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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Entries in India (66)


Great grandma visits and binge eating..

On our 5 day India trip, we managed to visit all great grandparents, thanks to some efficient auto rickshaws..

my maternal grandma is 90+ and her mind is very active. She is unable ot walk and she no longer asks me "when will my time come". she has been asking me that since my grandpa passed away almost 10 years ago. She has come to realize that no one knows.. and is now reading books to pass her time. She blessed us with all her heart!

San's grandparents are also pushing 90 and they are doing okay given their age. Walkers, hearing aids, etc. A slow methodical life and an approach of taking it one day at a time. Some lessons for San and me there.. Grandpa told me that till a few years ago he was doing yoga regularly including Nauli but now he is not able to. He is still active given his age and is a role model for all of us.

The best part was that they were the couple honored during my fathers sadhabhishgam as part of the "dhambati pooja" and given I was doing the pooja in proxy for my dad who could not bend down, it was a great honor! Will write a separate post on the function and what we did as part of it.. 

Then there was the eating in three places..

We went to watch Toy Story movie at the mall in 3D.. it has been some time since I saw anything in 3D given the massive headaches I get for days after watching any 3D movie.. but the kids wanted to go together somewhere and an Air conditioned theater was a good idea! After the movie the kids decided based on reviews that the best place that would accomodate everyones menu requests was Haven Sampoorna right near Phoenix mall in Velachery. It was an interesting place. I got my butter naan and side dishes and the kids who wanted pasta, got their pasta.. food was good. service was good. ambience was funny.. 

 Here is PIchchai Sundar with Sundar PIchchai... (kid you not, this was the photo right behind my chair)

you have no idea how many jokes I have to put up with ever since this guy became Google CEO. We are both the same age, went to similar schools and the same IIT coaching class in Chennai, think he also studied metallurgy, went to work for semi conductor companies ... I stayed in Semi and am traveling back and forth to Asia.. he moved to software and management..and probably has a lot of things going for him that I simply don't have or want.. but the jokes, they keep on coming.. So it was only fitting that I ended up below that photo! 

The sceond place we ate was Amethyst.. again nice ambience, relatively quiet and excellent food.. we went for evening coffee/ tea with San's cousin and brother's family who also happened to be visiting and ended up eating a lot of stuff..

The last place we went to was in Matsya in Adayar.. on a previous trip we had gone to another Matsya branch.. this was closer to where we stayed. It was also a nice place (we didnt take pictures). It was raining in Chennai that evening and we were all not our best when we got there. The funny thing with Ola/ Auto etc. is that they drop you off at the location but on the opposite side of the street and there is no way to cross over for a good kilometer either way! So we walked around a flyover for 25 minutes to get to the place. The dinner was great though. They had an amazing variety of dosas and cricket matches playing on 4 different TV's.. so I got to watch cricket and eat dosas.. 

That was pretty much all the activities we did outside of the function. 

Still waiting for photos from the function itself...

Missing San's maternal grandma who passed away recently as I write this post. We would always make a visit to see her as well. She passed away three months ago. 

Great grandparents are precious.. the way things are going, not a lot of kids get to see their great grandparents! 


You will be fine!

It has been 6 weeks since I stopped drinking water during Yoga class. When I started to give up water during class, thought that it was going to be incredibly difficult.

Over the last few weeks (did miss two weeks during travel) always thought that there will be that "one class" which would get me to run back to that water fountain outside the class. So far, so good.

Think my mind knows now that as long as there was a glass of water 30 minutes before class, everything will be fine a good 30 minutes after class is over. Like Mary Jarvis had predicted on the 18th of March..... "you will not die if you stop drinking water during class. you will be fine!"

This is like starting to drive a battery car for the first time. Initially you have range anxiety. You are not sure if you can go to a place and get back. There is always some variability on the mileage depending on how fast or slow you go locally, which in the Yoga room is equivalent to not giving every pose a 100% in a stupid attempt to "conserve sweating" which is actually counter productive. You know there is no "nearest gas tank" where you can fill up and continue on a battery car.. Eventually when you get the hang of the routes you travel and know your speed, you stop having range anxiety. You know you will be fine. 

