Postcard from Mumbai & Pune – 1

November 24, 2022

My wife, Jyothi, and I left Bangalore for Mumbai on Akasa Air, the new carrier launched by the late entrepreneur, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.

Akasa Air’s tagline is ‘It’s Your Sky’.

It appeared that a group of middle-aged and well-to-do tourists heading for a pilgrimage took the tagline quite literally.

It was such a boisterous group that no one else mattered to them. They kept switching seats even when the seat belt sign was on. They were exchanging stuff to eat, calling each other out loudly, and hitting fellow passengers as they lunged at each other in love. The crew was helpless and ended up cooperating with them.

Jyothi was getting riled up and I managed to prevail upon her to keep her cool knowing fully well that we could do effectively nothing in mid-air. In such situations, any opposition only further emboldens the group.

I knew that this too shall pass. After all, in a few minutes, we would land. We just needed to exercise restraint and patience. I didn’t want this experience to ruin our vacation and so I am not going to write anything more about it.

Ah! Mumbai!

My nephew, Ashok, came in his new BMW sedan to receive us at the airport. Ashok is a highly successful tech entrepreneur – his company is listed among the top companies in the world in that category.

Both Ashok and I have been very close to each other. When he was a child, I enjoyed playing with him, creating games to keep him entertained and satiate his curiosity especially when I spent weeks together at their home in Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), Karnataka. A lot of the games that I played with him were repeated for our son, Siddharth, when Sid was growing up.

Ashok was leaving for Singapore on the same night. He came to pick us up as that ride was the only time he would be able to spend with us. All along the ride, my memories with him came alive. As I watched him navigate the Mumbai traffic, I felt immensely proud of him. He has done so well for himself in all dimensions of Life.

Ashok’s wife, Mukti, was traveling and was expected back the following day. She is a CFO with an MNC. Their children – 10-year-old son, Ayaan, and 6-year-old daughter, Aanya, had not yet returned from school.

Our son, Siddharth, had flown in from Cambridge, UK, to attend the wedding in Pune.

@home in Mumbai

We reached Ashok’s ‘celebrity home’ at Dadar. It is a very big apartment and very artistically done up.

We were received at the door by Bolt, their dog. Both Jyothi and Sid love dogs while I am a little iffy with them – not their fault though! Bolt recognized Jyothi from her last trip to Ashok’s home. Both Sid and I were visiting Bolt’s home for the first time.

Bolt’s excitement was boundless. It was well reciprocated by Jyothi. Sid also indulged Bolt. I maintained a respectable distance from Bolt who empathized with me and reciprocated in equal measure. Throughout our stay there, Bolt was very playful with both Jyothi and Sid while he respectfully acknowledged my presence from a distance which I reciprocated.

Among other great features in Ashok’s home, he has placed his grandfather’s (my father’s) Rolleicord camera in a prominent place. My father was a great amateur B&W photographer. When he traveled across Europe in the 60s, he was featured in an Italian newspaper. Ashok plans to add some pictures taken by his grandfather as a collage around the camera. A great idea to preserve memories!

Ayaan and Aanya returned home. Ayaan has grown up into a young man. He has also grown quieter – a sign of growing up! Among other things, Ayaan is a cricket buff and had returned from his cricket coaching session. Aanya speaks softly in a whisper. She decided to sleep with me and Jyothi at night. When a child chooses us, it means that we have been doing something right. What a privilege!

The next day was my birthday. Ashok had already ordered a Chocolate Cake before he left for Singapore.

We had delicious Poha at Ashok’s home for breakfast even as I was receiving birthday wishes via phone calls and messages. It is clear that social media has caused an explosion in our circle of ‘friends’. Whether it is our school or college friends or our immediate and expanded family or our work contacts over the decades or our other associations, we are now truly connected.

Mukti came home in the morning and ensured that everything was organized for us. She is ably supported at home by the silently-efficient duo, Deepali & Pranali. Mukti has trained them to perfection. As we sat down at the table, Mukti was mentioning how the duo has split its duties and assumed responsibilities. There is an unspoken hierarchy that exists between them – between the simpler, routine tasks and the more complex tasks involving quick decisions. The duo enjoys a perfect understanding. This was an example of effective teamwork.

Both Ayaan and Aanya are very busy in a good way. In addition to their school work, they pursue many other interests which take them to different classes held within the school or inside the Apartment Complex.

Birthday lunch

Mukti had booked a lunch table for three – Sid, Jyothi & me – at Ishaara Restaurant. On this occasion, we were sorely missing our daughter-in-law, Prerana. Anyway, the good news is that Prerana is coming to Bangalore in a few days’ time to attend another wedding in Mysore. We will get to meet her soon.

Ishaara is a special place. Their Mission statement and purpose are as follows:

‘Ishaara was born out of a deep desire to build an organization with a higher purpose. The ladies and gentlemen of our team talk with their hands and listen with their eyes.’

Most of Ishaara’s staff are hearing-impaired and also cannot speak. Their menu indicates the appropriate sign language to order food and drinks. Using sign language to communicate is a humbling experience. It tells us how woefully out of sync we can be with our own brethren on this planet. Anyway, wherever I got stuck, the waiter supported me. Just to be sure of the order, he would tick the item on the menu with a pen to ensure we were on the same page – pun unintended.

All of us miss Delhi food. Consequently, we ordered Dilli Papdi Chaat and Lahori Paneer Tikka as starters.

For the main course, we ordered Kashmiri Dum Aloo Roganjosh, Chennar Dalna, Butter Naan & Kulcha.

For dessert, we ordered Gajar Halwa Crumble.

The food was delectable. In about 45 minutes, it seemed as if we had gone on a whirlwind tour of Delhi and visited Daryaganj (Nandlal Dhaba), Pandara Road Market (Havemore Restaurant), and Jail Road (Deepak Vaishno Dhaba). Not sure if you guys are aware – foodies can actually travel places sitting at the dining table. Not sure if this is scientifically proven though!

It turned out to be a befitting lunch for my 62nd birthday.

PS: the picture of the Mumbai skyline in this post was shot by our son, Siddharth, from Ashok’s home.

Coming up next: The Chaat party with abundance as the theme, another cake-cutting ceremony, and off to Pune…

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