Sunday, October 29, 2006

Maayasabha, Duryodhan, Dubai and Me

At present, we are in Dubai during Ramadan. Ramadan is not just a month of fasting, but also a time for reflecting, appreciating and sparing a thought for those less fortunate than us. It is a month of giving and forgiveness, a peace and unity. The fast is traditionally broken slowly with dates and a glass of water, followed by hydrating juices and soup known as Iftar. Its a time of sacrifice and a time of celebration. When the sun sets each evening of the Holy Month, the offers of delicious food arrive in abundance. Dubai being the most cosmopolitian and vibrate city in Gulf, has an excellent variety of restaurants offering the chance to enjoy cuisine from all over the world. From American to Thai, Indian to Italian and everything in between.

The attractive, and offen imaginatively designed,modern shopping malls in Dubai are one of the highlights of shopping here. They are generally spacious and air-conditoned, offering a welcome escape from the heat. Most malls have foodcourts offering a wonderful variety of cuisine from the ubiquitous hamburgers to Arabic meze, Japanese or Maxican food, Mangolian food and we are making use of it everyday, No wonder I have gained 7 kgs of weight in just 12 days.

Now I know what Shri Duryodhan must have felt while roaming in Maayasabha, Drupadi should not have laughed at him.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I am just crazy about silk sarees and when my wallet was fully loaded with Credit Cards, I was used to purchase Silk saree for my wife (who else?) in the cities we visited during our holidays. Last time I bought Saree (exceptional unusual color) for her was at Jayalakshmi Saree Centre at M.G.Road. Cochin. (You will find M.G.Road in almost all towns in India). Before that it was at Mriganayani and at Jamnalal Bhaiyya (Maheshwari Saree) at Indore, earlier at Shobhana Saree Centre at Coimbatore and so on. Well this blog is not on Silk Sarees. It’s on the Hotels and Restaurants we visited and which we still remembers.

Few years back we had gone to Jagganath Puri and stayed in Nilachal Ashok for a week. Excellent hotel, next to Rajbhavan. That was the first taste of luxury of staying in star hotels. Courtesy, my father’s employer. We thoroughly enjoyed the delicacy of the foods served in their restaurants. We still remember the hefty European Style, Indian style breakfast (on the house, that’s most important). We were so pampered by them; we never dared to eat outside except Bangali mithai’s “Dada ki Khabe. Sondesh, Roshogulla, chomchom”.

I wanted to buy cuttaki and shambalpuri sarees for my wife (certainly not for neighbor’s wife) and thought visit to Cuttack is worth, so we hired a tourist car and went all the way to Cuttack only to find out the meaning of quote “Penny wise and Pound foolish” in reality. The sarees were so costly rather beyond my reach, we returned Puri empty handed. The only console was tasty, delicious lunch at Hotel Akbari. We were so sure of not finding good restaurants in the town, with a background of literally starving during our visit to Chilka Lake. We were culinary shocked to find such a excellent restaurant. It was a shock very hard to digest. (finally I settled the account at cotton sarees that also in Puri itself)

The second in a row is at K.C Residency, Jammu. We still remember it not only because of good food but also for its Revolving Restaurant and luxurious room. Another reason is it was the perfect selection in need when mercury was soaring at 47/48 degree temperate and my son was sick. We were supposed to be in Jammu for overnight stay and then proceeds to Dalhousie. I decided to save some money as usual and we stayed in J&KTDC’s hotel in an only available room without A/C. The climate was extremely hot even during night and in addition to that there was no power. That night my son fell sick with food poisoning. Whatever he ate at Vishonodevi or at Katara or at Patnitop did not suit him. He was having high fever and continually vomiting, we were deep scared and first thing in the morning wanted to shift him to comfortable hotel with Air conditioners and Power Generators or catch a first flight back to home. K.C Residency was just next door and we decided to shift. After shifting, we found that unfortunately Doctor on call facility was not available in the hotel. We searched almost half of the town early in the morning for Child Specialist. We even went of the Children’s General Hospital, the sight of which was most disgusting. I just lifted my son and we ran away from the hospital. Finally we found a good doctor, Dr. Baljit Singh, who really took very good care of my son and us also. Thanks Doc.

