Thursday - Arab Street


Today was last day at Singapore. Packed everything night before so that after breakfast we can check-out without much wasting of time.It was holiday at Singapore as of some Muslim festival. My plan was to go to Arab Street. This area has beautiful old shop houses that line the streets. 
The highlight of the area is the grand Sultan Mosque, which was crowded as people were coming out after prayers.I think Arab Street is known for the fabrics a great place to go if you want or need cut piece. Here you can find materials of every imaginable colors. Not only fabric but also carpet, prayer mats, jewelries oriental carpets, pashminas, sarong, batik shirts etc. I think you can BARGAIN!!!! but not sure. The shops here sell French Lace, Thai silk, Brocade, Indian Silk buttons, and many more...anything related to sewing.

It is a great stop to just walk around and see the shop house architecture of Singapore. Seemingly endless number of fabric shops starts to make your head spin. On Baghdad street-there are a lot of new restaurants/cafe houses. Many of the restaurants have sheeshas or water pipes, which you can smoke while having sip of coffee. We had kasha laham for lunch at Cafe le Caire @ Al Majlis located at 39 Arab Street which was for more than 2 person in terms of portion.


After having heavy lunch we walked towards Bugis street but I missed the charm of it as Santanu was not in mood for any more shopping. Its place for shop-alcoholics with good street shopping experience. 
Then came to Raffles hotel to see its colonial style architecture. It houses museum shops, tropical garden courtyard and Victorian-style theater, tiffin room among many others. Best part is at raffles you will be first welcomed by a Sikh doorman dressed in white ironed Grieves and Hawks uniforms with thick mustache as you get down from your car. It is impossible to overlook the doorman dressed in traditional Sikh attire. But what is fascinating is the fact that they are one of the most photographed icons of Singapore.
Then visited raffles mall and after strolling for a while decided to return to our mandarin hotel as Santanu''s flight was ahead of us. Yes...you heard it right..we had different flight on way back as well.
While going from here to Singapore it was smooth journey with Aarush but on way back it was really terrible as flight was fully packed and with time difference and whole day moving around he was cranky enough. With very less leg space he was not getting proper sleep. Then after landing too we have to spend another 2 hrs. at airport as Santanu had phone call meeting.

Wedneday- Visit to China town



It was the day to visit china town and particularly Buddha tooth relic temple.  The day was very bright with little could in the sky. This is the view from our hotel room looking central Singapore Business District.
After a good breakfast headed out of hotel. Got down by MRT at China town & took exit to Pagoda street. One can't miss the colorful row of shop-houses along that street, with baby blue and yellow flowers painted all over. This whole area is labyrinth of shops selling all and sundry. Take a few minutes to explore the Chinese furniture shops close to the end of this street. Many of the pieces are indeed very beautiful.
I walked straight till South bridge road where there is one oldest Hindu temple on temple road SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE whose facade was under renovation so decided not to enter. So walked straight to Buddha tooth relic temple & museum. It took us 2 hrs to complete the whole. It was worth the visit.
Next to this place was Sago street. At end of sago street is china town complex. The most interesting part of the Complex is the wet market, located at its basement. The Chinese are reputed to eat everything from hoof to tail, and there's no better place to witness this than a market in the heart of Chinatown! You will be greeted by the sight of turtles, eels, pig trotters, live frogs being skinned and a fascinating array of fresh meat and seafood. Colorful tropical fruits and vegetables are abundant. There are also dry and preserved goods stalls selling a myriad of Chinese culinary needs from sharks' fin to century eggs. The market is busiest and at its best in the morning as told by one shopkeeper. I boycotted this part as I won't be able to eat anything later.

Took left turn to Terengganu Street which ends at Pagoda street. This street is crammed with shops selling clothes, antiques, wood carvings, etc. The goods are not sold at fixed prices, so one can test bargaining skills here. But while walking around I came across one juice shop selling juices of cactus to orange. Decided to have Bitter Gourd juice just for change. Not bad though. From there we came back to hotel to freshen our self at late afternoon and then in evening left for IKEA where we had dinner.

Hectic Tuesday


We woke up bit early; had heavy breakfast as usual. For today I have already decided to go to Botanical garden in first half of the day. So took a cab from hotel and I figured it was very nearby. This botanical garden is must if you want to see the greenery and variety of plants and flowers they have. Excellent maintenance, people come here for jogging, picnic and touristy purpose. They have one section of National orchid garden which is just awesome. After strolling for few minutes I realized that battery of my camera has not been charged for past 2 days and unfortunately after a while in major area of Orchid garden my camera stopped working. With orchid garden they have number of mini- attractions. I couldn't take any photo of mist house, cool-house. Other than that they have rain-forest, ginger garden, evolution garden. Then they have 3 lakes: Swan Lake, Symphony Lake and Eco Lake. Then even have French restaurant and cafeteria in the garden. It takes at least more than 2 hrs. to complete round of the garden.

