Sunday, 1 November 2009

It’s About The Ability, Not The Age

About one and a half months ago, it was a week of the not-so-young Indian players. Leander Paes won the doubles title at the US Open. And, the next day Sachin Tendulkar scored his 44th century, in one day internationals, clinching the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards as well! Don’t forget, Paes and his partner Clara Black were runners up at the US Open.

Yeh hai yougistan meri jaan! That’s what a television commercial says! Not so long ago, all ‘self proclaimed’ cricket pundits were harping on how the game has changed with respect to the people playing it. How the Indian cricket team desperately needed fresh legs and youthful exuberance. Even idols like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were completely written off. But Tendulkar, being the genius he is, managed to shut the so called youth of the Indian cricket with his super performance when his country and team needed it the most.

Leander Paes is almost synonymous with Indian tennis. He had put India on the world tennis map at a time when facilities pertaining to the sport in the country could not even be called decent. Even with all the improvement in tennis facilities across India, availability and affordability of foreign coaches and technological support for the game, India hasn’t been able to produce a sportsman of comparable caliber. Thus India still depends on a 36 year ‘old’ to win Grand Slams.

Till a couple of years ago, I quite strongly believed that one cannot do anything new after the age of 30. Well, I felt that way because my mind was very strongly influenced with all that I heard while growing up, also by many people I associated with. Looking back, in the past four or five years, I have met three people who made me realize that age is just a number. They said or did nothing extra to make me change my mind. It’s just by the way they live their lives, and the way they look and talk and behave, I got to realize that being in your 30’s is not bad at all. In fact, it is better in many ways. Well, I am not getting into writing about that aspect now!

Looking at Bollywood, the leading, successful actors are all over 40 years old; take Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Shahrukh Khan. There are scores of younger actors who are trying to make it big in the industry. So, clearly there is no significant barrier to entry in the industry. Even if ability is disregarded, the older guys are still the audience’s preference.

On the other side of the world, Susan Boyle is a sensation in the world of music, and she is 47 years old. Don’t know how many people watched her on her first day at Britain’s Got Talent. She was laughed and mocked at by the audience and the judges, the audience and the judges who appeared apprehensive and judgmental of her unpolished appearance. Though it’s a fact that will never be admitted, her detractors didn’t take an instant liking to her because of her age. Then she started singing and left everyone spellbound. Those who made faces at her looked like fools! There are so many surviving artists from the 70’s and 80’s who are still filling out large arenas and embarking on one world tour after the other.

It is not about the age. It is about the ability. I agree, with age, the body and the mind become slower for most people, but that cannot be the rule! I read in an article that former US president George Bush Sr did a parachute jump from a height of 13,000 feet to celebrate his 80th birthday, while astronaut John Glenn became the oldest man to fly in space at the age of 77.

Though biological age cannot be arrested or reversed, the mind-set and attitude can definitely remain positive irrespective of one’s age. While the youth is definitely the torchbearer of tomorrow, we cannot and should not undermine the contribution and untapped potential of the ‘not so young’.

‘’Twenty four and he believes for sure he’s got it made
Fame is here for good and looks will never fade, he doesn’t know
The game is never over till the cards have all been played
Eighty three and still he feels his best is yet to come
He believes that youth is wasted on the young, he’s alone
The only dream he ever has is being with someone’’ – from Silent Scream by Richard Marx

Sunday, 18 October 2009

My Diwali My Way!

The past 8-9 years, Diwali has just been a day when everyone celebrated and I stayed at home. The reason, there were just too many! But this year, it was different, though nothing was planned. Also, this was my first Diwali after shifting to Mumbai.

The whole day Joy and I lazed around at home. Late in the afternoon, Joy went to his office as there was a Puja happening there. While I was at home alone, I quickly packed the diyas, candles and chocolates that I bought for my parents and my sister. I am a recycle freak! People just might start hating me for reusing wrapping paper, ribbons, ornamentations, but I don't care! I am a firm believer of recycling everything that can be recycled.

I took out a rather new looking old basket, and some zari strips, and decorated the basket. It looked nice, at least I found it nice. That's what matters at the end of the day, isn't it? Joy returned around 7 in the evening. Then we lit the candles at home, and a little later, we went to my parent's place.