We stayed four days in K.C. Residency, as my son was advised to take rest. “Let mother Nature takes her time for curing. Just give his stomach a rest, be easy on food” are the doctor’s word. First two days we ordered food in the room only. Then it was a time to enjoy the grand magnificent view of charming town of Jammu from a Rooftop Revolving Restaurant serving finest cuisines, which we thoroughly enjoyed till the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, comes into the role. We liked Jammu city and It’s my strong advice to all, not to use Jammu as only transit point but to stay for a day or two.

Other two good restaurants we still remember are Hotel T. Bud in Palampur and Crystal in Amritsar in the same trip. We were in Surya Resorts, Mcleodgegunj in Dharamshala and fed up with the summer heat and decided to move on to Palampur, famous for Tea Estates and pleasant climate and panoramic view of Dhauladhar Range. We stayed in H.P. Tourism’s Hotel T. Bud. (MTDC please take few tips from them on how to run business) where we really enjoyed delicious food, spacious room facing the lawn and the weather and the walk among tea plantations to Nahar. However the trip ended on a sour note. On the last day, one tourist group from Mumbai invited us to join them. The dinner was cooked by own cooks from hometown, Mumbai. I am sorry to say, that the dinner was simply not fit for human consumption, even Varan-Bhat was at worst and it spoiled our mood. We missed badly the utterly butterly delicious food at Hotel T. Bud, that also on the last day.

Next day morning we proceeded all the way to Amritsar to fulfill my life long wish to visit Golden Temple, the holiest Shrine of the Sikh religion. Amrit Sarovar me dubki lagana aur Guru ke samne mattha tekna. Wahe Guru ki fathe, Jo Bole so Nihal, Sat Si Akal. We had just one day in our hand before returning home. On the way we had quick bite on roadside Dhaba Opp. Engineering College at Gurudaspur. Most unhygienic Dhaba with full of flies but still with tasty authenticate Punjabi food. We reached Amritsar in the evening as we were getting late, we choose a hotel near Railway Station, dumped our luggage to rushed to Wagha Boder for witnessing the Closing Ceremony by Border Security Force. Bharatmata Ki jai. Vande Mataram. The patriotic spirit is at high during these precious moments. A visit to Wagha Border is an experience not to be missed. It’s so emotional.

We then visited Golden Temple and offered our prayers. By that time we were very hungry and tired. I wanted to eat in Guru ka Langar, but my son did not like the idea so we decided to go to the best restaurants in the town, Crystal. We went to Crystal straight from Golden Temple without refreshing. When we entered the restaurant we realized that it was the biggest blunder by entering in the most impropriate dress code for the occasion. Everybody around us were so well dressed, most handsome Men from Punjab in suits, most beautiful women in designers wear, fully loaded with jewellery, we were odd man out. It was like Mr.F.M. Hussian entering Wellington Club, at least we were allowed inside. My wife felt so embarrassed; we could not even enjoy the delicious food. May be some other time we will make it. I have also missed those big full glasses of lassi during the short trip to Punjab.

Dear Pitt and Jolie,

Dear Pitt and Jolie,
Welcome to our city.

Before starting your work in Pune, please seek blessings of Vignaharta Lord Ganesha from historical temple in Kasaba Pet and of Shrimant Dagduseth Halvai Ganapati. It's our custom.
I understand you love shopping. You may be also interested in shopping at Tulshi Baug, Mandai and ofcource at Laxmi Road for indian sarees and jewellery. Wearing Navvari Saree ( Nine Yard Saree) is also our tradition.
Plese do visit the Film Institute at Law College Road.
Please do not miss Chitale Bandhi Mithaivale near Vishram Baug for world famous Bhakarwadi and Janaseva Dugdhalaya for Kharwas and Misal at Joshi's Shrikrishna. We would also like you to visit Sinhagad and enjoy Pithalebhakar, KandaBhajji and delicious, chilled water from Devtake.
You just donot care about those Paparazzi presssure. You can take few tips from us on how not to care, if you wish so.