At certain places they have flight of stairs where I have to carry Aarush as well the stroller up and down. Otherwise, overall pavement is very good for kids in stroller and handicapped people. I decided to return by public bus so got down at orchards street close to hotel. Went to hotel room put the batteries in charger. Meanwhile we freshened up, fed my son and put him to sleep. Then around 4.00pm I took metro while he was still sleeping and went to Raffles place by MRT.

From here I walked towards boat quay seeing parliament, supreme court, city hall building and Saint Andrews cathedral on the way. My objective was to see Merlion. So walked all the way on the riverside lined with restaurants basically hangout for expatriates and tourists with chic cafes, yuppie pubs. Here every restaurant employee tries to persuade you to come in. While strolling saw structure of arts along the river which was amazing. Walked all the way till the back of The Fullerton hotel then crossed highway to go to other side i.e., one Fullerton to Merlion park tourist icon of Singapore.
As located next to marina bay on city's edge it has seating arrangement to view Esplanade, sea and bum-boats to give tourists a tour of Colonial Singapore from the river. Me and Aarush sat there relaxing my feet after a hard day of walking. It was about to sunset & weather was very pleasant, chill air blowing.
While sitting there I was gazing people from different corners of world coming and posing with Merlion. One big Japanese group came; and they were posing like anything and I couldn't control laughing all alone; truly had a fun time. After a while I realized that we too also became tourist icon with Merlion as some of those Japanese women in late 40s wanted to have picture with me and Aarush (taklu baby) too.


Well, with the fall of day-light statue is floodlit and water pours from the statue's mouth. Fortunately we spent quite a lot of time there as it was today’s end point. Around 8 Santanu met us there and we left for dinner by cab to Little India.

Today we had south Indian thali; portion of food was too much to eat then we walked to Mustafa known shopping complex open 24 hrs. I believe They mainly serve tourists from India, Middle East, South-east Asia and Africa other then Europeans and Americans. They have wide range of items from pin to piano thronging with narrow aisles. Staffs don't respond properly except in diamond-gold jewelery section and most of them can't speak simple English neither they have product knowledge. Its heavily crowded even at 12.00AM.After a while I started feeling dizzy due to claustrophobia. Then quickly bought few stuffs and headed back to hotel via public bus.

Sleepy Monday


Monday morning mother-son woke up pretty late. Santanu already left for office while we were in sleep. Around noon we went out of hotel to nearby mall. Today I was not much interested in exploring rather looking for kids activities. Spent almost half day at Toys R Us play area in Paragon mall where Aarush enjoyed to fullest. He did not want to give-up the car and was seating there for hours. He was not interested in playing with slide,swing and all. In fact he was bit scared when I put him up there. From there went to Carrefour to get some food for him. Around 4.30 PM came back had shower and both took a beauty sleep. In the evening Santanu had phone call to attend so after that we went to food court of Takashimaya for Dinner.


Had noodles and killed time sitting at one corner of pavement as Santanu had another call to attend.Very uneventful day. Came back and went to deep sleep again.

Jurong bird park

After a full day @ Santosa on Sunday we woke up pretty late. We decided to go for Jurong bird park and offbeat track -Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, is the largest monastery in Singapore.

We had breakfast at ChatterBox as the normal breakfast side was packed. The menu was quite different  from the normal side as we had lots of traditional dishes to choose from. As usual Pamela had lots of dim-sum and I  preferred the usual cereal and fruits.

We started with the monastery, and when Orchard road tourist info office they were bit of surprised with our choice. The nearest MRT stop is Bishan and from there we took bus no 410. It took around 1 1/2hrs to complete the same. We enjoyed the serenity of that place painted in bright colors.

