Other Travel Blah

Kashid ahoy!!

A drive down memory lane…A road trip to the beach getaway of Kashid

The rainy season didn’t see much rain although the fag end of the season in September saw thunderous showers that left traffic jams people are unlikely to forget. Another monsoon trip we undertook was an unplanned long drive to the pretty little beach of Kashid. Kashid is a 4-5 hour drive from Mumbai.

Our spirits weren’t exactly soaring when we left one cloudy weekend..a hard week at office, a vacation gone awry, no prior arrangement for lodging and boarding done at Kashid, getting stuck in an awful traffic jam for over two hours on a holiday..well, it all dissolved into nothingness as the verdant greenery all around enveloped us. The rains had enchanted the land and blessed it with a glory never seen in the bustle and pollution in today’s cities.

I had only heard of the rich vistas that the Konkan landscape offered. The ride offered hills, the seaside, green forests, pastures, quaint villages and everything a landscape can offer to please our eyes, minds and senses. We had anticipated a lack of sign boards and deserted roads. On the contrary, milestones, helping villagers appeared at all junctions guiding us along the way. As we neared Kashid, or so we thought, signs of “Good Lodging and Boarding facilities available” appeared at the gates of several homes as did several resort signs pop up everywhere. We checked out the “Nandgaon” beach, didn’t like it so much, so moved a further 30 kms to Kashid where the white sands and clean water completely bowled us over. The holiday season being full on, the 4 star hotels and resorts such as Prakruti Resorts, Sarve huts, Kashid Beach Resort etc, were all full anyway. We opted for accommodation at one of the alluring sea facing bunglows that were converted to acco places. There are a variety of offerings in these suiting all pockets. We found a really nice place with clean hospitable rooms with all modern amenities and amazing food. The locals here are extremely hospitable and provide excellent service catering to your every need.

After parking ourselves at one such comfortable place, we headed to the Janjeera fort away from Kashid. Murud-Janjeera is another popular tourist spot further ahead of Kashid. The beach of Murud is amazing too though a wee bit crowded. The main attraction here is the imposing fort of Janjeera which looms large right in the middle of the sea making it invincible. Many battles were fought here and I could well hear the roar of the sea and the thunder of cannons from the fort protecting it from enemies. This historic fort, the guide told us was 900 years old. Hats off to our ancestors who built this monument that still stands proud despite all the weathering inflicted by wind and water thus belittling modern day buildings that collapse with the slightest tremor.

The sea always instills in me a wonder, awe and a reverence to Him who has created it. The vast expanse of water never ceases to amaze me. The Sea seems to me, alive, humongous and sometimes terrifying even though the breeze by the sea brings a peace to me that can be sought no where else. The spirit of all those creatures within, I guess, imbibe their spirits in the sea which takes up the form of a benevolent benefactor being the source of all that we are today in the form of being a part of the water cycle, or casting its malevolence to strike in the form of typhoons, hurricanes, to remind the world, the earth with all its elements is not to be taken for granted.

Anyways, coming back to the trip, the next morning, we headed back home bidding farewell to the azure waters and the pearly sands. We stopped by the Birla temple that was on the way, We stopped after every few minutes to savour the scenery for the last time and capture more images for posterity of the earth that still is today, eat by a stream flowing by, visit the Birla temple enroute, buy the local honey at a farm, visit a village temple. Well, all good things finally end (otherwise they wouldn’t be good, isn’t it?). We braced ourselves once again to face the horns, the smoke, hordes of people, noise, and the hustle-bustle of what they call urban life.

This post was first published on Richlandtalk.blogspot.com

Richa

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Categories: Other Travel Blah | 3 Comments

Is Demonetisation A wake-up Call For Women That Cash Cannot Be Trusted

While homemakers’ plight after demonetisation has been highlighted, does it also point to the need for at least educated women to start moving away from cash and into investments?

As India continues its fight against corruption, terrorism, and embarks on a path to development, the demonetisation move has caused much joy as well as heartburn across segments of society. As India Inc and the salaried middle class who have paid their taxes for years, hail this move, the poor, the traders and the ones who have depended on cash are wringing their hands in misery as businesses have been hit in a now literally, cash-strapped economy.

While certain segments of society have obviously been hit, there is a huge distressed segment that has been largely ignored: that of homemakers in India.

 Stories have come to light of many homemakers stashing away cash for emergencies and for their own needs, away from the prying eyes of husbands and in-laws. While the media has been decrying the move for these housewives who have had to declare their stash to their husbands and families, what many fail to appreciate is that now these very same homemakers will be forced to think of means to put this same money into the bank. Not only will their money be secure in the bank, but more importantly, the money will grow with inflation.

Read more…

This article by me has been first published on Women’s Web.

 

 

Categories: News, Views and Reviews, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Mumbai Cycling Diaries

Fitness has been on the top of my agenda for this year and I have finally won bragging rights on achieving my goals! It has been an interesting journey starting with a crash diet that completely backfired and I gained weight instead of losing it! There on, it was all about eating healthy and going all out to shed those kilos. And I was surprised that it was fun all along thanks to Cycling!

Cycling around Mumbai as many of you know has been part of the journey. And what a great ride it has been. While the cycle was purchased purely with errands in mind almost 5 years ago, I took to cycling for fitness only this year.

And as usual, with everything one does, there are bouquets and brickbats! But my takeaways from them –

  • No matter what they say, one can’t be too old to do anything, including cycling.
  • If Indian roads are unsafe for cyclists, they are also unsafe for pedestrians, motor bikes, cars and buses. Just get the right gear – a helmet and a flashing rear light at night are bare essentials and you will be set. 
  • If you cycle, you tend to discover amazing breakfast places that serve authentic cuisines at great prices. And trust me, that breakfast after a long ride is the most satisfying and guiltless as it can get! You can dig into that extra buttered pav at an Irani café in South Bombay, hot steaming batata Vadas at a Maharashtrian joint in Dadar and have extra helpings of the sugary filter coffee at Matunga all in a day.
  • The urban jungle may suddenly seem greener and cleaner as you discover quiet shady neighborhoods with signs of ‘Birds twittering, quiet please’ or the like, secret massive gardens that nobody knew about and nooks that have amazing views.
  • It is possible to be motivated to wake up at 5 am in the morning to go for a spin. I usually still get the feeling of anticipation of a Himalayan expedition the next day.
  • Go Solo. One does not need company for cycling. Solo cycling means you can ride at your own pace, feel the wind in your hair and do all that introspection. Although it is great if you have the company for breakfast.
  • Random bikers and rickshaw wallahs will come and tell you to not ride the cycle even if you are on the extreme left of the road on a straight path. Incessant honking will happen even if you were an inch away from disappearing into a wall riding on the leftmost inch on the road. Claim your space and learn to Ignore. 
  • Join a cycling group for that extra push, learning and great breakfast sessions. There are many such groups budding across the city. They are great avenues for getting to know different people, learning much from them and great company for breakfast!

