Category Archives: Travel

Baby food in trains! Is it safe?

I remember whenever my sister travels in train with her two kids — one aged 11 and the other 2 — she carries with her a big bag of food supplies with her. It includes bread, thepla, biscuits, chikki, chocolates, some fruits, ceralac, milk, milk powder (just in case), juice, thermos and an electric kettle.

I won’t give my kids train food, she would say. She would carry one fresh meal like puri-sabji, and then use something from the above mentioned supplies till the time they reached their destination.

My mother-in-law once told me about the time their train got super-delayed and the small station where it was stuck at had no shops at all. Not expecting this 12-hour delay, she was not carrying any food with her, but my husband, then just a toddler, had to be fed! Kind co-passengers helped her with milk and bananas, and after that, she never leaves the house without food and water in her purse.

Rly Budget
Photo courtesy Railway Ministry’s twitter account.

So in Railway Budget 2016, it was annouced that trains will serve baby food and will have children’s food on regular menu. Also, baby boards will be there in the toilets. And I felt really happy that the Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu, thought of the hardships that traveling mothers go through. But when I spoke to some mothers, it turned out the Railways still has a long way to go…

Mothers, who travel with their babies, have welcomed the Railway Minister’s move to provide facilities like baby food and baby boards in trains, but expressed apprehensions about the quality of food.

“Mothers, who travel with their infants or babies, often have to carry a lot of food items for them, specially if the journey is long,” said homemaker Priya Mohan Kumar, who often travels to Kerala with her 3-year-old daughter. “However, I would not trust it, given the overall hygiene conditions of our trains and stations.”

Almost every mother whom I spoke to had the same apprehensions about the quality of baby food, something they would not want to compromise on.

“I think twice before eating the food meant for adults and purchase it only if there is absolutely no other option. How can I feed it to my baby?” was 27-year-old Rahi Gupte’s concern, who travels from Pune to Jammu at least thrice in a year with her two-year-old daughter.

However, recalling Railway Minister’s gesture of providing milk to a passenger who tweeted about there being no food for his child in the train, she lauded the minister for keeping parents travelling with babies in mind.

Rakhi Parsai, a public relations professional working in the city, said mothers are very particular about the quality and hygiene standards of the food provided. “The pantry of a train is not exactly clean. Even if the food is packaged, I would be doubtful about the quality unless it is a very branded company. I don’t even trust boiled water from the pantry,” she said.

Rachana Jain, mother of a four-year-old, said she would prefer to carry her own home-cooked food or baby food powders along with thermos and electric kettles. She, however, felt introduction of baby boards in the toilets will help mothers while changing a baby’s diaper or clothes, as it will give privacy from other passengers.

This story first appeared as a report in Sakal Times, Pune, and was later scaled down on the ‘seriousness level’ to make it blog-worthy! 😀 

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Why I like to shop from saree exhibitions rather than showrooms

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I felt possessed. I had never seen so many cottton sarees at one place. And what an amazing collection they had — something that would attract a grandma as well as young woman. I like to buy my sarees and contrasting blouse pieces from such exhibitions because –

  1. I am assured of authenticity of the product
  2. Handloom weavers and hand-dyed fabrics are a good buy anytime.
  3. I feel good that those who work hard to keep our Indian fabrics alive are getting a good price for it.

IMG_20160206_161816Broad borders, small borders, sarees in vibrant colours, sarees in simple hues, and every possible combination — you name it and it was there! The exhibition was organised by Dastkar Andhra Marketing Association. They have an online shop too! www.dacottonhandlooms.in

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I instantly became fida on their prices too. Sarees were ranged between Rs950 and Rs1,600 and while yardage — pure cotton and natural dyed ones — ranged from Rs120 to Rs250!

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The exhibition had a wide variety of yardage, sarees, dupattas and stoles from Andhra region. Fabrics like kalamkari, simple plain cotton, and khadi cotton were available. I bought four sarees for just Rs4,500. I have bought it for gifting, but I have my eye on them, so maybe they would end up becoming a part of my closet only!

Watching Ganga take its name, shape and flow at Devprayag

Devprayag, where Ganga gets its name.
Devprayag, where Ganga gets its name.

The clouds came out and the chill returned to the air! I secretly thanked all the Devs of Dev Bhoomi who seemed to have listened to my silent prayers. Yeah yeah, how selfish of me to wish for a cloudy-chilly day in April when most of Uttarakhand had just had a break from almost 6 months of winter.

