Friday, April 24, 2015

A walk on Pune's MG road

Taking a walk down the MG road in Pune camp area in the morning can be quite invigorating. Especially if you don't have any agenda.

I start from Golibar maidan end. First stop is the newspaper vendor. The elderly Muslim gentleman is such a friendly man; he recognises all his regular customers, even someone like me who go to Pune once in a month, two or even three. All newspapers and magazines are usually available with him; a very well stocked stall. There's something about a neatly organised newspaper stall. It just pulls you in, even if you know you are not that avid reader or may not have the time to read as much as you'd like. You want to read all the newspapers and magazines on display. Of course I can't. Plus, I carry my iPad these days so I prefer reading all newspapers on it. And if I like something that I can't read at that moment, I can always save the link. Most of my weekend reading these days are stories that I come across throughout the week. Or those that I come across in some exceptionally busy mornings. Pune is a different story. I still feel sentimental about stopping by my newspaper stall, pick up an occasional Business Line (only for BLink that's edited by the fabulous Veena Venugopal, about who ad guru Prahlal Kakkar once said "she is as sexy as she reads"), Mumbai Samachar (Asia's oldest newspaper) for Mother India and perhaps a Times of India for its so-what-am-I-supposed-to-do content but liked by Mother India nevertheless. 

Next to the paper vendor is one of Pune's biggest fruit and vegetable market. This is the place to go to if you want to buy the freshest fruits and veggies. These days, you can't miss all those mangoes lined up there. Stalls are nearly laid out and items are top quality. 


MG road has everything you need. Shoes, clothes, shops, crockeries, furniture, electronics, computers and everything you need and everything you don't. Pundole watchmakers stands tall further down the line. From one shop there years back, they have now grown to about four shops, with a separate watch-repair shop. They are the only shop I know that sells watch cases. The Parsi family is full of expert horologists. The gentleman who runs the repair section comes across as the guy who invented time! Once I asked him if they repair Omega watches. Aghast at me even daring to ask something like that, he immediately pointed towards one of two dozen certificates hung across the wall to one that said "official service centre for Omega". "We definitely do Omega watches, sir", he said, still not overcome with the shock he got from my question. With a soft voice but firm tone, he comes across as every bit knowledgable that he is. Our first and last stop for all our watch repairs.

MG road offers plenty of options for the foodies. A slight detour towards East Street takes you to the delightful Kayani Bakery for the world - famous Shrewsberry biscuits. But I want to try out something new there now. So I bought chocolate biscuits and Khatai. The former were not good, the latter was heavenly. Marz-o-rin is a long-time favourite; better than any of our Starbucks and Cafe Coffee Days of the world. Ice coffee, chicken sandwiches and Black Forest pastry and a table on the first floor verandah is all you need to spend a lovely hour and watch the world go by. Today though, we decided to visit age-old George restaurant further down the line for their chicken biryani. 



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) requires a monorail

Everytime I go to the Bandra - Kurla Complex (BKC), a business district in the middle of Mumbai, I feel blessed. I am thankful to my employers for now having chosen a place like BKC for our office. I think for those of us who use public transport, it's a curse to have an office at BKC. During peak hours, it is near impossible to find a rickshaw or a bus, in minutes. The buses that come from Kurla (and going towards Bandra station) are so crowded that they don't stop. Demand for rickshaws far outstrip their supply. And to make matters worse, the traffic snarls at Kalanagar make it worse. Only people with cars are better off working at BKC.  

Unfortunately, our state planning authorities have never really invested in public infrastructure. Nor do they understand the basics. Take for instance, the monorail and metro, what's the difference between the two and where we need them. At present, monorail at Mumbai goes from Chembur to Wadala. If you see its route, you'll realise that it goes in the middle of nowhere! I really wonder how many people use it for their daily use. 

Ideally, a monorail is required for a shorter route and where there is dense population. Preferably office-goers who the monorail can ferry to the nearest train station. Like BKC. Surprisingly, the monorail has plans to go all the way to Jacob's circle (Saat Raasta, near Mahalaxmi station). For such a route, a metro is more useful since it covers a longer distance. 

