Aapnu Amdavad

Although Ahmedabad is just 2 hours away from Baroda, where I lived all my life till I was 18, I hadn’t really loved or for that matter, even explored Ahmedabad. I did obviously visit  Kankaria Lake, Sabarmati Ashram, the shaking minarets and the Rani ni Jaali on picnics or school excursions but I never really examined or studied the history of these places; I’d visited all these places before 2013 and my knowledge of history and culture was relatively limited then. I didn’t visit Ahmedabad much between 2013-2015. Moreover, since Baroda is quite cosmopolitan and Ahmedabad’s culture is known to be a singularly Gujarati culture, I never had the inclination to visit Ahmedabad and explore it. But my sister got a job in Ahmedabad last November and she took part in a lot of heritage walks there,after which she insisted that I visit Ahmedabad.

I’ve visited Ahmedabad thrice in the past 4 months and I’ve enjoyed each visit. There’s still a lot that I haven’t explored in Ahmedabad but whatever I’ve seen so far has exceeded my expectations. After visiting some of the best restaurants in Bombay, I’d set the bar for cafes and restaurants very high but I have to admit that I was quite impressed by most of the places I visited. Some of the best cafes and restaurants I’ve visited so far are:

  1. The Project Cafe:

I have to say that I give this place full marks for its interiors and exteriors; it is too pretty and extremely spacious. The concept of the place(it houses and displays the works of amateur,budding artists) is also quite unique and all the artwork on display is lovely! I visited it late in the afternoon so it was quite empty and I had one section all to myself. I ordered the stuffed mushrooms, the ginger lemon tea and the mocha mousse flan pastry. The quantity was satisfactory and the quality was also very good. The tea could be slightly better but  on the whole, the quality of food was fairly good. I sat there for a long time and read a book. This place gives out a calm, soothing vibe and is perfect for those who want to enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee in silence. While Baroda has pretty cafes, the food is quite average and so I loved that the Project Cafe struck a perfect chord between ambiance and food quality.IMG_20161223_170851IMG_20161223_161933IMG_20161223_162219IMG_20161223_162332IMG_20161223_154427899IMG_20161223_163801

2. Nautanki

I’d heard a lot about Nautanki and since it’s the only place in Ahmedabad that’s known for its application of molecular gastronomy to its dishes, my sister and I were very excited to visit it. I’d previously visited Masala Library in Bombay which was probably the first place in India to start molecular gastronomy so I had very high expectations. Unfortunately, Nautanki was pretty average in comparison to Masala Library, firstly since quite a few dishes seemed to be inspired from the dishes at Masala Library but weren’t as tasty as the latter. We ordered a chaat trolley which cost approximately 700 bucks and so we thought it’d be quite elaborate. The server brought the trolley to our table and made the chaat in front of us but it was just one chaat and even though the taste was pretty good, it didn’t seem to be worth the money. Their papad platter is good for a group of at least 4-6 people since it’s pretty big but then again, there isn’t any molecular gastronomy involved in the dish. The other dishes were also quite normal. On the whole, this place can be visited once but the food is ‘just good’, not exceptional or extraordinary. I’d personally prefer paying slightly more and having a meal at Masala Library.

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3) Huber and Holly:

Huber and Holly is extremely popular amongst people in Ahmedabad and although I visited it at 10:30 pm on a weekday, it was quite full. It serves everything but is well-known for its desserts. Their ice-creams are quite innovative and absolutely delicious! I’d love to visit it again and have a proper meal.IMG_20170222_230245_755

4) The Kettlery

Bombay has a lot of cafes that open up early in the morning but most of the cafes in Gujarat open post 11 in the morning. My sister and I wanted to go for breakfast and The Kettlery was one of the few options we had. It is a bungalow converted into a cafe. It is very beautiful and spacious. They have outdoor seating in one section of the first floor and on the terrace. Since it was quiet warm, we sat inside. This cafe also had a pretty impressive book collection and had I come alone, I would’ve picked up a book from the collection and read it. Their drinks menu is quite varied and they serve different types of hot and cold teas, coffees and coolers. Their food menu also has a lot of options. My sister ordered the spiced chai latte and I ordered the chamomile mint iced tea, both of which were delicious. We ordered the grilled cheese and veggie bagel; 3 days before this, I’d ordered a bagel sandwich in Baroda and it was disastrous since it wasn’t an actual bagel but a big bun with an aloo patty. I was not expecting too much from this bagel but it was absolutely authentic and very tasty. We also ordered a sachertorte which was delicious! The Kettlery exceeded my expectations and should not be missed!

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Chamomile mint iced tea

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I also visited Cafe Baraco and Nini’s Kitchen, both of which were good. Cafe Baraco serves a coffee called Cafe Baraco which is a cappuccino with a dash of cinnamon;it is heavenly and is definitely worth trying. Nini’s Kitchen has really good tandoori bharwan mushrooms, although the taste of mushrooms wasn’t as dominant as I had expected. Both these places were fairly decent.

I’ve always had an eye for unconventional places and although I earlier thought that Ahmedabad lacks such places, I saw a couple of really interesting places during my visits. I have an obsession with synagogues and I think they’re extremely pretty and grossly under-rated in India. When I found out that Ahmedabad has a synagogue and that it’s the only one in Gujarat, I decided that the first place on my priority list would be this. It’s located in the old city area and is pretty inconspicuous. Google hadn’t listed any visiting hours so when I landed there, it was locked and I was told by the nearby vendors that it opens after two hours. As I was about to leave, someone told me that the caretaker lives right behind the synagogue and he may open it. I tried to approach him and so I walked into the extremely dilapidated area behind the synagogue. While a tiny part of me was mad at myself for being so crazy, I thought that asking the caretaker to open the synagogue for me won’t be such a bad thing. Thankfully, he agreed and showed me the synagogue. Although very little efforts have been made to preserve it, it looked quite impressive and prayer meetings are still held there. I would definitely recommend a synagogue visit to anyone in Ahmedabad since it is a representative of a culture that isn’t very well-preserved in India but whatever little bit of the culture is preserved is beautiful, to say the least.