It just happened that we had taken a short trip to Devprayag on one of the busiest weekends of 2015 and we were already cursing ourselves for carrying woollens. So a nip in the air that Saturday morning was a welcome relief!

The journey from Dehradun to Devprayag was a hot one (it had to be, we were wearing heavy jackets) but my husband’s smartphone had this app which said it is going to rain the entire weekend in Devprayag. But it was sunny and hot and sticky and we had no light clothes to last us for another two days.

The final product -- Ganga, as seen from our hotel balcony.
The final product — Ganga, as seen from our hotel balcony.

Hell we had even packed a rain-poncho and two umbrellas in our tiny backpack. We left Dehradun early on Day1 to reach Devprayag in time for breakfast. We had to first get to Rishikesh from where the road to Shivpuri (NH58) would take us further ahead to Devprayag. We also did not want to get in the way of the rafting-camping tourists from Delhi and Chandigarh. But we did get stuck for a while in Rishikesh — good thing we were on a bike, it lets you violate traffic rules like no other vehicle allows.

Devprayag is about 70 kilometres from Rishikesh, into the Shivalik hills, and is a pretty busy town when the pilgrimage season starts. The rush hadn’t started yet, so it was very peaceful there.

What is the big deal about Devprayag you say? This is where Ganga gets its name… No, that river originating near Gangotri is not Ganga. That is Bhagirathi, which people say is another name for Ganga. At Devprayag, Bhagirathi confluences with another noisy Himalayan river Alakananda, and the resulting river is called Ganga.

Bike ride!
Bike ride!

This was a spur-of-the-moment trip, so we had made no hotel reservations, thinking, “wahan jaake dekhi jayegi”. From the distance, we saw Ramkund Resorts that looked really expensive but had a killer view of the Sangam. And viola! We got a pretty good deal for having arrived there in the off-season time!

So we checked in and I kid you not, the Sangam (the confluence) was at stone throw distance from our balcony. Here’s the thing about this Sangam, the colour of the two rivers is quite different. Infact you can make out this difference for a good 500-600 metres after the meeting point of the two rivers. Bhagirathi is kind of green-blue in colour and quite energetic. Alakananda was a little muddy and seemed to have calmed down a bit.

The Bhagirathi-side of the Sangam.
The Bhagirathi-side of the Sangam.

Another interesting thing about these rivers is that the five tributaries of Ganga meet Alakananda at various other Prayags (Vishnuprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag and Rudraprayag) before meeting Bhagirathi here. So technically, Alaknanda should be called the source river of Ganga right? But it is infact a much smaller river Bhagirathi that gets all the credit! That’s now fair isn’t it, but I’ll leave the rivers to sort it out among themselves.

Devprayag is a tiny town, with narrow lanes that go up and down. It is impossible to get your bike inside those lanes (no, we didn’t even try). In the evening, we went for a stroll and covered all three hills on which Devprayag is spread out. I saw people walking up small paths that led to their houses (probably) that were located even higher up the hills! No wonder I did not find a single obese person there 🙂 .

At the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alakananda.
At the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alakananda.

At the Sangam, I went down to the ghats while my husband went out in search of an ATM. Apparently, ATMs there close by 7pm…funny how we have all become used to 24×7 ATMs.

At the ghats, I saw a couple of sadhus in meditating pose, among them a young lad trying to meditate but still ogling at all the women who passed by! Talk about 100% focus.

Oh and what fun we had gorging on lip-smacking food from the local dhabas! Aloo parantha, curry made of spring onion masala and the latest pahadi fast-food — Maggi! Of course on the second day I ended up with a terrible feeling in my stomach, but it was still worth it.

So having utilised the woolens as well, we left Devprayag on Sunday morning to return to Dehradun. It took us four hours to reach back home. On the way I saw numerous camps on the white sand beaches on the banks of Ganga. It indeed looked like a busy day for all the adventure sports outfit in Rishikesh. We squeezed past almost 4km of traffic jam near Rishikesh’s Laxman Jhula and reach home in the evening, completely fresh and energetic. Bring it on, we fear you not Monday morning blues!

On full moon night! Wish I had taken my camera along. This photo was taken with an iPhone.
On full moon night! Wish I had taken my camera along. This photo was taken with an iPhone.

