Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Unforgettable Trip Part 1: Pune-Delhi-Manali

The plan was ready for years, ppl were willing for ages but somehow we never took-off for the most awaited trip... But M (Do check out her Travelogue and awesome Blog) and I were as resolute as SRK was in MNIK to meet the President; we just had to do this before I started B-school.

“LEH-LADHAK we are coming..” on second thoughts now, it’s more like “Leh Ladhak we were coming”

Day 1:
AJ (who dropped out of the plan multiple times but finally stuck along with us like a hair on the soap) and I started from Pune by Durronto Express from Pune to Hazrat Nizamuddin, Delhi station. The journey was full of chaos thanks to the cranky kid in the coupe. AJ gave him dirty and nasty looks but to her and my dismay the kid was quite a fighter. The food took me back to hostel days when the food was insipid and slimy. Needless to say AJ was crestfallen as she wasn’t able to get her timely portions of food. We spent most time reading till a salesman (who I thought could teach ‘How to Sell’ at any top B school) conned AJ into buying a deck of playing cards for 90 freaking bucks. 52+3 pieces of paper for 90 Indian Rupees!! That was some serious business. So reading (I read ‘Indira, a biography of Indira Nehru Gandhi’), playing cards and cursing the cranky kid (at times his mom too) kept us busy and Delhi arrived at the wee hours of the day.

Day 2:
Growling stomachs and the scorching heat disarmed us from thinking straight and we took an auto for 300 bucks to travel the 10kms distance between us and delicious food. I do NOT regret it!

CM welcomed us in her typical no-hug-only-handshake fashion. We hugged her nonetheless. CM’s mom had made one of the best breakfasts I have ever devoured (this word will be overused in the following text, be warned) on; Aalo Bhaji and Parathas. Now that stomach was full, it was time to do the next favorite activity; actually I am not sure which was our MOST favorite activity; Sleeping or Eating?? It’s like choosing your favorite kid or choosing between Khwaja and Aarjeyaan. One just cannot pick one. So we slept till it was time for us to catch the bus from ISBT, Kishmiri Gate, Delhi.

We took a Metro from Patel Nagar to KishmiriGate with a stopover at Rajeev Chowk to shift from Blue Line to Red Line (or some jazz like that). The KishmiriGate Metro has an ISBT exit and the station is just a few strides away. ISBT was dilapidated and smelled as if there was a swimming pool of urine close by. But time did not allow us to go check that out!! Sigh!!
As I had earlier mentioned, or maybe I didn’t; we were supposed to travel in a group of 4 but SK cancelled on the 11th hour and just the trio was left to en… dure err… enjoy with each other… But 3 is an odd no. of ppl to travel with, not just mathematically, even logistically. The bus was a 2*2 and we were 3. CM was stranded on a seat and a CID kind of suspense was building up as to who will come next to her. I took it upon myself to find a female co-passenger for her and looked up with hopeful eyes only to find we were in a bus full of Honeymoon Couples. On a brighter side we were in company of love so to say but I requested many couples and none wanted to leave the sight of their newlywed! Only if it was a pensioner’s bus they would be queuing up to exchange seats with us!! I almost got one guy to move out of his seat when I heard a little mumble from his wife… ”No, I want to sit with you tonight!!” It was just a night long journey dudes… Oh wait..!! Makes sense!! I gave up my search once I had it all figured out.

The journey was uneventful except for AJ puked all night into a poly bag while CM and I slept peacefully. We reached Kullu at 8 AM. The drive from Kullu to Manali was so beautiful that even logs like us didn’t blink let alone sleep. The beautiful Beas River was flowing so gracefully that AJ even allegedly reported that it made her cry. That was a bit too much and she regrets confessing it to us for all the jokes we made. Kullu to Manali passed quickly absorbing the beauty of the river and listening to some exceptional oldie songs.

P.S: Forgot to mention we watched “Dabaaaang 1”; a lahori rendition of the original blockbuster. It was an experience in itself. We were only cranking to what lied ahead of us.