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A panorama shot taken inside the synagogue

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I also visitied the conflictorium, which is a museum of conflict. It has a record of some of the greatest social, cultural and political conflicts that have taken place in India and in its neighbouring countries. It is a participative museum because it requires the visitors to involve themselves in the study and experience of those conflicts. This is also situated in the old city and is housed in a bungalow that belonged to the first female hairdresser in Ahmedabad. One of my favourite exhibits in the museum consists of a large mirror on a table which has a photograph of the above-mentioned lady and a pair of scissors. The visitor is supposed to sit and hear a recording through headphones while looking at the mirror. The audio is recorded by the founder/owner of the museum. That exhibit is absolutely enlightening. My second favourite exhibit is the ‘sorry tree’ which has the suicide letter of Rohith Vemula written on a wall and a jar where you can write down something you’re sorry about. It may seem like a simple task, but once you accept your mistake on paper and apologize for the same, to no one in particular, it seems exceptionally relieving. This made me realize the importance of letting out one’s feelings through words; even if those words aren’t read by anyone, they benefit the writer because often, writing is like letting go, letting go of all that is binding you to something undesirable, scarring you and hurting you. The conflictorium is one place that I cannot aptly describe because it is an experience, an experience every Indian must have in today’s  turbulent times.

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Ahmedabad has surprised me with its diversity, intrigued me with its hidden gems and charmed me with its vibe that resembles a metropolitan city but also reminds one of a small town. I sometimes still feel that Ahmedabad is somehow ‘too Gujarati’ for someone like me.I don’t fit the stereotype of a Gujarati that many people hold; I often question the excessive noise pollution caused by Navratri, I like spicy food,I speak English quite well and my Gujarati is quite poor. Sometimes, when I sit alone in a cafe in Ahmedabad and hear people around me, all I hear is Gujarati words and sentences whereas I’m used to hearing a bunch of languages in Bombay and even Baroda, for that matter. But now, I’m fascinated by Ahmedabad because beneath this upper Gujarati layer, it holds within itself the traces of so many cultures that are waiting to be explored and appreciated. Earlier, I could never relate to the phrase ‘Aapnu Amdavad’. But now I can, because now Ahmedabad seems more open, more welcoming and more accepting. Now it seems like an Ahmedabad that is mine and yours, without any distinction.Now, it is, Aapnu Amdavad.

Padharo mhare desh!

I have to admit that I had my fair share of apprehensions before signing up for a tour organized by the nature club of my college. In my defence, only one friend of mine was interested and the idea of travelling and being chaperoned by teachers didn’t sound appealing to a rebel like me. But I decided to go on the trip anyway, because it was a tour of Rajasthan and it covered a lot of cities. I had previously visited Jaipur twice and I absolutely loved it so the sole intention with which I and my friend embarked on this tour was to see and experience the wonders of Rajasthan.

The lows- The group that we travelled with came on the trip just to click selfies and to eat the food they normally eat in all the hotels and to buy expensive things from the highly commercialized gift-shops outside all the places of interest. None of the people wanted to go to Chokhi Dhani, which is known for the delicious Rajasthani food and instead enjoyed the paneer ki sabzi and biryani that was provided daily. We weren’t allowed to explore a lot on our own and were expected to stick with the group.

The highs- My friend and I met two like-minded people on the trip, people who liked exploring and wanted to try different things and that was great. But the two things that mattered the most-the food and the places of interest were worth it. The food was exceptionally tasty and the places of interest were splendid, to say the least. Here’s a look at each city and its highlights:

1) Ranthambore/Sawai Madhopur:

Sawai Madhopur is known for Ranthambore National Park and its tigers; but I feel that the Ranthambore Fort is as good as the former. It’s quite big and although many efforts to maintain it have been taken, it has more or less retained its beauty. I really enjoyed climbing to the top and I was really impressed by the views from various points in the fort, but since this was the first fort we saw in a state that it known for its forts, I didn’t know that many more beautiful forts were awaiting me. On the whole, although the fort is not that great, it’s not so bad either. The national park, on the other hand, was quite a disappointment because we didn’t see any tigers and this also goes to show that the number of tigers is decreasing at an alarming rate and all efforts to prevent that are failing.

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Inside the fort
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The view from the Ranthambore fort
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The entrance to the fort
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This was the area that was allotted to the queen

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The top of the fort is flocked by monkeys
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Ranthambore

2) Jaipur:

I’d been to Jaipur twice before this trip and I was still looking forward to it. The ‘Pink city’ does live up to all the hype surrounding it. The Amer Fort is absolutely stunning and one of the best places I saw in the tour. The carvings on all the walls are so intricate and beautiful that one cannot help but gasp. The Hawa Mahal, the City Palace and Jantar Mantar are all very well-maintained and the museum in the city palace is extremely interesting and a must-visit for history lovers. The old city markets are must-visits for people who are looking for jhumkas, bandhani dupattas, jholas, mojdis and kurtas. Although almost everything is very cheap, I felt that the Hawa Mahal bazaar was cheaper than Bapu bazaar which is more famous. One can find jhumkas being sold near Amer Fort at very cheap prices but these bazaars have more variety. #KhanabadoshTravelTip-Some shopkeepers might charge high prices for bandhani and other dupattas by saying that it’s because of the quality, so please don’t fall for such gimmicks. The print kurtas sold in the bazaars are extremely VFM (There’s a shop at the junction of the first and second lane in Bapu bazaar that sells sleeveless kurtas for 150 and 3/4 sleeve kurtas for 200 and the quality of the kurtas is really good). But the one thing that one cannot miss in Jaipur is Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar or LMB as it is popularly known. My friend and I had to report back to our group and we had 25 minutes to go to LMB, eat and go back and at the risk of being scolded by the professors, we went to LMB and we were glad we did. Their pyaaz kachori and lassi were insanely tasty and worth all the haste! This place should not be missed. The next day, we ventured out by ourselves and went to Kailash ka Dhaba and ordered a Rajasthani thali which had Dal baati, churma, gatte ki sabzi, dal-chawal and roti, along with lassi. Let me clarify that I’m not a lassi lover but this trip made me one. The thali, again was fantastic and I would recommend Kailash da Dhaba in Hawa Mahal bazaar for the quick service, reasonable prices and yummy food.

