W questions of Indian life

In India, life of middle class is different compared to occidental culture. There is a vast population of middle class in India and within middle class there are three distinct sub-divisions - “lower middleclass”, “middle middleclass” and “higher middleclass”. Comprehending the complexities of Indian society is not that easy. Though there are variations in socio-economic life within these three but one thing is common between all of them - everyone is curious to know whatz happening in others life despite of their own busy life. And they do pose what, why, when and where to quench their thirst.

Curiosity starts with birth of a child and has no ends. The initial round of questions like does your child walks; has he started speaking, whom does he resembles? As he/she grows a bit question changes its color – has he started going to school, then next question will be in a trice how he is in studies; does he comes first in class (as if all parents were merit holders). Apart from that of course there are questions related to his health, extra curricular activities which he has been thrown into.

Few more years, child reaches his teenage where he is being again quized with different set of questions how much percentage did he scored in high school and competitive exams; this is the most difficult phase as some of those questions remains hunted in the young mind for rest of his/her life.

Now related to the “stream” he has opted for; child is categorized - if science particularly with maths then good considered having bright future in engineering if with bio then mediocre. Next in line comes commerce, then with arts and last but not least home science and others where student is considered good for nothing no matter even if he has got gold medal.

As soon as he/she enters the new stage of his/her life next questions are already ready to be asked - does he have a job? If yes, where? If it’s abroad then– oh now you will have dollars /euros/pounds in your bank no matter if he/she is going to Timbuktu. What do you have to worry in life for? (as you have a kid abroad). No need to worry about money? Your kid is gonna be an NRI soon.

Now as child reaches marriageable age particularly a girl series of question are asked in a manner that it becomes nightmare for both parents and child. There will be proposal for alliance from any one and as a girl’s parent you are supposed to be very gentle and calm (no matter how much they pinch you). Once he/she gets married the very next instantaneous query has to be what about family planning; are not you going to have baby as if others are going to look after the baby. Once the baby arrives to this wonderful earth ……life cycle of same set of questions repeats endlessly.

Why we can’t refrain ourselves from asking these questions to others which might hurt someone unintentionally. Really, certain times its so disgusting. Or are these questions which keep us binding with each-other to some extent where millions of people live amidst cacophony--roaring vehicles, surging crowds, jammed apartment buildings, busy commercial establishments, loudspeakers, blaring movie tunes--while breathing the poisons of industrial and automotive pollution.

Are these those questions where Indians believe in sharing happiness and sorrow; where a festival or a celebration is never constrained to a family or home. Or is it an answer to beauty of Indians lies in spirit of tolerance.

Viva Goa - Adios

Reflection of Nerul River

Last day, woke up very early in the morning to visit Candolim, Sinquerim beach- Just to avoid scorching heat of sun. The shimmering sea stretches to the horizon. Spent some time to savour the view then headed to Fort Aguada. Fort Agauda crowns the rocky flattened headland at the end of the beach. Constructed in 1612 to protect the northern shores of Mandovi estuary from Dutch and Maratha raiders. It was a reference point for the vessels coming from Europe at that time. This old Portuguese fort stands on the beach south of Candolim, at the shore of the Mandovi river. Part of fort is now turned to Taj holiday village and another part to prison. Its worth a visit with superb view from top of the hill where four storey Portuguese lighthouse looks down over vast expanse of sea sand and palm trees. While descending the hill one can see River Nerul. Roads of this part of Goa are really nice and scenic. Enjoyed the ride as pillion rider. Undoubtedly, it is the picturesque palm-fringed beaches, scenic coves, sun-kissed sands and turquoise waters that make Goa one of the world's premier holiday destinations.

For lunch headed to another typical goan no-frill restaurant this time; ordered for chonok and rice which was enough for two as portion was big. Well recommended by guide book.

Fixing flat Tyre

One more last time went to Baga beach to soak ourselves in turquoise water. Enjoyed thoroughly and headed to hotel for pack-up as we were leaving that night by bus from Mapusa; a new experience to travel with sleeper coach night bus.

The sleeper bus was smooth at beginning but later along the way we had two blowouts. Needless to say, we were late by 5 hours. Santanu was forced to work from home next day.

