Surat

Egg Discoveries

This time, in Surat, I ended up trying a lot of new restaurants. I had a list of my favourite places I wanted to revisit but a busy schedule promoted me (and E) to choose restaurants based on convenience. Apart from the usual fast food, continental and beverage stuff, I had a lot of egg. And this happened to be the highlight of the Surat food expedition. I discovered some good egg dishes.

Egg lovers, read these reviews and head to these joints to gratify your egg cravings.

Mr. Egg

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Australian Egg

I visited Mr. Egg at Adajan at lunchtime on a weekday and ordered Australian Egg just as E suggested. I decided not to get confused by the wide variety of items on the menu and simply order what E suggested. Turns out, good choice. This dish, served with buttery pavs, contains a lot of cooked eggs soaked in yellow creamy, mildly spicy, highly flavourful gravy. It was love at first bite. Amazing preparation. It was pretty heavy but could be easily finished by me alone.

Prices are moderate and the variety is huge. Everything from Indian street flavours to world flavours to Mughlai flavours. All dishes seemed worth trying.

Just a word of caution. When I was there, I happened to be the only female in the whole restaurant. The rest were groups of men taking a break during their lunch hour. That was very awkward. I wasn’t comfortable at all. So girls, go there in groups.

Eggetarian Cafe

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Iranian Egg

Located on Bhatar Road opposite University, it is easy to miss this one. It is an average dhaaba style restaurant with its name very simply written on the top. It is a part of a small complex of 4-5 shops that stands in isolation. It is often frequented by college crowd.

They have a huge, simply huge, menu of whole bunch of dishes – omelettes, Chinese, main course. You name it and its there. We ordered an Italian Omelette and Iranian Egg. The omelette was amazing. Very cheesy and flavourful. Iranian Egg was bland with a lot of vegetables. You will like it if you love the flavour of egg on its own. These 2 dishes were easily shared by 3 of us.

The staff is really good – polite and courteous. The prices are quite low. They have a lot of variety. Every time you visit, you can line up your choices for next time.

Don’t forget to pair your food with Masala Soda. Damn good.

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Categories: Gujarat Diaries, Restaurant Reviews, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

When I travelled without a ticket

No. I didn’t do it intentionally. I would never do that! And yes, I was afraid of being caught. We all know what happens in India. No one really comes to check. More of often than not, no one checks tickets in General / Unreserved quota coaches. And secondly, there are millions of people who travel without tickets every day. Who all can you catch? Yeah, people like you and me, who are capable of paying the fine. So, if your stars are against you for some reason, you will be picked up from so many hundreds, travelling unethically, and be fined. That would definitely make the TC’s day. I was lucky today. Sunday evening and rains – why would any TC, in his right mind, sacrifice the comfort of his home to check tickets?

Anyway, the reason why I travelled ticketless. A colleague coming over from another place, bought my tickets too. But her train got stuck at a place (because of the sudden dust storm and rains) and my train left before she could reach.

Travelling in shuttle / Memo type of trains is quite an experience. Not that I like it. Most times, it has been comfortable. Not now, for sure. The journey was a good 2.5 hours journey. Plus, I was covered in dust and I felt sticky. I was dying to reach home and take a shower. We were 4 on one berth. I sat comfortably except that I couldn’t move at all. Plus, the old men around me were chatting most of the times. One of them, almost screaming making my right ear quite irritable.

The way was beautiful. It had stopped raining. The sun had set leaving shades of pink, purple and orange in the sky.

I hate Indian railway stations. The dirtiest places in the country. Show me ONE railway station which is atleast 50% clean. Baroda station, maybe. Surat station – horrible. Top the situation with rains and you can puke at the sights. 80% of the crowd isn’t exactly courteous. They are ill mannered, poor and bitter. They push you, touch you and walk like you don’t exist. I specially get irritated by people who walk like they have no particular destination to go to and walk like they are strolling in some pleasure park. Hello? Don’t you need to reach home and sleep? The mother son pair in front of me walk slowly in front of me and not in a straight line. I can’t go past them. They go left and they go right. And the impatient little guy jumps, with his dirty, wet shoes right on my foot. My Rocia sandals! I let out an ‘aah’ and the father hears. I push past them and several others – you have to be ill-mannered too, at time, in your own interest – and try to rush out as fast as I can.