Since I am so used to doing nothing on Diwali for many years, I really didn't know what to do after some time. My sister is a religious person and visits temples very regularly to offer her prayers. And, she was going to a temple in Juhu that evening too. I had a plan, a plan that has been on my mind for many years. We decided that while she goes inside the temple and offers her prayers, I'll go around the street and distribute some food to the poor.

I found 11 men and women and gave them food packets. I also met one fairly young man who lost both his legs and was seated on a cycle. It was obvious that he needed some money too. In a country where fit educated people don't have jobs, what would a poor, uneducated, handicapped guy do? Does he have a choice but wait for people to come and help? I didn't get a chance to talk to him and find out if there was something I could do to help, but I intend to do that in a couple of weeks. I just gave him some money. Guess the joy of giving is a feeling that cannot always be expressed in words. I just know that when I was coming out of that street I was a happy woman!

After returning home we burst some crackers, me the least! I am just scared of crackers. After many years I had a lovely time with my family, and also celebrated Diwali my way! A little giving, a little sharing goes a long way....

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Memories of Himachal


According to many travellers, of all the mountains in India, the beauty of the mountains in Himachal Pradesh is the most spellbinding. From my little travel experience I will agree with all that is said in praise of the Himachal. It is here that you find nature in abundance, snow capped mountains, green valleys, beautiful lakes, fruits orchards; they can leave you mesmerized. Apart from bounties of nature there are many temples in many parts of Himachal; this varied mix of attractions draw diverse tourists to this region.

I've been to Kalka, Shimla, Kulu and Manali and I'd love to revisit these places! I think the feelings are the same with my family as well; we took this trip together.

We took the Rajdhani Express from Howrah Station to go to Delhi. After reaching Delhi we checked into Hotel Ranjit, a nice 3-star hotel. The next day we took the Kalka Mail from Delhi station to go to Kalka to start our journey to the beautiful Himachal. We chose to go to Kalka as the town is situated on the foothills of Himalayas and is an entry point to Himachal Pradesh.

The next morning after reaching Kalka station, my father quickly went and booked tickets for the four of us on the toy train to Shimla. I had travelled on a toy train when I was a kid, in Darjeeling. But, I hardly remembered anything about that trip. Therefore, the toy train ride was something I was very excited about.

"The toy train connects Kalka at a height of 656 meter to Shimla at 2076 meter from mean sea level. The coaches are equipped with reversible cushioned chairs, foldable table for serving food, wall-to-wall carpeting and wide glass windows. Windows can be opened. There are toilets in each compartment. The train starts climbing the hill within five minutes of starting the journey. With a speed of not more than 25 Km / hour it reaches Shimla." All this was part of the write up that we picked from the ticket booking counter!

I don’t remember how much the tickets cost but I do remember that they were very reasonably priced, especially, considering the breathtaking view and experience that one could enjoy during the train ride. We managed to get the deluxe tickets as we were a little too late for the fancier version of the compartments. Nonetheless, we were happy with our compartment. We had a few foreigners travelling with us. It was nice to see the kind of enthusiasm that people from the west show to know about our country

The railway track between Kalka and Shimla is the only meter gauge track opened in India. The distance of 96 KM between Shimla and Kalka passes through 102 tunnels and 87 bridges. There are around 900 curves and sharpest curve is of 48 degree. All this data was in the pamphlet we had with us. I tried counting the number of tunnels we passed. After some time I lost track. It was a five hour journey. Outside the train the sight was beautiful, throughout the journey there were beautiful valleys and hills.

After passing through tunnels, rivers and valleys we finally reached Shimla which is the last stop for this train and end of the rail track. It was still morning and quite crowded. Coolies (porters) came running to carry the luggage. My parents spoke to a couple of them and handed the luggage to the most reasonable one. These coolies can fleece you if you don’t handle them carefully.

The main city of Shimla was a little higher in level from the train station. There were two options, either to take a taxi taking a longer route or walk uphill a little. We decided to walk up as we thought it would be fun climbing the mountain road; this is a rare experience for people from the plains. My sister and I paced along with the coolie, but my parents found it a little hard climbing. So, we stopped at a point for a little while and resumed climbing till we reached the main road.

We hadn’t booked any hotel in advance. My parents love unplanned trips. I am the kind of person who would rather have the hotel room booked. There was no point in getting into an argument, so I got around walking with them. Fortunately, we met one agent on the way and he showed us a really nice hotel. It was called Hotel Gulmarg, a budget hotel, but it had facilities of a good hotel. So, we chose to stay there.