And while you ponder over if it is a great idea for you to start cycling, here are some pictures of roaming around Mumbai on the saddle. 

If you need any further motivation, let me know!

Ahoy Arabian Sea

The iconic David Sasoon Library

Early morning rays on a Victorian building

A sneak peak at the Queen’s necklace – Marine Drive

Hearty breakfast time

Categories: India, Mumbai, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

The dream trip

A dream trip…8 countries in 8 days screamed an advertisement of a popular tourist agency. Another countered saying they would do 10 countries in 8 days and all travel arrangements taken care of including hotel stays, travel and a wonderful chef who would accompany the group. Now that is a dream vacation for some.

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And I was wondering, would that ever be my dream trip? But again, I probably have had several dream trips now, none of which involved 10 countries in 8 days! I doubt if I could travel that fast even in a dream. Not to say, it isn’t a great idea to cover/checkmark more in less, but would that be a vacation? I would need a vacation from a vacation after doing 10 countries in 8 days.

Coming back my idea for a dream vacation, I would do 1 country, or maybe 2 locations in 8 days. Absorb each place for what it is worth and take back memories that are not a blur of travel! Well, I recently did just that…at Paris where I spent an entire week at Paris alone! Of course, I got plenty of weird looks after I answered ‘Just Paris?’ twice over to their question ‘Just Paris’, ‘Nowhere else?’.

Now planning is the part that takes up a chunk of time which I dread. Given that we Indians have to go through quite a rigmarole to get a visa stamped, it is important to get all sorts of documents well in time. Thankfully, sites like Yatra have made this easy to slice and dice data and use all sorts of filters to arrive at the cheapest and the best options for International Flights and hotels. The fewer the places, the less the time spent in planning, booking, researching and merely travelling! I preferred staying in hostels, so I looked up hostel booking sites for this. All done in a jiffy and money saved through miles, redeemable points on Yatra and booking hostels over hotels!

It always is fun to steep yourself into the place even before you get there. So, I ended up reading plenty of Paris based books that made it all the more enjoyable when I found so much of the place familiar (at least the names!).

When you plan fewer places, it is easier to research as well. And you know quite a lot about a place rather than know nothing of many places. And you get to sit in the garden and have a picnic lunch infront of the Eiffel tower and admiring it instead of having to go right away after the photo-op! And you can devote a whole day to one museum and to shopping!

I had an absolute ball soaking (in the rain and the sun and the cold), in the Parisian atmosphere. The museums were absolutely amazing as were the gardens and merely commuting in the subway and walking around was a joy in itself! But again, the best part indeed was taking each day as it came, and not having to rush from one place to another. Again, I met people who were seeing 4 museums in one day and I certainly am glad I didn’t have to rush through and just checkbox all the ‘must-do’s’.

Do let me know what you would enjoy…seeing more and taking back several GBs of photos or seeing less and taking back a bucket of memories!

Categories: Europe, France, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , | 5 Comments

A road trip to remember

A look through some old photos led me to memories of the first long road trip I had ever undertaken. It was the year of 2010 when S and me were in the United States of America. With its massive six to eight lane smooth as butter highways, US is a dream place for a road trip from anywhere to anywhere! Further you get to rent the choicest of cars through Avis or Hertz.

My first road trip, the first of many, lasted for around 10 days on the west coast of the US in the picturesque state of California in the month of November. Flashes of the changing scenery come back to me as I go back down memory lane. From white conifers, to picturesque towns in California, the vines at Napa, the coastal route and finally an arid desert landscape! We saw it all in one trip!

A trip to Washington DC and the Shenandoah National Park

Our itinerary started with visiting the lovely Yosemite National park, one of the best National parks in the US.  The trip saw me seeing my first snowfall ever and I can never forget the sight of those lovely tall conifers all along the road on the white road that stretched ahead of us.  Fortunately, when we set out it stopped snowing, and the world outside felt like Paradise! That is one picture that will stay with me forever along with the stillness on the road in all that beauty.

A trip to Yosemite Valley

The road to Yosemite

We continued our journey to San Francisco through San Jose and onward to Los Angeles.  The journey to LA from San Francisco was in one word marvelous. The coastal road also known as Highway 1 is one of the most scenic routes in the world with its breath taking views at each turn and almost all along the road. The blue of the Pacific Ocean stretches along the road and is definitely a sight to remember. We halted at the scenic town of Santa Barbara with its incredible views and also just for the fact that I used to watch the silly soap with my mom back in its heyday!

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Along the way!

A fun trip to the Universal studios at Los Angeles later saw us going to another national park – the very grand…Canyon! Another fantastic national park covered in this one trip and a sunset to remember. But wait, the trip wasn’t over yet! We had to end with a bang, and what better way to end it but to go to Vegas! Yet another landscape was covered unlike everything we had seen in California! A road through the arid, scorched desert to the burgeoning oasis of Vegas.

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Sunset at the Grand Canyon

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Vegas ahoy!

This certainly was a road trip to remember through two states, five and I don’t think I will ever have one as fun as this! It wouldn’t have been possible without those fantastic roads, a great SUV with possibly CEAT tyres (or may be not in the US) and all the coffee to keep us awake at all times of driving!

‘I’m chronicling my road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda.

 

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10 steps to a solo trip for the Indian woman traveller

After the last post I had written about women and independence, where I solemnly decided to undertake a solo trip, I did go on one! It probably isn’t a big deal, it was also not about ‘self-discovery’ and it wasn’t because I wanted to be a tad adventurous. It was a trip of pure pleasure to do what I wanted, eat as many chocolates as I wanted to with no one watching, go where I pleased for as long as I wanted and also not have to change the baby’s diapers and manage the trip between her eating, sleeping and pooping times!