Looked like half of Surat had to travel today. I can hardly walk fast. People sleeping on the floor (nothing unusual, really). People standing in the middle on the way doing nothing. People standing in big groups like they are in some 5 star hotel party. The try to avoid puddles, curse myself for wearing my Rocia sandals in the rains and curse everyone around me – the rickshaw walas who almost bump into you and make you scamper around in fright, the motor cyclists who honk their irritating horns so loudly that a vacuum gets created in your ear (yes, in only one ear). People who walk slowly like they have no where to go to.

I feel victorious when I get an auto after less than a 1 minute negotiation.

Must avoid rail travels in the rains, for sure.

Categories: India, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

The Dutch Cemetery, Surat

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SACRED TO THE MEMORY

OF THE REV. JAMES SKINNER

WHO DIED OCTOBER 30 1821

AGED 38 YEARS

‘”My flesh shall slumber in the ground

Till the last trumpets joyful sound

Then burst the chains with sweet surprise

And in my Saviour’s image rise”

Read one of the tombs. However eager I was to visit the Dutch cemetery, I was sceptical of walking on the ground below which several dead bodies have been buried. E had been to this place before and had warned me beforehand of the eeriness of the place. My love for old architecture drove me there; otherwise, I am the kind of a person who turns into stone when she hears a noise in the darkness! We were clever enough to go there during daytime – around 4:00 pm. This historic cemetery is located right on a main road in Katargam area. It is surrounded by residential buildings from the remaining 3 sides. Could this place have felt eerie, ever?

We were greeted by the stench of urine and sewage at the main gate of the cemetery. Stone structures topped with domes loomed beyond the walls. An old man sat on the ground removing wild grass (good thing that the premises are taken care of by someone). Some 10 teenage boys played cricket at the other end of the cemetery.

The place looked far from eerie or scary. The sky was clear and the sun beamed down on us in its full glory. With sunglasses covering our eyes, we looked around the various structures and tombs. The mesmerizing structures were worn out but stood upright. The cemetery contains several tombs of the Dutch who stayed in Surat in the pre-independence era. But the 3 major tombs are that of Francis Breton (President of the English factory. He died in AD 1649), Christopher Oxenden (He died in 1659), George Oxenden (C Oxenden’s brother; died in 1669) & Gerald Aungier (Governor of Bombay & President of English factory, who died in 1916). Large elegant structures have been put up as a tribute to them.

DSC00292The rustic structures

DSC00349One of the important tombs there

DSC002943 tombs laid beside each other with an ancient structure in the background

DSC00304The worn out paint of the pillars of a structure. Some design detail can be seen on the roof

DSC00340The most grand tomb of the cemetery

Some other beautiful structures:

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Beautiful memorial verses have been engraved on the tombs. There was a tombstone of a baby who died merely 2 months after her birth. Tombs of army soldiers, captains and their families fill up this medium sized ground. Each touching verse spoke about how the person had lived, how he or she touched their lives and how they wish his or her soul rests in peace. Each message was filled with sentiments and affection of the departed’s loved ones.

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Most of the tombs were of dates before the year 1900. Obviously, none of the descendants of the deceased stay in India anymore. In fact, when the cemetery was created, Surat city or India would have been some other territory, obviously under the British rule. I expected to see at least one tombstone with flowers on it but I guess that was an unreal wish. The tombs now lay alone and probably forgotten.

The cemetery is located in the heart of the city and is safe to go at any time during the day, though not advisable to go very early or late during the day, as the gate might be locked and it may be difficult to hunt for the caretaker. There are no fixed timings because, my guess is, no one really goes there. The structures are fantastic mastery of art and are worth seeing. It is quite sad that they are worn out and look nothing like the original forms but they are beautiful all the same.

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Categories: India, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Rural India Revisited

True to my word, I and my friend E set off for Damka village on Sunday morning. That’s right, we were excited enough to sacrifice Sunday morning sleep for this excursion.

We left from home at 6:15 am and stopped at ONGC Bridge, which is built over Tapi River, to photograph the sunrise. The air was humid and cool when we got off at the bridge. Few vehicles and joggers passed us and gave us curious looks. Boats, anchored on different spots on the river, floated lazily. These boats always fascinated me. Maybe because I love water. Or, maybe because it was just odd to see them floating so silently, all by themselves.