Just enjoy your stay in Pune.

अँजेलिना, ब्रॅड पिट : मुक्काम पोस्ट पुणे!पुणे, ता. ५ - परदेशांतून आलेले "पापाराझ्झी', "स्नॅपाराझ्झी' आणि इलेक्‍ट्रॉनिक माध्यमांच्या कॅमेऱ्यांना शिताफीने हुलकावणी देत अखेर "ब्रॅंजेलिना' अर्थात ब्रॅड पिट आणि अँजेलिना जोली ही हॉलिवूडची प्रसिद्ध कलाकार जोडी आज पुण्यात आली. ते आले, विमानतळावर उतरले हे नक्की;

Trek The Sahyadries.

When I was Young Turk, I was used to proceeds to mountains instantly at the first summons by the Sahyadries. Nowadays my mountaineering have been drastically reduced to just one trek in a year physically (mentally unlimited) as slowly I am growing old. Let me put it in other way. It’s the heavy toll I am paying for not keeping myself fit. Shame on you. Harekrishanji. Wake up, Come on, wake up. How can you forget the Rain, the Misty Mountains and the Deep forests, birds singing, the blooming of Karvi and Terda flowers, the picturesque valley, the gorges, Streams, Waterfalls, Green paddy-fields, the plateau, the fresh air, the lakes, the long country walks, and the moon light walks? Have you forgotten that you have still not gone to Harischandragad? Are you ready to forget your life long wish to visit Raireshwar during monsoon and to Kalsubai? Have you forgotten your promise to Bhimashankar to visit every year from different approaches? How could you do this to yourself? Do something, you overweight brat, useless fellow, shed off the extra kgs. Control your mouth and start walking right now, lazybones.

Last year, somewhere in March/April, I had gone for a simple trek with my mentor, whom I adore, the mountaineer of the first generation, Amateur Astronomer, Writer, the person who has visited almost each and every corner and knows Maharashtra like a palm of his hand, the person with a gift of extraordinary computerized memory, ask him about any place and you will get the complete details instantly. Well, yes, the Trek. It started on a route descending from Village called Bhamburde near Lonavala to Pacchapurchi Wadi at the base of Sudhagad near Pali via Dhangad. We reached Bhamburde by S.T Bus from Lonavala in the afternoon and had our lunch in a newly renovated temple and then started walking. I like this section in particular as on the way, one can have grand view of Telbaila, a square, solid brown massif as one proceeds further west from Koregad. Some other time I want to try climbing down the ghats of Telbaila and to climb Sudhagad and get down at Pali. En route, we discovered ranmewa, karvand bushes were fully loaded and we went in to the loop. Pluck up karvanda and eat, pluck up and eat. Eat and Pluck up. So much we ate. We spend night in a small Gawaliwada (cluster of few houses of cowboys). It was full moon night. When I looked at the moon, my memory was suddenly overcrowded with filmi songs. I started remembering songs involving moon, like “Tu chanda sheetal kahalata, phir kyu mere aang jalata, phulsa komal baan madan ka shul baneke” and “Hai chanda gaye pardes, chakori yahaa ro ro ke mare” and “Badaloke ghere me chand nazarband hai” and “Tocha chandrama nabhat” and “Ye hawa, ye raat ,ye chhandani teri ek ada pe nissar hai, and Chakorika chandase pyar” and Yahi bahar hi duniyako bhul janeki khushi mananeki……., ye pare pyre najare, ye thandhi thandi hawa, ye halkasa nasha” Uff. Then suddenly, I remembered my beloved wife and “Chaudavika chand ho, ya afab ho. Jo bhi ho khuda ki kasam lajabab ho. Next day morning we enjoyed hot milk at our hosts before proceeding. We selected the easy approach via Nalichi wat (narrow gorge). Such a luxury on a hike? ”. I was quite alright till this portion.

