One can travel the world but a trip to one’s home country is unparalleled and brings maximum happiness! I experienced the same when I went to India for a very short & hectic 4 days trip to India primarily for my brother-in-law’s wedding and combined so many awesome things to this trip that this became one of the best home trips ever!
You all know I love planning hectic & choc-a-bloc trips and this trip was no different. I visited 4 cities in 4 days and I was visiting 2 out of these for the first time! I call it the Reunion Trip as I was meeting my sister-in-law after almost 2 years, my brother-in-law after 4 years (both of whom are based in Australia), my parents after March 2015, one of my MBA Juniors after 12.5 years, one of my MBA Seniors after 13.5 years and 5 of my MBA Batchmates after 8 years! Phew! Now you know why this trip was so damn fabulous!
Bandita and Abhay had gone to India on 26 November, understandably I was very excited to meet Abhay after this gap and do our monkey stuff together!
Wednesday 9th December 2015 ||| Kuwait – Mumbai – Vadodara
My Kuwait – Mumbai Jet Airways flight was delayed by 40 minutes and that made me very tense as I just had a 2 hours connecting time in Mumbai to catch my Indigo flight to Vadodara; I had to clear immigration, collect by bag, go through the exit security check, catch a cab to reach the Domestic terminal and then go through another security check before boarding my flight! I was on the edge throughout!
Luckily I had a decent sleep of 3 hours in the flight and had blocked a front seat to rush out of the plane! Unfortunately my luggage was the last to come and I lost crucial 30 minutes in waiting for my bag to arrive on the belt. I ran towards the exit and then had to stand in a long queue to get my bags checked before the final exit. After getting through all these procedures, I ran out and caught a cab whose driver asked me for 500 bucks to get me to the Domestic terminal in 5 minutes! I just threw my bag in his boot and asked him to get me there ASAP. He was true to his word and I reached within 5 minutes! Then there was another long queue for the security check. One of the Indigo employees was calling “Mumbai – Vadodara passengers” so thankfully I got the priority security check done and rushed towards the bus! I was the last passenger to board the flight and was welcomed by frosty looks from people! I was sweating, exhausted and very relieved not to have missed the flight else it would have been such a pain!
I finally sat down and thanked God for getting me through! But I loved the rush though as it was quite nerve wracking and exciting! I ordered for a Paper Boat Jaljeera drink which was quite a refreshing one and I was glad to have finally tried it after reading so many superb reviews of this product. I landed in Vadodara at 7:35 AM where my friend Zaraius Contractor was waiting to pick me up!
We started interacting on the FB page Sikandalous Cuisine and built an awesome rapport sharing snippets and having fun! We became friends on FB and I was waiting anxiously to meet him as he is my first ever Parsi friend and also to get treated to some Parsi Egg delights of which he is a specialist. I was so damn excited to meet him and have our bakar conversation, face to face for a change!
We reached his home and he straight got to the main agenda item which was preparing a splendid breakfast for me! And man was that awesome or what? Definitely the 2 best egg preparations I have ever had in my life. He made Akuree (Parsi Egg Bhurji) and Seekh Kebab with Tamatar par Aanda, both of which were lip smacking and made with so much love that I didn’t even have tea, coffee or bread with them! Just gobbled up whatever was served to me!
After the Pet Puja we got back to our Bakar and discussing myriad topics! We left his home for my 2nd agenda item of the day – a dentist visit to get my teeth check-up and scaling done. We reached the clinic where Dr. Aarushi (strange coincidence thanks to the infamous Aarushi murder case where the co-accused parents of that girl were dentists too!). After another tick off we roamed around exploring the city of Vadodara which is quite a clean and well-planned city.
And then I had the first reunion of this trip. I was meeting Gaurav Upadhyaya, my MBA Junior who was amongst my best friends from the junior batch at Goa. We have been in touch online since I finished my MBA in 2003 and were meeting for the first time since then! He picked me up and we went straight for lunch at one of the most popular Gujarati Thali joints of the city named Mandap where we had a fabulous meal over some fun conversations about our lives & GIM. We were treated to endless supplies of choicest Gujju food delights by the ever so smiling staff. The restaurant was surprisingly full for a weekday afternoon and that said a lot about the quality & popularity of this restaurant. The meal was understandably heavy and mighty delicious to boot! I was almost about to doze off in his car so asked him to take me to a hotel where I could enjoy an afternoon siesta and catch up on some much needed slumber!
I had a train to catch the next morning to Ankleshwar so I booked into a hotel bang opposite the rear gate of the railway station; it was named Hotel Harmony. There was no single room available but because I was to check out at 8 AM, the reception staff courteously offered me a double room at the price of a single room! It was a win-win situation for both the parties! Gaurav left and I went straight to the room, freshened up and crashed on the bed; I had such a sound sleep of 4 hours! I didn’t even wake up once even though innumerable trains were passing by literally right next door!
