In an unexpected turn of events , I 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 12 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






@ Nareshwar – On the banks of river Narmada

Not  a popular tourist attraction-very calm and peaceful place located near  Bharuch , Gujarat on the banks of river Narmada is Nareshwar. Main highlight of Nareshwar is the Rang temple – constructed by the followers of the saint Rang Avdhoot fondly  remembered and addressed as “Bapji “.

Shri Rang Avadhoot Maharaj was a prominent 19th century divine saint. He played an important role in spreading Datta-panth (path shown by Lord Dattatreya) in Gujarat, India. Disciple of Vasudevanand Saraswati he was also an eminent social worker who had joined the freedom struggle with Mahatma Gandhi.

Rang Mandir as I have know for over 2 decades has evolved from being a remotely located, difficult to travel -where the roads used to be closed during the monsoon season in India, a place only frequented by saints and pilgrims and meditators to a locally and nationally known temple.

If you are looking for some quite peaceful lone time, Nareshwar is definitely the place to be. Temple is closed in the afternoon from 12:00 to 3:00. Prasad (lunch) is served at 12:00 in the noon. There are rooms in the temple and many hotels close by if you decide on spending more than a day.

Coming from Bharuch, once you enter the NH48/64 continue for about 20km then make a right onto Nareshwar Road ( near sansrod village) and about 18 km on nareshwar road will take you to the destination. (https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir/Bharuch+Junction,+Railway+Station+Road,+Railway+Colony,+Bharuch,+Gujarat/Nareshwar+Dham,+Sayar,+Gujarat/@21.8053549,73.0432631,12z/am=t/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x3be020b677112559:0x9508524eb89d9076!2m2!1d72.9993858!2d21.704151!1m5!1m1!1s0x395ff0e3f600d3d1:0x438fa1140b42032b!2m2!1d73.2348838!2d21.8722502)

A frequent chanting/salutation  you would hear in temple and passers by ” Shree or Jai Gurudev Dutt!” where Guru is referring the saint.

Swiggy -online food ordering made simpler 

Online food ordering services , one of the best I have found so far. I have been using online food ordering service for past several months in  Mumbai.  Of the many I have used the best one I found so far is swiggy ,  decent number  of restaurants ,  a delivery representative with contact number assigned for each order,  real time tracking , order replacement in case of unavailability ,  easy cancelation and refund policy ,  option of paying through wallets! ! ! 

Would definitely recommend giving it a try

Happy eating Mumbai 🙂 

Ms. Tomato

While the year  2016 has ended , I was reminded of an exercise I was assigned while serving at a  restaurant in the US, share  one thing that happened in last week which made you happy? While 2016 was ending lot many things happened in my life , in fact the year was full of changes , adjustments, shifts . If I were to pick one incident what would it be, and there was no doubt in my mind for the entire year of 2016, it was when I met Ms. Tomato – I do not know her real name but she was so adorable , so lovable and so red … just like a tomato..

Few days back I was out shoe shopping on a lazy sunday afternoon when this tiny little girl walks up to me with  a pair of shoes in her hand and lifts them up high and says ” these are nice” , oh how I wish I could enact it while i write this. She was with her her mom and grandma who were watching her from a distance and extremely puzzled. I waited for a moment , thought she might pull away , she must have been looking for her mom but she stood there with shoes still held high , looking at me and all I could say was “yeah they are”. She took down the shoes , sat on the floor and started to put them on…. In the mean time her mom walked up to her and I moved away neither did I turn around nor did she call out, she became busy trying her shoes… Well, that was Ms. Tomato – the highlight of 2016 and one incident that I might choose as the moment when I have felt happiest in 2016!!!!!!!!!!!