DSC00367Sun rise view from ONGC bridge

DSC00375The boats

The small number of dwellings on the bank of the river was quiet except for a few fishermen preparing their boats to leave for work. They pushed the boat into the water (looked like it look a lot of efforts to do that) and the boat set off noisily, up the river.

We moved on the near-empty Hazira road towards Damka Village. I had attended a marriage function in this place a few days ago and was keen to see how it looked during day time. The narrow road was now clear except for few cyclists and cowherds. The sun looked beautiful rising beyond the long barren strip of land.

We reached the quiet village and parked the car beside a tiny shop. There were hardly any people outside. Looked like the village wakes up late on Sundays too! I had not been able to see clearly in dark which I could see now – a well, cow sheds and heaps of dry manure & dry twigs outside tiny houses. I spotted a huge banyan tree in front with a round shaped cement platform below it. ‘Damka Gram Panchayat’ read an engraved tile on the side. I couldn’t hold my excitement. This is exactly what we see in movies and read in books! They must be holding Panchayat meetings here to make important announcements and discuss major issues. Panchayat meetings are ALWAYS held below a banyan tree.

DSCN4345The Panchayat place

I did feel weird going out like this – clicking strangers and their houses. But I wanted to do this badly and wanted to give it a try. This was required so that I let go of my inhibitions and break the barrier of my mind.

The only sounds that interrupted the quiet were the chirping of birds, mooing of cows, cawing of crows and cock a’doodle doos of roosters. We had to talk to each other in whispers.

DSCN4352A typical house

As we stood in front of a house, admiring and shooting it, a lady carrying 2 steel pots on her head, walked out and saw us. Her interrogation started.

She: Where have you come from? (In Gujarati)

E: From Surat city.

She: Where are you going? The marriage house?

E: No. Just like that. Seeing around.

She: What are you doing here? (She doesn’t believe us. And she suspects us.)

E: Just taking snaps.

A questioning pause. She stares at both of us.

She: What will you do with them?

I almost burst out laughing.

E: Err. Just like that. Actually we are new in the city.

A long pause and some more staring. She finally walked away. I thought she would never go away. Now, I thought, she and the other ladies of the village have something to talk about for the next 2 days!

As we walked along, few girls sitting at their doorsteps saw us and giggled. That definitely broke the barrier!

DSCN4341A lone woman, carrying pitchers, walks on a path

The locality was very neat; the boundary-less houses diligently maintained. Some houses were broken down, some new, some antique, some colourful and some modern. Each house was unique in itself. There were houses as old as 30 years old.

DSCN4351An antique door of a house

DSCN4358Another of those colourful doors

The villagers were starting their daily chores slowly. Cowherds took their cows and buffaloes for feeding. Women carried pots of water to fill water. Women swept the front of their houses. We crossed the marriage house where people had woken up and were beginning to prepare for another day of celebration.

DSCN4350A woman picks up cow dung, dropped by a group of buffaloes which just passed on that path. Dry dung is used as a fuel to light fire in kitchen stoves

DSCN4367We work together: A man shaves the beard of another man.

DSCN4375A boy sleeps on a cot outside his house. This was a common sight.

DSCN43742 women draw water out of a well

DSCN4373Signs of a freshly swept ground

After wandering around in various lanes and clicking to our satisfaction and avoiding old men who called us to talk to them, we walked back towards the car. The village was up now and was bustling with the usual morning activities. Like their houses, their relations also didn’t seem to have any boundaries. They performed their chores while talking to and laughing with each other, sometimes looking at us and commenting.

We left from there satisfied and I concluded that it was a good trip – totally worth the sacrifice of sleep made by us!

DSCN4363Mud pitchers lying huddled on a ground

Categories: India, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

A rendezvous with rural India

I was in no mood to go when my work friends forced me to come for a wedding function of a colleague. In no way was I going to deal with my headache and the dusty winds. I reluctantly agreed. And when I heard where the function was – in a nearby village – I regretted saying yes.

Little did I know that I was going to have a fantastic time.

We turned right from the main road and entered an endless dark, narrow path towards the village named Damka. It was beyond 8:30 pm and the village was dark with lights in very few houses. Groups of people sat in front of some of the quaint little houses, holding meetings or pujaceremonies. The sights of a typical rural village were visible – wells, cows chomping on grass and swings in the compound. Before we could categorize this village as a typical, rural village, we saw cars like SX4 and Swift parked in front of some houses. There was quiet all around and very few people were seen.

