Mahabaleshwar Day-II

On day 2 we woke up late from bed took a stroll in the backyard then decided to walk towards main market to book our return trip and to have breakfast. On the way we had strawberry from street corner as its very common people selling it through out same product. We booked our return bus trip and were asked for shared taxi at 175 Rs for Mahabaleshwar darshan which we accepted. Walked on main bazaar street of Mahabaleshwar which is full of quaint shops that are certain to catch your fancy.


Relaxing Its bit hot at noon in this time of year. We had Kate’s point, Echo point, Needle hole, Venna lake, Lodwick point, Elephant head and sunset point.

Sunset point called Bombay Point being close to our MTDC resort, is the expansive view of the sunset considered to be one of the most beautiful, popular and oldest sights in Mahabaleshwar. But too crowded with tourists and people come here to ride on horse and get themselves photographed with horse stunts and backdrop of sunset. It got its name since it was on the old road to Bombay.

Next day started return trip in the morning; we got to enjoy the whole journey in those semi-comfy chairs of bus. Otherwise we had to face hair raising stunts from some of the crazy drivers in those winding and hair-pin bending roads.

Sunset Point

Mahabaleshwar-Weekend getaway

Unlike last time we booked our trip with bus agency for 700Rs (2 persons). Our reporting time was 00:15AM at Kharghar node but we were quite early then our reporting time 11:30 PM fearing we might not get a public transport to reach on time. We waited for our bus and waited, and waited and waited some more. It was about 00:30AM and there was still no sign of our bus. We gave a call to bus counter and asked them when the bus would show up. The guy there kept on saying that it was late and it just started from other side of Mumbai-suburbs.

It was about 01:00 AM and yet no sign of our bus. All shops had closed down and everybody else around us had boarded their respective buses and gone. And there we were, two sitting with bags on the pavement in the middle of the night. Phew! All along we were cursing ourselves and was thinking the difficulties we might have to face if we have to return home then at last at 1:30AM we did board the bus.

Entrance of MTDC

Well, this time we even booked our hotel beforehand with MTDC. One can check the availability; book the room of your choice from your own PC. The only trap is - pay heavy penalty if you change your mind at last moment. We booked for Krishna cottage for 1450 Rs per night. MTDC is located near the road to Pratapgad outside of the city center, the dwelling units are covered in thick greenery. The stretch of road on which the MTDC lay is quite desolate. The PWD guest house is adjacent to this resort, which is equally or rather more charming. Tourists of MTDC can walk into the PWD guest house, stroll and even have food at the PWD restaurant. One more beauty about the PWD bungalow is the sunset spot which we missed. The beautiful lawn in front of the PWD bungalow overlooks the whole ranges of Sahyadri, more importantly, there is no crowd here. Really, much better than Mahabaleshwar’s famous sunset spot. The lonely road is a good joggers’ track or one can enjoy the walk (inside) which is pleasant or can enjoy the backyard of cottage and you have an opportunity to listen to chirping of various kinds of birds. There are 30 cottages which is most beautiful part of this resort. This resort is heaven for nature lovers as shrouded in greenery. A great escape for those assaulted daily with the view of our urban jungles who really want to get stress relief. The trees sway in the wind the swishing sound engulfs you and makes you feel relaxed.

Since, we reached early morning we had an option of choosing cottage of our choice. We picked lucky 13 close to PWD guest house. The cottage rooms are quite spacious and have good clean big bathrooms as well. The rooms are equipped with television which is only useful in case you plan on staying indoors.

Not accustomed with nocturnal bus journey we were groggy. And moreover Santanu wanted to relax rather then rushing from one point to another. After having breakfast at PWD guest house we took a nap to recharge ourselves. With nothing better to do we set off for Panchgani, Pratapgarh and Wai at noon. Though Taxi wallah having fixed rate cards we bargained for 1000Rs for 3 places.

