Postcard from Mumbai & Pune – 2

November 27, 2022

Continued from Postcard from Mumbai & Pune – 1…

Honestly, at Ishaara, I applied considerable restraint while ordering lunch as we had been promised Chaat for dinner at Jyothi’s aunt’s home. What was special was that a Chaat vendor was invited home to set up a Chaat Counter. The prospect of what this situation could lead to was unimaginable.

Vacation time is also family time

From Ishaara, Jyothi, Sid, and I headed to Jyothi’s aunt who lives alone. I got to know her routine. She has the self-confidence to run her life all alone. Of course, her daughter’s family lives close by.

What I admire in such senior citizens is the value they ascribe to hard work. Through their hard work, they find a purpose in their lives. Sometimes surrounding yourself with too much help or labor-saving gadgets frees up so much time that one begins to brood. Many of the senior citizens including my mother and my mother-in-law find meaning in keeping themselves occupied. I have realized that keeping their hands occupied keeps their mind occupied – a secret of spending old age productively and positively. A useful lesson for us too!

After enjoying a cup of authentic South Indian filter coffee, we headed to another aunt’s home. We spent some time with this aunt and her husband, and left for the adjacent building, to Jyothi’s third aunt’s home where the Chaat Counter was to be set up.

Just as we were entering Jyothi’s aunt’s home, our daughter-in-law, Prerana, called to wish me on my birthday. We had a great conversation.

After enjoying a warm welcome from Jyothi’s uncle, aunt, their children, and grandchildren, we settled down. Some more cousins of Jyothi were expected for the Chaat party.

Chaats and chats!

Rahul Gupta – with a Sachin Tendulkar voice – was the young man who had set up the Chaat Counter at Jyothi’s aunt’s home. Belonging to a family of Chaatwalas – his father and 2 of his brothers manage the family enterprise. He seemed excited to serve us. By the time Jyothi, Sid, and I reached, he was in preparation mode. He had already set up his stuff on a small table and was chopping a big bunch of coriander when we entered.

Before the round of Chaats began, we had delicious Vada-Paav from Gupta Vada-Paav, the Mumbai family’s favorite for years.  Amidst loud and friendly chatter including crosstalk in all directions, we had a variety of Chaats. There were 3 generations in the room and topics appealing to all the generations were being discussed.

Rahul Gupta came out with flying colors. He didn’t allow us to go overboard initially because he wanted each one of us to taste his special Dahi-Poori. It was good advice. All his creations were great and the Dahi-Poori was indeed special.

The gastronomical journey of the day ended with me cutting a Rasmalaai Birthday Cake and all of us rounding the session off with some Kulfi. We had a great time and returned to Ashok’s home.


We left for Pune the next day.

For Pune, Ashok had advised us to take a cab for a door-to-door pickup and drop. He had also recommended a stopover at Sunny Da Dhaba for lunch. We were driven by Shripad in a Swift Dzire. The ride was comfortable.

Using the GPS, we located Sunny Da Dhaba. It was a sprawling affair and a cross between a roadside Dhaba found in the Punjabi hinterland and a sophisticated urban highway eatery.

Punjabi food!

All of us love authentic Punjabi food. Sid, being at Cambridge, misses it the most while Jyothi and I miss it to a lesser degree as we are in Bangalore and authentic Punjabi food is not easy to find there.

We let Sid place the order. He loves Paneer in every avatar. Consequently, he ordered Paneer Tikka. He also ordered a dry Aloo Gobi Subji, Dal Makhani, and Butter Naan. As soon as the order was placed, the waiter came over and placed 2 bowls of pickles – Mango and Chili – and a bowl of Mint Chutney of paste-like consistency.

I was reminded of our road trip from New Delhi to Chandigarh where we were regularly interrupted by great eateries. The Pahalwan Veg Dhaba at Murthal is one such eatery. ‘Pahalwan’ means wrestler in English – the Dhaba’s name betrays the richness of the food served there. Obviously, it is not for the calorie-conscious. In fact, after lunch at the Pahalwan Dhaba, I have seen guests in various stages of consciousness. I was in a stupor as I dragged myself to the car.

In comparison, the food at Sunny Da Dhaba was less oily. The Butter Naan was super-soft. Sid loved his tender Paneer Tikka. The Dal and the Subji were authentic Punjabi but not very spicy. We took our time. After all, it was a vacation and a precious one at that as Sid was with us.


@home in Pune

We reached Satish and Kavitha’s home in Pune. Satish is Jyothi’s cousin. Shriya, their daughter is 11 years old. They also have a Golden Retriever named Zara.

