One weekday….

 

In my pursuit of exploring new Surat, restaurants have gained a high priority. Unlike some of the western countries, where eating out is not considered luxury, or merely a means of celebration, to be able to find a good casual sit-down place used to be a challenge in itself. Either the eateries  turn into hangout places for the college goers or close down due to slow business. With changing times , economic growth and increasing need of adapting to a better living regime, you are likely to see lot more occupied food outlets than previously.

Last week I had a rough day and not being in a mood cook, i started walking in search of food- had a few restaurants in mind which are in about 1 km radius from my home. I let the inner instinct , govern my feet. After a few temporary halts and walk back  from the usual place to get a sub I ended up in this Deli cum Cafe called the Rangilu Cafe. I had eyed this place for a while, though wasn’t sure what would be on the menu.. pastries and coffee- yet another coffee shop? but to my surprise menu had much more to offer. Check out for yourself (https://www.zomato.com/surat/rangilu-cafe-piplod) . I ordered a vegetable grill sandwich with coriander and a mocha. It tasted good and was filling.

I particularly liked the decor of the place, brick wall paper gave it a rustic feel complementing well with antique hanging clock and Paulo Coelho and Ayn Rand books on the corner shelf. Music was a little loud, live guitarist would have just filled in the empty space and it would have been a prefect representation of the ever urbanizing India!

There were only two other customers besides me. It was tranquilizing- brought back memories from one of my most frequented and enjoyed sandwich shops in the U.S. “Potbelly Sandwich Works”.

If you are in need of a break from the routine, want to spent some quite time or hangout with a friend Rangilu Cafe should be on the the list to consider from. It’s conveniently located close to Sargam Shopping Center near parle point, (https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Rangilu+Cafe/@21.1643822,72.7773464,14.94z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x484932013d90f5b2!8m2!3d21.1706027!4d72.7886372).

Not to mention it is worth the penny spent! Happy relaxing!

 

 

 

 

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Navaratri – nine nights

 

“Dholida dhol re vagad, mare hinch levi che , ” keeps spinning in my head during these nine days which literally means  “Play the beats, I want to dance” Its a festival of light , colors, dance, music – celebration of harvest and victory of good over evil. Festival that is celebrated  in different parts of India during the same time of the year for varied reasons exhibiting the multicolored culture of the country.

On  the 8th day of  festival, also known as ashtami or Durga Ashtami  rituals of worshipping Goddess Durga are performed celebrating her 8 “shaktis”- power. It is considered to be the most auspicious of the nine days. It is believed that on this day Goddess Kali appeared from the forehead of Durga to kill  demons of Mahisasura.

Pictures from visit to one such celebration in the state of Gujarat are inserted in the blog post. Street was  decorated with “Rangoli” , beautifully lit with Diyas where the traditional state dance “garba” was performed. Dancers dance in a rhythmic style  going in  circle around the idol of Goddess  Durga . As seen in one of the photos, are 108 diyas, typical to ashtami worship.

10th day also known as Dusshera or Vijayadashami marks the end of 9 days of celebration , victory of good over evil and onset – prelude to Diwali where Lord Rama returns home after victory over Ravana (symbolizing evil) – one of the shades of Navaratri celebration in northern states of India

For more read on Navaratri and Dusshera celebrations in different states of India please read

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navaratri

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami

 

Long Hiatus

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I moved to Surat,Gujarat in January 2016- my hometown where I was born and lived 24 years of my life, after staying for 12 years in the United States. Other than few old areas of town the city seemed unfamiliar and unwelcoming . I found it extremely difficult to stay, shop, eat, or put in better words live.

I was an american within , with the Indian mask on the outside where passers by would not know whether to help me or laugh at my strange – out of place ways of doing things.  I lived in the city for 4 months before I moved to Mumbai for work and I started to breathe again! Work , and the new city gave me an opportunity to explore ways of life in India.

It reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City – Bombay Lost and Found. To quote from his book “Somewhere, buried beneath the wreck of its current condition—one of urban catastrophe—is the city that has a tight claim on my heart, a beautiful city by the sea, an island-state of hope in a very old country. I went back to look for that city with a simple question: Can you go home again? In the looking, I found the cities within me.”
After moving to Mumbai I kept coming to hometown every few months.
As a soldier would say “after about year and a half of acclimatization” I am ready to explore the city as a new resident, a new neighbor in the streets.

I hope during the exploration I will have more findings of the new city and more blogs to share.

Home

 

Mumbai

In an unexpected turn of events , I lost work and moved out of  Mumbai back to my hometown. Though completely disheartened, I managed to click a picture or two of the PG accommodation I was staying,as you can tell window sill was decorated with indoor plants. After about 10 days I went for grocery shopping today and a strange gloominess creeped in, left me a little unnerved- was I missing Mumbai? It reminded me of a discussion over beer with one of my co-worker friend who has spent good amount of time outside India like me – I had posed him a question -whats home? Born and brought up in Surat, Gujarat, spent about 11 years in the United States and all of a sudden, in just a year and a half I grew so fond of Mumbai?

Referring to one of my earlier blogs In Aamchi Mumbai as a mumbaikar would say! am I enamored by Mumbai? Did Mumbai become another home? Or Is there such a thing called as home? Aren’t we all just travelers of time, with no real destination , no permanency, no place to call  home, where you live for the time being becomes your home! In a more extended sense earth is your home with varied travel destinations- you are continuously traveling either from one place to other or from one frame of thought to another.