We started with Panchmari which derives its name from five hills that surrounds it. This trip includes Parsi point and tableland. Parsi point is famous for best view of Krishna valley down below. And table land offers the panoramic view of Panchgani itself. It's largest plateau in Asia, a small plane can land here. It is situated 60 meters high on the eastern side of the town. It protects Panchgani from strong winds, heavy rainfall and makes this hill station enjoyable all year round. It streches far beyond eye can see. On way we went to strawberry garden where you can buy all the fresh products available there. We bought strawberry jam.

From here we went to Wai, foothills of Panchgani ancient town with temples. It is believed Pandavas stayed here in disguise during their exile. Dolya Ganapati Temples on the bank of Krishna river are well preserved of their times.

After having late lunch we set off for Pratapgarh which is about 26 kilometeres from Mahabaleshwar on the opposite side of our first two destinations. This is the fort where the legendary confrontation between Shivaji and Afzal Khan took place and which saw Shivaji emerge victorious. At pratapgarh we hired a govt. recognized guide Satish for 80/- who was very informative and helpful for taking our snaps:-).He explained every aspect of it in detail. The fort was quite fascinating and we climbed up some 400 odd steps to enjoy the view from atop. There is a splendid view of the lush green valley and the forts Raigad and Makarandgad can also be viewed on a clear day. We were not lucky enough to have crystal clear weather rather it was hazy. On the east and the south the hills have steep slopes covered with dense forest in contrast with rocky west and the north. The hills gradually descend to the valleys separating Mahabaleshwar and Kineshwar range on the east and the Konkan valley on the west. We enjoyed sunset on our way back to Mahabaleshwar from one of the Shayadri range.

At twilight, we headed towards our cottage. Suddenly there was a strike in the city and all the shops were closed. This situation caught every visitor’s off-guard and everyone approached MTDC restaurant for dinner. Though tired and famished we had to wait for 2 hours - as small kitchen was not capable to handle such big volumes of orders in one evening. What a chaos it was. Oh GOD!!!

Nouvelle in market

In India retail sector is growing like mushrooms especially in metro suburbs. Everybody is in this rat race; recently heavy weight Wal-Mart joined to open their stores in India and even reliance is now trying to negotiate with france based global retail major Carrefour (which is in air ). Some of the new retail stores are small and right around the corner competing with family owned generation old style grocery store. While some are big enough to keep you in their long maze of aisles for a while. Total turnover of this segment is quite high as we being second populated nation. Moreover now India has huge potential as an emerging market and is already a major sourcing base. As all these new stores try to establish their customer base they throw away “Special Offers” from time to time. It is a quick way to get attention and make sure cash in-flow is there.

Recently, we got a glossy pamphlet with daily newspaper and thought to check it out. So went yesterday evening its a nice store neither too big nor too small maybe size of 7-11 (US) or G20 (FR) to give you a fair idea(about size).

Barilla

Issue that is making me write this blog is finding a rack full of Barilla pasta at the store called "SPINACH". Prices are not very high for these pastas around 85 Rupees for 500 grams (it is only 1 Euro in FR).The biggest disappointment was as we checked price of Olive oil which is 800 Rupees for a 700/750ml bottle. All I am sure it is Extra TAX Indian government imposes on importing Olive oil from EU (Greece or Spain in most cases). No way we are going to make pasta in India forget the price and availability of a good cheese which is one of the essential ingredient in making of pasta. Coming to cheese though our nation produces enough milk neither we have weather nor the technology to make cheese like emmental, ricotta, mozrilla, parmesan, roquefort or mascarpone. All you get here from local market is cheddar Ogh!. There are some stores in South-Mumbai where I am told you get other varieties for a price. Need to check before I comment.

A day break - Harihareshwar

After moving from Paris, we had been planning to take a trip somewhere out of Mumbai. We even bought a Travel book on India to explore more our own motherland. But with time and circumstances our plan didn’t got executed. At last, after longtime we took a day break on last weekend when Santanu came to know at last moment about his holiday on Maha Shivratri. Since it was last moment plan we could only make for one night stay.

