One trip at a time

One trip at a time

Travel, for the world will travel with you. For the longest time, what traveled with me was a brown paper bag in which I could transfer the products of my motion sickness. Or the idea of meeting my cousins/friends. The motive behind getting my ass to move to other cities was coaxed by my mother (she loves the hills!) or necessitated by the urge to meet my loved ones.

Travelling to any place, of my own volition, which did not have any sign of familiarity, was an idea as futile as packing 10 pairs of clothes for a three-day trip. Over the past one year, I’ve managed what I could not sustain in college – the execution of one travel plan every month. That too, sponsored by my hard-earned money (pay monthly rents in Mumbai and every job is hard-earned).

The travel destinations included places I had been to before, including cities, though hometown doesn’t count. The trips ranged from day-long to spread across five or less days. The idea behind them, besides sticking to the resolution, was to refuel. That one trip every month was equivalent to that one original article that I write every day after editing and commissioning tonnes of others.

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Tea was the wine I always had

Tea was the wine I always had

It was the most peaceful Diwali ever. Last year, I decided against the ritual of returning to my hometown on the festival and instead chose to opt for a quiet weekend getaway to Nashik, and a sincere quest to discover what all the buzz around Sula Vineyards was about.

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I have never been able to appreciate wine. In fact, I can never get myself to buy the idea of cultivating a taste. The taste is either there in the first go or not there at all. The only time I have relished wine is when it is served as part of sangria. But as they say, wine betters with age. Allow me to add — tea is timeless.

Before you jump to conclusions, I am not a communist. But tea has always been a conversation starter, a lone companion on a cold night and the first friend that visits me every morning. Wine, on the other hand seems like the distant cousin I never knew I had. She keeps getting beautiful day by day, or so they say, but I can never get myself to talk to her.

We, a couple of friends and I, commence our four-hour long journey from Mumbai to Nashik with an early morning tea at my place. Having ‘discovered my taste’ for the tea sourced from Munnar, I prepared myself for rather below average doses of tea in the next couple of days. That is why I sipped on to the farewell tea at a rather leisurely place, almost forgetting my wallet in the haste of departing on time.

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After reaching Nashik, as we approached our home for the next two days — a secluded farmhouse — we were welcomed by a wide spread of bright yellow wild cosmos in full bloom. Having been deprived of flowers in our last trip to the Kaas Plateau, we perceived the warm welcome as a good sign of things to come.

As we looked around the tastefully done farmhouse, with minimalistic treatment, it dawned on us how fortunate we were to spend Diwali in the nature’s lap. After we requested the host for a cuppa tea to complement our soothing experience, she suggested we take lunch first and then rush to Sula, otherwise we will risk getting herded by the tour organisers there.

Sula Vineyards, about 10 km from the place we had put up at, was merely a commercial extension of our refuge. An open cafe (such a rarity in Mumbai) overlooked the vineyards that were spread across acres. Soft music played in the background, providing a rhythmic base to the frequent clinking of wine glasses.

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As we embarked on the vineyard tour, our guide informed us that we will not get to enjoy grape stomping as the harvest season will arrive only three months later in February. I heaved a sigh of relief. Though the stomping would have been fun, I doubt if I would enjoy the wine as much a few minutes later.

During the factory tour, we were told that the wine is stored in two kinds of barrels. While the one made of American wood lends it a pungent taste and texture, the French wood makes it smoother and more drinkable. It is to this extent that the container affects the wine’s properties. Being the hopeless tea aficionado I am, I immediately drew a parallel to how the tea served in a kulhad (mud glass) borrows its taste from its earthy container.

The wine tasting encompassed the appreciation of five wines, from the Rose to the dessert wine. It was difficult to fathom the large quantity of sugar that goes into making a good wine, in order to counter the pungent or sour taste of the fermented grapes. As I gulped down the reds and the whites, I felt like I had started to develop a taste for the drink. As soon as that realisation began sinking in, my style of holding the glass changed and the nod after the first sip became more prominent.

What remained the same, however, was the taste. How can someone call it ‘bottled poetry’ if one cannot even read between the lines, dive deep into the recesses of the creator’s psyche and allow it to fall on one’s ears as gently as a leaf falls on earth from a tree giving way to new life. I could not help but not romanticise with wine till I devoured a red wine pasta and a white wine pizza.  But I attribute the contentment to the chef, not to the vintner.

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As we approached our farmhouse late in the night, we fervently hoped if we would be welcomed with some piping hot tea. Much to our disappointment, the place was dead silent. The silence began getting on my nerves. Yes, the same silence that I had enjoyed all day. Our host suddenly dropped in and informed us that she had saved a flask full of tea for us in the restaurant. Phew!

The next day, we introduced our hosts — who had kept themselves blissfully alienated from the ways of the social media — to the crucial role the internet plays in journalism today. “The internet abbreviations are a thing now. Even if I have to say ‘I love you,’ I’ll just say ILY,” my friend said, as the host poured in another serving of tea. After my friend confessed she had already gulped down a few cups of tea, the host responded, “Didn’t you just say ILY to me? This is my way of showing love.”

Till date, we fondly look back at those times with the vineyards over a few cups of tea. For tea was the wine we always had.