We booked a taxi for our entire trip to Kulu, Manali and back to Kalka. The driver took us around Shimla. What makes Shimla distinct compared to other hill stations is its colonial charm. While driving around we saw stylish buildings, beautiful gardens, a beautiful mall with British style buildings; on the whole, a beautiful place to be.

We went to Manali from here and it was the most interesting and exciting part of the trip. It was my first experience in a land covered with snow.

The road to Manali was quite dangerous. We drove along River Beas almost all the way. The driver told us that the course of the river keeps changing and rocks from the mountains keep tumbling down, making the roads dangerous for driving. Though we understood that the journey could be dangerous our spirits could not be deterred. Work to repair the bank of the river was in progress. Throughout the journey we ensured that the driver drove slowly, and I kept looking out in order to see if any rock was tumbling down or not. Looking back, what could I have done to save ourselves! Fortunately, nothing happened to us nor did we see any accident on the way.

It was afternoon when we reached Manali. We went past a few tiled roof houses and stopped to ask the way to the mall. Since we had been travelling for a long time all of us got off the car. As we stepped out we saw something like foam on the ground and on the roofs of the houses. To figure out what it was we moved a little ahead and saw some more lying on the ground. I went up and stamped on it only to realise that it was snow. Oh my God, that was snow! One had to see me, my mother and my sister, as to how crazily excited we were finding snow all around. The locals said that it snowed after many years at this time of the year. Guess we were really lucky!

We found a hotel as we drove past the mall. A little away from the crowd, yet not so far to feel lonely, laced with the bounty of nature. The hotel did not look very fancy, looked more of a house. It was made out of wood, somewhat like a cottage from the fairy tales. By the time we checked in and went to our rooms I had already fallen in love with this place.

We freshened up and rested a little and after having a snack we went to the mall. There were lines of shops on one side, there were some vendors on the streets, and there was somewhat like a camp on another side. We went all around to check things out. I picked up T-shirts with Tibetan designs on them and some junk jewellery which my friends had ordered for. My parents also bought some souvenir for friends and family.

The next morning when I got up I lazily pulled the curtain while still tossing and turning on the bed, with no idea about what I was about to see. You have to be lucky to see a sight like that. Outside the big glass window I saw the pristine snow covered mountain shining in all its splendour. It seemed as if our room was cradled by the mountain. It was such a beauty that it could only be captured by the camera of the mind. I have managed to preserve that picture in my mind, and I wish it stays forever.

After breakfast we set out to go to see more snow. The driver suggested that we go to a place called Solang as going to Rohtang pass was not possible because of the heavy snowfall. On the way to Solang we drove past Vashishth, a small peaceful town on the other side of the river from about 3 km from Manali. Many foreign travelers stay here, some, for long periods too. There are a few small temples, Hidimba temple being the most famous, and some hot springs for bathing. I heard from some friends that good quality hash is sold here, in fact, there is hash plantation all around. Some of them even tried to convince me to bring some for them; I very strongly refused.

We reached Solang in a couple of hours and we literally got off on snow. This place was ideal for skiing, though we didn’t see too many people around. We were not prepared to experience snow like this; therefore, we did not have appropriate footwear with us. We found a stall renting out gumboots and jackets. Since that was the only choice we had we chose to take the boots on rent, not paying heed to who all may have worn them earlier.

We played in the snow like children, all four of us, making snow balls and throwing at each other a lot like what we saw in old Hindi movies. Just that in the movies the locations were either Kashmir or Switzerland, for us it was Manali.

Our next destination was Kulu, a quiet, beautiful valley. We thoroughly enjoyed the drive to get to Kulu. Since we had been travelling constantly for about a week, Kulu turned out to be a great place to relax and rest.

After spending a couple of days in Kulu we drove back to Kalka, from where we took the train to Delhi. We stopped over at Mandi for lunch, yet another lovely place! Of all the places I visited in the trip, Manali turned out to be my favourite!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Malacca

Malacca, or Melaka in Malay, is called The Historical State by many and I wouldn’t disagree. It was a sudden plan made by my parents, my sister and me to visit Malacca while we were in Kuala Lumpur for a vacation. It’s a usual thing for travellers going to Malaysia to visit Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands, but not Penang, Langkawi and Malacca that often. I am not sure about the rest of the world, but in India my sentence holds good. This is primarily because of the tour packages that are available in India. However, these days I hear many people talking about Langkawi to be a part of their itinerary; unfortunately, Malacca is still skipped.

