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Dal Lake in Srinagar

24 Jun

Reached Srinagar and thought we’d been on the run continuously for over 6 days, it was about time we caught up with some rest. We knew we had gained a lot of ground but it was important to maintain momentum. Kargil, Leh and Manali were up next and we knew the terrain wasn’t going to be very kind to us.

We parked our car close to Dal Lake and started negotiating with ferrymen and houseboat-wallas. A lot of them wanted to purely milk us – if you know what I mean.

All this while, an interesting character with a few grey hair was watching us closely but said nothing. We moved towards him and started talking. His name was Rahim Chacha and we quickly briefed him on what we needed – a houseboat to ourselves for four hours, some lovely kashmiri lunch a ferry ride to the houseboat.

He said he knew just the place for us and before we knew it, we were in his shikara ferrying to our houseboat. At the houseboat, we were welcomed by Mohammed Sahab who introduced himself as the owner of the houseboat. We exchanged pleasantries, had a few hearty laughs and talked about the situation in Srinagar.

We were welcomed onto the houseboat with a steaming cup of Kawa. Kawa – traditional green tea with spices and almond, is consumed all through the day in the chilled winter climate of Kashmir.

Sameer disappeared to catch up on some sleep, Ratheesh whisked Rahim Chacha away with his ferry to get a haircut and I got interacting with our fans on facebook thanks to my ever charming Apple Macbook Pro powered by Tata Photon Plus, taking and editing pictures with our Nikon D60 and writing about our experience.

The houseboat was a treat in itself – two bedrooms with attached bathrooms that flaunted bath tubs, a living room, a dining room and a balcony kinda sit-out.

At about 12:00 hrs, we were served Wazwan. Wazwan is a multi-course meal in the Kashmiri tradition. It was one of our core objectives to have Wazwan when we hit Srinagar. Shafi – our butler meticulously served us the following:

  • Kabab (Minced meat roasted on skewers over hot coals)
  • Tabak Maaz (Ribs of lamb simmered in yogurt till tender, then fried)
  • Rista (Meatballs in a fiery red gravy)
  • Lahabi Kabab (Flattened mutton kababs cooked in yogurt)
  • Doudha Ras (Mutton cooked in sweet milk gravy)
  • Rogan Josh (Tender lamb cooked with Kashmiri spices)
  • Gushtaba (A velvety textured meatball in white yogurt gravy,a specialty)

What touched us about Srinagar was it’s hospitality. Both Raheem Bhai and Mohammed Sahab were extremely humble, good hearted with a smile on their face. Shafi – explained each and every dish of Wazwan to us while he served us and made sure we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Needless to say, the beauty of Srinagar left us asking for more. But then we also had a record to break. Enjoy the pictures.

Good Morning Srinagar!

22 Jun

Done with Punjab. Rajasthan Dusted. Madhya Pradesh stamped. Our next destination – Magical Srinagar. We landed up at Srinagar this morning.

However, prior to that we were fortunate enough to witness the Sunrise about 80 kms from Srinagar. We don’t want to say much – let the pictures do the talking.

We absolutely loved the sunrise here. Never before have we seen nature smiling at us in such a fashion.

After witnessing one of our best sunrises ever, we headed to Dal lake to camp for four hours in a beautiful houseboat before embarking onto Kargil.

Keep watching this space for our update on the houseboat and Dal Lake.

3 Dudes meet a Duder | Beard Power

22 Jun

If meeting Aijaz Pathan, was intriguing, what followed next is something that we never thought we could come across against. We were catching up with Rajasthan and we’re cruising comfortably, when we spotted an age old blue colored Maruti 800 drifting along the highway with a couple of Babas in it.

Sameer’s eyes sparkled, a wry smile appeared on my face and Ratheesh waved out to the Babas and whaled out ‘Jai Bhole!’ – the Babas responded in unison and smiled. Ratheesh asked them if they could pull over to have a short conversation with us and to which they agreed.