While the trend is catching up in India, there are still a lot of inhibitions, some warranted for and some unwarranted for. Although there isn’t much that hasn’t been unsaid about solo travel, here are some of my experiences and tips from this trip.

 

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Cycling at Brugge, Belgium

 

My 10 tips to having a great international solo trip for an Indian woman traveler –

  1. Choose the right destination – For a first trip I wouldn’t choose a city in Afganistan or a Naxal ridden city or a solo hike to a crocodile infested place in Australia somewhere. I would rather choose a girly destination that would allow me for luxurious travel without hardship! After all, it is the toil of home I m taking a vacation from! Paris ticked off all the girly boxes for me – security, shopping, slickness and simplicity of public transport!
  2. Manage the family – If you have kids, see that they can be well taken care of in your absence. Plan around a long weekend when the hubby will be home, plan around when in-laws or parents are visiting (especially ;)), or just leave your kids at your really nice parents/inlaws! Your kids really can survive a week without you. Mind you, don’t tell them immediately as you start planning! After you have booked the airplane tickets and done the visa, break the news to your parents, in laws, husband/boyfriend etc in order of heavy opposition and convince them it is not unsafe, bad, you are not having a break up or have gone crazy etc. Once the tickets are booked no ones gonna stop you! I had quite the mix of reactions when I announced my trip (which weren’t unsurprising!)
  3. imageResearch or no-research – The easiest strategy is to go to the tourism office at the airport or station and pick up all the brochures and maps and ask them how to get wherever!  But for all those deals and cheap prices (and cheap thrills like seeing where a Bollywood movie was shot), toil a little and read up before you go! I even watched a you-tube video to check out how to take the train from the airport to the hostel and re-read a Somerset Maugham to be able to go to the places his protagonists frequented. But that apart, research  to find the right places to stay or visit, read safest areas. Reviews are a plenty on all sorts of websites now. I stayed in a hostel so I barely felt alone with a lively atmosphere wherever I stayed with plenty of young travellers all around. And I or anyone else didn’t have to be worried about ‘staying alone’ at night in a strange place.
  4. Do everything you haven’t – like packing really light because you are gonna have to lug that bag yourself, wander around at wherever you want to go, do fun stuff like cycling, and spend as much time as you want without having to push a pram or pull a husband along at the museum they find really boring, shop for an entire day (or till your money runs out)..but don’t get get carried away and do anything you will regret!
  5. Use Technology – Offline google maps is a boon, there is wifi everywhere at coffee shops, restaurants…will all let you have more fun and let you stay connected, read up on stuff you are visiting, looking for directions, posting photos etc.
  6. Be narcissistic for a change! – Take lots of selfies. Oh well, one won’t be young forever! You will always look better today without make up than in 5 years with make up! And please buy a selfie stick or else like my photos, you will be in the ‘face’ with the same grinning expression for each photo! I had a selfie stick too when I started out – the first day the stick did not work, the second day the phone did not, the third day I lost it! So maybe keep a spare!
  7. Dine alone – I never felt this strange, but really, it is not weird to be dining alone or sitting by yourself in a coffee shop. Shed those inhibitions and soak in the atmosphere at a lively place by the street. Some creepy Russian tourists (who may not be Russian or tourists) may approach you but hold tight to your purse and passport always whatever you say!
  8. Being by yourself may get a trifle boring maybe. So a way out may be planning some group activities like walking tours, a cooking class, etc. There are all sorts of group tours organized which are really nice and you could meet some interesting people on those. I did a couple of walking tours which were really nice.
  9. Don’t follow the advice given to little Red Riding Hood in its entirety. Talk to strangers, but really, not on the road and streets. Maybe at the hostel. Be safe. Be wary. Be conscious and keep that purse and passport safe. Always!
  10. Very importantly, stay in touch with your family every day and let them know you are safe…or they won’t let you do this again!

If my visit inspires any of the women who know me, I will certainly be delighted! All I can say is, there is never gonna be a good time to take a solo trip. If you like the idea of having one, just start planning even if it is for next year!

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India’s own broadway musical at the The Kingdom of Dreams – Jhumroo – Review

Nautanki and Naach-gaana are the two things that define Bollywood. The pseudo gaon of Gurgaon, the sister city of Delhi has grown many times in the last few years in terms of not just the number of malls and offices. Previously just an office hub, Gurgaon now competes with Delhi in the sheer number of entertainment options that it provides.

Set up in Gurgaon, The Kingdom of Dreams is an entertainment center that plays Indian versions of Broadway musicals. Bollywood reigns supreme in all the shows they have with dance and music galore. I was fortunate to find the time to watch their theatrical production Jhumroo which is a tribute to the singing sensation of the yesteryears, the very versatile Kishore Kumar. Jhumroo is produced by the Great Indian Nautanki Company, which is a joint venture between Wizcraft and Apra group.

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I went to the 840 seater plush Nautanki Mahal that was hosting the show I had come to watch. A fairly large auditorium, we looked forward to the evening of razzmatazz and glamor.

The story revolves around the life of one of his ardent fans, Bholenath Tripathi played by the Gaurav Gera of Jassi Jaisi koi nahi fame, who loves to sing but is terrible at it! In Bollywood style, thrown in is a girl played by Shweta Gulati who he wants to woo. While he takes part in a nation-wide singing contest on TV to win her heart, Kishore Kumar descends from the heavens to help him achieve his desire. If he manages to do so despite the reality of his voice, is what the story is about, but well this would be obvious to those who watch Bollywood, but then again, that is immaterial in this musical comedy.

With gliders and motors that fly, brilliant backdrops that appear and disappear effortlessly, imagery that is projected on three screens and the walls of the theater, dancers who descend from the stage with bright props, the execution of all the effects in this musical is brilliant and seamless. I have watched musicals such as the immensely acclaimed Lion King and Mary Poppins, but I would certainly say this one was at completely different level and I enjoyed it many times more! While the story and the slapstick comedy plodded along at times, the dancers mesmerized as they whirled and lit up the stage (literally too) in their flamboyant costumes, and vivacious choreography.

Kishore Kumar’s hit songs including Om Shanti Om, Saamne yeh kaun aaya, Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi thi, Hawa ke saath saath and many more were included in this musical and had the audience tapping their feet and even participating in the dance at the end with gusto!

