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Friday, May 15, 2009

"Will you join me for a cup of Coffee??"

If I told you that I drove around for two and a half hours looking for a coffee place in Bangalore and was unsuccessful, you would think I was plain stupid. If I then added that the hunt began at 11.45 pm in the night, you would probably understand.

After the MTR luncheon, on the 18th of April, we visited friends and more relatives. After we came back home we had a hearty 'pasta-in-white-sauce' meal. I mention the dinner menu to establish the point that the last packet of milk had been utilised in making the pasta sauce.

My wedding anniversary falls on the 19th of April. This was our 17th aniversary. A little before 12.00 we decided to go on a long drive to a 24 x 7 Cafe Coffee Day outlet, near the New Airport. It was fun to drive through the city's main roads, all silent in the night. The very places we had passed through in the morning and where we couldn't find enough place to park a car, were all empty and almost eerie. Suddenly we saw this group of 10-15 bikers, all with pillion riders. Some of them were travelling in pairs and some were racing amongst themselves. Suddenly the bike to our left revved up and did a wheelie. The front wheel of this bike was suspended in the air. The heart skipped a beat at this show of recklessness and false bravado.

Finally as we reached the airport we realised that we couldn't locate the coffee place. It had either shut down, or had shut down for the day. We turned back and decided to go to Koramangala. Another long and fruitless drive. By this time we were all ragging our 'daamaad' who was in charge of 'Operation Coffee Day'.

He admitted defeat and volunteered to take us to the sabzi mandi for a chai and 'bun' , added atrraction (at this place, at this time of the night/morning,) being , we could pick up the freshest veggies for lunch the next day....Or even upto the Manipal Hospital, outside which there is this chai ka thela. This suggestion was vetoed. The sabzi market was fine. But a Hospital - no no. Not a good omen . Then somebody suggested the railway station. Now we were all in the freak out mode and off we went to the railway station. No luck here too, as the vendors had been shooed away earlier on, because of the election bandobast. By now we were all ready to latch on to the next available cycle wala selling coffee or tea, bun or no bun. But the one fellow we found had a unruly looking bunch surrounding him. It had to be a an unruly bunch. Kaunsa 'sharif' group would be out at 3.00 am looking for coffee. One of us even suggested driving for a while more and picking up a milk packet from a milk van on the way to its first delivery and going home for the coffee.

Soon we were passing by the Leela and the Taj. So the Taj it was. It was a funny sight . Ten of us,including 2 kids, a 2 year old baby, and we adults, all equally perky waiting for our cup of THE brew. The Taj disappointed. The capuccino was luke warm. But it didnt dampen our spirits one bit. Not even the hefty bill.
Giggling like a bunch of teenagers, our motley group of maama, maami, bua, bhaanjas and bhaanjis, one daamaad and one grandchild returned to a candle - lit home. This candle part was NOT a part of our anniversary rendevouz. It was thanks to the Bangalore City Electricity Board, which also decided to participate in the celebration. Mercifully , by the time we tucked in, it also returned us the 'bijli' and thus fell the curtains on my 17th anniversary party. At this moment I could only say "Shukriya ji for lighting up my life!"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bangalore to Ooty

On the 20th of April we left Bangalore at 12.00 noon. Destination - Ooty. The distance between Bangalore and Ooty is around 300 kms and had gathered from friends and the internet that it would be a 6 hr drive approximately. I was a little apprehensive because it entailed driving through Bandipur and Mudumalai forest Reserves for a short stretch. Once about 4 yrs ago, we had driven from Waynad to Nagarhole Sanctuary. The roads were nearly non existent.

On the Bangalore - Mysore route lies the town of Chennapatna, where they make wooden toys, with lacquer colors. We bought a few for ourselves.

We did not stop for lunch, but grabbed a few burgers and stuff at a McDonald's Takeway , enroute. From there to Mysore, Nanjanguda and reached Gundlupet at around 4.00 pm. Drove on towards Bandipur. The roads are in good condition and it was a nice comfortable and scenic drive. The tall forest on either side, Bamboo groves, birds in myriad colours, signboards reminding us that we were passing through a forest where the animals had right of way.......Ahem!

We had been forewarned that we could have to wait in our tracks to allow a herd of elephants to pass. The most that we saw was a herd of deer and one lonely wild boar.

Then drove on into Mudumalai and with that into TamilNadu. The roads seemed much better here. It was a good drive with hairpin bends as we neared Ooty and we could see and feel the uphill drive through the Nilgiris. And yes the Nilgiris did appear blue. We reached Ooty comfortably by 6.30 pm.

The drive into Ooty was a fragrant one. The air was heavy with the smell of the eucalyptus. It was cold too. As we wrapped ourselves into our sweaters i ws reminded of my childhood when Nilgiri oil was liberally used to help ease a bout of cold and a stuffy nose. We checked in into the Meadows Residency in the Charing Cross area of Ooty, which was active and buzzing with stores. The Hotel is new and the rooms and the bathrooms were sleek and spick and span. While we were settling in they served us large cups of perfectly brewed, steaming hot coffee. Yes!! Complimentary!