The sad part of the story is, next day afternoon, by the time we reached Pacchapurchi Wadi, I was completely exhausted even though the grand view of Sudhagad, kept my mind occupied. This time I was betrayed by my shoes and my stamina. The shoe bites made me impossible to walk. My friend offered his shoes to me, he even carried my backpack. I was collapsing on the way as if I was on a high altitude trek; fully ashamed of myself I have never dared to go again on trek until now.

A trek before that was a grand success. We had gone to Bhamburde circuit only, but towards Pune’s direction. The destination was Susale, an island in Mulshi Lake which is approachable by the worst motorable road from Bhamburde. It’s an interesting cross country walk with the strikingly graphic of Mulshi Lake on one side. I could have walked endlessly on that road. I understand further ahead is Andharban (The dark forest as the sunrays cannot reach on earth because of dense jungle) through which one can descend to Pali. By the time we reached Susale after a plain walk for 4/5 hours, it was very late in the evening, almost dark. There are few houses on the island and we spent a night in a small temple. The villager promised us a boat ride to the other side of an island which is connected to Ghusalkhamb-Mulshi Road.

Next day at dawn, as I looked down at Mulshi Lake I felt astounded; I will never forget the deep impact of the panoramic view. Why I stayed away from such a lovely place like this through out my life? I asked myself. Only fools can do that. We roamed around for few hours on the island and as promised, the village boy dropped us on the other side by his small boat. The boat ride was just romantic with the most beautiful quite surrounding. JUST LISTEN TO THE SILENCE OF THE NATURE. Being out on the Mulshi Lake is a heavenly experience. The assiduously deep forested hills and the blue sky press down upon the green lake like a huge comforting hug. My friend suddenly remembered story of Matsagandha and Parashar krishi. No wonder, I thought, the great saga became completely mad after fisherwomen and surrender him while riding together in a boat. It’s in the air. I envy him and pity Matsagandha. We returned Mumbai with refreshed mind.

I promised myself to return to this place, which is not yet fulfilled.

Earlier to this, I had gone to Veer Kotwal Smarak, Siddhagad with my other friend. From Mhasa, Near Mubad, Kalyan we went by Share Auto rickshaw to the base. A good motorable road leads you to Veer Kotwal Smarak. We walked all the way and reached our destination within 2 hours. We could not go on the top of Siddhagad because of the rains. There is an exceptional waterfall near smarak still virgin and safe from mad drunkard crowd. I understand approach from Siddhagad to Bhimashankar is very interesting and now ofcoucre is out of my reach. On the way to Smarak, one can visit a dam with good water reservoir. The road back, we selected another approach as we were fed up of walking on Tar Road. It was a steep climb down on the broken path. Still I managed it. What great achievement.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hotel Nand Residency & Shreemaya

Nand Residencey

We have traveled extensively in India, but some hotels have a special place in our heart. It’s extremely rare that during our traveling life, we get emotionally attached to the Hotels where we stayed. There are only two exceptions. First one is Shreemaya at R.N.T Road, Indore and second one is Hotel Nand Residency, Mussoorie.

My sister’s father-in-law used to visit Indore very often and always stayed in Hotel Shreemaya. We had gone to Jabalpur / Panchmari / Bhobal and during that period he was supposed to attend seminar in Indore. We planned out trip accordingly. We reached Indore very late in the night somewhere around 1.30 AM. We were very hungry and sure of going to bed on empty stomach. I just casually enquired about the food. When we reached our room, we were pleasantly surprised to find cheese / veg. sandwiches and three glasses of hot milk waiting for us. Where can you find such a personal touch? That was the first impression that lasted long.
We stayed in a suite with private balcony overlooking illuminated garden where every night marriage receptions were used to take place. We found the food served in the restaurant was simply out of class. We stayed in Shreemaya once again after a few years. We had gone to Nainital and while returning, we went all the way to Indore just to stay in Hotel Shreemaya. It is so emotional. Later on my brother was transferred to Indore and then there was no reason to stay in the hotels. However we kept on going to Hotel Shreemaya for lovely dinner, but at their newly opened branch at A.B.Road, and to their Pastry cum Snacks shops at both the places.