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Amer Fort
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Thali at Kailash Da Dhaba
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Lassi and pyaaz kachori at LMB
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kulfi in hawa mahal bazaar
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Hawa Mahal
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City Palace
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Some of the souvenirs sold at Amer Fort
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Inside Amer Fort

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Inside Amer Fort

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3) Jaisalmer:

Before we reached Jaisalmer, we went through a terrifying train journey from Jaipur to Jaisalmer. I’d travelled in second class sleeper almost 10-12 times before but the crowd of people was never as bad as during this journey. As a result, we hardly slept during the night and when we tried to sleep, the cold kept us awake. So woke up quite cranky but all of that went away when we saw our campsite in Jaisalmer, 50 kilometers away from the city. It was very close to the sand dunes and we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and for once I was glad I didn’t have any mobile network. After recovering from the hangover that the train journey gave us, we went for a camel ride in the sand dunes. The whole experience took me back to my childhood. The camel ride made me squeal in delight like a young kid and once we reached the sand dunes, I played with the sand, something every kid loves to do but stops doing once he/she grows up. When I was a kid, my dad and I would make secret pathways in the sand and I made the same with a young girl in Jaisalmer. There, making that sand tunnel and watching the gorgeous sunset, that was one of the best parts of the trip. At night, we had a cultural evening under the stars, wherein dancers performed traditional Rajasthani dances and we were served a Rajasthani meal. It was quite enjoyable and later at night, we walked around the campsite and at one point, we took off our chappals and enjoyed the cold sand. I cannot express how simple yet satisfying that was.

The next morning, we left the campsite and went to the old city. The Jaisalmer fort is very unique because almost the entire city resides inside the fort. Grocery stores and restaurants are located inside the fort and yet, it hasn’t been contaminated by human habitation, it is still a delightful visual. The fort is golden-yellow in colour and quite beautiful. Next we went to Patwon ki Haveli. This is just one haveli, there are other havelis also but some of them have been infested by bees or termites and hence are not open to the public. The Patwon ki Haveli was quite beautiful. Every storey was more marvellous than the previous one and the roof has a beautiful view of the city. The havelis are located in the small by-lanes of the city and walking in these lanes gives one the true feel of Rajasthan. A lot of street shops sell different types of kachori near this area but I cannot vouch for the taste, although I’m pretty certain that it must be authentic.

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The sunset at the sand dunes in Jaisalmer

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Patwon ki haveli

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I randomly saw this door and loved it

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4) Jodhpur:

Jodhpur was the underdog of the tour. I wasn’t expecting much from Jodhpur since it’s not as popular as the other cities and relatively less written about. But it managed to surprise me and hold me in awe. The first place that we visited in Jodhpur was Jaswant Thada; it was beautiful. It is very well maintained and has some great views! We then went to Mehrangarh fort, which is one of the biggest forts in the state. It has a very good museum, which has an informative yet engaging display. A lot of films have been shot at this picturesque location. We also visited the Mandore garden, which was spread over a large area and is captivating.The Jodhpur Palace, however is a must-visit. Half of it is taken over by a hotel but the remaining part is converted into a museum and there’s also a vintage car museum which is a paradise for car-lovers. The view from the palace is so good and no picture can do justice to it.

As far as food is concerned, the area near the clock tower in Jodhpur is the place to be. Ajanta Sweet Home is well-known but it must be visited early or else the good stuff gets finished. We found a small shop behind the clock tower where we had mogar kachori, mava kachori, lassi and rabdi and all of them were great. The mava kachori is really sweet so people who do not have a sweet tooth should stay away from it. Pyaaz kachori can be found at Ajanta sweet home or Shahi samosa.

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inside Mandor park
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The entrance to Mehrangarh Fort
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Jaswant Thada
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Inside Jaswant Thada
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The view at the entrance of Jaswant Thada

 

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One of my favourite doors, inside Jaswant Thada
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Inside Mehrangarh Fort
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The coolest dude in Rajasthan
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The view from Mehrangarh Fort
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The palace at Jodhpur of which the right half is converted into a hotel and is not open to tourists
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mogar kachori(on the left), mava kachori (on the right), rabdi and lassi
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a panoramic view of the city, taken outside Jodhpur palace

 

5) Udaipur:

Udaipur was my favourite, out of all the cities we covered; and as clichéd as it may sound, I knew it was my favourite the moment I saw Fatehsagar lake.My boat ride in the lake was filled with feelings of amusement, awe and fascination. The places that followed were just as good, if not better. Saheliyon ki bari and its fountains amused me and I enjoyed it despite the crazy crowd. But the City palace took my breath away. I got major YJHD feels when I visited the palace and the views from the palace were breathtakingly beautiful. The palace also had some very pretty doors and I instantly fell in love with it. But the best part of our day in Udaipur was when we left the palace and were walking down towards the entrance and saw the beautiful sunset by the lake. The sky looked like a stunning canvas that was painted to perfection. #KhanabadoshTip- There’s a restaurant right outside the city palace and it has a great view of the lake. Since I was in a group and had to get back to the hotel, I couldn’t go there but I bet it’s worth visiting, just for the ambiance.

That night, for dinner, we decided to rebel against the authorities that were making us eat paneer and dal-chawal and went out for dinner. 1559 AD is one restaurant that I’d heard a lot about, from very reliable sources so we finalized it. It has a really soothing ambiance with Rajasthani music being played. There is indoor as well as outdoor seating and we chose the latter. The variety in the menu is impeccable. We ordered stir fried vegetables with rice and stuffed mushrooms. The quantity is worth mentioning and the portions are quite filling. I wouldn’t say that the food was wonderful but it wasn’t bad at all. All in all, 1559 AD is a place that should be visited once.