So Long Mumbai,

Rediscovering Bharatnatyam — Malavika Sarukkai

On 29th March 2013 I watched Bharatnatyam  ( indian classical dance ) performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  Call it my ignorance or lack of exposure but I had never heard of her before. I had been trained in Bharatnatyam for more than 9 years then and after watching her perform  I kept asking myself how is it possible that I have not heard of her and do I really know Bharatnatyam? Do I really dance or it is just  some movements that I been taught and I do them. I had  heard of the term “Angika Abhinaya” where your entire body is used to convey emotions, depict various forms  but not until that day I really understood what it meant.  Malavika Sarukkai was performing the  dance “Ganga” ( the sacred indian river) where she takes to you through Ganga’s journey from birth to her  merging into the ocean. She actually made Ganga come alive for me. I was absolutely enthralled! I could see Ganga in her different forms – she was chirpy and playful at times, sensuous the other. In one of the acts she takes Ganga to the Banaras Ghat. I have never been to Banaras before, all I have known about Banaras is through bollywood movies, but it felt as if I am sitting on Ghat where Ganga is talking to me about different people that visit her and their life stories. One of the stories involved , a woman lamenting the death of her son and asking for her own “mukti”; or  crossing over to the other side , Malavika Sarukkai’s heart touching performance brought tears to my eyes. There was a time during the performance when I felt that may be she is good with Abhinaya and  probably not so strong on Nrita but I was so wrong, the next act was where she exhibited how equally great she was to both abhinay and nrita. She was forceful yet elegant and subtle at the same time.

After the performance there  was  discussion session, which was equally intriguing. She was asked how does she decide what gains priority in a dance act – meaning whether should the expression be made through just the face or the whole body or just the feet because it felt that its her feet that are doing all the talking. I was puzzled when I heard the question , I mean I have never thought about it , she said she thinks of dance as a language, and that makes it easy for her. While choreographing a piece she just thinks of how will she be able to express herself, convey her emotions and feelings better. If you think of it ,she stated the most complex of the behavior so simply.  She was asked that she does not stick to the traditional style in fact she has tried to bring various aspects into it like culture, politics, human beliefs and traditions how does she do that? Answering that she said that it is exactly like when you have learnt intricacies of a language that you actually start seeing gaps between the alphabets and may be you can put something in between two alphabets.

One other thing that touched me was her oneness with this form of art. When as I kid I went to dance class my dad always said that any form of art is like doing “Sadhna” i.e  meditation.There is some spirituality to it. I probably do not understand it so well but when she was performing, one thing I could tell for certain that her body movements felt as if they are originating from within her not merely an act . When she showed Ganga it felt as if she is Ganga  herself , not that by some hand gestures she is exhibiting flowing water.

To me it felt that  Malavika Sarukkai was one with her soul ….I can watch her perform for hours and not get tired. It was an experience that will stay with me for long.I am glad I decided to see her perform.

Waiting Room! 

Having inherited the travel gene from my parents,as a kid never really got into traveling.  More than the travel uncertainty associated with it, being away from a familiar environment unnerved me.  Both my parents were avid travelers, they had been to a lot of places in the United States and traveled almost the whole of India together sparing kashmir.
I was a patient student,  with my mom keen on making sure that I enjoy traveling as much as they did.  Her teaching meant traveling in local trains from Surat to Ahmedabad – visiting her parents, where the train would stop at every single station making the journey 8-10 hours for about 300kms. It meant going to railway station long before the departure time and spending time in waiting rooms, getting a first class ticket and enjoying the upgraded waiting room with nicer washrooms and bit of service. It meant traveling in horse carriage instead of auto rickshaw from railway station.  Sometimes the travel got both lavish and scary where we both took  taxi trips despite my dad’s disapproval.  Her travel rituals used to be very elaborate.

Then, I did not realize that there is as much fun in the journey as in reaching the destination. It took me years and years of both short and long trips,  longer travel times,  long wait times before I started to even enjoy travel.  Off late, work demands quite a bit of travel and definitely not to vacation destinations or nicer places. Airports have become  waiting rooms for me. While I write about my travel experiences people who have made an extra effort to make the railway stations,  airports not only travel friendly but memorable experience deserve special recognition

It would not be wrong to say,  I wait for the waiting rooms more than ever…

Journey began last year with cappuccino and coffee cake for breakfast at the Mumbai airport, and a year later I am Starbucks enjoying dessert coffee and cake while I write this blog …..

Modern -Ethnic – A little different Chaayos!

One rainy weekend while browsing to order food online came across a restaurant by the name Chaayos. Sounded familiarly unfamiliar, demanding a closer look.  Huh, they served india tea -chai  – experiments with chai?!!  Coffee cafe used to be popular hangout places until the early to mid 2000’s.  Tea- Cafe culture, was new to me though came across one another such Tea- cafe in Surat , Gujarat .

Rain and chai…God seemed to have fulfilled my inner wish even before I could ask . Chaayos seemed a perfect choice and it indeed was, ordered Desi chai with Muska Bun (Burger bread with umpteen portions of butter). Chaayos became one my “favorite”- most online ordered restaurants. Lot of chai variations to try from , most popular one being Kulhad chai with  snacks – Nashta – generally hard to find in restaurants. Worth the buck for Q&Q , a.k.a -quantity and quality.  Along with Chai they have seasonal special drinks, thick shakes , filter coffee, cold thirst quenchers.

I became such a regular customer of Chaayos , that I decided to visit the restaurant and went to Chaayos in Powai, Mumbai. It wasn’t exactly as I had imagined, unless you go on odd hours of the day , too busy and loud to be categorized as a hangout place.

I would say Chaayos is an attempt to give modern touch to  ethnicity both in the decor and food –

Definitely a big contender for at least one order! I would  recommend trying out Kulhad Chai and Pav Bhaji.

Ek shaam Chaayos ke Naam – An evening in Chaayos

https://www.chaayos.com/menu