From there we went to Jurong bird park via MRT. This MRT journey is very long as covers almost whole Singapore Northern part. On the way we picked Zongzi (or zong) traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings; we had red bean paste. It is tetrahedral shape and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves where leaf imparts its own unique smell and flavor to the rice. They are cooked by steaming or boiling. After a long wait got into 194 SBS bus from Boonlay metro station by that the sky was already dark with afternoon clouds. As soon as we reached park gate it was almost 4 PM abut luckily rain stopped.
It is open concept park which houses some thousand birds. We started our walk from on left side of ticket counter followed by crowned pigeon- World’s Largest Pigeons. They are at tree-top level with walkway which offers a completely unobtrusive view of the birds since there are no wire meshes separating the visitor from the birds. Then they have large collection of horn-bills and toucans. Lory Loft showcases the Lorykeet where Visitors can enter, traverse and exit Lory Loft at treetop level, allowing for a bird eye’s view of the majestic panorama.
The bird shows at the Pools Amphitheater featuring flamingos, macaws, hornbills and cockatoos are both spectacular and funny we heard from others but we couldn't watch any as reached there late afternoon. African Waterfall Aviary, home to free-flying African birds and parrots paradise we missed. They have air conditioned panorail system with stoppages which covers the entire Park providing excellent elevated views.
They have birds of prey section too then ostrich, Double-Wattled Cassowary, Emu followed by Dino Dig which allows children and family members to experience archaeological diggings together and discover fossils hidden through time amidst the sands. It is entertaining for both adults as kids.
From there we walked towards riverine featuring ducks, fishes and turtles, swan and pelican cove and then flamingo .Penguin Parade enclosure, in a re-created Antarctic setting is worth seeing from kids point of view. Shoe bill, African crane, saddle billed storks and then at last we entered world of darkness which houses different species of owl.


TIP: Scrolling around the park would take more than 2-3 hours. So make sure to come earlier so that you can spend more time mingling with birds. And one can still have time to relax in one of their huts while watching the birds and listening to their symphony. Personally, seen different kinds of birds only in pictures and books. It really awakens our childhood desires. My son enjoyed a lot. We had to carry stroller up and down the stairs many a times. Although it was bit tiring but MUCH better on foot, at our own pace. Overall, spent fabulous day with birds of different species from different countries at one place. Best part is the whole area is very green and serene.

They have unique restaurant as all the chairs are made of metal with different kinds of animal figures. As well one can't miss their souvenir shop as it is at EXIT door. Instead of wounding up by taking the bus to MRT we hired a cab for our hotel; got freshened up then left for dinner at Lau Pa Sat known for satay and stingray under the stars.

Visit to hungry tide- Sunderban

For the first time in my life I spent more than 2 nights in a row at Calcutta. The initial plan was to attend Papai’s wedding reception and travel to some where around like Digha and back to Bangalore. We got our Bangalore – Calcutta ticket booked. Going was by train to save money and return was on flight so that we save time & energy before getting back to our daily routine.
Now people suggested against Digha and we settled for Sunderban. According to guide the place has not changed a lot - land where past lives in present and is not yet well connected well to Kolkata. We went through travel guide book and settled with Kali Travels. This travel company is run by two Australians out of Calcutta – David and Martyn.
We chose for 2 night 3 days package with them. So on the day Martyn showed up on time with a Innova. On our way out of Calcutta he briefed the plan for next 2 days.
As soon as we took the road out from Science City junction of EM bypass the landscape changed drastically. I felt as if I was on time machine. The small villages and rural bazaar on way reminded me of remote North Eastern part of India from my childhood which sounds surreal but true. Looks like in last 40 years of left-front government there is hardly any progress on their so called strongholds. The car dropped us at Sonakhali (approx 60 KM from Calcutta).
We had to wait there as was no immediate boat for Gosoba our destination. It was 26th Jan(Republic day) and there was not much happening at the river front. This allowed us to explore the adjacent village market. Found cobbler who are still selling stripes for rubber Hawaii sandals, reminded that uncommon in urban India where people probably changes their sandals if the strips is broken.