A monorail is an idea solution to BKC office goers as such a route from BKC to Bandra and Kurla train stations. Such a mode of transport will cut the road traffic in a jiffy, solve public transport woes that many office goers there face in present times and is also environment friendly. A BKC monorail will also serve people to move around with BKC area. Ideally, the BKC monorail should also involve the Kalina - Santacruz office area (where Kotak, Centrum offices and Windsor buildings are located) to make that office area  interconnectible. Property prices would likely zoom up in that area if public transport is eased up. 

There is still space of construct a BKC Monorail at the moment. But the opportunity is slowly slipping by as the vacant land is slowly being bought by companies to build their offices there. Once the space is gone, all we'd be left with, would be heavy traffic and terrible traffic woes. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Flamingo watch at Sewri

Early Saturday morning, I set off to see the Flamingos that come visiting Mumbai. These majestic migratory birds visit Mumbai every year between December and stay on here till about April. It was a long-time wish that finally got fulfilled. Birdy (appropriately called for the occasion)- an expert trekker and outdoor guide- had organised the morning watch. A colleague who is a regular with Birdy  pulled me in and off we went. We took the harbour line train- one of my favourite train rides in the whole of India- and landed at Sewri station at about 7:30 am; the appointed time. We joined the group there and began our 1 km walk to the Sewri jetty where Flamingos were waiting for us.
Sewri- and the first half of harbour line up until Wadala- looks like a Mumbai caught up in time warp. Development has thankfully (and also partly woefully) escaped this part of Mumbai. Large swaths of godowns dot the dockland area of Eastern Mumbai. The only visible sign of development here is the new Eastern freeway which runs parallel to the harbour line tracks for a long patch. A quick cup of tea / coffee outside Sewri station and we were on the way; amidst slums, dilapidated buildings, lots of large trees, dirty roads and dozens of tankers. We reached the jetty area that was dotted with tankers lined up for God know what, and what looked like a shipyard with broken ships. Birdy led us to the end of the jetty area where a large flock of flamingos were frolicking. 

Flamingo watch isn't as simple as it sounds; that you just go there and you'll find flamingos. Early mornings are the best time. Make sure you go there during low tides, so that the birds have a place to stand on the mudflats without sea water gushing in. We watched the flamingos for a good hour and the trip was worth it. Then, the high tide came and drove all the birds away. 

Then, we went to the nearby Sewri fort. More flamingos were visible from here- I presume it was a different bunch than the one we had just seen at the jetty- but they were very far away. Two kittens captured everyone's attention and I think the kittens quite loved all the attention. We were finished with the trip at about 9:30 am and then Joel and I headed for breakfast at Cafe Mondegar. Two fried eggs (sunny side up) with bacon, two glasses of orange juice, and toast was a lovely way to wrap up a wonderful outing.

 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Air-Cool is back

Thank heavens that Air-Cool- my hair saloon- has reopened. Arguably the best hair saloon this side of the town (Churchgate, Mumbai), it reopened after a hiatus of more than two months. In December 2014, it abruptly shut down its shop as I was told their lease ran out. Now they're back and have relocated at the Asiatic store, opposite Churchgate station. 

To me, Air-Cool is not just any barber. It's like a factory in there. Barbers in clean white and black uniforms, neatly attired go about doing their jobs professionally. They have speed yet most of them are quite good at what they do. Waiting time is usually minimal. Interiors are very simple, yet they look classy. There's the instrumental music being played in the background; always instrumental and not at al loud. All the barbers are assigned numbers. The one who I go to is No.4. 

Simple guy who always welcomes you with a smile, he cuts hair like he's been doing for centuries. I like my cut to be simple. I am a bit old - fashioned when it comes to getting a hair cut. I hate electric razors. I make it very clear to them that I must not be subjected to an electric razor. The other temporary hair dresser I was going to these past two months prefers to use electric razors. I just feel those barbers who use electric razors aren't so great at their craft. That's short-cut, in my books. 

Anyways, all's well that ends well. I hope Air-Cool doesn't have to shift in a hundred years now.  

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