Andaman Travelogues Part 2 – Food

Mouth Freshener anyone? The name on the packet itself freshened me up alright.
Mouth Freshener anyone? The name on the packet itself freshened me up alright.

When I started writing this blog post, I realised I should take some time out first to beat myself up. I am the ultimate blunder queen and it seems I have done it again. Here I am about to write about the delicious yummy food of the Andaman Islands, to tell you about the fresh seafood and local cuisine which I enjoyed there….and I suddenly realise my mistake.
During my 10-day visit to Port Blair and Havelock Island, I ate so much but never had to worry about putting on weight since we walked a lot! And since we walked a lot, we ate a lot too! And in the middle of all this walking and talking and eating, I forgot to click pictures of what I was eating.
I envy all those people out there who take a few moments out to click a picture of the food served on their plate before they dig in. I have always, well,… dug in. So please forgive me for not clicking pictures of Andaman’s glorious seafood. It was mouth-watering and you will just have to take my word for it. Except for these three photos here, and especially proud of the top picture.

No butter chicken please

Our first meal there, and  husband says, “Let’s have butter chicken.” I wanted to strangle him right there…we live in north India and all there is to eat there is Butter Chicken (and matter paneer and aloo gobhi). And I was not going to let Butter Chicken sabotage my culinary vacation. But I was surprised to see that most hotels’ menu were predominantly north Indian. As our guide Kuber later told me, Andaman’s food habits include many north Indian dishes. I was expecting it to be only seafood, but that was not the case. The seafood section of the menus in Port Blair was quite tiny and expensive. But we still made it a point to local food and snacks whenever we could.

Chana Bhel, a popular snack sold at beaches.
Chana Bhel, a popular snack sold at beaches.

Beach snacks

All the beaches in Andaman and Nicobar– at least the ones open to tourists– will have some small shops or vendors with a wicker basket where you can have light snacks. But in the midst of all those kurkure and chips packets, I could see bhel being sold by a couple of guys who were carrying a portable stand in which they stored the various ingredients of bhel.
They had a special variety, called Chana bhel, which had boiled black chana with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, a bit of thin sev and lots of shredded coconut with spices. They would roll up a paper into a cone and serve this bhel in it with a banana-leaf spoon. All for Rs30. It seems Bengal Gram is very popular here, as the boiled variety was served as chakna with drinks in local bars.
Another popular beach item is Kulfi. Just for Rs 20, a refreshing Kulfi would re-energise me for the long walks and ferry rides.
Of course, you would find the occasional restaurant that would serve south Indian items like Idli-Sambhar, Vada, Dosa, Uttapam etc.

Phish and Prawns
In terms of seafood, Havelock offered tremendous varieties of dishes. It has the best restaurants and in all budget ranges — from local stalls to boho-style restos — and unless specified, they all served fish and prawns dishes. Check out Fat Martin on Beach no.5 in Havelock, where I had the most awesome Grilled Tiger Prawns with Garlic Butter sauce. There are many other good eating joints there, like Anju Coco and Full Moon Cafe, that serve delicious continental seafood.

Coffee flavoured Panna Cotta with Chocolate sauce at B3.
Coffee flavoured Panna Cotta with Chocolate sauce at B3.

At the Havelock jetty, check out B3 — Barefoot Bar & Brassiere, I am so proud to say that the fish steak served with salad was an absolute delight. After finishing a good meal off with a cheesecake and panna cotta, there was only one thing left to do — sleep. Now B3 is an open air restaurant on situated on the first floor, and there is a constant breeze that caress you. A full tummy and a breeze is a heady mixture for us Indians, who love their afternoon nap. But obviously, B3 is not about to let us Indians go off to sleep on their long benches, not when there are people waiting for you to vacate that bench.
But I have to admit, we had the best meal in small dhabas where the local drivers and workers eat. We had this homely food twice- first on our way back from Jolly Buoy Island and the other time while returning from Baratang Island. Now there is fixed meal menu at such dhabas— steamed rice, with daal, sabji and papad. For non-vegetarians, sabji is accompanied by fish fry or fish curry. Oh by the way, did I mention that you can have unlimited rice and daal? (I love how multiple servings is called Unlimited in India.) And all this for mere Rs 100!
And later, quench your thirst with some coconut water. You will find many vendors who would open up a green coconut on the spot and slip in a straw. Once you are done drinking the water, they would crack it open and give it back so that you can eat the tender white coconut (called malai in Hindi). I asked a vendor, out of curiosity, what they do with all these empty coconut shells. He told me that they bury these shells with the purpose of making manure, which would be ready in an year’s time.