The day we reached Kuala Lumpur we heard from some people who were gathered at the lobby of our hotel discussing their trip to Malacca the next morning. The four of us were so intrigued with the descriptions we heard about Malacca, that we instantly called the manager to check if he could help us get there. Fortunately, the hotel had a tie-up with a city tour company and we were booked for our trip to Malacca the day after.

We travelled on a luxury bus and we were about 20 to 25 people from different parts of the world travelling together. Of all the people I met, I particularly remember a Japanese lady. She became pals with my parents and clicked many photographs with us. Since she was travelling alone I guess she felt at ease with fellow Asians.

Malacca is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula. It took us about two hours to get there. We had an English speaking guide who was giving us important information as we drove along. Malacca is known for its diverse cultural heritage, and has a population comprising of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kristang, people with partial Portuguese ancestry, and Dutch Eurasians. Quite a diverse mix to say the least!

We stopped at the Dutch Square in the heart of the City, and walked around The Stadthuys, Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower, Queen Victoria Fountain and the famous Christ Church. We clicked many photographs as we had two cameras with us, and picked up some souvenirs as well. Across the Malacca River from the Dutch Square, are the long houses of Heeren Street and the antique shops at Jonker Street. We heard of the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum but we couldn’t make it there.






After walking to the end of Heeren/Jonker Streets, we reached Harmony Street of Malacca to visit the oldest Chinese Temple in Malacca called Cheng Hoon Teng or Green Clouds Temple. This is Malaysia’s oldest traditional Chinese temple and is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. A unique and visually attractive sight is the manner in which the incense sticks are ‘waved’ during traditional Chinese rites. I guess a better word for describing the movement of the incense sticks would be ‘shaken’; quick and abrupt spurts of hand movement rather than the slow and circular movement that we Indians do.



Further down were the Kampong Kling Mosque and the Sri Vinayagar Temple all along the same street, but we were too tired to visit them. We then went to the St. Paul’s Hill Complex to view the Independence Memorial, Porta de Santiago commonly called A Famosa, the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, where Malacca's Saint Francis Xavier was once buried. The guide told us that Saint Francis Xavier’s body is presently placed in a glass container encased in a silver casket at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.

Later we visited the Portuguese settlement where the descendents of the Portuguese still live. My folks bought souvenirs from there too. It was late afternoon and time to have lunch. We had an option to try the spicy hot Devil’s Curry and other famous Portuguese cuisine at the Portuguese Square but we didn’t opt for it as we normally choose not to experiment with food. Instead we had the lunch that the tour operator organised for us; chicken fried rice, chilly pork, stir fried chicken with roasted cashews, all in a very Malay style! In fact, I found most of our co-passengers opted for this food. We were seated in a big round table and were served food by local Malay girls. The surprise element was that we were served chilled beer… complimentary and unlimited!

We spent the whole day in Malacca and visited as many places as we could. It was as if we were in a different world altogether and we didn’t feel like coming back. But we had to move on and we returned to Kuala Lumpur with a lot of memories. We left Malaysia after two days and came back to Mumbai.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Teach India Part 3

I received an email from Ms. Anjali Hari from Katalyst to send her my profile so that she could get started working with me, and I could become a mentor. We exchanged a few emails and spoke a few times after which she sent me a profile.The profile looked interesting. It was of a 19 year old girl, who faced many challenges along with her family in the struggle of life, and yet did not give up. She is a student of Engineering in a college in Malad.

I had heard of people finding a way to face the world and achieve things in life, but she was the first person I met, who so gracefully accepted the challenges, and is working towards making a difference in life.

I am happy to be associated with Katalyst in my little way. I hope I will be able to do more in the future, and help some more youngsters shape a life for themselves.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Teach India Part 2

I went to a school at Veera Desai Road for the orientation program of Teach India. When I reached the classroom where the volunteers were sitting I was shocked. I had no idea that so many people would actually come. It was overwhelming to see people from different age groups and background all gathered together to make this world a better place. My interest to be a part of this movement got strenghthened.

We waited for a little while before the representatives from the different NGOs started making presentations about their organisation. In fact, there were 3. After the presentations were made I chose to meet Ms. Anjali Hari from Katalyst as I found their requirement for volunteers was matching with my skill set.