We started talking to them and asked them where they we’re off to and they replied they were headed towards Kota in Rajasthan. Apparently, they’re avid travelers and keep driving around. So why was Tantalizing India making a blog post on a couple of Babas driving around to Kota?

Well, heres what startled us. One of the Babas had a beard which was kind of folded round n round. Upon noticing which, Ratheesh couldn’t help but ask, ‘Baba, yeh daadi…….’ to which the Baba smiled and replied ‘Yeh…….’ and he started unfolding his beard.

When the beard unfolded Tantalizing India was taken aback – Sameer was like “No way…..”, Aadil went “Holy……………” and Rathesh popped “O teri…..”. The Baba’s beard measured 5 feet and 5 inches. Again, 5 feet and 5 inches. And we’re not kidding – it was longer than the Baba’s body. He said he hadn’t touched his beard from the last 45 years and since then it was growing.

Any takers on whether Limca Book of records has anything for the longest beard in India? ;-)

Aijaz Pathan MP Wale

21 Jun

Shortly after entering Madhya Pradesh yesterday, we hit into a small village called Gandhinagar. Lots of truckers and traffic prevailed on the the highway that we barged into.

As we went a little further ahead, we noticed that a stout man – may be in his thirties very narrowly escaped death by a speeding trucker. We immediately turned around in our Ford and went about in our search of that midget.

Got into a couple of streets, a little bit of digging here and there and we found our man. They call him Aijaz Pathan. Aged 32, this guy barely managed to reach our waist in terms of height.

However, an aura of positive energy surrounded him through and through. Smiling with popping eyes, he seemed kindled and at first scared when we came about asking for him.

Initially when questioned, he told us his name was Manoj but as we soaked into a conversation, he eased out and started interacting with us. Aijaz stays in a small joint which houses his father, nine brothers and one sister.

For the last five years, he’s been working as a daily wager. He does odd jobs that earn him his daily living like transferring goods from here and there on his four wheeler cart. Previously, he used to work in a tyre manufacturing unit.

Aijaz has never travelled to any destination till date. He’s been born and brought up in Gandhinagar and has seen no other place than Gandhinagar. He states that he likes it in Gandhinagar and doesn’t really care about visiting other places.

He works from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening. Enjoys chatting with his buddies and sleeps everyday from 8 pm to 9 am. Currently unmarried, he’s proud of the fact that he makes his own living.

What we liked about Aijaz is that inspite of all the hardships he’s faced in life, his body language still elucidates confidence, keeps flashing his smile every now and then and says he’s very content and happy with life.

He stays close to Badi Masjid in Gandhinagar, Madhya Pradesh.

Jugaad in Rajasthan!

21 Jun

If you happen to visit Rajasthan, the chances are that you may come across some odd-looking vehicles zooming past the road. Something very similar happened with Tantalizing India.

We entered into Rajasthan yesterday and we’re cruising at about 50 kmph when we saw some rather cool looking unusual vehicle forms. Immediately Sameer hit the brakes, I grabbed the camera and we barged out to see what this really was.

Ratheesh was already on the guy who was driving this weird vehicle and started conversing with him while I frantically started taking pictures. Upon questioning Naresh, a local who was driving this vehicle, he brought to our notice that what he was driving is called ‘Jugaad’.

Jugaad are locally made motor vehicles that are used mostly in small villages of Rajasthan as a means of low cost transportation. Jugaad literally means an arrangement or a work around, which has to be used because of lack of resources.

Jugaad vehicles cost around Rs. 16,000 is what Naresh told us. They are known for having poor brakes and can not go beyond 60 kmph. They operate on a combination of kerosene and diesel fuel and are just ordinary water pump sets converted into engines.

The brakes of these vehicles very often fail and one of the passengers jumps down and applies a manual wooden block as a brake. End of the day, Rs.16,000 and you’ve got a vehicle – a four wheeler that can haul a lot of people – in real time terms – true blue ‘Jugaad’.