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Pichola lake
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The Udaipur palace
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The view of the city from the palace
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Inside the palace
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Fatehsagar Lake
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The view from Maharana Pratap Memorial
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Saheliyon ki Bari
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Saheliyon ki Bari
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It was the prince’s birthday when we visited it, this is a picture of the celebration
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banana caramel pudding
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Stir fried rice at 1559 AD

6) Mount Abu:

Mount Abu was one of the most fun places of our trip. It stood out because it had many hill station-like attractions- the countless ice-cream sellers, small shops selling souvenirs, cute cafes and street food stalls serving almost everything from dal baati to manchurian to pani-puri. I’d been told to visit Cafe Shikibo and try the orange hot chocolate. When we looked it up on TripAdvisor, it said that the place was right in the middle of the main market whereas they had shifted the cafe some time back (They’ve updated the address now). It’s still in the middle of the city only, but in the bylines. It is pretty spacious and I loved the ambiance which clearly shows how much thought has gone behind designing the whole place. The owner is very friendly and will even suggest you dishes. We ordered the orange hot chocolate, cheesy fries, a gingerbread cappuccino and a veg grilled sandwich. The cappuccino was good but I have a feeling that only those with experimental taste buds will like it. The sandwich and the fries were tasty but the orange hot chocolate was the showstopper. It was HEAVENLY! I would definitely recommend that to everybody. All in all, Cafe Shikibo is a place to be visited.

The next morning we went to the main market and had a breakfast that consisted of coffee, egg ghotala with bread and masala maggi, which was insanely satisfying. We then went for sightseeing, of which our first stop was the Dilwara temples. The temples are Jain temples,are made of marbles and are known for the intricate carvings. Now I have to say that for someone who’s just been to forts and palaces in the rest of Rajasthan, intricate carvings may sound very normal, but these carvings just blew me away and made the other places I’d seen seem like they’d been made by amateurs, in terms of the carvings. The temples are not allowed to be photographed and are very crowded but definitely worth a visit. After the Dilwara temples, we visited the Achalgarh temples which were badly maintained and were not as magnificent as the former; Achalgarh, can therefore, be skipped.

Our next destination was Guru-Shikhar, which is the highest point of the Aravalli range. My dad had told me that Guru Shikhar is something I should not miss and so I was incredibly excited for it. When we reached there, however, most of the people decided to give it a miss since it required some amount of climbing which they were not ready to do. Since I said that I will go there no matter what, a few people accompanied me. We climbed to Guru Shikhar in just 5 minutes! There is a Jain temple at the entrance which is quite well-maintained and after walking through it, we came out and were greeted by the spectacular view. It probably won’t compare to the views one might get in the Himalayas, it is probably one of the best in the state. I kind of felt bad for all the lazy bums who missed out on it because they didn’t want to climb such a short distance.

After leaving Guru-Shikhar with very high spirits, we went to the Brahma Kumaris Peace Park, where again, most of the people backed out because the idea of walking in a beautiful and clean garden made by one of the most famous spiritual organizations in India didn’t appeal to them! I went in with the same group of people that had accompanied me to Guru Shikhar, but I walked ahead of them since the Peace Park was so beautiful that I didn’t want to spoil my experience by engaging in conversation; it was that kind of moment that is best experienced in silence. One of the highlights of my walk was when I saw the playground within the park where adults were playing on swings and see-saws. They seemed so happy and seeing them made me realize that if we try, we can obtain happiness from things like swings, which we deem to be immature as soon as we grow up. The visual of that playground is something I will always remember and something that taught me that it is okay to relive my childhood. The entire park is beautiful and there is also a meditation room which I would definitely recommend because it elevated my mood. This place should not be missed and I’d suggested walking through the park in silence in order to appreciate its serenity. Silence is often under-rated, celebrate it.

P.S. Taking photographs is not allowed inside the Peace Park

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Softy ice-cream in the market
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Egg ghotala with bread
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cheesy and masala maggi in the market
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cheesy fries
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sandwich at Cafe Shikibo
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Cafe Shikibo
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Brahma Kumaris Peace Park

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A panoramic view from the top of Guru Shikhar
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Guru Shikhar as seen from the bottom
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Gingerbread coffee, orange hot chocolate and something else that one of my roommates ordered

Mount Abu was the last destination of our trip; we took a train back to Bombay from Abu Road Station. I came back with a lot of lessons 1) Going on a trip in a group, especially a college group, can be tricky when everyone has different interests 2) Not everyone is as excited about exploring as you are 3) Sometimes, you need to find a middle path and do your bit of exploring while adhering to the schedule at the same time. My friend, Delice and I made 2 new friends, who are our juniors in college, who we’d never met before; they also liked exploring like we did and we had a lot of fun venturing out on our own, away from the group! This was the first trip Delice and I took together and in the beginning it was difficult to be around each other the whole time, and while we did argue at times since she is incredibly talkative and I like being quiet at times, we managed to have a great trip because we didn’t let any of our arguments get out of control and more importantly, because we both love exploring and we rebelled against the whole group together. We’re definitely not going for a college trip again but we look forward to travelling together in the future.

Rajasthan is rich in culture, is incredibly diverse, each city has its own story to tell. But what I realized after this trip is that while most of the monuments in Rajasthan are worth visiting, some of the less celebrated monuments are the real gems: I would definitely put the Peace Park and Guru Shikhar above the Delwara Temples; Jaswant Thada and Mandore Park will linger in my mind longer than Mehrangarh Fort will and I think that Ranthambore and Ranthambore fort are slightly overrated and can be skipped. While Jaipur is richer in terms of history, Udaipur will be my favourite! I realized that travelling is about breaking free from the set schedule, exploring the unexplored, never underestimating the beauty of a place and being open to new experiences and lessons. I should mention at this point that Rajasthan has some of the prettiest, some of the most majestic and some of the simplest yet charming doors which will always stay with me.

The large number of foreigners who visited the place also made me wonder why we tend to underestimate the beauty of our nation. My father loves travelling but he doesn’t have a passport; he always told me that India is so vast and so beautiful that he wants to travel the whole country before venturing abroad. We plan trips abroad round the year and talk about the modernity that some of the global destinations boast of but do we fully appreciate the beauty that our country has? To find out why so many foreigners visit Rajasthan every year,go there once, dance to the folk songs, take in the grandeur of the forts and the beauty of the palaces, taste the food that is as delicious as it is varied, go on a camel safari and walk barefoot in the sand at night with the moon and stars to keep you company. Ek baar hi sahi, padharo mhare desh!

Atrangi yaari

I always thought that after a certain age, it is difficult to develop friendships that are based on zero judgement, mutual respect and acceptance; since it’s a common notion that bonds of friendship that develop in school are the only ones that last, my belief became stronger.I have a very close circle of school friends that have been with me through everything and so I thought it would be difficult to find friends in Bombay that would be as non-judgemental, as loving and as caring as my friends back home. Little did I know that I was wrong.

