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 …