Look who's back!

12:25 PM

wind chime in Kasauli

I am back from my 10 days vacations. Back to a somewhat less hot but still monsoon free Mumbai. Back from a pleasurable family vacation to the Hill station of Kasauli and a short stay in Delhi afterward.

We all had a blast, but to be frank. I am glad to be back home, to my own bed, bathroom and a wardrobe instead of a messy suitcase. As I type this, I am still a bit tired from a less than comfortable train ride that first had us all start the night on the same berth due to the fact only one of our tickets got a confirmation. We managed to get an extra berth later, but a few hours of human Tetris got the best of all of us.

The train ride to Delhi was more pleasurable, and after a day of rest, my in-laws, nephew and us hit the road. It took us a couple of hours to reach this lesser known hill station that is between Chandigarh and Shimla. I don't have many pictures to show for it though, because most of the scenic point were within the Air Force Station and photography was prohibited.

But, we enjoyed a lot of cool fresh air, a few rain showers and a very peaceful stay in a cottage at the Barnala Estate. We stayed there in a home style accommodation, eating home cooked food and just really relaxing.

Ishita made a new doggy friend there as the dog belonging to whoever stays there decided to give her a lot of love and attention.
We stayed there 3 nights, and when we were not just plain old relaxing watching the rain fall (we had a few spells), we took on exploring the village itself (or is it a town). It has a small market area filled with monkeys and langurs. Which of course we're after the edibles. Both Ishita and her cousin were a bit scared of them and it was mommy/chachi to the rescue.

tibetan momos in Kasauli

The market was home to what I declared the best chicken momos I ever had. Juicy, flavourful, with chucks of chicken inside instead of ground meat. And at a super cheap price of 100 rupees for 10 momos! Seriously in Mumbai you are lucky if 6 somewhat edible ones cost you less than 200. Needless to say quite a few plates of these made it to the menu over the course of this stay. My MIL said the veg variant was quite awesome too. MIL and I ended up doing a bit of shopping alone as well as no one except Ishita was really interested in buying toilets and cheap jewellery.

And, before we knew it, we were back to the roasting heat of Delhi for the last few days. Call me crazy, but as hot as Delhi was, it was far more bearable than the soggy mess that is Mumbai in the Summer. So I was quite pleased with the trade.
Now I have high hopes that the monsoon will grace us before the end of this week. Week during which I have to get ready for back to school and a more regular blogging schedule.

So, how have you been all that time I was away?


  1. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Lucky you! What i love about hill stations is that there is absolutely zero need for sight seeing. The entire journey in itself is so breath taking and makes you feel so happy. Pics are great. Glad to know you had a nice time. Kasauli always reminds me of the famous bun samosa. I'm so badly craving a trip to the hills right now! Oh well.


    1. I love the exact same thing about trips to the hills, the car trip alone is sight seeing. Plus if you pick a nice hotel to stay in, you get a great scenery from your room itself. We spent a lot of time lazing around at the cottage since the weather was so pleasant. It's the perfect family quick escape. My in-laws who are in their 70's could enjoy it too. The most physical thing we did on that trip was climb the step up to the Hanuman temple in Manki Point inside the Air Force station premises. It was a bit though for them but we took plenty of time and breaks to climb up and down and all was fine.

    2. Anonymous4:47 PM

      The day you left for Delhi, there was heavy rain. I thought you are bringing rains with you. Alas, it was followed by humid heat. It is oscillating between dry heat and humid heat these days. I suggest next time you plan a trip to the hills visit the legendary Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu & Kashmir. Part trekking and part devotional trip and ofcourse the opportunity to seek the blessing of the goddess. They have ponies and carriages to carry people who can't walk or don't want to walk. All in all a pleasurable experience.

      Meanwhile, I have bought a car, the realization of a middle class dream. I means that in the eyes of others, we have moved up in life. We are prosperous lol. My mother had great desire for a car, but it never happened during her life time. So, it is all clutch, accelerator and brake for us now. It is small but packs a punch. Got to master it before the school opens as we would be extremely busy by then. Our scootie leaves us at the mercy of the weather and during heavy rain, fog or heat it becomes very difficult for the child.