There was a huge queue of excited youngsters to be part of her NGO, therefore, I had to wait for more than half an hour to have a word with her. People pushed me from one side to another, just to have a word with her, and I was testing my own patience while waiting to talk to her. I did manage to speak with her and briefly mentioned to her about the kind of training I do. She made a note of my contact details and said that she would get back to me.

That's how the day ended. On my way back, I thought that there should be more and more initiatives like this to spread education and reiterate the importance of teachers in our lives. Though I am a corporate trainer by profession, which is my source of livelihood, the pleasure and satisfaction that I will gain from being associated with Teach India will be immeasurable.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Teach India Part 1

I have always believed in doing a little extra to help people in need. I also firmly believe that it is very important to give back to life a little in return to all that it has given me. From my childhood I loved the idea of being a teacher. And I ended up being one as I grew up, though today, I am a trainer working in the corporate world. The good thing is that I still teach!

For the past 3 to 4 years I have had a strong desire to reach out to the underprivileged strata of the society and teach. I identified an opportunity to make my contribution when last year I saw the Times of India Teach India hoarding while driving. At that moment I couldn’t really figure what it was. After a couple of days I watched the television commercial which featured Bollywood star Aamir Khan. The commercial went like this, some kids came to him to learn something and he was in a dilemma whether he was capable of teaching. While he was thinking, one of the kids pronounced a word incorrectly and he immediately corrected the kid. While doing so he said to himself that even he, as a kid, used to make the same mistake, and how his teacher corrected him every time he went wrong. This commercial further strengthened my conviction about remaining a teacher at heart.

I realised that I could be a part of the Teach India initiative. Teach India is a social initiative from the Times of India that brings together children in need of education and people who can contribute a little time towards teaching them. I felt it was a movement to bring about a change in the way India lives. However, my excitement about joining this mission got completely shattered because I was told that by my Manager that I had to go to another city on a deputation and my working hours would be a little erratic. I was very upset but couldn’t do much as the job was also very important.

At that time I just hoped that this initiative continues and I could be a part of the same the following year. And yes, it did continue! Just a week and a half ago I was chatting with one of my colleagues when she mentioned that she enrolled to teach in the Teach India initiative and asked me if I would be interested. I immediately went through the site and registered, and this Saturday I am going for the induction. At the induction I would meet the volunteers from different NGOs who will assign me to a particular location and get details about the students and the subjects that I would be teaching. I am very excited and anxious to get started.

Friday, 10 July 2009

To Life!

It's been 2 months since I joined this new company. In this period, besides attending five days of training and two days of induction, I have done nothing. When I say nothing I mean that I did do not do anything to add to the company's productivity. In other words, I am benched. Feels great, as being benched is no more about techies only; communication trainers like me are also benched!

I ask for work but there is no work. I see my colleagues (only women) spending all their time chatting on facebook, calling up their boyfriends and discussing facebook, what life! I am an Orkut loyalist, so I check my scrapbook a couple of times in the day and wonder what else can I do on a social networking site! I may have more things to do if I were on facebook, but no, I cannot indulge so much into such a mindless activity.

So what do I do the whole day sitting in office? Well, besides spending about five minutes on Orkut I read books that I download from the internet. I don't particularly like to read books on the computer, but I do not have too many options otherwise. I am still very old fashioned and I will remain this way forever I guess. I solve online crossword puzzles, read news hightlights, play online word games, and sometimes write on my blogs. That's exactly what I am doing right now!

Should I be happy or should I be sad? I don't have any work to do, yet I am getting paid. Guess I should not crib too much as it's said that by cribbing, the luck may run out soon!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The noble profession is not so noble!

It’s sad to know there aren’t too many competent and dedicated doctors in India anymore. I am not sure how many were actually there earlier but I know for a fact that I don’t have much faith in the Indian doctors for innumerable reasons. I have seen my grandmother suffering till her death because of many doctors’ callousness and over confidence. I suffer from acute body pain from the age of 19. In spite of visiting a dozen doctors in Kolkata and Hyderabad my pain hasn’t reduced in 15 years!

