Will walk with friends @ Mumbai

This is my favourite activity to meet/make friends, get some exercise, and feed the travel monster inside me. Photo walking. Regardless of how many years I’ve spent in a city, it all looks different through the lens. Mumbai offered up the perfect opportunity to do just that. And my friends just happened to know some of the most interesting places to walk about.

The Gateway of India at dawn:

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The interiors of the fanciest hotel in Mumbai with the largest heart – The Taj Mahal:

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A whiff of nostalgia, watching the sandwich guy set up his stall, and other activities:

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A walk through Darukhana, one of the old-time ship breaking yards with a bit of history:

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People :

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And the part that makes it all worthwhile – a breakfast place that’s both picturesque and satisfying:

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Here’s Kailash staking his claim on a new business:

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When at Kala Ghoda, must pose with the kala ghoda (black horse):

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And at nightfall, after all is said and done, the terrace offers a glorious view of Mumbai city at night, sparkling all the way from Antop Hill as far as the eye can see.

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Ode to Homes

For someone who craves variety, I get plenty packing and moving. The number of times we’ve moved seems like we don’t pay our bills anywhere, and have to make a run for it! Consequently it’s rare for me to get nostalgic about any place, though there are plenty of anecdotes about each one.

kholiTake my ‘kholi’ – a poky little room at Warden Road in Mumbai. I can’t remember if it had a wardrobe, but there was a horribly dusty attic, and to enter the room, you had to jump in about a foot deep at the door. The location was the best part about that room – close to work, close to the seaside, the fanciest shops in all of Mumbai, some lovely walking parks, but I had to fight over the use of the phone line with the neighbouring electronic repair shop.

House hunting in Mumbai after we were married was quite a challenge, since we had very little money and seemingly different priorities. I wanted the apartment in the building with the pool, but Souvik refused to live there because it was called Mota Nagar (Mota = fat). After some desperate searches, we settled down at Amboli Naka, right at the traffic junction, a spot that we both hated; every time the light turned green, all vehicles blared their horns. There was little to recommend that place except that we could afford it. After that disaster, we got on a continuous improvement curve, thanks to our careers and the 11-month lease agreements.

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Paranjpe Complex at Vile Parle

 

Moving to Bangalore was a breath of fresh air. Apartment buildings were swanky shiny, compared to whatever we had seen in Mumbai. Koramangala was the nicest place to live. There are mixed memories of our apartment there. Souvik’s dad battled with his illness there, and sadly lost. We packed up and moved to Chennai.

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Purva Park, Cox Town

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Raheja Residency, Koramangala

MKaka & Varun at home

Gandhinagar 3rd Main, Adyar

So many people complain about Chennai, but we had one of our best years there. Living in Adyar, there was my weekend schedule of grocery shopping at Besant Nagar, brunch at Murugan Idli, coffee and a book at the Barista on the beach. Alternately, driving off to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry at the drop of a hat. Hanging about the house as little as possible.

 

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Our own place in Bangalore

 

 

By this time we had invested in buying an apartment of our own in Bangalore, and ironically that is the one in which I have spent the least time (1 night) calling home. Back in Mumbai, we had a jolly ride over 3 years. Dosti Acres – tiny flat, massive furniture that I had to move around like a jigsaw puzzle to make it fit. My cousin got married there, well, across from there. Moving from Wadala to Pump House (yes, that’s what the area is called) and Kalpataru at JVLR because of, you guessed it, the 11-month lease. And just as I was ready to renew my lease at Kalpataru (gasp!), we took the call to shift to Hanoi.

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Dosti, Wadala

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Cousins at Kalpataru

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Ciputra Window, Hanoi

We were blissful enough in our Hanoi place for Souvik to make a crazy video of it. I spent hours looking out of the big window, blogging about my life there. Then we realised what a jinx we had with lease renewal. Every time we signed that paper, we would have to move. This time to Ho Chi Minh City. That year I spent half the year looking at houses. As we were about to finalise the flat there, we ended up moving to Jakarta instead.

