On my way to Kolhapur I stopped at the Kamat restaurant to grab a quick bite before heading on. It’s was an open structured place and I was awed by the sight of this beautiful field behind it
On my first day in Cusco we had a small museum tour of the city. I got to talking to a British lady for a bit who was in same tour group. After the tour we were dropped off to spend the rest of the day ourselves. They had informed us that there was a traditional prayer ceremony that took place in the evening and we could go and watch if we were so inclined. While I started walking away by myself towards the city center I dropped into local shop to exchange dollars for some local currency. When I came out I saw the same lady outside waiting for me with her daughter. She said I saw that you were alone and we thought we’d give you company if you were on your way to see the prayer ceremony. It was a very sweet and totally unexpected gesture.
I asked her about her family back home. Turned out she had 2 other kids but they couldn’t come together because it would have been too expensive for everyone to make it. Another question that I frequently encountered not just from her but several people I would come to meet was just how come I could speak English so well. It was quite surprising because I always imagined that Indians were pretty much everywhere in the world by now. Come dinner time, they invited me to join them but I politely declined and said my goodbye. I can’t remember her name but I think it was Penny.
While I had stopped at a local marketplace an old gentleman and his wife told me to try a local dish Papas a la huanciana that I tried and enjoyed on my last day in Peru.
On the way to a visit our tour group had stopped at this very lovely restaurant. I happened to share my table with a British guy who ordered a locally branded drink called Inca Cola. When I asked him about it he described it as something unique with a bubble gum kind of flavour to it. He kindly offered me a taste and I was addicted to it instantly. It was my go to drink on every single day thereafter I spent in Peru. It was perfectly fitting that the last drink I ended up having as I was leaving Peru at the airport was Inca Cola
Last month took me to Bangalore after almost 8 years. Last time I stayed there for a couple of days and I don’t remember much about the city besides visiting a mall called Garuda. This was a time when malls were something mighty impressive and Pune wasn’t quite inundated with malls as it is today. This time I was here for 4 days for a gaming conference. While the initial 2 days were mostly spent at the conference we managed to spend some leisure time in the evenings.
Weather, Food and People
Though it’s currently the peak of the summer season Bangalore seems to have a different way of dealing with the heat. Though it was quite hot in the day time. It rained quite heavily in the nights 2 days in a row. This really cooled things down and morning were actually quite pleasant. I had often heard of how bad traffic in Bangalore could be like and mostly it was. Compared to Pune, I actually thought it was actually more disciplined even though the volume of traffic there was so much more. The roads in general also seem to be much better maintained than ours. On the whole I quite liked the city. It seemed vibrant and alive with a lot of young people from different parts of the country.
I visited some nice restaurants while I was there. We had our anniversary dinner at a lovely place called Smoke House Deli. The décor was very unique and interesting and the food was incredible. Maybe the fact that it was my anniversary made it more special but in my mind it was the best pasta I ever had trumping even my favourite in Pune Dario’s. As an added bonus there happened to be a Lamborghini showroom very close to the place.
Smoke House Deli on Lavelle Road
The only thing that can distract a guy from his wife on a romantic night out
Rickshaws and Ola
In Pune I have very rarely used auto rickshaws and usually travel by the meter. In Bangalore the majority of the regular rickshaws refuse to ply by meter and quote exorbitant fares at any time. Some friends suggested that we use Ola cabs. I never used them in Pune before but they were the best and safest travel options for someone who might not know the city. On a particularly rainy night we needed to get back to the hotel and the rickshaws were asking us for Rs 200 per rickshaw to get us there. There were 9 of us and it would have taken 3 ricks and Rs 600 to get there. We called for 2 Ola cabs and all of us got there for half the price.
When I asked some of my colleagues when we got back to Pune about what they thought of Bangalore they felt that it was much greener on the whole as compared to Pune. When I think about it now this actually seems to ring true. I also visited the massive Cubbon park. I have no idea if I walked across even half of it that day.