Viva Goa - Day 4

motorcycle-taxi

As we couldn’t enjoy much earlier day we decided to opt for rented bike and move around in our own pace. Rented a bike for 2 days for 400 Rupees. One thing which is very interesting about Goa’s motorcycle taxi locally known as pilots ideal for nipping between beaches or for short distances. Bonafide operators ride black bikes with yellow mudguards and white number plate. These vehicles transport a single pillion rider. (Photo credit: from GoaBlog.org)

As usual after breakfast we headed towards Anjuna beach. Anjuna is gorgeous with its rocky shore and mighty cliffs where you can hear of techno-thumping sounds and see hippies around. With morning sun and plenty of time at hand we made this special sign to remember Goa. Vagator, however, is the perfect hideaway spot with its few beach shacks and fishing boats off in the distance. Black lava rocks, the coconut palms, the lush green landscape, nature playing its own music, and the sea turning from aquamarine to emerald green with Chapora Fort at its background. The reminiscence of the old Portuguese times giving a splendid view of the sea and hills covered with coconut trees and rice fields. To reach middle and little Vagator one needs to walk but the calmness worth the effort as big Vagator gets bus loads of Indian whiskey drinking male tourist.

At noon, sun is really hard to tolerate but for lunch, we made sure to have exotic flavour of the Goan dishes at whatever cost. So, we searched hard to find one place called “Gabriel” recommended by our guidebook as an authentic goan cooking. It was really worth searching.

For most Goans three basic necessities – fish, curry and rice. Goan values their food as much as they do their daily siesta. In their daily meal, seafood always has a pride of place in some or other form. From fried fish to exotic concoctions; sea food is usually a must on the menu, except for the occasional break for some religious observance. Besides fresh seafood, dried and salted fish dishes are also highly prized by Goans.

Green Chicken Curry

We ordered Galinha com Coentro (chicken with fresh coriander leaves and vinegar) and prawn curry with rice. It was really fresh, home –made and scrumptious. Owner was friendly; had chit-chat with him. We figured out it was guest-house cum restaurant with lots of shady trees around and not far from sea. Sitting arrangement is in the garden under trees with fan. Since it was shady we spent 2 hours there and at last we were offered yummy chocolate (European one after a long time).

In the evening we prepared ourselves for soaking at Baga beach; smeared well with body-oil. As on day two we found that sand was very fine and it gets stick to the body like glue even after proper shower. So, smearing oneself helps as sand can’t stick to the body and washes off with each roaring waves.

Bebinca

At evening we went to Tibetian market right across our resort where Santanu bought one finger-ring for himself and then headed for dinner at Baga-Calangute road to one nice restaurant. Wanted to taste one goan dessert for last 3 days; since we were not left with an inch place in stomach we could not but today made sure to eat less so that we can taste it. For dessert best is Infantaria Pastelaria recommended again by our guidebook which was again right across our resort where we bought Bebinca – a layered pudding.

Viva Goa - Day 3

We opted for package tour with our hotel stay, so our hotel had arranged for two day sightseeing South Goa with river cruise and North Goa. We opted for South Goa to start with.

Left hotel around 9 at Indian Stretchable Time after breakfast in a non-AC bus accompanied by one local guide. The itinerary included Dona-Paula (bypass Miramar beach). Old Goa churches-Bom Jesus Basilica and se cathedral along with two temples Mangueshi and shantadurga dedicated to Shiva and shantadurga (goddess of Peace), visit to Ancestral Goa/old Portuguese house and Colva beach. To wrap it up there is river cruise at the end.

Actually, this kind of package are good way of getting around Goa in short-time. It seems they are more appealing to Indian tourists wishing to combine peek at all top sights with the whistle-stop tour. Sometimes they include certain places inland that you wouldn’t otherwise consider visiting.

Anywayz, Colva beach was not even attractive to us though it is an oldest and largest fishing beach. There were international tourists marinating in the sun and overcrowded domestic visitors paddling. Beach front is dismal as stench of drying fish waft from near-by village.

Boat Cruise on River Mandavi

River cruise on Mandavi was one hour trip over crowed with mostly Indian tourists. Professional troupes perform the Dekni Temple Dance, the Fugdi Dance and the Corredinho Dance with live music. You can shake your leg too as it will tempt you to dance to their beats. They do try hard to entertain but no chance to glimpse the Sun as it sets in Arabian Sea. Its pity that this boat company makes sure you can not view the sun-set as there is a big backdrop on west to hide Sun from you. May be they do it on purpose to make sure everyone is seated and not leaning on side of the boat to take picture of golden ball as it goes down.

