Backpacking Through North India-5: Kasol

After a hiatus of more than 3 years, I finally got the time to resume my travels. Last 3 years have been really hectic on a personal and professional front and I’m glad that phase is over and I can get back to living my life. Regardless, I just returned from a small but cosmopolitan Himalayan village as a part of a long planned and well deserved break from life and the rest of the world, and I couldn’t be happier to write about it on the blog.

Kasol, when you hear the name, what comes to your mind? Hills, treks, Israeli people, Mediterranean food? Or something notorious that region is known for? Well, a disclaimer; my intention to head there was not for that *something notorious*, but to soak in the cosmopolitan, hippie vibe of the place, to meet some Israelis and most importantly to try their amazing bland/non-spicy food.

Oh wait, I didn’t explain the Israeli connection of Kasol. Situated in the Parvati Valley, the small village of Kasol is the hotspot for Israelis-young and old-in India. Many young Israeli men and women come to Kasol to relax after their mandatory conscription (the cost of carving out a country in the Middle-East surrounded by hostile neighbors). Some like it so much that they find the place like home and end up staying there for a long term; whereas some seasoned travelers spend their 6 months of summer in Kasol after living and working in Israel for the previous 6, thus living on saved money, and they repeat the cycle. It’s all a game of exchange rates. Some Israelis I spoke with said that it’s cheaper to vacation in Kasol than to live in Israel; in effect they save money while vacationing. Now who wouldn’t like that!

Throughout the town, even the signs on the streets are plastered in Hebrew, and at some places, solely in Hebrew.

So, nestled in the heart of the Parvati Valley, to reach Kasol is a task in itself. No direct buses head there from Delhi and one has to get down at a bigger town and catch the local bus to Kasol. It’s that remote.
In the Parvati Valley, apart from Kasol lie some other villages such as Manikaran, Malana, Grahan etc. and breathtaking treks, such as ones to Malana, Chalal, Rashol etc. I didn’t go to all of them as the plan was to relax in this break but I’ll definitely cover the entire valley when I go there next, which could be pretty soon considering that I have moved to Delhi now. Yes, my Bombay days are over. I’m a Delhite now. More on that some other time.
The months of April-October are the right time to go to Kasol if you want to avoid the snow and the extremely chilly weather (though I would advise to visit in the months outside of the above-mentioned window just to enjoy the snow), yet the summer of Kasol is like the winter in the planes; the temperature dipped to 3 degrees one night while I was there. Though it doesn’t snow in Kasol in summer, yet you can see the snow covered peaks of the Sar Pass which are at a higher altitude from the valley.

To get to Kasol, you have to take a bus from Delhi to Bhuntar. Bhuntar is on the Kullu/Manali route so any bus that’ll be going to either of these places will drop you at Bhuntar. As during my last time backpacking in McLeodganj, I again took a Himachal Road Transport bus from Kashmere Gate ISBT in the evening, and after about 14 hours, I was in Bhuntar. The bus navigates through Haryana and Chandigarh before it enters Himachal and the landscape starts changing beautifully from the plains to the mountains. The cities covered on the way include Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Ambala and Chandigarh. On the way there are loads of roadside Dhabas serving scrumptious Punjabi food in quantities fit for a king. But then, when around Punjab, you have to eat like a Punjabi.

The outline of the mountains early in the morning from the bus while on the way to Bhuntar.

From Bhuntar one heads to the local bus stop to catch another bus to Kasol. That is the prettiest road to navigate through with the Parvati river flowing with fervor in the valley down below to your left and thick Deodar forests on the mountain to your right. This being a local bus is also frequented by the local Himachali village people, who I maintain, are the sweetest people I’ve observed in this country; so polite, so courteous, and so welcoming towards the travelers. Wherever I’ve met them, in the town, on the hikes in the woods, on the road, they’ve all been genuinely friendly.

The main street of Kasol. Yes, that’s how tiny this village is. So tiny that there’s just one ATM which caters to all the locals and travelers, and which is usually out of money (thanks demonetization) or out of power.

I had booked a hostel for my 8 day stop but due to its renovation, they shifted us to a hotel nearby, sadly I missed out on meeting more travelers on the trip, however I was rewarded with wonderful views of the valley and the night sky from the rooftop of the hotel; and when it rained there, the clouds literally descended on earth. Rains also bought along with them chilly evenings and nights. Imagine the Indian summer during May, and you’re at a place where sometimes the temperature dips to as low as 3 degrees during the night. Delightful!