The boat was almost empty it was us and few passengers and the journey took almost an hour. As motor boat begins to sail towards its destination the scenery gradually changed from rural village evoking feelings of excitement, adventure and anticipation of unknown. We reached Gosoba - peak of afternoon had lunch and walked through the market. We got into the man pulled cycle-van rickshaw with flat bed to sit and put our luggage too. As it was our first time 6 KM long journey seemed never ending. Gosoba is one of the big island in Sunderban. There is no real electricity here, every machine that needs electricity runs on generator. There is no car or auto(Tuktuk) only few motorcycles which run on bio-fuel. Life seems less complicated in one sense but I was getting full EDGE signal on my Blackberry.
We stayed at Apanjan Hotel at Pakhiralya which is just opposite to Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. One can see the tiger reserve entrance from this side of bank. At dusk went for village walk. Here most of houses are made of mattir ghor- house of mud which keeps it cool and walking through those winded narrow lanes we realized that we have become center of attraction. The attraction was two fold for the locals as we brown skin who shares a common mother tongue of the local along with tall blond fair skin Australian as their guide. But looked like Martyn is quite well known as “Uncle” to the local people. And they will converse in broken Bengali-English and lots of sign languages and catch up on their whereabouts.
Aarush was very busy chasing the stray dogs which were hanging around the hotel. And he went to sleep as soon as he finished his dinner. We had a simple Bengali dinner and chatted with Martyn on lots of subjects.As night begins to slip in the lullaby of mother nature, the music of blowing wind, distant call of restless wild life and rustling of branches gently put you to sleep as even generators are switched off by 10.00PM. Life in noisy city will drift away becoming a distant memory.
Next day woke up around 7ish and after breakfast got into boat and went to Sajnekhali Forest depertment to register ourselves. They assigned us one (compulsory) guide to show us around and enjoy a day cruise by boat through the creeks and canals of the dense forest. This hunting land is ruled by forest goddess Bonobibi to whom prayers are offered in order to maintain communal harmony between man & animal. So we too offered our prayers before starting our journey.
We saw lots of birds to start with displaying riots of colors and sounds and must admit few times we could not locate the camouflaged birds unless our guide with eagle eye pointed it. Egret, kingfisher, red vented bulbul, eagle, brahmini kite,brown winged kingfisher, indian roller, pond heron etc were spotted. There was baby crocodile who was basking in the winter sun as our boat approached he swam along the boat for a while before sinking altogether. While cruising we sighted water monitor lizard other than wild boars.
On spotting wild boar we realized suddenly our camera failed and was not responding to any button we pressed. Here the majestic king royal bengal tiger are endowed with good swimming power as told by our guide and are man eaters. We traced tiger paws while cruising along the mangrove covered banks.Well there are only few hundreds left in Sunderban and new census was going on while we were there. We heard fire-shots from Forest Officials who were in one of unmanned island collecting tiger poo(shit) to identify unique tigers. Earlier they used to get the claw molded in Plaster of Paris – as each tiger has unique claw just like our finger prints.
Our boat journey ended around 13:00 hrs. All along it was low tide which means you have better chance of spotting any wild life as more surface areas gets exposed.Actually both high and low tide has their own pros-cons. During high tide boat enters various creeks weaving in and out allowing to explore most forbidden areas of sunderbans. We stopped at watch towers where one can disembark and experience nature at its purest.While leaving from that point we saw some spotted deer and tried to capture it with Blackberry’s camera – what a luck!!!
After a day of adventure, had lunch thereafter Pamela & Aarush took siesta. I sat back and relaxed while discussing with Martyn his experience in China as a visiting Professor of English. Well his side of story is quite shocking as I never heard first hand experience on that matter.
In the evening we went for walk but it was dark. Lucky us as of full moon moon-light was enough to show us the way and we did not needed the torch most of the time. While walking we heard soundtracks from Hindi movies of 86/87’s played in distance causing havoc to the beautiful silence. It was surprising how much distance a noise can travel in a silent land.
The devastation from Aila (cyclone of 2009) can be still seeen; ground water is salty; when you wash your face for the first time you get real shock. The locals are yet trying to get back to their lives. But looks like there is hardly any or no-help help from government on that front. Lots of those broken dams needs quick fix before another floods hits this area.Potrait of words done by Amitabh Gosh on his famous novel " hungry tide" looks so real, people are really with big heart. The poorest one lives in the mud house next to dam where relatively well off stay inland. But as whole they are still backward in many terms.
As Aarush had a nap he refused to go to sleep early. There were only one couple from (Sweden) other then us in the hotel with a young noisy Nepali Guide. The guide arranged for a bonfire for them once the generator was put off at 10 PM. The tourist retired early while we enjoyed both the bonfire and moon-light from our balcony.
Somehow I felt bad as we started to pack our bags as I knew we were heading back to crowded madness of the city life soon. The boat was packed already when we reached Gosoba and it left immediately after we boarded. Me and Aarush took a privilege seat on the top of toilet but under shade. Aarush was not much happy with this arrangement – he was hungry as he refused to have his breakfast at hotel. So had some cheese and orange with me. But after 30 minutes or so I had to reunite with Pamela who was seating on the boat roof exposed to Sun. It was quite hot if you have to seat for long in Sun. So reached Sonakhali after almost 48 hours. Now had to wait for a while as we reached before expected time for our car to arrive.
The car came within 20 minutes or so and Aarush fall asleep after he finished a quick lunch.
Well if you like to travel and open to the ideas of exploring must suggest you to try Sunderban. On the economic front I am sure you can save a lot if you go by yourself. But we enjoyed going with Kali Travels and suggest you do the same if you have extra cash to spare. Binocular, sun-cap, umbrella, mosquito repellent and torch are must to be taken in this trip.





Day-3 Sentosa visit


Saturday, we planned for Sentosa Island – Sentosa is the top tourist attraction if you ask any Singaporean tourist information or locals. Sentosa has it all – beach, corporate team building activities, aquarium, great food and entertainment and soon there will be Casio and entertainment park with roller coaster rides. We planned for complete day-trip; as usual after heavy breakfast we went by metro to Harbour Front MRT station. From there took Sentosa Express (Monorail train) from Vivocity mall’s top floor. Once out of Beach station (last stop) we saw two queues for trams- one blue line queue to take the tram to Palawan and Tanjong beach and other green line to Siloso beach. We preferred for first one as it was less crowded. Today it was more relaxing for me as Santanu was there to take care of Aarush. And Aarush was also happy to see many kids around him.