My father-in-law went to a Diabetologist recently as he is diabetic and is suffering from a kind of nervous disorder. The moment he walked to the doctor’s cabin the first thing she told my father-in-law that the small lump on his nose can be dangerous and cancerous. Now, how the hell did she know what the lump was all about, without even conducting any test! That was not all. She reassured my father-in-law that cancer can be treated if detected at the early stage, and she went on to getting him an appointment with one of her colleagues who specialized in such type of cancer… what type??? This Diabetologist works in a renowned hospital in Kolkata.

Now coming to my terrible experience, a family friend who is a doctor (read quack) saw thick hair on my chin. I didn’t get time to go to a parlour for threading. He said that I probably had Polycystic Ovary (PCO). He immediately got the blood tests done, and according to him I did have PCO.

He prescribed me to take Glyciphage and Crimson 35 everyday for four months. Glyciphage is a tablet used to treat diabetes, and Crimson 35 is used as a birth control pill. These two tablets are also used for women suffering from PCO.

Those four months were nothing but the most horrific time of my life. Within a month I broke into rashes on my arms. I went to a couple of skin specialists, they gave me some anti fungal cream; they were no good. One day I just decided to stop taking Crimson 35 as I wasn’t sure whether I should take birth control pills, and the rashes disappeared!

That’s not all. During this period I also suffered from acute stomach disorder. Now that was embarrassing! I would have to run to the toilet at any odd moment, and that was so difficult, especially while I was training. I kept on thinking whether it was because of my bad food habit or something else that I was suffering. When the problem continued for four months I decided to consult a doctor. I spoke to our family doctor about this but he could not figure out anything.


The other doctor I went to suggested a few tests and a few medicines for a week. After a week he couldn't figure out what was wrong and suggested that I go to a specialist. The specialist also suggested a few more tests and a tablet called Metrogyl, thrice a day, for twenty days. At the end of the twenty days I was left with a metallic tongue, lost my sense of taste, the doctor said that nothing was wrong with me, and the problem persisted. I can’t express how frustrating it was to be in situation like that!

It was on one of the days during a very hectic work schedule that I realized that I had exhausted the Glyciphage tablets. I thought of taking a break from the tablet for a couple of days, out of sheer laziness. After two days I suddenly realised that in the past two days I did not feel any discomfort and did not have to rush to the toilet while at work. I stopped taking the tablet and realized I was fine, the four months of suffering was all gone!

I called the family doctor to tell him what happened, but he did not take any responsibility for his ignorance. I later visited a few sites on Google and found that there are women who suffer for taking Glyciphage.

What I have been talking about till now are all common things that happen in our day to day lives, and no one talks about them. Life is bad enough already and enough number of bad things will anyway happen along the way. I don’t know whether there is a way to handle these situations. The least we can do is talk to people and spread the word around, rather than hiding things because of silly shyness; we Indians are great at that! At least by this way many people can be saved from unnecessary suffering. I am doing my little bit by posting my experiences through this channel.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Weekend getaways in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is one of the few states in India which offers exotic tourist destinations across segments and geographies. The state is large and diverse. From lush green undulating hills to beautiful beaches, innumerous forts to scores of temples, there is something for everyone. And most importantly, there are hundreds of weekend getaways.


Of the many reasons why I have moved to Mumbai, one important reason is that I can travel to a few dozen places around Mumbai during the weekends, without having to take off from work.


I have been to a few places and I wish to go to many more. I am going to post about the places I have already been and wish to go to, and the places that I have heard of and are worth writing about.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A long drive to Mahabaleshwar...

Last October while I was staying at my Aunt's house in Pune, my Uncle suddenly decided that we should all take a break from the daily humdrum life and go for a long drive. We thought for one whole evening and planned to go to Mahabaleshwar. He booked a car for the next morning, and with practically no plans we set out for Mahabaleshwar.

On the way we picked up money from the ATM, stopped by a store to pick chocolates, wafers, soft drinks etc, since we had two 'not so young' kids with us (my cousins) who need food every now and then. Coming to think of it, many people love to munch on something or the other while travelling, I do too!

About Mahabaleshwar, I had heard various opinions from different people, noone ever said it was great, nor did they say it was bad. Therefore, my expectations were not very high. I knew I was going for an outing with family.

On our way we stopped in Panchgani at Mapro's, had awesome sandwiches and icecreams, and headed for Mahabaleshwar. Since I had no image of the place in my mind I enjoyed myself througout. I loved the drive uphill to Mahabaleshwar. It wasn't too steep and the roads were quite good.

