Goa – Resort Life

Sep-Oct 2018

I loved the traditional architecture and styling of the resort – the roof, the wood look, the central courtyards with banyan trees and the numerous little decorative pools that dot the place. I liked how the bathrooms opened up into the room, creating an open living space separated only by movable wooden screens. The rooms smelled very relaxing too. The infinity pool was smaller than expected but go early when no one is around and it’s an absolute delight to swim, laze and pose in. The paddy fields that the infinity pool overlooked were very underwhelming but step out of the property and you are instantly transported into rural idyllic.

One must not make grand plans with four kids around, three of them just turning/turned ones. Breakfast ran into lunch. A short swim is squeezed between naps and before you know it the sun had set. The day did have its highlight – the spa at the property is simply wonderful. Mystical! Magical! Just like a spa should be.  From the ambiance to the treatment, everything was spot on. I loved everything from my scrub to the beautiful private outdoor shower. Perfect.  The night came with its own devious plans.  My brother indulged me as always. Post dinner some recklessness was arranged for. Some opted in, the wise opted out. It’s been a while since the husband and I had some young adults only time and I enjoyed it. Company and conversation, chilling in the balcony on a balmy night with a fan to move air instead of climate control, and the mild irresponsibility involved. Did you even go to Goa if you didn’t do something reckless? But if all it leads to is insomnia, why bother! It was a disaster. Parents of little kids shouldn’t have to pay to just stay awake all night! ..and conveyance!!

A friendly lady at the resort saw me wearing the LO and pointed out that baby carriers didn’t seem very popular in India. Looking around I realized how wrong she was. The resort seems very popular with young families and almost every family was traveling with a nanny – a real human baby carrier. Early morning, the nannies would be out walking the babies, while the parents got some quality sleep. For a resort this popular with young families, the property and service were not very geared towards this audience. There were babies, toddlers and strollers everywhere but no ramps. There were paths to push strollers, but always with a few steps to navigate. The elevator was out of order all three days we were there. Can you imagine walking up two flights each time carrying a baby, stroller and diaper bag? Room service was exceedingly slow. Hungry kids don’t like to wait.

As beautiful as the pool was, there was no ladder at the loungers, so you have to get out and walk all the way around if you need to answer your phone or check your belongings. The mini fridges didn’t do a good job chilling beer or keeping milk fresh. We ate at the breakfast and lunch buffets every day. The food was not something you would write home about. No sol kadi in any meal. Broke my heart! I can forgive you for not having pork vindaloo on the buffet; I’m an uncommitted vegan. But sol kadi?  Sol kadi is something I love and was looking forward to. It’s vegan to boot. Sorry, not impressed.

Overall, I was impressed by the styling but not by the service. It was not the luxury experience we were expecting, or had paid for. We had a wonderful time, but the resort had very little to do with it. By the way of recommendations, I highly recommend the spa on the property, if you are in the vicinity. I loved everything about it.

P.S: Others came back and said they needed a vacation from the vacation and sat with hot packs and compresses. I don’t know what they are talking about.

P.P.S: We bought a night of insomnia for good money + conveyance. It really wasn’t that bad. When was the last time you stayed up all night not feeling wretched and crochety? The next day we were awake and alert all day. We thought we would pass out when evening comes and sleep like the dead, but no. Looking back, I think we were meant to hit the party circuit. All our fault, we didn’t.

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Goa – The Susegad Life

September-October 2018

It’s too hot to go to the beach or the pool in the afternoon. It was spa day for the ladies yesterday, so the men go today. By the time they get back the LO has bitten her cousin in a fit of jealousy and he has scratched her face in rage. No one was hurt except their egos. Between all the napping and pooping and eating, time simply flies. It’s evening and it’s raining. No one wants to join me so I go for a walk in the rain by myself. Ekla chalo re.. It’s not a long walk, but it is a picturesque one. Coconut grooves and paddy fields dot the way.  The gray skies enhance the lushness of the rain soaked greens. The village around is steeped in content, tropical lassitude. The susegad life.

When I get back, the fam is getting out of the pool. The LO has a stuffed nose and is having trouble breathing, eating, sleeping so we keep her out of the pool. The husband and the LO are waking up after their early evening nap. It’s our last night in Goa. The ladies are not going to a silent disco on the beach. The men are not going to a casino. We are all going out to Martin’s Corner for dinner.  The place is something of a local legend. We make a night of it. Crazy as it sounds, it is possible. Drinking and eating with kids sleeping in strollers, carriers and our arms, we stretch the night out.