Three years back, we planned family trip to Mussoorie, along with my parents, brother and his family including my little princess, my niece, during Diwali vacation. I saw Hotel Nand Residency’s ad in Outlook Traveller, India’s Best Travel Magazine. I checked the details over their Internet site , and then I said to myself, this is the hotel where we must have family reunion rather reunite and should celebrate dipavali together after an unexplainable gap of many years. I send an email to hotel for reservation and requested for discount and received positive response. This was the first time in my life, when I made advance reservation in a hotel and am glad for that. I have always avoided advance reservations. We reached one day late to Mussoorie as my son was down with a fever at Rishikesh. Before that I called up hotel and expressed my inability to reach on the date of booking. They understood it and assured me. It was a rare gesture on their part.

Because of the economic constraint (as I was about to but home in Pune), I had requested them to book three rooms in economy class. However when we looked at their Deluxe Rooms opening to a large sunny terrace, overlooking Lal Tibba- the highest peak of Mussoorie , we fell in with. The décor of each deluxe room is in different indigenous style. I selected room with Rajasthani style for myself.
So what we did in the terrace ? Believe me, we just lazed in a cosy chair and watched hills and enjoyed breakfast and meals in the most pleasant atmosphere. One corner of the terraceis covered with glasses and converted into restaurant. “There’s something in the air of the place, especially in October and November, that is conducive to romance and passion” (that’s our Mr.Bond).

The much awaited Deepavali night was the most marvelous experience for us. We were sitting in a balcony. Whole town was lit up with decorative lamplight. The sky was full of multicolored sparkling stars from firecrackers. I might say I am sitting on the top of the world having a rainbow around my shoulder. That’s it. That was a moment of self realization. My words are incapable of expressing the feelings. We then attended Pooja ceremony by Hotel staff and joined them in igniting firecrackers.

During our three days stay, we also equally enjoyed the delicious food (Dam Aloo in particular) served by their understaffed restaurant. Majority of the staff had gone to back to homes to celebrate Diwali festival with their family, but we never felt even a small pinch though the waiting period was sometimes used to be longer. The remaining staff took very good care of us.

The trip to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie is unforgettable. Firstly we fell in love with neat and clean city, Haridwar, secondly picturesque Rishikesh at the footsteps of mighty Himalaya and then Hotel Nand Residency, Mussoorie.

At Rishikesh, we stayed in Parmarth Niketan, wonderful Ashram on the banks of Holy River Ganga, and attended Gangamaiya's Aarti which was a unique experience itself. During Aarti, all of us were faced with an emotional outburst. Person cries at happiest moments also. That’s was the moment one can die happily. We parted Rishikesh heavy-hearted for onwards journey to Mussoorie and returned Indore with happy memories.

We will never forget the hospitality, the personal touch offered by Shri Shaillendra Karanwal and the member of his staff in our lifetime.
Thanks a million, Hotel Nand Residency and Shri Shaillendra Karanwal for the wonderful experience, and the grand success of our family reunite.

Culinary Tour of South Mumbai

Culinary Tour of South Mumbai

Varan, Bhat ani Gharche Tup with metkut – AT MY HOME

Falooda - Royal Falooda, Kesar Falooda and many more faloodas at Badshah, Crawford Market after day tiring shopping.

Jalebi / Papdi – For breakfast. At Small shop below Tarachand Bhagatchand Hotel near Mumbadevi Temple.

Cakes / Pastries/ Brown Bread / Garlic Bread / Whole wheat Bread, and many more – At Gaylord, Churchgate.

Broon Maska, Bun Maska at High Tea Snacks – Yazdani Bakery, Near Akbarally, Fort.

Bun Maska and Tea – Byculla Bakery opp. Byculla Railway Stn.

Dal Dhokli, Khichadi with Kadi - Khichadi Samrat, Near Bhuleshwar.

Punjabi Samosa, Dahi Kachori - Tiwari Bros at Opera House –

Berry Pulao and Caramel Custard – At Britania, Ballard Pier. One dish of Pulao is enough for two.

