Up in the clouds….


We are up in the hills, on our way to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, also known as the ‘Scotland of the East’ and ‘the abode of clouds’!

The road snakes right and left, as our car makes its way up the hills. As we go higher, we are literally in the clouds. It’s as if the clouds have come down to play a game of hide and seek. Our car slices through these clouds, as they glide past us, busily going about their day.

We see flashes of green, then white, and then green. The sun shines on a glorious, blue sky. The world looks happy and cheerful.

All along the way, we see the locals going about their day, busy with farming and mining. This beauty surrounds them everyday. I feel envious.

We stop now and then at a viewing point; to stretch our limbs and soak-in the beauty all around us. The distant calls of birds can be heard, and the occasional vehicle. Otherwise, there is only a deep silence. There is harmony, there is peace.

At one such viewing point, we sit down to look at the merry clouds and the sedate hills below.

We sit down, each of us wrapped up in our own thoughts, trying to understand this beauty and to relate it to our crazy lives that have so many deadlines.

Here, there are no deadlines, life seems simple and peaceful. We are in no hurry to leave.

There are fresh pineapple stalls along the way, and hundreds of varieties of Indian pickles on sale.

We sink our teeth into the delicious and succulent pineapples, watching the road fade away into the distance.

As we go higher, the clouds envelope us completely, in a welcoming embrace. We stop at the Lake Umiam view point, where trees, mountains and lake have all merged with the clouds.

Brrrr…it is cold. We watch the lake from above, visible on and off. Faraway lights are twinkling through the cloud cover.

There is a mobile tea stall (in the boot of a car), where we slurp cups of hot, masala chai. We walk up and down, exclaiming at everything.

After all, we are not up in the clouds often..!

On the road….


We are on a road trip in the state of Tamilnadu in India. We are visiting many old temples in and around Thanjavur and Kumbakonam.

It is quite hot, as our cab weaves its way through the most beautiful villages and towns, hidden in swathes of green paddy fields.

The paddy crops sway in the gentle breeze, as scarecrows watch over them silently. There are goats, cows and buffaloes dotting the landscape.

There are kingfishers on every electric cable, waiting to catch their prey from the water. 

Small shops, which sell a household’s entire supplies, flit past as we drive through these towns. 

Life is happening, children are cycling to school, men and women are already busy on their farms. In certain places, both paddy and sugarcane fields greet us.

We soon pass the small town of Tiruvaiyaru, famed for one of the greatest composers of Indian Carnatic music, Saint Thiagaraja. The driver points out various sites in the town.

He suddenly says, ” There is a must-stop place in this town.”

We look enquiringly. He talks about this sweet shop named ‘Andavan Kadai Halwa’, meaning God’s Halwa Shop.

For those of you who don’t know, the ‘halwa’ is an Indian sweet made of wheat, sugar, ghee, milk, cardomom powder and other ingredients.

Though halwa is not a particular favourite in our family, we agree to visit the shop.

The halwa shop is located on a busy street. It is a very small shop. The heavenly smell of ghee greets us. There is a display counter with pieces of halwa and other savouries on display.

We ask the man behind the counter about the halwa, quantities and prices.

He says, “Please taste some first.”

And as we watch, he takes a big blob of hot halwa that is floating in ghee, drops it on a banana leaf, and gives it to us.

We salivate just seeing it; the orange colour looks inviting. We cut off small portions and taste it.

My husband and I look at each other, as our eyes widen in delight. This is easily one of the best halwas we have ever tasted. The man smiles knowingly…!

We polish off the halwa. We order take away packets and walk out into the afternoom heat.

We finish our trips to all the temples, admiring centuries-old architecture. It is late evening as we head back to our hotel. It is a ninety-minute ride.

The moon flies across the sky with us, as the stars twinkle. The festival of Kaarthigai is being celebrated. Small earthen lamps have been lit and placed on the front porches of most homes.


We enjoy the gentle breeze, as the road winds and takes us back to dinner and other mundanities like packing and getting back home.

Tender Coconut


Our car is parked under the shade of a few big trees. We are on a road trip in the State of Odisha, in India.

The late afternoon sun casts long shadows. The kids and their father have gone to buy some supplies. I stretch my legs and randomly take pictures.

Close to where I stand is a banyan tree, its buttresses reaching out to the ground below.

Under the huge tree, is a man selling tender coconuts. The coconuts huddle one on top of the other. People keep stopping by for a drink to refresh themselves.

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The tender coconut seller deftly uses his curved knife to chop-off the green cover on the top of each tender coconut. He carves the top, and with precision and skill, manages to nick the top, just enough, to provide access to the coconut water inside. He grabs a straw, puts it inside and hands it over to the customer.

His customers savour the cool and sweet juice, their eyes faraway. The moment they finish their drinks, he takes the shell back and cuts it open. Using a piece of the cut-off shell, he scoops the white and tender kernel from within and serves it to them.

He catches me watching him. He asks me if I want to have a drink. I nod in the affirmative.

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I walk up to him, and he works his magic on the coconut shell again. Soon, I savour the first mouthful.  I begin to understand the difference between ‘cool’ and ‘cold’. Refrigerated soft drinks are cold, this was sweet and cool.

He scoops out the kernel and I wolf it down with relish.

The sun is setting and the seller clears up the huge mound of shells that has gathered through the day. I ask him what he does with them. He tells me that a lady buys them from him. Soon, the said lady comes by with a gunny bag to collect the shells. The seller sweeps the area clean and walks into the street, nodding to me.

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.