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The closest treks to Kasol are the ones to the villages of Grahan and Thunja. Located around 9 kms uphill, the twin villages are accessible only through a trek via the Deodar forests replete – all uphill – with difficult terrain, and with wild animals like bears and leopards. What’s more? During the winters, they’re not accessible at all because of the snow. Yet there are people who live there, and many make the trip to Kasol and back couple of times a week for supplies and trade.
So it goes this way. The trek I made for leisure and adventure, they have to make it out of necessity multiple times a week. And it’s not an easy trek at all. It might be just 9 kms, but leading to the difficult path, it easily takes 4-5 hours to get there, and the path is so narrow at some places that only one person can walk through it, else there’s the valley on the other side where you can slip in. I feel privileged AF!

Met this young family on the trek to Thunja who gave me some insights about the life in the village.

Nevertheless, the path is beautiful. Almost throughout the trek you hear the gushing sound of the Grahan river (which eventually merges with the Parvati in Kasol) flowing down in the valley as your music. Here are some beautiful images from the trek.








You also encounter the Grahan river on the trek. As it flows directly from the glacier, continuously in the summer because of the melting snow, it has got the clearest water you’d have ever seen in your life. At some places where the depth is low, you might feel like drinking the cold water; and that’s what I did. Filled it up in my bottle, and I’m not exaggerating, it was the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted; flowing straight from the Himalayan glaciers.


On a random hike around the town one afternoon, I met a bunch of young Israelis who, like their compatriots, were fresh out of conscription. We got into talking and apparently ended up discussing politics of the Middle East, life in Israel and India travel destinations, and yes, availability of beef in India. Nevertheless they were a really nice bunch of folks, and ended up offering me Israeli coffee prepared from the river water on their mobile stove. And the coffee was not bad at all!

Coming to the food. One of my major motivations to head to Kasol. For a Mediterranean food buff, this place is a heaven in India. You get anything under the Israeli sun in Kasol. Ranging from the basic Falafels and Hummus, to the exotic Sabih and Shakshouka, you get such variety that you won’t even get in a Mediterranean restaurant in Bombay.



Did I mention the dogs? The Mountain dogs, stray or pet, are the friendliest and the calmest of them all. Over a week spent in Kasol and not one dog I found who growled at anyone.
Even when you have food, they just calmly follow you, sometimes for kilometers on a hike in the woods as well. Some may look fierce but pet them and you got their tails wagging.

4 kilometers from Kasol is the village of Manikaran. Known the most for the Sikh Gurudwara, Manikaran also has many hot water springs. In some within the Gurudwara premises, one can take a dip as well. It’s exhilarating to realize that on one side you have the freezing cold water of the Parvati river while on the other, the boiling water of the hot springs. The water is so hot that even the rice for the Langar at the Gurudwara is boiled by dipping the container in the spring. Don’t be surprised while roaming on the streets of the village you see smoke coming out of the corner of the pavement. It’s just nature at work. Oh, and this town has an ATM, so if the one at Kasol is not working, walk 4 kms along the pretty road to Manikaran and get your money.

On my last day at Kasol, while waiting for the bus near the main square, I got to see this traditional Pahari dance called Naati performed by locals for some forest department event. Such a wonderful end to the trip.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m going to retire in the hills? Well, you never know. 🙂

Backpacking Through North India-3: McLeodGanj

After covering Attari and Amritsar, via Delhi I headed to McLeodGanj, aka Little Lhasa of India. It’s called so because this cosy little town on the foothills of Dhauladhar range serves as a home to the exiled Tibetan community. Also the home to His Holiness Dalai Lama, this town houses the Tibetan government in exile. Leading to these facts, McLeodGanj’s and Dalai Lama’s place in Buddhism can be analogized to that of the Vatican and the Pope.

The town has extremely polite and courteous people, friendly monks, breath-taking views, a Buddhist monastery, a Church from the British era and some great food. For the first time in my life I saw a mountainous region replete with snow covered peaks, so the experience was definitely unique, plus this being a comfy little town of genuinely friendly and courteous people made my visit even more memorable. Having lived in cities like Bombay and Bangalore, I had forgotten how genuine can people be, McLeodGanj made me realize that.

McLeodGanj is also thronged by Hippies and backpackers, hence this small town has a unique air to it to help cater to their needs, you get multi cuisine food, ranging from Italian to Mediterranean (and Tibetan), bookstores with unique collections in multitude of languages, coffee shops serving lattes and cappuccinos, and of course, people from various nationalities. I was accompanied by a Chinese couple in the bus which seemed funnily odd considering they were visiting the Little Lhasa whereas they could visit the actual city in occupied Tibet. In short, it won’t be wrong to term McLeodGanj as a global village.