The main highlight of the Tanjong beach is the suspension boardwalk that brings you to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia which is also known as the closest point to the Equator in Asia. A bit tricky geography as Singapore is connected to Malaysia by a bridge it is not considers as an island and same true for Sentosa which is again connected to Singapore by a bridge; reminded me of those great signs of Western USA. We chilled and tried to get connect with nature as much we can in those tall shady coconut trees and beautiful bougainvilleas around. Aarush was so excited to see water that he just wanted to jump and Santanu told him very tight while he dipped himself in sea. It was not sufficient for him and ultimately he has to strap Aarush in the stroller. From Tanjong we came by walking to Palawa beach where we couldn’t control Aarush anymore. There is a small fountain square or wading pool for kids to play beside seaside. He played happily without bothering even we are around or not for almost 2 hrs; then we forcibly took him out as it started to rain.
This island is simply beautiful and bustling with activities. It houses many museums, theatres, aquariums, luxury shops and of course beaches. Had very light Indian lunch and then left for Silosa beach. There we visited underwater world which was equally fun. Underworld is one of expensive attraction of Santosa (S$22 per ticket) but it really worth the money. Next to the aquarium is the show of dolphins but due to rain it was cancelled and we have to be happy with the show from sea-lions.

From there we took a bus to tiger sky tower, images of Singapore and Merlion. These attractions are sited so close together that you need not spend more than 5 minutes to walk from one attraction to another. The easiest way to get to Imbiah Lookup is by Sentosa Express, a monorail train which will bring you directly to Imbiah Lookup station. Finally, after whole day walking and stalking my son slept and we too decided to relax while gazing at the serenity of the sea so comeback by monorail to last stop as we had bought ticket for last show of the day. Before Aarush went to sleep he was really cranky and was doing all kind of real naughty things, ultimate one was he just lied down completely on the pavement to lodge his complaint like a street activist.
We ended our trip with one of the highly-rated show, Song of the Sea where the highlight is on fountain-like water spray dancing harmoniously with the background music. In addition, to colourful lighting which changes constantly with the rhythm of the background music it is enhanced with lasers, pyrotechnics, bursts of fire, water jets, pop music and a live cast, the show is more like a state-of-the-art entertainment. After show we left for Vivocity for return journey to hotel.

We had our dinner at Vivocity food republic; place bubbling with energy. It’s the place for the food connoisseurs. They have wide range of international cuisine and restaurants serving French, Italian, Japanese, Taiwanese local flair and what not. We had java and fried Hakeem noodles...which was absolutely awesome.

A quick fix


A funny typo
A quick post to start the year.

Friday - Black Peper Crab

 On Friday we woke up early; had breakfast- an elaborate one. Me and Aarush after shower around 11am left our hotel room. Today again we walked on other side of Orchard Street till Dhoby Ghat Station. Now a days;  I too feel sick like my hubby when too much time spent at malls … am I growing old ? :D  It was good to be in mall when it is raining. On otherhand, it also allows you to enjoy the air-condition in the stores as outside it is really hot and humid when not raining.  We visited malls after mall Paragon, Orchard central, Specialist Shopping Centre (John Little store), Plaza Singapura etc flanked on Orchard street. This street is one of the best place to spend during any time of the year specially during year end when  the whole stretch of the street and the buildings are beautifully adorned with Christmas decors and lights.

Had hot piping dumpling soup at lunch while my son slept at street shop.Then continued walking past official residence of Singapore President, the Istana which is next to Plaza Singapora Mall.  There I picked a  local SIM card in the same mall so that I can talk to my hubby at least in need. Lastly, couldn’t stop myself on seeing Carrefour French hyper store after long time at same mall. Bought some errands and returned around 6-ish to the hotel.
Hubby too returned from office early being Friday around 7 ish; then we together left for dinner at Clark quay. Everyone were in weekend party mood. This area is lined with bars and notable restaurants like Hooters and others strung together, looking somewhat identical. Many waterfront restaurants to enjoy (Thai, Indian, Chinese ...) food one wants to. They all have large covered patios that extend even further uncovered. G-MAX reverse bungee, River cruises and river taxies on the Singapore River can be accessed from Clarke Quay.

We chose Riverside Jumbo restaurant. Open air seating near the waterfront; its relaxing place for long chats while savoring seafood dishes after a long day of walking. We ordered steamed prawns with duck sauce as starter. Instead of popular and common Chili Crab which has more gravy we ordered black pepper crab a dry variant. Taste wise Black Pepper Crab is dry and spicy! Very yummy!  Its Crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside.