Cashew

Other then this they took us to souvenir shop (where they get commission)- i.e., one souvenir at least visitor always carries home from his holidays in Goa are cashew nuts, spices and wine. Cashew trees abound the Goan hillsides. The flowering in January leads to luscious, brilliantly coloured fruit in March, April and early May. It is then plucked, while the apple is used in the process of producing "Feni" (Goan speciality) and the nuts are roasted for consumption. Here locally produced wines and beer are cheaper than anywhere in the country. Big percentage of tourist to Goa are men from other parts of India who come to Goa as an escape from moral confines of life at home.

Disadvantage of this kind of package trips are they don’t give enough time where they should actually give and secondly you cannot have taste of Goa or in other words you don’t have much choice for restaurants as they take tourists to such a remote part where only one restaurant will be there with awful food and you end up eating those as you don’t have alternative. In short, we are the people who want to explore more of the place, know about the culture, food, enjoy the serenity, nature’s landscape and all. So, this kind of packages are not meant for us. And we decided not to opt for the North Goa trip.

Viva Goa - Day 2

In Goa, traveling around by rented motorcycle or car is imperative if you want more than just sun, surf and sand. It gives lot of freedom but can be perilous at same time. On second day early morning we haggled at least with three owners for renting and lastly ended up with Activa for Rupees 250(it is better to rent for long durations to get good price). Another reason for renting was we wanted to go to Bicholim to visit Santanu’s maternal uncle for dinner. Normally, roads of Goa are as smooth as airport tarmacs except few parts.

After breakfast (bread, butter, jam and juice or tea) at hotel which was included in our package we rode on Calangute-Baga road and soon realised that hotel in which we are staying is at main spot at entrance of this road which leads to Baga beach.

Gujrati lamps

This road to Baga Beach from Calangute is full of handcraft items, which are lucrative to foreign tourist (but not worth the money). Just opposite to our hotel was a nice Tibetan market which offers all kinds of gems and silverwork, wooden statues of the Buddha's and Hindu deities. Besides, Calangute and Baga have been swamped by Kashmiri traders putting up Kashmiri carpets, wooden crafts, embroidery and papier-mâché boxes for sale. Famous night clubs like Tito are on this road - vivacious with tourist and locals that mean shops are open till late while other parts of Goa goes to sleep.

Kashmiri Shopkeeper with Wooden Rihno

Interesting nugget of information about the Baga beach is that there are a lot of touts asking for para-sailing, water-sports, dolphin boat-ride, and banana ride etc. hawking wares include skirts, tee-shirts, novels etc. You will be offered with cup of tea to ayurvedic massages as every one tries to sell their service or product. It means you can sip chilled beer while getting a temporary tattoo done or reading a novel. For these services you need to bargain -We were told they were offering good Indian price compared to foreign tourist .But in reality tourists are tourists and local try to milk them out as much they can - the bitter truth of vacation.

Well, we rented sun-beds at Rs 50 for few hrs took dip in the turquoise water which was really fun. Best part to see majority of Indian women clad in colourful saris stand up to their waist in the water while others wear shorts, bikinis and swimsuit. Pot-bellied Indian men in shorts or undergarments saving a buck or two for swimsuit. Though there are few smarties (women) who come prepared in Indian attire with swimsuit inside to take a dip and get quickly changed. Indian visitors flock to giggle at the tribes of dreadlocked white-skin on the vast white sandy beach.

Being famished we headed towards Plantain Leaf (only vegetarian) for udipi thali. Came back to hotel for afternoon siesta and left at evening for Bicholim After tanking up at Mapusa we rode via Fort Corjuem to Bicholim - it was a long ride but enjoyable.

Viva GOA - Preamble

Spice Jet

Trip to Goa was long due may-be you can say from 2001 when I got opportunity as a teacher with my school children. But unfortunately, I couldn’t make as I was supposed to behave as good girl. Good unmarried Indian girls don’t go anywhere without an escort. To qualify as an escort there are lots of criteria to be checked and considered like friend’s brother, acquaintance from neighborhood etc. is a BIG NO. They never go out after dark alone. They never spent night at a female friend's place, especially if the friend had a brother no matter younger or elder.

Dialogues like “I am old enough to take care of myself” never worked with my parents - you can say kind of very conservative upbringing in certain matters. And it was normal for me to argue on all such matters though consequences were known to me. So, out of anger I told my parents “you will never go to GOA without me or unless I go there first”. They kept their words though they travel extensively within India.