Bangalore Bandh and Banergatta
After the conference we had a flight back to Pune only on Sunday evening so we had sat and most of Sunday free to ourselves. Unfortunately Saturday was declared as a bandh in the state and we were out of options to do pretty much anything. Transport was off the roads and almost everything else was shuttered anyway. Some people had mentioned the Banerghatta zoo to us and I thought to call and find out if they were open. Turned out they were open but the next part would be to find transport. After calling pretty much every cab service in the city and almost giving up we found an Ola cab after a lot of waiting. Since the streets were empty we got there in record time and also got to appreciate how well maintained the roads were.
While the zoo itself was ok, the 45 min safari was a lot of fun. Other than the driver trying to coax us into parting with some extra cash for the privilege of sitting in the front and getting some extra photos for us, it was great to see these incredible creatures up close.
On my last trip to Bangalore I had seen the Vidhan Souda building but the only thing I really remembered about it was that it was really grand and I had been impressed by it. So I thought I would go have look before leaving the city. It’s still grand and impressive and made me wish we had more such buildings in my own city.
After spending some time with friends one whom I met after almost 10 years we had some time to kill. We decided to visit Bangalore Palace which wasn’t very far from our hotel. I was expecting a small entry fee as is the norm in most such places. The only option they had was an audio tour where they give you a device which plays short audio clips corresponding the sections that you visit in the palace. I initially wondered if it was worth it, but my wife convinced me that we never knew when we would visit the city again so we went ahead with it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the audio production was of a very high quality with great narration and music accompanying it. It really evoked a sense of another time and place while walking around the palace.
Overall it was a nice little trip and I would be glad to visit the city again.
We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Why do we travel? Of course it’s about the places we wish to see, the experiences we always dreamed of having, the food we taste and the cultures we try to understand. In this connected age we already learn a great deal about a place before we make our plans to travel. In some regards, you can almost predict some of the experiences you might have on your journey. Sometimes we are underwhelmed. Sometimes the real thing can exceed our wildest expectations. As immense as our world is, even with the earth constantly spinning, the places we all flock to remain where they are on the map. They are shaped by forces of nature and the people that pass through them. When we set out on a journey we can chose from a million places, but we can never predict whom we encounter from among a billion faces.
There are no strangers in this world, just friends we’ve never met
I will never forget the moment when I visited Machu Pichu, stood above it and looked down below upon of civilisations most spectacular structures. Just thinking about it gives me a rush. What always brings a smile to my face though, is also the people I met and spoke to on my trip, from all walks of life, from all over the world. I don’t have the best memory and I never took pictures with most of the people I conversed with. All I recollect is bits and pieces of our conversations and going through the photos of the places where I came across them usually sparks a memory.
More location specific posts related to this coming soon.
My uncle’s wife happens to be from Peru so on my trip there I stayed at the home of her parents in the city of Cusco for a couple of days.
Their quaint little home in Cusco
Their youngest son also stayed with them and on my last day in Peru he and his girlfriend took me out on a food tour of the city. Unfortunately he didn’t speak much English so my communication with him was very limited. But he was very fun and enthusiastic and going around the small city from place to place was a very enjoyable experience.
A supposedly famous wall in Cusco though I can’t remember it’s significance now
Standing in front of the Fountain at the Plaza de Armas
Enjoying the lovely local dish Papas a la huanciana
When we finally settled down to dinner we tried to converse in the little english we did understand.
He asked me if I was married and the conversation somewhere meandered towards understanding how people usually got married in India. I tried my best to explain to him the very complicated concept of arranged marriage. I told him about how once a guy had decided that he was ready to get married would go and meet several girls before he decided on the one that he was going to marry. Ofcourse I didn’t delve into stuff like horoscopes and such that would defenitely have gone over his head. As the expression on his face grew incredulous with every passing minute there came a point where he finally said to me “You mean to say you can have many girlfriends at one time”. I burst out laughing all the while thinking how very far from the truth that was or was he right 😛
“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” ― Madalyn Murray O’Hair
Ever since I was old enough to form my own opinion on religion and God I have been a non-believer and a staunch atheist. However, I never come in the way of believers or advocated for them to see things my way. Religion has a huge significance in every aspect of life, for a vast majority of the generation my Indian parents were a part of. Religion for me, is simply a subset of culture which is something that I have tremendous joy in learning about. Churches, temples, mosques, gurudwaras and other holy structures are some of the most spectacular testaments to the ancient cultures and civilisations of yore. Why so many different religions were created is a mystery to me.