This was my fist experience with crab; learned one thing that they are delicious but messy to eat. Not the most elegant food to eat as they serve with a bib and trust me - unless you eat crab regularly you'll get it absolutely everywhere.  Literally struggled during the whole course where the waitress kept on changing plates. Both hands got quite dirty but thankfully they kept a bowl with warm water and plenty of napkins to keep oneself clean. Santanu guided and helped me in cracking the crab. He told me that pickers generally used to split the shell or push the meat out with a long, thin tong. At times I felt like in a  bio-laboratory to dissect this crabs and in this long process lost my appetite. We need to use fingers in order to fully savour the crab.
We ordered some Chinese buns (man tou) for Aarush which did not liked it much so we finished those on behalf of him. Next time, will  definitely like to try the chilli crabs. As Aarush only had yogurt and some side dish we got french fries for him which he had while running near Clarke Quay riverside.
Links

First day @ Singapore

Viewing Singapore through a lens of mother of 22 months old baby was not fun all the time but enjoyed our stay there for 9 days. Actually this journey is because of Santanu who went almost every year after returning to India. Each time after his official trip he use to complain about his loneliness and etc. So this time we made sure to accompany him. But what a luck! he was damn busy in his office. He use to leave hotel early in the morning and come late at night. It was me and Aarush who were left to explore Singapore of  our own.
We reached Singapore on Thursday morning, on our way to hotel we figured that its extremely green country with no single patch left just like that. Had our buffet breakfast till throat and hit the bed to overcome jetlag. We slept till 4.00PM Singapore local time.  Straight I went to window of my room on 30th floor and surprised to see natures tears rolling down from mournful burdened grey  clouds and people carrying open umbrellas. I cursed myself that I got rains along with me from Bangalore as it was pouring the day we left from there.

Lazily me and my son took shower and left the hotel around 6pm. Our hotel Mandarin Meritus was on Orchard Street; I preferred to know my neighborhood first. So, walking on that street felt like walking on Champs-Elysées of Paris with only difference that former is full of malls one after another while later is full of shops from branded company.  All these malls have branded showrooms; labels like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier, Dior and Giorgio Armani you name it its all there in one street.
It seems that Christmas preparations started earlier. Whole street was already decorated in Christmas mood; spotted so many caricatures along the road on pavement; a huge Christmas tree at shopping extravaganza ION Orchard and lots more Christmas decorations outside and inside other Malls. The architecture of the Ion orchard building is something different compared to other malls in Orchard road. The facade is formed of huge glass bubbles.
For my son, whole thing was absolutely new,  he was behaving like a hero of Bollywood who just  came from very remote village to a big city. He was too excited to see all these hustling bustling city life.  Near Orchard metro they have colorful fountains dancing with light. He enjoyed so much so that he completely drenched himself.
It seems People too were in festive mood carrying shopping bags in each hand. After strolling on that busy Orchard Street we headed to hotel as my son's clothes were wet and I didn't want to take risk with his health at new place and massacre my holidays.

On returning to room Santanu was already there busy on phone call meeting. By the time my son had some food and slept again. It was almost 11 when Santanu had finished his phone call. Had dinner at youth park; back of our hotel. We had Stingray (a common Singaporean dish) with rice and Stir Fried kangkung (water Spinach). We walked around to locate  nearest metro station and Santanu showed me about how to follow bus-route.

It came to an end


Officially it is over… ten month long journey came to an end. There were two exams and one submission before pulling the final curtain by November end.
Before writing further I must thank Pamela for persuading me in enrolling in to this Executive MBA (EXMP) of IIM Bangalore.
The course in nutshell covers almost all the areas of management and gives you enough foundation to build your own interest in specific area. The classes were interactive and a very big positive to attend this kind of program compared to other offerings where you attend classes via Video. The green campus was retreat where you get detached from the outside world for few hours in the weekend. This really recharges your energy level as you do not have any boss to manage.
Well, to answer how much I recommend the course to someone “is a mixed bag” if I put it in few words; another answer would be “It depends” a typical management answer for most situations.
In general, the faculty is an esteemed and one of the best in India. Most of them have got their Master and Doctorial degree from renowned US universities. Some were able to connect to profession like us better and quickly as they had significant industry experience /exposure.
But few tried to impose values and teaching methods which are more suited for full time students. I personally found those sessions were not as effective as others. Overall learning part was not great as I was looking for some performer who can “walk the talk”.
I really could not appreciate the current evolution system that was practised for EGMP. It seems there was no evolution method few years earlier. As more and more corporate started to sponsor this program they (HR department) demanded a way to find out if their employees are effective or not. And every professor before starting the subject would mention that there will be a small evolution but you should focus on learning rather than the exam part. For most subjects we had a multiple choice short exam. I really hated this part; as from engineering days I have already mastered the art of getting relatively OK grade by investing a small amount of time.  For those subjects where there was a submissions or project I think my learning and take away is much more.
Other then learning,One more  positive aspect is you can build network with like minded people.
First thing I need to do is to list all the recommended books by all those professors I noted in various notes. And ensure that I buy and read them in next 18 months.
P.S One class mate quit his job and did really well in class exams with "A" grade; best part he reached final of CAPSIM as individual 5th Indian to do so.