Harihareshwar is a small town with palm-lined beach known for pilgrimage centre-Kalbhairav (Shiva) temple and its ideal beach resort of MTDC. This beach is black due to the rock particles from rocky shores being mixed into the sand. The beauty of the place is its serenity (far off from city’s buzz) and lack of commercialization unlike other tourist spots Goa or Kovalam. Beach actually splits in two parts north and south.

The southern beach is where resort is located facing the sea which offers not only rooms but also tents and cottages in a bamboo grove with AC. But it needs booking well in advance. We repented for not making it before hand so we had to stay in “Geetanjali rest house” as paying guest in just 400 Rs a night. We had our lunch and dinner at MTDC canteen as the view of the sea through the green is refreshing sight for mind and soul. There are chairs placed under thatched roof where one can have meal under a starlit sky with a sweeping view of the bay and some lit-up boats bobbing out on the sea. This side of beach is mostly deserted compared to that of northern beach. Though our host asked us to have food with them called as “gharguthis” with costal flavor ( Konkani meals) – simple but hygienic at same time ; we denied politely as they were having fast for Shivratri so we didn’t wanted to stress them.

The northern side is where temple is. It’s that side where one can see stunning sunset we lounge there to watch red ball taking a plunge in the blue roaring Arabian ocean. This roaring sound of restless waves dashing against the rocky shore is something to watch for hours. Its something cannot be explained in words.

Next day we started early for Shrivardhan 15kms away which is famous for its beach, temple and historic monuments. Its home town and birth place of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath (founder of peshwas) but beach is not that attractive or well maintained compared to that of Harihareshwar.

A lovely drive on NH-17 except bumpy roads starting from Mangaon to Mhasla ahead past till junction where it splits into Srivardhan and Harihareshwar. Though it was a short stay but will last in memory for long time. Moreover this was first time after coming to India Santanu drove all the way 170 kms from Kharghar for 4 1/2 hrs at stretch. While coming back we took halt en route near Mangaon to get some fresh veggies and brunch (Resort Open Umbrella).

At end Santanu regretted for not learning stick-shift before then we could have explored France more.

Saint Valentine -II

As I said lots of thoughts were coming across in spite of my busy-ness. So first was to ask Pamela to come over at Fort area for lunch which was denied by her saying that lots of household chores left to be done. Then again I modified my plan and asked her to join at evening for dinner when she told me she won’t as without any prior booking no food will be available at any good restaurant because of that day- which is in fact quite true.

Despite of her denial I didn’t left any hope I ended up saying we will go somewhere outside for sure. With passage of time I got busier in work and stuck for long hrs. When I almost realized that there is no chance of dinner outside. But, somehow I finished my work by seven and left for home. I reached home at half past nine when I was to take my shower and then leave so another 30 min. gone. By the time we got into car it was around ten so on the way we decided to have our dinner at Bombay Blues, Center-One - Vashi. On reaching the restaurant the doorman said with smile it will take 40 minutes minimum to get a seat. So, we took a stroll around other shops. Even after 40 min. there was no luck so we stood at door only waiting for our turn. After 11 we had luck to have our seat; now it was time to place order..... since it was enormously crowded so one can guess quality of service and food to expect. Somehow around 11.40 got something on plate.

I ordered for Chicken sizzler which looks awesome to hungry stomach but awful to taste. Never heard Chinese food being served with cheese so was that plate. My god! somehow survived with Pamela’s plate and appetizer.

Learnt a lesson that never to go for dinning without prior reservation or it’s much better to enjoy and relish food at home only especially on V-day. All these can be explained with the new economic growth that Indian higher middle class are enjoying at this moment, and everyone from mega-malls to jewelers to flower shop or even food-stalls are cashing in.