Hippies may come to McLeod to experience the spirituality, but the reason for me to include this town in my itinerary was to experience the Tibetan culture, which lately I’ve been fascinated about. I reached there early on a cold, sunny morning with clear skies (which is unusual in January) in a bus from New Delhi. As soon as you get out of the bus, you’re surrounded by representatives of various hotels around the town. They come down towards the main bus stop every morning and based on their luck they’re able to pick up the tourists. Being January, the tariffs were way cheap it being an off season for tourism. I found my abode for the next couple of days at Hotel Victoria House (yes, I’m naming it for my stay there was extremely comfortable and the lady who takes care of it was very hospitable, plus, you have amazing views of the valley from your window). I then set out to explore the town which is small enough to be covered on foot.


View of the valley from the hotel room. Notice the snow covered peak of the Dhauladhar range in the distant.


A view of the Kangra valley from one of the main streets of the town.


And on the other side of the street, stand the mountains.

Centered around the main square, on about 4 main roads, I’d call them lanes, is what the town is based on. For a moment you can forget that you’re at some place in India. You can’t help but notice the presence of monks and Tibetans everywhere, it’s amusing to see such adorable people walking on the roads. Also the presence of Tibetan symbology, viz. national flags, prayer flags, political messages, Buddhists monasteries dotted along the town etc. can’t be missed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  At the end of the Temple road lies Tsuglakhang Monastery where His Holiness Dalai Lama resides, his residential quarters stand opposite to the Buddhist Temple. Tibetans do clockwise circumambulations called Kora around significant religious places like monasteries, mountains (linked to various deities) etc. while reciting their prayers. Likewise, around the monastery there is a narrow, beautiful path to do the Kora, and luckily not many people are aware about it which helps maintain its sanctity. One gets wonderful views of the valley below at one stretch of the path where one can sit on one of the benches and admire the view below. It’s surreal, snow covered peaks to your left and the valley below you.


Friendly monks at the monastery.


Monks also gleefully oblige to have their pictures clicked with the tourists, like this one above posing for the camera of some tourists.


A stretch of the Kora path around the monastery (above and below).


The view od the valley from the Kora path.

Along the path can also be found Tibetan prayer flags. Tibetans put them high up on the trees and it is believed by them that the prayers written on the flags are blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space.


The path is dotted with Prayer wheels which contain Tibetan Mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hun’ and Tibetans believe that one rotation of the wheel is equivalent to chanting the mantra by the person rotating it and corresponding goodwill is endowed upon that person. One can also find dotted along the path, various temples with giant prayer wheels, one rotation of which rings the bell suspended above.


The mantra ’Om Mani Padme Hun’ written in Tibetan (language).

Next stop was Tibet Museum which is housed within the main gates of the monastery. The museum highlights the atrocities faced by the Tibetans under the Chinese repression since 1949. It contains detailed information on how the Tibetans moved to Dharamsala after the Chinese took over their country and initiated the cultural invasion and how Tibetans indulge in the act of self immolation for protests within Tibet today despite being told not to do so by the Dalai Lama. Also it contains interesting artefacts of the period before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, like old Tibetan currency notes, weapons used by the Khampa tribesmen etc. An interesting feature of the museum is the documentaries they show every afternoon on Tibet. The afternoon I went there, a documentary called ‘Undercover in Tibet’ was on the charts which showed how a young Tibetan in Tibet covertly interacted with Tibetans who told him their plight under the Chinese on camera.

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Blood stained clothes of a Tibetan refugee who escaped the Chinese brutality during the early years of the cultural invasion, at the Tibet Museum.

Later that night I went to watch a movie at McLeodGanj’s only 40 seater movie theater ‘Cinemaa 1’. Located in the basement of one building on the Jogibara Road, movie DVDs are projected on the screen. The weekly timetable can be found on all major points of the town. The variety of movies they play are mix of classics and not so latest Hollywood movies, it’s understood that it takes time to get the DVDs of latest movies up to this town, so it takes about a month or more to get the popular movies to play after the release date. That night, luckily on the schedule was 7 Years in Tibet. I was at a perfect place to watch this movie. Again being the off season, there were only 3 people, including me to watch the movie.


The interiors of Cinemaa1.