What is the worse that can happen? you stop on the side of the road and have to call AAA? You are exhausted on the yoga mat and the teacher has to drag you out by your feet? (well, that has not happened to me yet... but a teacher did joke to a first timer that they should always have their feet towards the door during class and when asked why, replied "that is in case you die here and we have to drag your body out. it is easier feet first towards the door"... the teacher said it with a straight face and everyone burst out laughing)

It has been an interesting month. Two weeks in Asia. First week on business trip, followed by a quick Chennai visit for my nephews "upananayanam" or "Janeu" ceremony. It was a great experience. I was the only one representing the four of us. My sister came as well and after four years my parents got to be in the same roof with all three kids even if it was only for three days. 

My sister and me with parents, while my brother is performing the ceremony on stage in the background. The photo of the five of us was not taken on my camera! So I have to wait for it...

Did manage to take a shot of my mom with all her siblings. The last time I managed that shot was in 2005 when my Grandfather got married to my grandma all over again at the age of 80!

13 years later my uncle has lost a lot of weight and looks like a concentration camp survivor and my mom and aunts have all put on weight and have some kind of health issue or another. They are all smiling and going about their lives and while that makes me happy, wish they would all take up some form of regular exercise. Was giving them the "never too late, never too old, never too sick..." spiel but it did not go very well. 

My grandma is still around and tack sharp!

As soon as I got back home, San and the little one went to India to represent the family at her cousins wedding. There was  no time to catch up on social media or do anything other than manage to go through the routine while getting over jet lag. Made it to Yoga almost every night after coming back, even if it meant going very late in the night. Hats off to all those single parents who come to Yoga class. Now I know why they pick the late night class. 

We had a lot of discussion during the India trip on the impact of my deciding to settle in the US, how time and space can be hard barriers, but how family still holds together thanks to culture and tradition etc. The thread ceremony marks a boy's commitment to learning the scriptures. My brother and myself had our ceremony at the same time and it was a big experience for me. Somehow the meaning of the word "responsibility" came into consciousness after that ceremony. Till then I was happy playing cricket with the boys and I-spy with the boys and girls in Sambandham street without any awareness of the fact that I was not going to be a kid forever. Glad there was a ceremony like that to slap you into life!

There is no such thing for girls and my mother was telling me that the next big function for me was Jr's wedding...

It was great to watch my nephew go through this experience and suddenly tansform into a big boy and start to learn.. with the Gayathri mantra! He has excellent pronunciation and hopefully he gets to improve his memory by reciting things by heart over time. If he keeps up the breathing exercise that is half the yoga done already!

Clicked this one right at the end of the function. The Narayanan family has successfully passed on a male tradition to the next generation! Looks like the boy has the weight of the world on his shoulders and he might as well have. Passing on a quest for learning and questioning and understandign go a long way to the betterment of the world. The most important thing one needs to learn is "how to learn". Everything follows.

Next will be time to pass on female traditions a few years from now..

I had an amazing time paticipating in a function after so many years in India, taking pictures, chatting with relatives, catching up, and most importantly playing with my nephew and niece. 

Instagram filters were a big hit with my niece.. every 10 minutes she would come to me and go "Periappa, doggie ears photo pannalamaa?"  Think we exhausted every filter..

During the INdia trip, I avoided a lot of things that are usual. Said no to "ghee" for the most part, restricted myself to "small portions" of food (as small as my mom would allow) and avoiding a lot of fried stuff. That actually made life easier after coming back. 

All said and done "I am fine!" as is the family.


Semmozhi Poonga (park) in Chennai

We were back in Chennai after our Amritsar trip. Had a full six days before I had to return to the US. It has been three years since I spent that may continuous days with parents and brother's family. Last two years, it has been a two days or three at the most, squeezed in at the end of business trips to Asia.

One day we decided to cool down at a local park called Semmozhi Poonga. We have visited this place as kids but not in its current form. The park is a great place for kids under 12 and older people who are still kids at heart. 

There were at least two dozen parrots that had made their home in the trees in the park and it was a treat to watch them. It was also great to watch the kids play together. Something we would like to see every day but have to wait for every three years..

The light during sunset combined with the greenery made for some perfect portrait backdrops..

and finally, sometimes the best photographs are the unplanned unposed for ones.. when you catch someone playing with kids and you happen to be standing far away with a telephoto lens trying to capture parrots, but capture something more magical instead! 