The Kingdom of Dreams, is not just a venue to house fantastic shows, but an experience. Built to represent the culture of India, one can visit the foodcourt and stores themed around the various states of India.  All in all, a fantastic experience, and I left humming the songs of Kishore Kumar.

I hear the other show called Zangoora is even better than Jhumroo and I can’t wait to be back here to be able to catch that show!

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Seeking the I in the Independence

I recently read an article on women and independence and wanted to share my two-bit. What does independence after all mean to women? It is true that our Indian system, does not give us enough space to be that way. From living a sheltered existence at home before marriage, when family typically manages almost everything a girl needs – from how she travels, to her shopping, to where she studies etc to the married life when the husband does everything the dad would!

As a girl, my dad was often out. A great many things that my mom and I would have rather have him do were done by us. When I think back about those times, I remember they weren’t that easy. But, I believe, those are what made it so easy down the line. When you drag your broken-down two-wheeler for miles without having a father or brother to call, move houses independently, bribe telephone walas to get a connection (back then), go meet officials from random departments like electricity, water etc when you move houses, chase construction workers to fix things, pay bills, ward off crazy stalkers, chase mice and lizards out of your house (yeah, trust me this one ain’t easy for us girls!), all in your teens, you know there is only one survival skill that is of utmost importance. Independence.

True independence for me came with my first job. It can come for others who have had a chance to live in a hostel or share an apartment. You are finally financially independent. I remember the headiness of my first job! Wasn’t that the best time of my life? No accountability to anybody, No real responsibilities, no rush to get married, a steady income to splurge with friends, no immediate plans to study more! In short so much freedom! I remember how easily I would travel back then alone without any qualms. In ST buses to unknown destinations and remote villages, walk happily on the streets of the city just happy to be there alone, take long walks on the marine drive after work every day and just enjoy the solitude. The café culture hadn’t caught on to a great extent then, but even those years would see me enjoying my cuppa chai at now I think were shady restaurants and to hell with the glances I got from other tables. I wonder where that spirit has gone now. Why do I require people about me now?

Circa married life, suddenly, I have become dependent. Perhaps it is just easier now that I have someone to do some of the heavy lifting that are more of ‘guy’ responsibilities that I didn’t have a chance to pass on earlier. I need company to travel, to shop, to watch movies, plays, to eat out. I need someone to plan the trips I travel on. I need opinions and affirmations to buy a utility, to invest my money, to decide the menu of the day. I need someone to call people to get things fixed at home if they are broken. I pretend I can’t reach the top shelf of the cupboard and I can’t lift the tiny suitcase to put it in. Suddenly, I have assumed the responsibilities I never asked for or like. Like cooking, managing the domestic help, de-cluttering the house, and keeping everything in its place.

Many of these things have made my life easier. But off-late I have wondered, is too much dependence a good thing? After all, if I could go watch a movie alone, wouldn’t I be able to watch more movies given that I will never be able to watch one with my husband till the time my daughter is older!? I would have bought that coveted closet a long time ago and would have made worthy investments instead of waiting on for advice on what to do with them. If I can explain to my family that exercise, writing and reading are not ‘extra-curricular’ activities for me..They are a part of who I am. Now wouldn’t that make me fitter, and happier? Being able to do the things I love?

Perhaps we women need to reassert some of that independence, flavors of which we may have tasted at some point in our lives. To find some time to get away from the humdrum responsibilities, that will continue to bind us. To be with friends, to be alone, to seek oneself and to be able to do things for oneself.

On that note, I hope women out there, find ways and time to get away. Companionship and family are amazing things, but finding time for oneself, spending it with friends and doing the things you love can bring satisfaction and contentment.

In that spirit, I will plan the next trip alone! Just to get the spirit of self-discovery and the confidence to do things alone back! Stay tuned for updates.

A trip to Yosemite Valley

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Top six reasons why the Tata Zica Car is a winner

..Continued from my previous blog on the MadeofGreat trip here

A car isn’t just another product that you buy. It is an emotion and a way of life! It represents who you are and you take on a wee bit of the personality of the car.  The Tata Zica is a car that can be liked by all. Abbreviated for a Zippy Car, it is not just fun to drive, but is also very comfortable and feels so young!

On the evening of our first day at Goa, the Tata team had taken us through the Zica journey. Right from how they started designing it with global design inputs from Pune, UK and Italy studios to how they integrated all the little things that go a long way in making the drive more convenient, smoother and happy!

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The day to drive the Tata Zica had finally arrived and we were all excited to be finally doing the drive. When I bought my car, I had a chance to test drive several cars before I made a choice. The test drive lasted for a maximum of 20 minutes! And here was a chance to drive a car not yet launched for a good 2-3 hours on some of the most picturesque lanes in the country!

I was the driver for my team of three with Alex and Jaspreet that was chosen on the prior day and was only too happy to be the sole driver!

Now you will find a host of reviews out there already, but here are the few things that made this car truly fantastico –

  1. Looks do matter – yeah!

The design is sharp, elegant and bold. I loved the contours of the car whichever way I looked at it. Not for this one, an ugly back view or a jutting front. This one was suede, confident and dapper however you looked at it! Available in about 6 colors, the one I liked the best was the Sunburst orange which I drove the next day.

And it’s not just the big picture, but the small things that make it even more svelte – like the door handle ensconsed in a speedy arrow design. The hexagonal grill is one of the most elegant grills I have seen and just seamlessly flows into the design of the car.

2. Beauty has to be inside out!

A lot of thinking has gone into the interiors of this car. 22 utility spaces have been carved out to store knick knacks, water, tablets, coffee etc. A cooled glove-box is also provided. I can’t tell you how useful this cooled glove box is when on a long road trip..especially with a baby!

A dash of color of the body of the car embellishes the airvents and certain areas of the front of the car interiors making it feel livelier.

Little things but felt good that I as a driver didn’t have to keep elbowing the person sitting next to me with all the elbow room there is!

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3. We can pack half our house inside

Space is important in the car. Especially while travelling with extended family on a road trip that includes babies. The boot space is spacious, but there is plenty of space left inside the car as well..enough to pack half the kid’s toys and the mom’s food baskets inside in addition to all the other suitcases packed for a month for a week’s trips.

The back and the front are quite spacious despite having a pretty good boot space and three to four people can be easily accommodated at the back seat.