From Aamchi Mumbai to Apnu Amdavad!

20 Jun

We had a whale of a time when we did Mumbai to Ahmedabad yesterday.

We drove off from Belgaum at 02:15 hrs after meeting our fans in Belgaum and having a good shower at my place. A little over two days on the road and we realized what simple pleasures of life like meeting friends, family and the freshness of a good hot shower can do.

The road Belgaum – Mumbai is a delight to drive where in one can comfortably clock 100 kmph. We finished Sattara and Pune early morning after which at 08:00 hrs we decided to make a quick pitstop at the Food Mall on the Pune Mumbai Expressway. We checked into Cafe Coffee Day and ordered three steaming choco cappuccinos into which we soaked and relaxed on the oh-so-comfortable couches.

We set off after a few minutes to Aamchi Mumbai where in we did a live interview with Radio City 91.1 FM. That was the first time any of us were on air and three of us we’re thrilled. Onto Gujarat then and about 12:00 hrs we stopped for a quick brunch at a local dhaba called ‘Dil-E-Punjab’ Dhaba located at Chellar Bhata.

The Dhaba is owned and operated by Mr. Dilbagh Singh who hails from Punjab. Dilbagh Paaji has been operating this Dhaaba from 1980 and has a team of 9 people helping him run the place. We had skipped breakfast and intended to skip lunch as well so we though we’d do a quick brunch.

We asked Dilbagh Paaji what his speciality was and what he thought we should have at his place. He suggested Dil-E-Punjab da Dal Tadka. Bring it on is what we said and believe you me we were left licking our fingers.

The three of us were lost for words – the tadka – he marowed on the dal was wow!  He suggested we wash it down with some cutting chai and that exactly what we did. All this and the bill? A mere Rs.140. 6 rotis, three dal tadkas, three onion platters, three cutting chai’s and a portion of curds. We thought we had a really sweet deal.

Next up, while we were on our way to Bharuch, we noticed that a couple of cars were frantically waving us on the highway and passing on some signals. We lowered our glasses and said hi. The again signaled something which we weren’t able to decipher so we asked them to pull over.

Apparently these guys – all from Bangalore were on their way to Leh. A group of seven from various backgrounds included but not limited information technology, telecommunications, film making and DJing had taken a good 16 days off from work and their sole intention was to sulk in the beauty of Leh. ‘Leh Hogona?’ is what they had printed on their tshirts. Pretty cool stuff we thought.

Our close friend Ronak Prajapati was waiting for us when we parked in at S.G. Highway to treat us to a much awaited filling dinner at Mirch Masala in Ahmedabad. The entrees included a couple of platters of lightly skewered kebabs followed by a couple of main course dishes accompanied by cheese naans. Let me not get into the details of what we had coz if I do, I’m certain I’m gonna ask Sameer to take a U turn and head to Ahmedabad again.

For dessert, Ronak called in for a round of hot pipping jalebees which we happily greased ourselves with. We’d like to thank Ronak for taking time out and treating us to this amazing experience. He’s a fantastic guy – really!

A little after 11, we left for Gandhinagar followed by Godhra and onto Indore and Bhopal. Stay tuned!

Drive across the Coast

20 Jun

We had a fun drive across the coast yesterday. We hit it off from Mangalore after meeting Neil to head to Goa. It was a beautiful drive across the coast and we had some nice country music streaming. Ratheesh was humming while Sameer was glued to the wheel. I was sulking in the view.

We found a beautiful spot that we couldn’t resist taking a few shots off. Rather than getting into the details, we think we’ll give you the pictures instead:

We spent some time at the beach, had a couple of laughs, joked about how one day we’ll make Sameer the navigator for 48 continuous hours but then both me and Ratheesh know deep down inside that this is something that will eventually never happen.

Belgaum – We love you!