Russian Salad Sandwich, Chole Bhature at Cream Centre, Gigaum Chowpatty

Undhia Puri – At Surti near Bhuleshwar,

Veg. Sandwiches – Sai sandwich, Opp. Girgaum Church.

Mava Cake, Mava Samosa – Merwan Opp. Grant Road Railway Station.

Pani Puri / Kulfi Falooda – Kailash Parbat, Coloba.

Kaju Katri / Naram Bundiche Ladu at Narayan Wadi off Khadilkar Road, Girgaum.

Besan Ladu/ Rava Ladu / Tadpole- Vinayak Keshav near Girgaum church.

Telpoli, Chivda, Ladu, Shankarpale – At Kutumbsakhi S.K.Patil Udhyan, Charni Road

Puran Poli – At the residence of Smt. Raneaaji at Kranti Nagar, Girgaum

Puri Bhaji – At Pancham Puriwala, Opp. CST Railway Station.

Shrikhand- Ratanlal at Kabutarkhana, Bhulehwar,

Basundi- Adharsh Mithai Mandir at Nana chowk.

Pizza – Indian version – At Sukh Sagor, Girgaum Chowpatty

Caramel / Cheese Pop corns – on the road side stall at the entrance to Lohar Chawl, Between Metro Shoes and Rupam at Crawford Market.



Spending a long vacation at least once in a year is our family tradition which we follow rigorously. We always travel on our own and never with any Tour Operators, & without engaging services of any travel agency.

During last seven-eight years, thrice we planned trip to Bangalore / Mysore circuit and every time we were forced to change our plan. Once we cancelled railway Reservation as my mother was hospitalized. Second time also something went wrong and we cancelled the trip. Third time, on the last moment we changed our plan and instead went to Vaisho Devi / Patani Top / Dalhousie/ Dharamshala / Palampur / Amrutsar /Wagha Border. This year, after my son’s Board exams were over, I was determined to take my wife and son to Karnataka under any circumstances, no matter what so ever obstacles comes in the way. My son, poor chap needed the break badly. He was completely exhausted under the stress and tension. I also wanted to meet my colleague in Bangalore.

After railway reservations, I called Maharashtra Mandal, Gandhi Nagar and requested for accommodation booking. Coldly my request was turned down. The person on the other side of the phone was very unfriendly and uncooperative. Not ready to listen to anything. He just said “we do not make any advance reservation. When you reach Bangalore give us a ring, if rooms are available it will be provided or else you will have to stay in a big common hall and he cut down the conversations. At least while answering long distance phone call from Maharashtra he should have shown some courtesy. Can you imagine that I had to make three, four phone calls just to find out if there was a commode in the toilet? This behavior defects the reason for the existence of Maharashtra Mandal that is, to help travelers from Maharashtra. What a bitter experience. My son and wife were against my idea of staying at Mah.Mandal still I insisted as we had excellent experience of staying at Mah.Mandal, Hazra Road, Calcutta.

Well, we then decided to stay at Kamat Yatri Niwas against advice from my colleague who was insisting on booking accommodation at Ajanta Guest House, M.G Road. Kamat Yatri Niwas turned out to be glory of the past. It good days are seems to be over. We were supposed to spend two, three days in Bangalore, but my wife and son were disappointed with Hotel and Bangalore in general and then we decided to move on the very next day. Very rarely we do that. Unfortunately I could not meet my friend during the short stay. I know he must be furious and annoyed. Sorry sir, I could not help it.

In Bangalore, we spend whole day in Malls, At M.G. Road, Brigade Road, Iscon Temple (It’s a more of commercial place than temple), India Coffee House, and Café Day. I waited over the years to eat traditionally Karnataka food at M.T.R Lalbaug, or Kamat Yatri Niwas, and ended up having lunch in Copper Chimney and dinner in Garuda mall. One more disappointment.

Next day early in the morning, we headed for Mysore by Airavat Bus. Ticket is just Rs.135.00. (Representatives from Maharashtra State Transport Corpn. should visit Karnataka and study the Bus Depot, Satellite Bus Depot, Bus services, and Airavat (Volvo Bus Service) and implement the same over here. Just compare the Mumbai-Pune Asiad Bus Stand at Dadar. We are fed up of your lal khatara dabba S.T.bus).