I did take what is possibly the best shot of my wife in recent memory. It does not go on this blog, but it is a note for everyone. Keep a telephoto handy and stay far away and you might end up with some memorable "people" pictures!

If you are in Chennai on a hot summer day, strongly recommend this park to take the kids to and have a fun time!


Sadda Pind - a great end to a great trip

The previous post on this series is here..

After a late, heavy and amazing lunch, we went shopping for clothes. There is a street in Amritsar where women can pick cloth, get measurements done for a "patiala" and get it delivered in 6 hours. This information should have been restricted from the ladies in our Van. Our tour guide/ driver who had to that point secured an A+ brought down his grade to a C by just disclosing this information and volunteering to drive there. The FIL and me knew what that meant and gave ourselves a nod "this guy's grade is coming down fast in the finals"!

So there we were Patiala shopping and after giving our hotel address, we decided it was time to get some rest in the hotel. There were two more places to visit. A rock garden and Sadda Pind, a cultural village that gave us a sneak peak of Punjabi village living (we visited a similar place in Rajastan called Choki Dhani three years ago and had some idea what to expect). We decided to skip the rock garden and go to Sadda Pind. 

It started raining on the way back to the hotel. By the time we were ready to leave, it was raining like crazy. We called the driver and he said "why don't we drive there anyways? the rain comes and goes. you might get lucky. worse case come back and eat in hotel". We were glad that we took his advice and went to Sadda Pind. A few mintues after we reached there, it was not even a drizzle and the skies cleared. We had an amazing time at this place. There was something for everyone!

Here are some pictures.



as you can tell from the photos, Jr. took the "I am going to try being a Punjabi girl for 3 hours" very seriously and posed for all the pictures and tried every activity available. Then there was an all you can eat dinner that was part of the ticket in a nice closed restaurant. The food was "heavy" and the roti's while not as buttery as the dhaba's earlier, were still thick.... 

Happened to catch Jr. eating and immediately got flashbacks from years ago. While editing photos for this blog post, got the deja(deja vu)vu's and found the old picture from this post for a comparison.. you can see not much has changed! 

and finally a video that captures more of the activities. There were a lot more things to do and see, but it was already 9 PM and we had to rush back to the hotel.. we had an early morning flight to catch and more importantly.. the Patialas would be arriving! 

Amritsar is cute. It is a great place to do this "trip within a trip" and you can pretty much cover everything in two days provided you have a good plan and are ready to walk a lot. The food is simply amazing and you come out happier than you went in! If you put on some weight, there is always the Patiala suits that can do some packaging magic to make Photoshop obsolete!

What more can you ask?

Strongly recommended as a vacation spot!

I have finally managed to finish blogging this part of the trip. Have two more posts to write about the India trip itself that are still in "draft". That does not seem to be a daunting task anymore!


Dhaba food in Amritsar

Previous post in series is here..

We were about to have a late lunch after a lot of walking all through the morning. Walked through Golden temple, Jallianwalah Bhag memorial, Durgiana temple, then Gobindgarh fort and finally lunch at 1:45 in the afternoon.

Have already mentioned our first taste of Dhaba food (La Roma Dhaba which serves Maggi noodles that is apt for its name and the Shudh Dhaba right outside Golden temple the previous evening).

There is something to be said about the butter Naan in these Dhaba's. Just like the Sikh's go bathe in the water around the golden temple and come out pure at heart to worship god, the naan's in these dhabas take a dip in pure butter (I am sure there is a butter lake somewhere in that kitchen) and come out ready to make the hungry taster see god. One minute you see a bunch of naan in a basket and the next minute it disappears.. have never seen the kids eat so fast in my life! 

For the afternoon lunch we went to Bharwan dhaba. This one just one upped the Shudh dhaba when it came to the butteriness of the butter naan! it was spicy, fatty and just plain yummy. If you want to die happy, make sure your last meal is at this dhaba! 

After being stuffed to the throat with food, the waiter came and asked us about dessert. We asked him what was special and he knew how to hit my weak spots.. He said "we have mutka kulfi" and "phirini, which is a local delicacy".. we said "okay bring it" and there was a fight for the items across the table. It was that good.

We did however restrict ourselves to some limited sweets so we could move on. The plan was to do some shopping for clothes for the ladies and then go for a break at the hotel and if weather permitted, go see Sadda Pind. We were up for an interesting last evening at Amritsar.