Some Impressions from my recent trip to Pune/Nasik
It was my first long journey (i.e. greater than an overnighter) in 8 years. Incidentally, the last time was also to Nasik , for my cousin Savita’s wedding. We got a compartment that was in the final stages of its working life. The cushioning was non-existent, the lighting was bad. To boot, we had day-trippers coming into the reserved compartment from early in the morning, so seating space was quite limited. Overall, not a very pleasurable experience.
The thing that really irritated me was how people continue to throw things out of the window. We had a Gujarati family sitting with us. Food, paper plates, plastic bags, water bottles, everything was fair game for chucking out of the window. There was a funny incident, where I had put our coffee cups under my seat for disposing at one of the stations. When they saw it, they immediately picked it up and chucked it out of the window. When will we learn not to litter? Not in my lifetime at least.
I had this memory of Pune being this charming small city, one of the best in India . No longer. It is as crowded as Bangalore and the roads are narrower still. Naturally, traffic is a problem, though the jams are not as bad as Bangalore . We managed to make it across the city (from Mundhwa to Kothrud) by car in around 40 minutes. This was at peak time, and could have been faster had the roads been better. That’s one area where Bangalore scores, the roads are much much better here.
Trip to Nasik
We took the Asiad bus to Nashik. The road to Nasik is not that bad, but because of the traffic and the frequent stoppages, it took us 5.5 hours to cover the 200 kilometers. We stopped at this really nice place called Daulat, midway to Nasik . It was a food mall, with a lot of variety, in clean surroundings and all at a reasonable price.
One more thing that I noticed were the many Reliance petrol bunks that were totally deserted. The reason is that prices at Reliance outlets are 3-4 rupees higher than the PSU outlets. Reliance being a public limited company cannot subsidise the way the government can. I’m sure that they would have invested crores of rupees that have now gone down the drain due to foolish government policies.
We spent most of the trip checking out the coverage of various mobile networks and ribbing my uncle (who works for Hutch) about the lack of coverage of Hutch at various points enroute. The coverage is almost continous all the way to Nasik . Further evidence of how much of a difference mobile telephony has made to life in India .
Panchavati is one of the places where Rama, Lakshmana and Sita stayed during their exile from Ayodhya. It would have been an idyllic spot in those days, full of trees and kissed by the mighty Godavari . Today, the Godavari is dammed and is little more than a gutter as it flows through. There are thousands of people everywhere, litter abounds and it is not a very pleasant experience.
We stayed at an ashram in Panchavati, called the Sankaracharya mutt. Though it was showing its age, the mutt was neat and well maintained. Since our stay was only a couple of nights, we didn’t mind the sleeping quarters or the toilets, but a longer stay would have left us yearning for the comforts of modern life. I’m all for traditions, but evolution is inevitable and I feel that we must embrace technological advances that make our lives better.
The function that we attended was a very simple one. It was to celebrate my uncle’s 60th birthday as well as the engagement of his son. His fiancé is from Ireland . She was noticeably overwhelmed by India , traffic, the number of family members who wanted to know everything about her etc, but was very nice about it.
In the evening, we went to a new temple that came up near Nasik on the banks of the Godavari . It was a very nice spot, with a mini waterfall.
One of the highlight of the trip. In Pune, my cousins took me to this roadside vendor in Koregaon Park , who makes chocolate sandwiches. It is basically chocolate and cheese toasted between two slices of bread. Over that, he puts Hershey’s syrup, more chocolate and finishes it off with chocolate gratings. The end product is truly worth traveling to Pune (My mouth waters as I write about it). My expectations of South Indian food in Nasik were minimal, but the cooks (from Dombivili) did full justice to the wonderful traditions of South Indian cuisine. Net result of all the eating (and no exercise): 1.5 kgs. I have to work extra hard over the next few days.
Check out some of the photos from the trip at my album site
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. It was very helpful for me to get some time away, which gave me an opportunity to do a lot of thinking about life in general. I am much more clearer in my priorities now and hope for a truly wonderful 2007!!!