Saint Valentine

Another view of Mumbai's Ballard Pier from my desk. May be I am too busy between meetings so no time to romance with my valentine. Well, heart shape balloons floating around our office here and there reminding me of the special day. Due to meetings and tight schedule I even missed the chocolate distribution. C'est dommage!!! :( . Although enormous work-pressure but many thoughts are coming across to make evening better. Let's see if it works or not.

Wednesday- Best of all weekdays

From Sunday evening I keep waiting for middle of week i.e., Wednesday as next weekend looks too far to me. If there is any special occasion planned for Wednesday evening it really cheers me up. On last Wednesday it just happened that Pamela called me at work saying that she is going to come to VT (CST) all by herself boarding a local train (…..for first time).Thanks to Meher for encouraging Pamela to come over in the first place.

Well, Pamela did panic at last part of her journey as she was all alone in the wagon with two transsexuals sitting beside her. Moreover, on not seeing me at VT she vented her anger on me over phone as I was to meet her there. Its true, that I somehow always get entangled in work or some urgent phone call when ever I need to be on time to meet her. On top of it her phone battery was also running low. Somehow we did meet up without much problem and I am not that good writer to juice up that meeting. Anywayz, as per plan we met Meher in front of GPO and headed to Kala- Ghoda via Cab.

Gate of HORNIMAN CIRCLE GARDEN

Kala-Ghoda is crescent shaped plaza nestled around an array of heritage buildings such as Elephantine College, the David Sassoon Library and the Watson Hotel. It is named after a statue which is long gone now of King Edward VII astride a black horse. This plaza is around South Mumbai which is fast emerging as the arts hub of downtown Bombay. Meher being born and brought up in south Mumbai she knows streets like back side of her palm. After walking across all those gorgeous office buildings from bygone years we reached Horniman Circle Park where French rock band “Merzhin” was to perform for the Kala-Ghoda festival organized by Alliance Française, Mumbai.. This festival actually takes place inorder to improve the existing infrastructure of the area and giving it a distinct identity as Mumbai's art district. And this festival basically brings together work from various fields like arts, theater, film, music, literature, dance, heritage walks, exhibitions, children's events offering an interactive cultural mélange for Mumbaites.

Anyway, the introduction from the Director was very "French" as he mentioned if you want a good life learn French. What a snobbish French way of welcoming audience. Point to be shared is - a very different experience as we enjoyed the concert sitting on chairs ;) ...hmm a rock concert and sitting!!! The band was good and they tried their best to get people rocking but it did not work after all Indians..... that too on Wednesday evening.

Spanish lamb

From there after an hour we left for dinner walking two blocks we found ourself in front of Café Mocambo. It has two levels of seating.; the interior is decent but not stunning. The menu is mostly continental and parsi with lots of Pasta dishes to choose from. Other then that lamb, steak and lasagna are also available. They have standard fridge displaying yummy desserts - really yummy! Many phirangis also hang out here.

Britania - Irani Restaurant

Ballard Estate is old corporate park in Mumbai where most of the buildings have high ceiling and windows a left-over from British Raj. I feel very fortunate as my workplace is on this street and moreover when I get bird's eye view of Mumbai from my desk.

For lunch, I have walked past Britannia before but for some or other reason I did not entered. It is one of Bombay's famous old Irani (Persian) restaurants situated at Ballard Estate. This no-nonsense, no-frills, 90-year-old restaurant is the last of a dying breed of establishments once found on every corner of South Mumbai. The environment is simple and functional, with little room for extras like presentation and ambiance. There is no love greater then love of eating - is their motto. It is mentioned on the menu food will be served within 10 minutes and they really do so. A must if you don't like vegetarian food you might want to drop-in. There is a different menu for each day of the week. Apart from the fact that it is the stuff of legends, the building was designed by George Wittet, the architect of the Gateway and the Museum.