4. No more wars over music

An excellent audio system developed by HARMAN has been integrated in the top end model of the car with 8 speakers. Media control buttons on the steering are an added advantage and provide much needed sanity to the driver. An innovative infotainment system with a Juke-Car app ensures that everyone in the car gets to music they want to averting many a war! “This Juke-Car app utilizes a mobile hotspot to create a virtual network and host a service for sharing list of available songs in the device. All the connected devices can view the song list on the hotspot device and place their requested song queing!”

5. I finally don’t have to be buried into google maps to find the way

The Turn by turn navigation app makes the drive to all those unknown places in the middle of nowhere far easier with audio prompts. The app also provides ETA and next steps.

6. It felt good

Now you may think I am gushing, but the drive was really really good. After 3 hours of non-stop driving, I was as fresh as I was when I left early morning. We literally glided over Speed bumps, potholes, bad roads, mudroads and no roads contributing to that easy drive experience. The eco mode and city modes of driving provide the luxury of delivering fuel economy in the horrendous city traffic to a peppy drive on good roads.

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The whole experience was truly memorable and the care that had been taken in all the little things showed. The passion and the energy of the team – the engineers, the marketing team and all the teams who spent the last three years in creating something entirely new, free of all the baggage of Tata’s previous cars, just showed. And the outcome is truly fantastic! This car is certainly not made for mediocrity! It is a fighter, and the extra mile gone into taking care of the little things that bother, will go a long mile in making this car a winner.

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The Tata Zica Goa Experience – Part 1

On a dreary late Thursday

I sat mulling at Excel at my bay

Looking forward to a morose weekend ahead

Of changing diapers and partying in my head

 

Until I got a call…

That changed my plans all

Ting Ting went my phone

A telemarketer I thought, not someone of my own

 

Hi there..I am calling from Indiblogger

Would you like to come to Goa on an all expenses paid tour?

I jumped out of my seat

My mind agog, all upbeat

 

Tata Motors beckoned me

Come to Goa and see

The new Tata Zica

Come and ride it Chica!

 

Saturday dawned and I was on my way

Sadly I reached a little late due to some delay

Excellent Tata hospitality awaited me

Where everything was generous and all free!

 

The Alila Diwa Goa so serene and calm

A breeze, a flutter, the salty mist, such a balm

Set amidst green plantations and many a tree

I never felt so alive, so free

 

And now for the best part

The closest to my heart

I finally met the bloggers out there

Did I meet them earlier. Not really but who cares!

 

A new bunch of people I thought I knew

Only because of their blogs and twitter. It’s true.

Friendships were forged in the twinkling of seconds

At the end of the 2 days many were friends for life I reckon

 

Beauty, Lifestyle, Fashion, Travel,

Personal, Technology, Food all unraveled

An eclectic group of bloggers

Finally met the faces behind the handles and verbal wars

 

The Tata motors mascot , Lionel Messi, Made of Great

Integrity and talent who everyone loved to adulate

Was introduced to us in a funky locker room of fame

With lockers and Tshirts in our name

 

As we waited with our breath bated,

Suddenly, the locker room split and doors parted

To reveal the all new Tata Zica

In its flaming sunburst orange glory

 

With features explained by the passionate Tata team

It looked like a mighty big win

Sleek silhouette, a svelte body, and features galore

The Car looked gorgeous all ready to explore

 

Alas, we would have to wait till next day

On the lanes of Goa to drive her away

But a party awaited us next

Where we could just relax

 

The #fantastico cocktail party was in full swing

Where dresses were pretty and full of bling

White, pink, Purple and black

And heels went clickety clack

 

Where pretty cocktails and mocktails flowed

While talented singers went to take a bow

Our talented bloggers crooned

And karaoked the night under the stars and the moon

 

Thus the day ended

And so does this narration

But wait, the Tata Zica ride is what made the whole trip so special!

 

Fotor_14500268940452

Well, that’s all the cheesy poetry (If I can dare call a bunch of rhymes that) I can write..

One week past the Goa weekend, and my mind still wanders to the fantastic(o) time it was. Tata motors and Indiblogger had taken a lot of care in organizing the event and kudos for pulling it all off so seamlessly to make for a brilliant experience.

And if the lines were too cheesy up there (half of which I published as an afterthought), here is the experience in a few lines of the easier to write prose 🙂

The MadeofGreat tag line for the new car being launched is pretty apt and I am going to call it the MadeofGreat trip in my next lines, was one of the best trips I have had for a long time. It was all the more special because it was with people who barely knew each other, but knew each other really well because of their words, and thoughts through prolific blogs.

The Alila Diwa resort which was our home for the two days that we were there, is a fantabulous property set on lush greens. The sprawling property has green views everywhere you look and calming canals and fountains that are indeed very pleasing to the eye and a far cry from the urban jungle we were coming from.

Fotor_145002682195128

We started off our Goa day with a refreshing beach sojourn. This was followed by high tea and an introduction to all the lovely bloggers who were present. The Tata Motors team, who were indeed very hospitable every minute that we were there, then ushered us into the funky locker room complete with individual lockers assigned to us with #MadeofGreat merchandise just for us.

Celebrity VJ, Cyrus Sahukar, who was the ‘head coach’ kept us entertained as we heard the story of their journey to making this car truly great and worthy of Lionel Messi, the star footballer mascot.

The wow moment was certainly when the locker room walls parted and the car was revealed in all its sunbursting orange glory. The excitement was palpable as we all enthusiastically went to explore the car and we couldn’t wait for the next day when we would finally get to drive the car and see if it fared as well in the drive as it looked.

All in all, a great day culminating with an exciting cocktail party complete with Karaoke with talented singers in the group regaling us all.

Stay tuned for more on the car and the fantastic drive the next day.

Categories: Other Travel Blah | 11 Comments

Idle Thoughts of a Desi Mind

This post is republished from my other blog http://www.richlandtalk.blogspot.com. Although this is written a few years back  and I am back to India now, I think this still holds true!
 
 
Well, it’s been almost half a year since I moved to the US from India, and I continue to marvel at the differences between the two countries.  I guess, I am about to say what every Desi who comes to this land goes through. 
 
