostalgia here. It’s something every person, whoever they are, holds inside. Seeing this makes me feel knowing people is a privilege. So much news is negative and yet most of us are very similar inside.

    Really enjoyed reading this and…you did the artwork too? I’m very impressed. It fits the post totally. Very gifted person methinks!

    And thank you for dropping into my blog. I might have missed this otherwise!

    1. I’m so glad you liked reading this post. I love illustrating travel stories and hope to compile these into an eBook sometime soon.

      Nice meeting you through this blogging challenge. Stay in touch 🙂

      1. I think that’s a great idea. I’m always envious of illustrators as that’s one thing I’m just no good at! I followed your blog so keeping in touch should be easier now too 😊

    1. I hate waiting for buses too, but if the waiting room has a character and facilities like this one, I would sit there for hours. I love sitting at the airport though.

  5. Love the descriptions of Bikaner House! It sounds like a perfect place to spend a day people watching, reading, and hoping for a late bus. I am not sure if I would go back to visit as an adult. So many locations in our childhood memories seem different and less grand when we visit them years later.
    Emily In Ecuador

  6. Oh this post brought back similar memories and I can account for each of them with my personal ones too. We used to live in Jaipur during my initial growing up years and this was a trip most looked out for. I used to love sleeping in the bus and feel very grown up and cosmopolitan 😉
    Bikaner house is one place where I have been meaning to go and check out its new Avatar with a gallery and everything – this post reminds me I should do it soon!

    W is for Wildings #atozchallenge

    1. Oh that’s nice to hear! Yes, it certainly was the posh thing to do and speak about. At that time the layers of richness and wealth weren’t so complex I guess, and simple pleasures uses to make the cut for “lifestyle” or “luxury”, much like dining out. I even remember the video coach buses that we would take from Delhi to Hardwar or Mussourie, used to be so much fun. I still remember some of the films I ve seen in those, like Blackmail and Do Chor.

  7. Seema,

    I apologize for the late visit. Weekends are generally time away from Blogosphere and the Internet in general. I have much catching up to do today. Your accompanying sketches are always a delight to illustrate your point. I marveled a bit thinking that when you were 10 you liked drinking Espresso. The only way I can drink Espresso is in a latte as it’s usually too strong to suit me. However, my husband enjoys a good Espresso. Thanks for sharing some of your childhood memories and I hope you’re able to revisit Bikaner House and Pandora Road again.

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch ‘W’ Water Glass

    1. Thanks Cathy … I’ve always preferred to skip the sugar and milk in tea and coffee. For as long as I can remember. If the Espresso is too strong I opt for Americano.

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you had a fun weekend 🙂

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