I always believe that no matter how tough your present is, it seems much better when you look at it backwards in the future. Even though my last year and a half had been pretty miserable, on looking back I do find plenty of hidden fond memories. Some of them I would love to re-live. Here are a few highlights from my past year and a half that I adore and pine for. Try not to miss these experiences if you happen to be at the right place at the right time:
- Weather in Bangalore: I took a fight from Delhi to Bangalore along with a few friends of mine on 11th July 2009. We were greeted by the new Bangalore Airport. The jet bridge guided us from the aircraft right into the air-conditioned terminal. We collected our baggage, found out about the different ways to reach the city and stepped outside the terminal. And then Bangalore weather welcomed us; A beautiful morning. Perfect temperature. Slightly cloudy. No scorching heat. A Soothing breeze. I almost immediately fell in love with Bangalore for its weather. I can still distinctly remember the smile that the breeze brought to our faces. Only on a few occasions over the past year the weather has not been as kind. I believe that weather in Bangalore is the single best thing about that city.
- Trip to the God’s Own Country: Thanks to some fantastic effort by Vishal we managed to make a short and a budget (yet exhaustive) trip to Wayanad, Kerala. I add this trip to my list of cherished trips with friends. The highlights of the trip were: the thrilling climb to the top of Edakkal Caves, the quick (and playful) peek at the Kuruva Islands, the arduous trek down Meenmutty Falls and the exhausting trek up to the Chembra Peak lake. I recommend everyone visiting Wayanad to undertake the trek down Meenmutty Falls and if you are slightly bold; attempt reaching the top of Edakkal Caves.
- Dasara (yes, Dasara and not Dusshera) at Mysore: Never in my life have I seen a festival add so much enthusiasm to a city. There may be many such festivals in India. But, for me, this was the first one. The preparations were prominent about a fortnight before the festival. The entire city is lit up, esp. the magnificent Mysore Palace. Greeting messages are lit up on the nearby hills such that they are visible from most parts of the city. Innumerable exhibitions, performances and celebrations everywhere. Mysore being a pretty small city compared to the Metros, makes it very hard to stay away from the celebrations. One of my friends and I went to see the Dasara procession. It was an amazing experience. We had to fight through a massive crowd wherein each one is fighting to catch a glimpse. People climbed up trees. Terraces are overcrowded. Subway roofs are crammed full. Not a single eye wants to compromise. I myself had to balance myself on one of the Bamboo barriers while clinging on to a lamp post and simultaneously take snaps.
- Anukruti and Gurukul: I really missed freedom while training at Mysore. The one way I partially got it back was by joining two web-based magazine clubs - one targeted at the entire Development Centre and the other targeted at the trainees. I joined both these clubs along with one of my friends. Internet access was imperative, and so our time restriction on internet access was somehow lifted. We loved bending the rules (whatever we could manage) like sneaking into production area late at night to complete our job and enjoying the administrator access we had on a few computers. We did have to work under a lot of restrictions (which was a turn-off), but we loved the little freedom that came along with it.
- Events at Mysore campus: Another classic case of something (in addition to Pool) I enjoyed sans my friends. Most events that took place in my Campus be it a corporate event, an awards ceremony, some random celebration etc had a cultural element associated with it. I do not know much about elsewhere but Mysore campus had some amazing singing talents. Much better that the ones I heard in Bangalore about a year later. Every event had some performance by them. They were complemented well by the awesome JBL loudspeakers and some very nicely done karaokes of well known tracks. They sung in various languages, most of the times in some South Indian language (Tamil, Malyalam, Telegu or Kannada). A R Rahman compositions were the (obvious) favorites. For the first time I heard the original compositions of A R Rahman which were later were adapted for some Bollywood films eg Saathiya, Roja etc. They sound beautiful; much better than those I had been hearing out of my iPod. I would sit on one of the corners and try to guess what the songs meant. Each time a new song would start (in a different South Indian language) I could see one section of the crowd capering and cheering to the fullest. I just loved (and I still miss) those performances.