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Markets of McLeodGanj are colorful, targeting the tourists, Tibetans have set up stall at almost all the points of the town, selling items ranging from momos to Tibetan woolenwear, Music CDs to Cards and bookmarks containing Dalai Lama quotes.


Bit on the outskirts of the town lies the Church if St. John’s in the Wilderness. It’s the resting place of the second Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin. The Church, situated amidst thick Deodar trees outside the town stands true to its name, in the wilderness. It may look bit spooky from the outside, but it’s beautiful within (sadly photography is not permitted inside). It’s the kind of a place where one can sit for a long time and do nothing but listen to the silence of the forest around.

This town being secluded amidst the mountains offers a spectacular views of the night sky. With little light pollution, the view you get above is literally out of this world. It took me back to my college days in Ahmedabad when I was interested in amateur astronomy and used to study the night sky regularly. Never had I got such a beautiful view of the sky as in McLeodGanj. The sky is lit up with millions of stars, you can’t get this view in any city. I made a point to spend some time on the rooftop of my hotel every night I was there.


On my last day in the town, while strolling around leisurely on the streets, I came across this crowd awaiting someone; I asked and got to know that His Holiness is going to exit the monastery. Now all this time I didn’t even know that Dalai Lama was in McLeodGanj, for it’s unusual of him to be there as he keeps travelling a lot. And boy, how lucky was I. I got to see him up close. Again, perfect time to be at that place. That made my trip worthwhile.

Now coming to the food. During my entire trip, the most delicious (and also the worst) food that I’ve had was in this town. I am writing about it here in detail for I believe that the tale of McLeodGanj’s culinary delights need to be told…
You can’t help but notice that you get Momos, the Tibetan staple, here on the street side. I tried the steamed ones being sold by a lady outside the Monastery and need I mention, they were delicious.


When visiting the monastery, one must relish the delicious authentic steamed momos sold at the gate.

There is a Café called Black Tent that serves some really good Tibetan and American breakfast, nd apparently, the cappuccino they have there is really good. One unique aspect of all the cafes of McLeodGanj is that they are WiFi enabled and you can bring around your laptops, tablets etc. and work/play in the conducive environment.


Omelette served with Tibetan bread and butter at Cafe Black Tent.


The best Cappuccino I have ever had, again at Cafe Black Tent.

Next I tried the famous Wood Fired Pizza at Carpe Diem. The upper level of Carpe Diem is always preferable for one gets amazing views of the mountains and also it allows you to mingle with fellow travellers.


Wood fired Pizza at Carpe Diem.

For desert, there is always ‘Tibet Quality Bakery’ where you get authentic Tibetan bakery items, and yes, Yak Cheese is also available here. I tried the black forest block made from Yak Milk, it started tasting bit funny towards the end, but was worth a try.

Now coming to the worst food of McLeodGanj, funnily I had it at Café Norling which is certified by NDTV GoodTimes’ Highway On My Plate. Hence, by taking the suggestion of Rocky and Mayur, I ordered Thukpa and Fried Chicken and both turned out to be awful, I’m sure Thukpa must be not that bad. Also the fried chicken didn’t even had the skin removed. I tweeted to Rocky and Mayur after coming back to Bangalore and they too agreed that Norling, once a hard working eatery, has grown worse over the years.


Worst food I had at McLeodGanj, at Norling Restaurant. (Below) Rocky and Mayur second my experience.

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This little kid I encountered in the town was named Lhasa. This signifies the nationalism Tibetans harbor for their country.

(Below) Colors of dusk at McLeodGanj.

Anyway, After 3 wonderful days, it was my time to bid goodbye to McLeodGanj, I wish I had planned more days for this town in my itinerary but I didn’t know this town would turn out to be so beyond my expectations. It’s natural to forget that you have to return back in the serene atmosphere of McLeod. With a refreshed mind, I turned towards Delhi, but I didn’t bid bye to this town, for you never bid bye to Dharamsala, you come back…

Now, let me share my two cents on the Tibetan issue. Since the cultural invasion by the Chinese in Tibet, large numbers of Tibetans have thronged to India and Nepal, and India rightfully has given asylum and citizenship to many Tibetans. Tibetans have continued their struggle to return back to Tibet ever since and have setup the government in exile at Dharamsala. Tibetans have suffered many atrocities by the Chinese within their land and hence even today the migration of Tibetans to India continues.