      I found he steering wheel to be quiet and inappropriate contraction to control something as big as car. I am perhaps the only person who thinks that way. The car has so many controls and a round steering wheel that makes life difficult for the new driver. There are so many things to remember where to press the clutch, how to move the gears, too many things in busy traffic. In Delhi, the road is definitely the battle field where the delhi dweller fights for his ego. Then there are the what to do situations, which get messed up in your mind. Why don't they do away with gears and the steering wheel altogether?? I know that there are gearless cars but I wish someone can replace the steering wheel with something as simple as a scooter handle with all the gears and control at one place. Ever since the invention of the car, we are continuing with the same things, nobody would think of anything less cumbersome. You are forever fiddling with your legs and hand. Not cool at all. I guess I should sent my recommendations to all the car manufactures of the world? what say


    3. The mad traffic and law of the jungle on the road is the exact reason why I refuse to drive in Mumbai. I got my driving license at 19 in Switzerland after a year of practicing for the super though exam to get it. I used my mom's car as I didn't have the mean to afford one, even second hand and all the insurances and taxes that got with it.
      Automatic gear cars are more common in Europe now, but if you want to have a license that doesn't restric you to fearless you need to present yourself at your exam in a stick shift gear car. In India the automatic cars cost a whole lot more but sadly would be way more practical in cities. You'll get used to the stirring wheel, it is not that difficult :-) it just feels like it at first because you have to get used to so many things.

      We rarely use our car in Mumbai. We found out that taking Autos for short distance takes less time than in a car, and cost the same amount than petrol would using the car for that distance, and we don't have to worry about parking the car. So unless we go grocery shopping or buying something bulky, the car stays home. Something that a lot of people in Mumbai swear by. I noticed there is a whole lot more cars on the road in Delhi, and not surprisingly, Delhi is the most polluted City in India :-( but autos are nasty, the metro doesn't reach everywhere and there is no local train system, so I think it only makes sense for people to rely on their own car.

    4. Anonymous11:56 AM

      Have you take a ride in Delhi Metro? I has actually revolutionized the transport system in Delhi. Whoever thought that one can go from our colony in south west of delhi to Noida which lies at the periphery of Delhi. A trip by car or bus with innumerable traffic signals would be horrendous. The metro line is right in the middle of our colony and touches several sectors. It goes right upto to Noida and beyond. The only problem is it is a long line and prone to frequent technical snags but way better than rickety buses, I guess. Metro is building a line which connects all the major lines creating a sort of ring around Delhi. Then, it will be more accessible to the public at large.

      About pollution, Delhi has been declared the most polluted city of the world. It has also been reported that most children in Delhi develop what is known as "smoker's lung" without smoking cigarettes. Asthma is quiet widespread among children. Pollution has reached an alarming stage. Years ago Delhi Government took the decision of switching to CNG as fuel for buses which led to significant fall in pollution but with increase in vehicular traffic and population, it is back to square one. There is a ring rail system and there is talk of reviving it, but its stations are inaccessible and it remains unused.

      Mumbai is way civilized than Delhi I guess. Atleast, that's what I have heard. In Delhi more than traffic it is the north indian ego which causes problem. Murders for parking spaces is common. People carry sticks, bats etc. in their cars so that if there is a problem on road and the other guy attacks you with something, you should have something to protect yourself. In Delhi, physical fights are fairly common, it invariably happens. Police men too have been attacked. You never know who is carrying what,. The more resourceful have guns. Take you pick what you want to be hit with; helmet, brick, crowbar, cricket bat or the vehicle becomes the weapon. The people are all ticking time bombs ready to explode.

      Mumbai is way less aggressive. You should try driving sometimes. It is quiet empowering. When I started driving my scooty, I felt liberated. Indian traffic does look intimidating but when you are part of it, it does not feel that threatening. It is like a giant orchestra where everyone is playing their part, you just have to tune in to the music. Its about feel and sense.

      Parking the vehicle has also become a problem in our society because there are too many vehicles and less space. People have more than one car. The endless manoeuvring the car for the perfect parking is more troublesome than driving. When it is all about idea of movement and manoeuvring, steering wheel way more difficult and fuzzy than something as sturdy and accurate like a scooter handle.


    5. I took the metro in Delhi years ago when it's operation had just started, it was awesome.

      I really don't see the point of driving in Mumbai, because as I said, Autos cover the distance much faster in this mad traffic and for the price of petrol your car would need to do it. And I don't have to worry about parking at all, or Ben pay extra for said parking. And it spares me from uttering a few obscenities at the wheel, because I've never been a very calm person on the road. Law abiding yes, but with a potty mouth if the traffic frustrate me, and it did that a lot in Geneva, where of course the traffic is far less than it is here.
      The positive of me driving here would be that my daughter would pick up a whole lot of French swear words :-)

      And yes, Mumbai is a quite civilised and safe city compared to Delhi, or most of North India I would say. I still remember going to the mall in Lucknow, and see a guy with his huge rifle strapped accross his chest and strolling around and in the shops...if he has a gun, who else has? So much for security!