So, what have we learnt from this trip?

  1. It can be done
  2. Next time bring the nanny along

Goa – Fam-Jam

Amma   : “She has a fever. See how warm she is.”

Me         : “She just sleeps hot. She’ll be fine in sometime.”

Amma   : “There should be a thermometer somewhere in this house but I cannot find it.  Call the chemist and ask him to send one.”

I call both chemists but they don’t have the kind of thermometer I am looking for – digital, forehead reading.

Amma   : “Can you order it online?”

This was the perfect opportunity to teach Amma how to shop online. We order a thermometer… and find the one we were looking for at home. The LO’s body is back to normal temperature. She is still refusing to eat more than a few bites. She’s been doing that for a few days. My mother packs lunch for her and we are on our way to the airport. At the airport we meet the husband and one set of cousins. As we walk towards security, the husband says a security personal said we are going in only to have to come out. There’s going to be some drill. We still go in. I am wearing the LO. The lady at security asks me to take the baby out and put it in the scanner. I am flabbergasted. She means put the carrier through the luggage scanner. Once past security we buy some food and sit down to eat. Then we hear the siren. Everyone starts moving towards the gates. Sam insists the drill is only of employees. Travelers are not expected to participate. No amount of reasoning will get her to budge. Finally, a security personal comes to the food court and ushers us out.

We get on a bus and wait for two hours, after which we are taken back to landside. This means go through security again. Can you imagine the pandemonium!

Now we are joined by another piece of our crew. The whole lot of us reach Goa at the same time. The resort has a bus waiting for us. The last bit of our squad has already reached and beached. The day is lost, but the night is ours. After a loooong check-in, we head to our rooms, order food, eat, drink and crash. The bathrooms are clean and spacious enough to hold two cribs. The babies are temporarily moved in so that we can keep an eye on them without having to keep the lights and voices low.

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Goa – watch out!!

Mumbai – Culture Shock and Immersion

September-October 2018

Can your own culture give you a culture shock?

Does it count as cultural immersion if it is your own culture?

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It was the little one’s (LO) first ever visit to India. The day we landed in Bombay (Mumbai), we took our year-old daughter to see a Ganpati idol immersion procession. It is Hindu belief that once year, every year, the elephant headed god Ganesh or Ganpati visits earth for a period of eleven days. On the eleventh day he is sent off with great pomp. Ganpati idols worshiped over the past eleven days are immersed in water bodies. I grew up with this festivity. I have been a happy part of it, yet my first thought was that the noise and chaos might overwhelm our daughter. I thought the noise and general chaos might overwhelm our daughter, but she pushed my hands off her ears and danced. I thought I would be swept away, and she would be overwhelmed, but she was swept away, and I was a pleasently surprised. A couple of days later, we had a traditional Hindu prayer service to mark our daughter’s first birthday as per the Hindu calendar. The priest and the baby both did much better than expected. In fact, they were both champs. Not only did the priest actively include me in all the proceedings, he even pacified well-meaning relatives who tried to stop me. Our daughter dealt with the heat, smoke and attention overload like it was just another day.

The LO dealt with the sensory overload that is Mumbai like a pro. Her favourite pages in her little book on Mumbai are Ganpati Bappa (always gets a moriya out of her), Cricket (enthusiast clapping for Sachin cheers) and bad Bollywood songs (she even got her cousin hooked on to one of her favourites). Noisy toys that would have scared her back home were inspected with curiosity and accepted with equanimity. Our daughter dealt with the sensory overload that is Mumbai like a pro, but for me it was somewhat of a shock. I always thought it would be the other way around. Afterall, even after all these years, this was still home.  But coming back is never the same as not going. It’s not just everything around you, it is also about how much you have changed. That’s the real shock. Suddenly the streets look smaller, traffic seems worse, familiar faces look older, fewer people recognize you instantly, you recognize fewer people, you clutch your baby close and hope the auto rickshaw won’t overturn… There are good changes too – no more plastic bags. Change is natural, but what hurts is that the change has happened without you. I was stuck in a time warp. It was not exactly where I left. Sometimes it was a little ahead, sometimes way back in time. It took me an entire day to process everything. India can be overwhelming. Coming back, even more.