On Conversions
 
 
The first thing that hit me in a week was the number of conversions I kept doing to get my perspective right.  Fahrenheit to Celsius, Miles to Kilometers, Pounds to Kgs, Ounces to Grams, Dollars to Rupees, Gallons to liters…  I know we are used to the difference in the spellings now, with due thanks to Bill Gates who points out not coloUrfully but colorfully in red and all of a sudden I was flummoxed when everyone resorted in India to saying XYZeee instead of XYZed that I had learnt years back! Here even the switches get turned on the wrong way..On is up and Off is down!
 
On Beggars
 
 
Our local beggars endeavor to be as pathetic as possible singing sad songs in pathetic voices and generally making everyone feel guilty about being better off. Believe it when I tell you, here beggars wear weird costumes and have smirks on their faces with placards which say ‘Gimme $5 for a glass of beer!’ or ‘I need my Dope’ or sit with a dirty dog with a placard saying ‘Help me care for my dog’ and yes, they mutter maybe ‘Ass****’ at each person, loud enough to hear if you pass them without giving them anything.  Local train beggars aren’t dissimilar to our Local buggers.  They come with their musical instruments and make speeches and stories all starting with ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. I am homeless.  Please help me’.  Of course, this being a far richer country, the numbers are far less than what we have.  But it’s funny to see ads of ‘Please donate a used car for the poor’.  I could use one of the donations!
 
On Prices
 
 
And now for my long pent up emotions on the horrendous prices here, even though I have recuperated from the shock now.  People back home said we would be really rich in the US!  But consider this. Back in India we were supposedly in the upper middle class having a 3bhk, a car, never used the local train, and had 2 maids to cook twice a day, pack our lunches, clean up, tidy up and do everything that enabled us to lounge around only watching TV.  And here, we live in a 1BHK, have a four wheeler..uh, I mean 2 bicycles, no maids (if you discount the dishwasher) and commute in the packed subway trains.  Now that life on the other side of the ocean was certainly comfortable!
 
I reckon getting past the currency conversion from the $ to the Rupee was a challenge given the fact that ‘everything is so cheap back home!’  It started with the bread being $4 (Rs200) for a loaf (@#* I paid Rs 20 back home!), onions being $2 a pound (Rs 200 for a kilo) (@#&; Governments have been brought down back home because of the rising onion prices!), well you get the idea.  I won’t even speak about the unspeakable amounts we pay as rent!  Okay, even if you don’t convert, sometimes the rates that are charged for some piffling labor are downright absurd.  There was a cleaning ad saying they would clean up rugs or carpets really well and remove all stains etc in just $150 (Rs 7500).  Well!  I could get a new carpet for that price!  In fact there is no concept of MRP or any sort of standard pricing.  It all depends on the rate the store wants to fleece people!  You could get the same brand for half at some other store or for 1/10th online.  Perhaps it is because I am around one of US’s most expensive cities.
 
On Healthcare
 
 
Well, I am one of those really unfortunate people who are underinsured due to ignorance, and now may have to shell out some $500 (Rs 25,000) for a single sitting to have an ear cleaned!  A doctor charges a cool $150 (Rs 7,500) to prescribe an OTC balm for an aching hand.  I have not known a more screwed up healthcare system than that exists out here. Wikipedia told me that it is in US that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are due to Medical Debt.  I don’t blame them.  If an uninsured or underinsured person were to fall ill, he would sell everything he has to pay it off or die of a cardiac arrest on seeing the bill!  Well, there is health insurance, and since 85% of the people have health insurance, all doctors charge astronomical amounts, and because they charge astronomical amounts people have to rely on health insurance. And, since the docs get sued all the time, they have to make up for the money they spend on litigation!  So, I guess, being a lawyer is the best profession there is in the US!  I am now contemplating a flight to and fro from India to have my ear cleaned!  It might just be cheaper.
 
On Labor
The other thing that struck me, was the fact that despite the unemployment numbers being supposedly high, the labor rates here continue to be just phenomenal.  There is little wonder that there are so many drop outs in America.  I hear that truck drivers make around $100,000 to $200,000 a year in this country!  I mean that’s really wow!  They certainly can compete with educated PhDs flaunting all their degrees or investment bankers or make even more! Babysitters charge some $15 an hour in cash, that’s around $32,000 tax free. Women who earn around $50,000 a year, which is a decent amount, quit as their babysitters charge more!  I think all the girls on H4 out here who cannot really work, but do like kids should offer their services in this field!  It never amazed me in American TV serials when they showed plumbers and handymen living in the best of the suburban houses with manicured lawns..(if you are guessing, that’s Desperate Housewives)! Now as my building doorman drives down in his car wearing a tie and a designer suit, I have ceased to wonder!  What I don’t understand is, why can’t the unemployed unskilled workers, just offer their services for a lower wage?  I am sure there will be a lot of people willing to employ them.  The unemployment rate will certainly go down.
 
On Cabbies
Something that is similar though is the sport of fighting with the Cab driver. There was this cabbie who wanted to charge a cool 100 dollar bucks (~Rs 5,000) for a 25 min ride with one stop on the way, the unreasonableness being, he would charge $50 without having to stop! Add to that, the ridiculous ‘tips’ that are mandatory to the tune of 20-30% of the total fare.  No wonder, people prefer renting cars and driving around the whole day for a maximum of $100.  Most cabbies are either Pakistanis, or Indians or Bangladeshis and the seats are dirtier and mustier than in Mumbai.
 
 
On Shopping
 
 
Finally, once I entered the acceptance mode after the denial, anger and resignation stages of shock of prices, I discovered shopping was a pleasure here, thanks to the huge departmental stores around here.  There is no dearth of brands and consumers are spoiled for choice in every category.  Furniture, cosmetics, Electronic goods and all the capital investments that go into a new home are relatively still cheap because mostly everything is Made in China. The awesome part is you can always return goods, no questions asked for up to 90 days!
 
 
On Gadgets
 
 
Thanks to the technological advancements here, most happening products such as the iphone, ipad, e-readers, Wii, GPS Navigators and other cool gadgets get first released in the US, and then trickle down much later to India.  It’s pretty cool to be connected on 3G everywhere and the large number of wifi hotspots there are.  I can’t wait for 3G to get to India and download books on my Kindle e-reader as easily as I do here.   Browsing the internet is a pleasure, since the ultra fast speeds allow me to stream videos really fast, watch movies on Netflix etc. 
 