(Click to view video)

 

I went into an ‘instant hate’ mode with the city. Endless traffic, horrid apartments where windows wouldn’t open, big palatial houses that seemed like to much work for an apartment-inured person that I was. After sound advice from a friend, we settled on the house that we’re in now. Finally there was some love, especially with the pool in the backyard. The house was too big for just the two of us to enjoy, we were happy to open it up to welcome family and friends. And plenty obliged. Not that they were lacking in our ‘smaller’ places, but the joy of jumping into the pool at will is irresistible. We renewed our 2-year lease last November. And guess what – we’re moving again! Right this very week. And this time the nostalgia seems to be coming on, mostly for that backyard and pool. Never have I enjoyed a house (not counting Kolhapur) as much as I did this one. Watching the rain in the afternoon. Barbecue on weekends. Painting the wall. Sewing curtains. Killing off plants one after the other. Negotiating banjir, the floods after a heavy downpour. Jalan Tikus, the tiny lane shortcut to the main road. Decorating at Diwali. Chasing Mia.

 

In the midst of packing chaos, I’m letting the shifting blues set in, but visualising living in the new place. The landscaping is definitely better, with plenty of tree lined avenues to walk, run and cycle. Actually, with a lot of our ‘stuff’ packed already in round 1 by those efficient packers, I’m in the mood to get going right away. Going by the lethargy I’m exhibiting though, it’s clear that I enjoy unpacking and setting up house, but sorting and packing is just not my favourite thing. HELP!

My top tips for painless relocation:

  1. Hire a good packer-mover service. That’s money well spent.
  2. Pack a week’s clothes, towels, toiletries, shoes, bedsheets separately yourself. If it takes time for the washing machine to be installed, you’re not going crazy. If you’re moving cities, make that 2-week supply. That should give you enough time to figure out the laundry.
  3. Pack VALUABLES (jewellery, electronic gadgets – phones, laptop, tablet, chargers,cameras, power adaptors,  important documents – passport, tickets, IDs, insurance policies, bank papers, house papers) and MEDICINES yourself, and don’t let that bag out of your sight until you have set up the new house. If you are moving cities, carry your valuables in cabin baggage.
  4. It’s useful to wear something (like a jacket) with plenty of pockets to hold small stuff like keys, phone, pens, wallet, so you don’t put it down and accidentally have it packed up, or worse, stolen.
  5. If you’re moving country, make sure to finish or give away all the beverages – yeah, have a big booze party the night before. Spillage in the suitcase is such a pain.
  6. If you’re an Indian like me, take your pressure cooker with you.
  7. Keep calm and enjoy the change!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Marathon That Was

It’s been a busy new year, kicked off by a short and sweet dash to Mumbai, to cheer Souvik in the Mumbai Marathon (he ran half). Made even more exciting by the fact that it was my first trip in 4 years since leaving for Vietnam. All the flyovers that were WIP then have been completed, the weather was fantastic, even the standard Mumbai sights and sounds brought wave after wave of nostalgia.

And there was the Marathon. We had a large contingent to cheer Souvik, plus there were a number of other friends participating.

Look at Souvik at the starting point with his cheerleading squad, while the others warm up:

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As the sea link route was closed for traffic, we cabbed it through the inner lanes all the way to Churchgate, and found a vantage spot to be able to see both sides of the road. There was a thrill to watch the elite marathoners blaze past.

Once that show was on the road, it was time for the half marathoners to get closer to the finish line. The excitement mounted steadily with all the drums and music blaring by the roadside, not to mention the hundreds of people standing by to egg people on. The crazies and the bare-chesteds got more attention, naturally, and some photos too.

