Without a care

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Foggy morning from the train, backdrop along the railway tracks, on the way to Agra

As promised, following-up from my previous post on the recent India visit …

I was in Vadodara for only 1.5 days but managed to squeeze in quite a bit in that whirlwind span. From there on, my next destination was Agra. That night I got on the train where I had pre-planned to join-in with some family members also travelling to the same place.

When it comes to train travel in India, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I hate it for the delays which are not so uncommon, the wait at the stations which are obviously not world-class standard and the loos in the coaches. But all food and beverages you can get to try on-board, the long conversations that you can have with total strangers (and when you get off, you feel as if you’ve known this person/people all this time and cannot help feel just a wee bit sad as you part your own ways) are a couple of aspects peculiar to Indian train travel and something that makes it thoroughly more enjoyable.

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Wintry morning view from a moving train, on the way to Agra

In Agra, I was first hit by how cold it was! Actually, the freezing air was refreshing and I couldn’t help standing at the open doorway of our coach and feel the gusts of super chilly wind. The train was in fact delayed by an hour due to intermittent fog but one hour was still pretty okay considering some trains that were running several hours behind schedule. On the streets of Agra, I was again amazed at how little the place had changed … no signs of progress at all … same old crazy driving and honking, same old encroachments and what not. Keeping all these things aside though, its always heart-warming when you come back to your hometown. Especially, as you enter your neighborhood and then your galli (lane) and see your house nestled in just as it was when you were a kid and you are reminded of all the years you’ve spent there and that it still is, your home. And the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you see your mom come out to greet you at the door and you yell and give her a hugsy ❤

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Our neighborhood on a chilly December morning

Co-incidentally, a cousin of mine was getting married here in Agra and we were all very excited for the event. Getting ready for the various functions was a big headache for me though – choosing the dress, checking if it fits well, getting it altered if it doesn’t, finding the right jewelry and accessories, the right footwear, deciding the hairstyle and make-up and then finally wearing the stuff and painting up your face and botching it up once in a while to your utter frustration and starting over again … phew! For some females, this is a carnival, a gala time they have getting all dolled up. But for me, I think it was too much of an effort and in the middle of winter when just changing clothes once becomes such a task. At the end of it though, I did manage to look okay, as best as I humanly could 😛

And we Indians like to shake a leg at our weddings. While some dances can be choreographed, nice performances, most of what we do is spontaneous. It’s not dance-dance per se but a series of random jigs and sways heavily inspired by bollywood. To some, it might seem utterly funny but for us its a lot of fun … go on watch some videos on YouTube to get an idea 😀

I do enjoy weddings because they are just an excuse for people to come together and have a great time. And the best part is that for 4-5 days, you can just forget about cooking at home and enjoy all the delicacies being prepared by the modest halwai (cook) at your venue. I mean I had so much gulab-jamun, I don’t even remember how many I had. When my dad brought out a bowl of steaming hot jamuns, it was just hard to resist. Don’t judge me people! :-/

Once the wedding was done, we had a NYE get together with family, a couple of coffee catch-ups and tea vendor visits with friends. There on, a fun road trip to New Delhi with friends (we always have to catch our flight from delhi as Agra does not have an airport … yet). In delhi, a fun evening at hauz-khas village and dinner at Rajinder da dhaba (dhaba food … drrooool) 😛

NYE, 2014 :-)

NYE, 2014 🙂

It was so great, the trip was great, the food was great and all the people were great! For a while, I forgot that I’m a grown-up, who has this job and responsibilities in life. There were enough moments to stand and stare, without a care. I guess everybody needs that once in a while. Don’t we?

Back in time

Sunset at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai

Sunset at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai

Happy 2015 everyone! Wishing you all the most awesome time of your lives as the year unfolds …

My first post of the year … here goes …

India will remain India! There maybe positive changes taking place backstage but daily existence is still frustrating no matter which part you live in. I desperately want things to change, people to change, certain systems to change as many of us do. I see people coming forward and trying to make a difference and I do hope certain movements are sustained till we see a remarkable difference. On the brighter side, there are quite a few positives here – travel, food, weddings, an open and accommodating culture to a large extent. These are all great but normality is still a struggle!  Such were my feelings when I visited India recently.

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Exit terminal at the new Mumbai airport

I first landed in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and was elated by the new airport but that was only short lived. I think the authorities gave too much importance to the aesthetics at the cost of planning and efficiency. While immigration was smooth, the rest of the process was just plain tedious! We easily spent 1 hour+ just to get out of the airport. Or maybe it was the holiday season or the fact that an A380 had landed, adding to the chaos. It remains to be seen when we travel next time if things have gone worse or better. Mumbai was good fun otherwise besides the nasty traffic snarls!