Tonsuring my baby’s head: Tirupati

Ever since from childhood heard about Tirupati but never had a chance till date or never understood why people use to grumble till they had darshan. May be god wanted me to experience the same. Few days back Santanu suddenly decided to visit before his upcoming hectic weeks at office. So it was kind of planned-unplanned trip. Why unplanned knowingly was....we didn't had any ticket in hands before starting the journey nor we had any references to make use of. As planned, we were to start early morning at 5 but when we woke up to the alarm ring I could hear tiny shards of crystals falling from the sky against leaves, trees and windows. I woke Santanu- he looked at the time, then towards the window and back to clock. The clock said it was 4.15am but it was dark outside. Bed was warm and comfortable so he puts again the alarm back for 5.00am. This time we both jumped out of bed with the alarm ring. We kept our things packed last night only so last minute final touch up was left with packing which Santanu did; while I got dressed up and fed Aarush in his sleep. By 6.00 we were at our parking lot.

The route that we took for Tirupati was Bangalore – Kolar –Mulbagilu - Palamneru - Chittoor – Tirupati. Road till Kolar is not that excellent as of ongoing construction. Because of which we missed Woody's restaurant and moreover my son was in deep sleep. So decided to make a stop at Cafe-Coffee Day for restroom. Foods are highly pricey but excellent in terms of neatness. Still Aarush was sleeping blissfully and we didn’t wanted to disturb him as when he is in sleep its good for driving by accelerating. Took one take away coffee for Santanu from cafe-coffee day and we were on our way. After 10 we stopped at BANS restaurant near Chittoor had our breakfast there; (prices were reasonable and very neat place) and were back at road. Landscapes are really worth seeing particularly on sunny day but unfortunately weather was bad that day. On way at Palamneru check post one police man stopped us seeing our Maharashtra number plate car and asked for 100 rs as we were going to Tirupati...strange! Was that we were going for fun or honeymoon that he thought so? We declined saying give us a receipt for the same or leave us. We reached Tirupati around 11.00am. Tirupati, is the temple town in Chittor District of Andhra Pradesh, located in the foothills of Tirumala. And Tirumala is famous for the shrine Lord Venkateshwara.
Santanu decided to go to Tirumala to get the tickets for darshan first and later look for hotel at foothill. So we straight away went towards hill after scanning our baggage and paying toll of Rs 20.Road is one way and really superb to drive through with scenic beauty around .It took 25 min. to reach there. Till this point every thing went smoothly now actual part starts that how and where to get ticket with less wait time in queue for darshan. Best part is nobody knows exactly; everyone will say something different. Through internet study we knew that Vaikuntam Queue Complex- (is a series of inter-connected halls that leads to the main temple) will give ticket of Rs. 300 for (Seeghra Darshan) fast darshan but actuality is that you get into queue immediately without knowing when you can see lord while if you buy tickets of Rs. 50 and Rs. 100 it is given according to availability of ticket on that particular day with no guarantee on time spent on queue. So one person there told us to go to Vijaya bank for fast darshan. Then we drove back near to bus stand where Vijaya bank is after searching here n there. The people near counter have hardly any time to explain about anything. Its like you buy ticket or get lost kind of. Anyways at counter he said he has ticket for same evening nothing for Sunday morning. We wanted for Sunday early morning so that after shower we can pay our obeisance as it was our 7th anniversary. As of man proposes and god disposes, we bought ticket blindly for that evening of 1000 bucks without understanding any head or tail. This time biometrics (finger printing and photo) were taken to eliminate the involvement of middlemen, I believe.