Day 3:
We got down at Manali station at 10 AM. We had made bookings with a Hotel but we decided to ditch that fella and look for a place to crash nearby. In a very classic “Bunty and Bubbly” con style, we got conned into taking a shithole called ‘Pawan Hotel’ near the station for 800 bucks. And when I say shithole I mean a shithole. It was room which could barely fit a bed and 2 chairs and we had to walk on our toes to move around. The sheets were polka dotted only that the dots were made by Cigarettes, the blankets… let me not talk about it... You get the idea, right!! Whatever the conditions, with be our unwavering love for sleep we spent the whole noon sleeping clinching to those godforsaken blankets!

The best discovery of the day was “Aasheiyan Hotel”. Its right on Mall road behind the Bus Stop. Aalo Paratha (aalo was our staple food thanks to CM), Aalo Bhaji, Chola Bhatura and Gobi Paratha…. (slurrrp!!) each dish outdoing the other!! We forgot the woes of Pawan such was the magic of this food.

Completely content, we began our search for ways to get to Leh. I was closely monitoring from Delhi. Manali to Leh always flashed in the garish RED as CLOSED. But we knew there were ways to get there rather we were hopeful rather too hopelessly. We visited more than 10 tour operators checking status of road, rates, possibility of reaching and timeline. Many completely dismissed the idea, some were sympathetic, few were daring enough to ‘smuggle’ us but overall the tone was towards the negative side. We were now coming in terms with reality… The dream Ladhak expedition might not happen. Ouch! It was too much to accept.

As we moved from one tour operator to another each kept mentoring we are just 3 and might need a couple more to hire a Sumo or something like that. Also, interestingly, each kept mentioning about 2 guys who visited them ‘just’ before us looking for company too. But we were destined to meet. And meet we did at Antrek “Wanda” Tours. I say ‘wanda’ not cos of their service but cos the lady at the office used this particular word so often that after a point all one could hear was ‘Wanda Wanda Wanda’. Wasn’t very encouraging, but we met these 2 guys there who were looking for company and seemed pretty good company to travel with. Our only criterion was to find ppl who can tolerate the Trio’s noise levels. They fit in well!! May be to their later regret, we couldn’t care less at that point in time. We were going to KEYLONG; it was mid way between Manali and Leh. Hope was still alive, we were bad at budgeting till that point in time though!!!

Happy and merry about the effort of visiting so many tour operators paying off so well we decided to treat ourselves with… what else… A grand DINNER!!! After the grand dinner at another must visit place called ‘Sher-e-Punjab’, we decided to sleep (yes, yet again as we planned to take off at 3 AM to Keylong).

P.S: We also visited Manali Carnival. For some reason a guy (allegedly a Marathi) kept calling it CarVInal. And as sophisticated as we are, we made jokes about it all the time and now we can pronounce Carnival only one way… Carnival!!
Come back for more on the Keylong trip and much more.I wil add pics as soon as I have ‘em.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

50 Days Pune

Pune… The city where I spent last 7 years... Yes, 7 long years… But looking back now, it seems like a very short time… Pune is home… It’s the place where I really ‘grew up’, where I learned and got many awesome things, a place which will always be special and I would want to come back again and again. But for now it’s time to move on and leave this city… for good, I guess.

I will be moving base to Boston, MA from 15th Aug to pursue a 2yr full time MBA at Babson College’s F.W Olin Graduate School of Business. This leaves me with my last 50 days in this lovely city. As much as I am sad about the fact of leaving, I don’t want to spend this time cribbing and crying… Instead I have decided to revisit all the great memories, places and ppl from last 7 yrs. While doing so I will keep a log of it here.

50 days and 50 posts... That’s my target… The posts will serve as an excellent memoir for me and might come handy to ppl who are new (even old) in Pune and looking to explore… There will be many personal references of course but I will definitely make an effort to keep it understandable without any prior knowledge. So here I begin the last 50 days before I scoot off…!!

Bon Voyage!!

I have created a new blog for this @

I will continue writing here for the next 50 days....!!!
Do visit!!