We were in Pune to attend a dear family friend’s son’s wedding. Shashank, the groom, is a very dear friend of Sid which is why Sid was attending the wedding. In fact, Shashank and Sid are among a bunch of very thick friends and all of them were planning to attend the wedding. A friends’ reunion for old times’ sake was only to be expected.

Once we reached Satish & Kavitha’s home, Sid headed to his friends for his reunion while we decided to make ourselves at home. Kavitha happens to be my Chips-partner after we discovered our common craze for potato chips during a family visit to Dubai.

Kavitha’s home is very well-appointed and tastefully decorated. One of the principal features of their home is a gigantic – by any apartment’s standards – balcony. It is large enough to hold an informal get-together of about a dozen people.

Incidentally, I love balconies. I happen to spend most of my waking hours on the balcony at our home in Bangalore. I think, read, write, and eat sitting on our balcony. No wonder then that Kavitha quickly took me to their balcony as soon as we entered their home – my obsession with balconies seems to be quite well-known in the family.

Satish loves plants and takes a keen interest in them. At one end of the balcony, the plants are so arranged that the setting serves as a photo booth. During our stay at their home, we took several pictures there.

Shriya is growing up quickly. She is taking a keen interest in sports. Incidentally, while we were there, their team won a basketball championship and Shriya proudly brought a trophy home. I am sure she will bring more honor to our family.

Zara, their Golden Retriever, is monk-like. She spends her time ambling through the house. Unlike her peers, she is not one to overreact when she meets strangers like us or when she hears the doorbell ring.

When the doorbell rings, Zara is one who gently lifts her head, sizes up the situation, trusts her family to respond appropriately to the situation, and goes back to rest. Occasionally, I have seen her ambling towards the door, stopping a few feet away, allowing a family member to open the door, spotting the visitor at the door, and amble back to her place of rest. In a sense, she seems to be completely at peace, trusting the elements. In fact, I thought she was – borrowing from a popular book title – the monk who sold her ‘fur’rari – pun absolutely intended!

Ah! Reunion!

Meanwhile, we received a picture of Sid’s reunion with his friends. What was special about the picture was that the kids had recreated an old picture from almost 25 years ago. They had even tried posing in the same way. It was such a lovely gesture.

Rajesh, another cousin of Jyothi from Mumbai, and his wife, Meera, joined us in Pune. Together, we had a great time sitting on the balcony in the morning sun or at night sitting around some refreshments with old Hindi film songs and ghazals playing on the Saregama Caravan radio. Sid also joined us on one of the evenings. What a great time we had!

The next day, we headed to Wadeshwar at Baner for breakfast.

We tried their delicious Kothmir Vada, Sabudana Vada, Vada-Paav, Misal, and Thalipeeth with appropriate accompaniments. For us, Maharashtrian food is just awesome. We ended our breakfast with hot tea. On one of the days, Sangeeta, Kavitha’s specialist cook, made Pooran-Poli with Aamti.

We attended the Reception and the wedding of Shashank & Ayesha. The events were very well conducted and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I happened to meet ex-colleagues from two different organizations and split my time with them. We had so much to catch up on.

I also met one of my ex-colleagues, Ramesh, who happened to be in Pune. We met separately outside and had a great time. On the way back from the meeting to Kavitha’s home, I didn’t get an Uber. Ramesh offered to drop me on his two-wheeler. I was in my Veshti (Dhoti), having come to the meeting directly from the wedding hall. For the first time in my life, I sat on a two-wheeler sideways like a saree-clad pillion rider clutching the pillion holder hook on the scooter while clinging to my life. Just joking! Ramesh rode carefully and responsibly. Thank you, Ramesh!

After saying our goodbyes, Jyothi, Sid, and I headed back to Mumbai from Pune.

This time around, the driver’s name was Lakshman, a film cameraman, who drove a cab whenever he was out of film work. He showed me his cameraman ID rather proudly.

On the way, we stopped at Gurudas Cafe for some local eats and picked up some Lonavala Chikki from Maganlal’s outlet close by.

We were back in Ashok’s home.

Our vacation was drawing to a close.

On the penultimate day of our vacation, we had some shopping to do. Jyothi was visiting another cousin of hers and she was off to Matunga while Sid and I headed to the Phoenix Palladium Mall in Lower Parel.

At the mall, Sid and I had lunch at Punjab Grill. As can be expected, Sid ordered a Paneer Subji and I requested some Dal. We ordered Roomali Roti. I suspect Sid was hoarding a variety of authentic Punjabi flavors and tastes before he would head to Cambridge, UK, the following day. Punjab Grill did not disappoint us.

On the following day, while Sid flew to the UK, we took a flight to Bangalore and returned home.

Our Mumbai-Pune vacation was like a well-made Bollywood Masala movie – all the different elements in the right proportion and ending happily.

Only this one was for real.

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