On People
People are so much more civilized here.  The very Indians who wouldn’t blink before they discarded chocolate wrappers from their car window, pick up their dog’s shit with gloved hands (that part is really ewwwwwwwwwww for me) and discard it wherever designated.  Even though the subway is really crowded, no one really jostles to get in or cause any stampede to get out.  People don’t spit on roads or consider the outside of their homes as the garbage can.  They are always polite and smile and hold doors and the smiling does not arouse any suspiciousness. Everyone is interested in sports and not everyone wants to become an engineer or a doctor. 
 
On Dogs
 
 
Talking about dogs in the previous blurb, US is a dog obsessed country.  I have never seen dogs pampered as much as they are here.  There are dog birthday parties, dog sitters, dog walkers, dog designer clothes, prams for dogs, beauty products, cosmetics, and accessories for dogs, dog beauty parlors, dog restaurants, dog toy shops, dog playgrounds…It really gets disgusting the amount of pampering that goes on!
 
On Sports
One thing that is apparent is the evident enthusiasm of everyone in sports.  Each match is attended with gusto and the subways overflow even when there are obscure local matches and there are Cheerleaders for most matches. Even the sports Americans play are different from what the rest of the world plays.  While the world calls Football, Football, the Americans call a game they play with their hands, as football, and the actual football is relegated as Soccer. And that American Football is actually almost like Rugby, but with extra protective gears, helmets and padding. I’ve heard few Europeans call it a sissy sport.  While the world played cricket, they invented Baseball.  In Baseball, they have something called as a World Series in which the local teams compete with each other and the winner becomes a World Champion! No wonder many Americans think they are the world in themselves and everyone else is an alien! Thankfully, basketball which is another popular game here is still the same.
 
On Roads
In India I used to look left and then right before crossing.  By the time I realized my mistake, I shifted here, and I now look right and then left which is like all other things opposite to what it is in India.  I guess I can attribute whatever misfortunes I might have to the curses of the motorists in both the countries!  However, the roads here are truly beautiful.  The infrastructure is simply superb, the highways are a pleasure to drive on, and connectivity is great. And the good news is there are good clean restrooms to stop by.  That is so very difficult back home to find! It is sad that we can boast of a few good highways, such as the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.  Imagine all of India being connected from every village with such roads. Travelling would be so much easier.
 
 


On Natural Beauty
The country on the whole is so gorgeous and there always huge forests they call National Parks around everywhere in the country, an endless number of weekend getaways and a host of weekend activities to indulge in. With the fact that this is such a huge country, there is so much to see and appreciate.  The terrain varies from the rugged Colorado Desert to the blue water beaches of Florida to the verdant greenery elsewhere. I certainly can’t get enough of the beauty around me!
 
All in All
All in all, I reckon, living in each country has its pros and cons.  As I remove my rose tinted glasses to look at India, I reckon I can point out fallacies there for all my criticisms above with the rising inflation and low transparency and a million other reasons in our governing system.  Each country has its pros and cons.  While I miss the culture that I grew up in, I have grown to appreciate the country I am currently residing in.  Fulfilling the American Dream is still aspired by many, and I don’t blame them. After all, it is a beautiful country with much to explore and excellent facilities and infrastructure to explore it.  Cleanliness and less pollution add to better living. It is quite an experience to live in the multicultural vibrancy of this country.  India isn’t quite there yet, but I am optimistic, with all the leaps  taken towards development, will one day fructify and it will be a more pleasant place to live in. Right now, I reckon, I will just indulge in everything that India doesn’t offer, and then when I don’t have time to do that, I shall come back and live a life of luxury with maids and cooks and drivers to serve me!
Categories: Americas, Other Travel Blah, United States | Tags: , , , | 22 Comments

Travelling with a Toddler: Part 3 – Sightseeing

Continuing the ‘Travelling with a Toddler’ series, here is the concluding part on Sightseeing and everything else you need to know.

Sightseeing:

Most developed countries have decent footpaths and walkways, so it is a great idea to carry a pram (stroller) while you sightsee. It is very likely that you will be out for long hours, and your baby may be able to sleep in it. A good quality stroller that has a good suspension system for bad roads and one that reclines fully and half way for her to sleep comfortably is an absolute must.

You are going on a vacation with your kid. Don’t just visit museums and churches that she understands little of and will be impatient to leave! Also take her to the nearby park, the beach or wherever else she would enjoy too! Ask the tourism office for kid-friendly places and they will tell you a host of places. We took SSS to little parks in the neighborhood wherever we were, lounged around in open squares where she enjoyed playing and gave her space and time to enjoy her vacation too!

Pigeons...wheeeeee!

Pigeons…wheeeeee!

Other pointers

  1. The most important of them all – Go slow! If there are ten things you need to see in 2 days, rest assured you will be able to do only 4 or 5! Either extend your trip or prioritize the places you want to see. Between your baby’s nap times, food times, play time and tired time, you certainly won’t be able to see it all! You can also consider splitting a few places with your travel partner such as climbing 400 steps of a cathedral where it may not be a great idea to take her. Let him see what interests him while you look after the baby and you see what you like while he takes care of her. And..we took her up those 300 odd steps in St Peter’s Basilica and I don’t know how I made it!
  2. First aid/Medicines – Talk to your pediatrician and find out what medicines you should carry if required in a foreign country. Also carry the receipts for these if they are required in customs.
  3. Pack light – It is highly probably that your kid’s bag is heavier than your own with extra clothes, toys and diapers! You need to compensate by packing light for your own baggage!
  4. Buy at your destination – Don’t pack what you can buy at your destination. Such as extra diapers apart from those you will require while travelling and for a day more, certain food stuff etc.
  5. Time zone changes – For a substantial difference in time zones you will have to give her two-three days to adjust to a new timezone. Manage your schedule accordingly.

I hope this series was helpful if you are planning to travel with a kid. Although, as someone said, it may scare others into not travelling with a baby! Happy Travelling!

Do check out my other two articles on Travelling with a Toddler –

1. Travelling with a Toddler – Travel

2. Travelling with a Toddler – Food and Accomodation

Categories: Italy, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

Travelling with a Toddler – Part 2: Food and Accomodation

Continued from my previous blog on Travelling with a Toddler – Part 1 where I talk about how to travel/commute with a toddler.