And the real reason we were there – a competition between Souvik and my friend Irina, both of whom were running the half marathon. Mom was cheering Souvik wildly, but I’d put my money on Irina, and she won by a margin of over a minute! Both of them were surprised to see us not at the finish line, but a km before, in prime position, and they found some seconds to pose:

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Mom cheering enthusiastically

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Irina spots me before I see her! 

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Go SOUVIK!!!

I had so many people to track, but as we had practically the entire family at the breakfast table by then – parents, cousins, spouse and friends, we couldn’t stand and stare. Missed seeing most of the celebrities that ran. For us, these half-marathon finishers were the heroes of the day:

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India Day 5 & 6: Mumbai

How can I go to India, and not visit my favourite city – Mumbai. 90% of my friends are there, as are some of my top shopping spots. And some of my favourite cousins to pile on to. To reach Kolhapur from Delhi I have to go through Mumbai, so I took that opportunity to meet people and fill suitcases. Uju, Abhi & I had a fun dinner at Punjab Grill –

Though I wasn’t able to visit most of them, my favourite shopping places are: OMO at Waterfield Road, Bandra, Fabindia at Kala Ghoda and Crossword at Kemps Corner.

There was a strange incident –  I’d been trying to activate GPRS on my phone when in Delhi. Vodafone, being so technologically advanced, said that I could only do so in Maharashtra, coz the number was from Maharashtra circle. After spending an hour on hold with their customer care, I’d given up, and depended on wi-fi to surf the net. Upon landing in Mumbai, I found that bizarrely the phone’s GPRS was active and working well. Then later, when I got to Kolhapur, it went off again, and I heard weird stuff about having to buy an iPhone GPRS package (whatever that means – do they differentiate between phones when providing service?). In any case, GPRS never got active after that, and the wi-fi in Kolhapur went off too, so I spent many days being close to nature instead (not a bad deal at all).

Mere desh ki dharti

I’m all excited about my upcoming whirlwind trip to India next week. 4 cities in 2 weeks does not leave much time to chill out and meet people, and I will have to run helter-skelter to meet the hardworking ones. Then there’s all the food I’ve been craving for months, and clothes that I have to buy, coz the Vietnamese sizes are nowhere near mine! Have to mention – Souvik has a problem with clothes fit too, so it’s not only about the fat. More like work than a vacation, and one where I don’t have to buy a Lonely Planet, or trawl through other blogs to get a ‘feel’ of the places I’m visiting.

Hopefully the weather in Delhi will improve, we will see the city transformed yet again for the Commonwealth Games, meet various people who will lament, “Oh how sad that Souvik couldn’t come.”  The only excuse I have to be in Mumbai is that it is the transit point between Delhi & Kolhapur, but there are hundreds of friends to meet (literally), and the best clothes shopping in Fabindia and OMO. The hillside in Kolhapur is green again, after the rains, and I never tire of photographing the greenery, buffaloes, wildflowers and the lake. Am trying to keep meals simple here, but there’s Phadtare’s misal, and Sunitabai’s bhakris (yumm, slurp). This time round, I have to put up the hammocks that we bought in Cambodia. And parents will comment, “This is perfect for Souvik; how sad that he couldn’t make it.” Final stop: Bangalore, mainly to babysit my niece, Sara, while Reva and Vish go off salsa-dancing on the weekend. And Sara will ask, “Where’s Souvik?”

The greater excitement is that Reva and Sara are travelling back with me, so they can help in lugging the dals and atta that I will inevitably have to stock up. Errrrr…. Sara will lug her blankie, and the airlines will lug the rest. And we have a whole bunch of activities planned around Reva’s favourite subject – FOOD!

Before I leave, however, the cleaning lady needs to be organized around Souvik’s schedule (through Google translator), mountains of laundry to be sorted out, and a few containers of sustenance in the freezer for the poor, sad husband who has only 26 DVDs on World War II for company the next 2 weeks.

And I look forward to seeing India through the eyes of my SLR camera, and subjecting you all to some choice images.