Andaman Travelogue Part 1

White sand, clear sky and pristine water! Thats Jolly Bouy Island for you.
White sand, clear sky and pristine water! That’s Jolly Buoy Island for you.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal has been on my “must visit” list for a long time. But recently, when I checked out pictures on social network of friends who visited that place, I grew a little sceptical.

The beautiful marine life full of corals and colourful fish. Wish I had a better picture!
The beautiful marine life full of corals and colourful fish. Wish I had a better picture!

It looked quite similar to Goa. Beaches and more beaches and … err nothing else. And then my husband went on to book a 10-day holiday in the Isles. I am so glad he did, because we got a chance to explore Andamans the way none of our friends have. This Union Territory is a natural paradise, relatively untouched and breath-taking beautiful.
A 3-4 day trip to the Isles is useless in my opinion. If you are gonna cross the Bay of Bengal to come all the way here, then you might as well stay for a minimum of 7 days…10 would be ideal. We stayed there for 10 days and thanks to an awesome guide, we had a very enriching experience of life on the island.
Just spending a couple of laid-back days in Havelock Islands is just not enough. The beaches there are stunning and incomparable. But that is not all this place has to offer. Get comfortable with the forests and various islands there. Each has a speciality, go explore that. The marine life is fantastic, but you need to see its beauty thoroughly in order to appreciate it. If you’ve done scuba diving at one spot, don’t think of yourself as a tees-mar-khan. Go for the cheaper option of snorkelling at every place where it is done, as every island has a different underwater charm.
Get a taste of the life here, eat the local seafood, travel in the ferries, indulge in some serious island hopping, explore the jungles, visit the museums (you heard me) to know more about the tribal since no one is allowed to meet them in person.
It took me 10 days to realise that tourists rarely have to worry about their stuff going missing from public places, even if you leave it unattended for sometime. Imagine the same situation in the mainland– specially in bigger cities, where the unattended bag would either get stolen, or trigger a bomb scare.

Sunset at Chidiya Tapu.

Just because I value the time you are wasting reading my blog, I am going to make it up to you. Here are some tips for your Andaman yatra:
1. Carry sunblock, loads of it.
2. You can hire a two wheeler (Motorcycle or Activa) in Port Blair for Rs1000 per day and in Havelock for Rs 350 per day. Bicycles are available for Rs200 per day. Negotiate during off-season.
3. In Havelock, try to arrange for accommodation in beach facing resorts, preferably on Beach No.5.
4. Motion-sickness and sea sickness can come as a rude shock for many. Carry medicines.
5. Enjoy the seafood, and the road-side dhabas will serve you the yummiest fish fry.
6. It is a very safe place for women. So do not hesitate in roaming around in shorts or noodle-straps, even if you are not on the beach. It can get hot, so wear loose and comfortable clothing.
7. I saw some women wear heels on trips where you are required to walk a lot in the wild. Seriously! You couldn’t find any flats or floaters?
8. Carry lots of photocopies of you photo ids. You will need to furnish those at booking counters of ferries and some check posts.
9. Confirm your ferry bookings at least a day in advance to check up on cancellation or change of time.
10. Sun sets early here (compared to rest of India) and shops shut early. So plan your day accordingly.

Rajasthani fabric designs

Rajasthan has such a wide and vibrant collection of textile designs and fabrics that is sure to leave a person bankrupt if his wife is left alone to shop! Too bad my husband didn’t realise that.
On a recent trip to Bikaner, I was accompanied by two friends on a shopping trip where our sole aim was to get some exquisite sarees, bed sheets and table covers. It took us three entire days to properly scan the old market area of the city and shop to our heart’s fill.
In sharp contrast to Rajasthan’s colourless topography, the fabric here is extremely vibrant and colourful. Craftsmen put in a lot of effort to get the designs and motifs onto the fabric and their hard work is evident in their product’s popularity.
Sanganeri fabric is the most common form of block printed cotton fabric in which wooden blocks are used to create some stunning motifs. Sanganeri prints on bed sheets and table covers are my personal favourite, though I would rarely let go of an opportunity to buy a Sanganeri saree.