On getting tickets on hand we saw it was written Sahasra Deepalankarana Seva at kovulu mandapam infront of temple at 5.30 pm with 5 small laddus free. And maximum no. of people allowed for this is 5. Now we started looking for temple as it was already 2.30 PM and at tirumala for everything there is a big line be it for ticket counter, ladoo counter, tonsure, restroom etc. We crossed on the way Ram Bagicha Guest House(aka RBGH), maths, kalyan mandapam etc then also could not figure out where the temple is as of misty weather. Then we asked one person who guided us to Ram Bagicha entrance and told to ask there. At Ram bagicha on asking security personnel he told us to go to building next to Ram Bagicha- 3. Till then we were not sure whether we were in temple premises or not as temple's gold overlaid gopuram was not visible because of rain. The crowd, queue all together makes the rains a harrowing experience. Moreover in our ado we forgot to take our umbrella. On asking same person about head tonsuring he said it’s done just at side downstairs of Rambagicha. I had a strong belief that tonsuring being so famous that must be done with some mantra ucharan but in actuality nothing like that. With Rs. 10 coupon we got one barber to get Aarrush's head tonsured. There hands are so experienced that they did it in few minutes while my son kept crying frantically. Thereafter barber was again asking for more money which we denied.
On asking a temple worker at that hall he told one small puja of half an hour will be performed there as of rain and after collecting one silk Uttariyam and blouse piece along with prasadam we need to stand in queue to get glimpse of lord. As it was already 3.30 we decided to feed Aarush with idli just opposite that hall but he strongly denied after 1-2 morsel which we two later finished. And by 4.00 we went to that hall where they made us sit.Best part was since we were before time we got chance to sit in first row. Strangely, one temple worker gave us something to apply in forehead which we took with the thought that we might be only one lacking it but oh my gosh...next moment he asked for money. We declined to give any money. Truly, till this point we were feeling like something fraud going on with us; people keep trying to dupe you. Then mustering enough courage I asked person sitting beside me showing our ticket he told that he has also the same and not to worry we will be able to see lord at last. In the midst of Vedic chanting and singing of Sankirtanas which was live telecasted we were astonish to see priests with three thick chains one large pendant hanging near his belly-button other then ear ring, golden watch strap, wristlet....o ...god real money making place not to be mentioned. A priest with chain and ear ring is quite common there.

After half an hour we rushed along with others for queue; various sign boards indicate the location of the room where pilgrims need to report for their darshan or seva. Outside the room, ticket is checked along with the biometric data provided at the time of ticket purchase. It was 6.15 when we entered this hall we waited for 10 min. I believe this was the last hall of VQC; Once the gates exiting the halls are opened, the devotee joins the actual queue, and from this point in the queue it takes about 60–90 minutes (standing/walking) to reach the sanctum sanctorum and have Darshan. Just before entering the temple, there is a bridge connecting Queue complex to Temple where baggage are scanned for last time. The patience to keep moving step by step, for hours together is ultimate one.All you can see here is the tonsured heads be it male or female and people chanting Gooovinda...Gooovinda. Anyways after moving on endless queue with long wait we reached sanctum sanctorum where people crushed us on from every side which is unexplainable. Near to sanctum felt like stuck in unmoving queue. Even my little son couldn't control his tears he just burst out (out of hunger, claustrophobia, with madness crushing from all sides). At times waiting in a queue felt like God simply refused to see us. On reaching inside officials were pushing devotees to one side before one can have proper sight of lord. Lastly, that momentary glimse of lord arrived where before we could fold our hands we found ourselves at one corner. All the while I felt like asking god only this much fraction of seconds you have for your devotees who are dying to see you.
Literally, I have to struggle with my memories to recollect lord's face. Then with crowd came out saw golden hundi offered our bare minimum dakshinas and then took one round of temple then again formed a queue to collect prasadam chakkera-pongali (sweet pongal) which was hot enough for that cold rainy day. From there followed sign of ladoo counter which is again very commercialized. You need to buy poly bags for rs 2. Then stand in designated queue depending on type of ticket you bought. Thank god our had less queue so got almost instantly. We wanted to buy 2 more extras but couldn't figure out how and where to collect coupons for the same.Well, satisfied with what we had and happy enough that God at least wished to see us in this form without bath and without wasting much time in queue. It was 7.15 pm when we took exit from temple so one hour exactly from the time we were in queue.

Worth visiting without any plan all because of Gods grace may be. We decided to stay that night at Fortune keenness hotel @ Tirupati  just opposite the bus stand. Drove down-hill carefully which is again one way. Roads are really good here with a view of city. Although considered to be 4 star but room 116 provided to us had a  roof with water dripping due to extra moisture . Other then that rest facilities were A class. Had paid buffet dinner after hot shower and buffet breakfast next day morning was complimentary.
Anyway, happy sort-of-anniversary! we were content from our trip which ended successfully. As of rain decided to return Bangalore before evening so started at 10.00 am. On way this time we made sure to halt at Woody's restaurant and had a quick stop at BANS for restroom. God knows why people want to eat at Woody's. It was buzzing with flies; I am sure if one or 2 fly get in with food I won't be surprised so asked for take away. Moreover we were so stuffed with buffet breakfast that we were hardly hungry enough so had lassi only. And by 4.30 pm we reached our parking lot.