The drive in to Mysore is a good one. Excellent straight, well maintained road across the plain from Bangalore. We reached Mysore within no time and choose to stay in Siddhartha Hotel. Few years back, before marriage I had stayed in Siddhartha Hotel, and it was stored in my memory. It’s a lovely hotel, comfortable rooms, friendly staff, the service is warm and most importantly it’s having excellent restaurant and very helpful Travel Desk with Mr. Potdar over the counter. Mysore is historic city fames for its magnificent palaces, and majestic buildings, sprawling gardens and tree-lined boulevards, broad avenues. We liked the city and specially the main shopping area at Sayaji Road and Devaraja Urs Market and Jhashi Laxmi Bai Road. I must say that if one doesn’t visit to Guru Sweets for Mysore Pak, he has wasted his whole trip.

This was supposed to be our economical tour. I was broke as usual and I was trying to restrict it to Bangalore / Mysore only. We had stayed in coonnoor for 2 weeks earlier when my son was small, and another two weeks before my marriage, and therefore were not much interest in going to Ooty again. But my plan failed. My son and Shri Kanta, driver of tourist car were the main culprits. It’s a long story. Evening we hired a car at Travel desk at Siddhartha Hotel for Brindavan Garden. While waiting for sundown, when Brindavan Garden transforms into a magical fairyland when musical fountains bathed in colored lights, my son kept on insisting and brainwashing me that he wants to see wildlife of Karnataka. On the way back, I found Kanta was very cooperative and enthusiastic person and he was very eager to share his knowledge with us. He entices me about Bandipur and Mudumalai wildlife and we fell for a trap which we never repent. He also stimulated my desire to visit Kodagu. We hired Indica, brand new car from Travel Desk for three days and next day morning started our adventurous trip.

First destination was Madikeri, Coorg or Kodagu. Coorg is a romantic Hill Station, birthplace of the river Cauvery, noted for its natural scenic beauty. The extremely scenic drive takes you to through some of the most beautiful countryside in Karnataka. Lush pepper vines climb the tall trees, and cardamom, vanilla and other spices grow well here. Coorg reveals its manicured beauty in the hundreds of estates that grow vast acres of coffee, oranges and silver oaks rising tall to provide shade. For nature lover, this is paradise. (I have borrowed this para. from article titled “West Country Magic” by Shri Prasad Bidapa). On the way to Coorg we satisfied our soul with traditional authentic karnataki meals on plantain leaves somewhere near Hunsur.

En route, Shri Kanta on his own took us to the Tibetan settlement at Bylakuppe, followed by a glimpse of the huge 40ft statue of Buddha and his disciples in high ceilinged halls of the Namdroling Monastery. We received another pleasant surprise when he took us to Dubare Reserve forest which is famed for its amazing variety of avian fauna, and an elephant training camp. After crossing Cauvery, we found ourselves surrounded by elephants in the middle of jungle. What a lovely evening it was. We will never forget the experience in our life time. Thanks. Kanta. We owe it to you. We reached Madikeri, late in the evening and stayed in a bungalow under Homestay program near Raja’s seat. My wife was as usual keen on empting my wallet with shopping. She bought lots of spices, coorgi Honey etc. Unfortunately we could not spend much time in Coorg.

Next day’s attraction was Safaris at Bandipur and Mudumalai. The Mysore-Ooty road passes through those two national parks. On the way, we visited Chamunda Hill for darshan of Chamundeshwari and headed for much awaited Bandipur / Mudumalai / Masinagudi wild life sanctuaries.

