Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Visit to Thirupathi again with Ruchir!

July 28, 2015 - Tuesday
The last time we visited Thirupathi was exactly 8 years back (July 28th, 2007) when Pooja was just 7 months old. But we could not make a visit to Thirupathi eversince Ruchir came along, who is now 2 years and 3 months!

Soujanya made multiple attempts to get this trip planned out, but somehow it was not coming together. Basically, my interest levels were quite low considering my past experiences visiting Thirupathi. Memories of the unending queues, confinement in the closed cells, the bald heads goring my back evaded me all the time. 

But this time, I too needed a break and carved out some courage and took the plunge.

We booked our Travel online via KSRTC and Accommodation at Thirupathi a week in advance. Tried to get the online booking done for the darshan as well but the booking transactions failed due to network timeouts. So all of us presented ourselves physically at the TTD counter to get darshan tickets.

24th July, 2015 (Friday)
The 4 of us, my parents and Soujanya's parents boarded the Airavata Club Class to Thirupathi from KSRTC Bus Stand (Majestic). 

25th July, 2015 (Saturday)
Reached Thirupathi by about 5 AM and then headed straight to KVP Residency, a hotel we had booked with just a verbal confirmation over the phone. Thankfully it worked.

The rooms were just okay to survive, but definitely is not suggested for others. Service and amenities were pathetic.

After refreshing ourselves, we had a good breakfast and took the Private Bus to Thirumala by around 8:30 AM. Thankfully, the bus stand was at a walkable distance from the hotel. The bus was not crowded at all to my surprise.

We reached Thirumala by 9:30 AM, submitted our Cell Phones, Cameras and luggage bags at the 'Free' cloak room counters at Thirumala and got into the 'Speacial Darshan' Queue (Rs. 300 Queue). Even though our slot was at 12, the authorities couldn't care as long as we had tickets. 

Thirumala, this time of the year, seemed very comfortable and overcast with a mild cool breeze. Compared to previous times, the crowd in the queue was much well behaved and not that pushy. 

We started at round 10 AM and in about 1.5 hours, we were able to get the Darshan of Lord Venkateshwara!. Parents and In-Laws were overjoyed as we got a great view of the deity in all his glory, for a good amount of time and from a great vantage position.

The 'crowd-push' and the 'Security staff-pull' was very manageable and should be considered as an 'aberration' in comparison with the average statistics recorded in Thirumala. This probably could also be attributed to the ongoing 'Ashaada maasa' and also could be because many of the folks were busy visiting the Kumbh Mela on Goadavari.

The next big task was to collect the Thirupathi Laddus and that queue took about an hour or so. All in all, we were done by 12:30 we were done with most of our visit. The simmering sun was taking a toll on all of us and all of us were quite hungry. We searched for a good Veg Restaurant, but could only manage to get into a very mediocre 'Balaji Saravanna Bhavan', which was overflowing with people already. We somehow managed to ingest the food and get out of that place for good. It was about 3:30 when we finally get into a Jeep for our downhill to Thirupathi.

We reached the foothills of Thirupathi and then grouped into 2 Autos to visit the 'Padmavathi Temple'. While I stayed back at the enterance, Parents and In-Laws made their darshan of the temple. Souji, Ruchir and Pooja ditched at the last moment as it was getting very difficult to handle an already cranky and tired Ruchir. 

By 6 PM we were done with Padmavathi Temple visit. After a quick visit to a hotel nearby for some refreshments, we took the ricks back to the hotel and relaxed for a while. 

We had dinner in the same restaurant where we had our breakfast in the morning and later checked out our hotel by 8 PM.

26th July, 2015 (Sunday)
The bus journey back home was peaceful and we landed back in Bangalore by 3:30 AM. All of us took separate Autos back to our respective homes and with a very nice feeling of joy and accomplishments! 

My Observations:
[Never thought I would be writing this, but .....]

  • The last time I visited, Thiruapthi town had unmanaged traffic and chaos. This time around, it was peaceful (May be because of our timing).
  • The roads uphill and downhill were fantastic and truly top class!. Outstanding!
  • Thirumala was much better organized, clean and well maintained. 
  • The Karyakartas offered great service with politeness and it was a great feeling on how they treated people. Loved it.

And the not-so-good part.
  • I hated every bit when the Hotel staffers from at [KVP Residency, behind Venkateshara Theatre, Thiruchanoor Road, Thirupathi] would literally beg for Tips for every time your eyes crossed theirs. And Tipping for doing nothing in return, does not make sense!
  • The waiter at the restaurant where we had breakfast and dinner was so stubborn that he would not budge and stand like an 6 foot figurine next to your table until you parted some cash as Tips. It was as if it was a crime if I didn't tip. (This is not the US!)
  • The Dal Powder (A.k.a 'Gun-powder') we had at dinner at this hotel was heavenly awesome!. So I asked if I could get 1/2 a KG parceled and which they did happily and charged a bomb. But considering that it had such good taste, I thought it was well worth it. I came back home with the pride of bringing the best dal powder from Thirupathi and used it the next day for dinner, only to find that they had given me a 3rd grade quality powder and the taste was miserable.This literally, left a bad taste in the mouth. Very disappointing when it stoops to this level of cheating.
  • The supposedly 'Free' Cloak room where you kept your belongings at Thirumala became a paid service when one gets to collect their belongings. The crew again twitched their hands for Cash before handing over my luggage.
  • At the main bus stand - went to buy 2 packets of 'Polo' mint for the bus journey to avoid ghat-section-induced-sickness. The shop vendor saw me holding a 20 Rupee note and gave me 3 Polo packets  and 'adjusted' for Rs. 20. The MRP was just Rs. 5. I asked him to return back Rs. 5 and he raised his voice and said that his taking extra was justified as he has to pay a huge rent. This was atrocious. I yelled back at him big time for being dishonest and despite that this guy did not yield and gave back only Rs. 2 back to me. 
One may argue that this is not new in such cities and/or giving tips or adjusting 5 rupees isn't a big thing .... , but that is not the point here. It is about the breeding of an unacceptable culture of extorting as much possible at every given opportunity. I have visited a lot of places across the length and breadth of India and have witnessed such things many a times, but this time, it just got unbearable.

Sorry, but Thirupathi definitely needs to get back to its roots and reclaim the sanctity of its past. All in the name of god, visitors to this holy city are being cheated big time at every possible opportunity. Definitely not a great feeling where you feel hopeless multiple times in less than 24 hours. Wake up Thirupathi and hope you will get well soon.

Here are some Photos taken during the visit.

Here are the photos from my blog when we visited Thirupathi in 2007!


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