Gaurav was to pick me up at 8 PM so I got ready after waking up and then we went for another special dinner meal at a place named Raatri Bazar which is a huge area filled with many restaurants serving various options – Gujarati, Chinese, North Indian, South Indian and what not! We ordered Chinese Bhel, Pao Bhaji and Paneer Pulao. All of them were very delicious and filling too. Sadly I could not one of my Gujju favourite item named Dabeli (after writing this I am craving big time for it and would get it packed while getting back from office today!).
We drove around the streets of Vadodara which were quite lively and even then without the usual chaos associated with Indian cities. Gaurav wanted me to get some special namkeen items packed for my in-laws and parents, we got that stuff from one of the most famous namkeen/farsan chains of the city named Jagdish Foods. And then we got to the final agenda item of the day – Pan! We reached Paras Pan House where we enjoyed special Maghai Pan which melted in our mouths and was very refreshing.
After a long & fulfilling day, it was time to bid farewell to Gaurav. He dropped me at my hotel and drove to Surat for some official work. It was so much fun to meet him and to see that we haven’t changed even after so many years! We had our fun conversations, the same way we used to have during our GIM days in 2002! He is a very enterprising & hardworking man doing so much at the same time! I wish him the best of luck and hope to meet him very soon!
Thursday 10th December 2015 ||| Vadodara – Ankleshwar
I went to the bed at 10 in the night so woke up fresh as a daisy at 6 AM aided by the innumerable “Kuk-du-kuuuu” sounds made by hens and cocks! It was a relentless attack and I had no other option that to get freshened up and go for a morning walk exploring the railway station nearby. Thanks to the aromatic fragrance flowing into my nose, I spotted an egg shop near the hotel so decided to have a bite! I had a double egg masala fry with Pao to start another fun day in the state of Gujarat. I washed it down with 2 cups of hot tea.
After this nutritious & delicious start, I went to my room to finish my packing and check out. But before that I had to utilize the complimentary breakfast deal! I mean how can one let go of free food? I had a small meal of Poha, Upma with Corn Flakes to make me adequately stuffed before my scheduled train journey!
I paid the bill, thanked the reception staff for their kind gesture and walked to the station to board my train “Gujarat Express”; it was going to be a short 60 minutes & 80 kms journey from Vadodara to Ankleshwar and I had booked a 2nd class window seat to enjoy my time! I was travelling in an Indian train after a very long time and this is one of my most enjoyed modes of transport.
I crossed the Bharuch railway station which made me nostalgic! I came there in July 2009 to meet Bandita for the 1st time; it was my first Gujarat visit and such a fun trip. We travelled 150 odd kms in an auto rickshaw in heavy rains together visiting multiple places including the Sardar Sarovar Dam site. We had a wonderful time and it was the perfect start to a journey we started together then!
Coincidently, Abhay & Bandita along with her dad had come to pick me up from the station! I was so delighted to see Abhay after 2 weeks and he was acting a bit shy but soon got over it when we got into the car. We started playing around in our crazy way and reached the new house of Bandita’s parents where our stay arrangements had been made. I met Bandita’s sister Madhu and her husband Ajeya plus Bandita’s brother Yatindra and her mom. After the pleasantries I had Breakfast Round 3 of the day – another cup of tea with Poha! You see, train journeys make me very hungry.
I lounged around while chatting away to glory with everybody and expectedly got hungry again! I had a hearty lunch meal and got ready for another siesta, this time Abhay as my partner! Bandita utilized this free time to finish her tasks while the father & son enjoyed some fun moments followed by 2 hours of deep slumber!
The evening was also filled with family time and fun conversations with Madhu & Ajeya followed by another simple dinner. Abhay was in full flow and we had our usual share of crazy fun moments. We slept early because we had to leave for Ahmedabad the next morning for the big day! It was the day of Yatindra and Alka’s wedding in Ahmedabad!
Friday 11th December 2015 ||| Ankleshwar – Ahmedabad
Today was the D-Day; the reason we all had gathered! It was the day my brother-in-law Yatindra was to get married to Alka in Ahmedabad. We started our Road Trip from Ankleshwar at 11 AM after getting everything in order before we left. It was a slow journey as we stopped twice for Tea and Snake breaks. Gujju snacks just can’t be ignored; they demand to be eaten at frequent intervals. We had our share of Bhajias and Vada Paos gulped down with hot tea. I was thoroughly enjoying myself gobbling all those snake items.
We finally reached Hotel Regenta in Ahmedabad which was the venue of the wedding function as well. We were graciously welcomed by the family members of Alka who were waiting for our arrival. We checked in and I had lunch (yes, I still had lots of space for more food!).
And then it was time for another reunion. My friend Satya Sinha, whom I know since my 2006 Genpact days was incidentally in Ahmedabad, he saw my Facebook post and contacted me so that we could meet. He came to briefly meet me as he was rushing for Somnath. Sadly we could not meet for a longer duration as we had got late in reaching Ahmedabad; nonetheless it was loads of fun meeting him after atleast 7-8 years! His business partner Manish was also with him; the last I had met him was almost 10 years back!