We visited bandra bandstand, a rocky shore where you can catch a good sunset and grab a coffee. We meant to go to the fort but it was unfortunately closed that day.

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A typical bombay sandwich

We gorged on all the food we could in the 4 days we had. It was an enormous joy to have all this Indian food we were craving! God bless all the people who fed us … really, it was all worth it even at the cost of an upset belly.

My next pit stop was Vadodara, a small but progressing city in Gujrat. I have developed an affinity to the place since I lived and worked here. Some of my best times have been in this city with some great buddies, some of whom still live there. I try to stop by and catch up with them whenever possible. As soon as I got off the train , I remember telling them, “I want to have Indian Chinese cuz all you get in SG is Chinese Chinese.” And so we did and it was the closest I think I have ever gotten to a foodgasm. More than that though, it was wonderful catching up with them and also going to the roadside tea vendor and having the ginger chai (adrak wali chai) ❤

I honestly felt like going back in time and reliving my days there … sigh! Where did the time fly … really?Where? It’s like ‘poof’! It was a hard to describe feeling. It was feeling nostalgic even though you were right at the place and with the people you were nostalgic about. You know what I mean? From Singapore to India, I had travelled back in time. And I don’t mean the 2.5 hours time difference.

The journey continues … more on it in the next post. Just some stuff about Indian train journeys, Indian weddings, clothes and more food …

Yeay It’s Diwali

There is something about Diwali. It makes me all happy and warm inside. It livens up my spirit and makes me want to decorate the house with tiny lights and fragrant candles, makes me want to clean and cook and dress up for the evening. It makes me want to light up crakers, just some … as a token, for the spirit of Diwali. It keeps the child in me living …
 
 
I don’t know why Diwali does this to me exactly … maybe it’s got to do with fond remembering from childhood. Our anu chacha’s enthusiasm was infectious and got us all kids excited. He is the one who raised the funds from my dad, grandad and nani. Then he would add his own contribution and we would have a huge corpus for Diwali shopping.
The way we went cracker shopping from wholesale shops in Agra, then laid them all out and admired them before lighting them up. The way I was so possessive about Anaars, my favourite fire cracker; and selfishly sneaked 1-2 only for me.
It was fun to decorate our house with flowers and impatiently wait as our driver and anu chacha put the lights all over the house. It was exciting to place flower petals in a rangoli and place diyas around it. It was fun struggling to make the candles stand with my siblings as the hot wax dripped on our hands; and then fight against the wind to keep them lighted. And after everything was lighted it was fun to run into the street and look up at our house and sigh at the gorgeous view.
It was fun fighting with the neighborhood kids trying to steal our patakas. It was fun to put the anaars in a row and light 3-4 at the same time; people struggling with their ‘reel wala’ cameras to take that perfect shot. Boys displayed their bravado by jumping over chakris and blowing off red ladis in their hands. It was fun to cringe and cover my ears as I saw sparks from a bullet bomb about to go off. It was fun to turn around and wait for the sutli bomb to blow off and then feel my body jerk with the impact.
It was delightful to take a break from all the cracker bursting and have a hearty meal. Hot pooris being served by mom with me occasionally helping out. And Aloo, Paneer sabzi, boondi ka raita, dahi vada to go with it.
It was fun to finally go to our terrace and light all the rockets and our special items. Special items were the most expensive ones … parachutes and umbrella crackers which we saved for the very end. Sort of like a grand finale … from the terrace we would call out … “mummy, dadi … jaldo aao, hum special items jalane waale hain” …
It was fun to discover that even after lighting crackers for hours, till we were tired and spent with aching limbs; we still had some crackers remaining … it was exhilarating to realize that we would be able to light crackers the next day as well …
The next day after Diwali we would collect all the paper and cardboard, empty out the contents of the burnt crackers (barood) and set it all on fire … then waited for our painstakingly collected barood to go off in a huge puff of smoke and feel as if we had achieved something extraordinary… a pleasure other kids were incapable of, lighting just their usual crackers … we were the great minds

Diwali is this and more for me. Being away from home for so many years and not being able to be with my family for the past few Diwalis, I’ve realized it’s also about being with your dear ones and sharing the love, joy and excitement … and creating cherished memories. It’s about smiling, rejoicing, living for yourself, lighting up your life. Diwali 2012, the first one after shaadi (even though not with our family) was wonderful with Deepak … together, we have created and captured memories we will cherish for years to come 🙂
Here is wishing all the readers a very happy and joyous Diwali! Hope you all had fun!