The Chinese have forcefully indulged in the erosion of Tibetan language and culture by changing the official language from Tibetan to Mandarin, and putting restriction on the traditional way of living of rural Tibetans by forcefully shifting them to filthy, congested concrete blocks on the outskirts of the towns from their ancestral grasslands on the pretext of protecting flora and fauna and ecosystem. The Tibetans in cites live under the heavy presence of Chinese police, even at Potala Palace in Lhasa, plain clothed Chinese policemen keep an eye on the monks and tourists alike. Tibetans are not allowed to raise their flag and can be arrested for doing so. Foreign media is virtually banned in Tibet under an unwritten rule. The Chinese have also started migrating in large numbers in Tibet and hence have taken over traditional jobs of the Tibetans. The human rights situation in Tibet is also worse. Many Tibetans also indulge in self-immolation under protest. Gradually demographically, Tibet is turning like America or Australia, where after the influx of the ‘outsiders’ the Red Indians and Aborigines have turned into a minority. But in Tibet’s case, it’s a forced and politically motivated influx, unlike the two examples.
Leading too these reasons, Tibetans don’t promote tourism in their land for they see tourism as promoting the Chinese agenda.

Tibetans today want the Chinese to vacate their country so that they can return back with respect. Now here I am bit confused, the struggle of Tibetans is genuine but sometimes it seems bit unrealistic to me. The Chinese though played the bad boy in 1949 and the following decade but it has helped the region progress economically. Today, in Tibet, almost everything ranging from infrastructure to instant noodle packets comes from China. Economically, Tibet is better off under the Chinese today. I feel Tibetans won’t be able to handle their economy without the Chinese, the country has little natural resources apart from Yak farming and growing turnips; plus, if it ever attains freedom, it will be a theocracy (headed by Dalai Lama) which is not sustainable in todays globalized and interconnected world.
Yes, Tibet functioned before Chinese invasion but it was an isolated land, foreigners were not allowed to enter the ’hermit kingdom’ and the country had little or no connection with outside world. Obviously, this won’t be the country’s model today, still I hope if ever Tibet becomes independent (highly unlikely) Tibetans are efficiently able to manage their country.

And don’t get me wrong, I totally support the Tibetan struggle for independence because for me, human rights comes before anything else, even before a Buddhist theocracy. But the sad part is that no one can help Tibet attain freedom, not even US for fear of souring economic relations with China which is emerging as the economic driver of the region. And China would in no way consider Tibet’s independence as an option, like recently when Barack Obama met Dalai Lama in US, China raised its discontent stating that US should not give Dalai Lama a platform in their territory to engage in anti China separatist activities.

Ending this lengthy post with a brilliant quote by a Tibetan monk: “I miss the spirituality we had before communism, but at least now we have central heating”
Anyway, despite all this I stand for the freedom of Tibet.

FREE TIBET

Wandering Through Bombay–6: Cafe Mondegar

When a place welcomes you with a quote like ‘Reality is an illusion caused by alcohol deficiency’, you know it’s one of those friendly neighborhood bars! That’s Cafe Mondegar, also called Mondy’s, which is not a bar actually in conventional terms for it serves regular Indian, Chinese and Continental fare too along with alcohol.
It is situated at a strategic location, at the beginning of Colaba Causeway, near Regal Cinema. Just as Leopold is popular with tourists, Mondy is preferred by old time Bombay locals.
So this Sunday morning I headed there to savor Mondy’s famous breakfast fare, which is served to you with the day’s print.

Mondegar is one interesting place with many features worth noting. To name a few…
(left) The walls, just like that of my office cafeteria, are adorned by Mario Miranda’s graffiti.
Also here you have the famous Mondy’s Jukebox where you can play your favorite classic rock numbers, be it Beatles, Rolling Stones or some Pink Floyd.
Another interesting feature, which is common between Leopold and Mondy is its table top printed menu.
You get to satisfy your cravings for the food which is not commonly available in many restaurants in Bombay, be it beef steaks, prawns or bacon, you’ll get it all here along with pitchers of beer or glasses of sophisticated wines.


Compact seating arrangement at Mondy with tables placed close by. Another example of Bombay’s space crunch? Who minds!


And that on the other end is the famous Mondy’s jukebox!


And this is my breakfast; fried eggs served with bacon, crisps and buttered toast, preceded by Orange juice and followed by a nice, hot cup of coffee. I loved the fare except for the bacon which was way too chewy and dry. Next time when I go there, I’d rather order my breakfast with sausages.


The merchandise they have for sale, ranging from caps to mugs, T shirts to napkins.