    6. Welcome back Cyn!
      I'm with you about the pointlessness of owning a car & driving while living in a big city. I think most Indians don't realize how much time westerners spend in their cars. When I lived & worked in California I had to drive 4 hrs daily commuting to & from work. Driving that much daily doesn't feel empowering, it is a boring, tedious chore.
      I know car ownership is a status symbol for most Indians but it really isn't anything exciting for westerners.
      Owning a car in a big city becomes a nuisance with parking, fuel, & maintenance issues. Taxis are cheap in India making owning one's own car not terribly cost effective. Driving in India is not worth the aggravation with traffic laws unenforced & all the unskilled drivers on the roads.
      Anyway, the monsoon finally started here in Nepal with a flash flood in our area. Water got within 2 metres of our front door. But it is cooler! Yay!

    7. In Switzerland Most people avoid taking the car if they live in cities because they make parking for free nearly impossible, it becomes cheaper using the already overpriced public transport. My mom and I had a system, because I worked in a countryside town about 20 minutes away from my place, I needed the car. The town was very poorly connected to the State public transport. !y mom worked in a suburban area about 10 minutes away by public transport from her place. So during the week I took the car, parked it in a parking that was free between 6pm and 6am accross from my building and would return it to her Friday night when I would often drop it at her place and then take the tramway downtown to meet friends or go watch a movie, straight after work. She needed the car on weekends to visit friends and go shopping while I would just use the public transports on these days.

      If the petrol wasn't costly enough, there are all the insurances and taxes related to owning a car that makes it something of a burden to own if you can do without. In Bangalore we used the car a bit more because the Auto drivers were a big pain in the ass. but even then it was way too much stress being stuck in traffic.

    8. Most Americans live in very spread out suburbs or large towns where you absolutely must have a car to get around & commute.
      However, if you live in the big, 'old' towns in the US that were established before cars took over like NYC and San Francisco having a car is more trouble than it is worth. I lived in San Francisco for 5 yrs when I went to university. Parking in SF is expensive & scarce so you walk, take a taxi, or most often take the MUNI (subway). This was a big change for me having grown up in the rural farm lands &vineyards of Sonoma county. Of course back then I thought it was quite glamorous & cosmopolitan to ride the subway.
      In Nepal there is a 250% 'luxury' tax on vehicles. That's right, a $10,000 car will end up costing you $35,000 in Nepal (license & registration are even more). I always laugh at these surveys comparing how much your dollar will buy in different countries estimating the 'cost of living'. Yes, a liter of gasoline here in Nepal is relatively inexpensive but if you have to pay 250% tax on a vehicle to put it in- the 'cost of living' really isn't that cheap.

    9. I heard that about the US. In Switzerland you can technically cover almost the whole country by public transports. We even have a big national pass that let you take the train, and all the regional bus service an unlimited amount of time, the pass used to cost about 3000 CHF a year and is now probably more than that. So by no mean a small expense but if you area regular railway commuter you can recover the cost in just a few months.

      Now while public transports will reach even remote areas, it is not convenient. Alpine regions mean you can go up to a rail station and will have to rely on the postal coach to reach small villages, and these coaches aren't frequent enough that you can just decide on a whim to hop on one. Same in Geneva, the city is well connected, so are the suburbs but it is a city State and countryside villages while connected to the city bus are connected to the frequency of about one bus every hour or hour and a half. Which means you need to plan your shopping trip downtown or your commute to work very well. So those living outside cities need cars, they become a gross inconvenience the instant you are in a city though.
      At one point my mom almost decided to sell her car and take the railway national pass instead as the cost of maintaining a car and paying all the taxes and insurances cost as much, if not more than travelling with that pass. She decided against it in the end because she is of that generation for who the car was the epitome of convenience and became affordable. Probably the way it is for many Indians nowaday.
      My generation is less hooked to cars, in the even of a big trip or a bulk shopping expedition we are more likely to check with our social circle to see who is game to go and who has a car so we can carpool. I did take my own mom's car to IKEA which at the time was out of town, but before I went I informed my friends of my plan so that they could tag along if they wanted to. Since my mom had a station wagon there was a lot of trunk space we could share and it felt almost criminal not to ask :-)

  2. Anonymous12:08 AM

    Glad you had a nice vacation, Cyn! It sounds like just what you needed. I also love mountains and all of the greenery, birds, and wildlife that go along with it. I find concrete, traffic and noise really stressful. It also looks like you're getting closer to the monsoon and the big cool off. I can't stand the humidity, either, and there are only a few months in the "winter" here in Florida when we can open the sliding glass doors and air out really well. Otherwise the air is just heavy and stagnant. I'm off my full-time school/work until the beginning of August and still work part-time, but I hope to relax and read a lot this summer.

    1. I love nature too, concrete jungles stress me out. The pervious building we were living I didn't offer much of a view and it really took its toll on my mood. The flat we are staying in, is garden facing and I have a lot of tall trees and lush greenery right outside my windows. As it is we live in an area of Mumbai that has a fair amount of greenery, it makes a big difference.

      Wishing you a relaxing Summer to come :-)


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