For the last two years, I stayed in a PG with 11 other girls. Luckily, I had a small room to myself, so I didn’t face a lot of problems when I moved. In my first year, I initially got along with all of the girls in the PG, but I became good friends with two of them: Medha and Aditi. They’re both poles apart- Medha is extremely diligent and focused while Aditi is opinionated and whimsical. What these two share, though, are values like respect for one’s privacy, perseverance and patience. I love exploring and trying out new restaurants, cafes & monuments;Aditi is a big foodie and loves travelling so my bucket list became hers and she became the first person who would come to my mind when I read about a play screening, a restaurant opening or a new Terribly Tiny Tale.  Medha, on the other hand, shared my love for old Hindi songs and Indo-Chinese food. We bonded over cheesy fries and “Urvashi Urvashi”. In my first year, the three of us were in separate rooms but in my second year, we shared a room, which brought us closer(not just physically!). Since I love exploring, we would fully utilize our Sundays by picking one area and exploring it. We had a Bandra day, a Powai day, a Fort day, a Mahakali caves day, a Byculla day and a Mandwa day trip wherein we would visit places of interest, eat good food, sit by the lake or the sea. One of the things I love about the two of them is that we don’t necessarily have to talk all the time. We understand and appreciate each other’s silences.

One of the things you learn while living with someone new is how to adjust. Since we were in different rooms in the first year, we didn’t have to adjust too much, but in our second year, we did. I sleep earlier than the two of them so they had to keep quiet. Medha studies regularly so we had to use our earphones. Aditi sometimes comes late from college and naps till the evening so we had to maintain silence. We often had to adjust when we had to dry our clothes since the three of us had one drying line in common. We couldn’t get our friends over when someone was ill or had an exam; we also spoke softly when someone was sleeping. These things seem very small but when it comes to making these small sacrifices, one often becomes very egoistic. I learned how to adjust and talk softly when someone was sleeping, how to use the bathroom and get ready without making noise, how to watch movies on my laptop at a very low volume and most of all, I learned that this process is mutual, and that if you find people who will sacrifice for you as much as you sacrifice for them, they are meant to stay and that is how life is.

I always refer to my school friends as my ‘bestfriends’ because for me, the word bestfriend means someone who will always be there for me, someone who won’t judge, someone who will always listen, someone who I can bare my heart to and someone will sacrifice for me, just the way I will. I’ve learned not to use the word bestfriend for too many people since it comes with a lot of insecurity, jealousy and expectations. When I came to Bombay though, I realized that it’s not how you label your friendship that matters. Medha, Aditi and I have never used the term bestfriend for each other, yet we’ve been there for each other, been each other’s pillars of support, seen each other through thick and thin, laughed and cried together, celebrated each other’s victories and divided each other’s sorrows. Medha was the one who comforted me when I lost a relative while I cried on Aditi’s shoulder the night I was at my lowest. They taught me that sometimes, it’s best to leave some bonds undefined. “Batane se behtar hai nibhana”

Although we’ve never expected a lot from each other and we’ve respected each other’s privacy, there have been times when I expected them to do something that they didn’t; but those instances didn’t change anything because I could talk to them when I felt something was wrong and sort it out with them. We have had tons of tiny arguments but we’ve never fought once. I feel that you may not be able to live with all your friends, but if you’re able to be friends with the people you live with, those are the bonds that are built on a solid foundation of trust, acceptance and love.

Aditi and Medha will graduate this year and move out of Bombay. I will also move to another PG. In order to mark the end of these amazing two years, the three of us decided to go on a weekend trip. We saw this link which said that an eco-resort named Avanti Kalagram in Mulshi(which is 30-45 mins from Pune) was the perfect getaway and that it was regularly visited by families and that there were a lot of trekking options nearby. We managed to convince our parents to let us visit the place and we hired a cab and went. Once we reached there, we had no signal on our phones, the place was deserted, there was nobody staying there that night except us, the staff consisted only of men, there were no phones in the rooms and the door of the balcony didn’t lock properly. There were only rocks there and the roads were too narrow; there was no route that we could trek on. We were alarmed and I immediately called my dad; I asked him if we should go to Pune since we felt Mulshi was unsafe and he told me to do the same. Since we had to go to Pune because the situation demanded that, we decided that we would be together that night, which was a Saturday. We let our cab go and went partying in our camping clothes and enjoyed a lot. The next morning, we separately went to meet friends and relatives in Pune and we came back in a bus. When I was in Mulshi, I was worried because things didn’t turn out as I had planned but that worry didn’t turn into fear because I knew that the three of us would be together and that we would get through it and even though the trip was definitely what we planned, the sense of security I experienced in that one moment reminded me of why we were  so close and why we decided to go on a trip in the first place.

The realization that they won’t be there with me next year broke my heart because they had become my Bombay survivals, my daily diaries; Aditi helped me aim for the stars while Medha helped me stay on the ground. I don’t know if I’ll ever label them as my ‘bestfriends’ but they’re both living examples of what friendship stands for- mutual respect, care, sacrifice and understanding. I’ll surely meet them soon but it will be very hard for any roommate to fill their shoes. What helps me though is the fact that both of them will be just a phone call away. They’ve made me realize that at any point in your life, you can find friends who will last a lifetime, if you’re willing to try; it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. They taught me that not everyone is your ‘bestfriend’ and not all friendships are built on expectations but the ones where you do things for the other person without expecting anything in return are the best ones. Which is why I feel that the person you live with in a new city is the one you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Before I end, here are a few of our happiest memories:

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Our first picture together
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a picture from our Fort exploration day, at Afghan church
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The end of our fort exploration at Marine Drive
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A random midnight visit to Natural’s and Amar Juice Centre after which we bought balloons because Medha came home very tired
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Mahakali Caves
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When we decided to plait our hair because we were too bored and we were missing school
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Our Powai exploration day
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When we stayed up till 4 am and talked about almost everything
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My 20th birthday
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Mandwa(We forced Aditi to smile)
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When our road trip to Mulshi began
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Partying in Poona!

