Day 16:- 07th June, 2012 - Samarkand to Tashkent, Uzbekis-tan

I was ready at 5.30 am. I boiled water for a cup of tea and at exactly 6 am I was down and ready to go. Since it was so early, I had to wait ten minutes for the main gate to be opened by Shahida’s mother, the owner of the restaurant. When I told her my travel plans she quickly packed me a meal of some fresh cut bread, salami and cheese slices. She even gave me a bottle of water. Feeling obliged I bade goodbyes by saying Namaste and was Namasteyed in return. This reminded me of my stay in a French village in 1975. When I was leaving the village my friend’s mother brought me a packet  and bade goodbyes with tears in her eyes. Later when I opened the packet I found it consisted of homemade breads, cheese, boiled eggs, bananas and a small bottle of homemade wine. I couldn’t resist making a note in my diary. It said “mothers are mothers”.
Bus Stand Samarkand to Tashkent
I left the restaurant with a warm feeling inside and  hired a taxi to the bus stand for 4000 Soms. On reaching the bus stand I followed Shahida’s advice of taking an Express Bus to Tashkent and not a shared taxi since the taxi would cost me more. The  7 a.m. bus was full so I boarded the 8 a.m. bus for a fare of 12000 Som. The shared taxi would have cost me between 40 to 50000 soms. The bus started half an hour before its departure time since it was full. The bus was not very spacious and the only place to keep one’s luggage was below one’s seat. The driver led me to my seat, 5 A.C., and helped me push my backpack below my seat. The A.C. was barely working and the unconstructed roads restricted the bus’s speed. Outside the city were large fields of wheat, ready to be harvested. The bus stopped after two hours for refueling and everyone got off to stretch their legs. Around us were makeshift toilet facilities and a few shacks selling water and cold drinks. Some people there were drinking boiled rice in water. After tasting one such bowl, I got back to the bus and we departed once again. An hour before we reached Tashkent, the roads became better. 
At 12.20 p.m., I was in the wild again. I sat down on a bench in Tashkent and pondered on where to go.  I saw a young woman talking on her phone nearby. She seemed to speak English pretty nicely. The vision brought Alisher from the Indian Cultural Center to my mind. I recalled contacting him earlier; he had asked me to contact him if I came to Tashkent. I requested the woman to make a call and she helped gladly. Her name was Gul and she took directions from Alisher who asked me to come to the center. We crossed two wide roads to get a taxi. She directed the driver towards the center and I thanked her and bade goodbye.
Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute, Tashkent
The Indian Cultural Center is also known as the Lal Bahadur Shastri Cultural Center. The center organizes Hindi classes, Kathak lessons and yoga lessons on daily basis for the Uzbek people. Once I reached there, I enjoyed two good cups of tea and checked my mail. Mr. Mehta, the director of the center, who was in India at the moment, asked me to meet Prof. Dash, a professor of international studies at the University of Economics. After tea I met Dildara, an Uzbec lady working in the center. Her fluency in Hindi was very helpful. She introduced me to Samiksha, the dance teacher, who offered me to stay at her place. Though I was obliged, I had to deny as here in Tajikistan one cannot stay in someone’s house without police permission. Allisher suggested me to stay at the Hotel Grand Raddus, where a room was available for $28, but before I settled down for the night, I wanted to book my ticket to Bukhara. Alisher arranged a taxi driver known to the center and instructed him to help me get my tickets. A short ride got us to the station where the booking counter was divided into two; one for locals and one for foreigners. The formalities were quickly permitted and the ticket cost me 43000 soms.      
Diplomatic University, Tashkent
  After picking up my packsacks from the center, I companied Dildara to the Indian Embassy. Situated between a lot of greenery, the Indian Embassy was built on a beautiful location. A water stream  full of ducks and a duck house makes the whole place very scenic. There I met 2nd secretary Kamal Pervez and we discussed some aspects of the Uzbekistan culture. He was very knowledgeable and even encouraged me to share my experiences of the country. I told him how my trip had been in the last two weeks and that I had exchanged 70 dollars @ 2850 soms. Our discussion had to be cut short as it was the closing time of the embassy. 
Bharatanatyam at Indian Embassy, Tashkent
After the embassy I went to my hotel, The Grand Raddus. The hotel was very good  but the restaurant was closed and even drinking water wasn’t available. With a parched throat I walked to a nearby Vietnamese restraint and bought a bottle of water. I wished to go to the expensive Indian restaurant Brahamji but unfortunately it was closed. Disappointed, I went back to my room to rest for a while and returned to the streets at 9 in search of food. After a long walk, I found a restaurant serving Uzbek food.  I was engulfed in the Uzbek music and was served by girls in Uzbek dresses. I ordered the popular Uzbek tomato salad, soup of white grammas and meat, breads, Shashlik and a bottle of wear. This was the most fulfilling meal I had had in the last 15 days. I was surprised to see that the cost of this meal was around 14000 soms, whereas  at the restaurant Brahmji one vegetable dish costs 14000 soms. 
Pleased with the meal that had my belly filled to the top, I walked back to my hotel and went off to dream land as soon as I hit my bed.

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