 

 

Anantya

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Anantya Resorts is an unusual choice for travelers. It’s not your regular beach vacation. It’s not the iconic backwaters of Kerala either. It is a tranquil spot hidden in the heart of the Kanyakumari district. Someone drew a line and decided that God’s this creation was not to be part of God’s own country, geographically speaking. So here it lies, on the Tamil Nadu side, among lush landscapes and in an idyllic setting. Getting here is a comfortable 2 hour car ride from Trivandrum airport. One cannot help but let the crowd of thoughts in the mind fade away with the city as the landscape gets greener and lusher with every passing Km.

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The resort is cozily nestled on the banks of Lake Chittar, amidst rubber plantations. The cottages and rooms emerge from the greenery, like they belong there. From the open doors, outdoor seating, hammocks, lily ponds and even the outdoor badminton court- it all has been beautifully laid out to blend seamlessly into its surroundings. The outdoor showers at the Siddhi Villa we stayed at were reminiscent of an age we have left behind. The ever smiling staff, always greet you when you pass by and are happy to assist with anything you might need.

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With an infinity pool that backs into the lake, cycles to explore the vast grounds, board games for the family, amazing Ayurvedic experiences to avail of, the resort has ample to accommodate tastes of a variety of people. We were a party of adults, grandparents, and children and there was not a person who was not at peace, doing something that they enjoyed. That harmony is the essence of Anantya.

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There is much to be enjoyed outside of Anantya as well. The plantation walk with knowledgeable staff who regaled us with stories and patiently answered questions was fantastic. The untouched forests surrounding the area have several walking/hiking trails which the staff are always happy to arrange upon request. There are cultural sites of interest that make very do able day trips with Anantya as your base. We were most content to enjoy all the resort had to offer- use the bicycles on the premises to cycle over to the Chittar Dam, walks through the plantations, nearby forest, unlimited pool play time and simply unwind for the 4 night, 3 days we were there. We made an exception and ventured out to visit the 6th century AD built Jain temple late one evening. The 800 step climb to the cave with views and music carried by the wind from afar alone was breathtaking.

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As nourished as our souls were, so were our stomachs. The chefs are top notch and able to whip up a whole variety of food. The buffet spreads and live tables were visual and culinary delights. The Kerala dishes, especially the fish were stand out winners with the adults, while the kids could never get enough of fresh hot south Indian fare like dosas, puttu and aapam. It would be an incomplete description if I did not mention the fantastic “Hot toddy” drink mixed by the bartender – a perfect companion to sultry south Indian winters.

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The term eco-lodge carries with it a responsibility towards nature and a promise of an experience that is immersive but not disruptive.  If you are looking to get away, find India outside what you know of India and the hashtags on pictures, to switch off and rejuvenate, this hidden gem of place is your spot.

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For bookings and other information: http://anantyaresorts.com/

 – Ragini Murugan – My dearest and very talented sister. Daydreamer, full time engineer, sometimes writer @www.ragzzmatazz.com.

Favorite hobby includes reading and being a mother.

 

Blast from the Past

 

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Today’s post is a blast from the past.When I was working in Delhi, I took my parents on a trip to Jaipur and Udaipur. Amma was keen on the architecture. They were flying in from Bombay. I was flying in from Delhi. Their flight landed before mine. I had reserved  rooms for us at heritage stays. When I reached the hotel, I found them having breakfast on the roof. The look on their faces when they saw me, was priceless. Their joy,  excitement, and pride was so evident that the German (I think) couple on the next table broke into smiles. “You must be their daughter.”, they divined.

Later the same friendly gentleman enquired,” Is he a strict father? Is he compelling you to get married?” ( or something on those lines). It was my turn to laugh.

Ahmedabad – The Night Food Market

April 2013

ahmedabad2At the end of the heritage walk, I took an autorickshaw back to The MG House. My *rickshawala recommended I get dinner at the nightly food market at Manek Chowk. Following his advise, I returned my audio-guide/walkman and took another *rickshaw straight to Manek Chowk. When I got there, the day stalls had packed up, hustle bustle of the (day) market had died down and the place looked deserted. I wondered if I had come to the right place. I asked a lone foodcart. “Just wait and watch.”, he laughed enigmatically. Sure enough, right in front of my eyes, the place began to transform. The day stalls were moved. Shop fronts morphed into street kitchens. Fires were lit, electric lights strung and lit, tables and chairs were set out; clang clang! bang bang! sizzle, smoke and the transformation was complete. I highly recommend you get here early so that you can see the magic happen.ahmedabad3The tantalizing aroma of street food filled the air. At first I was the only one there. I sat down and ordered a pav bhaji. Slowly, people started to trickle in and before I could finish eating the place was buzzing with life.

*autowala/rickshawala – auto-rickshaw driver