I came to Bombay to study in a good college and explore the city but I realized that my so-called ‘exploration days’ would be incomplete without them. I’d like to quote Aisha from Wake up Sid at this point:

“Inn goals ko paane ki khushi tab hi mehsoos ho sakti hai jab unhe baatne ke liye koi saath ho”

If you have someone like this in your life, tell them how much they matter, tell them how much you love them. Unadulterated, non-judgemental bonds of friendship are rare these days. Cherish them. And as far as Aditi, Medha and I are concerned, we’ll always have each other!

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“Ho bin kahe, thehra tu har mod par, oh yaara, mere liye,

bhula tu khud ki dagar, oh yaara, mere liye,

har kadam, sang chali, teri yaari ,

Iss bedhangi duniya ke sangi hum na hote yaara, apni toh yaari atrangi hai re!

 

 

Ek cup coffee, please?

My elder sister has always loved strong coffee; when I say strong I mean the 3-sachets-in-a-cup level of strong! I had my first coffee at the age of 8 and I thought it  was very bitter because my sister made it that way. Since then, throughout my childhood and  early adolescence, I avoided coffee because I thought my sister’s way of making it was universal and that it was always that strong.

But my belief was shattered when I reached high school and embraced the saviour that Cafe Coffee Day was. CCD is the perfect place for all the teenagers who want to chill with their friends but are on a budget. Most of my family loved CCD and I instantly took to it. During 11th and 12th, I visited CCD 3-4 times a month and their tropical iceberg with whipped cream was my favourite beverage, although I did experiment with almost all the hot and cold coffees. The waitstaff know me and my friends personally since we’ve had  some of our most important life discussions there and I often go there alone and chat with my favourite waitress. Even today, when there’s no other decent place to go to (Baroda does have pretty cafes but most of them lack good coffee and food), my school friends and I go to CCD and stay there for hours and hours, talking, completing college assignments, planning birthdays, possible getaways and what not.

It was only when I came to Bombay that I stopped visiting CCD, since Bombay has so many good cafes that have great coffee and snacks. Pretty, cosy, hidden cafes are my weakness and I love trying new coffee places. In the past 1.5-2 years that I’ve been in Bombay, I’ve tried too many cafes and I’ve had my share of good coffees and bad coffees. Although I’m currently obsessed with health cafes, my loyalties will always lie with coffee places. Here’s a list of my favourite coffee places in Bombay:

  1. BAD Cafe, Pali Hill, Bandra:

I’d wanted to visit BAD since a long time and I’d read very good reviews about its coffee menu. They do not display their menu on Zomato and I’m accustomed to checking any place’s menu, carefully scrutinizing it and then visiting the place. But one evening, me and my roommate were eating dinner nearby and we decided to visit BAD and have some coffee and dessert and see whether this cafe was worth the hype or not. It’s located in the by-lanes of Pali Hill and is pretty huge. I loved the monochrome interiors, they gave the place a very welcoming vibe. The ambiance here is spot-on. We ordered a Cafe Bon Bon which consists of 30 ml condensed milk and a 60 ml espresso shot. This has to be the best coffee I’ve had in Bombay so far. The taste was bittersweet in the real sense and I couldn’t stop sipping it. Adding to the great taste was the fact that this place looks absolutely stunning at night. It is pricey but completely worth the money!

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This is how the coffee menu is kept
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This is how it looks!
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Look at the layers!
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Cafe Bon Bon with Flan

2. Bombay Coffee House, Linking Road, Bandra:

Bombay Coffee House is famous for its breakfast options and while its omelettes, croissants, baked beans and waffles do live up to the hype, its coffee is something that’s underrated. They have a good coffee menu, albeit not as elaborate as BAD’s. I went there to try their King’s breakfast which is more than enough for two people and is delicious! I ordered the Hazelnut cappuccino and my friend ordered the mocha. The mocha was good but the hazelnut cappuccino was heavenly and I was impressed because it’s tricky to get it right, since you need to be able to taste the caffeine as well as the hazelnut. BCH nailed this beverage by having a balanced taste of caffeine and hazelnut.

P.S. Their breakfast menu lives up to the hype and the other dishes are also pretty decent. You can try almost any snack with the coffee. They also have WiFi and plug-points so you can enjoy your coffee while catching up on assignments or unfinished work.

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Cafe Mocha to the left and Hazelnut Cappuccino to the right

3. Koinonia Coffee Roasters:

Koinonia stands out because it’s a place that serves only coffee; I repeat, ONLY COFFEE! It’s a tiny, cute cafe inside the the Chuim Village in Khar. It’s not very well-known since it opened just a couple of months back. It can seat barely 8-10 people but I have to say that within the limited space that they have, they’ve managed to beautify the cafe. Since their menu only has coffee, there are plenty of hot and cold coffees to choose from. I ordered the latte which was perfectly hot and soothing. They serve coffee with this cookie which was so delicious and it complimented the coffee to such an extent that I kept on taking small bites because I didn’t want to finish it. They don’t sell these cookies but do serve them with every cup of coffee so that’s an added incentive for having another cup of coffee. I could guess that the cookie was made from oats and had a hint of caramel.The coffee-makers here are extremely friendly and will even suggest you coffee according to your taste. I spontaneously visited this place today and had an even better experience! We ordered the cappuccino and the cortado, both of which were amazing! I like coffees that are strong but not extremely bitter and Koinonia’s coffees effortlessly fulfill this requirement. I’d definitely recommend this place.

P.S. They make their affogato with ice-cream from Bono Boutique Ice-cream and I can vouch for Bono Boutique’s taste, so ice-cream lovers should definitely give their affogato a try.

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Cafe latte
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The one on the left is the cappuccino and the one at the bottom is the cortado

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This is how the cafe looks from outside. It’s in one of the bylanes of Chuim Village

I don’t repeat a lot of places, but I’ve already repeated Bombay Coffee House  and Koinonia and I’ll surely be visiting the BAD very soon for I cannot wait to try the rest of their coffees. Having said that, I feel it is incomplete to write a coffee post without writing about the magic that filter coffee weaves (or rather filters!) Making good filter coffee is an art and the South-Indian cafes in Matunga and Sion and have perfected it. I absolutely love the filter coffee served at Ramashray and Cafe Madras and once in a while I’ll surely travel on a harbour line train to eat a South-Indian meal with filter coffee! But on  days when I feel like catching up with a friend over coffee,  reading a book or just stepping out alone, I know I’ll enter one of these welcoming cafes and ask the most pertinent question:

                                       “Ek cup coffee, please?”