I was lucky one as there was Berry-pulao that day one of their speciality. Berry pulao (a version of the Iranian zereshk polow) is the outstanding signature dish, made with succulent spiced boneless mutton (or chicken), fragrant long-grain basmati rice, and tart barberries imported from Iran. Though it was rich and heavy but its worth - once in a while.

Micro$oft Launch @ Mumbai

Micro$oft is doing a round of business and technical launch show around India. The products are Exchange 2007, Office 2007 and Vista. I attended only a brief session @ Hyatt.

Well, somehow my name was not there even though I registered 10 days before the event.

And my business card with orange and blue dots did not help much to get attention from those desk people. Anyway, it was solid 40 minutes of work for me – replied emails, chat with business contact got updates from their team – thanks to CDMA mobile card. This picture of Mumbai’s famous "dabbawalla" got my attention which is installed in the down-stair lobby as an object of art.

Well lots of promises about security from Micro$oft, but I got bit scary about the new “Office Groove 2007” as it seems it uses port 80 to connect and update sharepoint server. I think I need to know more before I make my final take. A new mantra was “blog” as speakers were mentioning new search capabilities; and used internet and blog as two different things. Sorry could not follow - does not blog stands for “Web-Log” in short.

Well it is M$ at the end of the day – every time they promise – “We are more OPEN with our new version of software so your heterogeneous network components can work seamlessly.” But then they redefine new standard for their implementation of “OPEN” standard. And people in the technological world have to take two steps back with one step forward. Leave apart, let’s not get into those details.

I might miss a good lunch to rush back to work. Goodies are welcome M$: D

Zooomr Pro

After trying my luck with flickr I figured out that I have to look for alternative. With Yahoo! there is nothing for free. Almost certainly they will follow suit when someone else win in their own game like gmail vs yahoo-mail. So trying my luck for Zooomr pro now.
DSC00024
P.S. I got the pro account :D

Another weekend

Well another day! Some techie note ; upgraded the web site to the latest beta release of Wordpress. And I found some strange behaviour. This is what I put forward to the mailing list. But with few minute of research found the root cause.

A dark post

Well this post is a dark one-

Aaj fir dil hai kuchh udaas udaasjaane kyun ek mayusi si chhayi haiaaj fir palkon pe pani haibheer mein hoon fir kyun ye tanhai hai jaane kyun bebas aur beychain hai dil mera....

In simple words, things around me are going crazy.... restless mind as there are loved ones who are dealing with the PROBLEM on the ground with hard reality; facing it more harsh then me who is being updated with phone calls only.

Anyway, recently I came across one site which tells about sleeping. I assume you all must be knowing about good effects of sleeping. According to the sleep test

I show symptoms of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder.

Then I took another online test – and the results is

Might have moderate depression

Well that is all ;I feel good now as I hit the "publish" button

Travel Under Terror

Mumbai local train poster

There were massive bomb blasts last summer in Mumbai local trains. After that now there are constant reminders for the commuters to be on alert and check their surroundings. It is logistical nightmare to manage the massive number of commuters who takes train every day in Mumbai. In simple words, “impossible” will be closest word I can pick.

Few months back after lots of planning and public announcement Mumbai Police conducted a security drill where every passenger was supposed to pass via metal detector in two Main Terminus in the evening but after few moments it was clear that police can not handle the stream of passengers in lakhs and crores as they were heading home and it was abandoned. The good news is that it is indeed possible to check if the need arises but impossible on regular basis.

Although, there is always one or two man in khaki uniform in each station. But those people physically look so unfit with their bulging waistline that I personally do not feel any safe with them. Its just a game of probability in Mumbai terrorist attack. If you happen to be at Mumbai in the wrong time at wrong place you are in danger. No one can save you in Mumbai as it runs by “Bhai” (common con for the Bhai). There is always a strong nexus between underworlds with every business that flourishes at Mumbai. Be it movie making, real estate, jewelry --- just name it.

So till next time Mumbai rocks again – safe and happy commuting – Mumbaians.