We made our way through the labyrinth of narrow roads, stopping once in a while to take directions from the ever ready-to-help passers-by. Everyone seemed to know the ‘marriage house’. I looked fascinated at my surroundings while my friends traced way to the venue.

On reaching our destination, we parked the car outside the lane and walked along the dusty, dark path towards the lighted house. We found out that this was a pre-wedding function called Griha Shaanti (Griha means home; Shaanti means peace) where they invite all the known people of the neighborhood. The village being small, 2500 guests were invited (we were told later).

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3 guests eat in the compound area

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A lone tractor stands in the compound (below the mango trees)

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The long flat house known as Gala, with the decorated pandal in the front

Bollywood remix songs played loudly through half a dozen speakers, inviting guests to come and dance on the little ground converted into a dance floor. We were greeting by Ashok (whose function it was) and were led to a pandal area in front of the house. The pandal was decorated with bright pink and green silky drapes. Being his important guests (HR staff is always considered as important); we were shown around the house and served food there.

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The puja place

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The living room

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The delicious food

The house had small cluttered but homely rooms. The walls were lined with photographs of several Indian Gods. We sat down to eat on mats put on the floor and waited eagerly for the food. Not only were we hungry, I suspected we were going to be served with delicious food. And indeed, family members came to put yummy home-made baigan sabzi, dal, rice, khaman and mohanthal. Definitely not what I had anticipated! I licked my fingers, after finishing the second helping, feeling shy to ask for more.

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The groom’s sister in a lovely violet and green ghaghra

The glittery bangles and sariborder glisten in the neon lights

All the women were dressed in colourful and glittery saris and ghaghras. I and my friend looked plain and barren in front of them! We took a round of the house and saw mango trees and a well in the compound. The ‘dance floor’ was now full of kids dancing to the tunes of Shakira. Whoa. This village sure was modern!

On speaking to the groom’s sister, we found out that she has several degrees (MA, B. Ed, M. Phil), had a 3 year old kid, was into a teaching profession and was also pursuing P. Hd. I was so impressed by her achievements.

We took ample snaps and walked towards our car, on the same dusty road, making a mental note to come back here again during day time to enjoy the lovely sights of this cute little village.

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Categories: India, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Suvali–The purest beach in Western India

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Sometimes you come across a place that you can uncannily relate to. You keep going back there only to realize that you are going through a journey of self-discovery. Suvali beach at Surat is one such place that I fell in love with during my first visit to the beach. The tree-less and rock-free beach prides itself of a clean, serene and divine scene. Perfect to spend a few hours of solitude.

I have always visited the beach with a friend or a group of friends but like others, I have felt totally at peace, forgetting the person (s) with me and connecting solely with nature.

Suvali beach is a black sand beach. The sand is slippery and slips fast beneath your feet. The beach isn’t safe for swimming. The beach is perfect to spend quite moments alone or with your close one. Come here to witness a blissful sunrise and sunset. I have seen both and have been left spellbound.

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Suvali beach is located at Hazira. You need to go all the way to Reliance take a right after GSEB on the right hand side. A narrow, but a pakkaroad will lead you to the beach. As you progress further, the path becomes quieter. You may not come across a single soul on the way. A small vehicle or a two-wheeler is advisable as 2 medium sized cars have difficulty in crossing each other. Also make sure you have a spare tyre ready and your vehicle is in good condition!

The beach is almost a virgin beach. Because it is far from the main city, not many people come here. One or two vendors selling crisps, coconut water and cold drinks can be seen on Sundays. People with families now come here on Sundays and it’s quite sad that they have started dirtying a certain section of the beach. But the beach is long and if keep walking on either side, you will soon drift away from the small crowd and will be on your own.

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This picturesque location is an artist’s delight. It is capable of stirring up soulful poetries out of poets, heartfelt stories out of writers, fantastic lyrics out of songwriters, sweet melodies out of musicians and masterpieces out of painters.

Very few residents of Surat have visited here and it’s good in a way because the beach is left untouched by mankind, leaving it in its purest, most beautiful form.

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Categories: Gujarat Diaries, Photography, Surat | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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