Turning २०

Three months back, my roommate celebrated her 20th birthday. She wasn’t excited about it because a)she thought she hadn’t accomplished anything in life and b)she thought she was growing old,something people our age are afraid of. When she told me this, I rubbished it saying that she was overthinking. We went out and partied to bring in her 20th birthday and forgot all about it.

A week before my 20th birthday, I was feeling the same things. I certainly hadn’t accomplished much in life, I was going to turn 20 and I wasn’t really looking forward to this new decade which sends innumerable challenges your way- a declining social circle,graduation, jobs, packages and what not.Although the idea of partying my worries away sounded very appealing, I decided to take the road I’d never travelled.

I decided to spend my day doing things I’d never done before; I decided to do most of these things alone and I decided not to tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing till the end of the day. It was my solo-exploration day, as I triumphantly named it!

The first place I went to was Cat Cafe Studio, in Versova. A cat café is a theme café whose attraction is cats that can be watched and played with. In countries like Australia and Canada, many cat cafes can be found and visitors usually pay a fee to play with the cats and to drink coffee. I always wanted to visit Cat Cafe Studio since it’s the only one in India, but lack of company restrained me. So on my birthday, I finally made the visit,alone. The place is run by a group of cat-loving individuals who run a film production company; they’ve set up the cat cafe along with their office. It’s housed in one of the few bungalows that Bombay has and is really pretty. 30 cats and 2 dogs greeted me as I entered. I was given props to play with the cats. I absolutely enjoyed playing with them and speaking to the people working there. They don’t charge visitors for playing with cats, unless of course one wants coffee or tea(they have a small menu which consists of light snacks and some beverages).They even offer free Wi-fi so one can go there, chill with the cats and work there for hours at end. It’s way better than all the much-advertised co-working spaces that Bombay has. One thing that I loved was the fact that these guys bear all the expenses incurred in the maintenance and treatment of these cats. In a world where money is the greatest motivation and profit is on the mind of every individual, these guys selflessly spend their time and money is nurturing a cause they care so deeply about. It also made me question myself- what is it that I would spend so much time and money on, without expecting any materialistic returns? Do I even have a passion so great? Lesson no. 1- If you care deeply about something, pursue it, without any excuses-there’s always a way.

 

The second thing I wanted to do was have a meal on my own,which I’d never done before. We live in a social space where we pride ourselves on having more friends on Facebook and being a loner is uncool. But on my birthday, I decided to experience the joys of a meal by myself. I went to The Village Shop, a hidden gem in Bandra. This isn’t the fancy, glamourous part of Bandra. It is the old Bandra, the one which has narrow, small lanes and small houses. It is the one that provides the most unadulterated view of the sea with the least crowd. The Village Shop has some really good and healthy options on their menu; their interiors are very well done, they’ve used a lot of plants and the walls are also green in colour, which is why the place stands out as a completely green spot in the concrete jungle that the city is. Very few people know about it so there were hardly 4-5 customers. I placed my order, chose a spot where I was surrounded by plants and had a great view of the sea. I took out a book, ate my food and sat there for nearly 2 hours(I normally finish a meal with a group in an hour).The food was delightfully tasty and the iced tea that I ordered had a hint of jaggery, which other places don’t use;it blended really well with the other ingredients of the drink. I thought having a meal by myself would make me feel lonely; on the contrary, I’d never felt more complete.I didn’t have to rush, didn’t have to worry about eating fast or slow, didn’t have to compromise on my order because of a group. After paying the bill, I walked through those lanes and reached one end of the road which joins Carter Road, I saw the sea and felt at peace with myself. Lesson no. 2- Try spending time with yourself, love your own company and always do your bit in making the world a greener and more beautiful place to live in. 

In the evening, I walked around in JVPD with a friend.carrying a bag of Parle-G packets in my hand. While a big garba celebration was going on inside a hall, the people sitting on the roads outside were making garlands with genda flowers to sustain their livelihood. I gave Parle-G packets to them, their kids and the watchman who was guarding the garba hall. When we were done distributing packets on that particular road,we sat in an auto. On our way, we saw some other street kids and I stopped to give them the rest of the biscuits. One of the girls, wasn’t really interested in the biscuits and was crying because her plastic bag was lost. I placed the biscuit packet in her hand but she was still crying. I knelt down, wiped her tears, opened the packet and fed her a biscuit. She stopped crying and I walked away with tears in my eyes.That was the only time in my life that I had tears of joy and I can safely say that I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. Lesson no. 3- Your birthday shouldn’t always be about yourself;sometimes the most fulfilling things in life are the ones you do for others.

The final thing I did was quite simple. My friend and I went to Silver Beach. For those who don’t live in Bombay,Silver Beach is an extension of Juhu Beach.Basically, the part of Juhu Beach other than the heavily crowded part is called Silver Beach. I took off my chappals and ran towards the water. I jumped, I splashed and I just stood there,embracing the water and the beach. As simple as it sounds. the satisfaction this gave me was unparalleled. Lesson no. 4-No matter how old you get, you can always do certain things and the best things in life are free of cost, yet priceless.  

My 20th birthday made me realize that birthdays aren’t always about partying and getting gifts or even about being carefree. Birthdays are about welcoming age and wisdom, about learning to let go, about enjoying the simpler things in life and doing something good for others. I still love going to parties,dancing and enjoying, but my birthday taught me that there’s more to life. My birthday taught me the importance of values like compassion, independence and selflessness. Here I’d like to quote one of my favourite teachers from school, Mrs. Mary D’Souza-                                                                                                                                            “Ultimately, what matters, in life, in death and in eternity, are these values, not our achievements”

With that thought, I’d like to end this LONG post by admitting that I’m looking forward to a new decade in my life, one that will throw a lot of responsibilities and challenges at me, some of which will surely bog me down. But when they do, and when I feel really low, I know I’ll have a really good ‘solo-exploration’ day planned to remind me how beautiful life is. To everyone who’s afraid of growing old like I was, try finding at least one reason to look forward to and trust me, you’ll find plenty. Keep exploring, keep loving, keep living. Stay Khanabadosh and stay happy.