The highlights of this place are its various points. Some of them are a little difficult to reach if you are not a really strong and fit person as the way to these points are rough and steep. But if you can make it there you'll realise that the effort was worth it. The view from those points is stunning!

Since we did not stay over we did not get time to spend time at the lake, and go for a boat ride. It would've been fun. Neverthless, it was certainly worth visiting Mahabaleshwar.





At Mapro's in Panchgani


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Chocolate for thought!

Someone who loves food is called a foodie, similarly someone who loves chocolate should be called chocolatie! Nice chocolate (food) for thought, isn't it!

I am a chocoholic! I may crib and cry and sulk looking at my bloated self in the mirror, but my craving for chocolate never seems to die!

I have tasted quite a large variety of chocolates from different parts of the world. Of all the kinds I have tasted there's one kind that was just extraordinary, not only for the taste, but also for the pricing. Godiva chocolates are a kind and class of its own.

When I went to Brussels, an acquaintance told me about Godiva chocolates. I ensured that going to the Godiva shop was part of the itinerary even in the really little time we were given to see around. It was quite a small shop with a wide variety of chocolates, situated at the Grote Markt square. I wanted to try some before buying a box. So, I ordered a small quantity of dark chocolates. Each of those roughly 20 gm truffles cost about a euro! In my currency it comes to 65 rupees per piece!

Though very steep in price, it was worth tasting one of world's finest chocolates!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Lonavala

Joy and I wanted to take a quick break from the mundane Hyderabad life. The idea was to go somewhere and rest rather than going on a sight seeing tour. So we chose to go to Lonavala and Khandala.

We took a shared cab from Pune and reached Lonavala in the evening. We had a couple of names of hotels on our minds, so we started looking out for them. We checked into one, with the help of an auto rickshaw guy who took us around to find hotels.

The next afternoon the driver took us to Karla Caves, which was about 9 kms from where we were staying. These caves are the largest Chaitya caves in the country. We took the uphill, a little steep, road to reach the Karla Caves. When we reached there the driver told us that we needed to climb about 300 stairs to get there. For a moment it seemed like a monstrous task, almost impossible to achieve, but I am not the one to give up too easily. Joy was quite unsure whether I would be able to make it.

I did make it to the top, but to be very honest, it was not worth the effort. It was extremely hot, didn't expect that kind of heat in January; very unkempt entrance. Nothing looked nice! At the entrance of the caves there were three broken pillars with lions; the stairs to the caves were so dark that I chose not to climb anymore.








The driver was very surprised too see us back so early. He said, normally people take about one and a half hours to get there and come back, and we took about 45 minutes only!

Then we went back to where we came from, that is, back to the city of Lonavala, to go to Ryewood Park. I had heard about this park earlier, so I was quite excited about going to the park and sitting there for some time. As we reached there we figured it was just another park, and it was extremely hot to even step out of the car. We drove past that place with the quaint hope that we may take a stroll down the road and sit at the park on a pleasant monsoon evening.

The next place we passed was the Lonavala Lake. We didn't get off because it was absolutely dry. The city pamflets boast of this place as a replica of Chowpati, there was not a single soul around!

At this point we were rather disappointed with our plan to do a sight seeing tour. Therefore, we weren't even interested to see anything anymore. We reached Bhushi Dam. The place did not seem remotely interesting from the outside. As we went inside we realised that the place wasn't all that uninteresting. It was quite cool. So we decided to sit on the rocks, and we sat there for more than half an hour. Joy even had some tea.





After this, we set for the most awaited part of our day trip, Khandala. I just have one thing to say, this place is hyped beyond any limit. If anyone is planning a getaway from the maddening city life, it is good to check into one of the resorts and rest. There is nothing else to see.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Wonder Called YouTube!

YouTube is a fantastic technological feat which among other things has brought the world of music as close as it can get to music lovers. In other words, it is a wonder!

I was working at the computer when all of a sudden I remembered Danny Kaye's Popo The Puppet, a song I last heard 22 years ago. I typed 'Danny Kaye Popo The Puppet' on YouTube and there it was, the song I heard as a little girl! I have such wonderful memories of this song as we had performed this in one of our school annual functions; I did the little talking in between.

I don't know how many people today know about Danny Kaye; I really don't care. If people haven't heard enough music while growing up it is their loss! But for those who cherish music from the past and, especially their childhood, here is the song!

Enjoy! :)