So here’s to the good ol’ Mondy. the ancient, timeless streetside cafe; standing since the British were here, and serving Bombayites some good food and beer! (Wow, that rhymed!)

Wandering Through Bombay–1: Mohammed Ali Road during Ramadan

Yes I know, I’m late for this series of blog posts. It’s been 6 months and a half since I moved to Bombay and now comes my first post in ‘Wandering Through Bombay’ series (after my previous series, Wandering Through Ahmedabad). The reason being that with my hectic job, I hardly get time to blog, thus just one post since January. But now I resolve, starting this post, I’ll be active on my blog again.


So on a very rainy (I was about to use ‘wet’) Saturday evening in the month of Ramadan (Ramzan in Urdu), I headed to Bombay’s famous non veg street food heaven, Mohammed Ali Road. I set out on foot from Churchgate station and managed to reach there just at the time of Maghrib prayers and when people were preparing to break their fast. Minara Masjid (above) was all lit up in its full glory and one could hear the prayers through the loudspeakers.
I headed there to get the full Ramadan experience, hence I survived on juice throughout the day (err.. the experience is not complete if juice is involved. but in my defence, I didn’t eat at the time of Sehri, heck I didn’t even get up that early) and set out for this street in the evening.


At the end of the prayers, people headed out of the mosque, and the feasting began…


These kids referred themselves as ‘Gandhiji ke 3 bandar’ (Gandhi’s 3 monkeys) before posing for my lens.


The bustle around the food stalls. It grows with time and is at its max around Isha prayers.


This was at the BadeMiya stall, aren’t the seekh kebabs mouth watering?


Kebabs in making…


Some more bustle…


A Shawarma in making. Apparently, I found Khaboos Shawarmas to be the best thing to eat there (after all I’m a Lebanese food lover, and snob), after of course, some Phirni…


I asked him for a picture and he put his hand behind his head for a pose.
Those white things in earthen bowls are called Phirnis. I didn’t know what Phirni was until @AsavariGill told me about this amazing sweet. And I can say that Phirni brought back my faith in Indian sweets.


Looking at me taking photographs, this kid asked his mother to ask me to click his photograph, and I obliged gleefully!


Mohammed Ali road reminds me of Bhatiyar Gulley of Ahmedabad. But the former, no doubt is livelier.


Look, we have a tricolor!




I always find it amusing, the way they have their food for display!


So what is being fried in the picture above is some sweet called Malpuwas. Looked inviting, though I couldn’t try some for I was full by that time.


And now, some raw meat to gross some of you out. There in the picture you can see some goat brains, kidneys, and that dark brown thing on the left is the liver. I’ve always wanted to try some brains, or what they call ‘Bheja Fry’! Will try it some other time I’m there.


And ending the post with this picture of some kids enjoying their Ferris Wheel ride.

I Love Bombay!

Yes I do, I’m bound to, it’s Bombay after all!

It’s been about three and a half months since I moved to Bombay, and this visit to the city marked the start of a new phase of my life. This time I came here to ‘live’, yes, for long term and on my own; i.e. it’s my first job after college which has brought me to this city and which also brought me my social and financial independence. And I love it here; it’s such a relief from laid back and orthodox Ahmedabad which I left behind. Working in a huge American Corporate with top class work culture and with workplace located in one of the posh locations of the city, living on my own, paying my bills with my earned money, working hard on weekdays, partying harder, hitting the beach, watching theater, attending stand up comedies, exploring the city, and getting wasted on weekends. What more do I want! Smile

Indeed, ‘Work Hard, Party Harder’; life seems to be making me live this motto in Bombay. When on weekdays if you spend around 12 hours at work almost every day, making sure you fully utilize your weekends is the only way to retain that ‘feel good’ factor in your life. And that’s what I’ve implemented in my life. Come Saturday morning and I have to hit the beach and experience the pleasure of travelling in local trains, for if I don’t do so at least once a week, I feel suffocated. Weekend nights are usually spent attending theater (this is what I like about Bombay, we have quality plays in this city unlike in Ahmedbad with dead theater scene and rare plays that too in Gujju) or stand up comedies and being wasted. Then I find joie de vivre in picking a different spot or location to explore within Bombay; in this way, in three months itself, I’ve seen almost everything ranging from upscale Colaba to the slums of Dharavi; and I tell you, this city indeed has some really contrasting and mesmerizing visual treats to offer.
Oh, and did I mention about the gastronomic delights Bombay treats you with? Ranging from beef at Leopold’s to real (with pork sausages) Hot Dogs at Mondegar’s to Hummus at Maroosh to local street side Wada Paus, everything I’ve tasted here is finger licking good unlike those Dhoklas and Theplas in Ahmedabad. And you get every damn type of cuisine available on this planet in this city, again, unlike Ahmedabad. For Lebanese food, you have Lebanese Point, for Chinese, you have Mainland China, for street side Non Veg food, you have the famous Mohammed Ali Road; and man you get some scrumptious sea food in here. I also got to satisfy my long time craving for Pork Chops and Beef, which one obviously doesn’t get in Ahmedabad. In my first few days here, it was hard for me to believe that I’m finally in Bombay, for the hotel’s breakfast buffet served Omelette and the ease with which you can get Chicken Biryani home delivered was something which is unimaginable in Ahmedabad.
Oh, and did I mention the free flowing Alcohol?