Food

Coming on to the next important thing is food. You may be giving your baby only homecooked meals and don’t want to subject her delicate tummy to restaurant food everyday. Can you do that on a trip out? Yes!,To a certain extent you can. It is simple. Don’t book hotel stays. Book home stays with kitchen facilities! That is what we did and I could give atleast 1-2 home cooked meals before our tour and after our tour ended for the evening to SSS.

If you are travelling internationally, you may want to carry a few basic ingredients from home that may not be available where you are travelling and even small cooking vessels if they are not readily available. I carried a small pressure cooker which we used for her food for all our stay, some wheat flour for rotis and Indian spices. You can visit a local super market and buy a few basic vegetables, and plenty of fruits too.  This is when it is not a bad idea to use all those yummy baby food jars that are available in the market. Also carry baby cereal that can be instantly made with hot water. I carried a couple of Cerelac flavors.

Milk:  Carry formula milk or breast-feed if you are staying at a hotel. If you have a kitchen or a microwave, you could even buy milk from a super market if that is what she drinks. While you are out and it is time for her milk, the easiest way is to pop into a coffee shop and ask for a glass of warm milk for the baby. It is that simple!

Lastly, don’t overdo the home cooked food! You are on a vacation and so is she! Let her enjoy some cheesy pasta and pizza too! And a little Gelato or those candies won’t hurt either!

Candy in Italy

Candy in Italy

Accommodation

Food and accommodation go hand- in-hand, since I have recommended you stay at home-stays with kitchen facilities. However, the kind of place you stay at is important too. If you would like to stay in a full fledged hotel instead of a home-stay, then you need to make sure it is kid-friendly. We booked most of our stay through airbnb.com for fabulous home-stays where we had the whole apartment to ourselves in lovely neighborhoods.

  1. Make sure that the hotel staff can cook baby meals for your baby and will sterilize any milk-bottles you may need.
  2. Ensure that the hotel is clean.
  3. You don’t want to tire out your child with excessive travelling, and may want to explore options that are nearest to your sight-seeing places so you can hop down quickly for her to have a peaceful nap.
  4. Kid facilities such as a swimming pool, small garden and a place with activities for kids will be nice too!

Do read my other two articles on Travelling with a Toddler –

1. Travelling with a Toddler – Travel

2. Travelling with a Toddler – Sightseeing

 

Categories: Europe, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Travelling with a Toddler – Part 1 – Travel

Many of my friends have lauded me for being ‘brave’ enough to travel with a toddler. Now, obviously I had my personal selfish reasons to be ‘brave’ enough to undertake the trip, the chief one being fulfilling that wanderlust that had been kept at bay for a good 1-2 years during pregnancy and till she grew old enough to travel!  And the fact that she didn’t require a ticket (atleast not till she turned 2) didn’t play any role in me not waiting for that trip to happen!

To all such moms with toddlers who may fear undertaking that long trip outside home, it is really not all that difficult! But yes, a lot of planning needs to be done to ensure that all goes well and the little one is at ease.

For starters, think about a few major things and how you need to tackle each one of them.

  1. Travel
  2. Food
  3. Accommodation
  4. Sight-seeing

Inflight travel with a baby:

Before the flight

  1. Inform the airline that you will be travelling with a baby beforehand. They may provide you with the first row seats with more leg space and a bassinet for her to sleep in. Trust me, your flight will be much easier with that extra space during a long flight.
  2. Travel bag – Make sure you carry several diapers, wipes and a couple of changes in clothes. Dress her in some layers for flights can be cold.
  3. Entertainment Entertainment Entertainment! If you think if you require that during the flight, think about that restless toddler who needs it at all times in her waking hours! Those old toys are not going to be entertaining enough to keep her at her seat. And you can’t pack large toys either in your baggage. So, shop and pack several small treats that will keep her busy. Package them all so she spends time opening each one and getting surprised! Give her a new toy only when she gets bored of the old one! Some suggestions for toys to take on the flight are small cars, key chains in various shapes, small board books with pictures, small nesting toys, flash cards, colorful necklaces etc. If your kid is old enough, you could take a coloring book, puzzle book etc s well. You will ofcourse also be able to use some resources at hand such as the inflight magazines, the food tray table, the opening and shutting window shades, and hopefully co-passengers who will entertain your child!
  4. Food – Think about what you will be giving your kid to eat in flight. Carry a home cooked meal for atleast one meal. You can also carry cereal for which the flight attendant will be able to provide you hot water with incase she does not like the food served during the flight. Cheerios, cheese-links, pulpy fruits, and biscuits can be used to satiate hunger pangs during snack times as well. The key is to carry only food she likes!

Engrossed in the world of animals!

During the flight

  1. It is a great idea to travel during her nap time so she sleeps through some of the flight atleast.
  2. Take-off and landing times can be challenging for kids and babies with changes in air pressure. Give them something to suck on or eat so they keep swallowing thereby causing less discomfort in their ears
  3. Entertain her through the flight. When she really gets bored of sitting, be prepared to walk up and down the aisles with her when they are not busy

Other modes of transport with a baby

I would recommend train travel to bus or travelling by car for long distances since a train accords more space to move around and is faster as compared to traveling by road.  If you have to travel by bus be prepared to sit in cramped seats and face her tantrums or hope she falls asleep during the bus journey!


What are your experiences if you have traveled with a baby or toddler? Share them in your comments…

Continued in the next part here..

Categories: Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , | 18 Comments

Guest post for the Cybernag – Ganapati Bappa Morya

Zephyr is one of my favorite bloggers for a long time.  She writes about social issues, families, kids and a host of things that will  make you sit up, take notice and react.  She gave me an opportunity to do a guest blog on her famous blog ‘The Cyber Nag’ and I was thrilled to do just that!  Here is a snippet of what I wrote on the Ganapati Festival in India- 

The festival of Ganapati is around the corner and the entire atmosphere is suffused with festivity. Shops selling Ganapati have cropped up all over the city of Mumbai, from main markets to narrow alleys, where rows upon rows of painted and unpainted Ganapatis of various sizes and shapes sit, waiting to be taken home. Kids and adults wander about looking for the one they want to install in their homes.

To read the rest of the blog go to http://cybernag.in/2012/09/ganapati-bappa-morya/

P.S.1  – This post was selected by BlogAdda as its Spicy Saturday Pick  🙂 .

P.S 2 – This post was published in the newspaper DNA, Mumbai edition on Sept 24. 🙂

Categories: India, Mumbai, Other Travel Blah | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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