After all the pleasantries got over I went to my parents’ room to chit chat with them and needless to say, we had loads of things to talk about. They had also got the stuff from Gurgaon which I had ordered online and I was pretty excited to check out all the items. My mother once again gave me a verbal thrashing about my habit of being an online shopaholic and as always I heard her out obediently.
Then it was time to get ready for the wedding function and everybody got busy in the long & ordeal process; especially all the ladies. I was ready in a jiffy in my traditional attire, all of which I had ordered online through Myntra and Flipkart. Then we got geared up to get Abhay dressed in his traditional attire which was quite a tough task considering he hates getting all decked up. He tried his best to get away but we being the strong & brave ones were in an unrelenting mood. So while he cried & howled, we somehow got him dressed.
The wedding function was the usual fun affair with lots of strangers around and lots of lip smacking food which I gorged like there was no tomorrow. I tried all the usual suspects – Golgappas, Tikki Chaat, Papdi Chat and what not. Then I started my main course and mid-way through one of the family members from the bride’s family came and asked me “aap non-veg nahin khaate?” I replied “zaroor khaata hun” and then he showed me the way towards the non-veg heaven! My happiness knew no bounds as I had never expected non vegetarian food in a wedding dinner! I shifted to my meat self and clobbered everything that came in sight!
After a more than satisfying dinner we started the long wait for the wedding ceremony to begin but it was still in the preparation stage till 1 AM; I have had enough so I excused myself and went with Abhay to our room for a much deserved sleep! I was in no position to stay awake through the night and be a part of the ceremony. I am so happy that such all-night long weddings aren’t part of our family traditions! My wedding took place in the morning and we were all free by 11 AM for the Lunch get-together!
Sleep came in no time thanks to my exhaustion, my full tummy (as usual) and the cozy bed!
We woke up at 8 AM and as always I headed straight for breakfast after freshening up. Post that, I quickly finished the final packing and went to my parents’ room for another chat session.
And then there was time for another re-union! I was meeting one of my MBA seniors Anshuman Pareek after 2002! He is based in Ahmedabad since long now; it was great reminiscing about our Goa fun days and having coffee together. Our rooms were located diagonally opposite to each other and while he played soft & mellow Jagjit Singh ghazals all the time, I was perpetually playing the loud & musical Punjabi songs! And even then we never had a heated argument about such opposite musical preferences!
It was great fun meeting him after over 13 years and I really hope we meet again for a longer duration as there is so much to talk about!
Soon after, I had lunch with my parents and then it was time to bid goodbye to my family and head towards the airport to board my flight for Mumbai. I didn’t meet Abhay while I was leaving the hotel as he starts crying whenever he sees me leaving! I wished him a virtual goodbye, took the blessings of my parents and left.
My flight was delayed by 45 minutes which was frustrating as my Mumbai plan was also getting delayed as a result but then I was helpless.
I finally landed in Mumbai after almost 60 minutes of delay and but still had good enough time for the last reunion of this special trip!
I was meeting 5 of my GIM MBA batchmates – Kumar Singhee, Abhimanyu Kalra, Kartik Sonpar, Vineet Sethi and Salil Nigam. Unfortunately, Vineet had to leave early for a family dinner and as expected by everybody, Salil ditched the meet at the last minute.
We met at the Coffee Shop of the The Orchid Hotel very close to the Airport. Kumar had come to pick me up at the airport and soon we were loudly laughing about the good old days of our 2 years in Goa! T is always good to meet old friends but is the most special to meet my MBA batch mates with whom I spent 2 most fun years of my life in Goa!
2 hours passed off in literally no time; I had to board my Kuwait flight so had to leave on time. We hugged each other and got a photograph clicked at the lobby for memories’ sake! Kartik dropped me at the Airport and I was wowed by the new & swanky new International Terminal of Mumbai! The exteriors are definitely better than Delhi’s T-3.
The security & immigration check was incident-free and I boarded the flight without any hiccups. The guy seated next to me was a first-time flyer and was flying to Kuwait to join a new job leaving his family behind in Kerala. He repeatedly brought out his mobile phone and kept gazing at the screen which had his young daughter’s photograph; he gave a sad smile to me each time he did that! I remembered my March 2010 flight when I was going to join my new job!
I landed in Kuwait on-time; my colleague Javed Zafar had come to pick me up. I reached home and straightaway hit my bed!
Even though this trip was just 4 days “short”, I had fun worth atleast 10 days packed into my tight schedule! Kuwait-Mumbai-Vadodara-Ankleshwar-Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Kuwait, all in 4 days! I met some old friends, met a new one and had a fun time with my family! I missed my Bhai, Bhabhi and my 2 angels – Nandini & Samyukta a lot, who sadly could not come to the wedding. Hope I can meet them soon.
Big Thanks to all my friends who could find the time to meet me and we could have such good fun together!
Thanks to God for such good times and I look forward to my next India Trip, whenever that happens!
So till the time we meet again…
Cheers to life…
Till then ride safe and have safe sex…
Hasta la Victoria Siempre…