How quickly this year is going. January is almost over already! But there is some cold left in this winter yet. It has been one of the coldest we have had in years with minimum temperatures touching the freezing point at the outskirts of Delhi. I must say I love a good winter. It is good excuse for all the rich food: sarson ka saag, gajar ka halwa, and paranthas stuffed with the best of winter vegetables! With the son back – yes, he is home for his internship – I, in the best traditions of mothers the world over, am trying to put some meat on those bones.
As 2012 was drawing to a close, we undertook a cross-country drive. The initial idea was to pick our son who was finishing up his college studies at Manipal. In response to Murphy’s laws, things suddenly got busier at work and the planned vacation time had to be trimmed a little. Pune was decided as the meeting point. Yes, we drove all the way to Pune from Delhi, further on to Aurangabad, and then back to Delhi by car. My American friends and readers may not think much of it but to drive long distances by car is definitely not the norm in India. But TH loves to drive and had been hoping to do such a trip for a long time. I overcame my dread of Indian highway driving and relented. To my relief, I found much orderliness on the roads and we were none the worse for the two-day, 24 hour, 1600 km drive. Kudos to TH ( I drove a mere few kilometers, but got halfway through my knitting project!).
We had intended to start bright and early but slept through the 4am alarm to wake up at 5:30. Which was all fine by me; I am not a morning person. By the time we had filled up the car and checked the tire pressures, it was almost 8 as we were leaving Delhi. A flat tire a couple of hours into the trip had us drive into Jaipur instead of taking the bypass. We took the scenic route that passes by the beautiful Amer Fort. The dhaba where we stopped later for lunch was a disappointment but the packed methi paranthas (and amla pickle) held us in good stead. Our destination for the day was Himmatnagar but the coffee-break in Udaipur tuned into our halt for the night. Next morning we were up really early and on the road before daybreak. The drive out of Udaipur winding through the Aravalis with the setting moon was a pleasant, quiet start to the day. After letting Ahmedabad pass by without a detour for food, I was determined to get my hands on some Gujarati farsan in Vadodara. Without getting too deep into the heart of the city we were able to procure dhokla, patra, and khandvi, all packed in paper packages and tied with string.
For Bharuch we had been warned about the traffic snarls on the by-pass road and advised to go into the city and across the narrow Golden Bridge. In the market, just before the turn that brings you to the bridge, we located a small store (Sangam khari sheng, below Lucky Photo Studios) filled to the brim with peanuts! We were seeking the famous Bharuch sheng! It was amazing to watch the deft handiwork of the shopkeeper as he tied the newspaper-wrapped packages of the special salt-roasted peanuts with yards and yards of string! We got enough to take home and to share with friends.
We were in Mumbai by evening and decided to spend the night with TH’s aunt who lives there. Next morning we were again up before the sun and on our way to Pune. People driving on the wrong side here seems to be quite the norm and we spotted signs that warned: “Beware of traffic on the wrong side!” Driving through the ghats we were surprised by the thick fog that reduced visibility to nearly zero! A few hours later we were in Chinchwad, on the outskirts of Pune, where we had friends, Kiran and Anju (the VOF gang) awaiting our arrival; cameras and flowers on the ready! It truly was no mean achievement.
Our two days in Pune were spent buzzing between friends and relatives in an effort to meet as many as we could. It may have been a little exhausting but we managed to cover quite some ground. From Pune we left for Aurangabad to spend a few days with Anagha and Prasad, the remaining members of the VOF troupe. This was our vacation with enough do-nothing time built into it. Easy mornings and late nights, and lots of good food. Thanks, Anagha and Prasad!
From there I took a flight to Mumbai where I was conducting a workshop with students of Architecture, and TH and our son took the road back to Delhi. In total, TH logged 3515km!
Happy New Year to all those reading! Here’s to good things in the year to come!