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.

An Unforgettable Train Journey


We reach the station in typical Bollywood climax style…with barely 10 minutes to spare. We’ve been looking forward to this 36 hour train journey, on the Rajdhani Express, from Delhi to Bangalore for a long long time. Water bottles, Tinkles & some magazines, and we are good to go. My husband and I have hyped it up a bit for the kids, loaded as we are with memories of our long train journeys as children.
The typical last minute chaos of the station fades away as the train slowly trundles out…..bringing into focus another ecosystem, the inside of the train.
I watch with interest, as people settle down. Strangely, most people are intently focused on their smart phones. Nobody talks or acknowledges their neighbours. So very different from when I was a child. Nobody has the ubiquitous junk food plastic bag from home filled with ‘thattais’, ‘murukkus’ and chips. I smile at this change…as I remember boarding the train and a mere five minutes into the journey the crunchy munching would start. People would talk loudly, share their food and a sense of camaraderie would prevail.
I look up to see what my children are making of this journey. They are very excited…each of them has made the berth their home and invite the other to visit. They do not seem to miss their electronic gadgets at all. They play noughts and crosses & ice cream soda on & off. They relish every meal…and wait for the next one. They like the excitement of cooping themselves inside their berths with the curtains and peeping out now & then to talk to us.
I look out of the window, small towns and villages breeze past. Dots on a map, now here, now gone…the enormity & beauty of our country hit me, as the long serpent chugs away relentlessly. Flashes of people, animals, level crossings …..life goes on outside at a steady pace. From within, they seem to happen in fast forward. I dream about everything and nothing, feeling philosophical and sleepy at the same time. I enjoy every moment, more so, because the children are having a great time.
I yearn for tamarind rice and idlis soaked in milagai podi, curd rice & pickle, another flash from memory.
Before we know it we are in Bengaluru, back to the real world!