The traffic in our lives…

I am standing on the 14th floor in my friend’s apartment. I look out of the window. I can see the highway below, where cars and trucks are whizzing past, taking people and goods to various destinations.

Just behind the highway is a cycling track that is surrounded by lush greenery. People on the cycling track are enjoying the morning, the fresh air, and the feeling of goodness from all that exercise.

Beyond the cycling track is the ocean, where waves are beating against the shoreline. Boats and ships can be seen as mere specks from where I stand, bobbing gently on the water’s surface.

When I slide open the window a little, the sound of traffic is quite loud. Along with this noise, there comes a cool breeze that gently whips the hair around my face – so refreshing.

This is so much like our lives, where there is heavy traffic in our minds about chores, assignments and deadlines.

During some parts of the day we feel choked by the traffic; then again, when we are not so busy our life slows down a few notches, and we are on the cycling track, where we stop to enjoy life, where we focus on our goals and feel positive.

Then again, when the day winds down, we are at peace; we are in that in-between zone, where the day’s worries have gone, and tomorrow’s checklists haven’t invaded! A time when we are on the beach, enjoying the gentle breeze, rejuvenating ourselves and bonding with family!


Goli Soda on the Highway

Image courtesy - Wikipedia

A Goli Soda Bottle
Image courtesy – Wikipedia

The family is bundled into a mini-van. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles; with many backpacks and bags.

We are on a road trip to Tamilnadu, one of the southern states in the Indian sub-continent. The weather is hot and humid.

Our spirits are high, we sing in a raucous chorus, we repeat family jokes, catch up with each others’ lives since we last met, and then again, catch a few winks, as the van drones on the highway.

Our journey is punctuated by pitstops, all of which are focussed on recharging our stomachs with food and drink.

We stop in small towns for some freshly cut mangoes and guava. We stop to drink fresh sugarcane juice in some others, we carry back fresh corn cobs. Is it the company? Or the fact that we are relaxed? Our appetites are alive and clamouring for attention!

The Sun is high-up in the sky and despite the aircon, we feel the heat. The highway shines a metallic black, reflecting the heat.

Somebody shouts, “Let’s stop for a Goli soda”.

For those of you who don’t know – simply put, a ‘Goli Soda’ is soda in a thick green glass bottle, whose mouth is sealed by a marble (Goli), to keep the fizz from escaping.

The soda is usually available in lemon and orange flavours, and a few other local flavours.

The thrill in drinking the soda comes not so much from its taste as from the ritual of sending the Goli into the bottle with a hard thump on its head. The pop of the Goli as it succumbs to pressure and shoots into the bottle, is a treat to watch.

The small road side shop has an array of these bottles lined up, their green forms topped by cute Golis, glinting and glowing in the hot sun.

Soon the soda bottles are popped; and all of us enjoy our sodas – perfect to beat the heat.

Refreshed and rejuvenated, we are soon on our way, a few minutes away from the first stop in our 7-day road trip.

I recently heard that most Goli soda bottle manufacturers are closing shop. I feel sad to know they may not be available on our next road trip. These bottles have traditionally been recycled and reused….!

Yet another local product killed by global brands and switching customer loyalties.

Small things that gave us so much joy. Small bits of our childhood, that will only be preserved in our memories and in digital archives.

Street Food Stop on The Highway

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We are on the Mumbai-Pune highway. There is a nip in the air when we leave our hotel, but as we leave the outskirts of the city and hit the highway, the sun is bright and blinding.

Traffic is not too heavy at this early hour. The droning of the car on the highway lulls us into a semi-sleep, where one is in a state of hazy awareness.  Trucks whiz past carrying perishables, petrol, and all kinds of goods that people seem to require. The Radio jockey’s voice on the FM talks to us, modulating, sharing jokes and presenting the next song.

Once the sleep cycle is broken, I watch the lush greenery and the mountains. All trucks have a painted notice on their rear which say, ‘Horn OK Please’.

By the time I wonder what this means, we stop at a gas station in Lonavala, a hill station on the Western Ghats. The gas station also has an assortment of stalls, and vendors, selling street food.  Lonavala is famous for its ‘chikkis‘ (peanut candies), and we buy a few to take back home with us.

As we walk around to stretch our legs, my eyes catch a stall selling ‘Dabelis‘.  My mouth waters, as I eye them. My stomach is  full from the heavy breakfast I have already wolfed down.  However, my brain is ready to make more space to accommodate a ‘Dabeli‘. I mean, how could it not.

 For those of you who don’t know, a Dabeli is a very popular snack food/street food from India. ‘Dabeli’ literally means pressed.  A patty made of boiled potato to which a special ‘Dabeli’ masala is added is topped off with pomegranate seeds, roasted peanuts, chopped onions and coriander leaves. This patty is placed inside a toasted burger bun. The burger is topped with ‘sev’ (a noodle-like fried snack made from gram flour)

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I sink my teeth into this perfectly made ‘Dabeli‘.  My taste buds enjoy its sweet-sour taste, and the ‘crunchiness’ as I bite into the pomegranate seeds and sev.  This is absolute joy.  I eat the ‘Dabeli‘ and watch other travelers, who have also stopped by at this gas station, to buy water, to stretch their legs, to eat snacks.  I wonder if I will ever see these people again, I wonder who ordained that we would all meet here, at this gas station, on this particular day.

As I watch, some of them get into their coaches and cars, to drive away to faraway places, probably to meet other people, or to end this journey. Maybe even to begin new ones.

I wash down the ‘Dabeli‘ with a perfect ‘masala chai’ and walk back slowly to the car…as the highway beckons.