19 Jun

Team Tantalizing India had a super awesome day yesterday. Having finished with Kozhikode, Mangalore, Karwar and Goa, we hit Belgaum at 23:45 – close to midnight. No sooner we were about to hit Belgaum, three kms earlier we had a mega surprise in store for us.

Sameer’s family all of a sudden – out of nowhere sprang up and blocked our vehicle. Stung in surprise, even before we could recover from this situation, Sameer’s dad Mr.Suleman Siddique was hugging Sameer and patting him on his back. Sameer was overjoyed – couldn’t believe his eyes. The fact that his family travelled all the way from Bangalore to Belgaum – over 500 kms one way just to see him for about thirty minutes was quite touching.

We exchanged pleasantries with Sameer’s family and moved on to meet our fans from Belgaum who were waiting for us in Camp. This again, touched Team Tantalizing India. We were supposed to reach Belgaum at about 22:30 hrs however a series of showers at various locations combined with thick fog at Amboli delayed us and we reached Belgaum only at 23:45.

We put a message up on Facebook saying that we’d be late we’d love to meet fans, however since it would be too late – should the fans wished we could cancel the meet up. However, our fans showed us incredible support by barging in at the venue eager to see us. We were blown away – overjoyed.

Quite a few close friends and family turned up too in the form of Uday from AllAboutBelgaum.com, Harshad & Garav Ail, Rajat Katti, Sandeep Tekriwal, Vijay Chabada, Akhil Kittur and Prasad Prabhu. Lots of other fans of Tantalizing India were also present. Thank you so much guys for coming over – you touched us – we mean it!

As a token of appreciation, thanks to our sponsor partner Chumbak we handed over a bunch of goodies to all our fans in Belgaum that included sets of funky travel pens, crazy notepadscute keychains, handmade soap, quirky posters and smirky coasters – stuff that revolved around the theme of India and travel.

Next up – we headed to my place at BC 97 to have some sumptuous home food which Mom was busy preparing all day long. Bilal & Kashif Sait, Parminder Singh Khurana, Zainul Barafwala, Atique Bandukwala, Swapneel Haibatti, Pushpadant Patil and Ritish Patil – all friends rushed in to congratulate, greet and surprise us – we were amazed.

Bottom line – We love you Belgaum! Thank you for touching our lives!

Meeting Neil in Mangalore!

18 Jun

Landed in Mangalore post breakfast only to receive an email and sms from a gentleman called Neil Rodregues who’d love to welcome us in Mangalore and help with anything that we needed . We connected with Neil right away and had a word with him.

In about fifteen minutes time we met him at a suggested location. Neil is a Project Manager with Infosys and is based in Managalore. He is also a travel enthusiast and has done a fair bit of traveling in the United States where he was based for four years as part of his Infosys tenure.

We had a good conversation and enjoyed meeting Neil. After getting to know Neil was a travel freak, Ratheesh gifted Neil some Tantalizing India merchandise in the form of a travel poster sponsored by Chumbak.in

P.S. – Chumbak.in is Tantalizing India’s sponsor partner. They have really cool stuff in the form of India specific travel gifts and merchandise. You must check them out.

Alappuzha – Ernakulum – Thrissur – Kozhikode – Mahe – Thalassery – Kasargod

18 Jun

At 23:00 hrs last night, with Sameer taking the wheel and me on our Nokia n900 Ovimaps as the navigator headed out to cover a pretty hectic journey. Ratheesh decided to catch on some quick sleep so that the coming morning he could take charge from Sameer.

The Rain Gods showed absolutely no mercy and the roads were not the best that we’ve driven on. Potholes. Mud skittered here and there. Truck drivers refusing to bulge. Clogged water bodies here and there – every now and then on the roads – all that.

Sameer did a fantastic job getting us out of Kerala and Ratheesh resumed the wheelman’s duties from 06:00 hrs. We covered quite a bit of ground from when we started last nite in spite of the irrefutable conditions. Trust you’ll enjoy the pictures we’ve shared with you in this post.

More soon!