Sadly, I couldn’t find good curtains with Sanganeri print. So I got this crazy idea of buying a nice Sanganeri saree, cutting off the pallu, and cutting the saree in half to make a set of two curtains. I, however, made the stupid mistake of saying this out aloud in front of the saree shop owner. He was scandalised to say the least! He went all musical on me, “Madem ji, aap saree ka parda banaoge? Itni acchi saree… aur uska parda!!??
I tried to calm him down, but I have a suspicion that from thereon, he was reluctantly showing me sarees, probably imagining me as a saree-slaughterer.

There we are, bringing every item off the shelf.
There we are, bringing every item off the shelf.

Now that we are talking about sarees, how can I not mention Bandhej and Leheriya? These sarees, mostly on chiffon, are a big hit among women, right from a humble village woman to the aristocratic royals.
Kota-doriya and supernet sarees also has a rich look and the best part is that they are quite pocket friendly. Where a chiffon Leheriya or Bandhej saree costs about Rs3000 (or Rs500 for synthetic machine printed ones), Kota-doriya or Supernet sarees’ cost starts from Rs1000 and goes up depending on the design and zari work on the border.
If you feel Sanganeri bed sheets are beautiful, then wait till you hear its price — trust me you will fall in love with the pricetag as well! Shelling out just Rs500 for a bed sheet-pillow cover set does not pinch the pocket at all! Have a look at these sarees and fabrics which I have posted below. The shopkeepers at Laxmi Sarees and Deepak Textiles in Bikaner were kind enough to let me click pics while we were all haggling for prices (women will be women).

Black Bandhej Saree, a rare colour in Rajasthan.
Black Bandhej Saree, a rare colour in Rajasthan.
Electric blue Bandhej Saree with a unique design.
Electric blue Bandhej Saree with a unique design.
Dual coloured Leheriya pattern
Dual coloured Leheriya pattern
Supernet Sarees with zari borders
Supernet Sarees with zari borders
Sanganeri printed table covers and bed sheets. These items usually come in a white-base fabric, but you can get it in pastel colours if you are lucky.
Sanganeri printed table covers and bed sheets. These items usually come in a white-base fabric, but you can get it in pastel colours if you are lucky.
A typical Indian patch-work bed cover which is made in Rajasthan.
A typical Indian patch-work bed cover which is made in Rajasthan.

Lunkaransar, the cotton county

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I find no other fabric as comfortable and durable as pure cotton, though it is a tough task to find the real thing among hoards of imposters. Many shopkeepers and fabric sellers would try to convince you that cotton-mix is same as pure cotton, and it is easy to get fooled by them. I learned identifying cotton fabrics from my mother, whose one look and touch was  all that was required to pass the judgement. She later took to another way — burning loose threads at the end of the fabric and determining whether it was cotton or synthetic based on what the ashes looked like. I am yet to come to that stage. 🙂

Many regions of India are known for its cotton weavers and high quality cotton made by them, and I was thrilled to be able to visit one such place.

On a recent trip to Bikaner in Rajasthan, I was told that a place called Lunkaransar, about an hour away on National Highway 15, supplys to some of my favourite clothing brands like FabIndia. So it wasn’t long before my husband and I were on our way to Lunkaransar.

A bit of research on the internet told me that weavers in Lunkaransar are promoted by Umrul and Vasundhara Grahmothan Samiti and it has been decades since weaving has become a source of additional income in this draught-hit area.

Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.
Cotton yardage I picked up form Lunkaransar.

So on National Highway 15, at the end of the salt lake and about 2 kms short of the Railway station, they have a tiny shop in front of a petrol pump and sell handmade cotton fabric, garments and embroidaried bags made by weavers of Lunkaransar. I saw the cotton yardage which they sell there which is of top quality (I can totally visualise them as kurtas in FabIndia or Anokhi) and was available for Rs120 per metre.

I bought a lot of stuff and my total bill was just Rs 1000 (me happy, husband super happy). I felt very good that weavers of this town would get a majority of what I spent today, especially when they really don’t get a fair price when their products are bought by multinational companies.

Two days later, Dastkar’s Facebook page had a piece of news about Lunkaransar’s weavers attending an entrepreneur’s workshop which taught them essential business skills. That is indeed a great step.