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All images by Devansh Sharma.

Gokarna, Matheran and all hills green

Gokarna, Matheran and all hills green

Snow-clad hills, curvy roads and that brown paper bag (only if you are lucky to sense it coming). I have harboured the fear of motion sickness in hilly areas since childhood. While my family would eagerly wait in the endless pursuit of reaching the snow-clad peaks, I would just hold on to my churning stomach and mark it an achievement (or sheer luck) if that brown paper bag is in the right place at the right time.

Do not misconstrue this as the fear of heights. I was completely comfortable (in fact, in love) with peeking out of the top floor of a Mumbai high rise. Also, I would not mind traveling to Delhi from Jaipur, to and fro, within the short span of 24 hours. It was the deadly combination of motion, and the curves and altitude that hills brought along with them, that made me feel nauseous.

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The Times of Indore Part 2 : Pain in my ass

The Times of Indore Part 2 : Pain in my ass

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. This fact holds even more true when food is the love of your life. But biology has its way of testing that love. And that acid test (with equally stingy burns) is called haemorrhoids.

Haemorrhoids is a medical condition that Google would willingly explain to you. As neat as its multiple slideshows on haemorrhoids are, let me tell you that the pain is real. It is worse than heartache and headache. Because the shit that the latter two body organs consume does not end up rubbing the injury everyday. While my condition was not caused by constipation, there were times where I wished of entering into a perennial state of shit-lessness in order to avoid the pain that came with the Devil’s call every day.

So how did I end up pooping out blood every day? I do not know. It is difficult to trace the exact cause. But I know that I went through two long bouts of it every three months ever since I moved to Mumbai – a city that gives you so much shit to deal with that you forget to shit on time.

Yes, that was where I stepped on to the dynamic field (quite literally). I forgot to shit on time which resulted in shitloads of pain. I found it difficult to comprehend whether it was the food, the commuting, the long sitting hours, the stress or something else altogether. The worst part was that I had all those fronts sorted.

I am a healthy eater. I do not commute via road (which demands long sitting hours). I stood up after writing every article to get myself a glass of water from the canteen. And I was not stressed at all! I was having fun… until my ass started vomiting blood.

Medication, hot water baths and additional doses of fiber and water – all these followed but I just could not get myself out of the predicament. It reached a point where I feared it would turn into piles, a permanent state. But then, an old friend invited me to visit them once again.

Last week, after one and a half months of haemorrhoids, I visited Indore, the city where I was based prior to Mumbai. It was a city I loved because of nostalgia (first job), its laid back approach, its warm people, its crazy traffic (certainly not) and its absolutely lip-smacking food.

I had survived on that food for four months without any gastronomical complaints. While it made for sheer indulgence, it also offered good nutritional value. The food, whether the synonymous poha, the fav fast food sabudana khichdi (as it made for an ideal item for the fasting aunties), falafel from the streets or the unparalleled bhutte ka kees (mashed american corn), they always managed to get it right. If someone asks you to chew your food 32 times, they must be from Indore as the food there is one thing that deserves to stay in your mouth for that long.

When I returned, or even while I was there, I was miraculously cured. Or so I would like to believe. Obviously, it was a range of factors, like the constant scrutiny, the gallons of water that I just gulped down over weeks and the salads that I gorged on (because food is lou),  but I would like to believe that the leap of faith was also a factor. A major one at that.

I would like to believe that the trip to Indore was medicinal more than a recreational. It was a pilgrimage. Is it the traditionally sound Ayurveda therapy that heals Varanasi visitors or their faith in that city? I know little about the science that went into my cure. But the curious cat within has eaten too much to get up, fetch the magnifying glass and investigate. For now, I would let it sleep.

If you’re wondering how fruitful my morning visits to the Holy commode are these days, I would like to quote Bhashkar Bannerjee from Piku, “Like nevaur befaur.”

A Sanguine Plea of the Holy Waters

A Sanguine Plea of the Holy Waters

Hordes of visitors thronged the garish stalls with all kinds of colours done up in artificial dyes. However, few notice the natural dye palette that adorns a modest corner of Lavanya, a garment exhibition held at Hotel Sayaji.

`Roliana’ is an organisation unique to India since it owns the Geographical Indication (GI) of `Banarasi Saris’. The intricate details on the saris and shawls prove that all the garments are made using handloom silk and natural dyes.

The owner, Vikas Mehra, is the adviser to the Ministry of Textile but he is saddened by the lackadaisical support offered by the Central Government. “Though Varanasi is the prime ministerial constituency and Banarasi silk products are a part of the Indian heritage, the assistance from the government remains insufficient,” he says.

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It was my last day in Mumbai.

As I walked across Crosswords at Kemps Corner, it tempted me to reenter the bookstore that had introduced me to the world of Archies and Harry Potter a decade ago. However, I ended up asking the guard, “Ye 29 kidhar hai?” (Where is 29?)

29 is a restaurant at Kemps Corner where I had invited my friends for my farewell lunch. Without a clue about the theme of the place I was heading to, I followed the guidelines of the guard and found a fine dining air-conditioned restaurant, contrary to my expectations. I had expected it to be a rather average restaurant after looking at the price for two on Zomato. Continue reading “29”