Also now that I’ve got a bank account with a balance of my own, life’s so different from those pocket money days; booking air tickets for my travel doesn’t pinch my pockets anymore, spending almost a mini fortune for an occasional weekend night out seems all affordable. This city has a certain buzz to it which inspires you to work hard, earn more and spend more. And the best part, it provides you options to spend your disposable income by doing things other than mere watching movies and eating out (again, unlike Ahmedabad).

But one thing that I dislike apart from the ridiculously high real estate prices (obviously) is when people call this city Mumbai. This wretched up term coined by Shiv Sena when it came to power in 1995 was an effort to raze down the British past of the city (Just like the BJP government under Cheap Minister, Mass Murderer Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad is trying to rename it to Amdavad to raze the Muslim past of the city; heck, the AMC has even started using the term Amdavad everywhere. As soon as you exit the airport, on the road you see a big sign which says Welcome to Amdavad)  and this has started an irreversible trend to transform this great cosmopolitan city to be like any other provincial Indian city . Not just that, Shiv Sena fools then went on a renaming spree, changing names from British to local ones, Victoria Terminus to Chhatra-whatever-the-hell-Shivaji Terminus, Colaba Causeway to Shaheed Bhagat Singh Road, Napean Sea road to Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Prince of Wales Museum to (again) Chhatra-whatever Vastu Sangrahalaya. I think I understand when Salman Rushdie refers to Bombay as the ruined metropolis which is vastly different from the city he grew up in. Bombay was cosmopolitan then, now it’s becoming more and more regional. Well, who’s to blame, history’s proof that this city has never stayed in one hands for long. first it was the Portuguese, then the British and now it’s them.
The logic these Shiv Sena loonies give for renaming the city is that the name derives from Goddess Mumba of the Koli fisher folk who were the original inhabitants of the city and that’s what the city was called until the Portuguese and the British occupied it. But the fact is that Bombay was nothing but a cluster of 7 islands which, in the Portuguese times  was called Bom Bahia, meaning Good Bay, thus came the term Bombay, later British took over the city and conjoined the 7 islands to create the landform which we (sadly) call in this day as Mumbai. It was never ever called Mumbai in it’s entire history.

Anyway, I’ll call it Bombay no matter what. I’ve been ‘staying’ in Ahmedabad for all this time, but now, I’m ‘living’ in Bombay!

Ending this post with this Pseudo Echo number, which goes like…

Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me
Town to keep me movin’
Keep me groovin’ with some energy…
Well, I talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about, talk about
Talk about movin’
Gotta move on

Yes, I’ve moved on to that town and that town is Bombay!

Living on your own, Mamata Banerjee and other chatter!

With just a month and a half remaining in Ahmedabad I’ve started with the necessary preparations, ticket is booked, shopping is on, University project is done with college just about to wind up in 17 days, all the formalities with the firm are finished too and what’s just remaining is my joining.
I think this transition period from student to professional life is one of the best time in one’s life. Talking about me in particular, it’s exciting for I’m moving out of my parents’ home and I’ll be living on my own now. It’s a happy yet overwhelming feeling of being independent and finally feeling like an adult, for in a country like India leaving home is closely linked to employment, education and marriage and not for the purpose of seeking independence in order to mature and see the world without any bounds. Similarly in my case it’s for the purpose of employment and I’m glad it serves for much needed independence too. I’m saying so because it’s true, take my example, I’m 21, an adult and living with my parents in their home. In this setup (with parents being together to take care of all your needs and trait of Indian parents considering you as a kid even if you’re 30) I’m not made to feel 21 at all, and I want to get out of it. Living on your own gives you an opportunity to experience life by yourself, an opportunity to improve your knowledge, opportunity to meet new people and face the world head on, freedom to nourish yourself, learn what life has to offer on the first hand, grow and mature which is not possible in the traditional setup we have in India. Also it gives you an excellent opportunity to know yourself better, know your needs, realize what kind of person you are, what setting you’re comfortable with and what you need out of your life.

