Allan Faqir’s dream in fast lane to Agra
NEW DELHI: The late Allan Faqir, Pakistan’s legendary folk singer and vocal critic of visa restrictions in India, had strayed into Agra after a concert in Delhi. He believed he didn’t need a separate piece of paper to visit Shahjahan’s Taj Mahal who had also built much of Old Delhi, albeit just over 200kms apart.
His logic didn’t work, but unabashed name-dropping did. He told the curious beat constable at the 17th century mausoleum that he was a personal guest of then prime minister Inder Gujral, which turned out to be factually correct.
The constable was in any case not harassing the minstrel as constables can.
In fact, he was only trying to help the strangely attired guest back on his dizzy feet and to find the trudge back to Delhi. Faqir’s kohl-eyed hobo looks compounded the spirited confusion but they also helped put his quarries at ease.
Last week, hundreds of thousands of Delhiites raced to Agra at breakneck speed. After a multilane highway, which hugs the Yamuna River linking the two former Mughal capitals, was inaugurated during the week, the journey to Agra has been brought down to within two hours, instead of the meandering route that Faqir took over several more.
The fact that the two countries are approaching a new, lenient visa regime, could be a tribute to Faqir’s memory who brought and spread the word of Bulle Shah and other Sufi greats from Multan, in India, whenever he strayed across.
If all goes well and according to the script, Pakistani businessmen recently allowed investments in India, could consider the chaos the new highway has caused for Agra. Shortages of hotels, motels, restaurants and popular snacks like Petha sweets and Dal Moth associated with Agra offer an opportunity for anyone looking to do good business.
“Thanks to the Yamuna Expressway — thrown open to public on Thursday — the city saw the traffic crawling, hotels and restaurants around the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort running out of food and water and Dal Moth, the famous savoury Agra is famous for,” The Hindu reported on Sunday.
“Several lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of people from Delhi and the National Capital Region headed for Agra on Saturday morning to enjoy the 200km long Yamuna Expressway — which is toll free until August 15 — to experience what speeding at the permissible limit of 100 kilometres per hour felt like, something Delhiites always dream of doing.”
This ineffectiveness of the city infrastructure was exemplified by the situation in the parking space outside the West Gate of the Taj Mahal. It was full and as a result cars had to be parked along the 300 metre stretch between Mehtab Bagh crossing and the monument, adding to the chaos. The 1.6km stretch between Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal also took over an hour to cover as a handful of policemen were unable to cope with the traffic rush. Making full use of all the chaos, the tonga wallas and camel cart wallas had a field day charging up to Rs40 per head for covering distances less than half a kilometre.
Allan Faqir, impish for ever, would have relished the traffic jam, as much as the easy access to the fabled monument. He didn’t worry about a visa. But that still remains an obstacle for lesser mortals on this otheriwse potent highway to peace.