 

 

Bonjour, Baroda!

The food scene in Baroda has been developing gradually and a lot of cafes and restaurants have been popping up. As the audience for cuisines such as Thai, Arabian and African has increased, so have the places offering the same. Although the authenticity of the food that some of these places serve is questionable, most of them have stayed true to their respective cultural roots and consequently have brought the world on a platter. This revolution that seemed to be taking place in the culinary scene in Baroda, however had remained limited,mainly because there was no explicit improvement in the area of desserts. The number of places that provide authentic and varied desserts can be counted on the fingers of just one hand! But with the opening of a French patisserie named L’amour last week, it seems that the Baroda’s dessert scene is no longer stagnant.

L’amour is located in the bylanes of Ellora Park, inside the lane next to Mr. Toasties. It is a small, pretty-looking establishment, which is quite welcoming. The ambiance is completely in congruence with the cuisine that the patisserie caters to,which is French desserts. A good ambiance plays a great role in attracting customers initially so I’ll give L’amour extra points for that.Another thing I was impressed by was the variety of desserts that they have. Shikha Chhikniwala, who runs this place, has come up with quite a lot of desserts and has given them all innovative names. You might happen to find a Barbie dessert or a Hazel and Gretel which will immediately take you back to your childhood days. I walked into L’amour on its very first day and it managed to attract me to itself once again.

Here’s my take on the desserts I tried

1)Salted caramel pastry:

Salted caramel is my latest obsession and I like my desserts to be full of it. I ordered the pastry on my first visit. The pastry is topped with a generous amount of cream which is absolutely delicious. I found the proportion of salted caramel to be quite less but the cream saved the dessert.

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2) Chocolate cupcakes:

So these guys were giving away complimentary cupcakes to all the visitors on the first day. These cupcakes were so delicious! In Baroda, we have a lot of places that serve Insta-worthy cupcakes but very few places serve cupcakes that one’s  stomach can really appreciate. The cupcakes were creamy but not as dominated by the cream as the salted caramel pastry was, so people who aren’t fond of cream will also enjoy this dessert.

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3) Hazel and Gretel:

I’ll give L’amour extra points for the innovative name itself. This dessert, as the name says, is dominated by hazelnut. It has different layers of hazelnut within it and it is perfect for those who hate extremely sweet desserts. It is also low on cream yet manages to woo one with the layers of hazelnut dacquoise.

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4) Salted caramel macaroons:

I had the aforementioned salted caramel pastry on my first visit and since I wasn’t satisfied with it, I wrote a review stating how it could’ve been better has there been more of the said ingredient. The next time I went there, Shikha had prepared salted caramel macaroons with plenty of salted caramel. This was my favourite dessert at L’amour. I couldn’t get enough of it. L’amour is one of the 2 places in Baroda that offer salted caramel macaroons and it absolutely nailed them.

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I wouldn’t say that all the items at L’amour were perfect, but it is one of the best places in Baroda at the moment. It has surely leveled up the dessert scene in Baroda. They make customized cakes as well as entremets that they serve on the counter. They also make new desserts daily; so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a fluffy cheesecake or a pumpkin spiced macaroon as you walk in. L’amour is a place where you can sample a macaroon or a cupcake or go wild with your choices and try a passion-fruit dessert(try it only if you like fruits in your desserts!) and have a relaxed time. From the looks of it, it seems like L’amour, with its fancy desserts and quaint interiors, is here to stay. Go there and try some of the best desserts Baroda has ever witnessed. Bonjour, Baroda!

#ट्रेनडिंगNow

There is no dearth of good places in Bombay where one can entertain one’s taste buds. There’s a new street stall, restaurant, pub or cafe at almost every corner. It would be great if we could try all of them but time and money are major restraints.Nonetheless,like Bunny from Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, we all wish like skipping the dal-chawal and having hakka noodles sometimes. And those select meals should be about more than just food, they should be about the experience and the memories that come along with it. So with that happy thought, I present to you my favourite restaurants for this month. Every place is #KhanabadoshVerified and you can be assured of an indelible memory

1)Farzi Cafe:

Many people refer to Farzi as ‘the affordable version’ of Masala Library,(owned by the same family) but there’s a lot more to it. Farzi here means an illusion; the makers have tried to modify Indian dishes and present them in such a way that it seems almost magical. The dishes are quite innovative and not very pricey. Another good thing is that it doesn’t look like a formal restaurant. Set in Kamala Mills, it is a place where one can enjoy great food with a relatively chilled out vibe. A special mention goes to their attention to detail and their presentation, be it the Mishti Doi shots or the candy floss paan.

Recommended-gucchi parmesan papad risotto, Baileys lollipop, Parle-G cheesecake

 

2) Smokehouse Deli:

This is one place I’d been wanting to go to since a long time. This all-day European restaurant attracted me towards itself one Sunday morning and it definitely did not disappoint. It has a vast menu and one can choose from a variety of options. It offers great breakfast choices as well. It has a vintage look to it and there were black-and-white pictures on all the tables, which was very intriguing. The soft music added to the feel-good atmosphere that the interiors provided. The food is slightly expensive, but quite tasty and the portions are reasonably good. I would definitely recommend this place, especially to fussy eaters who need many options to select from.

Recommended-assorted crostini(especially if in a group) any pasta(you can choose your own sauce,toppings and your own pasta, they have PLENTY of options), hazelnut mousse flan

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3) Gustoso:

Many people were disheartened when Pizza Metro Pizza shut down but the opening of Gustoso at the same spot lifted everyone’s spirits. This restaurant is slightly fancier than Pizza Metro and it is quite pricey but it guarantees authentic Italian food. The ambiance is cozy and welcoming. The service is top-notch and the staff is well-informed. It is a fine-dine restaurant, where you can enjoy a 3 course meal at ease.

Recommended-watermelon and feta salad, gnocchi(one of the best I’ve had in Bombay). arancini, panna cotta  and the tiramisu. The soups are pretty mediocre and can be skipped.

So next time you feel like taking your family out for dinner or catching up with friends over a meal or simply eating out, visit one of these places, kick back and have a great time. Even if you’ve never tried fusion food before or if the word Arancini scares you, give it a shot. Be a Khanabadosh for some time, I’m sure you’ll love it.