We ventured into the markets. A 'What to shop for while in Ooty' search on the internet had revealed that sampling home-made chocolates and chocolate fudge is mandatory. And Kings Star Confectionery was rated the best. So off we went to King's Star. The chocolate fudge was the best of all the stuff laid out there. The children loved the Mint and the Fruit and Nut variety as well. The internet search had also listed a popular Chinese eatery 'Shinkows'. This place disappointed and we walked out immediatley. It had a lot of pork and beef items and i was not too comfortable

Dinner was at Chandan at Hotel Nahar. Good food, Chinese and Punjabi. A significantly large restaurant. Had several laminated pictures by Raja Ravi Varma, all of them my absolute favourites.

A brisk walk (it was sooo...... cold!) and we were back to the cosy confines of our room.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Travelogue continues

Day 2 and 3 were spent with family and friends in Bangalore. We went out to MTR for lunch. It was quite a nice experience. The coupons have to be booked in advance and you are allotted a time of arrival. We were ushered into a waiting hall for a while and then taken to our table. The service and the manner in which the food is served is simple but very organised.

As soon as we were seated we were served grape sherbet in silver glasses. Then followed the food. First the 'kismoori' - soaked moong dal, garnished with grated carrot, lemon juice salt, green chillies and tempered with oil and mustard leaves. Then poori and a saagu ( gravy wala veggie), badam halwa, mix dal wada and chutney, a vegetable curry,and bissi bele bhaat. The bissi bele bhaat was absolutely tasty. It is basically a mix of rice and sambaar. I have made it at home before, using the Bisi Bele bhaat masala mix, but the stuff they served at the eatery was too good. At this point we had to ask them, 'Aur kya kya items baki hain, Pet mein jagah khaali rakhni hai". Rasam and rice with a dollop of ghee, curd rice, payasam and fruit salad with icecream. A serving of 'paan' ended the meal service. While they were serving us, my husband got talking to the supervisor there, - "aap logon ne khaana khaaya kya?" he asked. He replied saying that they all eat by 12.00 noon, before the first patrons start arriving from 12.30 onwards. Wise move, this one. Little wonder, then, that they had a calm and contented air about them as they went around from room to room, from table to table, serving food. Like my Punjabi friend would say, "Unhonein bade pyaar se humein khaana khilaaya."

The Travelogue

A lot of planning, discussion, arguments and war of words happened before we finally left from Mumbai on the 17th of April. Mercifully, the date of departure remained unchallenged. The daughter's examination ended on the 16th of April and we hit the road on the morning of the 17th. 5.30 am to be precise.

We had planned to reach Bangalore by nightfall. Breakfast at a Food Plaza on the Mumbai-Pune expressway at around 7.00 am. Packed a couple of Wada Pau's for a mid morning snack. The son clicked this picture of the sunrays tearing through a hole in the cloud to light up Pune city.

Were in Belgaum for lunch, around 12.30 am. Back on the road in about half an hour. Lunch at Hotel Ramdev. This place has been around for several decades now. I still remember dining there as a kid when I accompanied my parents to Udupi during some of our annual vacations. Today it is a much more cleaner place and the service is quick and efficient, with palatable food too. When in Belgaum, the 'must-buy list includes a packet of KUNDA, a milk based delicacy and Dharwad Peda - both from any of the Purohit stores.

Reached Bangalore by about 8.30 pm. The roads are good and most of the time one is on the express way. Mumbai - Pune and then the Pune - Bangalore express way. The major hitch was when we reached Chitradurga. That was one rough patch, where the roads were bad and we lost a lot of time negotiating the heavy traffic. The roads were narrow too and we had to pass through the city as against travelling on a city-bypass highway.

The express way's have made road trips faster. But have taken away the joy of watching new places, villages flitting past you. It is a monotonous drive, but conveninent and comfortable. My daughter was fascinated by the colourful bougenvilla planted on the road divider for a long stretch in Karnataka. Whites, pinks, flaming oranges, magenta.........mmmmmm very soothing to the eyes, smarting from the grey of the roads.

After we crossed Davangere, the skies became a wee bit overcast. The children had a enjoyable time looking at the shades of green in the fields and the changing colours of the soil

Reached Bangalore in the night by around 8.30 pm, to a refreshing welcome by the rain gods and later by family with lots of affection, a warm dinner and a cozy bed.

A Vacation - 4,500 kms long

Yeah, that was the distance we covered during our drive thru some parts of south India. All in a period of a fortnight. We travelled from Mumbai - Bangalore - Ooty - Coimbatore - Thanjavur - Rameshwaram - Madurai - Kanyakumari - Suchindram - Trivandrum - Cochin - Kannur - Mangalore - Udupi - Goa - Kolhapur - Mumbai.

Two kids and two adults. Though during the course of the trip the adults sometimes behaved like kids and vice versa.

Because of the son's SSC exams we hadn't had a decent vacation all of last year. The 2 week break more than made up for it.