I personally believe that at the time of inception religion was created to give an ever growing civilisation a semblance of peace, structure and hope in their day to day lives. What it has grown into as the centuries have passed would probably shock even their creators. I love to travel even though I never travel as often as I should. Holy places don’t usually form a part of my itinerary but on the rare occasion that I do stop at any such place the ones that stick in mind are the ones that were uncrowded, peaceful, clean and nestled a midst nature. A soothing balm for a chaotic mind.
On a recent trip to Solapur with my family we took a side trip to a place called Tuljapur which was about an hr’s drive away. Squeezed into the car were me and my wife, our mothers and their mothers both in their 70’s. On arriving at Tuljapur one thing I instantly realised was that it wasn’t going to be calm or peaceful. What should have been a 3 hour side trip, took atleast 6 hours of an entirely good day.
Photography was prohibited on the inside and no sooner had we descended the steps into the main temple courtyard than I noticed people prostating themselves and someone else touching their feet when they were doing this. I don’t really get the meaning behind this but I think it’s a common practice in many cultures. I noticed someone else spit randomly even in this sacred space. I’m sure someone might have chastized him but no one seemed to notice him in the hustle and bustle.
All that people were interested in, was getting in to see the face of God. What made that difficult was the sheer number of people waiting to do the same. Most famous temples in India have 2 viewing options
- Mukh Darshan – Which means to see the idol from afar
- Regular Darshan – Which means to be able to see the idol from up close
When we asked one of the many pandits walking about the place he very non – chalantly told us. Mukh Darshan – 1 hr, Regular Darshan – 3 hrs. If it was up to me I would have chosen a third option which was get going the moment I heard this. Our grandmothers wouldn’t haven’t it any other way though. They hinted to us that they were too old and fragile and wouldn’t know if they would ever be able to make a trip like this again in their lives.
While I just stood around blankly we heard some people with raised voices in a particular section of the temple structure. It turned out that there was a locked gate that allowed you to skip the long queue and and get a jump on your chance to see the idol. What had happened was that the gate had been briefly opened by the security guys and several people milling about the gate were also trying to squeeze through. By the time we approched the gate it had already been locked up and we could sense the tension in the air. A tall man, who seemed to be sweating profusely began screaming at the security guard that his father had been waiting to get in since an hour and couldn’t he see that the guy was paralysed. Apparently this special gate was meant only for the disabled.
I quietly sidled away to let the other people of my family decide what they really wanted to do in this situation. They did try to sneak in our grandmothers through the disabled gate owing to their advanced age. When that didn’t work one of the many swamis milling about saw their hapless faces and unashamedly offered us a direct darshan service for the very reasonable sum of Rs 3100. Apparently for this small price we could all have the privilege of seeing God directly while skipping the lines of ordirnary wordshippers. Paying a little attention to the people around I realised that there were several swami’s offering the same service to anyone they thought could probably pay the price. I just stood quietly observing all this, my emotions alternating between amusement and despair.
The family finally decided that they would wait in line for the Mukh Darshan with a very reasonable waiting time of 1 hr. That was too much time for me, but my wife even though she wasn’t too keen on it decided to wait in line anyway. Since I would end up alone for an hr with nothing to do I tagged along. The entry point to this line was through some sort of building. The line moved upwards floor by floor. An hr and 20 mins later we had only moved up one floor with God nowhere in sight. Asking around we quickly realised that the line we had joined was the Regular Darshan line which always took a minimum of 3hrs. The rest of my family were a few places ahead of us in the line. I asked them once if they were really gonna wait it out. When they said yes, with an incredulous look on my face told that me and my wife were getting out of there that very instant. We quickly stepped over the railings that were placed for the lines and exited the building via the stairs and settled ourselves in a small resto outside the temple.
While we sat and gorged on some snacks and sipped on some refreshing drinks, they emerged 2 hrs later not looking very enlightened or blessed but red, drained and with an expression that could only be read as I don’t think I am ever going to do that again.