They could start with advertising about their Lunkaransar outlet in a better way — no need to spend a lot of money on it as all they would need to o is make a visually appealing Facebook page. They should choose a catchy name first as there is a lot of confusion among the tourists and outstation customers about this… is it Urmul or is it Vasundhara Gramhmothan Samiti? Tags on readymade garments say Urmul, but the sign board of their outlet says the latter in bold letters.

Also, they need to go beyond simply making kurtas and tops. Experimenting with other designs might bring out amazing results, like palazzo pants, skirts, light jackets or even long designer dresses with some fancy embroidery. So there, that’s all a user like me can think of at the moment. I leave the rest to professionals.

Ruskin Bond, the only reason why I love Mussoorie

We had his stories in our English textbooks in school, we have seen his stories being made into movies (Saat Khoon Maaf) and we every now and then, we see a new book written by him being released. Ruskin Bond, the legendary author who is loved by children (and grownups too :)) for his simple and heart-warming books, lives in the most crowded hill station Mussoorie.

Ruskin Bond
Ruskin Bond

Visiting any place which has been maligned by commercialisation and is always crowded with tourists is not something I like doing. But Mussoorie is different, simply because this adorable old man lives here. Every Saturday he patiently signs books and poses for photographs with many avid followers at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall Road.

I went there twice, once with my sister and nephew, and another time with my friend (who visited me in Dehradun just so that she can meet Mr Bond). That time, the store was crowded and I could barely get my copy of Maharani signed by him without falling on the stacks of books there.

I asked him whether he spends a lot of time with children to get inspiration to write books for them? “Being around children is the biggest distraction,” the Anglo-Indian writer said with a twinkle in his eye. “It is difficult to write two words when they are running around and making a lot of noise. So no, I try to stay away from them.”

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Ruskin Bond ‘bonding’ with his fans at the bookstore in Mussoorie

And the next time I met him, I wanted to know if he was reading any book at the moment. He seemed a little taken aback, “Reading…. or writing?” the 80-year-old author wanted to clarify. I said reading.

“Oh nothing at the moment. Last week I was reading the biography of Somerset Maugham. I like his books a lot, but after reading his biography, I don’t like this fellow anymore,” he added with a chuckle.

There were so many things I wanted to talk to him about, just wanted to sit there and chit-chat. But I don’t think famous authors have so much time to entertain such fantasies. So until next time then…

If you want to meet Ruskin Bond, drop by on any Saturday between 3pm and 5pm at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mall road. Nearest landmarks are Kalsang restaurant and Nirula’s Fast Food. If you want to check with the bookstore if Mr Bond is in town, then call up on 0135- 2632224 or  9837258801 and owner of the bookstore would happily let you know about Mr Bond’s availability that week.

Falling in love with Maharashtrian cuisine

Kanda Bhajji (Onion pakodas) served with hot garlic chutney at the Chiplun Bus Stand canteen.
Kanda Bhajji (Onion pakodas) served with hot garlic chutney at the Chiplun Bus Stand canteen.
Two tasty vada pavs for Rs 10? Yes, that is what I got in the passenger train from Chiplun to Khed.
Two tasty vada pavs for Rs 10? Yes, that is what I got in the passenger train from Chiplun to Khed.

It sounds strange, but inspite of being Maharashtrian, I hated Maharashtrian food as a child. I used to think my mom is making up names of dishes and trying to get us to eat tasteless stuff. At that time, food qualified as items which my classmates would bring in tiffin… nothing else.

But now, my vote for comfort food goes to Maharashtrian cuisine only. On a recent trip to Maharashtra, Mumbai and Konkan area to be specific, I had a chance to enjoy simple and nutritious vegetarian food, which was absolutely delicious. In north Indian cities, 70% of the menu at a vegetarian restaurant would be dominated by Paneer (cottage cheese) dishes. Which was why here it was so refreshing to see veg restaurants with NO PANEER at all.

They would serve stuff like kanda bhajji ( in pic), thaalipeeth, upma, solkadhi (which is a coconut milk-based drink), poha, usal, pakodas, vada pav, dosa, idli sambhar, misal pav, kacchi dabeli, Kolhapuri veggies etc. They add coconut and a pinch of sugar into almost everything they cook. And it tastes awesome. So if you are in that state, try out the local food, instead of searching for burgers and pizzas.