On Satanu’s part he visited Goa for first time with his parents in 2002 summer. They went to visit their relatives. He detested the heat and did not found Goa as an attractive tourist destination. That was the time when we first met at Bombay after his Goa trip. After moving to India whenever Goa came in our discussion as destination fear of glazing sun hunted him.

As Santanu is blessed with long weekends (Indian holidays follow strict Sun or Moon Calendar) at work this year. We booked our flight with Spice-Jet which was only no-frill flight quoting less. Initially, we did booked our hotel with Hotel Mandavi at Panjim. But later came to know from various sources that if one wants to enjoy beaches then need to make choice between north and south Goa beach. We opted for north Goa at last minute and booked with TICLO resort at Calangute.

Different people had different views on Calangute which made us bit skeptical till last but I think we did made a right choice. Normally, hotels provide with “pick-up” service at Goa. On reaching Dabolim airport we realised our hotel haven’t sent any and they requested to use “Pre-paid service” which they will reimburse on reaching and they did stick to their words.

After being ushered to our room which was quite spacious we left for exploring Calangute. We soon figured out that we were not very far from beach so walked few meters along the beach at early evening then had pomfret and chicken in our dinner.

Little Visitor at Office Window

Friday again, I am already at work for last nine hours(reached around 8ish). Wow! that's lot and time to head towards home soon.

Today, after lots of failure attempt I some how succeeded to capture a very cute visitor at my window. I have no idea what kind of bird is this, going to ask one expert for the same. Well, Pamela is working very hard to upload pictures from Goa and writing trip details – hope this weekend we upload them.

Wordpress Bleeding 2.2 and TAG

Just upgraded to the latest beta trunk of wordpress 2.2(bleeding) and found myself with unrecoverable errors. Realized wordpress incorporated tagging within the core but the old faithful Ultimate Tag Warrior does not work any more :(
Found another bug-hunt has started and hope for tag import from (UTW) till then …… have to live with out tags Sigh!

Mumbaiya Lingo

While boarding a train I heard one co-passenger saying to another “Tabadtod andar jaane ka” which astonished me for a fraction of second as its not at all palatable to an untrained ears. It seems this “Tabadtod andar jaane ka” is considered far more effective while getting into locals then long winded formal request to the people ahead to make way.

I was trying hard to relate as it sounds hindi but actually its not. After few glitches understood its an intermediary where my knowledge of hindi helped. Basically its hindi with generous smattering of words borrowed from Marathi, Konkani and Eng. which actually manifests mumbai’s cosmo culture. In short, its bhelpuri of all these languages.

Actually, strength of mumbaiya lingo transcends all barriers. It was not very long ago that I was torn between mereko-tereko-apunko with easy flow of mera tumhara apnaa. Perhaps part of mumbaiya lingo lies in its effortless informality. Mind you, there is no "PLEASE" in this lingo. Instead of formal use of hindi I have been with all enthusiasm of neo-convert dropping terko wahan jane ka, barobar etc. Maybe this quick direct nonsense linguistic approach is also fallout of fast pace of life in Mumbai. Here, are some glimses -

  • Khali pilli meri khopdi mat satka - Don’t bother me
  • Mera sara moondi ghoom gaya –I got spinned
  • Tereko tension nahin lene ka. – Don’t take tension
  • Kanda, batata for onion and potato
  • Kothmir for coriander
  • Yeah apun kaa ishtyle hai – This is my style
  • Boley toh fir milenghe bhai log – We will meet again
  • Abhi examz bhi khatam ho gaye le, hain na tere??- now, your exams have finished,isn’t it?
  • Toh chal fatak se taiyaar honekaa - Get ready quickly

You might hear quite often people having cutting chai at tapri (tea stall). Now what this cutting chai exactly means I too don’t know. Certain say its half cup tea but I am not sure yet. Not only that you may also hear people visiting friends to avoid kantaal & know that if something is rapchik or jhakkas. However, you are likely to hear me switch to baju hat or mujhey chuna nahin laganey ka with ease.

Even this mumbaiya lingo has attracted our bollywood industry to great extent from time time. So, when you see me next time don’t be surprised on hearing my adoption to informal, rude and funny mumbaiya lingo.

Mera Bharat Jawaan

Adv for new TV series

Another funny advertisement which caught my attention Budda Hoga Tera Baap. This is a soft or hard slang depending on your view - "May be your father is old" This new TV series name is "Mera Bharat Jaawan" which translates into "My India is Young". With one fourth population under the age of 25 India definitely has young demography.

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.