Feelings, its nothing more than feelings

Its time for me to look back at my trip and I was trying to find the right words. I realized that my trip probably cannot be a sum of words but more of a sum of feelings.

I felt longing to land in the country of my birth.
I felt joyous to spend a few days at home.
I looked forward to a trip of discovering the south.
I basked in the warmth especially coming from a cold place.
I felt frustrated by the sheer inefficiencies at different places.
I felt helpless when you don’t have the power to change anything.
I felt angry that the politicians and the police rule as if they are above the constitution of the country.
I couldn’t surmount the challenges of trying to converse in a language alien to me in a country which was my own.
I mastered a sort of sign language to assist conversation.
I loved the feeling of a light breeze while enjoying the 4 o’clock cup of tea on a terrace.
I still have an insatiable appetite to try out the different cuisines available here.
I had pangs of guilt when a man almost twice my age called me sir.
I grew sick of the pollution and the bad traffic.
I am going to be cautious stepping out incase people decide to celebrate holi a day early.
I feel lucky that the bomb at the German Bakery in Pune wasn’t set for the day before.
I am glad that in spite of the time I have spent out of this country, I don’t feel like an outsider.
I feel amazed that the poorest of the poor still have a smile on their face at the end of the day.

There has just been one main feeling to sum up my past 6 weeks here, I’ve felt alive.

The barbershop

It was time for me to head towards one of India’s favorite weekend hangout, the barbershop. Its funny how the different spectrum of people that the barbershop attracts.

You will always have the kid who is generally jumping off the wall, but as soon as he sits on that chair its like he might as well be in a coma. The fear of the scissors is all pervasive. You will also have the balding man hanging on to his old sense of self. Sure enough, in he walks asking the owner if his hair has grown enough to require a haircut which is obviously met with a resounding yes.

I sat down for a haircut, a shave and a good dose of tel maalish (oil massage). The burning aftershave did have me reminiscing the couple of layers of skin that I lost to the shave though. Ofcourse the tel maalish did wonders and I’ll really miss that part till I can visit a barbershop in India again.

Pune Week 3

Monday Lunch – Back to North Indian food at the norther frontier. Had kehwa for the first time and I can say I’m not a big fan of the tea served in the mountains up north.
Monday Dinner – Went to Bounty Sizzlers. Its been a while since I’ve had sizzlers and the food was scrumptious.

Tuesday Lunch – After passing by Burger Barn on numerous occasions, I finally tried the veggie burger with desi options and I can honestly say it was one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had.
Tuesday Dinner – Tried out italian at one of the places at the ABC farms. The pizza wasn’t all that terrible.

Wednesday Lunch – Went to casanova for a multi cuisine lunch. Make your own pasta had its charm and the buffet was generally good.
Wednesday Dinner – Didnt want to head out for dinner as I was engrossed in the cricket game and Mike was gracious enough to grab me a McVeggie from McDee’s.

Thursday Lunch – One last trip to Kathi Cottage to have a couple of kathi rolls. I’m going to miss this place the most.
Thursday Dinner – After a lot of searching we finally found the hidden Hard Rock Cafe. The food was so so but I can see the attraction for those who miss America. It was great to see Raju breeze past the security checks with utter disdain though we werent as lucky.

Friday Lunch – The last day of the pune leg of my trip saw us at the Great Punjab at Koregaon park. The food was amazing and the title seems well deserved.

Pune Week 2

Mon afternoon – Checked out Sanjeev Kapoor’s yellow chili at koregaon park, the food was bland and quite disappointing.
Mon night – Headed out of the City to the Rajasthani place called Choker Dani. The place is more like a theme park with a rajasthani theme. I am not a big fan of rajasthani cuisine but the entertainment value was pretty good. I actually had my hand read by an astrologer for the first time and all in all it was a good experience.
Tue afternoon – Lived across from Kalyani Veg and hadn’t tried it till now. Went for some dosas and the place lived up to its high expectations.
Tue night – Went to zafron in the IBM building. It has a nice rooftop deck with a great view of Kalyani nagar, food being quite ok.
Wed afternoon – After a break of a few days, headed back to Kathi crossing for a kathi roll. Stuck with the spicy aloo kathi roll, fantastic as usual.
Wed night – Tried out barbecue at the barbecue nation and was quite impressed by their selection.
Thu afternoon – Spent the day at the Synechron office in Hinjewadi and had lunch at the Marriot. The buffet food was excellent.
Thu night – Stayed back at the hotel and had dinner at the Pizza hut. Tried out their new pizza (masala chilly or something), pretty tasty.
Fri afternoon – Went to a place called Polka Dots which seemed to have food from all cuisines. Tried my luck with enchilladas and finally came across a place which seemed to still retain the mexican touch without the regular over dose of indian masalas.
Fri night – Had a club sandwich at our hotel (The Royal Orchid Central), not too bad but the street sandwiches definitely are one up on it.

Pune Week 1

1 week in Pune and going strong. It’s not as hectic as Mumbai, but it has its moments especially with its food choices.