This independence makes you learn many essential lessons in life too which are helpful till the end. Let’s start with the basic ones, you get to cook, clean the apartment, pay your bills, repair leaky faucets, do the dishes and laundry, plan your expenses and take care of yourself. You acquire personal maturity by being responsible. Also in this setup you encounter new people, experience new cultures and learn from them. Such experiences will help you throughout your life and even if you are alone you don’t need to be dependent on someone else for your needs.
On the positive side there are these little feel good benefits too like waking up when you want to, coming home at late hours of the evening, act according to how you feel, snuggling up in bed for entire Saturday morning reading the book you like or staying up until dawn, taking solitary late night walk/rides, listening to the kind of music you like loudly, going on a weekend night out with friends without being answerable to anyone, enjoying your ‘me time’ etc.

Living by oneself is an important milestone in one’s life which not many achieve in India, I say everyone should try it at least once in their lives for apart from the social, emotional and financial autonomy, it gives you a much needed freedom from the traditional Indian setup. If not for any reason try it for experience, it will be worth it.

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Anyway as I will be entering this setup I tried to recall the stuff I know how to cook and I came up with this list. The list is subject to change for it’s what I could recall at the moment of writing this post.

  • Rösti (with and without egg)
  • Hash Brown
  • Pasta in white sauce (not the instant one, I can make it from scratch)
  • Chinese Paneer Chilli
  • Omelette
  • Fried Eggs
  • Egg in the basket
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Boiled eggs
  • Chinese fried rice
  • Indian potato croquettes
  • Sandwiches
  • Mediterranean Hummus
  • French Fries
  • Toast
  • Coffee

I haven’t tried but I think I could do reasonably with frozen/canned veg and non veg food items items and make rotis (how hard can it be).
Well it seems I won’t be having any problem in living by myself even if there’s no arrangement for food.

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If lately you’ve been following prime time English news in India you surely mustn’t have missed the Quiz Master and Rajya Sabha MP from Trinamool Congress Derek O’Brien popping up on those shows to defend Mamata Banerjee’s erratic ways right from her decision of banning those English language newspapers which don’t appreciate her in West Bengal’s government offices and libraries to her act of arresting that professor who made a not at all funny cartoon on her action of sacking the former railway minister. So if you know what these issues are all about then I suggest you to read this article, it is straight pot shots on Derek and I can say that it’s the funniest write up I’ve read in recent times.

So only if you’re aware of the situation then read it and you’ll get what I’m trying to say! Here’s this article from Dailymail UK:

Not easy being Didi’s voice: Spare a thought for the man who has the most unenviable job in the country

Under Mamata Banrejee’s rule (note I have used the word ‘rule’ here while I use words like ‘term’ or ‘serve’ for other politicians, for it’s apt for dictators like Mamata) West Bengal has seen some weird times, straight from changing the name of the state to PashchimBanga to the death of hundreds of infants in government’s hospitals to her sacking Dinesh Trivedi to her banning English newspapers as stated above to arresting people over cartoons to launching her TV channel for answering the ‘commies’ to opposing even the cable TV digitization amendment and what not. This lady is crazy and there’s no doubt in it!

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Recently at the Ahmedabad airport I saw this:

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It’s the picture of these people from the Isckon sect who were there to receive someone of their kind at the Domestic Terminal. So while waiting for that person these three people, with a kid included, were there beating their dhol resembling instrument and singing Hare Rama Hare Krishna. I was rather amused to see a kid amongst them dressed in similar saffron clothes who was chanting the same raga. This made me wonder how kids are influenced by such stuff, look at him, he’s a tiny 7-8 year old and from this age he is being involved in such acts. These people should at least wait for the kid to mature so that he realizes what is right for him and chooses his life accordingly rather than forcing upon him their ideologies. Who knows how many more kids these religious people influence and ruin their lives. That’s why I am repelled by such blind followers of religion.

Anyway the person for whom these were waiting turned out to be a saffron clad white guy, when they saw him arriving they increased the pace of their singing and finally they left leaving the terminal in peace. But to be true, it was amusing and unexpected to see such act at an airport terminal; and as Malishka would say, ‘It Happens Only in India’!