I wish I could stay my whole life in this region. Deep jungle which covers three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka is full of herds of bison, spotted deer, sambar, leopards, monkey, peacocks, mongoose and elephants. I wished, we had more time and made advance reservation for accommodation at KSTDC’ Holiday Homes in the middle of the jungle. At both the places we opt for bus safari’s and opt out for costly elephant rides. I had read so much about Masinagudi in the book by Shri Krishnamegh Kunte and was really trilled when we passed thru Masinagudi. Night we reached Ooty, fully commercialized hill station and stayed at Hotel Nahar. Good hotel with excellent restaurant having fire place. We had tasty dinner by fire place. Breakfast with Idlis and Rava Dosa was splendid. After that we moved on to Coonoor, and spend some time in Sims Park in particular remembering the good old days. On the way back we visited Botanical Garden at Ooty. My son was keen on going to the best restaurant around for lunch and Kanta took us to Hotel Savoy of Taj Groups, The ultimate. Restaurant is in grand old mansion. We ordered for Chinese cuisine and all I can say is delicacy thy name of the meals served. It was really unique experience and worth it.

I have realized that best way to travel is after reaching the main destination, hire a car and just travel, travel and travel.

We are glad that we found extraordinary Travel Desk at Hotel Siddhartha, and very efficient driver Kanta, who knows his job very Well. Without him we would not have enjoyed so much. Thanks, Kanta once again.

And in the end, we returned Pune happily with golden memories.

Tiwari Bros. Mithaiwala Opera House

God please have some mercy on me. I am writing this blog on empty stomach. I am very hungry. Today is Aastami and the Durga Puja with hom/havan at my home is not yet over. The dinner is still miles away and this mad addict is hooked to his blogging.

Well, Tiwari Bros. Mithaiwala is a house of Pure Ghee Products, where use of onion and garlic in preparation is prohibited.

My claim should not be sounding exaggerated, if I describe “Tiwari Bros. Mithaiwala as “The Rolls-Royce of mithaiwala's”. The shop pampers all our five senses. All I can say is to prove me correct; the conventional wisdom is to feel experience at Tiwari Bros.

You just enter the shop and the aroma of Chat’s will drive you crazy and it will ignite the craving to grab Samosa’s / Chole Puri/ Ragda Pattice / Missi Roti Gatte Ka Sag / Matar Puri / Paneer Cutlet/ Ghughara. The only choice left is to order sizzling hot dishes or just chilled dishes like Raj Kachori / Mixed chat / Papri Chat/ Dahi Kachori / Dhokla followed by Kesar Kulfi Faluda / Kesar Pista Milk Shake / Lassi which simply takes your breath away.

Do not be under the wrong impression that Tiwari Bros is famous only for Chat’s. The fact is Tiwari’s Bros. are in main business of selling Sweets and it’s taken very seriously.

The only mention of names of the sweets available at Tiwari is enough for diabetics to rush for Sugar checkup. Just look at their long list of Badam Pista (common ingredients) Sweets ranging from Badam Pista (common ingredients) Barfi/ Chakra / Roll / Pan / Kalingar/ Tohfa / Phool / Ruby along with others sweets like Kaju Katli / Kesar Kaju Katri / Kesar Kaju Roll / Kaju Pista Roll / Kaju Anjir Katli / Kaju Pista Tiring / Kesari Moti Pak / Mawa Barfi / Mango Barfi / Coconut Barfi / Kesar Milk Kalakand / Kesar Pista Gulab Jamun. (Here I stop typing as forced by aching fingers). When one has to distribute pedhe on special occasions, Tiwari’s the only ultimate choice. Mawa Pera/ Kesar Pera / Malai Pera, Mishri Pera, you just name it and please go ahead and celebrate.

One does not have to travel all the way to Calcutta for Bengali mithai. Just travel to Tiwari Bros. for Rasogola/ Rajbhog / Khirmohan / Rasmalai / Kesar Cham cham/ Malai Cham Cham / Malai Sandwich / Shanti Bhog/ Prem Bhog/ Rasmadhuri / Sondesh / Kacha Gola Sondesh / Dul Khush Sondesh. (Exception, Bengali sweets at “Sweet Bengal” are also good.)

After writing this blog, I must visit Pathology Lab and check my cholesterol level. But before that tomorrow, I will be visiting Tiwari Bros for Sunday morning special Kesar Jalebi and Khasta Kachori.