Came in last sunday and stayed back in Kalyani Nagar to eat some pizza at the local Pizza Hut. I actually like the tandoori paneer pizza that they had to offer.
Monday Lunch – Tried out a place called Little Italy. It actually had mexican on its menu, though wasn’t too impressed with it as the enchilladas had a distinct indian flavor
Monday Dinner – Had some really tasty kathi rolls at the kathi cottage in Koregaon Park followed by dinner at the Blue Nile. The veg pulav at the Blue Nile wasn’t too bad
Tuesday Lunch – Tried out a panini at Witches and Dog (Koregaon Park) which wasn’t too filling so topped it out with a Kathi roll (I can probably have 1 every single day)
Tuesday Dinner – Went to Arthur’s theme. The menu didnt make much sense as the dishes seem styled after medieval english characters but the food wasn’t as bad as we half expected it to be. Tried out the pasta and glad that it tasted italian instead of indian.
Wednesday Lunch – Went to 7 (Koregaon Park) which had both middle eastern and indian-chinese on its menu. Went with the Hakka noodles and veg manchurian and the chinese definitely hit the mark
Wednesday Dinner – Definitely a more low key dinner having a McDonald’s veggie burger in my room.
Thursday Breakfast – Tried out some omlette at the German Bakery and it was pretty good.
Thursday Lunch – Had some really tasty Hyderabi food at Koyla.
Thursday Dinner – Had dinner at the hotel’s cafe, pretty passable food.
Friday Breakfast – Headed back to the German Bakery for some cake, juice and other goodies.
Friday Lunch – Another trip to Kathi cottage for some sumptuous kathi rolls.
Friday Dinner – Went to St. Lauren at Hinjewadi. The buffet was pretty good.
Saturday Morning- Drove to Sinhagad and trekked up the mountain. The trek took a good hour and a half to two hours, but it wasn’t as easy as I expected and did have its tough moments. The view from the fort was well worth it along with some kanda bhajji and masala tak (buttermilk)
Saturday Afternoon – Headed to the Poona Club to practice cricket with the Maharashtra A boys. Was nice to get to bowl and bat in the nets after years of not playing cricket.
Saturday Dinner – Headed over for some excellent food at the Deccan Harvest at Magarpatta, pune. Interesting concept of having paneer barbecued on your table followed by a good buffet.
During dinner, German Bakery went boom and got called from all concerned about our safety. After eating there for the last couple of days, I guess it was good that we skipped the location today. I do hate it that the terrorists have seriously impeded my eating plans in Pune as that was definitely on my menu for the next couple of weeks.
Drove to Mumbai today (Sunday) to get away from Pune for a while and show everyone what a real city should look like. Stopped by Dharavi for some leather products and then took the Bandra-Worli sea link. Havent been on that bridge after it opened and the views were definitely worth the toll. Drove down Marine Drive and had lunch at ‘Not just jazz by the bay’. Went down to the Gateway of India and my first visit to the Taj after the Mumbai attacks. Things at the Oberoi-Trident and Taj are still under construction but it was really nice to see major crowds around the Gateway and Cafe Leopold.
Thats been week 1, hopefully the security doesnt get worse in Pune so hope to enjoy the rest of my stay.

The old and the new

On this trip I have been exposed to both the newer side and the old side of India.

I had to make a trip to Punjab National Bank (PNB) for some minor work for my dad. After standing in line for 45 minutes just to get an updated account information, I shot off a letter to the management and stuck it in the suggestion box. I didn’t really expect anything to be done from it, but a few days later on I got a letter from the bank manager saying that they have actually taken the suggestion and all future work of that nature will be done in a much quicker time. I was pleasantly surprised on how private companies are actually willing to work on customer complaints.
I had another pending task of trying to get some transcripts from University of Mumbai. Not having my originals, the university seems to have implemented rules to slowly suck the life of the applicant before providing some copies. Since the University requires a First Information Report (FIR) to be filed with the local police station, I made a trip to Vashi Police station in Navi mumbai. Of course the police are never co-operative and they made me go to Turbhe Police station to file the FIR who promptly sent me back to Vashi. After I made an affidavit, the police registered a FIR only after demanding a bribe of Rs 200. Funny how the very implementors of the government’s drive against corruption are the major perpetrators.
Somethings probably never change but there is a stark difference between the old and the new

Dakshin Bharat

Just came back from a short south india trip covering Kochi (Ernakulam), Munnar, Guruvayur, Madurai, Trichy, Tanjavur and Bangalore.

The last time I visited Kerala was about 15 years ago and I seem to have forgotten how beautiful it was. One of the lasting images of kerala is the relative well-to-do-ness of the local population. This is amply evident by the fresh coats of paints on most houses as well as the lack of slums near most urban areas. The breath taking beauty of the backwaters was amazing and taking boat/ferry’s around kochi harbor and the backwaters is highly recommended.
Took a day trip to Guruvayur to visit one of hinduism’s holiest temples. It was nice to see that the temple priests still stick to tradition, though I did have to buy a dhoti to be allowed in.
Continued with my love affair with the hill stations of India and took a trip to Munnar. Munnar is famous for its tea plantations and it was no surprise that all the hills in and around Munnar were covered with tea estates. The relative cool weather was a welcome relief from the heat of the plains as well.
After Munnar we slipped over the border to the temple city of Madurai. It was sad to see the meenakshi temple becoming a place of commercial activity with shops being allowed to be set up right within the temple complex, but atleast non hindus were allowed into most of the temple complex unlike guruvayur temple which was for hindus only.
We moved on Trichy and stopped over for a couple of hours just to see their temple built upon a hill. It was another disappointing experience of a temple being converted to a place of commercial activity and so we left to go towards Tanjavur.
Tanjavur still has the old town feel to it and its temple complex has been the best kept of the ones visited in my trip. Its open for everyone and is big and clean. The architecture is typical of the great cholan empire and is one of the best preserved monuments from that time.
Ofcourse both kerala and tamil nadu dont seem to have made much progress in learning any of the other indian languages. For some reason they seem stubbornly stuck on speaking the local language and hindi and english are not spoken for the most part. Inspite of the problems of communication, its been a great adventure.