Long time back around the mid-90s, my cousin sister moved to the city of Kota as my brother-in-law got a job in the city. One of the country's leading manufacturer of color TV picture tubes, Samcor Glass, was in the process of setting up a factory in Kota and they were looking for someone who can be part of the initial team to lead the effort in setting up the factory. My bro-law is an engineer and had the experience of setting up such greenfield projects. He found the project to be professionally challenging and he moved lock, stock, and barrel to Kota even though I was a bit surprised as it was not as glamorous a city as compared to a couple of other big cities he had been based at during his earlier stints. At that time, Kota was a small nondescript town unlike now when it has acquired a status of coaching capital of the country, especially for medical and engineering students.

Though Kota has a rich history dating back to the 12th century, it’s one of the major claim to fame at that point of time was that it had a scheduled stop of Rajdhani Express which happened to be one of the prestigious trains connecting the capital city of Delhi with the aspirational city of Mumbai on the western coast of India. Kota is located in the North Indian state of Rajasthan on the banks of Chambal River. It is a 3rd largest city of Rajasthan after Jaipur and Jodhpur. The two other items which are connected with Kota are Kota-Stone and the elegant Kota-Doria sarees and fabrics. Kota-Doria has been granted a Geographic Indication (GI) since then though, surprisingly, Kota-Stone has not yet got the same.

My cousin sister wanted me to visit their home in Kota and would always coax and cajole me to visit them whenever she would be visiting Delhi. In fact, she would narrate lots of stories about the charms of the city especially around the natural beauty, gardens and the mighty Chambal river. The name Chambal was in itself a complete metaphor and had been made famous by the folk tales and later by Bollywood movies for its innumerable stories around dacoits and desperados. Due to my preoccupation with studies as well as the audit assignments of my chartered accountancy days I could not visit the town. Unfortunately, none of my audit assignments took me to any place in or around Kota during those days even though travel bug in me was always pushing me to plan for the trip. My cousin moved back to another city after a couple of years in Kota around the time I had just joined the industry for my first job. This meant that a trip to Kota in the near future went into the realms of history.

Earlier this month, my daughter asked me if I could take her to Kota to meet one of her friends on her birthday which was falling on 26th January. Her friend is currently undergoing coaching at Kota for her medical studies and being in a critical phase of studies, she had not planned to be in Delhi to celebrate her birthday with family. This time I was not in two minds and decided to go to Kota, finally. Albeit, one other reason that was enticing, me to go to Kota was a Garden of Seven Wonders which was opened in 2013. This garden houses miniature versions on seven wonders and I had read a lot about them. In fact, one of the recent Bollywood flicks Badrinath ki Dulhania featured the park with some decent footage around the park.

We could not get a ticket on Rajdhani Express being too late to book them. However, we got reservations on the bus with sleeper beds on the 25th night from Delhi to Kota and on the 26th night for the return journey. Over a period I have observed that the night buses with sleeper-beds provide much more flexibility along with easy availability of tickets even up till a couple of days before the travel. They are the perfect mode for back-packers. The timings of the bus were perfect for us as we landed in Kota at 7.30 a.m. Over the last couple of days, I had done some research to find out the places we could visit considering the short time we had. Apart from the Garden of Seven Wonders, the city indeed has many other prominent gardens

The places that one shall visit while in Kota to get the essence of the city are:
- Seven-Wonders Park
- Godavari Dham
- Hanging Bridge
- Chambal Garden
- Jagmandir Palace
- Garh Palace
- Chambal Dam
- Chatra Vilas Garden
- Kshar Bagh
- Ghatotkachh Circle
- Bundi: this town is 40 km away from Kota but rich with history

As we landed in the city, we headed towards the guest house where we were to stay put for the day and my daughter went to her friend's hostel to celebrate her birthday. We had plans to explore the town after getting ready but not before trying the quintessential breakfast of Poha, Kachori, and Jalebi (an Indian delicacy made in sugary syrup).