- Mavalli Tiffin Rooms: Once I moved to Bangalore, I managed to get back in touch with one old friend of mine who had spent the last five years in Bangalore. He is also a foodie. He wrote down a list of must-visit food outlets in Bangalore. I wanted to go to cover all the places on that list, but I was unable to make it. MTR is one of the places he missed in the original list and later he asked me to add it to the list. I loved the breakfast served there. The very first time I reached MTR around 9am. I was told that everything except Masala Dosa and Rava Idli was over. I gradually advanced my time with each subsequent visit and finally realized that the best time to reach there was around quarter to seven. That is the time you would most likely get everything listed on the menu, and you can follow the heavy breakfast with a walk around Lalbagh. I simply loved their food, esp. Idli, Vada, Masala Dosa, Rava Idli, Fruit Custard and of course, Coffee. To top the good food, they have a wonderful service. The waiters (in their lovely uniform; red striped shirts and half mast lungis) are very courteous and they know how to make their customers ecstatic. It may be a little difficult to converse with them initially (if you do not know Kannada), but soon you would realize that they are experts at recognizing hand gestures. Interestingly, the food and the service were not the only things that got that place so close to my heart. What drew me closer to that place were the locals who dropped by early morning. Mostly the aged Kannadigas would come in their traditional “comfort” wear i.e. shirts and white dhotis (or lungis). They would read the newspaper over a cup of coffee and chat with their acquaintances. I loved observing them and even tried to imitate their style of eating Idly Sambhar and drinking Coffee. Add MTR + Lalbagh to the list of good things in Bangalore.
- Saturday Mornings: While most of my friends enjoyed a lazy Saturday, I preferred playing pool. And to avoid the hassles of changing 2-3 public buses to reach office campus, I would take the company bus that would pick me at about 7:15 in the morning. The pool arena would open at 9 and I’d have an entire hour for myself. Every day I’d to go to a particular food court in the campus and have hot vadas, coconut chutney and some strong South Indian filter coffee. Add to that the lovely early morning weather and some music through the earphones; solitary bliss.
- Durga Puja in Bangalore: This event made it to this list not for how good it was, but because I did not expected it to be as good. The year before I spent Durga Puja in Mysore. I did not expect much. But, by the end of the Durga Puja I realized that I had actually expected a lot. No where did I get any Bengali food. People in the pandals hardly spoke in Bengali. The cultural shows were small and mostly (of what I experienced) either in English or Hindi. I am not very sentimental about Bengali language, but this came to me as a surprise. The following year I was in Bangalore. And I set very low expectations. Bangalore hit back hard. Although the number of Durga Puja celebrations were not as many as in Delhi, but there were plenty of them. Almost all of them had good cultural shows and nice bengali food stalls. The one at Palace Grounds was huge and the scale at which it is celebrated really surprised me. I managed to catch live performances by Raghab Chatterjee, Indian Ocean and Usha Uthup. And not to mention, some real good food.
- South Indian Filter Coffee & Matteo Coffea: I am an outright coffee lover. And South India was heaven in that respect. Every tea/coffee stall served freshly ground filter coffee; even the tiny canteens at Bus Stands. While I loved the coffee served at most places (esp. MTR and Hatti Kaapi), I am also a great fan of Cafés. Even if I would have drunk, I would have regarded Cafés to have more importance than Pubs and Bars. Cafés are a place where one can order a hot/cold drink; have some snacks/deserts; chat and socialize with friends; sit for hours enjoying the aroma (of coffee), the ambience, the music and at times even browse the Internet. The problem with most cafés in the metro cities are that they push too hard to earn money over goodwill. They end up eliminating the element of relaxation and force you to vacate as soon as you are done consuming your order. Matteo Coffea is one of the cafés on Church Street, Bangalore that clicked with me the very first time. They do almost everything right (including giving you free wifi internet). They have a awesome ambience and they play good music. I just can’t get over their “Coffee of the Day”. <br />