The Year That Was – 2017

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Sunset over Agra, first time ever witnessing such a beautiful sunset in our own backyard

We’re at work, winding things down and even though it’s the end of the year, things still feel a bit crazy. Last working day before the holidays is finally over and we start feeling just a tinge of excitement. Back home, last minute packing and cleaning up the house has been accomplished. Next day early morning at 5:00am,  we are off in a Grab taxi to Changi airport. After the usual drill of checking in, immigration and security, we warm up at the sight of a beautiful sunrise while waiting at the gate. We take off and a couple of movies and a hot indian breakfast later, the plane has landed.

Every year for the last 5 years we have celebrated new year in India. It has become a custom of sorts. Every year we look forward to experiencing north indian winters and welcoming the next 365 days surrounded by family. The days between Christmas and New Year are spent meeting friends and family, gorging over home made meals, sipping endless cups of adrak chai, mom’s tomato soup and shelling peas.

2017 was no different. While, it takes a couple of days to get used to India and its ways, by the end of the trip we know we’ll be homesick.

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Mustard fields in bloom, a common sight during North Indian winters

What made this trip special? Well it was a lot of things, as it usually is. In the 10 days we were there, we managed :

  • 1 road trip – from Delhi – Agra – Delhi via the Yamuna Expressway
  • 5 family get togethers – 1 breakfast, 2 dinners, 1 evening tea and 1 BBQ on NYE. And oh the home made food was just so comforting. And there is just something special about BBQ-ing in winters that you’ll never experience in tropical weather
  • 2 friends get togethers – both on roop top terrace cafes. Winters and open air cafes? Add to the list of winter experiences we look forward to
  • 1 indian wedding – where we dressed up, clicked more than necessary amount of photographs, enjoyed the indian wedding scenes and needless to say – the food
  • 1 excursion to Wildlife SOS elephant sanctuary – an NGO which runs centers for rescued animals which you can visit, volunteer at and also make donations to. Check out their website here
  • Ate out on several occasions – from breaking the fast with Agra’s favourite breakfast, Bedhai Jalebi to enjoying South Indian food at Dasaprakash. From relishing north indian dhaba food to the popular indian street food … it was all a gastronomical adventure
  • Getting important stuff done – adult stuff like managing our finances and investment 😀
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Foggy morning in Agra, -8 degrees centigrade

We’ve come to realise how fortunate we have been – for friends, family and their love in our lives. Every time we leave from our house in India, we feel overwhelmed by how loving and selfless so many people around us are especially, our parents. Beyond that, we have travelled. As much as our working lives allowed us to. And it has been great!

Here is a recap of the Year That Was – 2017. Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoyed the video

Happy Twenty Eighteen folks. Here’s wishing you the best of everything 🙂

Here is the Year That Was – 2016, just in case.

 

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?