November 20, 2014
Because India is a country that has a population of 1.2 billion people, my wife and I were prepared to see a lot of people and many interesting sights. Since chess was invented in India, I also hoped to play a game there. Nearly everyone starts in New Delhi and explores outward from the capital city. Old Delhi was a traffic nightmare with bicycles, people and motorcycles weaving around the cars when we went to see the largest mosque in India. The Jama Masjid mosque was constructed by Shah Jahan in 1644. Our last stop was Raj Ghat where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated, buried and is honored with an eternal flame.
We continued on to Jaipur, the Pink City, by private car. I chose to sit in the front so I could take photos and enjoy all of the sights and sounds of our trip. I really meant to include sounds because our trip took over six hours; and every driver on the road used his horn to inform the other cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, bikes, carts and people that he was going to pass. Our driver was a skilled horn honker as well.
Upon reaching the Taj Jai Mahal hotel that would be our home for two days, we were greeted by a gentleman wearing a red turban and a flowing white coat with a beautiful design down the front.
Taj Jai Mahal hotel
After checking into the hotel which was built in 1745, we decided to walk around in the patio and garden area. Lo and behold, I came across a huge chess set that had plaster pieces which were hand painted. Each piece was on a platform with small wheels for easy movement. I watched two people trade moves and thought this is the set I would like to take home. I gave our guide, Govind Gopal or GG, a lesson with this set. This was a little difficult for me because the rook was an elephant, and the bishop was a camel.
Govind Gopal & Dewain
After touring the city to see all of the pink shops, museums, palaces, hotels and conservatory, we rode an elephant uphill to the entrance of the Amber Fort. Then, it was finally time to go to the train, our Palace on Wheels®. We arrived at the platform, and I was amazed at how many cars were attached to this train. Our train attendants were Pradeep Singh and Om Prakesh who greeted us with the traditional, “Namaste,” meaning hello.
(l) Pradeep Singh & Om Prakesh
These two young gentlemen would be looking after the train car we were in from Jaipur to Agra. I asked them if they had a chess set on board and Pradeep replied, “Yes, we do.” Then, I made my standard inquiry, “Do you know any staff member who plays chess. I would like to have a game with them when they have some free time.”
Pradeep stated, “I play chess and will be happy to join you when you return from your morning excursions.” I was overwhelmed to be so lucky to find someone who was not at the other end of the train or only available after 10 pm.
Pradeep & Dewain
The breakfast area of our train car made a nice location for our games. Pradeep played well during the four days we had a chance to push wood. I suggested that he castle sooner and this helped him improve his game.
We spent five days on the train visiting many cities, palaces, and Hindu temples. We also saw a tiger in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and rode a camel in the Thar Desert near the border with Pakistan. But, our breathtaking moment came when we visited Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. This beautiful white marble memorial was built by Shah Jahan to honor his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is decorated with beautiful inlay using precious stones. Both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are buried in this memorial which resembles a mosque. What a fitting way to end our journey on the Palace on Wheels®.